Online Text Sermon - The Strong Man Armed, Luke ch.11 vv.21-22
|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||The Strong Man Armed|
|Text||Luke ch.11 vv.21-22 |
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"When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils" (Luke 11, 21-22).
1. The strong man armed
2. A Stronger than he
3. What does this stronger Man do?
The preacher here is the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the subject that Christ is dealing with in his sermon here is the subject of the occult. You will all know that the word 'occult' is the word that is used concerning the dark side of life, especially concerning the powers of the devil, and the powers of hell.
The subject is one that is very appealing to people in this present generation. I don't read these books at all myself, nor would I suggest that you should read them, but it just happens to be true that when you go into the booksellers today in almost any part of this country you will normally see a large selection of books dealing with what is called the occult. And, as I say, that word refers to the dark side of life, the spiritual forces of darkness, what is sometimes, I believe, referred to nowadays as 'the power'. People speak about 'the power'; and when they do so they have in mind some occult power: the power, really, of Satan, the power of the devil.
So, here is a sermon of Christ's which is dealing with something very up-to-date: the occult; and it is important that you and I should understand what the Lord Jesus Christ is teaching concerning the occult.
Now, He begins here with a reference in verse 21 to what He calls 'a strong man armed' who keeps his palace, and whose goods are in peace. Of course, you understand, this is a way of putting it which makes it easier for us to understand. It's a kind of illustration. You could even call it a parable if you like. It's a picture, anyway, of something to do with the occult to make the whole subject easier for us to grasp and to understand.
So I propose, first of all, to explain what is meant by this expression 'the strong man armed'; and then to come to put to you what is meant by him being fully armed and keeping his goods in peace. So that will be the first thing to look at. And then the next thing to look at is in verse 22: "when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils".
So, as I say, the second thing we must look at there is 'the stronger man'. There are two men talked about in this little parable: a strong man, and then, secondly, someone who is still stronger.
And the last thing that I'm going to look at with you is what Jesus says at the end of this: "he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils". So I think that, really, will be a method and a way of discovering what Jesus Christ has to say concerning the occult: the strong man, first of all; and then, secondly, the stronger man; and then, lastly, this part about dividing the spoil.
1. THE STRONG MAN ARMED
First of all, then, we're told by Christ that there is a strong man armed; and this is, of course, a reference to the devil, to Satan. He says that Satan is like a strong man who is armed. Let's look at all of this carefully.
Satan, He says, is very strong. We must never underestimate the power of the devil. We should never laugh at the devil. We should never use the devil's name carelessly. Some people in the world say, 'What the devil' this and 'What the devil' that. No, no. Never use that language. We must speak of the devil as of somebody who really does exist; and we are to speak of him realizing he is very strong and very powerful-far stronger than you are, far more powerful than any of us, more powerful than all of us put together! He's immensely strong, and immensely intelligent. No human being is a fraction as intelligent as the devil. He is absolutely brilliant, and full of evil, of course. He's a deadly enemy. And that's the way Christ begins to explain to us about the occult. But ' the power' which people talk about is an intelligent power of immense strength and energy-and total wickedness.
Now we do use the expression about human beings that they are 'totally depraved'. Let me explain what that means. It means that you and I and everybody else (apart from Jesus Christ) is born into this world ruined-in every part of our body, mind, and soul; that we've gone wrong everywhere: not just wrong in our minds, but wrong in our bodies, wrong in our soul, wrong in our will power, wrong in our affections, and so on. Every faculty is ruined! But we're not as bad as we could be. When people like that die without Christ they become much worse-in hell. Much much worse. In hell they become absolutely depraved, so that they can't begin to do anything good of any kind.
Well, that's how the devil is all the time. He is absolutely depraved, which is another way of saying he is as wicked as possible. He could not be any more wicked than he is. He absolutely hates God. He is a sworn enemy of goodness, and of godliness. And, therefore, of course, as you would expect, he hates Christians! He hates the church! He hates the Bible! He hates ministers, and elders, and deacons, and members with a perfect hatred. And he is very strong.
