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Tetelestai (It is Finished) Week 3 Study Guide: the Defeat of Evil

Community Group Study Guide — Tetelestai (It is Finished): The Defeat of Evil
1 John 3:8-10 

Study Information:
Most people are more spiritual than they recognize. For example, contemporary polling tells us that almost 80% of Americans believe in angels and demons. This means that an above average amount of people believe there are spiritual forces at work in the world. Sure, those beliefs vary and likely many of them are not from the Bible, but many recognize there are forces of evil at work in the world. When the Bible talks about spiritual forces it often refers to them as powers and principalities. One important thing to know is that these powers opposed the work of God, but they are not equal in power to God and the cross was part of their defeat.

We’ve been learning about the implications of what was finished on the cross in our series on the atonement. The atonement is the work of God to reconcile sinners to himself through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross for our sin. So far we’ve looked at the need for atonement (our separation from God before Christ) and the outcome of atonement (union with Christ). This week we will learn about how the cross conquered evil and defeated the works of the devil. This may be hard to wrap our minds around since there is so much evil in the world around us and we’re warned about spiritual powers at work in the world; but let’s explore what the Bible says about this. 

To Defeat the Works of the Devil
1 John 3:8-10
Why did Jesus come? One clear reason is that he appeared in order to defeat the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). The book of 1 John focused on assurance of faith and what practical Christian life looked like as we walk in truth. One of those assurances and practices is that sin grows distasteful to Christians. John linked the presence of sin to the work of the devil. Jesus appeared to take away sins and as we abide in Christ we no longer make a practice of sinning (1 John 3:5). In our last message we talked about how union with Christ allowed us to be who we truly are, we’re freed to be truly human as we walk in Christ. When we make a practice of unrepentant sin, we’re living out of our old identity as children of wrath and under the power of the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:1-3). The devil delights when we live in sin and when we call sinful things good, because it keeps us away from living out of our identity in Christ. 

The work of the devil began with temptation in the garden of Eden which resulted in separation from God through sin and death. Before expelling Adam and Even out of the garden, God made a promise that the devil would be defeated (Genesis 3:15). The promise was that an offspring of Eve would crush the head of the serpent, the serpent would deal wound to the heel of that offspring, but the strike to the serpent’s head would overcome. Looking back at the cross we can see that to the watching world it appeared that Jesus was defeated and the devil had won a victory. However we look back at the cross and know that Jesus laid down his life of his own authority, and he died in order to cancel the debt of our sin and so that he could rise form the dead to defeat the power of death.
Christ freed his people from the penalty of sin and the power of sin. You can walk in new life and righteousness because of the work of Christ. 

Christ Resisted the Temptations of the Devil
Luke 4:1-13
The account of Jesus’s temptation in the gospel of Luke is set up in such a way to teach us that whereas all of us would have given in to temptation, Christ resisted. There is a long list of names in the family tree of Jesus and immediately after is the story of the devil meeting Jesus in the wilderness to tempt him. The implication is that all these other names gave in to sin, but Christ resisted and won the victory for us. Jesus taught about this in Luke 11; that a strong man, fully armed, guarding his palace thinks his goods are safe until he is overcome by one stronger than him. Jesus pointed to his ministry being the one that was stronger than the power of the devil.

We see the power of Jesus over the works of the devil throughout the gospels through the miracles he did. Jesus’s miracles rolled back the power of the devil. In his miracles, Jesus overcame sickness, death, sin, and the chaotic elements of nature. When Jesus commanded the demons to flee they did, when the demons talked to Christ the spoke with fearful reverence, and none of them were able to stand up to the power of Jesus. 

Jesus’s ministry was one of resistance to the powers at work in the world.

The Cross Disarmed the Powers and Authorities
Colossians 2:13-15
in the ancient world, when an enemy was defeated in battle they were disarmed and then the survivors were paraded around as defeated combatants to be put to “open shame” and to emphasize the “triumph” of the victors. Paul picked up this language to talk about what happened on the cross. Not only were Christians made alive and had their debt of sin canceled but Jesus also disarmed the rules and authorities, which is the way the Bible talks about demonic spirits. They were disarmed and put to open shame by triumphing over them. We should be careful because this does not mean they are completely neutralized or eliminated. Paul warns us that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). However, they are a defeated enemy and the victory of God is secure.

Note how Paul connected the work of forgiveness of sin to the freedom from the power of the devil. At the cross sin and the record of debt we owed was canceled as it was nailed to the cross. That work seems to be key to how God disarmed the spiritual forces. The key tactic of the enemy is to accuse us of our sin and to lie to us about who we are and what God is like. Having our sin forgiven removed a key weapon in the enemies arsenal against us.  

God defeated the work of the devil at the cross and we not only have freedom from the penalty of sin but also the ability to resist the power of sin. 

This practically means a few things. First the devil cannot make you do it. You are free from the power of sin and no longer have to obey sin’s voice. Temptation is real and we can give in to temptation, but we also have the power now to resist. We can resist because Christ resisted. Second, the mission of the church is secure. There are not two equal enemies battling it out for power and influence in the world. We can preach Christ crucified and call  people to turn from sin and repent and people can be rescued out of the kingdom of darkness and be brought into the kingdom of God’s beloved son (Colossians 1:13-14). Third we can look forward to the day when Christ returns and death will finally be no more. We can put our hope in the time when Jesus returns and makes all these enemies his footstool (Phil 2:9-11). 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
1 John 3:8-10 and Colossians 2:13-15

Why do you think so many people believe in spiritual powers like angels and demons? 

What do you think it means in 1 John 3:8 that the Jesus appeared to defeat the works of the devil? 

How does Paul connect our forgiveness of sin to the disarming of rulers and authorities in Colossians 2:13-15?

What are some things you can do to grow in experiencing freedom from the power of sin?