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Home Special Topics Suffering Chan Wai Sze: Forces beyond humans— Are we victims or sinners?
Chan Wai Sze: Forces beyond humans— Are we victims or sinners? PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 11 January 2012 20:32

 

Forces beyond humans—
Are we victims or sinners?

Referee: Dr. Benedict Kwok
Author: Chan Wai Sze

I. Introduction

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:13, The Lord’s Prayer)

Many Christians regard spiritual warfare as a specialized form of ministry such as exorcism, deliverance ministry, or a certain type of intercession, rather than as a descriptive phrase characterizing our common struggle as believers. In fact, spiritual warfare is much broader and all-encompassing, it is a fact of Christian life. It is not an isolatable compartment of church ministry or Christian experience, but an integral part of the entire Christian experience. It touches every aspect of our lives such as families, relationships, church and communities. As Clinton describes “To think that a Christian could avoid spiritual warfare is like imagining that a gardener could avoid dealing with weeds.” [1] If spiritual warfare is unavoidable, are we victims or sinners as Christians?

II. Reality

  1. Coexistence of two kingdoms—Conflicts and struggles between two kingdoms

The reality of a hostile realm in conflict with the kingdom of God is clearly mentioned in the first epistle of John “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19). God is the sovereign King over heaven and earth, but Matt. 4:8-9 and Luke 4:6 reveal that Satan and his minions do exercise significant influence over this world and his power structures.

We now live at a time when the kingdom of God coexists with the kingdom of evil. The apostle Paul describes Satan as “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4). This reflects the biblical understanding of history as divided into two eras namely this present evil age and the age to come. Satan is the prince of this evil age but the Lord Jesus Christ is the king of a new age and a reign of righteousness. [2] The fact is the coexistence of these two ages is not a peaceful one, but is in tension. Satan is the implacable enemy of God, but they are not equal. God’s power is incomparably greater than the power of sin or Satan.

  1. Existence of spiritual warfare

Spiritual warfare, in a broader sense, is a common struggle in Christian life, including doing evil. Christian life is not just a matter of exertion of human effort. It is also a matter of suprahuman power, allegiance, relationship, and connectedness. We, as believers of the Lord, enter a relationship with Christ which means are rescued from the kingdom of Satan (Col. 1:13) and have a new citizenship in a heavenly kingdom (Phil. 3:20). We are spiritually renewed, however, our bodies are still subject to death and under the impact of sin. There is virtually no part of our existence over which the evil one does not want to maintain or reassert his unhealthy and perverse influence. At another extreme, Jesus eagers to reign as Lord over every area of our lives. Conflicts and struggles then inevitably arise living as a Christian.

Being involved in spiritual warfare is unavoidable. In the Pauline letter, Ephesians 6:10-20, it consists of a powerful call to believers to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to their calling. Satan is not only a perpetrator of evil, he is also an opponent of the one true God. He endeavors to prevent each Christian from fulfilling the will of God, and then to fall.

The church is continually forced into battle (Eph. 6:11ff). Satan would do all that he can do to prevent the church from fulfilling God’s mission. Judas, as one of the twelve who followed Jesus and is viewed as a member of the church, is a sign of the demonic presence within the church of Christ as he is the son of perdition (John 17:12).

III. Evil influences: Biblical perspective

The Bible teaches that there are three forms of evil influence that exert their power over the lives of people to lead them into transgression and away from God. They are the world, the flesh and the devil. [3] In general, the Bible takes all three evil influences seriously and maintains a balance among them. This balance is most clearly mentioned in Ephesians 2:1-3, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world (the world) and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (the devil). All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts (the flesh). Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath”.

One significant feature of these three influences is that they do work in concert rather than separately. The devil works in harmony with the flesh and also closely connected to the world. The Bible reveals that Christians not only continue to struggle with the inner propensity to evil and the powerful impact of worldview and culture, but also with a personal, supernatural being that is also bent toward doing evil.

