The Defeat of the “Strong Man” (Arnold)

Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul's Letters by [Arnold, Clinton E.] When Jesus was answering the Pharisees’ diabolical accusation that he cast out demons “by the ruler of demons” (ἐν τῷ ἄρχοντι τῶν δαιμονίων) he gave an illustration:  “…No one is able to enter a strong man’s house and steal his property unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can thoroughly plunder his house” (NET).  That is a powerful illustration of Jesus’ power over the kingdom of darkness.  Here’s how Clinton Arnold nicely explains it:

From the context of Jesus’ words it is clear ‘the strong man’ is a reference to Satan, and his ‘house’ corresponds to his kingdom.  ‘Possessions’ [or property] are Satan’s greatest value and are not things, but people. Satan holds unbelieving humanity in bondage.  Christ has come to engage this ‘strong man’ and plunder his house; that is to release the captives in Satan’s kingdom.

This passage thus becomes a very important testimony to Jesus’ mission.  It provides additional clarification to the nature of the atonement. Jesus came not only to deal with the problem of sin in the world but also to deal with God’s prime supernatural opponent – Satan himself!

Jesus’ many exorcisms clearly demonstrate his power over the evil one.  They also provide numerous examples of Jesus’ ability to ‘bind’ Satan and ‘rob his house.’  In Mark’s account of the Gerasene demoniac, a man plagued with perhaps thousands of demons, it is highly significant to note that ‘no one could bind him’ (Mk. 5:1-20, esp. v. 3).  With only the concise command, ‘come out of the man, you unclean spirit,’ Jesus freed this man from horrific demonic influence.

The exorcisms, however, were not adequate by themselves to deal in any decisive way with the devil and his powers; that is, to ‘tie him up.’  They can only foreshadow an event of much greater importance.  Early Christian tradition uniformly looks to the cross/resurrection event as the point of fundamental significance in Christ’s conflict with the powers (Jn. 12:31-33; Acts 2:34-35, [etc., etc.]).  It was through this event that Satan and his hosts were dealt the fatal blow that spelled their final doom.  The strong man was defeated.

Clinton Arnold, The Powers of Darkness, p. 79-80.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

Don’t Forget about Satan! (Kuyper)

Abraham Kuyper, “To Be Near Unto God”

For various reasons, sometimes Christians forget that Satan and his demonic horde really exist.  We know the stories in the Gospels where Jesus sent the demons running, but we sometimes forget the fact that Satan really prowls around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us (1 Pet 5:8).  We know that the NT epistles tell us to watch out for Satan’s schemes and attacks, but it’s not always on our minds (Eph 6:11, 2 Cor 2:11, etc.).  No doubt Satan loves it when Christians forget about him and his demonic ways.  I appreciate how Abraham Kuyper put it:

It should be carefully observed, that like a thief, Satan is most pleased when his presence and his work are not noticed. In circles where his existence is denied or ridiculed, his hands are altogether free to murder souls according to his liking. But that he can be so strangely forgotten by those who are more inclined to believe the Gospel, offers him the finest chances to poison souls. We may be sure that in all this denial and in all this forgetting of the actual existence of Satan, a trick of Satan himself operates. When the mighty spirit of Christ moved the waves of the sea of life in Palestine, Satan did not succeed with this for a moment, and Jesus compelled him to show himself. But now he succeeds in keeping himself in hiding, and unseen and unnoticed, from the ambush, to inwork his character, and consequently with better effect.

Abraham Kuyper, To Be Near unto God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans-Sevensma Co., 1918), 553.

Satan is crafty in his evil and even disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:4).  This isn’t to say that Satan is behind every door and every bad thing that happens, but it is to say he’s real, he’s on the prowl, and he’s trying his demonic best to wreck the peace and purity of the Church and the life of the Christian. Be on your guard, brother or sister!

Thankfully, Christ is on the throne and not even Satan and the hordes of hell can separate us from our Lord (John 10:28).  Satanic attacks may be real and fierce, but just as Jesus prayed for Peter, he’s praying for his people today, that their faith will not fail (Lk 22:32).  In Christ, and clothed with the armor of God, we can do all things through his strength – including resisting the devil or fleeing from him (depending on the circumstance).  The victory belongs to the Lord – and those who are in Him!

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

A Demon-Possessed Christian?

Satan Cast Out: A Study in Biblical Demonology There are not a lot of solid biblical books on the topic of demons and demon possession (there are, however, plenty of bad ones!).  Here’s a good one worth mentioning: Satan Cast Out [Frederick Leahy (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1975)].  This book is balanced, full of biblical references and summaries, Christ centered, and it is written from a Reformed point of view.  One part asks – and answers well – the question: “Can a Christian be demon-possessed?”  I’ve edited it for length:

“In the light of Scripture we are compelled to reject the view that the Holy Spirit and an evil spirit can co-exist in the same person.  …When missionaries provide ‘examples’ of ‘believers’ being possessed, two questions immediately arise: Were the victims [truly] regenerate?  Were they actually possessed?  Passages of Scripture sometimes used to support this view prove no such thing.  There is no reason to believe that the person ‘delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved’ (1 Cor. 5:5) was demon possessed (which is also true of 1 Tim. 1:20).  Those discussed in 2 Timothy 2:26 and said to be ‘taken captive’ by the devil ‘at his will,’ are not believers at all.”

“The Biblical doctrines of regeneration and the permanent indwelling of the believer by the Holy Spirit make demon-possession of a believer utterly impossible.  We are not asking if a professing Christian can be demon-possessed, but if a [truly] regenerate person can be possessed.  The answer to this question is firmly in the negative.  A true Christian is ‘born again;’ he is a ‘new creation’ in Christ.  He is part of the body of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption.  He is permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  He is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and the evil principalities and powers cannot separate him from the love of God in Christ.  The One in the Christian is greater than the one in the world.  The Holy Spirit and an evil spirit cannot be joint occupants of the same heart.  Believers are ‘in Christ’ and Christ is ‘in’ them.  It is altogether impossible for those who are ‘Christ’s’ to be Satan’s.  ‘We are the Lord’s’, and we can belong to none other. (cf. Jn 3:5, 2 Cor. 5:17, Eph. 1:23, Eph 4:30, Rom. 8:9, 1 Cor. 6:19, Rom. 8:38-39, 1 Jn. 4:4, 2 Cor. 6:15-16, Eph. 3:17, Col 1.27, 1 Cor. 3:23).

“The Christian cannot be demon possessed. Such a notion contradicts everything which the New Testament has to say concerning the nature of the new birth and the standing of the child of God.  ‘It is impossible,’ says Martin Luther, ‘for Jesus Christ and the devil ever to remain under the same roof.  The one must yield to the other – the devil to Christ.”

Leahy, Satan Cast Out, p. 95-96.

shane lems