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  • « NEWS FLASH: God Glorified by Evil Spirit's Victory! | Main | Paul's Use of Logic (Quote) »

    The Dual Nature of Christian Warfare

    In my recent moments of spare time, I have been reading Paul: An Outline of His Theology, by Herman Ridderbos. This has been a tremendously helpful and outstandingly thorough introduction to the theology of the Pauline epistles. For the purpose of whetting the potential reader's appetite, I am posting a brief, yet particularly useful sample on the nature of Christian warfare.

    "...[Paul] describes the life of believers time and again from the double viewpoint of battling on the basis of victory and of gaining the victory on the basis of the battle.

    The first viewpoint proceeds from the victory of Christ. Because Christ has died to sin, they are to live out of the consideration of faith that they too are dead to sin (as ruler), but live for God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11). This living for God in Christ Jesus is now repeatedly described, however, in the terminology of a battle, which not only starts from the victory that lies behind (in Christ), but also extends toward the victory that lies before (in the life of believers). It is in this way that the apostle speaks of his own service. Although this consists most profoundly in the proclamation of the victory of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 15:54, 57), which is still more graphically described as being led by Christ in his triumphal procession (2 Cor. 2:14), it is at the same time itself a military service, a going to war (2 Cor. 10:3, 4; cf. 1 Cor. 9:7), under the leadership of Christ as general (2 Tim. 2:3). And Paul sometimes speaks of this service, in which he knows himself to be armed from head to foot (2 Cor. 6:7), in a highly warlike manner: in this campaign it is a matter of demolishing strongholds and entrenchments and making prisoners of war for Christ (2 Cor. 10:3ff.). The life of those who have been made free by Christ now bears this same character of military service.

    ...The same thing becomes perceptible in Paul's warnings against the danger of "temptation" and, in close connection with this, against Satan. That Satan is thought of as the author of temptation is evident from such passages as 1 Thessalonians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 7:5; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 1 Timothy 3:7. While on the one hand Satan and his whole power have been subjected to the power of Christ, and the church is comforted with the knowledge that God will shortly crush Satan under its feet (Rom. 16:20), on the other hand his power and influence continue in the temptation of men, also believers (1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 2:11; 11:14; 1 Thess. 3:5).... The victory of Christ does not remove the necessity for vigilance and soberness."

    Posted by Nathan on September 8, 2006 01:20 PM


    This duality reminds me of (i) the exchange we had on sanctification on another blog, and particularly (ii)your helpful quotation from John Murray on sanctification (commenting on Philippians 2:12-13):

    "...Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjunction or co-ordination of both produced the required result. God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God's working in us..."

    So it is not so much 'the now and the not-yet', but the 'He did it, so now we do it too (with Him)'.

    Or amending Murray 'because God worked (past) we work..'

    This is a great topic to discuss.

    What do we credit to Satan and what do we credit to our fallen state?

    Also, the first warfare involving man was Eve in the Garden. What does this say about Adam and Eve's nature before the fall?


    Thanks for the reminder -- the John Murray quotation is certainly applicable here, as well.


    Satan is, in a very real sense, our great enemy, tempter, etc. But that reality does not give us an excuse. Our fallen nature is the reason we succumb to temptation; we are guilty and without excuse before God, hence the need for redemption through Christ's blood, and ongoing victory over temptation through his continued, sustaining grace.

    As far as Adam in the garden, he (and Eve as well) was certainly in a different state than we are. He did not have a nature inclined to sin; but neither was he created to be incapable of being tempted and falling to sin, as the finally sanctified and perfected believer in Christ will be in the eternal state. Adam alone was able to sin or not to sin; fallen man is unable not to sin; and redeemed man in glory will be unable to sin.

    Does that help? I'm not sure if I entirely understood your question.

    Hello Nathan,
    Yes, that does clear up some things. Obviously, I come from a free will background. I guess when trying to understand the entire paradigm shift of the total sovereignty of God, I must reexamine everything!
    Some Calvinists I know hardly want to mention Satan's activity and attribute all evil in the world to the depravity of man. So, basically a deistic Devil. I believe Scripture speaks differently. Here's my reasoning. Through our fallen state we are slaves to sin and to Satan, until we're redeemed through Christ. So, when a Christian sins, do we attibute it to the fallen nature, God, Satan, whom?
    We clearly see through Scripture God is in control and brings calamity on His children as punishment to convict of sin and other times we see Him give permission to Satan and demons (Mark 5). Is allowance causation? (I'm beginning to think so.) So, when a tiny child is violated and abused, who do we attibute the act?


    For the precise questions you're asking now, I know of no better treatment than Book One, Chapter 18 of Calvin's Institutes ("God So Uses the Works of the Ungodly, and So Bends Their Minds to Carry Out His Judgments, That He Remains Pure from Every Stain").

    He addresses the role of Satan, the ultimate sovereignty of God, the wickedness of man, and so on. Basically, he says that, in a certain sense, whenever evil actions are performed they are "willed" by different persons, with different purposes. Ultimately, God is the One who wills all things to happen, but he does so through various secondary agents. Case in point: When the Sabeans stole Job's camels, it was something (A.) that God willed, for the righteous purpose of testing and refining his servant; (B.) that Satan willed, for the evil purpose of assaulting Job's faith and attempting to bring reproach upon God; and (C.) that the Sabeans willed, for the evil purpose of satisfying their greed and lust. Hence, three different agents were involved in willing and accomplishing the same action. God is the ultimate cause, and he alone is just in carrying out this action, because he did so rightly and with just and pure motives. Satan and the Sabeans were both involved in evil willing and acting; and both are responsible and held guilty.

    Anyway, Calvin talks about that whole interaction a little more extensively. If you have access to a copy of the Institutes, I would suggest looking that chapter over.


    Great Quote from John Piper on Scripture, Satan & Meticulous Providence

    God "works all things after the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11).This "all things" includes the fall of sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the slaughter of his people (Psalm 44:11), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the failing of sight (Exodus 4:11), the sickness of children (2 Samuel 12:15), the loss and gain of money (1 Samuel 2:7), the suffering of saints (1 Peter 4:19), the completion of travel plans (James 4:15), the persecution of Christians (Hebrews 12:4-7), the repentance of souls (2 Timothy 2:25), the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29), the pursuit of holiness (Philippians 3:12-13), the growth of believers (Hebrews 6:3), the giving of life and the taking in death (1 Samuel 2:6), and the crucifixion of his Son (Acts 4:27-28).

    From the smallest thing to the greatest thing, good and evil, happy and sad, pagan and Christian, pain and pleasure - God governs them all for his wise and just and good purposes (Isaiah 46:10). Lest we miss the point, the Bible speaks most clearly to this in the most painful situations. Amos asks, in time of disaster, "If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?" (Amos 3:6). After losing all ten of his children in the collapse of his son's house, Job says, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD" (Job 1:21). After being covered with boils he says, "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" (Job 2:10).

    Oh, yes, Satan is real and active and involved in this world of woe! In fact Job 2:7 says, "Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head." Satan struck him. But Job did not get comfort from looking at secondary causes. He got comfort from looking at the ultimate cause. "Shall we not accept adversity from God?" And the author of the book agrees with Job when he says that Job's brothers and sisters "consoled him and comforted him for all the adversities that the LORD had brought on him" (Job 42:11). Then James underlines God's purposeful goodness in Job's misery: "You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful" (James 5:11). Job himself concludes in prayer: "I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2). Yes, Satan is real, and he is terrible - and he is on a leash. - John Piper

    Note that in the following passages God ordains the most evil event to occur in history:

    Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

    Acts 4:27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

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