He Disarmed the Rulers
Ours is a sophisticated age; we think we know so much. Since the “Enlightenment” of the eighteenth century, man imagines himself the measure of all things. Through the application of his own mental powers, he can conquer the world. He no longer needs the primitive answers of an antiquated holy book. Through what goes by the name of “science,” man now knows that he can reason his way by observation of nature and arrive at solutions to what once seemed insolvable problems, not realizing that each solution often breeds its own set of problems. This, of course, is due to sin which has broken both man’s mind and the world.
But where the darkness of man’s mind truly manifests its contemporary ubiquity is in the realm of what he calls, “psychology,” the science of the soul. And having left Scripture and a Christian view of the world behind, he now seeks answers to problems which ancient people understood quite well. Modern man is still aware that there are hostile forces “out there” but does not know what to name them. And so he applies tags called “diagnoses” to “mental illnesses” which provide him with the illusion that he grasps the real problem—so powerful is the ability to name something. The ancients knew this power as well, and it is seen throughout Scripture.
Scripture provides a different answer for the origin of these hostile forces in the world and man’s mind. What modern man cannot accept is that the world is peopled (shall we say, “demoned”) with spiritual beings which Scripture denotes as “rulers” and “authorities.” These forces seek to bind and crush man every step of his way. And they sought to do that with Christ, nailing him to a cross. They saw him for what he rightly was—the liberator of men from their demonic stronghold—and there could be no agreement between him and them. The demon which possessed the man in the synagogue confessed as much when it cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth,” literally in the Greek, “What to you and to us?” We could translate, “What is there between you and us?” And the answer is nothing but a chasm which none can cross (Luke 16:26). But had they known the “secret and hidden wisdom of God” whereby wretched man is liberated from their control through his death and resurrection, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8).
Some of the Colossians had been misled into thinking that these “rulers and authorities” were something special when in reality they were only the same old motley crew defeated by the Lord. Man being by nature a religious creature—created so that he might worship the true God, but sin intervening now worships the creature rather than the Creator—is easily taken by such “spiritual,” “mystical,” yet demonic, curiosities promising to take a man to a higher plain. Man in his broken nature quite naturally collects such luminous baubles to adorn his manmade religion. Don’t you want to know about angelic beings circling the earth and the secret passwords to get from one realm to another? Which foods to eat and which not to eat? Which days to observe for special rituals and the secrets that go with them? These were the religious trinkets some false prophets had used to persuade some of the Colossians to return to the slavery of the principalities and powers and “elemental spirits of the world” (i.e., demons). Paul’s response is, “Why?” Why do you forsake the Liberator for the slaver? Why do you choose the loser over the Victor? Indeed, our Lord “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in Him.”
I’m not suggesting that all of an individual’s personal problems are due to demonic influence. But I am suggesting that contemporary psychology is awash with “answers” Scripture would never condone, and this is due to a secular worldview. Our problems always have some spiritual root. Answers to these problems begin with an acknowledgement of Christ as Lord and Savior. From that position of liberty, we may begin the process of healing from any “psychological problem” from which we may struggle.
Our Lord is the Healer and Liberator, the answer to “religion.” Don’t settle for anything less. (See NICNT, 110-13, for a good discussion on the principalities and powers.)