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The Conquest of Evil

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The Conquest of Evil
John Stott

It is impossible to read the New Testament without being impressed by the atmosphere of joyful confidence which pervades it, and which stands out in relief against the rather jejune religion that often passes for Christianity today. There was no defeatism about the early Christians; they spoke rather of victory. For example, ‘thanks be to God! He gives us the victory...’. Again, ‘in all these things (sc. adversities and dangers) we are more than conquerors...’. Once more, ‘God...always leads us in triumphal procession...’. And each of Christ’s letters to the seven churches of Asia ends with a special promise ‘to him who overcomes’. Victory, conquest, triumph, overcoming – this was the vocabulary of those first followers of the risen Lord. For if they spoke of victory, they knew they owed it to the victorious Jesus. They said so in the texts which I have so far quoted only in truncated form. What Paul actually wrote was: ‘he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’, ‘we are more than conquerors through him who loved us’, and ‘God...leads us in triumphal procession in Christ’. It is he who ‘overcame’, ‘has triumphed’, and moreover did it ‘by the cross’.

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Secondly, he overcame the devil by totally resisting his temptations. Tempted to avoid the cross, Jesus persevered in the path of obedience, and ‘became obedient to death – even death on a cross’ (Phil. 2:8). His obedience was indispensable to his saving work. ‘For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous’ (Rom. 5:19). If he had disobeyed, by deviating an inch from the path of God’s will, the devil would have gained a toehold and frustrated the plan of salvation. But Jesus obeyed; and the devil was routed. Provoked by the insults and tortures to which he was subjected, Jesus absolutely refused to retaliate. By his self-giving love for others, he ‘overcame evil with good’ (Rom. 12:21). Again, when the combined forces of Rome and Jerusalem were arrayed against him, he could have met power with power. For Pilate had no ultimate authority over him; more than twelve legions of angels would have sped to his rescue if he had summoned them; and he could have stepped down from the cross, as in jest they challenged him to do. But he declined any resort to worldly power. He was ‘crucified in weakness’, though the weakness of God was stronger than human strength. Thus he refused either to disobey God, or to hate his enemies, or to imitate the world’s use of power. By his obedience, his love and his meekness he won a great moral victory over the powers of evil. He remained free, uncontaminated, uncompromised. The devil could gain no hold on him, and had to concede defeat.

So the victory of Christ, predicted immediately after the Fall and begun during his public ministry, was decisively won at the cross.

 

This is an excerpt from The Cross of Christ by John Stott.