Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
Global warming. Terrorist threats. Nuclear weapons. COVID-19…
It’s not too difficult to draw up a list of reasons to be fearful. And that’s before we add in anxieties related to relationships, work, money, and childrearing. Small wonder that many have spoken of living in a ‘culture of fear’ – with the overwhelming sense that we are confronted by powerful forces that threaten our everyday existence.
Fear itself goes back to the garden of Eden, where it’s a mark that we are out of joint with our Creator. But, to those who live in the shadow of fears, there is good news.
As it happens, the good news also begins in Genesis 3, with God’s promise of the serpent’s crushing defeat by the seed of the woman. The fulfilment of that promise unfolds in the rest of the biblical drama, coming to its unexpected peak in the death of Christ. To bystanders it would have looked like the worst possible, most shameful defeat. But for Paul, it was the place where ‘having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross’.
Notice that Jesus defeats the enemy not only in his resurrection and ascension (those obvious markers of victory) but first and foremost at the cross – precisely at the place where it looks like the powers of darkness and death have triumphed.
But why was the cross necessary? Because, says Paul, of the record of debt ‘which stood against us and condemned us’. The victory Jesus brings comes only at the expense of the death he dies. His Devil-defeating, death-dealing, deliverance-bringing work on the cross is carried out on our behalf.
This paradox of victory through suffering carries over into the Christian life. As Paul writes, ‘the God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet’ (Romans 16:20), but there is a gap between the ‘It is finished’ of the cross and that final day. We’re not merely waiting around for that victory to come; we live into it now, as those who have been made ‘alive with Christ’ – but we do so only in the shadow of the cross.
In this way, the cross also points forward – to the worship of people from all nations, singing the triumph of the slain Lamb, victorious and enthroned, all enemies put down, all fears finally put to rest, that God may be all in all.
Theology Advisor, LICC