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Bad, Bold, and Bound

We need not fear evil spirits.

A Celtic Christian Worldview (16)

But truly those deceitful and unclean spirits are restless and subtle, able to suffer in mind and, being clothed in bodies of air, they never grow old. Practicing their enmities with men they swell with pride. Lying and skilled in deceit they stir people’s senses. Bringing terror to mortals they disturb their lives with the feverishness of dreams, with passions and contortions of limbs. Fabricating delusions and prophecies and controlling oracles, they pour the desire for illicit love into human hearts, and imitating things that are true, they transform themselves even into the appearance of good angels and into light; and as they differ by degrees in wickedness so they differ in power.

  - The Book of the Order of Creatures VIII.16, 17[1]

“But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”

  - Matthew 12.28, 29

Chapter VIII of the Liber de Ordine Creaturarum deals with the fallen angels, and with Satan, their chief. The writer relates the account of their rebellion against God and of their being cast down to the earth, where they wreak much havoc as they await their inevitable fate – to be cast into the eternal and unquenchable fire of God’s wrath.

These fallen angels are truly bad. They hate God and Jesus Christ. By their rebellion they forfeited the highest place in the eternal court, only to be cast down to the lowest, meanest place where they will suffer the consequences of their foolishness in eternal separation from God. For now, they are granted a season of cavorting and havoc-wreaking, and while the goal of their efforts has not changed – to gain, if by any means, the throne of God and Christ (cf. Matt. 4.1-11) – the focus of their malice is on human beings. Boldly they bring against us all manner of evil influences and contrary conditions, hoping, like Satan before Jesus, that we will renounce God.

But these malicious spirits may not assail and assault us to the extent they would like. For Jesus has bound them, and they serve His purposes in all He allows them to do. While they bring much evil to people and the world, and in the process, satisfy their own lust for wickedness, in the long run, and often in the short, they are merely carrying out the good and perfect will of God. As our anonymous writer puts it, Satan “is not able to do anything against men or the things subject to men without God’s permission.” He “can do nothing at all against property or people outside God’s permission.” Even though Satan “continues evil for himself, he always remains good for God while he complies obediently with the Lord’s command, though not of his own free will but because of God’s power.”

Satan is good for nothing except to serve the purposes of God’s Kingdom and glory.

God holds all power over the devil and fallen angels. They can do only what He allows. He limits their wickedness and diverts their malicious interference in the lives of men to serve His own good and glorious ends. We say of him as Joseph said to his brothers, though Satan and demons mean to work evil against us, to harm and even destroy us, God intends and uses their wickedness for good (cf. Gen. 50.20). And in this we may rejoice, and we will rejoice.

In the end, and very often even before the end, the goodness and love and kindness and mercy and generosity and wisdom of God will come to light through the malice and evil we experience in this life. The demons rejoice in their pyrrhic victories, until they realize that God has only been using them, and a greater pyre of wrath and destruction awaits them.

So too, we should rejoice in every trial or setback we experience, especially those that befall us at the hands of others, or by circumstances beyond our control (Jms. 1.2-4). Our rejoicing lifts us above our untoward conditions into the glorious presence of God, saints, and angels (cf. Rev. 4, 5), where the eternal celebration of His victory over all His foes has already begun. And rejoicing in trials bears witness to the world that, even in the midst of suffering, we participate in a future that is glorious, joyous, and certain, and of which we know a foretaste even now.

We must respect the devil, but we need not fear him (1 Pet. 5.8-10). We recognize his wiles and designs, resist his every approach, and route him through praise, rejoicing, and obedience to Jesus whenever he strikes a blow against us. The devil and his ilk may be bad and bold, but they are bound by Jesus, and thus they are bound only to do His good and perfect will for our good.

For Reflection
1. Why must we respect the devil? Why do we not need to fear him?

2. What are the best ways to resist the devil?

Psalm 27.1-3, 14 (Joanna: Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise)
Lord, You are our Light and our Savior most dear!
You guard us with might; therefore, whom shall we fear?
Though evil surround us, our enemies fall;
No harm shall confound us when on You we call.

Wait, wait on the Lord; persevere in His grace.
Hold fast to His Word; seek His radiant face.
Be strong, set your heart to abide in His Word;
His grace He imparts; therefore, wait on the Lord.

A Christian worldview
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T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from
The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Davies, p. 14

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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