For some time, I have wanted to work my way through what the famous Chinese military philosopher, Sun Tzu, had to say about warfare with an eye toward how it applies to spiritual warfare. While I am no military expert and cannot comment on the veracity of Sun Tzu’s statements, I can comment on the veracity of them as they pertain to spiritual warfare—an experience common to every believer who has ever walked the Earth.
I am not writing this as an authority of any sort. I am a layperson. There are books aplenty authored by clergy and others who may assert more authority than I. If you would like a definitive treatise on spiritual warfare, I’m certain someone has already written it and this is merely one scarred campaigner in spiritual warfare reflecting on what he might learn by juxtaposing an almost legendary military theorist with The Bible.
Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.
Before embarking on an exploration of the ins and outs of spiritual warfare, it bears note that spiritual warfare began with only two combatants: God and Satan. No one else had yet taken the field. Prior to that conflict, there was no spiritual warfare at all. After the introduction of humanity into the equation, there were suddenly multiple combatants on the field. Believers who have been well taught for any length of time will be familiar with the enemies: the world system (spiritual, not to be confused with governments), our own sinful natures, and Satan and his allies. Here we arrive at a problem. If God created everything—including the combatants—then why create them at all? Spiritual warfare could have been avoided entirely had God simply not created us or Satan. If we assume, as many have and still do, that God was in some way surprised by the rebellion of Satan and the fall of humanity and that redemption was some sort of Plan B then we may very well be confused by God’s creation. However, if we assume that God placed Himself beyond the possibility of defeat and that redemption is God’s Master Plan from the beginning then we are no longer surprised at God’s creation. The determining factor should be whether or not a view is borne out by scripture.
Peter (in 1 Peter) and Paul (in Romans) speak of God’s foreknowledge of individual choices. So it is senseless to suppose that God was in any way surprised by Satan’s rebellion or humanity’s. Indeed, the only option open to the person who believes The Bible is to conclude that God knew what was going to happen before He created anyone or anything. Hence God knew that there would be rebellion; that there would be spiritual warfare and chose to create anyway. The question is, then: Did He place Himself beyond the possibility of defeat?
Ephesians 1:22 says that God the Father put all things in subjection under [Jesus’] feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church and Romans 8:37 says that believers overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Jesus says of those who believed in Him, in John 18:9 that He lost not one—allowance had already been made for Judas in John 17. Revelation speaks of names being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from the foundation of the world. 1 Corinthians 15 has a great deal to say about the believer’s victory over sin and death through Christ’s death and resurrection. And John’s first epistle mentions that the faith of the believer is the victory that has overcome the world (1 John 5:4). Over and over, The Bible speaks of victory as a fait accompli. It is clear that, from God’s perspective, the spiritual war was over before it began. God did, indeed, put Himself beyond the possibility of defeat.