“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
The word “war” means to do military service, serve in the army, to serve in war, to undertake a military campaign. The term “war” carries the idea of active military service.
The New Testament uses an image of war for the Christian life (I Cor. 9:7; II Cor. 10:2ff; Phil. 2:25; Phlm. 2). Paul does not merely walk the Christian life, but he engages in the spiritual war.
The Christian life is a good war controlled by faith.
“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, 20of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme (I Tim. 1:18-19).
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (II Tim. 2:3-4).
James. 4:1 also has the destructive aspect of the war in view—this time concerning internal disagreement that leads to wars and fights. Inner tension produces outer conflict.
James 4:1-2, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”
Christians are in a spiritual war.
This world is not a friend of grace to help us with God. Most of us are unprepared and unequipped to operate as strong Christians in a hostile environment.
The Christian has an external, internal, and infernal foe. The external enemy is the world. The internal opposition is the flesh. The infernal foe is the Devil. These foes are not visible, as we find in military campaigns today.
This is a battle to which there is no truce. The only way to fight the Devil is to first submit to God, and then resist him:
James 4:7, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”