Romans 16:20 “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
Elijah the prophet of the Lord, was a spectator as the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel chanted and shouted and danced for hours, cutting themselves with knives until the blood gushed forth, but all their sound and fury couldn’t stir up their god to respond. There are other worse religions in which horns are blown and drums are beaten and the whole congregation chants loudly to its idol in order to drown out the cries of the men, women and children being slaughtered as human sacrifices. How different is our God. The Lord is the God of peace.
1. GOD IS THE GOD OF PEACE.
In himself God is peace. You go into him and he is peace. You go in and in and he is peace. You go in and in and in and he is peace. You go in and in and in and in and he is peace. You go in and in and in and in and in and all you will find at the inmost heart of deity is peacefulness. Search him out by his own omniscience – his exhaustive self-understanding – and you will find no pockets of tension or anger in him whatsoever. For good and all, in every single thing God is and does there is only peace. There are no tensions in God; there are no passions and no neuroses. No eccentricity exists in Father, Son and Holy Spirit; no mania; no paranoia; no delusion; no confusion; no frustration; no depression; no elation; no frenzy; no distractions; nothing cranky; no screws are loose, no bats lurk in the divine belfry; there is in God a total acceptance of what God is, an utter contentment with all his being, decrees and works of creation, providence, redemption and judgment. God is at peace with himself. The relations between Father and Son and Spirit are undisturbed by any strife. There is no jealousy, no envy, no secret suspicions that one Person in the Godhead is getting more glory than he deserves. Total tranquility; total repose; total acceptance of the other persons – that is what you find in the Godhead. Infinite mutual affection characterizes the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. How they love one another and encourage one another and support one another. That is how God has always been. That is how God was in the beginning from all eternity, and when he came to create the world that is still how he was, and when man fell in Eden that is how God remained, and when he sent his Son to be our Saviour, that is how he was, and when his Son hung in the darkness of Calvary the Father was not groaning and travailing again in pain, he was at peace, and when the last trumpet shall sound and the dead rise and all the world gathered to the judgment, God will still be the God of peace, and when the eternal state begins of heaven and hell God will for ever and ever and ever be the God of peace, utterly self-integrated, self-contained, self-sufficient and self-sufficing, needing no external life-support systems to maintain his peace, both as the Alpha and the Omega he lives. With him there is nothing left unfinished, or open-ended.
2. THE WORLD OF SINNERS IS NOT AT PEACE.
i] Let me turn it like this that as soon as our first parents were made Satan appeared in the form of a serpent and challenged Eve and Adam concerning what God had said. There were antagonistic voices in the Garden of Eden, before man fell. They were asked to assess the truth of God’s words; they were persuaded that it was a lie; they were enticed to defy it. Right at the beginning, before the fall of man, Satan was at work. There was no peace in paradise because already there was a devil at work in the world seeking the destruction of man, and that devil has been at work ever since.
ii] Let me turn it this way, that in the past 4,000 years there’ve been less than 300 years without a major war. Peace time has been that moment when everyone stopped to reload. When Adam fell he was soon blaming the woman for the fall, and Eve in turn blamed the serpent. Their firstborn son Cain murdered his own brother, and in the history of Cain you meet one of his descendants named Lamech boasting in song to his wives that he has slaughtered a young man who had offended him. There are few pools of tranquility found anywhere amongst fallen mankind. At the time of Noah we are told that “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and full of violence” (Gen. 6:11). The psalmists look back on thousands of years of destruction, David speaking of “violence and strife in the city” (Ps. 55:9). And Asaph writes of men “who clothe themselves in violence” (Ps. 73:6). The word ‘violence’ is used nearly seventy times in the Old Testament. People claim that they despair in reading the Old Testament because of the cruelty and genocide they meet there.
So it has been ever since and never more so than in the last hundred years; 30 million were killed in the first world war, and 90 million killed in the second world war. No part of the world has been spared from destruction. 60 million were killed under Chairman Mao in China. In the six weeks after 7 April 1994 half a million Rwandans were butchered in the civil war that broke out between Hutus and Tutsis. The chief industry in the world seems to be war, and today we are facing the threat of international terrorism with Islamic murderers making their threats and planning to wreak maximum destruction in the great cities of the west.