Here we investigate these three evil influences in further detail. The world is the unhealthy social environment in which we live. For example, whether we conduct our lives on the contrary to the biblical understanding of reality and biblical values. The world represents the prevailing worldview assumptions of the day that stand contrary to the biblical understanding of reality and biblical values. It imposes profound influence on how we act. [4] Sherwood Lingenfelter, an anthropologist and the provost of Biola University, has characterized the evil dimension of culture as “a prison of disobedience” that holds us in bondage until we are freed by Jesus Christ. [5] Christians embark on a lifelong task of discerning where these unhealthy influences are operative and effective in their lives. They attempt to root out those influences which violate the ethics and standards of Jesus Christ so as to adopt a godly life in the community.

The flesh is the inner propensity or inclination to do evil such as the act of disobedience. It is the part of our creatureliness which is destined to perish as it was tainted by the fall. This inner compulsion continues its connection to this present evil age and seeks to reassert its claim. An issue that begins with succumbing to the evil influence of the flesh may escalate into a greater spiritual problem. Christians can only resist it by the power of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16-17). The compelling influence of the flesh has been broken by Christ’s death on the cross. [6]

The devil is an intelligent, powerful spirit-being that is thoroughly evil. First-century Judaism had well-developed images of such supernatural beings. Some were positive and some were negative. The positive ones are the angels of God, servants of God and messengers of God. While the negative ones are against the messengers of God and have evil influence in the world. The devil also initiates temptation, evil and accuses people. However, it cannot do anything without the permission of God. [7]

With the Lord Jesus Christ, as “The Bondage Breaker”, Neil Anderson claims that only through union with Jesus and experiencing His empowering presence do people have hope for escaping the compelling power of these influences. [8]

IV. Satan in the Testaments

A. The Old Testament

In the Old Testament, Satan is not a significant figure and he is mentioned in the prologue of Job, Zechariah and 1 Chronicles. [9] Although the image of Satan is not well developed in the Old Testament, it appears to be an accuser and inciting sin.

If we consider the influence of evil spirits instead, we can understand such forces in a relatively more comprehensive way. It sometimes appears in the form of a human being. When Abraham received three guests they turn out to be angels, messengers from God (Gen. 18). People who turn out to be angels appear to Gideon (Judg. 6:11-24) and the parents of Samson (Judg. 13). There are also evil powers. In Psalm 91, it speaks of the terror of the night and the destruction that wastes at noonday (vv. 5-6).

B. The New Testament

In the New Testament, Satan and his cohorts are much more prominent than in the Old Testament. In general, his image is clearer and he mostly works against the gospel. [10] In Ephesians 2:2, Paul describes the supernatural being as “the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is at work in those who are disobedient”. This expression obviously refers to Satan.

The devil, or Satan, is portrayed as somehow powerfully at work in the lives of the disobedient who have not responded to God’s revelation in the Lord Jesus Christ, non-Christians. The evil power not only incites sin, but also keeps the non-Christians from responding to the message of mercy and grace in Christ.

Satan also wants to see the disciples of Jesus fail. In Luke 22:31-32, Satan subjects the loyalty of disciples of Jesus to severe tests which make them fail. Satan is able to pose a threat to genuine believers, yet he cannot gain ultimate victory over those for whom Jesus intercedes.

V. Responding to the problems of evil

A. God’s sovereignty and power

i. Nature of God

God is sovereign and he has revealed the final overcome of the battle. We are in the midst of a struggle which involves two warring kingdoms, but there is no cosmic dualism. This is not an even match. The testimony of Scripture from beginning to end is that our God is sovereign. All of the spiritual powers derive their lives from him. He has revealed the final overcome of the battle. We, Christians, are on the winning side. We should recognize the efficacy and limitation of Satan.

God is omnipotent which is a revealed truth in the Bible. [11] He controls all things and all things come from His hand. Omnipotent can be an inference from God’s superior power. His superiority implies His power and rulers are everlasting, not at a certain moment or stage in history, but always. Creation is the representation of the preexistence of God’s superior power. He does not only overcome all powers but also initiates all processes. The omnipotence of God is the omnipotence of His will. The significance of His will is that He wills to receive us to be His children in Christ and He wants to be our Father. We have the omnipotent God as our ally and so we have to be dependent on Him. He is our shepherd and we are the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 79:13).

