Ten Key Questions About Life
This study is dedicated to developing a Biblical world view by "girding up" or sharpening our minds with ten key questions about life. These are: What is man?; What is the real meaning of life?; How am I to make moral choices?; What is truth?; What is love and where can it be found?; Why is there suffering and how can we live with it?; What is death?; What hope is there for the human race?; What is real?; Is there any hope in fighting evil and injustice?
What Is Man?
What Is The Meaning Of Life?
How Are We To Make Moral Choices?
Is It Possible To Know The Truth About Ourselves And The Universe?
What Is Love And Where Can It Be Found?
Why Is There Suffering And How Can We Live With It?
What Is Death And How Are We To Face It?
What Hope Is There For The Human Race?
What Is Real?
Can Evil Be Defeated?
Can Evil Be Defeated?
by: Allan Turner
As we pointed out in The Sixth Question, if God is all-good and all-powerful, and the Bible says He is, then one day evil is going to be totally defeated, and this is exactly what the Bible teaches. There is a day of reckoning that will one day bring about justice for all (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36; Acts 17:30,31; Romans 2:16; II Corinthians 5:9-11). In that day, death and hades, and by implication, all pain and suffering, will be cast into hell (Revelation 20:11-15).
In the meantime, the Bible informs us, there is an ongoing confrontation between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. The powers which are opposed to us, and against us, and making war on us are spiritual entities, not flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:10-18). This scripture makes it clear that behind the physical confrontations we experience with our fellow human beings, there are unseen spiritual hosts of evil at work.
Further, the Bible informs us that if we do not guard our hearts, satan has the ability to fill them with evil thoughts (Acts 5:3). The Bible tells us that if we do not gird up the loins of our minds, so as to out-think, out-live, and out-die the pagans around about us, then satan can blind our minds and lead us astray (II Corinthians 4:4; 11:3). The Bible reveals that satan, through some “snare,” can take us captive to do “his will” (II Timothy 2:26). Evidently, this snare is satan's allurement to do evil. This, of course, does not teach that satan can force us to do his bidding against our wills, but that he can fool us or snare us through the “deceitfulness of sin” and “deceivableness of unrighteousness” (Hebrews 3:13; II Thessalonians 2:10). Finally, the Bible informs us that Christians, even in the 20th century, must not be ignorant of satan's “devices” (II Corinthians 2:11).
Winning Against Satan And His Evil Horde
Of course, the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about satan's overwhelming us with his power; on the contrary, it is one of victory over satan and his angels through the blood of Jesus Christ. As soldiers of the cross, we follow Christ, our captain (Hebrews 2:10), onward and upward toward a final glorious victory. In order to bring about this victory, our Lord has furnished us with spiritual weapons that are “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Corinthians 10:4-5). Consequently, as the Christian soldier moves forward to final victory in Christ, he doesn't even have to lose the smaller battles along the way. If we put on the whole armor that God has provided for us, we can stand against (“resist”) every assault of satan and his cohorts so effectively that they will actually flee from us (James 4:7). We are now going to spend some time examining that panoply.
The Panoply Of God
In describing the Christian's spiritual panoply, the apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6:10-18, uses the Roman soldier as an analogy. Those of his day would immediately be able to understand the effect of such an analogy because they were accustomed to seeing the Roman soldiers in their midst. For us to get a better appreciation of what Paul is saying, it will be necessary to explore the actual panoply of the Roman foot soldier.
First, “having girded your waist with truth” (v. 14). Truth here is not objective but subjective and is not, therefore, the Word of God but truthfulness. The Christian is to be sincere and non-hypocritical. He puts away lying (Ephesians 4:25) and learns to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) as he demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit in his life (Ephesians 5:9). Paul is allegorizing the thick belt the Roman soldier placed around his waist. To this belt the soldier attached his dagger and sword. Furthermore, the breastplate was held in place by being attached to this belt. In addition, leather straps reaching to the knees hung from this belt and protected the soldier from sword strokes to that part of his body. What Paul was saying was that honesty and truthfulness are foundational in our fight against satan and his evil horde.
The apostle Peter taught this same principle when he wrote that the very first thing a person needed to add to his faith was virtue or moral integrity (II Peter 1:5). According to Peter, moral integrity must precede a further knowledge of God's Word because without it one will never apply the truth of God's Word to his life. One cannot defeat satan and his horde without first being honest.
