2. Spiritual forces are at work in our world.
The New Testament world was filled with demons, evil spirits, and certain people who had supernatural power over such entities. It’s easy to see how it all worked—the demons and spirits possessed people, caused illness, disease, insanity, and even death. The people with power over them cast these demons and spirits out and brought healing to such people. It seems equally clear things don’t work that way today because we don’t see anything like what we see in the New Testament.
So how do these forces work in our world today?
If we are willing to be patient and work a bit, there are other Scriptures that give us some insight. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is concluding a discussion about idolatry that he began in 8:1ff. The central issue has been whether it is right to eat meat after it has been sacrificed to an idol. Like any other first century city, Corinth had its share of idols. Part of the worship of some involved offerings of meat. After the sacrifice was performed, the meat that had been used went on sale in the marketplace (presumably at a lowered price). Enlightened disciples would buy the meat to eat, knowing that since there was no objective reality behind the idol, therefore the meat couldn’t be contaminated by something that didn’t exist.
But not all believers were this far along in their thinking. Some would (erroneously) believe that eating the meat meant they were participating in the worship of the particular god associated with that sacrifice. Even though they were wrong in this belief, if they ate they would still be doing something they believed to be wrong. Their sin would not be in the act itself, but in the decision to do something they thought sinful. With this in mind he cautions the enlightened group of believers against eating meat if it will cause the unenlightened to stumble.
In chapter 10, he adds one final element to the discussion. Some of the enlightened Christians were participating in some manner in the pagan feasts/worship, using the same rationale that there was no such thing as the god represented by the feasts/worship, therefore there was nothing wrong with it. Paul echoes his agreement that there is no god but Jehovah. Then he tells them, “the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons,” (10:20).
The pagans thought they were offering things to a god, the Christians thought they were doing nothing but eating, but Paul said by revelation that they were participating with demons. While the gods the pagans thought they were sacrificing to may have been non-existent, the reality was that demons were involved. They were using idol worship to lead people away from God. Paul will later speak to Timothy about some believers abandoning the faith and following “deceiving spirits and things taught by demons,” (1 Timothy 4:1). To the extent that any Christians participated, they were aiding and abetting the enemy!
Demons were and are involved in sinful and destructive activities today that lead people away from God. This doesn’t mean we need to label every non-Christian activity demonic, it just means we need to be discerning about what get involved with.
3. The believer has been delivered from these powers.
That’s what Paul said in Colossians 1:13-14 when he wrote that Jesus had “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son.” Make no mistake about it—it was a rescue. It happened because Jesus was stronger than Satan (Luke 11:20-22), and it happened at the cross (Colossians 2:13-15). Because of this, Paul will say in Romans 8:35-39:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.