“AND THE GOD OF PEACE WILL CRUSH SATAN UNDER YOUR FEET SHORTLY”.
This phrase seems to appear as a ‘stand alone’ comment by Paul in the last chapter of the book of Romans (16:20). He was writing around 56 AD from Corinth “to all who are in Rome” and the “beloved of God, called to be saints (holy)”. Nero was the Roman Emperor at the time, and the fires of persecution were about to break upon all those there who followed the Nazarene, costing many of them their lives, since they refused to worship Nero as a ‘god’.
Persecution though, was not the situation that was the most dangerous, or could do the most damage to the church there. We see from a few verses earlier in this chapter, that Paul warned them – the believers – about those among them who would create divisions “in opposition to the teaching (doctrine) which you have been taught” (Ampl), and who “by smooth talk, and flattering speech, deceive the hearts of the simple” (in context, “the unsuspecting”) (NKJ).
‘Back in the Day!’
If we go ‘back to the garden’, we see that the serpent (Satan in disguise) approached Eve and started some of this ‘smooth’ talk. At the time there was no danger to Adam and Eve from any animal. They had dominion over them all. So, Eve did not fear the serpent, whose body at the time stood straight and tall, though not as tall as Eve. No doubt he had his head cocked slightly to one side in that moment, so as to appear appealingly to her with his question. “Has God indeed said, ‘you shall not eat of every tree of the garden’? ‘We may eat the fruit of them all, except the one in the middle of the garden, in case we die’, she said.
We see here the serpent’s tactics. Firstly, get the attention of Adams wife. Then, sow a doubt that perhaps this was not God who gave the instruction, but Adam himself. In other words, drive a wedge between husband and wife. She, in turn, then watered down what Adam had told her that God had said to him, from, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” to “lest (or, in case) you die”. She was not holding fast to the truth, and was now softened up and ready for the devil’s lie, the sucker punch laced with so called ‘higher knowledge’ – “You will not surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good from evil”.
“So when the woman (Eve) saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one (her) wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate”.
By the time God came walking in the cool evening time for their daily fellowship, Adam and Eve had hidden themselves among the trees and shrubs, a distance from His presence, because they knew they were naked and felt ashamed. God called out “Adam, where are you”? This was no ‘hide and seek’ call. This was a heart rending cry from Him, since He already knew what they had done. ‘It was her’ Adam said, to complete the separation between husband and wife that now had taken place. She, now so alone, said “The serpent deceived me and I ate”. She was right in that. She had been beguiled – charmed, wooed, bewitched, seduced, lured, entrapped, and deceived – by that ‘old serpent, the devil’ himself, by something that sounded so good! As a result God reduced the serpent to ‘walk on his belly, in the dust of the ground’ all his days. Adam himself though had been downright disobedient.
The consequences of this not only caused them to be cast out of the garden by God, but brought death into the soul of every one of their descendants – since they were the first man and woman, that means the same for every single person who ever came into this world, born of a man and a woman.
Ancient, Yet Modern, Philosophies
Back to our scripture in Romans 16. Paul had just laid out in the most amazingly powerful fashion in earlier chapters of Romans, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the basis that by faith, because of the grace of God, all who believe re-enter ‘Paradise Lost’! He had outlined the great freedoms, inheritance, and the promises made for all those who believe in Christ alone for salvation, in this life and the next, as now we could go even further than Adam and Eve, and finally eat of “the Tree of Life” Himself!
And now he, Paul, was warning them against those who felt there was more to being a Christian than simple faith and trust in God for everything. It can’t be that simple, they would say, appealing to the flesh to have some part in our own means of salvation from sin. (It’s easy to fall into the trap of self-justification). Or, conversely they would argue it doesn’t matter how we live, that because of the grace of God, we can live how we want to, and find that God doesn’t bother about it at all, because He has paid the price on the cross for us anyway!
These are both the ‘philosophies of man’. And they are two of the oldest of deceptions. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians again, he said “I fear, lest somehow, just as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds maybe corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (NKJ), and later also to the Colossians he said something very similar “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high sounding nonsense, that come from human thinking, and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (NLT).
