What We Believe
SATAN AND THE CHURCH OF THE MYSTERY
1. THE DECLARATION
We believe that Satan has no authority in the heavenly places to which the church of the mystery has been translated. Demon possession is attached to other spheres and callings. We believe that Satan's one means of access to the believer is through ignorance of the truth, and that recovery from his captivity is by repentance and the acknowledging of the truth, which makes us free.
Conquerors do not go out to wage war against a conquered foe, neither are they haunted by the fear of his activity. We are more than conquerors in Christ. We are delivered and translated out of Satan's authority. We have a command to withstand the spiritual forces of this world's darkness and are provided with complete armour and with one weapon, the Word of God. We are assured that apart from lowering the shield of faith not one fiery dart of the wicked can reach us.
To sum up we would say that our attitude to the Satanic system is expressed first of all by our position in Christ as 'far above all' ; and that everything else is relative to the fact that we are 'seated together' there.
2. SCRIPTURAL GROUNDS
'Can ye be angry and sin not'? (Author's translation). Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil' (Eph. 4:26,27).
'Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil'
' ... that ye may know ... what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (age), but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all' (Eph. 1:18-23 ).
'Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Col. 1:13).
'To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God' (Acts. 26:18).
'Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them ... I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly'
'In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will' (2 Tim. 2:25,26).
'Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil' (1 Tim. 3:6,7).
3. SOME EXPLANATION AND APPLICATION OF THESE SCRIPTURES.
Some Christians seem to be so indifferent to the power of Satan and to minimise it to such an extent that they are easily blinded to his activities, and are a source of danger to the church through negligence. There are some, on the other hand, who appear to magnify Satan's activity and authority out of all due proportion. Attending their prayer meetings or conferences one seems to hear the name of Satan almost as frequently as the name of God. Christians of this second class are usually the more earnest and zealous believers, and such are even a greater menace to the church in this regard than their indifferent brethren.
Our theme here is not Satan and the Satanic system, the casting out of demons, and similar subjects, but rather the more limited one - 'Satan and the church of the mystery'.
We believe that the church of the One Body is a unique company, having a complete guide for its doctrine and practice, and all necessary knowledge in those writings, called for convenience, 'The prison epistles'. While we cannot rule that a believer should not resort to the Gospels or the Epistles of Peter for instruction concerning Satan and other subjects, we do maintain that it is an evidence that something is wrong when a professed member of the One Body, who has apparently endorsed the distinctive dispensational position of the mystery, leaves the epistles of this calling and reverts for instruction on this great theme to the scriptures written to the Circumcision or to the Gospel records of a time before the Lord had overcome death, the Devil, and the grave.
Either the epistles of the mystery are complete, or they are deficient. So far as we are concerned we make the declaration unfeignedly, that we believe that God has included all necessary instruction for the church of the mystery within the pages of the 'prison epistles', and any doctrine or practice that takes its origin in Scriptures confessedly addressed to believers on other dispensational planes, stands thereby excluded and judged as error.
Paul makes ten references to Satan throughout the whole of his written ministry of fourteen epistles. Eight of these references belong to the epistles written before Acts 28. Two are found in the first Epistle to Timothy; and not one reference in Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians or 2 Timothy.
Paul mentions Diabolos, 'The Devil', nine times in his epistles. Two of these references are in Titus and Timothy. 'The aged women, likewise, that they be ... not false accusers (devils)' (Tit. 2:3); 'For men shall be ... false accusers (devils)' (2 Tim. 3:2,3). The remaining seven references are found in Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy and Hebrews.
The other title of Satan, The Wicked, is used by Paul twice, both references being in Ephesians 6.
We believe that the whole matter of Satanic authority and demon possession, so far as the church of the One Body is concerned, is settled positionally. The very position of the church in Christ, far above all, raises that church above Satan's province. This we now proceed to show from Scripture, and for convenience of approach to the subject we adopt the following headings
In Romans 15:29 the apostle Paul made a statement containing, possibly, truth of which he was unaware when he penned the words:
' ... I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ' (Rom. 15:29).
He had thought of visiting Rome a free man, and continuing his journey to Spain. He actually reached Rome a prisoner of the Lord, but as the prisoner of the Lord he received 'the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ' in a measure undreamed of during Pentecostal times.
Another similar statement is found in the next chapter:
'And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly' (Rom. 16:20).
