A casual reading of the Bible reveals the marvelous truth that God is Sovereign. That simply means that nothing takes place in this life which does not go through His Hands and that He is supreme over everything. That can be a controversial statement and one which gives rise to some interesting theological discussions. But how does it affect and apply to spiritual warfare? Let’s briefly look at this.
What does it mean to “go through God’s Hands?” Does that mean He instigates all things and that all things are the work of His Hands? Of course not. However, everything which takes place will either be promoted, permitted or prevented by the Father’s Sovereign will. That which He promotes and prevents can be declared the hand or finger of God with Scriptural certainty. However, that which He permits can have other sources; though none of them are independent of God’s Sovereignty.
Why all of this? Because while upholding God’s Sovereignty we must not press our view of sovereignty beyond the full Scriptural position. If we do, we will find ourselves calling the work of Satan the Hand of God. We have an enemy who fights believers and seeks to steal, kill and destroy. (Jn. 10:10) The OT prophets, Jesus and the early church stood against and engaged the powers of darkness as the cause of evil works. We must also recognize the presence of the enemy and stand in our rightful position in the finished work of Calvary lest we roll over and yield to the enemy’s hand while believing it is God’s Hand.
If we call everything which takes place the hand of God we will fail to properly distinguish the enemy’s work and therefore, by default, fail to engage in spiritual warfare. And yet, the apostles Paul and Peter speak about standing against and resisting the powers of darkness in several New Testament passages. (Eph. 6:10-18; 1Pet. 5:8-9) They did not use passive terms. They used military terms! The battle they describe involves a wrestling against the schemes of the Devil…not a submission to them.
When Satan brings spiritual torment to a troubled soul, is it always the hand of God? When Satan prompts evil men to rob, murder or rape a child, is that always the finger of God? If you answered yes…your view of Sovereignty is out of balance and you lose not only the definition of good and evil, but you also make God, who is the Good Shepherd, culpable of evil. There is no way to avoid this logical conclusion.
You will hear very little from some camps concerning spiritual warfare. Why? Because they are so caught up in trying to make sure God gets glory for everything that they fail to realize that some of the things happening are from the evil one. They are afraid to find themselves standing against God, therefore, they submit to some situations that God desires they would wrestle with and resist because He is not the source.
Is God Sovereign? Absolutely. Should we engage and stand against Satan in spiritual warfare? Absolutely. Well, since God is Sovereign, how do we stand against the enemy without standing against God? Because, though God is Sovereign, some of the things which happen to us in this life are because He permits them; not because He is promoting them. This is critical to understand lest we surrender and become a door mat to the works of darkness in the name of submitting to the will of God.
In every situation we need to pray and ask the Lord if what is taking place is His highest will for our life. God will speak to us and reveal His plans and purposes. Even very difficult situations will come with an ocean of grace when they are God’s highest will for us. However, we cannot and will not get the same grace to surrender and submit to that which is the work of the enemy. At times God will permit Satan to attack us in order to promote our understanding and engagement in spiritual warfare. Our Lord is doing many things on many levels through every situation in life. We will not and cannot understand everything He is doing, but He will show us enough to know the difference between His Hand and the hand of the enemy.
There are two theological extremes: One never engages the enemy because of an unbalanced view of God’s Sovereignty (extreme Calvinism), and the other resists everything as the work of darkness and fails to recognize the Hand of God because of an unbalanced view of God’s Sovereignty. (extreme Arminianism)
Let us avoid both of these unbalanced views and uphold these two undeniable scriptural truths: God is Sovereign and spiritual warfare is real. Therefore, we can confidently stand against the work of Satan and the powers of darkness without concern that we are resisting God. Jesus did it, the apostles and the early church did it, and so should we! Everything passes through the Father’s Hands, but everything is not His Hand for us to submit to.