Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Apostle Paul on Powers of Evil

In The New Demons, Jacques Ellul talks about the false gods we moderns adore. But was he really right in doing so? Today we look at passages taken from various letters written by the apostle Paul to remember anew his normative thoughts.

1:21-23 Olympians, claiming to be wise, are actually foolish. Rather than devoting themselves to God, they devote themselves to idols—to images of humans or other creatures.
5:14-21 Following the sin of Adam, death ruled over humankind (14). Following Jesus Christ, all who receive his grace and righteousness now rule in life (17). Following Adam, sin once ruled all of us through death. Through Jesus Christ, grace now rules us all through righteousness leading to eternal life (21).
6:5-23 When Jesus was crucified and died, our old self was crucified and died with him. With the death of our sinful self, sin itself lost its power over us (6-7). Through his resurrection, Jesus is free from the powers of sin and death and lives in an unbreakable relationship of love with God (9-10). We too are to understand ourselves as freed from sin and alive for God through the death and resurrection of Jesus (11). Once we were slaves of sin and served its wicked purposes which end only in death. Now we have been set free from sin so that we may be slaves of righteousness and serve its holy purposes which lead to eternal life (15-23).
7:14-25 Our new self knows what is right and wills to do it, but sin lives within our old self and drives it to do evil in spite of our new self.
8:1-17 When we live according to the Flesh who lives within our old self, it drives us to hostility with God which ends in death. When we live according to the Spirit who lives within our new self, she empowers us to cry out to Abba (Christ’s father and ours) and this ends in life and peace.

1 Corinthians
7:5 Paul advises husbands and wives to enjoy regular sexual intercourse with one another to avoid being tempted by Satan into having sexual intercourse with others.
8:1-13 Paul speaks about food offered to idols. He affirms, to begin with, that there is only one true god. He acknowledges, however, that there are false gods (5), without going into any detail, and idols understood to represent them.
10:6-33 Paul warns Corinthian Christians against devoting themselves to idols. He cites the example of the people of Israel who worshiped a golden calf and quickly fell into an orgy of eating, drinking, and having sexual intercourse (6-10).
He says that what Olympians in Corinth offer to their idols they offer to demons and not to God. When Olympians then eat from those sacrifices, they do so as worshipers of demons (20).
He reminds Corinthian Christians that, back in the days when they were Olympians, they also devoted themselves to idols who, unlike the one true god, could not speak a single word.

2 Corinthians
2:11 Paul practices forgiveness and encourages the Corinthian Christians to do so also to prevent Satan (the “Accuser”) from harming the church there.
4:4 The god of this world blinds the minds of Olympians to prevent them from affirming the Good News of Jesus Christ.
6:14-18 Paul warns Christians against partnering with Olympians because Christ and the Devil have nothing in common and God’s temple—the Church—has no room for idols. Instead, Paul encourages Christians to draw a clear distinction between themselves and Olympians.
12:7 Paul refers to a serious physical pain he suffers as a messenger of Satan given to him by God to keep him from becoming arrogant as a result of the special revelations he had received from God.

4:3-9 Until freed by Jesus Christ, all of us humans were ruled by the elemental spirits of the world (New Revised Standard Version) or ruling spirits of the universe (Good News Translation) (3). We were slaves to false gods (8). Now that we have been known by God, there is no point in returning to such weak and pitiful gods to be enslaved by them again.
5:16-18 The Spirit and the Flesh (Unholy Spirit) oppose one another. The works of the Flesh include a number of destructive actions including the worship of idols. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those belonging to Jesus have put the Flesh to death.

2:2 When we were Olympians, we participated in the world’s wicked ways, obeying the ruler of the powers of darkness who is the spirit at work in those who disobey God.
6:11-13 The Devil still likes to trick us into serving him. We need armor from God to resist him and the other powers of evil through whom he works. The Devil and those powers are our real enemies—not other human beings.

2:15 Jesus disarmed all powers of evil by making a public spectacle of them at the cross.
2:20 Having died with Jesus, we are free of them.

1 Thessalonians
1:9 Thessalonian Christians turned away from idols to serve the one true god.
2:18 Satan kept Paul from returning to the Thessalonian church as quickly as he wanted to.
3:5 Paul sent Timothy to make sure that the Devil had not tempted the Thessalonians to abandon Jesus as a result of their suffering for Jesus.

1 Timothy
4:1 Paul warns that some will abandon their loyalty to Jesus by obeying deceitful spirits and falling for the teachings of demons.

2:14-15 The Devil held the power of death and kept all human beings in slavery to him through our fear of death. But Jesus destroyed the Devil and set us free.

Copyright © 2016 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.