There is here an undoubted allusion to the promise of Genesis 3, and Paul was looking forward to the millennial reign of Christ and His saints. That, however, did not transpire, but in its place has come a calling, of which Christ is the Head, with all things under His feet. Consequently it is true of the members of the church of the One Body anticipatorily now, as it will be actually true of the saints in that day, that Satan is under our feet. The context of Romans 16:20 is worthy of prayerful study. It speaks of division and contrary doctrine. It commends wisdom concerning good, and simplicity concerning evil. Some believers appear to be experts in Satanic things. But are they called thus to emulate our first parents in the knowledge of good and evil? Is it spiritually healthy? We believe it is not, and that it diverts into unscriptural and negative channels spiritual energy that should have been used in positive service along the lines of scriptural precept and example.
The reader may or may not concur with our suggestion regarding the passage in Romans 16. There is one passage however, which does undoubtedly refer to the present dispensation that will indicate the second point we wish to consider, viz., the meeting of all Satanic activities positionally.
Paul not only received a commission to witness for Christ during the period covered by the Acts while he remained a free man, but he speaks of a second charge and a second ministry, this time associated with 'bonds and imprisonment' which awaited him (Acts 20:23,24).
These two ministries are referred to in Acts. 26:
' ... I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power (authority) of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me' (Acts 26:16-18).
The most casual acquaintance with Colossians 1 will show a close parallel between this foreshadowing of the present dispensation and its fulfilment, and a more intimate acquaintance will abundantly confirm the connection between these two passages. Without pointing out all the parallels, we consider at once that which touches upon the relation of the church to the authority of Satan:
'Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power (authority) of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son' (Col. 1:12,13).
'Who hath delivered us ... and hath translated us'. The apostle could say in his epistle to the Colossians:
'Wherefore if ye be dead (died) with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances?' (Col. 2:20).
And can we not as truly say: Wherefore, if ye have been delivered from the authority of darkness, and have been translated into the kingdom of His dear Son, why as though still living under the dominion of Satan are ye in so great fear of his activity?
It is written concerning Enoch:
'By faith Enoch was translated ... and was not found, because God had translated him' (Heb. 11:5).
What if Peter has to tell the believers among the dispersion that the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). He can no more 'find' a member of the One Body, than men could 'find' Enoch, for both are translated.
The position of the church is one that is 'far above all principality and authority', in a realm where Satan has no access, from which he was cast before the foundation of the world, and in which he has no authority to 'walk up and down'. His sphere is confined to the heavens of the air (Eph. 2:2), and the earth (Job 2:2). Presently Satan will be cast out of the heaven he now occupies (Rev. 12:9), and another region of his malignant activities will be closed against him. The earth alone will then have cause to fear his evil work (Rev. 12:17), until the earth itself shall be rid of his dread presence during the Millennium and, with the exception of the 'little season', for ever (Rev. 20:2,3).
Christ, the Head of the church of the mystery, is 'Head over all things' to us, and 'all things' are under His feet. The church is blessed in and with Him there, at the right hand of God. If John could write to his readers, 'He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not ... the whole world lieth in wickedness (the wicked one)' (1 John 5:18,19), surely those who are blessed as Ephesians 1 and Colossians 1 affirm, may evermore testify that 'the wicked one toucheth them not'. Too much concern with the Devil's activity has the appearance, at least, of an incomplete understanding of the majestic truth of the ascension of Christ, 'far above all', and of the fact that the church of the mystery is the first and only complete foreshadowing of the new creation where God shall be all in all.
3. THE POWER
What is the power at the disposal of the church of the One Body for all things - life, service, or warfare?
' ... The exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world (age), but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the church, which is His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all' (Eph. 1:19-23).
That is the power that has already overcome Satan and all his activity so far as the super-heavenlies are concerned. Paul (so far as the inspired record informs us) never organised a prayer meeting to 'resist the Devil'. Why attempt a thing so lacking in faith? If Christ as Head has all things beneath His feet; if the church's sphere is far above the reach of Satan; if the church has been delivered from his authority and translated into a kingdom for ever shut against him, is it not the essence of unbelief to talk of Satan in the terms of 1 Peter 5:8, as true for this glorious and exalted company?
Are we to believe that Christians to-day are more spiritually alive to Satan's activities, and more fully in touch with the mind of the Lord, than was the apostle Paul? And, if not, what of their phraseology, their attitude in prayer, and the prominence given to Satan and his activities in their view and teaching? Judging by the infallible standard of inspired Scripture we have no alternative but to say that it is not of God.