Second, “having on the breastplate of righteousness” (v. 14). Righteousness in an ethical sense is here meant (Ephesians 4:24; 5:9). In order to defeat the enemy, the Christian must lead a devout and holy life as he presents the members of his body as “instruments of righteousness to God” (Romans 6:13; 14:17). The breastplate was a very important part of the Roman soldier's battle gear. It protected his vital organs, particularly his heart, from serious injury. If we think in terms of the heart as representing the mind, as the Bible sometimes does, then we understand how the breastplate of righteousness protects the Christian soldier from the arrows of satan. Furthermore, awards the Roman soldier won were attached to the breastplate in medallion form for all to see. Likewise, when one looks at the Christian today, he ought to see the many medallions that reflect the righteous acts of the faithful Christian soldier. Clearly, then, unless the Christian puts on “the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left” (II Corinthians 6:7), and walks worthy of the Christian army into which he has been called (Ephesians 4:1), he can have no real defense against satan.
Third, “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (v. 15). This is perhaps a difficult metaphor to understand. Just what Paul had in mind cannot be understood without some knowledge of the Roman soldier's footwear. The Roman soldier wore a thick-soled sandal with hobnails embedded on the underside for traction. The sandal was laced to the foot and lower leg with leather straps. During the winter months these straps were tied around leather leggings for warmth. Shod like this, the Roman soldier was able to quickly traverse various kinds of terrain. The Roman legions were notorious for their ability to quick-march fifty miles in one day. Surprising their enemy by being where it was thought they could not be, the legions were prepared for battle on any kind of terrain, whether it happened to be the rough and rocky highlands or the hot and dry deserts. When the command came to stand and hold, the legionnaire was able to do so partly because of the traction he could get with his hobnailed sandals. In other words, the Roman sandal was both an offensive and defensive weapon. Likewise, the Christian soldier, having his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, is always ready to give an answer to every man that asks a reason for the hope that is in him (I Peter 3:15). Just as the Roman soldiers were ready for any set of circumstances that came their way, Christian soldiers, likewise, are “anxious for nothing” and know that “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard [their] hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Brothers and sisters in Christ, this peace here spoken of cannot be found in occult and Eastern meditation techniques, and Christians who are deluded into thinking it can be are wrong, wrong, wrong!
Fourth, “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one” (v. 16). Paul is alluding to the large shield used by the Roman foot soldier of his day. This shield was not the small round one used by the cavalry; it was, instead, four feet long, two feet wide and resembled a door. It was constructed of wood and wicker over which animal skins were stretched and the edges were studded with iron to protect the leather. The shield, in addition to providing the normal protection one would expect from a shield, was designed specifically to stop and extinguish the flaming projectiles of the enemy. The leather was stretched over the wicker so as to provide a space between it and the wood underneath. When the fiery arrows and darts passed through the leather and stuck to the wood underneath, they were extinguished. It was this very effect to which Paul was referring. In the devil's quiver there are all types of fiery missiles. The apostle mentions tribulation, anguish, persecution, famine, etc. All of these can start the fires of doubt, lust, greed, vanity, envy, etc. But when the Christian soldier takes up his shield (his belief or conviction or trust) he is able to quench all the fiery darts of satan and his army. The Christian knows that God is able to deliver him from every temptation (II Peter 2:9) and will always be faithful in that He will not allow him to be tempted beyond what he is able to endure and with every temptation will also make a way of escape (I Corinthians 10:13).
As we contemplate the strength and power God has designed into this shield, we are reminded of a battle technique used so effectively by the Roman soldiers. Upon approaching the enemy's ramparts, the Romans would be pelted with every kind of missile the enemy had at his disposal. In such circumstances, the soldiers were commanded to form the “movement of the tortoise.” This was accomplished by closing ranks and locking shields in front, on the sides and over the top. The shields had hooks at the top, bottom and sides that allowed them to be locked together. When in the formation of the turtle the soldiers were practically invulnerable. Consequently, when spiritual soldiers of the cross lock their shields of faith together in spiritual combat, they are, as the apostle Paul wrote, “more than conquerors through Him who loved [them]” (Romans 8:37). He went on to say, “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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
The Christian soldier who steps out on the battlefield without his shield is committing spiritual suicide. This very foolish and hurtful process is described in I Timothy 6:9-10, which reads thusly: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” Yes, it is unfortunate that there are Christian soldiers who are pierced through with satan's fiery darts. Wounded and dying they cry out that the Lord has not been faithful to them. On the contrary, it is they who have not been faithful to Him. It is they who have failed to take up the shield of faith. The fault is with them, not God.
