In 1936, there was a civil war in Spain, and out of that war emerged the phrase, “the fifth column.” Emilio Mola Vidal, a Nationalist General during the Spanish Civil War, was attacking Madrid when another general asked him, “What is your plan to take that city?”

He replied, “I’ve got four columns against the city – one from the north, one from the south, one from the east, one from the west.” He paused and then added, “But it’s my fifth column that I’m expecting to take the city for me.”

“Where is that fifth column?” the second general asked. Vidal replied, “My fifth column is inside the city.”

The fifth column undermines besieged cities, nations, and also individuals. The activities of this group can be out in the open, but are usually cloaked. It is a regiment that works silently and is always the deadliest.

This is the only way that Christians are ever defeated – never from without, but always from within. We are often battered from the north, south, east, and west by circumstances and people aligned by Satan for our demise. The devil calls up this deadly regiment to take us out after many hours of wrestling and wrangling in spiritual conflict. The outward buffeting is an assault that wears us down to a frazzle and leaves us vulnerable to the final, decisive blows of these fifth-column traitors.

The fifth column can consist of those closest to you, who attack because they want to undermine your success. However, all external battles are started and won from within. The Bible says, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?” (James 4:1).

Jesus names the troops that make up the fifth column and where they operate. He said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19 NIV). Left unchecked and unchallenged, these saboteurs wreak havoc on our spiritual progress.

Proverbs 4:23-24 (KJV) encourages us to “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee.” The heart is our inward battleground wherein the fifth column launches its deadly final assault to sink us.

We undergo many external assaults, but when the heart gives up, territory is lost, leaving us as prey to these silent soldiers of the enemy, waiting in the wings to weaken our internal defenses.  We can change our external behavior to hide the vice without changing the heart. For example, we can mask “impatience” with an external mask of “patience”.

The words that we speak betray these deadly assassins. Jesus said, “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34 NIV). Our words identify our internal foes hiding within. We can then approach God’s throne of grace and mercy so that he can purge these silent killers. A pure heart is able to clearly see God’s purposes and overcome the fifth column (Matthew 5:8).

“I’m tired of principalities messing with me

I’m tired of the devil stealing from me

I promise he won’t get one more thing

I’m taking it back, taking territory

I’m ready for the battle, I’m ready to win

My weapon of power He lives within . . .

Fire by night, cloud by day, a strong tower, send the latter rain … “

– Apostle Phillip A. Walker