May 1, 2018 • Life for Leaders
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.
At some point in life, you may have had a bad boss. Perhaps your boss was unfairly demanding and demeaning. Perhaps she was a terrible listener and never cared about what you thought. Perhaps he was inappropriate in things he said or insinuated about you. Perhaps your bad boss always took personal credit for your accomplishments and shared none with you. It could be a combination of these things or something altogether different. No matter the specifics, it’s no fun to have a bad boss.
According to Ephesians 2:1-3, we have all had a bad boss, one more worrisome and pernicious than what I’ve just described. 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. In yesterday’s devotion we considered “the ways of this world.” Today we focus on “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. Satan. That’s exactly right.” (For example, 1 Thessalonians 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 through the death and resurrection of Christ, in this present age, he continues to wield authority over the earth, within the limits established by God.
To put the matter bluntly, we who live on this earth have a bad boss, an evil, deceitful ruler who seeks to hurt us, ruin this world, and dishonor God in every way possible. 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. Nobody wants to have a bad boss, let alone a supernatural one. Yet, the bad news of Satan’s dominion over the world prepares us to hear the good news of God’s victory and deliverance through Christ. We’ll get to that good news soon.
Something to Think About:
What are your thoughts and feelings about Satan?
How might acknowledging his power make a difference in your life?
Something to Do:
One of the main things Satan does is to tempt us to turn away from God. Take some time to consider the temptations of your life. What are they? Why are they powerful? What helps you to resist them?
Gracious God, 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.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
The Beginning of the Gospel (Mark 1:1-13)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.