Crushing Satan (Romans 16:17-20)

Main Idea: Why would a God of peace crush Satan? And, perhaps more paradoxically, why would a God of peace crush His own Son?

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My family and I recently watched a short mini-series called Waco, which was a dramatization of what happened in Waco, Texas in 1993. In short, in addition to having multiple wives, some of which being underage, David Koresh was a false prophet and cult leader who claimed to be the Lamb of God. Many of the people he misled in his cult died in a fire when the FBI and ATF sought to force them to leave their commune residence. So the lingering question in the aftermath of that tragic outcome was whether the government used appropriate measures in attempting to apprehend David Koresh.

Many unbelievers today refuse to humble themselves before God because they say that the God of the Bible is a God of war who doesn’t respond to sin with an appropriate measure. They think that God just loves to destroy people, and religion has led to more conflict and devastation than anything else in history. And as believers, we can’t deny that God often has commanded that His people in the Bible go to war with the ungodly nations that surrounded them. At one point, God even commanded the people of Israel to completely destroy the people who were living in the land of Canaan, and to leave no survivors.

But there’s actually a lot more destruction in the Bible than that. God brought a flood that killed all but eight people who were living on the earth, and God’s even promised that He’s going to destroy this whole earth. There have been plagues, and judgments, and much of it was not just allowed by God, but ordained by God. And sometimes the language that the Bible uses in describing these things is so horrifyingly detailed that it’s like God even delights in this destruction.

And yet, the Bible also says that God is love, and that He’s the God of peace. So how do we reconcile these things?

Romans 16:17-20.

Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. Avoid them, because such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words. The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise about what is good, and yet innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:17-20)

Father, You are bigger than we can comprehend, and Your plan is better than we can imagine. Help us to rest in Your plan as we trust in the grace of our Lord Jesus. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

I think I shared a few years ago about how once I saw this guy about to fall off of a bridge. I was right beside him and I caught his hand just in time and said “Hold on to me, help will come soon.” And I said, “Are you a religious man?” And he said, “Yes, I believe there is one God.” I said, “Me too! Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What denomination?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! American Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Southern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Conservative Southern Baptist or Liberal Southern Baptist?”

He said, “Conservative Southern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Conservative Southern Baptist using the Baptist Faith and Message 1963, or Conservative Southern Baptist using the Baptist Faith and Message 2000?” He said, “Conservative Southern Baptist using the Baptist Faith and Message 1963.” So I said, “Die, heretic!” And I let go of his hand.

Of course, that didn’t happen. But it’s crazy how quick we are to label, divide, and condemn others over insignificant things, when we have so much in common. I think I’ve said it many times before, but I think denominations are overall a horrible thing. They’re kind of inevitable because of the way we like to huddle together with like-minded people, and in some ways they’re almost kind of necessary to keep the peace between groups of Christians who, in some ways, believe very differently from one another. But having various denominations also creates divisions in the body of Christ, and to the watching world, it looks like Christians just don’t know how to get along. And it looks that way because Christians oftentimes don’t get along.

But if we’re preaching a message of love and peace, you’d think that we need to at least have love and peace with one another. And if we think God can capture the hearts of unbelievers with His love and peace, we need to be the ones who will demonstrate to them that God loves them and wants to give them His peace.

Which brings up some interesting questions pertaining to our Scripture text today, and how it relates to the whole of God’s plan. First, why would a God of peace crush Satan? And second, perhaps more paradoxically, why would a God of peace crush His own Son?

We’re going to come back to these questions at the end, but we need to follow Paul’s line of thought to get there. And it’s all about having true fellowship in Jesus.

Last week, we read about many people who devoted themselves to ministry. Paul instructed them to greet one another. And we saw that that’s more than simply saying “hi” to one another and being friendly with one another. It’s supporting one another, and having deep relationships with one another built not on our superficial likes and dislikes, but on Christ Himself, who sacrificed Himself to pay the price for our sins. And if we’re united in Christ, then we’ll also sacrifice for one another. Because when we see Christ in one another, we’ll want to serve one another, and in doing so, serve the Lord Jesus Christ.

But in contrast to those we read about last week who made great sacrifices in the church, there were also those in the church who were working against the very things they confessed to believe. Verse 17.

Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles contrary to the teaching that you learned. (Romans 16:17)

One of the main issues that Paul addressed in his letter to the Romans was for them to be united faith and therefore in their devotion to one another. In the Roman church, there were both Jews and Gentiles, Jews who came to live in Rome after the dispersion in the book of Acts, and Gentiles who were native to Rome, and these two groups didn’t always get along. So Paul reminded them that not only did they both have a place in the body of Christ, but that neither can say that God’s plan is all about them. All have sinned and fall short, and all are freely justified by grace through faith in Jesus.

