Editor's note:

As we continue with the second part of Richard Foster’s consideration of all the implications of being in the Lamb’s Army (read the first part here: The Peaceable War of the Lamb), we turn our attention today to the powerful spiritual arsenal given to us to fight the battles to which we are called.

—Renovaré Team

Powerful weapons

The weapons of our warfare are “mighty to the pulling down of strongholds,” as Paul puts it (1 Cor. 10:4). But they are not recognizable as weapons by modern society—including most contemporary Christians. They are the weapons of love and peace, of truth and integrity, of prayer and faith.

I have always been moved by the weaponry list which Paul gives in Ephesians 6—truth and righteousness and peace and faith and salvation and the word of God. As you know, Paul uses the metaphor of Roman military garb, but when his metaphor gives out, he keeps on adding weapons, especially prayer: “Pray at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication” (Eph. 6:18).

These weapons and this warfare, Paul tells us, is “not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). In saying this he does not mean that flesh and blood are unimportant; only that behind the flesh and blood and controlling the flesh and blood are powers and principalities of a spiritual nature. The aim of our attack is to defeat the principalities that control and incarnate themselves in flesh and blood.

Spiritual warfare

This is a spiritual warfare we are engaged in. Our world is “with demons filled,” as Martin Luther understood so well. And, if, in our social justice efforts we do not speak to the deep issues of the spirit, we will trade only one form of demonic oppression for another.

For example, when we approach absentee landlords of ghetto apartments, we speak to the principality of avarice that controls them. When we confront political policy makers or corporate executives, we do so with an inward strength born out of prayer and fasting, seeking to defeat the spirits of vested interest and covetousness.

What we so often fail to understand is that these weapons of ours are incredibly powerful—more powerful than B-1 bombers and Trident missile systems and Strategic Defense Initiatives. Powerful, that is, if we will train ourselves to use them effectively. No weapons system is effective unless soldiers are trained in its use.

In Acts 13 we are told of the first missionary venture of Paul on the island of Cyprus. He was having such a good and powerful work that the governor of the island summoned him to speak at the palace.

But the local magician, Elymas by name, didn’t like Paul crowding in on his territory, and so he tried to oppose this good work. As you recall, Paul turned to him and, in the power of God, declared, “The hand of the Lord is upon you and you shall be blind and unable to see the sun for a time” (Acts 13:11). Powerful weapons indeed!

George Fox, a 17th-century British Christian, was once preaching the gospel with great power, when a drunken soldier came up to him, pulled out his sword, and placed it at Fox’s throat, demanding that he stop preaching or he would run him through with the sword. Fox looked straight at the man and, in the mighty power of God, said to him, “Hack away, your sword is nothing to me but a straw!”

With that declaration the power of God fell upon that man, and he staggered backwards, fell to the ground and was converted to Christ. Strong weapons of the first order!

No political agenda

Now, when we try to understand the social implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we run the very great danger of “politicizing” the gospel message. This has been attempted frequently by both Left and Right in all centuries of the Church, including our own—perhaps especially our own.

Let me state as unequivocally as I can that the warfare of the Lamb is not a social or political stance. Its aim is not even to correct societal ills. That is the result, to be sure, but almost never in the way in which we imagine it.

The kingdom of our God and of his Christ is of another reality altogether, and while its effects are to pull down the kingdoms of this world, it does so only as a consequence of a deeper reality.

Those people who are taken over by a new power to do right, who cannot be bribed or manipulated or flattered, who are brought off of a bondage to others, will bring down (by their very presence and actions) those structures sustained by greed and pride and fear. Those people who have been disciplined in the Lamb’s Army so that “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” are part of their deepest habits will attack structural evil with divine authority and without compromise.

People who have experienced deeply that all-inclusive community of loving persons which knows Christ as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant will no longer hanker after the competitive, ego-dominated rat race of contemporary society. 

 Those people who, as a fixed pattern of life, walk by the great commandment of love of God and neighbor will transform our personal, social, institutional, and political world almost beyond recognition by their simple non-cooperation with the battles, oppression, prejudice, and class strife of modern culture.

Starting Soon: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? Choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Originally published as part of “The Lamb’s War” in Equipping the Saints (Spring, 1989).