13 October 2014

Devilish Rebukes

Nestled in the back of our Bibles just before the final book of Scripture lies the book of Jude, a fascinating, important theological treasure. In this letter, the half-brother of our Lord exhorts his readers to 'contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints' (v. 3). Already, the early church was under attack from false teachers. Wolves had crept inside the fold—'ungodly persons' who sought to pervert the grace of God 'into licentiousness and [to] deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ' (v. 4).
Mt. Nebo

Within these 25 verses of wisdom lies an interesting account that appears nowhere else in Scripture. It is found in verses 8 and 9 and reads:
Yet in the same way these men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!' (Jude 8, 9)
Some find these verses to present an interpretive challenge, as works of some of the early church fathers (Justin Martyr, Origen, etc.) seem to indicate that further detail of this account is found in the pseudepigraphal work, The Assumption of Moses. Yet, even if Jude did quote or allude to this document, the mere fact that this brief account is contained in the Scriptures attests to its validity, for Scripture is breathed out by God Himself (2 Tim 3:16). What is fascinating, however, is the truth that is conveyed in these two verses.

According to Deuteronomy 34, when Moses died on Mount Nebo after seeing, but never entering, the Promised Land, he was buried in a location unknown to men.
Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day. Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated. So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end. 
(Deuteronomy 34:1–8)
Now, here in Jude, the reader discovers that Michael the archangel must have been commissioned by God to perform this burial. Further, it is learned that Michael was confronted by Satan in the process. Many speculate that the purpose for Satan's encounter was to acquire the body of Moses in order to use it as a type of idol to be worshiped by the people of Israel. Regardless, it is evident that the Lord did not want Satan to know the location of Moses' body.

Michael was granted great power by God, and no doubt could have accepted Satan's challenge and emerged victorious. Yet instead, he appealed to the Lord, the Sovereign One. If the archangel Michael would not contend with the powers of darkness, but rather left such a duty to God, how much more ought Christians—mere, fallen humans—approach these same dark powers by trusting that the Lord will intervene?
Rather than personally cursing such a powerful angel as Satan, Michael deferred to the ultimate, sovereign power of God following the example of the Angel of the Lord in Zechariah 3:2. This is the supreme illustration of how Christians are to deal with Satan and demons. Believers are not to address them, but rather to seek the Lord's intervening power against them. 
(John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2006], 1956).
Spiritual battles exist, of that there is no doubt, but are Christians to fight such battles by engaging the enemy? Should believers address Satan and his demons directly, telling them to 'back off' or 'shut up' or 'get thee behind me'?

There is a whole mindset of 'spiritual warfare' in the realm of Christianity that goes far beyond what the Bible teaches about the matter. These ideas might be silly, like the recently released 'Shut Up, Devil' app designed to give you 'the power to silence Satan…in your pocket.' The app was developed to accompany the also recently released book, Silence Satan. Or, these ideas might be over-the-top dangerous like Mars Hill Church's 'spiritual warfare trials' (aka, demon trials).

But, dear Christian, why would we even consider engaging or rebuking or speaking in any direct way to the powers of darkness? Why would we trust our fallen, easily-deceived selves in such an encounter when we have the holy God of the universe to Whom we may appeal? Nowhere in Scripture are believers told to engage Satan, even in the form of rebuke. Rather, we are commanded to resist the devil and submit instead to God (James 4:7). Our heavenly Father and our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit of promise are far more equipped to trample the wiles of Satan into mere dust.
And He came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and He was teaching them on the Sabbath; and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm. And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, “What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.” And the report about Him was spreading into every locality in the surrounding district.

(Luke 4:31–34)
Every unregenerate man is enslaved to the evil one. Until one is saved by God and adopted into the family of God, he is by nature a child of the devil. Yet Jesus, the Messiah, came into the world to destroy the works of Satan.
the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)
Says Dr. John MacArthur:
The terrible need of the human race is this, they're in bondage to Satan, they're in bondage to demons, they are under demonic influence. It is the spirit that works in the children of disobedience, they are alienated from God, they are subjects of Satan and so 1 John 3:8 says Jesus left the divine realm, came into the world to shatter, to destroy those works of the devil and set sinners free. And the devil had been holding humanity in a death grip since Genesis chapter 3.
(John MacArthur, "Jesus' Authority Over Demons, Part 1") 
We need not rely on magical words or formulas to rebuke the devil with our own efforts. No, we need only turn to the One who makes the demons tremble (Jas 2:19), to the One who has authority over all things, our great Savior, Jesus Christ. Why would we dare presume that we are more resilient than Michael the archangel? If he saw fit to hand such a task as rebuking the devil over to God, then we indeed must not approach the powers of darkness so lightly. If you have been saved, you do indeed have the power to resist the devil, but it is not a power of your own—it is the power of the Lord Jesus Christ. By His great goodness, His throne is available to us. Use it. In prayer, find your strength in Him.

photo credit: spdl_n1 via photopin cc

Further Reading
Even the Demons Believe
John Calvin on the Spirit and the Word
Resting In the Immutability of God

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