Monday, November 1, 2010

"Not Against Flesh and Blood" -- Introduction


It is very difficult to think rightly about Satan because he continually attempts to cloud and enshroud his involvement in human affairs.

By "Satan," we actually include an entire host of spiritual beings who once existed as angelic servants of God, but who rebelled against Him and now seek to thwart His purposes.

Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:11-12).

Satan is the leader of these wicked angels (Matthew 25:41). He is subservient to God, however, as evidenced by the account of Job wherein Satan must obtain Divine permission in order to attack Job (Job 1:12). The devil can do nothing that God does not allow him to do, although the Lord does not motivate or instigate Satan's evil (James 1:13). He simply knows in advance everything the devil and his minions will ever do, and therefore fits Satan's activities into His ultimate purposes.

"There are many adversaries" declared the Apostle Paul (I Corinthians 16:9). Paul likely meant both angelic and human foes by his recognition of our enemies. As referenced above, however, "we wrestle not against flesh and blood," but rather against the host of wicked spiritual entities referred to by the Lord Jesus as "the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41).

In the past, many churches had a sign over the doors of their prayer rooms that quoted Paul's declaration, "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." I once heard a preacher say, however, that his experience indicated that for many congregations, the better statement of intent and practice would simply be, "We wrestle not!" This has too often been the case in my life, and of late I have become more and more convinced that we must be aware of the truth that the Christian life involves not only ourselves and God, but also the angelic host of both faithful and fallen angels. The Bible often references this truth, and we risk unnecessary spiritual weakness and insignificance if we blithely ignore a vast population of beings with whom we share the arena of our lives.

Indeed, consider the aforementioned Job. There is no indication he ever knew of the heavenly discourse between God and Satan that led to his trial. "Hast thou considered my servant Job?" asked the Lord of the devil. "Put forth Thine hand now and touch all that he hath, and he will curse Thee to Thy face" responded Satan (Job 1:9; 11). Job's suffering ensued, as did the spiritual illumination, redemption, and establishment of the man of God in far greater truth and devotion. "Then Job answered the Lord... before I have heard of Thee by the hearing of mine ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee" (Job 42:1; 5). We rejoice in this profound spiritual revelation of the book of Job, but for our present consideration, a question arises. How would Job's trial have been different if he had known the heavenly machinations between God and Satan that led to it? I find this one of the most fascinating features of the book of Job, and one that leads to great light for those who read Job's story.

We do know of God and Satan's discourse concerning Job, and thus, of the truth that the devil and his spiritual followers are allowed to have much influence in our lives. Our Lord provided the story of Job to inform us. Herein lies perhaps the greatest lesson for us in this vital portion of Scripture, namely, that our lives comprise not merely the Divine and the human, but also the angelic. This includes both the holy "ministering servants" of God, that is, the faithful angels, and those who rebelled against God and are now the devil and his demonic hosts. Failure to understand this truth in accordance with Biblical teaching leads to unfortunate consequences in our lives. We will not appreciate and give thanks for those angelic servants who help to administer God's provision and protection in our lives. Nor will we make the proper "stand" against Satan and his minions whereby we become effectual sons and daughters in Christ sent forth by God to administer the victory of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus for the fulfillment of the Divine will (Ephesians 6:11).

This collection of essays will address the believer's relationship to "the devil and his angels." It will focus, however, on Christ and His glory, as declared by the Word of God. All things are meant to be viewed through the prism of our exalted Savior, including both God's friends and His enemies. The latter company provides much challenge in our understanding. Our tendency is to either overemphasize the devil and demonic entities, or to underemphasize them. Or, we think wrongly about them through the influence of cultural notions fostered by literature, the entertainment industry, and even religious concepts that are more the product of human or devilish invention than the teaching of the Word of God. What does the Bible actually say about Satan, and how we are to think, speak, pray, and act concerning this being created by God, sustained in existence by God, and ultimately to be cast into the eternal lake of fire by God? How do we view the devil and his followers in the context of our Heavenly Father's "eternal purpose in Christ Jesus?" (Ephesians 3:11). The question requires a lifetime of Biblical consideration, and this study is provided to provide a glimmer of light that will hopefully motivate more consistent thought about our role in affirming the victory of the risen Christ over the world, the flesh, and the devil, as triumphantly declared by the Apostle...

"Having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it."
(Colossians 2:15)

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