Then the next thing Christ says is: he is armed. Actually, the translation is possible to be a bit stronger than this. Not simply 'armed', but the actual word used by Luke in the gospel is: he is fully armed, not just that he has got a few guns and things here and there, but he is armed to the very teeth, as we say: armed to the teeth with power, and with evil, and with wickedness to do us harm. I'll come to the meaning of this word 'fully armed' in a moment.
Then the next thing we're told is: he has a palace (verse 21: "a strong man armed keepeth his palace"). Now, the devil's palace consists of his fellow demons. He is not the only demon in hell. There are thousands and probably millions of them. We don't know how many. But when the devil sinned, in the beginning of history, and was cast out of heaven for his sins, he wasn't the only one. There were thousands, evidently, of angels (as they originally were) who fell with him and became wicked spirits of darkness like himself now. And they are all organized into a sort of a court or, if you like, a sort of hierarchy of demons; like an organization, a highly intelligent network of demons and demonic powers. And what they do is that they desire to do as much harm to God's cause in the world as they can. They desire to do as much harm to you and to me as they can. So that, then, is his palace.
And then we're told: he has goods (verse 21: "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace"). He keeps his goods safely locked away. He keeps his goods under lock and key. What, then, are his goods? Well, the devil's goods are the souls of men, and women, and children - in this life - who are not Christians. That's a very, very sad thought; and people, of course, don't realize this. But this is Jesus, the Son of God, telling us that all people who are not members of His church are Satan's goods and chattel, and he keeps them under lock and key. He keeps them safe. He keeps them in peace.
Now, that peace we refer to as the peace of death. He keeps them in a state of mind in which they never think much about their need of God. They never come much to God's house to seek Him. They live for the things of this life-only. And the devil is good at feeding them-with the things of this life. They have occasional fears of death; but when people without Christ have occasional fears of death and what may be after death, the devil calms them and soothes them. He has programs on the television, and radio, and so on, and pleasure grounds, and places where people's consciences can be soothed to sleep. And when anybody asks questions about whether they need to have their sins forgiven, the devil is intelligent enough to have ways and means of keeping them quiet so that nobody gets too upset. They can have a little bit of religion, if they want it, but not enough to save them; and he keeps them in a state of peace, and he whispers peace to them.
Now that brings me to tell you about his armour. We're told in verse 21 he is a strong man, but more than that, he actually has ammunition. He is thoroughly well armed, which raises the question: what are his arms? What are his weapons? Well, I'll mention just some.
The first and main one is the weapon of ignorance. The devil's great method of keeping people in the world in peace is by keeping them ignorant of the truth of the gospel of Christ. He does not let them easily have a Bible. He does not readily encourage them to come to an evangelical gospel preaching church. He doesn't let them read good books like The Pilgrim's Progress, at least-not if he can stop them. He doesn't like them to go to fellowships where they hear testimonies such as our dear brother did this evening. He doesn't like people to break out of their ignorance, because one of his greatest weapons is this ignorance.
And so to keep people ignorant he has a massive campaign in which he encourages propaganda against the truth, and against God. He does it with the evolutionary theory. He says, there is no God, really. We all came here by some kind of early accident, by some cosmic accident, and after that there is nothing! we all just vanish into nothingness. He doesn't believe that. The devil doesn't believe in evolution, but he promotes it. The devil doesn't believe that there is no hell, but he promotes the idea. The devil knows that Christ is the Son of God! The devil believes everything in the Bible. He knows it's true. But his great craftiness and intelligence is used to stop us from believing it, because he wants to keep his goods in peace.
Now another of his great weapons is: carnal pleasure. He feeds people with strong drink, and drugs, and things that gratify bodily pleasure; satisfies their eyes-pictures to look at, music to listen to which does them no good, and company which does them no good;-but all of this acts like a child's dummy. I'm not suggesting there's anything wrong necessarily with a child's dummy, by the way; but this is the way the devil uses all these weapons of his: that when people begin to cry for knowledge of God, he puts a dummy in their mouth and he soothes them back to sleep again.
