Living with a Hostile Ruler

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

Ephesians 2:1-3

In yesterday's reflection, we saw that we live in hostile territory, in a world whose values and practices lead us away from the God of life and into a life of death. Today, we learn that the hostility of our world against God is compounded by the influence of a hostile ruler.

Here's how Ephesians 2 begins: "As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air…" The original language of this passage makes it clear that we once lived according to [kata in Greek] the ways of this world and according to [kata] the ruler of the kingdom of the air.

Who is this ruler of the kingdom of the air? Elsewhere in Ephesians, he is identified as "the devil" (4:26) and "the evil one" (6:16). Saturday Night Live's Church Lady might ask, "Could it be … Satan?" Paul's answer would be "Yes" (for example, 1 Thess. 2:18). The "kingdom of the air" over which he rules is the domain in the cosmos where we live, the lowest level of Heaven, if you will. Even though Satan's ultimate defeat has been assured, in this present age he continues to wield authority over the earth, within the limits established by God.

Of course, in many segments of the western world today, belief in personified evil is mocked as antiquated and naïve. Yet, biblical teaching is clear that evil does not reside only in human hearts and human cultures. It is concentrated in a supernatural being who, though in no way God's equal, has the power (and the powers) to influence our lives. Before we were set free from this power by God's grace, we lived under it, even if we denied its existence.

This is not good news, of course. But it is news that prepares us to hear the good news with gratitude and joy.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are your thoughts and feelings about Satan? How might acknowledging his power make a difference in your life?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, honestly, the existence of Satan is something I would rather ignore. It can feel so old-fashioned to speak of Satan, so un-hip and naïve. Plus, I'm not at all happy about the idea that some supernatural being has the power to influence my life. Yet, I am committed to trusting Scripture, even when its truth is something I'd rather avoid. Help me to know and believe what is true.

Lord, as I am confronted today with the reality of personified evil, I am grateful for the implicit good news, namely, that I once walked according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, but do so no longer because of your grace in Christ. Help me to live as a free person, free from evil's grasp, free to serve you fully in every part of life. Amen.

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