The Battle Belongs to the Lord: Jesus defeats even the most powerful of enemies.
Jesus, the One who was fully man with veiled deity, was constantly in close communion with His heavenly Father and was totally reliant on the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. At all times and in every way the enemy was defeated by the Word of God and through the Word of God, even whilst Jesus underwent the agony of the cross.
“And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross."
This victory (Col 2:15) that Christ took was initially hinted at by God in His words to the serpent in Genesis where, shortly after Adam and Eve fell into sin, we find the promise of a Messiah (1 Pet 1:18-21) - the Pre-incarnate Son of God who would enter humanity. In the following verse which reveals this, we need to note that the word ‘offspring’ is ‘zera’ which literally means ‘seed’. When seed is spoken of in the context of human procreation it is usually the seed of man that is mentioned. In speaking of the seed of woman, we have prophecy of the forth-coming Messiah speaking of both deity and humanity – a virgin birth as the Pre-Incarnate Son enters humanity.
“… the Lord God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring (seed) and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
At this point, we could ask ourselves at least two questions. The first is, “Why didn’t God just ‘rub out’ Adam and Eve and start again?
The answer to this question is multi-faceted, but the heart of the reason as to why Adam and Eve were not just ‘snuffed out’ is that God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is a decision of the will to give the very best of self for another and God was not about to give up on humanity.
In Scripture, we see that God’s first act of love was the creation of the world (Gen 1:1) and His first gift of love to man, who was placed in a garden called ‘delight’ (Eden: Gen 2:8), was life. Love is something that always reaches out to loved ones and God chose to create human beings as those who could benefit and share in the Trinitarian love expressed between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. (Gen 1:27). God created us in order to bless us with His love.
When reading the whole of Scripture, we see that God had entered a covenant with His creation (Jeremiah 32:20; 33:25) and even though man breaks his side of the covenant (Hosea 6:7), God remains faithful.
A covenant is the deepest form of binding agreement in the universe and, biblically speaking, it is God’s way of reaching out to those who deserve nothing in order to offer them life in a relationship of love and fellowship. A covenant involves and implies far more than a contract or simple agreement – it is a giving of the very best of self for another.
We broke our side of the covenant and partial judgement fell because sin always has consequences. Yet God, in incredible love and mercy, made sin His responsibility through Christ coming as the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world, to die in our place and pay the price for our sin.
Jesus came to show us what a true relationship with our heavenly Father should be like and through this, to show the love of God as He ultimately pays the price for our sin.
“…the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
In His life, death and resurrection, Jesus defeats the power of Satan so that we can find forgiveness and reconciliation with God. However, this now brings us to our second question which is,
“Why didn’t God simply destroy Satan in the beginning when everything began to go wrong?”
The simple, profound answer to this question is that this would have proved nothing other than that God is stronger, which does not prove that God is right. For example, a world-champion boxer is not right in everything he says or does just because he is a world-champion. In coming in the flesh and defeating the enemy as the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45), Jesus reveals that the first Adam did not need to fall into sin and that love reaches out to conquer all.
The Continuing Covenant
Evidence of the continuing covenant after the fall is seen in the cursing of the serpent and the promise of victory through the seed of woman. In Hebrews, we read of this seed in this way:
“Therefore when Christ came into the world he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.” Then I said, “Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God.”
The Greek word for ‘prepared’ in the above verse is ‘kataritiso’, meaning ‘thoroughly complete, repair, and adjust.’ In this we see God returning the DNA structure of the egg in Mary’s womb back to how it should have been according to pre-fall design. Another perfect man was to arrive on earth – the pre-incarnate Son of God who stooped low in order to lift us up and restore fellowship between Himself and humanity - the rebel.
From all of this we see that in Gen 3, we have the first expression of the pre-existent covenant in heaven. The fact that this pre-existent covenant already existed is seen, as mentioned, in Christ who was the ‘lamb slain from the creation of the world.” (Rev 13:8) This revealed that ultimately, the covenant was to be Christ’s blood.
The Pre-Incarnate Son of God willingly chose to enter humanity as the second Adam. In doing so, He withheld His power and His rights to all honour, glory and praise, but did not withhold His love. If He had not been like us in every way apart from sin, then He could not have stood in our place because He would have been more than man.
As the second Adam (1 Cor 15:45), Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert where, during forty days of fasting, he was tempted by the devil. The first Adam was placed in a world of beauty and order, with the availability of food and water at all times, yet had still fallen. The second Adam was tempted in a desert at a time of great vulnerability, hunger and thirst but He overcame each temptation by relying upon the Word of God. Where human nature had failed, human nature now triumphed.
“Adam is tempted and then driven out. Jesus is driven out and then tempted. This reverse order reminds us that Jesus reversed Adam’s failure and prevailed over temptation. In Adam’s story, angels guard the way to the Tree of Life, to prevent Adam’s return. In Jesus’ story, the angels minister to him.”