God is almighty and He bestowed on His people divine power for the struggle. In Ephesians 6:10, “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”, Paul emphasizes the immediate access believers have to the power of God. God is almighty and everything happens as he wills it to happen. Satan is an anti-god power and also subject to God.

God overcomes evil in a final, definitive way and provides salvation. [12] “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). The Lord Jesus Christ will be the agent of God in judgment and the final subjugation of evil. He overcomes the ruin leader of the opposing kingdom—“the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan” (Rev. 20:2).

The apostle Paul assures believers of Jesus of victory over the formidable enemy. In Ephesians 1, Paul says Jesus was victorious over the powers of evil on the cross, he assumed a place of ruling prominence over them through His exaltation to the right hand of God. Christians are linked to this powerful and loving Lord in a vital and real relationship. We can resist demonically inspired temptation as we share in Christ’s kingdom authority over the demonic realm. In Ephesians 6:16, Paul describes Satan’s attacks as flaming arrows, which are to be extinguished with the shield of faith. [13] For those who have faith in God’s ability of protection, they must be able to handle and resist the temptations from Satan, with the shelter of God. In Romans 16:20, he assures “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” In 2 Thessalonians 3:3, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” All verses contain promises that God will enable believers to overcome Satan.

ii. Role of God

God is the creator who creates out of nothing. [14] Satan is also a created being. “The world is built for love. God is the Great Cosmic Lover… He is the ultimate Agape… He loves and wants to be loved by us.” [15] The Bible shows us that God created the world out of His triune love with the goal of acquiring for himself a people who would participate in and reflect the splendor of His triune love.

God preserves and sustains the order of nature which is the representation of God’s providence. God sees all things beforehand and has the foreknowledge of it. God’s omniscience to see things ahead does not mean he himself is the cause of the events. He is not the one to stand by passively watching when evil takes place. He blocks the evil and sees to it that the evil plans of people are not carried out. In Genesis 20:6, God prevents Abimelech from taking Sarah as his wife by saying “I would not let you touch her” as Abimelech does not know she is married. God also prevents the evil that would have resulted from the sin of people by frustrating Laban’s evil intentions with respect to Jacob “God did not permit him to harm me” (Gen. 31:7).

Mostly, God’s activity and passivity coincide. However, they are not mutually exclusive. The passivity of God is an active choice. For example, the recurrent pattern in the prophet is that God is angry with Israel and this anger is effectuated in withdrawal from His people. In this case, it is an active movement of God away from His people by which they are left to their fate.

According to the theology of Lord’s Day 10 of the Heidelberg Catechism, all things happen as they happen because God willed them so. That Lord’s Day reveals the influence of John Calvin. He emphasized the power of God, operating on the principle that all things proceed from God. God has created all things in accordance with His will. Creation is subject to God’s providence. His creation is not a one-off event that applies just to the beginning of creation, but continuously to the maintenance of the world. [16] God does not stand outside His own world as one who pushed things here or there with effects in the direction of man or evil, but God is in the world and the world is in Him. He is sustaining the world in reality. He is the power and energy of our existence who pervades the whole of creation. All that exists, down to the smallest being that exists and the smallest event in history, has been willed by God. [17] Calvin sees everything, no matter it is good or evil, be willed and governed by God. Nothing in reality is subject to chance or can be called accidental.

Personally, providence means that our will is determined by the living God. Our will is not the matter of chance or fate. It is the divine Spirit who introduces coherence into our life and is the guarantee of our freedom. When we admit the God’s providence, at the same time, we also have to admit that He maintains relation with humans and is present as Spirit. His continuous presence accompanies and leads our way.

