In this opening sermon of the Cage-Free series, Greg gives us an overview of the basis of the Spiritual Warfare worldview. This view is central to our picture of a Jesus-looking God who does not himself cause evil or suffering.
In our modern world, most westerners dismiss the idea that there are spiritual influences in the world. But Greg gives several reasons why he believes this is true. He told us about a few very hard-to-explain experiences he had personally which support this view. And there is also ample biblical support for the view. Jesus himself believed that this was a reality, and it is a major theme throughout the Old and New Testaments. So when we follow Jesus, this needs to include his theology.
Paul uses this terminology extensively. In Ephesians 6:11-12, Paul tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but “against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” He refers to Angels and powers, and categories of hierarchy. Like humans, who were given authority over the earth and animals, angels were in turn given authority over humans — but we all were given free will. So when some of us (both humans and angels) fell, we retained our authority. This is why they (and we) still have influence in the world despite having fallen.
CS Lewis wrote that the two primary mistakes people make with regards to Satan (and spiritual warfare) is in the one hand to ignore its reality, but on the other hand to obsess over it.
First, we should not over-estimate the power that Satan has in the world. This theology should not scare us. In Ephesians 1:19-21, Paul says that Christ has been given power and authority “FAR above” that of Angels and powers. Not only this but we too have been raised up in Christ. In Christ, we humans have authority over spiritual influences here on earth. This belief is what deliverance prayer is founded on. We can and should assert our authority over the demonic.
James 4:7 says “resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Not that he will simply cease to bother you, or will walk away gradually, but that he will FLEE– run away, like a frightened animal. Satan was made into a laughing stock through the cross. (Col 2:15) So don’t be afraid of him, he is afraid of you!
However this is not to say that these powers have no influence in the world at large. On the contrary, Satan is referred to “the archon” (a ruler or leader) of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11). In Luke 4:5-6 Satan states that all the kingdoms of the world belong to him, and Jesus does not dispute this. Ephesians 2:2 calls Satan “the ruler of the kingdom of the air.” 2 Cor 4:4 he is referred to as the god of this world. Revelations 12:9 & 13:4 call him the deceiver of the world, and in 1 John 5:19, John claims no less than that Satan controls the entire world! (It’s a hyperbole, as is his style, but it gets the point across.)
It was also Jesus’ view that sickness was often a symptom of spiritual attack. In Luke 13:15 Jesus says about a woman in need of healing that “Satan kept her bound for 18 years.” In fact the Greek word for infirmity is “mastix,” a word that infers flogging or scourging (Mk 5:34; cf Mk 3:10, 5:29; Luke 7:21). Peter in Acts 10:38 says they went around and healed all who were under the power of Satan. Even things that seem unnatural like death and decay are seen as the fault of Satan. (Heb 2:24). In Matthew 13:28 Jesus uses a parable of a field overgrown with weeds and concludes “an enemy has done this.”
This idea of spiritual warfare is not a small point that we can agree to disagree on; it is central to our picture of a Jesus-looking God who does not himself cause evil or suffering. Without this foundational belief, we are left with a theology that “blames” God when bad things happen. We say no to this. James 1:17 says that “every good gift is from above.” When disaster or evil happen, we need to trust that God is not causing it. Rather, he is the one who stands by and supports us through it. Let us trust that God does not cause our suffering; he relieves it.
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