Spiritual warfare has been a popular topic in Christianity for centuries. It’s no less popular today. A Google search of the phrase brings up over 42 million results.
Broader culture has capitalized on this popularity. Book series and movies, conferences and curricula explore and teach on the subject of the faithful in the midst of a war between the kingdom of God and the powers of evil. Sword-wielding angels fight sulphur-spewing demons. It’s the stuff of epic storytelling and lucrative consumables.
But in large part we may have entirely missed the point.
The clearest New Testament Bible passage on spiritual warfare doesn’t paint a portrait anything like what we often see or read in our media. The battle against evil, against Satan, against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” doesn’t happen in a theatre of human conflict. It largely happens in your mind.
Spiritual warfare briefly explained
The passage to which I refer is Ephesians 6:10-20 – a mere 11 verses. It’s here that Pastor Paul opens his spiritual warfare toolbox and explains each item to his congregation. These items look and sound a lot like battle gear. He even calls them “the armor of God.” Six items of preparation and defense. One offensive weapon. Each fitted and fashioned for a specific purpose. Each representing something the spiritual warrior must know and remember.
- The belt of truth – to gather up all the loose ends of your robe so you don’t trip. Truth holds everything together, including you.
- The breastplate of righteousness – it protects your vital organs, most importantly your heart. We seek ” his kingdom, his righteousness.” God gifts his righteousness to us in exchange for our sin. Our right standing before God is protective.
- The shoes of the gospel of peace – to keep your feet steady so that you remain standing. This is not preparation for evangelism, as many have taught. The shoes of peace are the footwear of those who are saved by faith because they believed the good news about Jesus. They are anchors to your soul.
- The shield of faith – to extinguish the enemy’s “flaming darts.” These are lies, accusations, and deceptions. A Roman soldier kept a small circular shield, covered in leather, which he would soak in water prior to battle. The wet leather could put out flaming arrows. We point our shields of faith in the direction of untruth’s onslaught. Without faith, we cannot please God. This faith, as Paul explains earlier in this book, is itself God’s gift.
- The helmet of salvation – to deflect the blows taken in close combat. John wrote his gospel so that we might “know we have eternal life.” A saved person knows his or her status in God’s grace. But we’re forgetful. We must constantly remind ourselves of this truth when Satan questions our salvation.
Then there’s the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. A sword is both offensive and defensive. The short sword – the “machaira” in Greek – deflects the enemy’s blows and then attacks with truth, with promises, with certainty and trustworthiness. Truth always wins against falsehood.
This is pastor Paul’s spiritual warfare toolbox. It’s all we need to have victory in battle. We can take all of it with us wherever we go.
Pastor Thomas’s spiritual warfare manual
Thomas Brooks wrote Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices as a sort of expanded toolbox for his congregation to use in spiritual warfare. Interestingly, as he explains in the book’s introduction, he hesitated to do so at first. But his flock asked him to reconsider. The book is his deeply rich and useful response.
Let’s walk step by step through the introduction as we begin our journey through Precious Remedies.
Epistle dedicatory explained
Brooks, like other writers of his time, often wrote an “epistle dedicatory” in his books. What are they exactly? We use the one in Precious Remedies as an example.
To his most dear and precious ones, the sons and daughters of the Most High God, over whom the Holy Spirit has made him a Watchman. Beloved in our dearest Lord: Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched.
It’s not difficult to understand. Let’s look at each word individually.
Epistle: A letter written to an intended audience. Think of “Paul’s Epistle to the Church in Rome.” That’s the long way we refer to the book of Romans in the Bible. We call it an epistle because it was a letter Paul wrote to the Roman church.
So, this part of the book is a personal letter – from Brooks to his church.
Dedicatory: Something dedicated; for the purpose of being devoted to someone or something.
In modern terms, then, we can compare the epistle dedicatory to the dedication page at the beginning of a novel. Brooks’ letter is devoted to someone. He explains whom in the very first line.
“To his most dear and precious ones, the sons and daughters of the Most High God, over whom the Holy Spirit has made him a Watchman.”
Precious Remedies is dedicated to you, “dear reader.” He dedicates this book to all believers, everywhere who read it and take it to heart.
“But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ, so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, ‘for we are not ignorant of his schemes’.” (2 Corinthians 2:10–11 NASB)
I provided the context here, because Brooks uses two clauses from a longer thought as the guiding principle of this book.
The full title of this work is Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices. That word, devices, appears in the King James Bible. In the New American Standard, Holman Christian Standard, and NIV it is schemes. The ESV has it as designs.
Behind the word lies the concepts of Satan’s thoughts, his purposes toward us. One could take that any number of ways. But the context of Paul’s use of the word implies evil intent. And it is that evil intent that drives the entire thrust of this book.
Brooks writes to Christians (“the sons and daughters of the Most High God”). So we must conclude He is not so concerned with those Satan can drag off to hell with His temptations. The concern here regards the schemes the devil uses to drag believers away from their full devotion to Christ.
Whatever is the best and most effective weapon Satan can use against an individual Christian, he will use it. He has spent enough years in his state of defeat, waiting for Christ to return and dispose of him once and for all, that he is an expert in exploiting human weakness.
This book, then, is for any Christian who longs to know how to defeat Satan’s temptations and recognize his schemes for what they are.
The decision to write this book
“There was never more writing and yet never less practicing.” How even more true is that statement today, when we have access to more written information than we could have imagined?
Brooks lists seven reasons for his decision to write Precious Remedies. We summarize them here.
- Understanding the enemy’s advantage is the pathway to overcoming him.
- The many requests Brooks received to write on this subject apparently changed his mind about it.
- In preparing to write the book, Brooks experienced unusual opposition. Rather than discourage him, this must have steeled his resolution to complete the project even more.
- He recognized how useful such a book would be to so many people.
- Brooks was obviously disappointed in the lack of resources on the subject of avoiding Satan’s temptations. So he wrote one himself. This is an incredible lesson on the value of creating what is lacking in the world.
- He wanted to reach dear friends who were far from him. And he thought this book might be the right vehicle to do that.
- Brooks understood that the legacy he would leave after he was gone would best be expressed through his writings. He estimated the worth of such a legacy as far greater than any sum of money endowed in a will.
Brooks’ desires for his readers
Brooks quotes five different New Testament passages from apostolic writers. These words virtually drip with the writers’ hopes for their readers’ spiritual growth and maturity, their prosperity in kingdom work, and their increasing love for their brothers and sisters in Christ.
A book about defeating the works of Satan will obviously touch on trials and difficulties. Note that Brooks desire is that his readers will remain “fresh,” will “shine,” will be preserved through them. He doesn’t provide false hopes that things will always get better. There’s no talk of happiness and ease always being the outcome of faith in Christ.
Instead, we read that we will be delivered to our Lord in the end having endured Satan’s devices and united with Him forever.
Brooks’ desires for his readers are only what the dearest and most loving pastor could want for his flock. And he has the humility to ask them for their prayers in return.
So many years removed from these writings, we can no longer pray for Thomas Brooks in the way he asked. But we can honor his legacy by reading his magnificent works and heeding his call to fight Satan’s schemes with all the biblical and spiritual weaponry at our disposal.