Spiritual warfare in the early Church

Spiritual warfare in the early Church


Spiritual warfare and the world have been in existence since the fall of man. The early church leaders suffered at the hands of Satan and were brutally killed because of their faith. Historians capture these events so that modernity might not forget them.

According to Scripture, the followers of Jesus and early church fathers endured spiritual warfare with the world. Satan, the prince and power of the air, convinced men that Christianity was evil and that it must be silenced on earth (Acts 7:12).


The first church Martyr was Stephen in Acts 7:57–58. He was stoned to death because of his faith. Judaism tried to destroy the works of the church. World religion was at war with Christianity. Since that day, world governments and religions have attempted to wipe out the gospel.


James, the son of Zebedee, the elder brother of John, was led to the place of martyrdom, and beheaded for his faith.

Phillip the Apostle

Phillip the Apostle labored diligently in Upper Asia and suffered martyrdom. He was scourged, thrown into prison, and afterwards crucified (A.D. 54).[4]


The fourth apostle to face martyrdom was Matthew. He was a toll-gatherer. History says he served the Lord in Ethiopia and was slain for the gospel in A.D. 60.[5]

James the Less

Another apostle and victim of spiritual warfare with the world was James the less. He was elected to oversee the churches in Jerusalem and was the author of the Epistle ascribed to James. At the age of ninety-four, the Jews stoned and beat him; finally, they dashed out his brains with a fuller’s club. This too was an act of spiritual warfare.[6]


Matthias was killed for the sake of the gospel. Matthias took Judas the betrayer’s place as a disciple. His death was a stoning for his faith. These events took place in Jerusalem where he was beheaded.[7]


Andrew was the younger brother of Peter, a follower of Jesus. According to Winston, he preached the gospel to many Asiatic nations, but on his arrival at Edessa, he was taken and crucified on a X shaped cross. He was killed for his faith and for following Christ.[8]


Mark, the writer of the Gospel of Mark was dragged to death, because he opposed the gods of Egypt.[9]


Church Historian, Jerome, says that Peter was crucified with his head being down and his feet upward, because he said, “I am unworthy to be crucified after the same form and manner as the Lord was.”[10]


Paul also suffered under Nero. The soldiers led Paul out of the city to the place of execution where after his prayers, gave his neck to the sword.[11]


Jude, the brother of James, was commonly called Thaddeus. He was crucified at Edessa, because of his affection and obedience to Jesus Christ. His charge was that he was Christ’s disciple. This happened in A.D. 72.[12]


Bartholomew, before his death, preached in several countries and translated the Gospel of Matthew into Indian language. Because of his ministry in India, he was cruelly beaten and then crucified by idolaters.[13]


Thomas, called Didymus, preached the gospel in India where, exciting the rage of the pagan priests, he was martyred with a spear.[14]


Luke the evangelist who travelled with Paul supposedly was hung on an olive tree.



John, the beloved disciple, was brother to James the Great, was cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, banished to the Isle of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. He was the only apostle who escaped a violent death.[15]



Barnabas, the son of encouragement and a faithful disciple was from Cyprus. He was killed in A.D. 73. He too suffered because of spiritual warfare and the world.[16]


These persecutions and deaths did not prevent the gospel from being spread across the world. The church did not cease but rather daily increased, deeply rooted in the doctrine of the apostles and the faith of Jesus Christ.

These foundational years of spiritual warfare set the course of action for spiritual battle with the worlds satanic systems.

Believers since that time have endured death, prison, physical torture, and other hostilities.

Jesus forewarned believers that they would experience such warfare and persecution because of His Name (John 15:19).

He informed them of the battle that was ahead of them; they all embraced the cross and endured spiritual warfare and persecution.

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.[17]


[1] The New King James Version. 1982 (Jn 15:18–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] The New King James Version. 1982 (Jn 15:18–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] The New King James Version. 1982 (Jn 15:18–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Ibid., 3.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid., 6.

[12] Ibid., 7.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid,. 9.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] The New King James Version. 1982 (Jn 15:18–19). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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