Chapter 18 – Three Passages Related to Marriage and Warfare

In this chapter we will examine three insight-filled passages related to marriage and warfare. The first passage gives an especially dramatic picture of Satan’s war against marriage. In the Acts 10, Peter fell into a trance and saw the following:


“…the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’ But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’ Again a voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’” (Acts 10: 11-15)


We know from what followed after the trance that God was restoring the biblical truth that His salvation plan included the Gentiles, which the Jews had lost sight of (see Acts 11:18). But what did this vision actually communicate? Let’s take a look at the symbolism. 


·         The sheet here symbolized marital intimacy. Peter would have been familiar with a sheet representing marital oneness since it was used for evidence of sexual consummation in his culture (Deuteronomy 22:17). God was showing Peter that Christ’s bride, the church, included gentiles even though gentiles were still considered unclean by the Jews.


·         The unclean four-footed animals, crawling creatures, and birds in the sheet symbolized the demonic realm. Each of these types of animals in different places of scripture represents the demonic (four-footed animals, ex. Psalm 74:19; crawling creatures, ex. Luke 10:19; birds, ex. Matt 13: 4, 19) 


·         God’s command to kill and eat symbolized the Jewish church’s mandate to go into the gentile world and attack the evil strongholds that were keeping them in bondage. Another example of delivering people from bondage being compared to food can be found in John 4:34.


This is a startling picture. Jesus longed for intimacy with His bride, the gentile church, but standing in the way of that intimacy were multitudes of demonic creatures that had to be killed first. Nevertheless, Jesus was uncompromising in His resolve that Peter attack and kill them.


This picture applies to individual marriages as well.  There is no fiercer battleground in all of humanity than marriage because there is none more foundational to God’s purposes. Marriage is the primary picture God has given the world to understand how Jesus relates to His people, which is why the enemy hates it so vehemently. A single Christ-centered marriage has the power to touch countless people around it and bear tremendous fruit that can only be fully accounted for in eternity.


1 Corinthians 11

The second passage we’ll look at is 1 Corinthians 11:1-16. In a nutshell it says that, while praying or prophesying, a woman’s head needs to be covered and a man’s head needs to be uncovered. This may sound strange and legalistic, but when we dig deeper, the passage contains profound spiritual wisdom. Let’s see if we can make sense of it.


It’s a Tradition

Paul starts out the passage by saying this is a “tradition” (vs. 2), not a doctrine or a law. Therefore, it should be interpreted similarly to other passages in the Bible that describe symbolic traditions. The important part is not the outward action, but the underlying principle it points to.


It’s about Marriage

Next, in verse 3, Paul gives the context for the tradition, saying, But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” So the context is marital responsibilities and authority structure.


The Head Covering is a Symbol

Next let’s look at the symbol used in this tradition – the head covering. What does it represent? This is explained in verse 10: Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” The angels Paul mentions here are not holy angels; they are fallen angels. Therefore, the head covering represents the woman being under the authority of someone who is responsible for protecting her against spiritual attack – her husband.


Paul wanted women to wear a symbol of their husband’s authority to protect them while praying or prophesying because praying and prophesying are acts of spiritual warfare. They are crossing over into enemy territory and plundering his camp. The enemy takes this seriously and sometimes attempts some form of backlash.


A woman wearing a head covering meant that she was not alone. Her prayers and prophetic utterances were acts of marital unity. She was under her husband’s covering who was in turn under Christ’s covering (symbolized by his uncovered head being exposed to heaven above). Therefore, they could go together into the enemy’s territory with boldness because they were properly aligned and protected under God’s power. This is part of why 1 Peter 3:7 says to husbands, “…show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” When there is not a proper aligning of authority and protection, the enemy can more easily oppose our prayers.


The passage says the man is the head of the woman because the husband is the primary gatekeeper of his family. In our culture, there is confusion about the proper roles of men and women in marriage. However, when God, angels, and demons look at a family, they have no confusion at all about who carries the lion’s share of the authority. They feel it. They know without question the husband has preeminence over the spiritual atmosphere of the home. His prayers, faith, and obedience invite the presence of God into his home while his lack of these things lays a welcome mat for the demonic realm. 


