Relevant Passages: Romans 5:12-21, 1 Corinthians 3:12-17, 12:14-26, 15:12-56, Ephesians 6:11-17
Leading Question: Where in the writings of Paul does one find the best description of the conflict between good and evil?
The official study for this week lists five significant theological passages from the writings of the Paul, but the role of Satan is explicit in only one of them (Eph. 6:11-17). Indeed, that entire passage reeks of warfare against “the devil’s schemes” (6:11, NIV). In some other passages Paul mentions Satan as in 2 Cor. 11:14 (“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light”) and in 2 Thess. 2:9 (“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works”). But there is little conceptual grappling with the forces of evil or their titular head, Satan.
Is it possible that Paul – who, of all the New Testament writers, is the one most likely to favor something close to predestination (cf. Romans 8 and 9) – simply is not keen on emphasizing a conflict in which the human will plays a prominent role? Is it possible that those of a predestinarian bent, those most impressed by the sovereignty of God, are least likely to highlight the role of Satan? Adventists, of course, might recognize the paradoxical relationship between grace and free will, but would affirm both. By contrast, Augustine (d. 430), known as the “Doctor of Grace,” can be quoted as denying free will in the interest of grace: “In trying to solve this question I made strenuous efforts on behalf of the preservation of the free choice of the human will, but the grace of God defeated me.” – from Henry Chadwick, Augustine (Oxford, 1986), 117, citing Retractationes ii.1 (addressed to Simplicianus of Milan).
What Paul does emphasize (also Augustine) is the all-encompassing role of Christ as our sacrifice and redeemer. We can insert his crucial insights into a “a great controversy” framework, but the nuts and bolts of that conflict will have to come from elsewhere.
These are the contexts which included in this whirlwind tour of “Paul and the Rebellion.”
Romans 5:12-21: Christ the second Adam.
1 Cor. 3:12-17: God’s people as God’s temple.
1 Cor. 12:14-26: The Body of Christ.
1 Cor. 15:12-56: Christ overcomes death, the last enemy.
Eph. 6:11-17: God’s armor against the enemy.
Question: Can emphasizing God’s sovereignty make the “Great Conflict” virtually redundant?