We’ve been exploring the theme of spiritual warfare in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. On this Christmas Eve, with the celebration of the incarnation of our Lord much in mind, we would do well to remind ourselves that Christ’s birth is couched in terms of combat. The following is excerpted from What is Spiritual Warfare?
God announces his salvation in terms of combat first in Genesis 3:15. When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, the seed of the woman, to carry out this mission.
How is that mission expressed? “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The writer of Hebrews highlights the objects of God’s mercy and the nature of the Messiah’s mission with its covenantal overtones:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:14–17)
After Jesus’ baptism at the Jordan, which initiated his public ministry, the Spirit led him into the desert for the first step of his Messianic mission. And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.
Jesus’ first step in his journey to the consummate conflict of the cross involved battle with spiritual forces of evil. Jesus stood alone as the second Adam. He acted as the representative of his people in confrontation with the tempter, who again issues his challenge to the directive of God. Through Jesus’ example in conducting spiritual warfare we learn of our enemy’s tactics and how we might stand against them, but in so doing we do not accomplish what Christ did. The same is true of Christ’s binding the strongman (Matt. 12:29). His work is not our example but our confidence, emboldening us to stand against the devil’s schemes and power, for surely he has been defeated.
Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power when we were gone astray;
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy.
(God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen)