Sometimes it does not look like satan is being beaten.
The disciples could see evidence that they were winning a victory over satan. Christ our Lord had given them authority over demons. The authority of Christ is in His Word that He placed in the mouths of the disciples. So even the demons had to obey the power of that Word that the disciples spoke when they cast them out.
The Lord said, ďI saw satan fall like lightning from heaven.Ē The victory was being won through the men whom He had sent out.
As He said, they had authority to tread on serpents and scorpions. Serpents and scorpions were often symbols or embodiments of evil in the Old Testament. In Genesis three, the serpent was literally possessed by satan. In Revelation, he is called the dragon, that ancient serpent. Demonic creatures in Revelation nine are described as being able to torment people with tails and stings like scorpions. Sometimes, snakes and scorpions revealed the dangers of this fallen world which is so often tormented by the forces of evil. This was especially true for the people of Israel in the wilderness. Solomonís son Rehoboam threatened to whip the people with scorpions, which, although it was surely not a literal threat, served to show the wickedness of manís cruelty to man.
So when our Lord said that He gave authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, please do not go out and take this advice literally. For one thing, He was speaking about the power He was giving to overcome satanís kingdom. For another thing, He was specifically talking to the seventy men He had sent out, not making a promise to all believers.
Yet there is a general promise to us. We also overcome and conquer the devilís kingdom. We also have the Word of the Lord that has power over darkness and wickedness.
But, as I said, it does not always seem that we are winning. Unlike the seventy disciples, we do not see demon exorcism. It is rare these days, if it happens at all. As Bible-believing Christians, we trust that the events recorded really took place. So we know that exorcism is real and has taken place. Yet it does not appear to happen among us.
The disciples had visible evidence that they were winning. Often we lack evidence.
Yet we are winning nonetheless. Every time a sinner is Baptized into Christ, another soul is snatched from the serpentís fangs. Every time the Word of Christ is preached, men are fed and strengthened against every attack of the evil one. Although we do not see demons cringing and fleeing from the Word, we know that the power in this Word is as great as when the disciples commanded the demons to come out of people they possessed.
But sometimes the numbers are not there. We want more people in the pews, but sometimes we do not get them, even if we try hard. Conversions are few and far between. People fall away from the church so often. It may feel, at times, like our congregation is a failure.
This is a serious temptation. It strikes pastors and lay people alike. You can almost hear the serpent asking, ďDid God really promise that His Word would defeat evil?Ē The devil wants you to believe the lie that the Word does not contain the full authority of the Lord to subdue the powers of wickedness. Instead, satan wants you to think in terms of how much we win people with our love or personality or hard work. Instead of the power of the Word, he wants you to think of how persuasive we should be.
Our old Adam wants to seize this lure of satan. Our old Adam wants to judge with our eyes and our feelings instead of trusting the Word. The Word works invisibly, by the Spiritís hidden efforts in the souls of men. This frustrates the sinful nature in us, which would much rather see exactly what is going on at all times.
May the Lord remind us to trust in Him and His Word. Although our eyes may not see satan losing his grip on sinners, we must trust that this Gospel ministry strikes him a heavy blow. Even if this congregation should be a failure in the eyes of the world, may the Spirit show us Godís way of seeing, that the Word is the victory through which lives are rescued.
Our old Adam, which wants to judge by appearance, also despises the Cross. If there is any place that does not look like goodness was winning over wickedness, it was at the Cross. But there Christ struck the sharpest blow against satan. There the accuser was robbed of any opportunity to accuse the saints. For if the Blood of Christ has declared a man innocent, how can the devil claim he is guilty?
But the Cross is so ugly. The suffering and injustice strike a nerve with our old Adam. We prefer a beautiful Savior, not a blood-soaked man being executed. But only the Blood-soaked Man is the defeat of darkness. Only the Crucified Christ has crushed the ancient serpentís head.
By trusting the Word, we are trusting in the Lord who brought us out of the kingdom of darkness into His wonderful light. By mistrusting the Word, we turn our attention somewhere else, as if something else could win the victory.
May the Lord forgive us when we fail to trust, and keep our eyes of faith upon His Cross.
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