Dr Cecilia Estillore Oliver is a medical doctor who has a Bachelor of Ministry degree from the School of Ministries in Christian Heritage College (also Citipointe Ministry College) in Christian Outreach Centre, Brisbane.
The Great Commission for worldwide evangelization was thrust into the hands of the early church by Jesus Christ prior to his ascension. A study of the New Testament reveals several keys to fulfilling this mandate. One of those keys is spiritual warfare and its relationship to the Great Commission and in particular, to revival and evangelism.
Cities are central to God’s redemptive strategy. The Great Commission begins with a city – Jerusalem – and culminates when another city – the new Jerusalem – becomes God’s dwelling with his people. In order to fulfill the Great Commission, we must reach every city on earth with the gospel. In order for the gospel to reach every creature, The Church is called to engage the forces of evil. The battleground is the heavenly places. This is where the battle for our cities is won or lost (Silvoso 1994:21, 97
As Christians living in this fallen world we are caught in the spiritual war raging between the kingdom of darkness under Satan’s rule and the kingdom of God. This spiritual battle is described by Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.
The church, ministering in the power of God’s Spirit, has many answers to human needs and problems, including personal and community health and wholeness, if we take seriously the ministry of Jesus and how he has commissioned us to do what he did (Matthew 28:18-20). This does not ignore God-given medical ministries and resources, but acknowledges they are only a part of God’s provision for our needs.
Satan is a master strategist in perverting God’s plan and purposes for the nations. His kingdom consists of a hierarchy of principalities, powers, rulers and wickedness in high places which he has assigned over people, cities, and nations, veiling their eyes with deception and lies from seeing the truth of God (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Cor. 4:3-4).
Unfortunately, Christian ignorance and complacency have given the enemy ground to advance. The New Testament exhorts believers not to be ignorant of the schemes of the Devil whose main aim is to kill, steal and destroy mankind and all creation. Therefore, Christians are called to be proactive and militant in waging war in the heavenly places.
The real battle is spiritual and all evangelistic crusades regardless of their high technology will be minimally effective unless the battle is won in the spirit realm.
How then do we go about doing spiritual warfare? In doing spiritual warfare a few basic principles need to be understood.
First, we need to understand that we must have a personal intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be yielded and humbly submitted to his Lordship.
Second, we need to resist the devil and flee from his evil ways. Holiness and purity of heart are important in maintaining strong armour as we advance into spiritual warfare (James 4:6-7; Ephesians 6:11-12).
Third, we need to know and understand our identity, position and victory in Christ Jesus. In short, our worship of God should lead us to warfare against evil.
These principles must be backed up by our knowledge and understanding of the fact that Christ has won the victory through his death on the cross and his resurrection from the power of death. According to Colossians 2:15, Jesus defeated and disarmed Satan and his cohorts and made a public spectacle of them. Through our belief in Him, we are delivered from the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of light, forgiven and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (Colossians 1:13-14).
With that same power over sin and death, we are also given the delegated authority and power over the devil and his kingdom just like Jesus modelled in his life and ministry.
With this authority comes responsibility. According to Peter Wagner, “if we do not pray against our spiritual enemies, they will, indeed, prey upon us.”(1996:121).
Wagner identifies three levels of spiritual warfare, namely: ground level spiritual warfare which is involved in casting out demons from people, occult-level spiritual warfare which centres on warfare against the occult and, strategic-level spiritual warfare which deals with territorial spirits (1992:17-20).
Spiritual warfare is not an end in itself but just as Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) it is a means towards the end of seeking and saving that which is lost (Luke 19:10). Just as in any battle, spiritual warfare can lead to casualties. Although everyone is called to intercede and pray, not everyone is called to do front-line strategic-level spiritual warfare. Neither is it for the faint hearted and immature.
Warfare, Revival and Evangelism
Prayer and intercession are constant features of revival. Prayer is the number one weapon of spiritual warfare. Although not everyone prays for the lost, it has been proven that innovative strategic warfare for the lost has brought revival and societal transformation in many places all over the world. In fact, revival has never been birthed without prayer and intercession, for God acts on the prayers of the saints. Spiritual warfare creates the climate over regional areas, paving the way for God’s sovereign movement to come.
What is the relationship of revival and evangelism? John Dawson says,
Revival is what the church first experiences; evangelism is what she then engages in. Revival is periodic; evangelism is continuous. Revival cannot last; evangelism must not stop (cited by Pratney 1994:17).
On the other hand, Roy Fish states that “the requirement for securing revival becomes the requirement for sustaining revival” which is supported by the saying that “what is gained by intercession must be maintained by intercession” (cited by Deiro 1998:27). In other words, revival can be continuous.
Personally, I believe that revival can become ongoing just like the early church times. Revival should not really be an exception nor should it be limited to being periodic. Admittedly, history reveals its periodicity and it is a challenge for the Church to be in continuous revival. As Vance Havner states, “revival is simply New Testament Christianity, the saints getting back to normal”(cited by Pratney 1994:15).
What is normal? The New Testament Church says that the disciples turned the world upside down as revival broke out and Christianity spread. The church was then in continuous revival and outwardly focused. Today, the 21st century church is being pointed to a new apostolic wineskin of doing church.
Pablo Deiros supports this emerging perspective and states that “authentic spiritual revival cannot be separated from the mission of the Church.” He considers three things that are instructive for revival movements: the destruction of spiritual strongholds over cities and nations, revival for the common people, and evangelism (1998:53).
In addition, Erickson says that the heart of the ministry is the Gospel. He goes on to describe the example of the ministry of Jesus and how he was anointed to preach the Gospel. Moreover, Jesus charged his apostles to continue his ministry and gave them the Great commission (1985:1059-1060; Luke 4: 18; Mark 16:15-18).
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18-19). “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons…and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:1-2).
A study of the above scriptures and Luke 10:1-22 shows the relationship between spiritual warfare and evangelism. Jesus actually trained his disciples to be aggressive in spiritual warfare and evangelism before he gave them the mandate for worldwide evangelism prior to his ascension.
Today, history records a startling convergence, beginning in the 1990’s, of the Church toward worldwide evangelism. Currently, the 21st Century church is going on strong in fulfilling its Great Commission. Unity and the love of Christ in the Body of Christ is becoming more visible and the Devil hates it. He knows his time is short and he is launching his attacks on the Church from all directions especially on those involved in spiritual warfare and worldwide evangelism. Nevertheless, the victory belongs to the Church and on this promise she will stand until Jesus Christ returns again.
Life and Ministry Application
We much to learn about the ways of God and the ways of humanity, including spiritual warfare, revivals, and evangelism. We need to engage in spiritual warfare in the army of God. My past and present ministries include this.
It’s not always easy but obedience is the key. We need much discernment, wisdom, holiness, purity, humility, godly character and faith. It is a lifetime process of learning and maturing but we must persevere until the end. I cannot do it alone. I have much more to learn from all those who are experts in the field and from the Lord.
In conclusion, the New Testament gives a lot of examples and scriptural basis for spiritual warfare. Jesus modelled it and the early church lived it. The disciples practiced all levels of Spiritual warfare, were mindful of the principles involved, and used it as a powerful weapon in bringing the continuous revival and the explosive spread of the Gospel in the early Church times.
Today, the believers still have the same delegated authority and power over the Devil as won by Christ Jesus on Calvary. We are still called to engage in spiritual warfare which is a means to bring revival, win the lost, and fulfil the Great Commission.
Erickson, Millard. 1985. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
Pratney, Winkie. 1994. Revival. Its principles and personalities. Lafayette: Huntington House Publishers.
Silvoso, Ed. 1994. That None Should Perish. Ventura: Regal Books.
Wagner, C. Peter. 1992. Warfare Prayer. Ventura: Regal Books.
Wagner, C. Peter. 1996. Confronting The Powers. Ventura: Regal Books.
Wagner, Peter & Deiros, Pablo (editors). 1998. The Rising Revival. Ventura: Renew.
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