The apostle Paul was always hindered from achieving what he wanted to do in his ministries. One of the reasons was Satan’s activity in preventing him from going somewhere or doing something. As many Christians always ask, “How was Paul able to know whether it is God’s or Satan’s intention for the changes of his plans?” In Acts 16:6-7, Paul admits such changes come from the Holy Spirit. [18] Probably Paul judges by considering whether the results of the change of plans appeared to advance the cause of Christ. Or he may think Satan should be responsible for his failure to finish the ministries he was eager to do. The crucial vision of Paul is that he undoubtedly believed that God was able to bring good out of Satan’s effort. To Paul, it is unquestionable that the motives behind God and Satan are diverse. He considered God’s motive to be beneficent and Stan’s to be malicious. [19] Satan might try to torment Paul, but at the same time God kept him from being conceited and foster his growth in grace. [20]

Human is an important part of the creation of God. God builds up and maintains relationship with humans God imparts His power to His people in a personal way. He empowers us through His indwelling Spirit and on the basis of our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we are linked to the basis of His blood shed on the cross. We can be set free from evil and brought into a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ. In Roman 6:6, Paul states “our old self was crucified with him”. When we become Christians, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13). Christians are properly owned by God. The Father views us as His own precious inheritance (Eph. 1:18).

Man was created in freedom to be a real partner for God. God made room for us to choose whether following His will or going away from His road. If we choose to walk outside His faithfulness and love, we are no longer His partners. However, the choice of humans does not affect the space of God’s love given to humans.

B. Mission of the church

i. Inside the church

Helping people mature in Christ, developing a solid mentoring and discipleship relationship with Christian brothers and sisters is the mission of church. We do not just preach the gospel. The growth of the church including building community, teaching the Word and facilitating spiritual growth is also important. When a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit now only unites the person to Christ, but also to other Christians.

Paul set an example to us, in Colossians 1:28 “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ”, he preached the gospel and formed communities of Christians. He made disciples includes to help them mature in Christ and insure their growth and stability. Rather than attending Sunday service once a week, believers have to meet to study the Scriptures, relate the Word to daily struggles, share intimately with one another and pray earnestly for one another.

Satan is especially interested in bringing about the downfall of church leaders. It uses those who are eager to find fault as its instrument. It is important for the leaders of the church be in the hands of persons of integrity (cf. Titus 2:7-8).

ii. Outside the church

Spiritual warfare should not be defensive, it should be offensive. Presenting the gospel of Christ in the power of the Spirit and evangelism presents an aggressive assault on Satan’s territory. We, as Christians, have the mission to make disciples. Jesus was fully aware that there was a supernatural enemy who would organize his malevolent forces to powerfully oppose the carrying out of this mission. With this in mind, Jesus assured His followers of His presence with them and that he possessed “all authority” over this realm in Matthew’s Gospel 28:18-20. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. This mission involves both making the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ known to those who have not heard and incorporating them into the church as viable and growing members. The mission is both extensive and intensive; it involves reaching out and building up.

We have to present the gospel of Christ in the power of the spirit to someone who has not heard of and responded to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. As people turn to Christ and enter the kingdom of God, Satan loses his possessions and no longer holds them in bondage. David Peterson says “By his saving work in Christ, God takes possession of us and renews us through the operation of His word and His Spirit.” [21]

C. Personal spiritual growth

i. Growing in the relationship with and obedience to God

Although our God is sovereign and Christians are on the winning side, Satan and his forces fiercely pursue their objectives of promulgating all forms of evil in the world. He deceives people and hinders them from grasping the truth about God’s revelation of himself in the Lord Jesus Christ. Satan also works to bring about the demise of the church through inciting moral evils among his members. We need to depend on God and other believers in the body of Christ.

Heiko Oberman, Reformation scholar and biographer of Martin Luther, has observed that for Luther the precious truth that “God is for us” directly implies that “the devil is against us.” He notes that belief in the devil’s opposition to Christ and the gospel “is such an integral part of the Reformation discovery that if the reality of the powers inimical to God is not grasped, the incarnation of Christ, as well as the justification and temptation of the sinner are reduced to ideas of the mind rather than experiences of faith.” [22]

Satan always wants to reassert his dominion in the lives of individuals. He wants to re-enslave people with the bonds of sinful desires and lifestyles. He is eager to use scandal to discredit believers. However, he can exercise his control only when people give him the opportunity. He is powerless if people take appropriate preventive measures to avoid being sinful. Satan also seeks to turn people’s attention away from Christ. So we have to refresh and purify our understanding of Christ. We still face difficulties and temptations in the present world, but salvation has come (2 Cor. 6:2) and we have a secure relationship with God. The Word of God has to be understood properly and not misused as it is central to the Christian faith (2 Cor. 3:6).

 

ii. Depending on the empowering presence of God himself through His Holy Spirit

Although spiritual warfare is unavoidable in a Christian life, our goal should be gaining an accurate and sober-minded understanding of spiritual warfare but not having a view tainted by frightening superstitions and odd practices. Without the enabling of God, Satan reasserts his rules. We cannot live the lives Christ calls us to live. We need to learn to depend on the empowering presence of God himself through His Holy Spirit. As Paul prayed for the Ephesians that God would “strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being” (Eph. 3:16).

The evil powers continue to exert their influence on Christians, with entering by faith into a union with the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians can resist such influences because of the promise of God for His own presence, “But you know him, for he lives with you and will be with you” (John 14:17). We are energized by the dynamic and empowering presence of God to stand against the devil’s schemes and defeat these unholy influences at every turn. The apostle John assures us that Jesus keeps the believers safe “and the evil one cannot harm him” (1 John 5:18). No one can separate us from the love of God.

D. Prayer

All Christians are no exception to be involved in the spiritual warfare which is expected to occur intensely and in a variety of ways. The weapons against Satan are truth and justice, faith and salvation, the Word of God and all of these sustained by prayer (Eph. 6:14-18). The evil power is overcome in meditation, prayer, and action in truth and righteousness.

Prayer should be a powerful weapon which should not be neglected. Prayer is the heart of spiritual warfare as it is the means of intimacy and communion with the almighty Lord. When someone prays, it means he admits there is a force greater than him or anything else. He declares the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot fight in our own strength or effort in spiritual warfare. [23]Our warfare is not against physical armies but supernatural forces. We have to recognize our vulnerability to the forces of evil and admit God’s possessions of all authority. We need God and are dependent on God. Paul, as a great apostle, he also asked the believers in Ephesus to unite in praying for him (Eph. 6:19-20). He realized that the warfare was spiritual and his strength must come from the Lord.

VI. Are we sinners or victims?

A. Victims

So far we recognize we face supernatural odds in our efforts to live by the attitudes and values of Jesus Christ. Sin is something a person cannot choose or reject. It becomes visible when a person does something sinful. In Romans, sin is described as a personal power. It finds opportunity (Rom. 7:8), and rules (Rom. 5:21). It is like there is an evil will outside of people which takes them captive and drags them where they do not want to go but to which the heathen are helplessly delivered up (Rom. 1:21-24).

There seems a power stronger that it takes over the controls which makes us helpless. We are not only bent the wrong way, but the world points us in the wrong direction. Facing the power greater than ourselves challenging our good intentions, we are victims while we perform sinful actions. Alongside the sense of being victims is the feeling of guilty.

B. Sinners

Humans do inevitably experience the power of sin in opposition to the will to live good lives. Probably Christians might blame our wrong actions are driven by the devil and ignore the responsibility for what they do. However, sin can never be isolated from the actions and thoughts of humans. It is the conscious choice of a person who recognizes his own action as wrong but still does it.

In the Bible, Scripture holds individuals personally responsible for the outcome of choices and actions. Every person is counted as guilty before God and is born with a tendency to sin because of Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12-21). Satan filled the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira to lie, and they faced the deadly consequences (Acts 5:1-11). God does count every person as guilty and we all face the eternal consequences which is death and the wrath of God. [24] The initiative and responsibility belong to the people involved, not Satan. Our culpability will not be less because of the involvement of Satan.

C. Any way out?

The Christian life is a lifelong struggle. We must be aware of the work and move of the opponent. And that we know Christian life is under the influence of evil supernatural forces seeking our moral and spiritual demise to a certain extent. Also, the roaring lion wants to instill as much fear as possible into believers and create paralyzing anxiety. We must get our focus off Satan and onto Christ. J. Ramsey Michaels thinks that Satan works in the hearts of believers in such a way that they renounce their allegiance to Christ. [25] As the apostle Peter compares Satan to a lion which paces back and forth and creates fear through his awful roar (1 Peter 5:8).