Why such a saga of pain? One of the sons of Mary, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus, supplies a reason why. James says in his epistle chapter four and the opening two verses, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” There are desires that battle within you. You want your own way; “I want to please myself in my own life,” say men and women, and wherever they are – in business, in family, in church, in government – they’ll fight to get it. The root of all human conflict is ultimately man’s deep-rooted determination to advance the ends of Number One at any cost. What a tense and restless world we live in. Think of Isaiah’s great words; “The wicked are like the tossing sea which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud” (Is. 57:20). You think of the constant battle with the sea in our little town, how after every storm the promenade is covered with the detritus of the deep. “‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Is. 57:21). The Lord Jesus himself declares that evil thoughts, murder, malice and envy “come from within, out of men’s hearts” (Mark 7:20-22). Paul says that, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious . . . hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions . . . and the like” (Gals. 5:19-21). The root of the lack of peace – if we believe the estimation of Jesus Christ and his apostles – lies in the human heart, the sinful nature, and not in structural sin. The heart of it all lies in personal sin. Every kind of society without exception proves my point, tribal in Africa, Islamic in the middle East, Hindu in the Indian sub-continent, communist in China and Russia, capitalist in the Western World all reflect this gigantic catastrophe that has befallen mankind. Its roots lie in the sinful impulse and ambition and action of every human heart.
iii] Let me briefly turn this lack of peace this way, that there is a huge drug culture in our country at this time. About 40% of 16-19 year olds and about 50% of 25-19 year olds have used drugs at least once in their lives. About four million people are being regularly prescribed with tranquilizers on the National Health Service and the number inexorably grows. Alcohol addiction is an enormous problem. All this speaks of an enormous dis-peace in the people of our country. They have jettisoned God from their lives and the real blessing that comes from knowing him as their living Lord, and being aware of a day of judgment, a hell to fear and a heaven to enter. Men and women are left with a fearful vacuum at the heart of their lives and numbers of them, especially young people, are busy filling the inner emptiness with drugs. Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in God. Made by him, and made in his likeness we are made for him and until we know him as our God there is no peace in our hearts and no peace in the world.
3. GOD HAS TAKEN THE INITIATIVE IN ESTABLISHING OUR PEACE WITH HEAVEN.
What Father, and Son and Spirit enjoy of the blessed peace of heaven the living God desires that we men and women made in his image should also experience both with him and with one another. He has made up his mind to do that. Let me use this illustration. Imagine a very happily married couple. They have the most positive view of wedded bliss because they have known such blessedness from being together for many years. You can understand such enthusiasm for marriage, how they want other people to experience the oneness they have known. When they hear about Christians getting married they are over the moon! So it is with God; his pure delight in himself, and his love for lost and lonely men has caused him to devise and accomplish a glorious scheme whereby favoured men and women will re-experience the peace their father Adam lost. To obtain this he does three things:
i] God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, is commissioned to enter the world as the Prince of Peace. In Galilee and in Jerusalem he appeared as the most peace-filled man the world had ever seen. Here was incarnate tranquility and incarnate gentleness. In a great gale on the Sea of Galilee there was a pool of peace in the eye of the storm where stood the Lord Jesus. Here was a man who was accessible and approachable for three years. No bunch of heavies drove people away from him crying, “Give him his space.” Yet in spite of all his sweetness from the beginning of his teaching Jesus of Nazareth was despised and rejected by many. An extraordinary wind of resentment hurled itself against him. The natural man would kill God if he could get him, but he can’t. However, he can get his Son. When Jesus first preached in his home synagogue in Nazareth, the congregation amongst whom he had worshipped for thirty years got up as a man, and grabbed him and tried to kill him, but he slipped out of their grip. It was not his hour. What enmity!
When the religious leaders heard him preach they said that he was the spokesman of the devil and that he did his great works by the power of Satan. He was the tool of Beelzebub and a blasphemer. They slandered his reputation suggesting that you could know him by his friends, and his friends happened to be utterly disreputable people. The longer he was around the more they hated him. The clearer they understood his message the greater their determination to kill him. His claims made them wild and none of his healings and deeds of kindness for over thirty years were enough to save him. They bribed false witnesses to lie about him and they were satisfied with nothing but his death by crucifixion. That is how strong was their enmity against him. They forced Pilate to bring the death penalty against him. They chanted for ages, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” When Pilate tried to release a prisoner they chanted for Barabbas, a notorious criminal to be released instead of him. Their enmity against him was unalleviated even by hanging naked on a cross. They stood in front of him as he hung dying and mocked him, shouting out at him, taunting him, hour after hour. There is no peace in men’s hearts towards God.
Yet God’s purpose was to use man’s hatred of Christ even to the death of the cross in order to establish peace with him. Jesus came to this world in order to become the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Saviour must die on the cross as our substitute; God laid on him the iniquity of us all. That is, those sins that Jesus and Paul mention as coming from our hearts, “evil thoughts, murder, malice and envy” are Christ’s description, and Paul’s are, “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions.” How familiar we are with such vices, but God has had to deal with the blame and guilt and shame of them all and he has done so by imputing them to his beloved Son. Christ died for our sins.
The wrath of a sin-hating God was directed somewhere it had never been focused upon before that time, on his dearly beloved and sinless Son. God’s wrath had been shown towards some of the angels when they rebelled against him. God’s wrath had homed in on Adam and Eve when they sinned; he had driven them out of the garden. On the whole world at the time of Noah God manifest his holy anathema towards what contradicts all he is as love and grace and he sent a great flood from the fountains of the deep upon it. Kings and emperors, false prophets and priest, individuals and cities had all experienced his wrath, but never his Son, for Jesus remained as holy and sin-hating as his Father. But now what a great and mighty wonder appears. Come to dark Golgotha and there Christ is made sin! Christ cries, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” There is no reply. He is forsaken that we should never be forsaken. God’s wrath is fully placated because it has been exhausted in the Holy One who willingly and lovingly bore it in our place. In our place condemned he stood; sealed our pardon with his blood; bought us peace with God through dealing with our shame; reconciled the sin-hating Father by appeasing his wrath totally. Justice has been done. The full penalty of our sin has been paid by Christ. The enmity towards us has gone.
You know the story of the murdered Russian Alexander Litvinenko, how he was horribly murdered in a London restaurant by a dose of radiation earlier this year. It was a very painful dying that took the life of a courageous man, a son, a husband and the father of a small child. What did his widow Marina say this week? “I will never be at peace until justice is done.” God can never be at peace while we rebel sinners hate him and are determined to bear our guilt and shame. A man has been murdered in a particular cruel way and there must be justice. His widow and friends in particular cry aloud for justice. The God who demands justice over our flaunting of his law has himself provided justice in an extraordinary way, by bearing our full punishment in himself and the result is that we are wholly without condemnation. Our God is a reconciled God. He is now at peace with us. Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through out Lord Jesus Christ.
ii] God has done more; he has transformed the enmity towards him which is snarling away defiantly in sinners’ hearts. He has turned that to one of joyful obedience by a great act of regeneration. He has effected a heart transplant; he has removed our sinful hearts of stone and he has replaced them by hearts that praise and love the Saviour. There is no longer the great defiant “No!” in our hearts. The heart that would not surrender to God has gone. There is peace. Our natures that once rejected him now love him. We live in harmony with him. Our desire is to do his will day by day.
iii] God has done even more; he has placed his own peace within us. He has come and indwelt us. He has made our hearts his home, and you know when you move into a home you decorate it according to your own preferences. Your taste is not the same as the former tenant. You change everything about it. The furnishings and the wallpaper and the colours are all altered. This home is under a new tenant. So it is when Holy Spirit takes up his abode in us he produces peace, love, and joy, and longsuffering, and gentleness, and goodness, and faithfulness, and meekness, and self-control. The new fragrance, the new colours in all their combinations transform the house. The peace of God that passes all understanding keeps your heart and mind. He is the God of peace, and the Christian reflects him. The hate-filled Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, becomes the loving, meek and kind man who spends his life living for others. The peace of God did that. It’s a new house. It takes a proud and famous baseball player named Billy Sunday and makes him an itinerant evangelist. He sets up his tent and scatters his sawdust in the aisles in 500 American cities and he preaches Christ everywhere. What motivates him? The peace of God means more to him than the shouts of the crowd in the baseball stadiums of the National League.
