“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
Ralph Winter spoke of four levels of strategy and purpose, whether in reaching the unreached or in evangelizing within one’s own culture:
Level 1: Getting people “saved”
Level 2: Winning them to the Lordship of Christ and into His family
Level 3: Glorifying God
Level 4: Fighting “the works of the devil” as a means of glorifying God, that is, understanding the lordship of Christ as involving us in an all-out war against evil, disease, corruption, a war in which we can expect suffering, hardship and death.
Winter felt strongly that a major obstacle in people recognizing God’s glory is that much of the evil in this world is not known to be evil, but merely “the way things are,” as if God created things that way. And where there is confusion about whether evil is from God or not, there is confusion about God’s nature.
An example of our confusion about what is evil and what is not is how we view the pervasive violence and suffering in nature. Unlike Luther and Calvin, we now know that nature includes all of the invading viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Many shrug their shoulders and say that’s the way God created it. The violence at both the microbiological and visible levels in nature is accepted as being God’s will.
Yet in the very first chapter of the Bible both the animal life and humans mentioned there are clearly described as non-carnivorous, meaning they don’t kill each other (Genesis 1:29). In the future, that will also be the case when “the wolf will live with the lamb, … the infant will play near the hole of the cobra and the young child put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:8, 9).
Violence in nature is not God’s original or ultimate plan. But lack of an explanation for pervasive violence keeps thousands of intelligent people away from faith. Winter asked, “If we are to glorify God, is it not essential to free Him from the accusation that He, not Satan, is the author of evil? How attractive is our invitation to people to return to and yield to their Father in heaven if they continue to believe he is the one who contrives for most everyone to die in suffering?” Unless Satan is in the picture and we are known to be fighting his deadly works, we are allowing God’s glory to be marred and torn down.
The events of Genesis chapter one may well display the relatively recent recreation of plant-eating animals and humans in their original God-designed form, and can be seen as a beachhead intended to assist in the defeat of Satan and the restoration of all creation. However, Genesis explains that almost immediately thereafter, Satan (who already had a long crime record) also penetrated Eden and brought down the newly created humans and the new beginning of undistorted animal life. Ever since, humans and animals have been born genetically perverted along with all the rest of nature. As a result, the new forms of life created in God’s image in Genesis 1 are victims of Satan and now have dire need themselves to be saved before they can work effectively with God in the defeat of Satan.
The Cross was then the turning point in the battle against Satan. The Bible says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Jesus had a job to do; he dealt a definitive blow against Satan, but the war isn’t over yet. Jesus said, “as the Father sent me, so send I you.” But the Christian world has not well understood this larger mission. The war against evil and against things that tear down our understanding of God is still going on. All over the earth people are dying prematurely in suffering and pain due to an onslaught from the microbiological world which we are only beginning to understand and which no one has understood theologically. It is not God that is inflicting the casualties but the enemy. Let’s not be confused about that and inactive in that war!
Gregory Boyd has said, “To follow Jesus is to do battle with the ever-present prince of darkness.” (Boyd 1997:280) It is not a coincidence that the unreached areas of the world where the Bible has had the least influence overlap with those areas where there is the most suffering, disease, war and poverty (Myers 1996): the works of the devil. A medical missionary to India from 1939–1969 wrote in his journal, “this kingdom of disease, death, ignorance, prejudice, fear, malnutrition and abject poverty is most surely a kingdom which ought to be overthrown by the Kingdom of our God.” (Rees 2003) The Kingdom began striking back when God gave the Great Commission to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. As Abraham’s children, we have inherited the family responsibility of God’s concerns and purposes which are to become our concerns and purposes. We are in a war. Our lives and careers need to yield to that reality.
Boyd, Gregory A.
1997 God at War: The Bible and Spiritual Conflict. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Myers, Bryant L.
1996 The New Context of World Mission. Monrovia, CA: MARC. [
Rees, D. Ben, ed.
2003 Vehicles of Grace and Hope: Welsh Missionaries in India 1800 - 1970. Pasadena: William Carey Library.