John Wesley once told of a dream that he had. In his dream, he was ushered to the gates of hell. There he asked, “Are there any Presbyterians here?” “Yes!”, came the answer. Then he asked, “Are there any Baptists? Any Episcopalians? Any Methodists?” The answer was “Yes!” each time. Much distressed, Wesley was then ushered to the gates of heaven. There he asked the same questions, “Are there any Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, Methodists?” and the answer was “No!” each time. Wesley was confused. “No?” Wesley asked, “Then who is inside?” And the answer came back, “There are only Christians here.”

In the same way, Paul wrote to the church of Rome, telling them to watch out for people who create divisions. There were many Jewish Christians in the early church who thought that when Gentiles converted to Christianity, they should obey not just the moral laws of the Hebrew Scriptures, but also the ceremonial and levitical laws given specifically to the Jews in the Old Testament, like circumcision and festivals. And then there were some Gentiles who looked down on some of the Jews for not seeing their freedom from legalistically obeying such laws. So on both sides, there were those who were tempted to create divisions based on their backgrounds and convictions.

But as believers in our Lord Jesus, we ought to be united with all other believers in Jesus. That’s what fellowship is. It’s a deep relationship with one another based on the grace that we have in Jesus Himself. And even when we might disagree about some of the particulars of practice or theology, if we have Jesus in common, then we have everything in common.

So I love being Southern Baptist because of our commitment to missions and how we come together to support missionaries, but I hate denominationalism because of how it divides us from other genuine believers. God doesn’t want that. He wants us to love one another. He wants us to serve one another. He certainly doesn’t want us to be prideful about how great our denomination is compared to others or how we’re right about a certain point of theology, and they’re wrong. He wants us to have true fellowship.

It’s interesting that some of our favorite Christian preachers and musicians wouldn’t be allowed to be members of many of our churches, and it’s all because of denominationalism. Matt Maher, who wrote some great songs such as “Because He Lives” and “Lord, I Need You,” is Catholic. He most likely goes to mass, reads from the Apocrypha, and was baptized as an infant. And because of that, according to our denomination’s beliefs, he would need to be baptized by immersion before he could be a member of our church. And I’m not saying that infant baptism should be practiced or that we should accept the Apocrypha as inspired Scripture.

And yet, I hope that we would recognize him as a genuine believer in Christ. Otherwise, why are we singing his music in church?

John MacArthur is another example. He’s not Southern Baptist, and he teaches Lordship Salvation, which sounds great at first, because we certainly do want to have Jesus as our Lord, but the way that it’s taught is dangerously close to a works-based salvation, whereas the Bible teaches that salvation is by grace alone through faith, and not by works, so that no one can boast about it.

And yet, I think we would all recognize him as a genuine believer in Christ.

You know, we could nitpick genuine believers all day long, and I’m not saying doctrine isn’t important. Of course it is. But if we keep dividing with other genuine believers over every doctrine we disagree about, eventually, each one of us will be completely alone in our own little church. So Paul writes to watch out for those who create divisions and obstacles contrary to the teaching you learned.

The sound and simple teaching of the Bible about salvation is that we can’t earn it, and God gives it by grace through faith in Jesus. We sin, but Jesus saves. That’s the gospel, and it’s the simple gospel that unites us in this deep, joyful, refreshing fellowship.

And yet, the sad reality is that many people who confess to be believers are constantly creating divisions and obstacles to this fellowship. Paul taught that there’s no distinction between Jew and Gentile, because the same God is God over all, but there were some in the first century who taught that there was still a distinction.

Verse 18.

Avoid them, because such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words. (Romans 16:18)

Even today, there are certainly many who might try to influence the church for their own gain, whether it’s money or fame or whatever. And they’ll win over a lot of people. But they do not serve the Lord Christ.

This is what David Koresh did in the early 90’s. He wasn’t building a following for Jesus, but for himself. And this is what many prosperity preachers do today. Promising something that sounds like something we want, they deceive many with smooth talk. But Pauls tells us to avoid them. Don’t be deceived. Test everything, and hold onto the good, and avoid every kind of evil.

As those who desire to serve Jesus, we need to be wise.

Verse 19.

The report of your obedience has reached everyone. Therefore I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise about what is good, and yet innocent about what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:19-20)

As we saw all the way back in chapter 1, Paul had heard great things about the church of Rome. He wrote in Romans 1:8:

I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you because the news of your faith is being reported in all the world. (Romans 1:8)

They were a good church with a good reputation! Everyone was amazed at how the church kept the main thing the main thing. So, convinced that the Roman church would continue to live up to their reputation of being united in Christ even with such great diversity, Paul rejoiced over them.