4. THIS GOD OF PEACE WILL SOON CRUSH SATAN.
What is Paul talking about? He is echoing the first great promise of the coming of the conquering Messiah which is in Genesis 3. What had God said at that time to the erstwhile conquering Serpent? He told him that the seed of the woman would come and would crush his head. “He’s going to kill you, Satan.” His doom is secure. He faces an eternity of utter degradation because of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Remember how the apostle Paul describes the foundation of this crushing in the second chapter of the letter to the Colossians. We read in verse fifteen, “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” That is the basis of God’s crushing Satan, what our brave young Saviour did when he was hanging on the cross. There was a marvelous threefold accomplishment;
i] The first thing that Christ did to Satan and his hosts as stated in the N.I.V. is that “He disarmed the powers and authorities.” See an astonishing sight, a zoo keeper who gets into a cage with a live lion. What a risk! Doesn’t a zookeeper of all men know the power of the king of the jungle? Yes he does, but that strength is absent in this lion. Through old age this lion has lost all its teeth, and every claw. It has arthritis; it struggles to walk let alone to leap. It needs to be fed porridge every day. Poor toothless lion! So it is with Satan, he may roar as he seeks whom he may devour, but confronting every one for whom Christ died, he is a weakling. He once had the whole of Wales and all the Gentile nations in his darkness, not any more. He may threaten, but he has no power to pull us into his pit and destroy us in hell. Greater is he that is in the weakest Christian than you’ll find in all the hosts of hell. On the cross Christ has soaked up all that the host of demons from the pit can hurl against him. They have done to him all they could. Their energy and resources have all been exhausted by their efforts, but Christ has proved more powerful. He rises from the grave with greater glory than ever. All power on earth and in heaven is given to him by his Father. He has taken away the devil’s ability to destroy even the weakest lambs in the flock of Christ. Not one of them shall perish. None can be plucked out of the Father’s hand. The serpent is a disarmed power. When the Russians crushed the armies of Hitler at Stalingrad, it was announced that they had disarmed the German divisions to this measure: Armoured tanks, 1,800. Pieces of major artillery, 87,000. Trucks and other vehicles, 120,000. Rifles, 2,800,000. Rounds of Ammunition, 200,000,000. And so on. That was a real disarming, and so was Golgotha on an infinite scale.
When Christ died on the cross, he took from Satan all the authority that he had had over the kingdoms of this world. They became the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he could tell his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of every creature. When Christ died, this power to keep the nations in darkness was removed from Satan and the gospel flew through the nations of the world. Paul can calmly say to the Colossians, “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing” (Cols 1:6). Satan and all those joined to him in his fall were divested of the authority they once possessed. They can intimidate the world only with the waning fury of a rebellion doomed to failure. If God says, “Let my Son be honoured in Brazil,” then his kingdom will come mightily in Brazil. If God says, “Let Korea hear of my great salvation,” then all the powers of Satan cannot prevent that happening. Korea will arise. The set time to favour such nations as Zambia has indeed come and all Satan’s power and malice cannot prevent it because he is a disarmed power. His period of dominating Europe and Africa and Asia was over and so Philippi and Athens in Greece, and Rome, and Ethiopia in Africa heard the gospel. The devil has had to gnash his teeth and retreat and watch the gospel go out from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the world and see his kingdom overrun by those Christ died to save.
ii] Again Paul tells the Colossians that Christ made a public spectacle of Satan and his hosts. In other words, all the inhabitants of hell did all they wished to the Son of God. They worked through both Jews and Romans to have him crucified. They orchestrated the taunting as he died, and yet at his weakest, and even in his death he was the one making a spectacle of them. If you want to see what Satan is like then here he is and you see what he is doing? He is nailing the best of men naked to a cross. That is Satan! What a spectacle of gruesome cruelty and frustrated rage, and even then they utterly failed to annihilate him. The cross of Jesus is the place when the devil had his best shot and failed. Christ rises on the third day in the power of an endless life. The darkness and the sufferings of Calvary are accepted by God. Full atonement has been made; an innumerable company of people have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of God’s loving Son. The cross is the celebration of victory over Satan. How impotent was hell in trying to thwart the purposes of heaven. What Satan thought would be the irrecoverable shame of the Son of God becomes instead his own public eternal shame. Satan the failure.
