“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7
We are now in chapter 20 of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. If you are now just joining us, we are working through Grudem’s book chapter by chapter to help us have a more comprehensive understanding of God’s Word. I would encourage all of you to purchase the book and read it for yourselves, but if you cannot, I hope you will go back and read the last 19 blog posts from the beginning.
Today we are briefly talking about a dark topic, Satan and Demons. As it relates to this, we should have a spiritual healthy and Biblically grounded relationship with this doctrine of darkness. By this I mean that we should be aware of what God’s Word says about this topic and implement Biblical strategies, but we should not be overly interested it. Perhaps a helpful comparison would be teaching child about fire. They must be aware of its existence, but you do not want them playing with matches.
One thing we must understand is that Satan and demons are created beings. They are not equals to God. He made them and rules over them. (Colossians 1:16; Job 1:6). When they were first created they were not evil, however, at some point they rebelled against God. (2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6) This would have taken place before Genesis 3. This leads to a question of why? Isaiah 14:12-15 may be helpful. Some believe this text has two layers, a present context and a heavenly context. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;c 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
Whether this is expressly referring to Satan or not, we do not know, but we do know that what is described is the root of sin, “I will make myself like the Most High.” And we also know that Satan is the Father of Lies (John 8:44), the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), and desires Jesus to worship him (Matt. 4:9). What Satan is peddling to the world is the same poison that he drank himself, you can be your own God. The problem with poison is that it ends in death, and this is the reality for Satan and for all those who resist God and his plan of salvation.
On top of this, Satan desires your death. We are told he is our adversary “seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8). Unfortunately, many times this lion looks more like an angel, for “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). This is why the Apostle Paul tells us to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). And the weapon that accompanies that armor is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17), and this is how we resist Satan and push back the darkness, not only in our lives, but in this world. It is the Word of God that must take center stage again, as it once did in the Garden.
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” – Revelation 5:11-12
We are continuing through our journey through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Today we are touching on angels (pun intended). I have to be honest, I am curious to see if more people click on this blog because of its title. The reason I say this is because Americans seem to have an unhealthy infatuation with angels, many times leading to wild distortions of the truth and the undermining of God’s good design.
Angles are mentioned over 200 times in the Old Testament, and around 175 times in the New Testament. So if you believe in the Bible, you believe in angels. The first time the word angel is used in the Bible is Genesis 16:7 when “the angel of the Lord” found Hagar in the wilderness and encouraged her to return after she ran away from Abraham and Sara. The word angel in Hebrew (language of the Old Testament) is “mal'ak” which means messenger. The Greek word (the language of the New Testament) for angel is “aggelos,” which also means messenger. From their name we can quickly determine their primary purpose, messengers for God.
Though angels are mysterious to us, we can make some conclusions due to the frequency of their appearance in Scripture. First, angels are created beings (Nehemiah 9:6, Psalm 148:2, 5). Second, there are different types and levels of authority of angels (Genesis 3:24, Isaiah 6:2-7, Daniel 10:13, Jude 9). Third, angels have names (Jude 9, Revelations 12:7-8, Daniel 10:13, Luke 1:19). Fourth, they can only be in one place at a time (Luke 1:26, Daniel 10:12-14). Fifth, there are a lot of them (Revelation 5:11). Sixth, some provide protection (Psalm 91:11-12, Matthew 18:10). Seventh, angels do not marry (Matthew 22:30, Luke 20:34-36).
So what are we to make of all this? Probably the most important reminder is that angels are creatures just like we are. They are not beings to worship. In fact, in Revelation 22:9 when the Apostle John fell at the feet of an angel and started to worship, the angel replied, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.” No matter how interesting you think angels are, they must not undermine your relationship with God. Angles exist to glorify God, so do not exchange His glory, to worship created things (Romans 1:23).
Second, we must keep angels in their proper place. Deceased relatives and friends do not become angels. Humans remain humans and angels remain angels. Stating on Facebook that a loved one has become an angel is not true and should not be stated.
Lastly, celebrate that we have angels that are “fellow servants” with us, and look forward to the day when you will stand in the midst of the chorus and sing together, “Worthy is the Lamb.”
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. “ - Hebrews 4:14-16
We are continuing our walk through Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. Today we are focusing on prayer. To begin, we should recognize how great a gift prayer is, for prayer is communicating with the Creator of the Universe. Imagine if you could call the President of the United States up at any hour of the day, and you were guaranteed that he would always pick up and listen. Now multiply that by infinity.