R. Resnik in, Divine Reversal, page 72
In the first temptation, Satan suggested that Jesus should satisfy His hunger by turning stones into bread. This temptation is not so dissimilar from the temptation of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He was effectively saying, “use your own reasoning and power to do things the way you want to…use all that you are to seek to do things your way…seek your satisfaction through something other than God.” Jesus did not rationalise or avoid the situation He faced, nor did He pretend it was not happening. Jesus faced the temptation with the Word of God and said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes through the mouth of God….”
In this reply, Jesus was quoting the words of Moses (Deut 8:3f) to the Israelites, reminding them that God had humbled them in the desert in order to show them that man does not live by bread alone. It is God who brought the world into existence by the breath of His mouth, and the physical proceeds from the spiritual. As the perfect Son trusted in God alone and although He hungered and thirsted, He was always sustained by the word of God.
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
In Satan’s second attempt (Mt 4:5f) to tempt Jesus, he asks Jesus to jump off the Temple parapet stating that He would survive because it was written, “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"(Mt 4:6). By operating in this way, Satan is taking God’s Word out of context and acting as though we can simply claim an aspect of it for our personal benefit without reference to God. For example, we could rightly say that “God is love” but if we then say, “God is love so he doesn’t mind when I get drunk” then we are wrongfully using Scripture to justify our actions.
In this second temptation, Satan quotes a Scripture from Psalm 91 which begins with an affirmation of trust in God in all areas (“He who dwells in the shelter of the Highest will rest in the shadow of the Almighty” Ps 91:1). However, this does not mean we can simply do what we like because God is going to protect us. You don’t walk across a road without looking because Scripture tells us that God will look after us.
In the third temptation (Mt 4:8ff) Jesus was encouraged to worship the devil and receive all the kingdoms of the world for doing so. In His obedience to the Father, Jesus was totally open to the presence and power of the Spirit and said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” (Mt 4:10-11). The devil then left, and angels came and attended Him. Satan is spoken of as the ruler of the world (John 14:30) because the world, in its fallen state, follows a lie and is manipulated at times by a superior spiritual enemy. Yet this enemy is also of the created order and is no match for a heavenly King who stooped low in order to raise us up.
The devil made various attempts throughout Jesus’ life to stop His mission, but these were to no avail and at no point was Jesus out of control; Christ’s life was one of intimacy with the Father and a total reliance on the leading of the Spirit. There was never a point at which Jesus was either helpless or hopeless. Jesus’ whole life on earth was a revelation of God’s involvement in our needs – the need for forgiveness and reconciliation by those who had no rightful claim to His care.
Jesus came and lived under the conditions of human existence, consequently undergoing trials and facing temptations. Herod was poised to kill him at his birth (Mt 2:16ff) and the picture from Revelation 12 demonstrates that this attempt was satanically influenced (and reminiscent of Pharaoh’s attempts to kill the male children in Egypt). Jesus encountered Satan after His baptism (Mt 4:1-11) and through Peter’s suggestion, on one occasion, that Jesus need not die (Mt 16:22-23). Yet what we see at all times, in all ways and no matter what was going on is that Jesus was the absolute Master of every situation. Why was He the Master? Was it because He was superman? No – it is because He came in the frailty of the flesh. He showed mastery over everything that came His way because He had a close, intimate relationship with His Father and a total reliance on the leading of the Spirit.
Jesus was and is the most spiritual person who has ever walked these earthly realms. Whilst on earth He was totally rooted in His Father’s will (John 14:10) and totally established His ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of covenant here-and-now is that God’s Spirit lives with us, empowers us and leads us. We are living stones (1 Peter 2:5), indwelt by the Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) and called to minister through all we have by way of fellowship with our Heavenly Father. We live in the victory of another who will provide all we need to live the life we have been called to.
Jesus is building His Church (Matt 16:18) and you are a part of that building programme (1 Cor 3:16; 1 Pet 2:9). Jesus knows how badly we get it wrong at times, yet we can still have great hope because we are accepted through His work alone. We are not simply accepted, or grudgingly accepted; we are completely accepted and need to listen to what He says about our lives first and foremost. What He says is that we are His and that we overcome all things through His victory - not our own resources or abilities.
No matter what we are going through, we need not lose sight of God because what Paul said to the Philippian church is equally said to all of us, we can be confident that “…He who began a good work in us will carry it on to the completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6)
There is an accuser in this world, yet he has no legitimate hold on us (Romans 8:1) and all is ours through Christ (2 Cor 1:20) through whom we live in victory (Rom 8:37-39). We are to live our lives knowing what Christ says about us and recognising again and again that He will protect, encourage and empower us. Sometimes He will do this directly and in the most extraordinary of ways, and sometimes through our brothers and sisters around us, until He comes, or we go to be with Him.
End of part two of six.