As a rule, Evangelicals are great defenders of the deity of Christ. That’s not something we mess around with, and anyone who might had better take care—be they Bart Ehrman or the Jehovah’s Witness at your door!
But as we know, Christ was also a man—the God-man—100 percent. Yet here in his humanity, Evangelical vigilance is less rigorous. It’s very easy for us to give to Jesus of Nazareth what we might call a “God-card” so that in matters of the Holy Spirit—things like his power, insight, dependency, and spiritual formation—he is not quite like us. It goes something like: “Well of course he knows Deuteronomy so well (to quote it 4 times to the Devil in the wilderness)… He wrote it!” The end of such thinking is we have a “man” who is really not much of a model for us of what it means to be human.
There are many avenues we could pursue in our exploration of Jesus’ God-card, or better, our handing it to him so that he’s not a true model for us mere humans, but one I’ll raise here is Jesus’ posture toward the Devil, the Accuser, and the Father of Lies. Was Jesus’ conflict with and triumph over the Devil during his ministry a Second-Person-of-the-Trinity thing (re: God-card), or was he showing us what human beings under the power of the Spirit do?
I want to suggest it’s the latter case on the grounds of what it means to be really human in the original creation story of Genesis. Now, really human is something we’re all still just working on in this divine project of our being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:19). But the opening chapters of Genesis make it clear that human beings in God’s image, which Jesus as is well (Col. 1:15), were commissioned as God’s means of subduing evil, including taking out the Devil. The case is made by an old German theologian, Erich Sauer, in his book, The King of the Earth (Paternoster, 1962), and I’ll mention some of his thoughts now.
1. The human vocation to “rule and subdue” the creation (Gen. 1:28) includes the putting down of something already hostile. Check out the commentaries on the kabash-word in this verse.
2. “Keeping” the Garden (Gen. 2:15) is language of Israel’s priesthood in its service to the tabernacle and temple. It included a protective, guarding function. Against what was Adam and Eve to protect the Garden?
3. The post-Fall promise of Gen. 3:15 is that the seed of the woman will ultimately crush the Serpent’s head. This is not innovation, but reiteration of the original vocation of Genesis 1:28 for humans to rule and subdue God’s Adversary.
4. The spiritual destiny of the created-order lies in the hands of the human couple (Rom. 8:19-25).
5. Paul’s Second-Adam doctrine inextricably ties the God-man to the first Adam as leader of a new humanity in exploitation of every dimension of its calling—the Godward, the human-ward (social) and the creation-ward (physical and spiritual) dimensions.
The bottom line for this is that I think we need be open to see Jesus’ authority over the Devil and his demons as a fundamentally human trait—no God-card. While demons and Satan are greater than us now in might and wisdom (2 Pet. 2:11), when we stand in the really human (full-image of God) strength of our champion, Jesus, we are to them what He is. So demons, like sin, don’t rule us (Rom. 6:6). Quite the opposite! We rule them. We resist them. We stand against them like our fully human champion did—by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now this is not a clarion for conducting “demon hunts,” or to otherwise sensationalize spiritual warfare as is the case for some. Jesus and his apostles were wholly Gospel-focused. Yet they were not unaware of Satan’s schemes, and when the Enemy rose against them, they knew what it looked like and they took care of business.
So should we. It is our calling.