BLOG 4/20/18. PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS … ARE FOR REAL
Reading Cory Booker’s (junior senator from New Jersey) fascinating recent book United is a graphic reminder that the Biblical teaching about the sinister and subtle and subverting presence of principalities and powers, is for real. Here is this very gifted young man, a high-achiever both academically (Stanford, Oxford, and Yale Law) and athletically, who graduates with honors from Yale Law School and with a zeal to assist the underprivileged, goes under a grant from a non-profit to live in inner-city Newark, New Jersey. He right away realizes that he must move into the areas of need he has come to address, and so moves into a notoriously troubled public housing project. Then he finds that his real encouragement is not at all from the public agencies and civic government, but from a couple of wise older women who live and serve in the projects. They daily face the neglect of the civil authorities, the management of the projects, and the presence of gangs, drug trafficking, poverty, … and so many other manifestations of the brokenness of that urban scene.
He is encouraged not just to confront the issues as an outsider, but to run for the city council, which he does, and wins. Ah, but there with his youthful idealism he confronts the self-aggrandizing defensiveness of the entrenched political system, yes, the principalities and powers that determine so much that is alien to Cory’s quest for justice and civil responsibility … and those principalities are not about to relinquish control to this upstart Booker. How he grows up to the realities and becomes a significant change-agent is the rest of the story (which I highly commend).
The apostle John, in the first century, would declare: “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” This should not seem a strange sound to anyone who is Biblically knowledgeable. After all, when Jesus first left home to enter his public ministry as the one who would inaugurate God’s New Creation, he encountered the prince of Darkness/Satan in forty days of satanic effort to divert him from God’s mission for him. That encounter continues as he engages his three years of ministry in Palestine. It becomes tragically obvious within days after Pentecost when Stephen challenges the legitimacy of the Jewish temple, and the principalities and powers of that temple establishment have him stoned to death. It emerges most surprisingly at the end of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church (churches in Asia Minor), when what seems to be his ultimate design after a most informative teaching on the nature of the church, he tells them that they need to put on the whole armor of God if they are to withstand the wiles of the devil!
Paul’s own commission from the risen Lord Jesus is that he is: “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may t urn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). To the Colossians he wrote: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). The point I want to make is that Satan’s alien dominion is not passive, and whenever it is challenged or exposed, Satan is not passive. Nor is he passive in seeking to infiltrate, subvert, and immunize the church itself to his presence and dark power. All too much, the church itself has become captive to the era of the Enlightenment/rationalism that denies such a supernatural force. But, like Cory Booker, if we seek to aggressively affirm the principles of the dominion of the Light in the darkness of the church, or the civil magistrate, then all hell breaks loose. Luther discovered that the hard way inside the Roman Church, and so his hymn states: “… and though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us, we will not fear for God has willed his truth to triumph through us.” Chew on that for a while, but be alert: Satan is sinister and vindictive.