This ought to be illustrated by something that happened in the life of a great preacher many years ago. His name was Rowland Hill, and he was a very famous man in his day. He had such a loud voice he could be heard by thousands in the open air. Rowland Hill was once in a market town and he saw a sight that he never forgot. He saw a man with a big bag full of peas and behind him he saw a lot of pigs; and this man evidently was wanting to take the pigs to the market where they would be slaughtered.
And so what he did was the man every so often put his hand in the bag of peas and he spilled the peas across the road; and the pigs were delighted and they stopped and they ate all the pods that were there. And then by this time the man had walked about thirty or forty yards, and when the pigs looked up he threw some more down on the ground and they ran to eat these. So, little by little, without any great effort on his part, he managed to get all these pigs into the market to be slaughtered. And Rowland Hill thought to himself: that's precisely how the devil works with poor dying sinners: as they're going to hell he gives them more and more pods, and more and more peas; so they all end up in that sad marketplace of destruction where they're slaughtered in the end. And that's perfectly true.
And that is the same truth that our Saviour is teaching us right here: the strong man armed keeping his goods in peace.
Now before I move on, my very dear friend, let me say this to you: Do you realize that this is absolutely the truth of God. Do you see life like this? As you walk about do you realize the sad condition of men, and women and children who do not have Christ as their Saviour? They are the devil's goods and chattel, and he is intent on ruining their lives. And not only that, but do you realize, my very dear friend, in your own case, if you've never come to know Christ as your Saviour, do you realize the danger that you're in? The occult is not simply a subject which men deal with in books in bookshops. It's a very real and powerful truth and concerns us all. And a person who's never come to faith in Christ-sadly, tragically-is in this condition: the devil has him under lock and key.
Oh, you say, that's not true. I can get out any time I want. You say, All I need to do to become a Christian is just to exercise my will power. I can break free any time I want to become a real Christian-tomorrow morning, if necessary! That's what you think. I say to you: you try it and see. It's not so easy to break with the power of the devil as you imagine. He's a very cunning, crafty, intelligent, powerful foe. No wonder this Saviour of ours, this Lord from heaven, this Lord of glory-the Son of God! -He tells us in His sermon about the condition in which we are all born. I was born that way, and so are we all.
Now let me move on, then, secondly, to talk about the second person mentioned in this little parable.
2. THE STRONGER THAN HE
You'll find it in verse 22: "But," he says, "when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils".
Now, I've talked about the strong man-that's the devil. The question then is: Who is this person who is stronger, referred to in verse 22? "When a stronger man than he shall come"-who is this?
Well, thank God, it is Jesus Christ Himself. It is the Son of God Himself who is the stronger Man. Oh, what a mercy it is, my dear friends, that there is someone stronger than the devil! and it is Christ, the Son of God. Satan is mighty! but Christ is Almighty. Satan is crafty! but not crafty enough for Christ. Christ can undo all his craftiness and bring it to nothing. Satan is full of lies! but Christ is full of light, and He can shed light upon the lies of the devil. That's what He's doing in this very sermon of His.
Oh friends, if you're a Christian, thank God often, thank God often, that Jesus Christ is mightier than the devil, and that He is able to overturn the works of the devil! This is our hope in this third millennium as we begin it! But no matter how much wickedness the devil may be sowing in the earth, at any time Jesus Christ can sweep it away and put it right. Jesus can overcome the works of the devil.
How is it, then, that Christ is stronger than the devil? Well, the answer is: because of who Christ is. He is not a mere man! He is the God-man. And we should pause to think what a blessing it is that there's a man who breathed our air, who walked on the soil of this world, who ate the food that we eat, and He was not a mere man but the God-man: that the whole Godhead dwelt bodily in Him, that He was filled with the wisdom of God and the power of God and the strength of God. He was God manifest in the flesh.
And you see, indeed, something of this, if I may draw your attention to it, at verse 14, if you care to look down. You see how this section of the passage begins: "And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven." And then He goes on like that and speaks; but then look at verse 20, how He answers them: "but if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you."
Let me just reconstruct the scene. Our Lord was traveling along, as He was always doing, going from place to place, always preaching salvation, always explaining the truth; and as He went from one village to another there was a poor person who couldn't speak, they were dumb, and so they appeal to Jesus to heal him; and our Lord came along and He cast out this devil that had brought the dumbness upon this child. (By the way, the Bible doesn't say that there's no other cause for dumbness but simply the devil's possession. I'm not suggesting that, nor is the Bible telling us that. But on this occasion the dumbness was caused by the devil.) The devil somehow had power to stop him speaking. What a terrible thing! And Jesus said, Get thee out of this child, or this man, Satan! and he had to go.
And that's what gave rise to this whole sermon and this whole discussion. And Jesus said, "I by the finger of God cast out devils". What does that mean?
Well, it means that God is so strong that by His little finger He can cast out the whole power of the devil. There is no comparison between the strength of Satan, on the one hand, and the power of God on the other. Jesus Christ, by the finger of God delivers men and women from the evil power of the devil. Satan is only a creature, but Jesus Christ is our Creator! Satan is not omnipresent. He can be only in one place at a time. Mind you-he can travel very fast. I suppose he goes as fast as lightning, or as fast as electricity does, through the world. It appears he's everywhere at once; but the devil cannot be everywhere at once. But Jesus Christ is always everywhere at once: He is omnipresent, all mighty, all knowing,
What a blessing it is! He calls Himself "the stronger than he". And that is why the Bible tells us that the devils tremble at the very name of Christ (James 2,19). When our Lord, in the gospels, cast out devils sometimes these devils spoke, and do you remember what they said to Him? "I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God...have you come to torment us before the time?" (Mark 1,24; Luke 4,34; Matthew 8,29). That's what they said to Jesus Christ! The people didn't recognize who Christ was. They insulted Him! They insulted Christ. They were cheeky to Him. That's what they were here: "Show us a sign," they said, "if you're the Son of God, show us a sign!" How cheeky they were, as if all the miracles He did were not enough signs. As if the very words and sermons He preached were not signs of His divinity. They were. But the devils knew very well who He was, and they trembled when he came near them because they knew His power.
Now, we're told here that the truth of the gospel was demonstrated by Christ in His ministry. Christ demonstrated in His very ministry that He was stronger than the devil. How did He do this? Well, at the temptations, especially. This is why He had to be tempted. He was forty days in the wilderness and He ate neither bread nor drank water. He was forty days fasting; and when the forty days were over (as you all remember) the devil came to Him and tempted Him (Mark 1,13) and our Lord proved to us all that He is stronger than the devil. "Get behind me, Satan," He said (Luke 4,8). "It is written...it is written...it is written" (Matthew 4,4-7); and He rejected all the temptations of the devil. He was stronger than the devil. The devil had never been put to flight like this before. He had never dealt with a God-man before! He had always succeeded before: he succeeded with Adam, he succeeded with Eve-he succeeded many times with us! But he never succeeded once with Christ: "Get thee behind me, Satan...it is written."
By the way, that's the way to resist the devil. The way to fight against the devil is not to become an expert in the occult. That won't help you. You can read all the books in the British Museum on the occult. It won't necessarily help you to fight the devil. There's only one way to fight the devil and that's to quote the Bible at him! "Get thee behind me, Satan, it is written!" and then quote the Word of God at him: "Thou shalt not commit adultery! Thou shalt not steal!" When you're tempted to tell a lie, say to the devil, "Get behind me, Satan, it is written: Thou shalt not bear false witness". When you're tempted to envy somebody else, say, "Get behind me, Satan, it is written: Thou shalt not covet." The Word of God is given us-actively-to resist the devil; and the Bible tells us if we resist the devil, he will flee from us (James 4,7).
The whole of Jesus' ministry was to overcome the power of the devil, and Jesus said so. He said to His disciples, I saw Satan falling from heaven like lightning (Luke 10,18); or, again, He said, Now is the prince of this world cast out (John 12,31). Christ's life and death were to smash in pieces the power of the devil. When Jesus sent the Holy Spirit down on the day of Pentecost to fill His disciples with that power of preaching and grace, it was to destroy the kingdom of the devil, to smash in pieces the devil's court, and palace and kingdom.
My friends, have you understood these things? My friends, do you realize the extreme relevance of these things-for yourself, and for other people? The kindness that you can do to other people is not simply to give them money (although that could be necessary too). The kindest thing you can do for people is to bring them to the house of God, and give them a Bible, and lend them good books. If you want to be really charitable it's not simply enough that you should give them money in their pocket, by Christian Aid or something (I'm not saying there isn't a place for that); but the kindest thing you can do to anyone is to help them to know the truth! Help them to know the meaning of the Bible! Bring them to the house of God! Bring them to read the Scriptures! Bring them to know the truth of the gospel! because only in that way can they escape from the palace where the devil keeps his goods in peace - locked away - all their life - until death - when it is too late to escape.
3. WHAT DOES THIS STRONGER MAN DO?
So now, very briefly, and thirdly, let me say to you that Christ speaks about something at the end of verse 22 which is of great importance: "when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils."
What does this stronger man do?
Well, first of all, He "comes upon him". Do you see that? "When a stronger than he shall come upon him". Now, what does that mean? Well, undoubtedly it refers to Christ coming into the world. There never was a Saviour like this in the world before! When Christ came to be born at Bethlehem and to live and to minister and to die for us, here is "the stronger than he" coming upon the devil. How the powers of hell trembled at the birth of Christ!
We talk about getting bad news. I'm telling you there was bad news in hell and amongst the devils of hell when they heard that Jesus was born of Mary in a stable. What consternation in hell!! No wonder they stirred up king Herod to kill Him! Without success. How was Jesus' growing up to become a toddler, and then a little boy, how the green eyes of all the devils resented Him! and hated Him! and would have swallowed Him alive!-if they could. So they had to watch Him growing to the age of thirteen. They had to watch when He was baptized of John in Jordan, and being filled with the Holy Spirit and then casting out devils by the power of God!
This was the greater than he coming upon the powers of darkness - and the devils knew it. And when at last our Lord came to the Cross, and died for our sins, we are told by Paul in the Epistle to the Colossians, we're told He made a show of the devils openly, "triumphing over them" in His death and on the Cross (Colossians 2, 15). He has smashed forever the power of the devil! and delivered those who all their lifetime were subject to his bondage (Hebrews 2, 15).
Then, what else? Well, says Christ, in verse 22: a stronger than he shall come upon him and overcome him! Christ has power to take away the devil's armour.
How does Christ take away the devil's armour?
He does so, my friends, through the preaching of the gospel of God. The gospel is the light from heaven that shines into men's hearts. You see, when a person realizes the truths which I have been saying from Christ's words, then they understand that they are locked into a prison house. And what do they do? They begin to cry to God for mercy! And God hears their cry! And as we had it in Psalm 107: He breaks asunder the boughs of iron, and smashes in pieces the gates of brass, in order that His people that call for mercy will be delivered!
Did you ever call to God for deliverance from the prison house of Satan? If you didn't, then I suggest to you it's high time you did. High time.
What happened in the Acts of the Apostles chapter two? It illustrates this very point. The Jews heard Peter preaching, and the others, speaking in tongues. Here was somebody speaking Hebrew, here was somebody in Greek, here was somebody speaking the languages of North Africa; and there the languages of Asia Minor, here the languages of Europe. They were all speaking in tongues. The Holy Spirit gave them miraculous powers on the day of Pentecost, and everybody heard them speaking in their own languages. Ah, they said, aha, these people are drunk, they're dead drunk, that's what's causing the phenomena; and they were scoffing at the Word of God. But by the time Peter had preached his first sermon on the day of Pentecost they had changed their tune: "Men and brethren," they said, "what must we do?" (Acts 2,37). Their heart was pierced with conviction.
You see, that was Jesus stripping away the veil of blindness from men and convincing them of their need of deliverance. Salvation begins with the cry for mercy.
I never, I'm sure, to my dying day, forget the happy occasion in which a young man once came to speak to me. Not the only one, perhaps, but this one is in my mind vividly. And I said, What do you want to talk about? And he replied, "I'm lost. I'm lost! I haven't had the experiences that I hear you preaching about. I'm lost!" he said. Those words, to me, were sweeter than the sweetest music; because salvation begins when you realize you're lost! And if you've never realized that, how will you begin to pray for deliverance? So Christ sends a spirit of prayer upon men; and He teaches them the truth.
I must tell you this little story, which is true, in history. At the Reformation in England, there was a very neat and quiet Christian called Bilmy. He wasn't the kind to shout, and he wasn't a vociferous preacher; but he was a great man-Bilmy-a very sweet Christian. He was put to death, I should say, later on, but not yet. Now, he greatly admired a Roman Catholic priest whose name was Hugh Lattimer. Lattimer himself became a Reformer, but he wasn't yet a Reformer. At this time Lattimer was a superstitious priest in the Catholic church. And this is what Bilmy did. Wasn't he wise? He said, Father priest, he said, I would like to make my confession to you. Well now, that's a standard practice in the Catholic church. Very well, said Lattimer; so the young man went down on bended knee. Father, he said, I have sinned; and I didn't know anything about peace with God, he said, until I came to see that we can be freely justified by faith alone in Christ. And he went on, and his confession, as you see, was a preaching of the gospel. Lattimer was shaken to the very depths of his being. He'd never heard this kind of confession before. Bilmy's confession was the confession of a saved sinner. And you know the rest, you can guess it: it led to the conversion of Hugh Lattimer; and he, in turn, became one of the greatest preachers England ever had.
But you see this was Christ again coming and stripping away the superstition from Hugh Lattimer's mind and letting in light. And that's what He says: He takes away from him all his armour. The truth, my friends, is what sets men free (John 8,32)! And it's the truth that you need! And it's the truth that we all need!
Our beloved Queen and her household-they need the truth, better than anything! and so do our parliamentary leaders in Westminster, or Cardiff, or Edinburgh! They need the truth of God and so do the masses of the people! They need the truth of God to shine upon their hearts! Nothing can bless this country more than that God would raise up evangelists and preachers everywhere to show the truth of God in the land! In that way the devil's kingdom would be despoiled of its goods right, left, and center: wholesale.
And that's what Christ says, you see, in my text. I'm hurrying on with it. "He taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted".
And what next? He "divideth his spoil". That is to say, when Christ comes into the lives of men and women He takes some of them away. He divides them. Who does He take away? He takes away from the devil's kingdom everybody who wants to leave it; and He leaves behind only those who wish to stay.
I can well remember when Christ began to knock at the door of my heart, and how I felt the power of God striving with me to draw me out of the world; and what a tussle I had. But eventually, by grace, I got out! And my worldly friends stayed in (most of them). Christ divides the spoil. He divides the spoils of the strong. He takes out of the devil's kingdom and palace, and house, and courtyard, all those who pray for mercy.
So you see, my beloved friends, we have to be delivered by Christ. We are saved by blood; but we also say: by power. These are the two agencies that Christ uses: blood and power. And Jesus delivers us from everything that is against us. He delivers us from the wrath of God. He delivers us from condemnation. He delivers us from eternal death. He delivers us from the love of sin.
So, then, that's the parable; and that's the sermon on the occult. Any other teaching which doesn't match this teaching is worthless. Forget it. Little green men coming from outer space, and all that nonsense; all this talk about 'the power': it's all invented by the devil himself, to keep men intrigued and fascinated by the superstitious ideas of their own darkened minds. The truth is right here in these words.
The question I leave you with is this: Have you believed this truth? And are you calling in your heart and soul to God for deliverance; that the devil may have to give you up; and the stronger than he will deliver you from death and hell; and bring you safe home to His heavenly kingdom at last - when you die.
God grant it may be so for everyone sitting here today.
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