March 9, 2011

Respect the Devil!

But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you”! But these men revile the things which they do not understand. Jude 9-10a

Perhaps my title threw you off a little bit. I hope it at least got you intrigued. ‘Is Kurt really saying we are supposed to respect the devil? What in the world does he mean by that?’ Well, know that I do mean what the title implies. We ought to respect the devil. Know also that I will explain what I mean as I type along down the page.

First, realize that what Jude says in verses 9-10 is a continuation of what he just said in verse 8. Remember that, in that verse, Jude was beginning to compile a list of traits that characterize false teachers. They dream instead of studying. They defile the flesh and live sinful lives. They reject authorities and often run one man shows. And they revile angelic majesties. That is to say that they become so puffed up with pride; so sure that they are God’s unique, anointed servants that they come to think of themselves as invincible. And that pride asserts itself, especially, in the way they assume they can personally ‘bind the devil’, hogtie the demons, and so on.

So that was verse 8 – four characteristics of false teachers. And, in verses 9-10a, Jude expands on the last of those points. He gives more detail as to why reviling angelic majesties is so foolish. And what he says is actually quite amazing.

Evidently, when Moses died, Satan and the archangel Michael had a giant brouhaha about who would get control of Moses’ corpse. The Bible says nothing about this, so we cannot be certain exactly why they were disputing over such a thing. And, really, it is beside the point in Jude’s train of thought. The main thing is that Satan and Michael were having a dispute. And here’s the kicker: Michael, in the midst of that dispute, was unwilling to call names, pronounce judgment, or in any way assert personal superiority over the devil. That’s what verse 9 is all about. He did not personally revile or rebuke the devil, but simply said “The Lord rebuke you.”  It was God's name and God's power that won the day, not Michael's!

Why is that significant? Because Michael (apparently the strongest of God’s angels) evidently recognized the great might and power of the one with whom he was disputing. Yes, he engaged Satan in battle (and evidently won).  But he respected Satan’s might and would not lock horns with him in his own name or strength. And that is significant! If not even Michael the archangel would personally rebuke the devil … what does that say about the men on television who venture to do so, and with Hollywood bravado?  What does it say about Christians who think they can bind the devil with a glib mantra, or wrestle him to the mat with a magic verbal formula? It says, as Jude points out in verse 10a, that these people are reviling “things which they do not understand.”

This is not to deny that Christians sometimes can (and must) do hand-to-hand combat with the unclean spirits.  There are plenty of examples of this in the New Testament.  But let the words of the seventy in Luke 10 sink in deeply: "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."  When believers engage in conflict with (or verbally rebuke) the dark forces, it is always in the Lord's name, not by their own cleverness, bravery, or strength! That is Jude’s point in verses 9-10. Anyone who would attempt to rebuke the devil directly ought not be trusted as a Christian teacher … because he doesn’t understand even the most basic things – namely that he is absolutely helpless apart from Christ!

The devil is not, by any means, invincible ... nor should Christians should cower before him. After all, "He that is in you is greater (far greater) than he that is in the world."  Jesus will one day scoop Satan up like the lint in your dryer’s catch-basin and throw him into the lake of fire. But note well that it is Jesus who will do this! Only God Himself can effectively revile and rebuke the devil. And you and I can only reasonably engage him when we say, with Michael the archangel, “the Lord rebuke you”. So rather than personally rebuking him or reviling him, we ought to respect the devil – not at all for his character or goodness (which is worthy of our hatred); not in a servile way; and certainly not in the way we reverence God. But we ought to respect him nonetheless – not mainly as a bow to his strength (which is considerable and real), but as an acknowledgment that we are not God!

*emphasis within scriptural quotations is mine.


Anonymous said...

Studying Jude and found your insights to be very clear and true. thank you for helping this student of His word go deeper!

Kurt Strassner said...

Thanks. May God bless your studies!