There is a supernatural opponent pushing us down the wrong path. Human capacities are not sufficient in the face of evil. Evil is more comprehensive than human decision. If it precedes human and exceeds human power, the decision over must lie in evil’s hand. We cannot live with our own effort, but with the effort empowering by the Spirit of God. The Lord Jesus Christ comes to save us from the irresistible forces.

It is sad and helpless for being a victim as this identity is burdened with guilt. A victim can only see immense problems of the world and be desperate. Rather, claiming self as a sinner in front of God is preferred. The mighty of God makes nothing is hopeless and helpless. The prophet Isaiah states positively that when a situation is structurally bad and discouraging to us, God is always there to redeem it. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), from it Isaiah declares God is mighty to liberate all bad situations and actively pursue a future of hope.

Our hope is rooted in God’s kingdom and His promise of a new age. However, it does not mean we can only anticipate the coming of the Lord Jesus. We can experience some of the blessings of the age to come. As Christians, we are given the empowering presence as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We develop a union and close relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ and that we receive the ability to break free from the bondage of sin and authority over evil spirits.

A sinner needs redemption and seeks forgiveness of God, a victim, however, he may not need any redemption as no responsibility or consequence is borne. Dealing with the power that makes us fail to perform the standard of Jesus Christ, we seek forgiveness. Forgiveness is the deepest form of love and the way of Christ. However, in forgiveness sin remains sin. We are undeniably sinners, but in our sins we are beloved and not rejected. In John 8:1-11, the woman sinner brought to Jesus is not accepted by scribes and Pharisees. Jesus says, “Go, and do not sin again”, we clearly see that the woman is accepted in her sin and forgiven so that she can start a new life. As sin still affects us and attempts to rule us, in that case, forgiveness is not only forgiveness of the one act, but forgiveness of our subjection to evil.

Freedom from guilt does not come from determining the degree of victimization. God provides a way out for everyone. By coming to Christ, people are delivered from the dominating influence of sin and the compelling influence of evil. We have the power to resist the power of Satan if we yield ourselves to the power of God (Rom. 6:12-14). Both victims and sinners need salvation. Salvation is not only the salvation of the soul but the salvation of the entire human being God has created, as well as the whole world He made. God is still at work and so salvation and renewal are not future hopes, it is a current and dynamic event once we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. He leads our life from beginning to end. Our earthly life is included in the eternal life of the risen Lord. It is nonsense and contradictory if we admit the past history was and the future will be in His hand but the present is not in control of God.

Sometimes the accuser has convinced the believers that they are filthy sinners and undeserving of God’s grace. The apostle Paul repeatedly emphasizes, it is important to believe the truth of our new identity which is the member of the family of God. We are clothed with Christ and God values us as His own precious inheritance (Eph. 1:17). No matter we are victims or sinners, God is still on our side and He is the only God who liberates us from the power of sin and has the overarching superiority of love.

I. Conclusion

A choice remains for humans. Christians still have a strong impulse to do evil. We sometimes give in to this impulse and commit sin. The apostle Paul declared “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires” (Rom. 6:12). We should not allow the evil forces to dominate our lives. Christians must revolt in the name of God, their rightful ruler. As James emphasizes “come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:8). We should direct our heart to the impulse of the Spirit of God. God created human beings with a power of self-determination, a power to choose what they will do within the physical limitations of their bodies and environments. He did not create man doing what He has programmed him to do but a being who can choose. As humans have free will, they have the power to choose to do evil as well as to do good. The responsibility for every evil action is theirs, not God’s. God gives space to man is an act of love, the self-emptying love of God.

