The Battleground of the Soul (Part 1)

“Blessed are you, Simon … My Father (has revealed it unto you)” (Matt. 16:17; See vs. 13-25). “He [Jesus] … said unto Peter, Get behind Me, Satan” (Matt. 16:23). “Simon … Satan asked to have you … but I made supplication for you” (Luke 22:31-32).

We have before us the spiritual history in the making of a servant of God, and this can be seen in the representative and very human case of Simon Peter.

The thing which comes out of the passages above is the fact that, in the life of one who stands related vitally to the Lord’s interests, heaven and hell have a very great concern, and such a one becomes the battleground of both realms; God and Satan, heaven and hell.[1]

You could hardly have anything which more vividly illustrates that than the tremendous contrasts here. At one moment – “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but My Father Who is in heaven”; and, it would seem, within a few minutes – “Get behind Me, Satan: you are a stumbling-block (an offence) unto Me: for you mind not the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:23). Then in connection with this we have the other passage in Luke. Literally the words are, “Satan obtained you by asking, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for you.” You hardly know what to make of such a swing of the pendulum in one man, but it has its lessons, and the very seriousness of the case accentuates the lessons which it teaches.

The Ground Of Satan’s Power

(a) The World

You see it is a matter, in the first place, of the ground which is taken and occupied by the one concerned.[2] When Peter took heavenly ground – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” – he was in a very strong position. The keys of the kingdom of heaven, binding on earth and binding in heaven, were his. He was weak, and in a very weak position, when he took earthly ground, the ground of men, the ground of his own judgment and of his own selfhood. The ground taken decided whether he was spiritually strong or weak, and whether Satan had power over him or not.

It would seem that, when the Lord was speaking to them about what was going to take place in Jerusalem as to His death, Simon just took Him apart quietly, and in a very kindly and consolatory way, and yet with a certain amount of patronage, one would feel, told the Lord that He must not be so depressed and gloomy, that He must take a brighter view of things, and that this sort of thing would certainly not happen to Him. But in Peter’s attitude, on Peter’s ground, the Lord saw quite distinctly a recurrence of what He had met so terribly in the wilderness in His temptation, when Satan had offered Him the kingdoms of this world without the Cross – had sought, that is to say, to divert Him from the way to which He had committed Himself. Peter became but the voice and instrument of that same arch-enemy to turn the Lord away from the Cross. Hence the word following about saving the life. But taking this ground of having the Kingdom and the Throne on any other line but God’s ordained line, which is the way of the Cross, is alliance with Satan, and will put anyone in that alliance into the power of Satan and destroy them spiritually.

Firstly, then, it is very evident that any ground of the world, which in its nature is a kingdom without suffering, without the Cross, without the setting aside of natural life, is the realm of Satan’s power and authority.[3] It is perfectly clear that, in the case of the Church, speaking fairly generally, and in the case of countless individual Christians, the weakness, defeat and dishonour which characterize them, and which became so manifest in Peter’s case, are due to occupying the ground of Satan’s strength. That ground may be said to be compromise with the world in its principle.

[“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul…”(1 Peter 2:9-11).]

[1] These two kingdoms are mentioned together in Col 1:18: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”

[2] The concept of “ground” (an area of jurisdiction) is mentioned in Ephesians 4:27: “nor give place [ground, a foothold] to the devil.” NKJV.

[3] “world” (GK. kosmos) in this context: “The ungodly multitude; the whole mass of men alienated from God, and therefore hostile to the cause of Christ world affairs, the aggregate of things earthly; the whole circle of earthly goods, endowments riches, advantages, pleasures, etc, which although hollow and frail and fleeting, stir desire, seduce from God and are obstacles to the cause of Christ” (Thayer). Cf. Matt.13:22; John 7:7; 8:23; 12:25,31; 15:18; 16:33; 17:14,16; 18:36; Rom. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:21; 2:12; 2 Cor. 7:10; Gal. 6:14; Eph. 2:2 James 1:27; 4:4 2 Pet. 2:20; 1 John 2:15,16; 3:13; 4:4,5; 5:19.

Biblical quotations: Old English updated and the passage in parentheses added by editor.

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