In the last chapter of his letter to the Romans Paul says a very strange thing. “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:20) What makes this unusual is that it takes the idea of crushing Satan, which we know was accomplished by Christ on the cross, and it talks about it in the future as if it has yet to be accomplished. How can this be?
The crushing of Satan happened once for all when Jesus died for us. This was in keeping with the promise given to Adam and Eve that her seed would crush Satan. In the garden when God said to the devil, “I will put enmity between and the women and between your seed and hers. He (this means a future seed or child of the woman) will crush your head and you (that is the devil) will crush his heal. So there would be a battle between the devil and the promised child. The devil would inflict pan but the child would crush him. That occurred when Jesus went to the cross and “was crushed for our iniquities.” He, thereby, forgave our sins and put Satan out of commission.
So if Satan has been crushed then how can Paul say that he will soon be crushed?
We can think of crushing Satan the same way Luther explains the forgiveness of sins. Forgiving sins and crushing Satan are pretty close to the same. Here’s what he says, “We treat the forgiveness of sins in two ways; first, how it is achieved and won, second, how it is distributed and given to us. Christ has achieved it on the cross, it is true. But he has not distributed or given in on the cross. He has not won it in the supper or sacrament. He has distributed and given it through the Word, as also in the Gospel, where it is preached.”
So, just as we can talk about forgiveness in two ways we can also talk about the crushing of Satan in two ways. Satan was crushed once and for all on the cross. And yet Satan is also crushed each time the word of Christ is spoken. Satan is crushed whenever a little baby is baptized. Satan is crushed each time you go to the Lord’s Supper.
Satan was crushed historically by Jesus once for all. Satan is crushed each time Jesus is applied to you life.
So, Jesus forgave sins. He applies that forgiveness to you today through the gospel and Sacraments. Jesus lived and died to earn salvation. He bestows that salvation to us through the gospel and sacraments. Jesus lived and died to redeem us. And each time He speaks His word of Christ to us we are redeemed from sin. That is what the catechism means when it says that through the Spirit he enlightens me with his gifts.
Jesus crushed the head of the serpent through his agony and bloody sweat. Each time you hear the story of the cross Satan is crushed. That is why we can say both that Satan has been crushed and we can repeat with Paul, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under you feet.”
What makes the saving power of Christ so precious today is that little, old, helpless people like you and me can tap into it any time we need. We actually have power over the devil right this moment. Whenever we speak the word, read the Bible, reflect upon our Baptism, take the Supper or hear of Christ’s work for us – or as you read this Blog – God is using this word to crush Satan under our feet. We can crush Satan simply by speaking or hearing the claims of Jesus.
Luther wrote “A mighty Fortress.” The third stanza goes like this:
Though devils all the world should fill
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill.
They cannot overpow’r us.
This world’s prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will.
He can harm us none.
He’s judged the deed is done.
One little word shall fell him.
Notice that Luther says it again. Satan has already been judged. That happened on the cross. Yet one little word can fell him. That is the Word of Christ which we hear every day. When that word is spoken and heard the Holy Spirit is working and Satan is crushed.