4. THE POINT OF CONTACT
Ephesians 2:2,3 makes clear the following facts: Satan, as the prince of the power of the air, has authority over 'the children of disobedience' and the 'children of wrath'. His point of contact is 'their conversation', 'the desires (the wills) of the flesh and the mind'. Here too is the only vantage ground that Satan possesses over the believer. A comparison of Ephesians 2:2,3 and 4:17-27 will make this plain.
'We all had our conversation'.
'The desires (wills) of flesh and mind'.
'The lusts (desires) of our flesh'.
'In time past ye walked'.
Now, 'dead in (to) sins'.
Then, inwrought by the 'prince of the power of the air'.
'The former conversation'.
'The old man'.
'Deceitful lusts (desires)'.
'Henceforth walk not as other Gentiles'.
Then 'alienated from the life of God'.
Now, the possibility of giving 'place to the Devil'.
The flesh with its deceitful desires is the one point of contact between the member of the One Body and Satan. Paul's inspired exhortation is NOT to resist Satan, but to put off the old man with his conversation and corruption, and to put on the new man. If Satan can maintain God's children in an unscriptural conflict with himself, it will blind their eyes to the two all-important facts, in this connection
(1) That Satan is already dealt with by Christ for His church.
(2) That the true opposition of the Christian should be directed against the activities of the old man.
A saint who loses his temper may regard this as a slight thing in comparison with holding the fort against the enemy, but God says, and we most resolutely stand by all He says:
'Can ye be angry and sin not? (Author's translation). Let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the Devil ... let all ... wrath, and anger ... be put away' (Eph. 4:26-31).
Yielding to the old man is yielding to the Devil. Taking the scriptural attitude against the old man is depriving the Devil of his one point of contact. Fewer prayer meetings spending spiritual energy in waging war against Satan, and more prayer meetings seeking light and grace to act scripturally concerning the old man would result in a victory over the Devil and his plans such as transcends the hopes of the most sanguine of those who wage war against him.
There is a further connection with Ephesians 4 found in Ephesians 6. Both passages stress the need to 'put on'; in chapter 4, to 'put on the new man'; in chapter 6, to 'put on the whole armour of God' . That armour is specified as truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the 'Word of God'. God has said that with that equipment, all, not merely some, of the fiery darts of the wicked shall be quenched. The words 'conquest', 'battle', 'fighting' and 'war', are never mentioned. Conquest and war in this sphere are as out of place as they would have been for Israel before crossing the Jordan. Our 'orders' are to 'stand', 'withstand', and 'wrestle'. Our conflict is neither with flesh and blood, nor in heavenly places, but with the spiritual wickedness that dominates this world's darkness. In case some should consider this a contradiction of Scripture, we present the translation of Ephesians 6:12 as follows:
'We wrestle NOT against flesh and blood (but ... spiritual wickedness) in heavenly places'.
The thought is that our wrestling is neither with flesh and blood, nor in heavenly places, but that it is confined to spiritual wickedness here and now.
We would here draw particular attention to the place of the 'truth' in connection with this subject. The Lord Jesus declared: 'The truth shall make you free'. The first piece of armour mentioned is the girdle of truth. Many become an easy prey to Satan because they do not know the truth. Could a man be held in bondage by Satan if he knew the truth of his deliverance and translation? (Col. 1:13). Every case of which we have heard where Satanic interference or demon possession was endured has been connected with those who had no clear understanding of the truth of the present dispensation. The new man we put on is created in righteousness and holiness of the truth, and we are enjoined to 'put away the lie' (not merely 'lying') (Eph. 4:24,25).
Some may say, How would you deal with one who was apparently under the power of Satan or his agents? Our reply would be that we have no warrant from Scripture to enter the field of service and ministry covered by the message of the Circumcision, or of things outside the sphere of the One Body, but that keeping within that sphere, we have a decided command as to our mode of action from Scripture, which says nothing of casting out demons, but speaks of delivering by means of the truth.
' ... the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will' (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
It will be remembered that 1 Timothy 3:6,7 shows that the 'snare of the Devil' is a constant trap for the 'novice'. How many there are in the Devil's snare because of hastily conceived ideas of the truth of the One Body. Such are enemies, though unwillingly, of our faith.
The true method of attack upon Satan and his bondage is the wielding of the sword of the Spirit. We are obeying God's explicit instructions when we 'preach the Word' and are using the sword of the Spirit. The more 'truth' we declare the more 'truth' is believed, and the more complete is our opposition to Satan. But to spend all day or all night in prayer warfare is something uncommanded; it results in prayer taking the place of the Scriptures; and it has no place in the life and witness of those whose first and last thought is that, both in matter and method their witness shall be in harmony with 'Thus saith the Lord'.