iii] Paul concludes that Christ triumphed over them by the cross. All that men and the devil could do to him they did. Angry at Christ’s challenge to their sovereignty they stripped him naked, they nailed him down so that he could not move an inch. They held Jesus up to public contempt and they celebrated their triumph over him, but on the contrary there were two fixed to the cross. There was Christ of his own free will humbling himself even to that death for a day in our place, and the devil nailed there invisibly, against his will and for ever. On the cross God was stripping the devil and his hosts naked; he was holding them up to public contempt, and he was leading them in his own triumphant procession in Christ, the crucified Messiah. They had done their worst, but they had overreached themselves. They had usurped that authority that had been loaned to them for just a little season. So the cross becomes the place of hope for everyone who has had a time of Satan’s buffetings
I heard the old evangelist, Dick Saunders talking this week about his journey to being a free grace preacher. The books that helped him at a certain time in his life were the four volumes of Donald Grey Barnhouse on the epistle to the Romans. I took my volume down and read what Dr. Barnhouse had to say about this text and the work of Satan today. He uses a characteristic illustration; “I once saw a small child occupied with a little toy balloon. When it had no air in it, it was a small thing that could be hidden in the palm of the hand. When it was blown up it was a frightening thing, with a devilish face painted on the side. This face could be made extremely large by blowing more air in the balloon. The child had blown and blown until the balloon was quite large. The child did not know the technique and a great deal of spittle went into the balloon. Suddenly it exploded and all that the child had in his hand was a messy little bit of rubber, with the distorted face reduced to its lowest dimensions. The child attempted to stretch this out, but it had lost its power to frighten. When I thought of this in retrospect, it reminded me of what had happened to Satan when Christ died. The devil and his principalities had been filled with pretensions, but Christ disarmed them and made a show of them, a public example. It is the same word used with a prefix to describe the purpose which Joseph might have had to expose Mary to public disgrace when he learned that she was with child, and from which he was dissuaded by the divine vision. It is also the same terrible word which is applied to those false believers who finally “crucify the Son of God afresh and put him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6). We can thank God that Satan was effectively put to an open shame, exposed publicly. His overblown balloon burst, leaving him nothing but the messy remains of his grinning pretentions.” (Barnhouse, Romans, Volume 4, p. 166). That is the crushing of Satan’s head in fulfillment of the word spoken to the serpent in the garden.
5. GOD WILL CRUSH SATAN UNDER OUR FEET SHORTLY.
Do you see the devil ever overcoming our Lord? Whether it is during the temptations or whether there are people possessed with a legion of demons they always have to do whatever our Lord says. “Get thee behind me Satan!” Let’s think of the verses in Scripture that speak of our triumphing over Satan. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you,” that’s the promise the Holy Spirit gives us through James (Jas. 4:7). “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephs. 6:11). Here is another great promise that Satan is going to be crushed under our feet.
Robert Haldane the great Genevan evangelist and commentator is helpful here. He points out that the head of Satan was crushed by Christ alone in his death on Golgotha. The disarming, the triumph and the shaming of Satan was all accomplished by Christ alone there, once for all, but it is under our feet that the rest of him, his long body, is to be crushed until the end of the world. When you read the Acts of the Apostles then you hold a book that could be subtitled ‘Satan Being Crushed under the Church’s Feet.’ Here is Jerusalem trembling as at the scene of our Lord’s crucifixion, within a mere hour, on the day of Pentecost 3,000 men confess that he is Lord – Satan being crushed under the feet of the witnessing church. Then you read Philip taking the gospel to heretical Samaria and again under his feet Satan is crushed. Then the leading opponent of our Lord, Saul of Tarsus is converted and again Satan is being crushed. Then into the Gentile world goes the church. The Holy Spirit falls on all those in Cornelius’s house and Satan is crushed under their feet. Then the gospel moves on to Antioch and there Satan is crushed, and on to Pisidian Antioch, and to Lystra and Derbe, and to Greece and Rome and everywhere Christ builds his church, many confess Christ is Lord and in all those places Satan’s body is crushed and the body of Christ thrives and grows. Satan is frequently returning to the pit and he is saying to Screwtape, “I feel crushed!”
See the context of our text; here the Christians in Rome are told, to be “wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil;” and then Paul encourages them to the end that this can be achieved by the God of peace will crushing Satan under their feet soon. This is not a distant hope that in the last day it will happen but day by day as the church grows and spread Satan is being crushed under our feet. We will know some victory in this whole challenging sphere of triumphing over the knowledge of good and evil – where our first parents, Adam and Eve, so grievously failed. Satan pulled them down, but through God we will be victorious.
Hasn’t God kept you for many years until now. Through many dangers, toils and cares you have already come. How? By the power of God of peace crushing Satan under your feet. This week it will happen again, maybe tonight, there will another victory. Satan crushed by you. Anticipate it! Look forward to such victories, and to the final great victory when he will be cast into the lake of fire for ever and ever. We shall soon see it. We shall soon share in the cosmic triumph of the Lord of glory. The God of peace intends to glorify his Son for ever and ever. He has made up his mind.
27th May 2007 GEOFF THOMAS