The true enemy on the battlefield may not be the evil powers, but ourselves. Even though we are in the winning side, we should not overestimate the power and influence of Satan and underestimate the power and authority of God. We have to reckon with Satan as a power which attacks the kingdom of God. We also have to take account of the devil which infests our lives. It is always true to say that Satan does not pay attention to someone who is not the follower of God. He is particularly interested in the one who walks on the path of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we start considering the identity of being victims or sinners, we indeed fail to appreciate the comprehensiveness of divine sovereignty. The power of Christ, who is Lord not only over those forces beyond humans, but also over those who are in the heavens above and under the earth.

“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.” (Matt. 6:13, The Lord’s Prayer)

References

A. van de Beek; translated by John Vriend. Why? on suffering, guilt, and God. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, c1990.

Alex Konya. Demons: a biblically based perspective. Schaumburg, Ill.: Regular Baptist Press, c1990.

Clinton E. Arnold. 3 crucial questions about spiritual warfare. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, c1997.

Gregory A. Boyd. Satan and the problem of evil: constructing a trinitarian warfare theodicy. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, c2001.

James A. Keller. Problems of evil and the power of God. Aldershot, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, c2007.

John Christopher Thomas. The devil, disease and deliverance: origins of illness in New Testament thought. Sheffield, Eng.: Sheffield Academic Press, c1998.

Peter van Inwagen, ed. Christian faith and the problem of evil. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, c2004.

Robert C. Linthicum. City of God, city of Satan: a biblical theology for the urban church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, c1991.

Stephen F. Noll. Angels of light, powers of darkness: thinking biblically about angels, Satan & principalities. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, c1998.

Susan R. Garrett. No ordinary angel: celestial spirits and Christian claims about Jesus. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2008.

T.J. Wray, Gregory Mobley. The birth of Satan: tracing the devil's biblical roots. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.



[1] Clinton E. Arnold. 3 crucial questions about spiritual warfare. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, c1997, P. 19.

[2] Arnold. “3 crucial question”, P. 20.

[3] Arnold. “3 crucial question”, P. 32.

[4] Arnold. “3 crucial question”, P. 34.

[5] Sherwood Lingenfelter. Transforming Culture: A Challenge for Christian Mission. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992, 17. He notes, “Members of every society hold something of a collective worldview and participate in a structured social environment. They are socialized by parents and peers to accept these values, beliefs, and procedures for action, and to live within them, creating their collective conceptualization of ‘this-worldiness.’ Yet these social systems and worldviews become prisons of disobedience, entangling those who hold them in a life of conformity to social images that at their roots are in conflict with God’s purpose for humanity as expressed in Jesus Christ.”

[6] Arnold. “3 crucial question”, P. 34.

[7] Arnold. “3 crucial question”, P. 35.

[8] Neil Anderson. The Bondage Breaker. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 1990.

[9] Sydney H.T. Page. Powers of evil: a biblical study of Satan and demons. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books; Leicester, England: Apollos, c1995, p.11.

[10] Ibid, p.87.

[11] James A. Keller. Problems of evil and the power of God. Aldershot, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, c2007, P. 117.

[12] Keller. “Problems of evil”, P. 128.

[13] Similar imagery appears in the Qumran hymns (1QH 2:26; 3:16, 27-31).

[14] Keller. “Problems of evil”, P. 121.

[15] H. D. McDonald, The God Who Responds. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1986, p.26.

[16] John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, I, 16,1.

[17] Ibid.

[18] F. F. Bruce. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, World Biblical Commentary, no. 45. Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1982, 58.

[19] Sydney H.T. Page. Powers of evil: a biblical study of Satan and demons. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books; Leicester, England: Apollos, c1995, p.197.

[20] This account of Paul’s experience illustrates that illness is not necessarily a sign of sin or spiritual immaturity and that failure to experience healing need not be due to some personal failing or inadequacy.

[21] David Peterson. Possessed by God: A New Testament Theology of Sanctification and Holiness, New Studies in Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995, 143.

[22] Heiko A. Oberman. Luther: Man between God and the Devil. New York: Doubleday, 1992, 104-5.

[23] Arnold. “3 crucial question”, P. 43.

[24] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994, 494-97.

[25] J. Ramsey Michaels. 1 Peter, World Biblical Commentary 49. Waco: Word, 1988, 299.

 

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