Of Truth and Lies
These are the kind of things that Paul was getting at when he said to them “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly”. The battle for the mind and heart is one of ‘truth versus lies’. We cannot afford to give any ground on what is truth. The devil is the father of ‘false news’! Jesus said it better, “he is the father of lies”. An outright lie is easier to see than a slight departure that is also most appealing to us! Remember, whatever, or however, an easing of Jesus teachings seems to be, this is more dangerous for us than outright opposition. A compromised life, or church, is a powerless life and church, since it fails to carry the fullness of God as expressed in the manifestation of Jesus, that is, “full of grace and truth”.
If it’s ‘all grace’, it’s too soft on us. If it’s ‘all truth’, it’s too harsh on us. “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ”. But that does not mean that He ‘watered down’ his message or teachings to make it easier for us. “Except a man leave father or mother, wife, children, and all that he has, he cannot be my disciple”, is an example. As Elizabeth Elliot so succinctly said “To be a follower of the crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss. The great symbol of Christianity means sacrifice, and no one who calls himself a Christian can evade this stark fact”. She should know, as she, with the child of her short marriage, went to the very people who had martyred Jim, her young husband, for seeking to bring the Gospel to them just a few years earlier, and to complete the job! – To the Auca Indians, of South America, a previously unreached tribe and people.
Owning a Lifestyle……
Paul later said, when speaking of the parts of the armour of God, for us to be ready in open combat, for our feet to be shod with “the Gospel of peace”. Some have those shoes as ‘repentance and holiness’, others as ‘miracles and healings’, ‘signs and wonders’, others have the shoes as ‘humility and mercy’, and still others as ‘power (ability) and authority’ over the devil and his works.
Whichever of these we take, clearly our ‘walk’ in these shoe’s, is important for the advancement of the Kingdom. So, we cannot just turn off and not bother about our lifestyle. What kind of a soldier is it who does that? No we have to be trained – disciplined, and familiar with the choice of obedience to Him in everything – if we are to ‘continue in the faith’. A half-hearted believer has already “lost his first love” and stands but a ‘sitting duck’ to the deceptions of a lesser ‘gospel’, which lacks the power to save him from sin, and is in danger of what Jesus said to the Ephesian church who had left their first love, that is, of having their church or witness removed altogether!
If we will agree with God for His work and purpose to be wrought in and through us, He will give His grace and ability to do the things He asks of us! Why this way round? Because He wants our hearts! Yet we cannot even give our hearts to Him without the work of His Spirit convicting us of sin, and of His free and available remedy of righteousness provided through the shedding of His blood and His resurrection life. He has made abundant provision for us, if we will avail ourselves of the means. That is, “the obedience of faith”.
Yes, it has to be on His terms. He made the Covenant of Life through Himself, as our Substitute, to be our Saviour from the wrath of God, and became our Representative in dying to self, and the practice of sin. He showed exactly this pathway in His own life and death on earth, so that “having spoiled principalities and powers, He made an open show of them” by being “obedient, even to death on the cross”…and by rising from the dead, demonstrating that the power of sin, (rooted in the love of self), death, and Satan, was broken.
Something has to ‘give’ in us, if we are to know His kind of walk, His kind of commitment. It is death to my ideas and strengths, through seeing myself as ‘dying with Him’, and acceptance of His kind of obedience. It is His death we join, not some macabre death of our own, so that “in Him” we are also then “raised into newness of life”. We cannot know the fullness of His life, without that same fullness of surrender to Him. It cannot be a forced surrender. He will never do that, because He wants us to choose Him first. But the rewards are literally ‘out of this world’ if we will do it! As Paul also said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain”. Why? Because he would get to see Him, and Christ had become his all in all. Yes, “Christ in us” really is “the hope of glory”. Even Jesus went to the cross for the “joy set before Him”. For us it is the same too. His joy was that He would gain us; our joy is that we gain Him! Now that exchange is not fair, but gloriously true.
Let us then, let the Lord crush Satan under our feet, as we ditch all half truths, and return to the simplicity of the Gospel that is in Christ alone, and in simple obedience, follow Him.
Dave Chapman, 28th March 2017