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Craig Keener: Paul and Spiritual Warfare

Craig S. Keener, “Paul and Spiritual Warfare” in Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), pages 107-123.

Spiritual warfare is a topic that has attracted a good deal of attention in recent years; this is perhaps especially true within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. Whole books have been written on this subject. “Paul and Spiritual Warfare” is a chapter that New Testament scholar, Dr. Craig Keener, contributed to the book Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours. This book was published one hundred years after Roland Allen’s classic missions book Missionary Methods: Saint Paul’s or Ours? Keener points out that Allen “… recognized the essential role of God’s divine intervention in the advance of the gospel” (pg. 107). The subject of spiritual warfare is included in the newer volume because “Many have linked spiritual warfare with missions” (page 107). One can certainly understand this connection because salvation involves bringing a person out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s Son (Col. 1:13). This transfer from darkness to light is not one that the powers of darkness will stand idly by and watch.

In this chapter, Keener focuses on spiritual warfare by looking at Paul’s images for it in his letters: Romans, 2 Corinthians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy. However, he focuses primarily on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. The author also examines the apostle’s “power encounters” with the spiritual forces of darkness in the book of Acts. These encounters are his interactions with Elymas, the sorcerer, in Acts 13, the demonized slave girl in Acts 16, and the people of Ephesus in Acts 19. Keener thus employs both Paul’s teaching in his letters and the narrative, experiential history of Paul’s ministry preserved for us in the book of Acts as he deals with this subject. When writing about the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6 the author calls the reader’s attention to background information regarding the city of Ephesus and the larger context of the book of Ephesians.

Keener offers some very helpful insights in this chapter. I will mention four of them here. First, spiritual warfare includes, but is not restricted to, our conflict with evil spirits; it also involves battles with our own sinful nature (page 108). Second, spiritual warfare is more practical than we might think, Keener writes, “we are protected by our right relationship with God and one another” (page 110). Third, and this is very important, there is a corporate aspect to spiritual warfare. Keener says “. . . we dare not break ranks. We must march together protecting one another”(page 112). Fourth, that the practice of directly addressing Satan and casting down heavenly spiritual powers/princes lacks biblical support (page 117).

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Category: Biblical Studies, Spring 2015

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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