The second thing we should remind ourselves about prayer is that it is not for God, but it is for us. Too often I worry that we treat prayer as informational and not relational. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:8. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” This understanding of God matches well with what we have learned in past chapters regarding God's incommunicable attributes and providence.
So why pray? Grudem lists three reasons why a Sovereign God desires us to pray: It displays our dependence, it encourages fellowship, and it allows us to participate in God's will.
First, In our above passage it states, “in our weaknesses.” This is the primary reason why we tend to pray. In moments that we come to the end of ourselves, we turn to God. Even unbelievers feel an urge to cry out to their Creator. When we do this, we are saying, “I can't, but You can.” It is unfortunate that we seem only to pray when things get really bad. For the truth is that we are always in need of God's grace.
Second, the way that relationships deepen is through communication. God desires for his children to grow closer to Him by two means; reading the Word (Him talking to us) and praying (us talking to Him). All of the great Godly men that went before us found great comfort in prayer. Andrew Murray, a South African Dutch reformed pastor who authored over 240 books once said, “O, let the place of secret prayer become to me the most beloved spot on earth.”
Third, it is an amazing thing that a Sovereign God invites us into His work. God does not need us, yet it is His will to use us. This is one powerful aspect of prayer. In understanding this, it helps to have categories in your mind. The first category is that God is Sovereign and His will is always achieved. We will call this “His end.” The second category is the way in which God accomplishes His end. We will call this “His means.” Our prayer is “His means” to accomplish “His end”. Meaning, that our prayer really does cause God to act; however, our prayers are ultimately caused by God. Prayer is God’s ordained means to reach God’s ordained end. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” (1 John 5:14). “the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:27).
Prayer is perhaps one of the sweetest realities of a life devoted to the Lord, let us not ignore it, let us embrace it.
“[H]ow shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” - Hebrews 2:3-4
As we continue through Wayne Grudem's book Systematic Theology we find ourselves on the chapter concerning Miracles. Two weeks ago, we examined God's providence. It makes sense that the topic of miracles would follow providence, for they are the same from the vantage point of God. Miracles are only miracles to us because they are “a less common kind of God's activity in which he arouses people's awe and wonder and bears witness to himself.” Miracles are not God acting when previously He was not; for God is a God of providence, meaning he is ordaining everything always, not some things sometime.
Miracles, like a lot of Biblical themes, have been wildly distorted. And this distortion goes in both directions. For some people, everything is a miracle: babies, a rainbow, a parking space, etc. These are not miracles, for these things happen all the time. They are common. When everything is a miracle, nothing is a miracle. This is not to say that God is not providing for them, they are just not miraculous events.
The other end of the distortion is the idolization of miracles. Certain denominations are vulnerable to this problem, and many times evangelical frauds prey on these groups for the purpose of money. Instead of pursuing God these people pursue miracles. Miracles are like a drug that they keep chasing. Jesus ran into this issue during his ministry. “And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.” (John 6:2). Eventually these people didn't stick around. They gave up on Jesus, for they only wanted the awe factor. Jesus says it very bluntly, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign.”
The truth is, most of us will never see an authentic miracle (i.e. a less common kind of activity for the purpose of arousing awe). If you think about it, miracles are not that common in the Bible. The Bible covers a history of over 4,000 years. Miracles play a very small role. Sure they may be a few turn of the pages, but in reality those pages may represent hundreds and hundreds of years. In fact, many respectable theologians (Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Johnathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, B.B. Warfield, John Gresham Machen, John MacArthur) believe that the gift of miracles ended with the death of the Apostles. This does not mean that they believe that miracles won't happen, they just don't believe God will use humanity to be the instruments of these miracles as He did with the Apostles.
So what are we to do with these extra ordinary events orchestrated by God and documented in the Scriptures? Embrace them, but do not idolize them. These events from God, such as the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of Egypt, the virgin birth, the resurrection of Lazarus, the resurrection of Jesus, they all display the glory of God. They display the reality that God is a God with no restrictions. Allow these events to wake you up out of the normal and cause you to stand in awe of the God of the Universe who can do all things according to His Will.
Ultimately, allow these miracles to increase your fear and your faith in God and his Son Jesus Christ. God is a God who can destroy and he is a God who can save. As the verse above states, “God also bore witness by signs and wonders.” If these miracles truly happened don't you think it would be wise to listen to this God?
Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA.