The King’s Business (12)
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man?” Matthew 12.28, 29
The binding of Satan
On the east face of the Cross of Muiredach, a 9th-century carved cross at Monasterboice, in Ireland, Jesus stands as King over all creation. Under his foot is a chain, which descends into the abyss, where Satan is held at bay by a great angel, and bound by the power of Jesus Christ.
Whenever I mention that Christ has bound the devil so that we need not be defeated by his power, someone objects. “How can the devil be bound,” comes the query, “when Peter says he stalks about like a roaring lion?” True enough, the devil does stalk about like a roaring lion, but like a roaring lion on a chain held firmly in the power of our victorious Savior and King. Concerning this, Augustine wrote, “we should not be so fond as to think that these unclean spirits are either to be feared for any hurt, or honoured for any profit they can bring upon man’s fortunes. For they are in power, but even as wicked men on earth are, so that they cannot do what they please, but are mere ministers to His ordinance, whose judgments no man can either comprehend fully or reprehend justly.”
Satan is bound, held in check by our Lord Jesus Christ, and as long as we know the “length of his chain,” we need not fear his stalking-about or roaring. We can resist Him as Jesus did, with the power of God’s Word. For it was during the temptation in the wilderness, when Satan threw his best punches at the weak and fasting Savior, that Jesus blocked them all and delivered mortal blows to the devil by silencing and subduing him with the Word of God. From that point to this, Satan has been bound, and Jesus has been plundering his holdings.
At the right hand of the Majesty on high, Jesus continues the work of plundering the devil that He began while yet in His earthly sojourn. That great work has been going on for 2,000 years, and we are privileged in the Kingdom to God join in the plundering as Christ leads us triumphantly against the enemy of our souls.
In four ways in particular King Jesus pursues His work of plundering the devil.
The souls of men
First, Jesus is wresting the souls of His elect out of the devil’s hands. We all, when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, were enemies of Christ, captive to the devil and deceived by his wiles so that we neither sought the Lord nor walked in His ways.
But when it pleased our King to save us, and to call us to Himself, not even the greatest powers of hell could prevail against His will (Matt. 16.18). The preaching of the Word of God, accompanied by the inward work of the Holy Spirit, is stronger than the strongest grip of Satan and all his hosts. And just as the Lord plundered the devil in taking our souls for Himself, so He continues to do today, as His obedient witnesses make the Good News of the Kingdom known to those around them.
The time of our lives
The followers of Jesus Christ are called to redeem the time, for the days are evil (Eph. 5.15-17). Whatever time we fail to claim and use for the cause of Christ and His Kingdom will be lost to spiritual forces of wickedness in high places. Time, as Edwards explained, is a precious gift from God; but we must learn to make the best use of it. The devil and his minions will seek to gobble up as much of our time as they can, as though our time were their own. So we must lay hold on the moments of our lives diligently, with forethought and prayer, and for the Kingdom purposes of Christ.
For this we need the help of our King. Jesus can teach us to “number our days” in such a way as that we may plan our time in advance to be used for His wise purposes (Ps. 90.12). As we offer our plans up to Him, He is able to direct and counsel and guide us in working out our salvation so as to ensure that we will use our time for His glory and not for the works of the devil (Jms. 4.13-17; Phil. 2.12, 13). He will help us to “walk circumspectly” (Eph. 5.15) in the execution of our plans, so that we keep our time out of the devil’s hands and in the hands of the Lord.
All over the world spiritual forces of wickedness have hi-jacked God’s gift of time to people; in us, the citizens of Christ’s Kingdom, however, he has no power to keep us from using our time for the purposes of our King.
Our words and works
The same is true with our words and works. By His Word and Spirit, Jesus is enabling us to take captive even our thoughts and to make them obedient to Him (2 Cor. 10.3-5). As we bring our thoughts into submission to King Jesus, He will renew our minds (Rom. 12.1, 2) and teach us how to use His own mind to think His thoughts after Him (1 Cor. 2.16). Our King Himself will guide and counsel us concerning how we must speak and act in order to fulfill our callings as His ambassadors.
As we are thus renewed in our thoughts and minds, we may govern our words and works accordingly through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Eph. 3.14-19).
Whereas Satan has managed to sow the Lie into the thoughts and deeds of untold multitudes, Jesus is taking back from the devil the thoughts, words, and works of His people, and is using them to advance His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14.17, 18).
The earth and everything in it
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Ps. 24.1). Nevertheless, it has pleased God to allow the devil to roam throughout the earth, going here and there to capture the minds of lost men and women and, with their minds, all their possessions as well. The result is that vast fortunes of wealth and material assets are squandered for sinful or, at best, merely secular ends.
But in the lives of those whom King Jesus has taken captive to His grace and truth, great changes are in evidence. No longer does Satan command the use of our talents and possessions; instead, we consecrate all that we are and have for the Kingdom purposes of Christ, and practice a stewardship of our possessions that seeks a return on investment to the glory of our King with all we are and have (Matt. 25.14-20).
As we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as our highest priority in life (Matt. 6.33) and do everything as unto the Lord and not men (Col. 3.23), our resources play a role in furthering the good purposes of the Lord. He keeps our resources from the enemy of His Kingdom by teaching us how to will, and enabling us to do of His good pleasure with every good and perfect gift with which God has endowed us from on high (Phil. 2.12, 13; Jms. 1.17).
Satan holds no threat for the souls, time, words, works, and possessions of those who daily and moment-by-moment yield themselves to the rule of King Jesus. From His throne at the right hand of God, by the power of His Word and Spirit, in and through His people, Jesus is taking back from the devil every good gift, that He might use all things for the sake of His Kingdom purposes (Eph. 1.15-23).
The devil is powerless to prevent our King from pursuing the business He has planned from before the foundation of the world and is even now carrying out in His good and perfect way and time.