In his book, The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity, Mark Bubeck describes a world with which far too many believers are unfamiliar—that of spiritual activity, of spiritual warfare and of spiritual victory. Bubeck’s Adversary has proven for thirty-five years to be an immensely useful handbook for believers on combating spiritual enemies and on holding the ground they take as they find victory, little by little, through the power of the Holy Spirit and the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. The following reading reflection will focus on three strong aspects and on one weak aspect of Adversary that stand out to the reader.
Bubeck controls the flow of his book as he first introduces and describes the warfare which every believer faces, and then focuses on how the believer can find and maintain victory over the enemies of darkness. The three strong aspects of Adversary that initially stand out cover, first, Bubeck’s style of writing, second, his focus on listing the proverbial nuts and bolts of spiritual warfare, and third, his discussion on how believers can fight their old flesh with confidence.
First, Bubeck’s writing style causes the reader to recognize both the simplicity of understanding spiritual warfare as it is openly revealed in Scripture and the obvious cost involved in claiming victory over the dark forces of the devil. He shows each of these things clearly through his outlines and lists and his compulsive application of scriptural passages. Specifically, each of these three points can be seen in Bubeck’s outline of the extensive Bible quotations about Satan (Bubeck, p. 57-66). This outline stands out as one of the most exhaustive yet brief biographies of the devil available. Covering such background information as Satan’s original state, rebellion and fall (p. 57) and his titles and names (p. 58), Bubeck also discloses Satan’s power (p. 60), his sphere of activity, his strategy and his destiny (p. 63), a destiny which involves his eventual defeat by Christ and the believers (p.63-66).
Second, Bubeck focuses much of his book on listing the absolute basics of spiritual warfare for the believer. Three of these lists cover the reasons why sin is wrong (p. 34-35), the believer’s responsibility in spiritual warfare (p. 16), and the methods for being filled with the Spirit (p. 42-43). Bubeck first writes that sin is wrong because it dishonors God, it denies God’s right to direct and discipline His children, it derives from the old man instead of the new, and it disagrees openly with the conduct of the new man (p. 35). Second, he writes of the believer’s responsibility in this spiritual warfare that each must “fight the good fight of faith” (I timothy 6:12; p. 16) and remain “strong in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:10; p. 16, 70). Third, Bubeck writes out how a believer can be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18): he must communicate honestly with himself, confess any known sin, capitulate to God’s lordship, convey his desire to be filled by the Holy Spirit, consider such promised filling as already accomplished (p. 42), and continue to obey God’s will as it is laid out in Scripture (p. 43).
Third, Bubeck discusses how a believer can fight his old flesh with confidence. He opens this book-wide discussion by naming the believer’s three specific enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil (p. 22). He then spends Chapters 2, 3 and 5 writing specifically about each of these enemies, naming their strengths, their strategies and their aspirations. Through it all, Bubeck continues to bring the reader’s focus back from preoccupation with Satan and his kingdom (p. 68) to instead the God Who rules over all. At one point, he clearly states God’s own method of combating the devil and protecting His own children by writing that “God is never in the business of reforming the natural man. God only regenerates and makes us new creatures” (p. 36). God has protected and will always protect His children—the entirety of Psalms speaks to this end—but it takes continual submission of the child to the Father to see that the enemy never maintains a foothold.
Bubeck’s book also contains one negative aspect which involves the outdated feel of Adversary on the whole. This book desperately requires an updated edition as its 1975 publishing date is clearly evidenced in Bubeck’s untimely examples. While often personal in his approach, Bubeck has written his work from a completely different era and generation than what believers experience today. Were Bubeck (or someone authorized) to update this material with more modern examples, Adversary could make yet another resurgence into mainstream religious works and inform the whole of Christendom of the ever-presence of spiritual darkness all around. Spiritual darkness has riddled today’s media to a much deeper extent than a single Exorcist film had done in the mid-1970s. This generation has become inundated with dark entertainment: black magic, vampires, inhumanity and Godless universes. Children are growing up today into a world that finds much more joy inside a touch-screen than it does in the reality that surrounds them. The military organization of spiritual darkness (p. 72) has discovered and learned brand new weapons with which to attack the believers of the new millennium, and these weapons are the weapons of mindless entertainment and godless time-wasters. To have a better, clearer understanding of the demonic forces that surround them today, Christians would be blessed in finding an updated version of Bubeck’s Adversary.
This book by Mark Bubeck has proven to be a useful handbook for understanding spiritual enemies and for training to combat them. Bubeck’s faithfulness to scriptural application makes his book a must-read for anyone seeking to better learn how to wear and utilize his spiritual armor against the devil and his forces (Ephesians 6:10-17).
Bubeck, Mark I. The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity. Chicago: Moody Press, 1975.
© 2010 E.T.