Calling Your Wife Your Sister

Abraham’s greatest failure in marriage was twice telling foreign kings that Sarah was his sister (Genesis 12 and 20). This was a half-truth since she actually was his sister (Genesis 20:12), but he neglected to mention she was also his wife because of fear. This is a picture of how a husband can sometimes treat his wife as only a sister in Christ – as an equal in their families’ battle against the enemy – rather than taking responsibility to lead and protect her in the fight.


Women sometimes struggle with fear more than men. The enemy knows this and tries to exploit it. He tries to paralyze women with fear for their children’s safety, fear of letting people down, fear of not being provided for, etc… Men are meant to cover and encourage their wives in this battle. This is why a woman’s command to not be “frightened by any fear” goes hand in hand with a husband’s command to live with his wife “in an understanding way, as with someone weaker” (1 Peter 3:6-7).


The Last Part of 1 Corinthians 11

Next, Paul says, For a man… is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.” Notice it doesn’t say woman is the image of man – Genesis 1:27 says both men and women bears God’s image. It only says she is the glory of man. In other words, she is the higher, more glorious part of mankind. This goes back to what we discussed earlier about women being, in a sense, a higher order of creation because they reflect the beauty and relational nature of God.


Who is usually considered more important, the one who protects or the one who is protected? Who is more important, the soldiers or the king they protect? Who is more important, the secret service agents or the President they protect? Well then, who is more important, the husband or the wife he protects?


Finally Paul says:


“For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake… However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.” (vs. 7-9, 11-12)


Remember, men reflect the building, protecting nature of God. However, building and protecting are not an end to themselves. They are only valuable and meaningful if they are performed in service of something greater. God created the “woman for the man’s sake” because his masculine nature needed a purpose to serve other than himself. He needed someone more valuable than himself to honor and protect. He needed someone more important than himself to serve.


Women reflect the beautiful, relational nature of God. Beauty and relationships are an end to themselves. However, without protection, beauty and relationships are defenseless. When God created Adam and Eve, the universe was divided. Satan and his angels hated God, hated His creation, and wanted to destroy it. This is why the passage says, “…neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.” We need each other to fully reflect the image of God. We need each other to build a kingdom that has purpose and beauty. And we need each other to wage war and overcome evil.


Elijah’s Comforter

The last passage we’ll look at is about Elijah – a man who probably wasn’t even married. However, one story from his life always reminds me of the power of a spouse to bring encouragement and hope during a time of heavy spiritual attack.


In 1 Kings 19, a three and a half year drought, brought on by Elijah’s prayers, finally came to an end. Just before it ended, Elijah called down fire from heaven in front of the entire nation of Israel and oversaw the slaughter of 400 of Jezebel’s priests who had been leading Israel into demon-worship.


Immediately after this great victory, Elijah fled into the wilderness fearing for his life because Jezebel promised to kill him. On the surface, this was not a rational response. Why would Elijah be afraid of this woman after such a spectacular demonstration of God’s power? However, this was not a normal kind of fear Elijah was feeling – it was satanic backlash. Elijah came under such heavy spiritual oppression that he felt he couldn’t go on. He asked God to take his life.


However, notice what happened next. When Elijah woke up, an angel of the Lord was physically present with him, touching him. The angel also prepared a meal of baked bread cakes and a jar of water for him. The angel spoke to him, encouraging him to eat. Elijah ate, drank, and lay down to sleep again. Then the same thing happened a second time. This time, while touching him, the angel spoke what appeared to be words of empathy and tenderness: “Arise, eat, because the journey is too great for you.”


Did not this angel comfort Elijah exactly as a wife would have? The angel touched him, cooked for him, and spoke tenderly to him. The comfort and sustenance Elijah received from that encounter sustained him for the next forty days.


I remember once feeling especially overwhelmed by the enemy’s presence in my life. I wanted to curl up into a ball and escape. Sometimes spending time alone with God can be of comfort in a situation like this, but not every time. Sometimes it makes all the difference to have someone physically present who can touch gently and speak softly. When my wife put her arms around me and spoke encouraging words that day, I could never remember feeling more comforted.


Perhaps Elijah was not called to be married, so God supernaturally provided the comfort a wife might have added to him in his hour of darkness. But, for me, this story resonates deeply of the power of a spouse to be a physical vessel of God’s tenderness and compassion when we feel like permanently retreating from a spiritual battle or come under heavy oppression.



Many Christians are familiar with the metaphor of the church being Christ’s body. But less familiar is the metaphor that a wife is her husband’s body. What does this metaphor mean and what does it look like? We’ll find out in the next chapter.