But we should never take this fellowship and unity for granted. Deep fellowship and unity doesn’t just happen accidentally. We need to fight for it and work to maintain it. So Paul then told them and tells us to be wise about what’s good, and yet innocent of what’s evil.

But this doesn’t exactly come easy to us either, does it? The Bible says that God hates all evildoers. Psalm 5:5.

The boastful cannot stand in your sight; you hate all evildoers. (Psalm 5:5)

When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened, and they began to have the knowledge of good and evil, but they also began to have the inclination to do evil. So it’s no wonder that God promises us death and hell, because He’s good, and we’ve all done evil, and God hates evildoers.

And yet, the Bible also says that God loves all sinners.

If you’re familiar with what’s usually called the first promise of the coming Messiah in the Bible, the beginning of verse 20 might be a little surprising, which says that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. In Genesis 3:15, God pronounced judgment on the serpent, saying:

I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. (Genesis 3:15)

This essentially says that the offspring of the woman, that’s Jesus, would crush the head of the serpent, that’s Satan, under his foot, and that’s often referred to as the first promise of the Savior in the Bible. But now Paul tells us that God would crush Satan under our feet! So what’s going on here? Will Satan be crushed under Jesus’s feet, or ours?

Well, yes. When Jesus died and rose again, He dealt the decisive blow to Satan. Jesus’s death and resurrection means that Jesus is victorious over death, our sin, and even Satan. So now, because of Jesus, even though we’re born sinners, we can be wise about what’s good, because Jesus is good, and innocent about what’s evil, because Jesus forgives all our sin.

And yet, we still have to deal with Satan on a regular basis, don’t we? We’re still tempted in various ways, and our enemy is still attempting to cause us to be unfruitful and unproductive in our faith. Even though we have peace with God, Satan attempts to steal our peace. So even though Jesus certainly crushed Satan on the cross, there’s still this aspect of already and not yet. We still have to deal with Satan’s lies and temptations in our daily lives, so we’re given this promise that God will soon crush Satan under our own feet as we be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.

And, this is interesting, the word “your” in this verse is plural. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under YOUR feet.” Meaning that God crushes Satan not under any one of us individually, but when we collectively come together as His body, the Church, and we are united in faith in Jesus.

In other words, not only did Jesus have victory over Satan on the cross, but we personally see that victory over Satan as we have fellowship with one another, trusting in Jesus from day to day. But we don’t trust in our strength to accomplish this, but God’s. It says that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. As we, the church, rest in Jesus, the good, and resist Satan, the evil one, God crushes Satan under our feet.

Which, once again, sounds a little weird, right? Why would a God of peace crush Satan?

Well, it’s because, of course, the only way that we can have peace is to crush Satan. The only way we can do away with evil is by doing away with the evildoer. Satan is described as the ruler of this world, and we read in Revelation that this world and everything in it needs to be destroyed because all of it has been corrupted by sin. So of course the God of peace will crush Satan.

And the God of peace accomplished this by allowing His own Son to be crushed. Isaiah 53:5.

He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

Jesus was crushed in order to pay the price for our sin, and through Him, we have peace with God. God is the God of peace, and in order to secure our peace, He sacrificed His Son on the cross. And this wasn’t because God enjoys violence, but because God enjoys giving Himself to us. Jesus willingly died the death that we deserved to die, so that we might take up our cross and follow Him. He heals us, so that by His grace and in His joy, we would live in the peace that He alone gives.

So as Paul writes in verse 20:

The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you. (Romans 16:20)

And, of course, the grace of our Lord Jesus is with you. That’s the meaning of Jesus dying for the sins of the whole world. But you need to rest in it. Because if you’re not resting in the grace of God, it’s so easy to be swept away by Satan and false teachers. It’s so easy to follow after your own lusts and temptations. But none of those things will lead to peace. Faith in Jesus leads to peace as you rest not in your ability to save yourself, but in His grace.

So it’s true that God is the God of love and peace. And because God is the God of love and peace, all evil will be destroyed. Our sinful flesh will be destroyed. Satan will be destroyed. Even this whole earth will be destroyed because it’s been corrupted by our sin. And all this will be destroyed so that we can be made new, because Jesus makes all things new.

You see, God destroys and raises up. God allows us to be dead in our trespasses and sins so that He can give us new life! God completely and appropriately destroys all evil through His sacrifice on the cross so that we would be raised imperishable in the life to come.

Pastor Chris Huff

Pastor Chris Huff has been with us since July 2009.  He and his wife, Abby, have four children.  Chris is originally from St. Louis, MO and even though he was raised as a city boy, he has a small town heart. Chris is all over the internet, so you can find him on Facebook, Twitter,… (read more)

Bible Passages: Romans 16:17-20
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