Fifth, “And take the helmet of salvation” (v.17). The Roman soldier's helmet in Paul's time was very different than the skullcap type that is usually depicted by modern artists. The Roman soldier of the First Century and thereafter wore a helmet that flared out on the sides and back to protect the neck area as well as the head. If the soldier got careless or became weary and let his guard down, this helmet protected him from a sword stroke that would have otherwise been fatal. Likewise, the Christian who, either through carelessness or weariness, lets his guard down is still protected from the death blows of the enemy. As Christian soldiers we sometimes make serious mistakes (in other words, in a weakened state of faith, we sin), but isn't it wonderful to know that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9)? Although our shield of faith is the greatest defensive weapon we have in our entire panoply, in that it is able to quench all the fiery darts of the enemy, it is heartening to know that even when we fail to use it as God has designed it, we are still protected. The blow of the enemy still hurts and we may even be knocked to our knees, but the enemy's death stroke does not kill. Praise God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
In many instances the Roman soldiers placed some kind of plumage on the tops of their helmets, and when observed from a distance by the enemy they looked to be seven feet tall. Consequently, many adversaries were known to have fled just at the approach of the Roman legions. Frankly, with the panoply of God firmly in place, it would not surprise us one bit if our enemy was sometimes tempted to flee at our approach. In I Thessalonians 5:8, Paul refers to this helmet as the “hope of salvation.” Realizing that the helmet of salvation protects us from our own weaknesses and carelessness, we confidently enter the affray knowing that we are going to be victorious with God's help (cf. Romans 8:14-17).
Sixth, “and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (v. 17). The Spanish gladius two-edged sword which was used by the Romans during Paul's lifetime was two feet long and two and one half inches wide and was designed primarily as a thrusting weapon. With it the Roman legions were successful in conquering the world. A great deal of skill was needed to master the gladius sword. It has been reported that the Roman authorities thought it needful for their soldiers to train for up to five years before they ever saw combat. Often the sword the soldier practiced with was twice as heavy as the one he would actually use in combat. Developing the strength to wield the heavier practice sword enabled the soldier to use the gladius sword very effectively. He also had to be broken from the natural human tendency to slash with the sword. As we have already mentioned, the gladius sword was designed for thrusting and it was this use of the sword that made it so deadly effective. Most of the armies the Romans fought against used curved swords designed primarily for slashing. Consequently, when the enemy soldier lifted his arm to slash with his sword, he left himself vulnerable under his arm where there was no protection from his breastplate. As the enemy soldier swung with all his might, the Roman soldier would block his swing with his shield as he stepped to the left where he would thrust forward with his short sword and ram it into the armpit of his opponent. Without practice the Roman soldier was destined to fail; but with it he conquered every enemy.
Likewise, “the word of God,” which is actually “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), requires practice if it is going to be used effectively. Therefore, in his instructions to Timothy, Paul wrote: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). The skillful use of God's Word “belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). When used skillfully, the sword of the Spirit pierces the heart (cf. Acts 2:37; 7:54). In order to defeat the enemy, the Christian soldier must learn to use the sword of the Spirit expertly.
Seventh, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (v. 18). Although some think Paul is still using the military metaphor of the soldier's appeal to his General, we are of the opinion that Paul is now referring to something not available to the carnal soldier. The Christian soldier, unlike the Roman soldier, has at his disposal a means whereby he can continuously communicate (through Christ, of course) with the General (viz. God, the Father). Understanding the seriousness of his warfare the Christian soldier is always (not just on special occasions) involved in prayer and supplication in harmony with the truths taught in God's Word (i.e., “in the Spirit”). As he fights the good fight of faith, the Christian soldier petitions for the fulfillment of definite needs with the understanding that the One to whom he appeals is not just interested and concerned, but loving too.
Praying for the fulfillment of one's own needs as well as the needs of “all saints” requires that one must be acquainted with the specific situations that are taking place in the world today. Part of our problem today is that many Christians are uninformed as to what is happening and consequently they are not praying frequently and knowledgeably. Unalert or indifferent to what is happening in the world, their country, their town, their church, and their home, they have a very restricted prayer life. We must remember that if there is any fault it is not with God. We must repent and pray to God for forgiveness and that He keep us from temptation.
Having developed a Biblical world view, we realize that victory is ours. We know that we are “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (II Timothy 3:17) and that we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). As such, we are confident 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 created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). In other words, we know we have no excuse for failing to win the battles of life. By faith, we know we can do everything the Lord has determined that we should do (cf. Philippians 4:13). By faith, we know that “those who are with us are more than those who are with [our enemy]” (II Kings 6:16).