Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bruised and Bruising

Several years ago, the topic of spiritual warfare was a hot commodity among evangelicals in North America. Seminars, tapes, and books flooded the market, promising “victory over the darkness” both external and internal. At the time I was a pastor in southern Manitoba and I remember being slightly amused by the amount of ink being spilled on the topic and concerned that so much that was being taught had so little biblical grounding.

Years have passed and so has the surge of popularity in most circles. But the central truth that this movement hit upon was true; Christians are in a spiritual war, although I would suggest that the battle is not nearly as complicated as many of the “experts” suggested. There is an age-old daily struggle going on between the children of the kingdom and the children of the devil which began back in the Garden, shortly after Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.

Exposed and challenged with the reality of their disobedience, both Adam and Eve look for someone to blame. As we see in Genesis 3:12-13, the man blamed the woman (and, indirectly, God), the woman blamed the serpent and the serpent, as one of my seminary professors liked to say, didn’t have a leg to stand on. In reality, Satan had beguiled the woman, the woman had listened to the serpent, and the man had listened to the woman—but no one had listened to God. As a result, God issues a prophetic word of judgment and deliverance to the serpent (verses 14-15), the woman (verse 16), and the man (verses 17–19). To the serpent the Lord says, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock, and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:14-15).

Notice that God does not say that nature is cursed because of the serpent, but that he will be more cursed than the rest of nature. He is condemned to humiliation and ultimate defeat under the victorious offspring of the woman. Satan, God says, will be defeated by the offspring of the woman. In verse 20, following their expulsion from the Garden, Adam gives his wife the name Eve, which means "Living One", being derived from the Hebrew word for "life." Adam knows that mankind's hope is in her offspring. From Eve will come life.

But this life will not come without a struggle; the offspring of the woman will be bruised in the process. The solution to man's suffering because of sin will come through suffering. The heel will be struck. In the process of crushing the serpent, the heel of the woman's offspring will be bitten. The setting is that of conflict between the serpent and the woman, which is echoed in Revelation 12. From the third chapter of Genesis we see the basis for the coming persecution of God’s people. The price of reconciling creation to its Creator will take place in a context of suffering and conflict. Hence, we should not be surprised when we see that the price for our sins was paid for through the sufferings and death of the Son of God. We are, likewise, not surprised when we see that taking that Good News to others costs His messengers their lives, as they take up the cross and follow Him in suffering and death. Christ's cross is necessary for the propitiation of the gospel; the disciple's cross is necessary for the propagation of the gospel. The world will be hostile to the message of God's victory over Satan.

With this in mind, consider the questions asked by R. Arthus Mathews on page 13 in Born for Battle, a book available from The Voice of the Martyrs:

The history of the saints in every age is one of conflict. The pathway the disciple treads as he follows his Lord is one of certain warfare. At this point, let us ask ourselves some serious questions:

  • Am I expressing the enmity God put between the devil and the church's Head? Or, am I seeking detente, coexistence, and peace through compromise?
  • Am I available to my Lord as a willing instrument, ready for his use in his warfare?
  • Am I aware of the teaching of Scripture about my part in the spiritual conflict?


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