- climate of increasing intolerance to “fundamentalism” of all forms
- negative/hostile press coverage and public church scandals
How does Jesus exercise his authority through a compromised church to release effective mission into the world?
A: Cosmic Spiritual Warfare
Taught throughout the New Testament
John 12:31 -32 Jesus conflict with “the ruler of this world”
Eph 6:12 Paul and conflict with evil powers in heavenly places
Rev 12:17 John teaches on the Satanic attack upon the church
B: God is a Warrior
1. Holy Warfare in the Old Testament
a. Expulsion of humanity from Eden and curse upon the serpent (Gen 3:14f, 22f).
b. God fights the armies of Egypt and destroys them (Ex 5:3 -4).
c. He expels the Canaanites from the promised land and wars against the enemies of Israel (Judges 5; Ps 2; 18; 24; 46; 48; 76; 89; 97; 132; 144;etc.).
d. He places them under the law of the “ban” (Hebrew herem ) which meant total destruction (Deut 7:1- 6, 25- 26; 20:16- 18; Josh 7; 1 Sam 15) because everything was devoted to God’s holiness.
e. He fights Israel when it behaves in an unholy way (Amos 2:4 -9:10; Hos 9; Micah 1; Jer 9) [Amos 3:1- 2].
f. The prophets speak of a final conflict when God destroys all opposing powers (Dan 7;12; Zeph 1:14- 18; Joel 2:1- 11).
2. Jesus the Holy Warrior
a. Jesus is drawn into the wilderness by the Spirit to overcome the devil by the Word (Matt 4:1 -11; Mark 1:12 – 13; Luke 4:1- 13).
b. The delivering power of Jesus is repeatedly expressed against demonic forces (Matt 4:24; 8:16; Mark 1:34,39; 5:1- 17; 9:25- 27; Luke 11:14 etc).
c. He discerns the attack of Satan in the rebuke of Peter (Matt 16:23; Mark 8:33) and the betrayal of Judas (Luke 22:3;John 6:70;13:27).
d. The battle with Satan climaxes at the cross. It is in this context that the power of darkness is permitted by God to attempt to destroy Jesus (Luke 22:53; John 14:30f; 19:11; Acts 2:23; 4:28).
e. This takes the form of hostility and accusation from the leaders of the people and the crowds (Luke 23:35 -39 etc.)
f. The victory of Jesus over this hatred and accusation takes the form of a plea for forgiveness of his persecutors (Luke 23:34).
g. In this way Jesus is perfectly alike in character to his Father who blesses and forgives the unmerciful (Luke 6:27 – 28; 35- 36).
h. Whilst the death of Jesus as the scapegoat and sin – bearer (2 Cor 5:21;1 Pet 2:24) is wholly unpleasing to the Father, so that Jesus cannot experience his presence (Mark 5:34), his unconditional attitude of blessing love is wholly pleasing to God, so that the sacrifice of the cross is a fragrant offering to God (Eph 5:2; Gen 8:20ff; Amos 5:21 literal = “not smell”).
i. The intercession of Jesus for the forgiveness of transgressors is conveyed in this act of supreme mercy which completely expresses the heart of the Father and as such must be answered in the affirmative (Isa 53:12).
j. In this way the Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
k. Having conquered Satan by the removal of human guilt through his shed blood, Jesus has universal authority over human history (Rev 1:5;5:5- 8). He is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 17:14; 19:16).
3. The Warfare of the Saints
a. The devil wages ceaseless warfare upon the saints on the earth (Acts 5:3; 2 Cor 2;11;12:7; Eph 6:11 -12; 1 Thess 218; 2 Thess 2:9; 1 Tim 5:15; James 4;7;1 Peter 5:8; Rev 2:10;12:10 -17).
b. Sometimes this is in the context of their apparent defeat (Rom 8:35 -36;1 Cor 4:9 – 13; 2 Cor 6:4- 10; 12:23 -27; Rev 2:9 etc.).
c. This is by the express permission of God who allows the forces of evil to kill and “conquer” the saints (Rev 11:7; 13:5 -10).
d. As Jesus bore witness faithfully upon the earth (Rev 1:5;3:15) so believers in him on earth now do likewise (Rev 1:2,9; 6:9; 20:4 cf.11:7;12:11,17; 19:10).
e. We are called to conquer all evil with Jesus (Rom 5:17; 8:37; Rev 2:7,11,17, 26,28; 3:5,12,21;12:11;15:2;21:7). This is warfare against the devil, the beast, immorality, idolatry, cowardice etc.
f. This warfare is a continuation of that waged by Christ on the cross (Phil 3:10; Col 1:24).
g. It is fought and won at the cost of suffering,blood and death to preserve the testimony of Jesus (Matt 10:23; 24:9;Luke 11:49;1 Thess 3:7;1 Tim 3:12; Rev 12:10;16:6;17:6).
h. The authority of the saints is exercised through their prayers which arise from the earth as a sweet smelling incense to God (Rev 8:3 -5).
i. This is because the saints live like Jesus lived: loving their enemies, blessing those who hate them, praying for those who persecute them (Matt 5:44 -45; Rom 12:14; 1 Cor 4:12) covered with the armour of light (Rom 13:12) and fighting with the weapons of righteousness and humility (2 Cor 6:7; James 4:6- 7; 1 Peter 4:6).
j. Against this attitude the devil has no power; the principalities are publicly unmasked as unable to defeat him who has taken away the power of death, that is,fear of punishment (1 Cor 15:56- 57; Heb 2:14- 15; Rev 1:18).
C. Application and Conclusion
a. Oppression by evil powers is part of the overall plan of God for the salvation of the world. The judgement of God releases the fury of evil upon the church.
b. His sovereign purpose is that the saints, holy ones of God, might petition him for the forgiveness and blessing of those who hate or despise them.
c. Since this prayer reflects the mind of Christ and the heart of the Father it must be answered in the affirmative.
d. Through the love and prayers of the saints the power of the cross is released into the world to save sinners.
e. This is how God wages holy war upon the earth today.