5. PAUL'S PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Personal experience may be good when appropriate, but it is out of place when it overbears the direct testimony of Scripture. Books may be written and crammed with experiences that prove nothing more than that such things were felt by the individual writer. Peter's experience on the Mount of the Transfiguration was convincing to himself, but, he says, we have a 'more sure' word of prophecy (2 Pet. 1:19). Paul's experiences, however, are woven intimately into the fabric of inspired truth, and can be safely given a place. We have found that those who are actively concerned in the warfare against Satan seldom hesitate to speak of all sickness among saints as the result of the attack of the Evil One. It seems strange to think that those who should rejoice in the complete victory of Christ over sin, Satan, and death, should be ready to concede so much power to the enemy over the bodies of those who belong to the Lord. Possibly such would have persuaded Martha and Mary that the death of Lazarus was the direct attack of the Devil, but they would have been mistaken. Possibly the man born blind entertained the same belief, but he, too, was mistaken (See Exod. 4:11). However, we know that one affliction that came upon Paul was of Satanic origin, but we find that he did not 'resist' it as an attack of the Devil.
This special affliction was sent to Paul, 'lest he should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations' (2 Cor. 12:7). To have resisted this stake in the flesh would have been spiritually disastrous. Three times he prayed for deliverance, but we do not read that he engaged in prayer warfare. Then, meekly yet gloriously, he bowed to the Divine appointment, learning the blessed lesson of sufficient grace and perfected strength - a lesson that no amount of healing could have ever taught.
Was Timothy in his persistent weakness foolishly allowing Satan to attack him? If so, Paul would have been wiser to have advised a prayer conflict instead of the 'little wine' of 1 Timothy 5:23. Was Epaphroditus allowing Satan to have his own way with him? And Trophimus too? We have nothing to warrant such a conclusion.
Let us take as another example, Paul's imprisonment. Who can but believe that behind the malignant hatred of the Jew was the hatred of the Devil? Prison meant an end of Paul's missionary journeys. Does he resist? No. Two years of weary imprisonment under Felix, two years more at Rome, and never once through that time does Paul sign himself other than as the prisoner of the Lord, though he makes it plain that his imprisonment was attributable to the Jews' antagonism (Acts 28:17-19). Had Paul 'resisted', should we have possessed his prison ministry? Did not Satan go too far? Was not Paul more truly a conqueror in his quiet confidence in the Lord, than if he had moved heaven and earth with his fervour?
' ... in all these things (not exempt from them) we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Rom. 8:37-39).
Let none misunderstand us. Satan is the enemy of God and man. We hold no truce with him or his agents, but we refuse to engage in a warfare that denies that we are already more than conquerors. We refuse to give the slightest colour to the thought that Satan has any jurisdiction over those who are raised far above all in Christ. We refuse to lay down the sword of the Spirit, definitely given us of God as the one weapon, to engage in methods that approach perilously near the psychic travesty of Pentecostalism. We do not believe that we should see in sickness and disease among the members of Christ's church a denial of His Lordship. We prefer still to believe that it is as true of us as of those to whom John wrote, 'The wicked one toucheth us not'.
We do believe, however, that the believer may voluntarily lay aside the armour provided by God, and if he does so the fiery darts of the wicked will find him out We do believe that ground is certainly given to Satan by not putting off the conversation of the old man, and by not putting on the new. These sad possibilities do not call for warfare; they call for 'repentance to the acknowledgement of the truth', and when recovery is made, and the believer again reaches his true position where he stands as 'delivered', 'translated', and 'seated' 'far above all', the promise of Romans 16:20 is fulfilled - Satan is beneath his feet. Time and opportunity can then be consecrated to positive testimony and strife need never be known. Troubles, afflictions, persecutions may come thick and fast - they are promised to all who will live godly. Such accompaniments do not call for 'resistance', but rather for the spirit of Matthew 11:26, or of 2 Corinthians 12:10.
Such is our 'persuasion'. So far as we are concerned, Satan is a beaten foe already cast out from the sphere of our calling. We seek to set our mind on things above where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God, and not to be occupied either with earthly things, or with the foredoomed activities of Satan.
When we find chapter and verse in the Prison Epistles for changing this attitude it will be time to modify it. Till then we make our declaration. Every child of God has his own responsibility to the Lord, but we refuse to allow any to rob us of our blessed security and heritage which is found in Christ in the heavenly places, far above all.
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