Christians cannot be cursed. I argued so in my previous article. If to be a Christian is to be God’s son and daughter, then who can bring a curse against God’s elect (Rom 8:33)? Nay. We are free in Christ, no longer Satan’s prisoners (Jn 8:36, Gal 5:1). God himself ‘delivered us from the domain of darkness’ (Col 1:13), and who can turn it back (Is 43:13)?
Many Christians believe this, but some still waver. Others consider the above to be ‘Western teaching.’ Below are three common objections to my previous article.
Objection #1: Jesus’ death makes deliverance from curses possible but it must be actualized by the believer.
Some suggest that Jesus’ death makes deliverance from curses possible, but one must ‘claim’ the victory. ‘There can be Christians living in a curse not because Jesus didn’t die for it, but because they have not taken hold of the promise.’ I could understand why this argument is attractive. Rightly, we are not passive spectators in our salvation, or are we?
That said, there are two issues with this view. The first is that Gal 3:10-14 does not say that Jesus died for a curse. It says that Jesus ‘redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.’ The believer is redeemed. No ‘claiming it.’ No extra work. Just like the goat in Lev 16:10, Jesus actually carried the curse away and nailed it to the cross (Jn 1:29). As a result, Christians are truly free from the curse (Gal 5:1). If you are in Christ, it is done. You disbelieve it at your disadvantage.
My second objection to the view above is that it makes salvation transactional. This ‘commodity’ concept of redemption originates with medieval Roman Catholicism. Purgatory and selling indulgences stem from the idea that there is a treasure of merits availed to those who ‘pray enough’ and do enough good deeds. Africans already had a market-idea of gods. As such, African ‘Protestant’ Christians must wrestle to shake off both Roman and African ancestor theology before having a firm grasp of the gospel.
Biblically speaking, salvation is not a product kept somewhere and later transferred to believers in instalments depending on their performances. To be saved is to participate in the trinitarian fellowship (Jn 14:23; 1 Jn 1:3). It is to be grafted into God so that we share in his divine life through the humanity of his Son (1 Pet 1:3-4; 1 Cor 12:13). So, yes, we are not passive spectators because we actively participate in God himself by his Spirit.
Objection #2: Didn’t Jesus also remove sickness and poverty? Why do they still exist?
Some claim that the existence of sickness and material lack indicates that also curses remain. Just as one must ‘claim’ their healing and riches through prayer, so must they receive their release from curses.
But the New Testament does not consider physical sickness or poverty to be the same as generational curses. For example, Paul ‘learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need’ (Phil 4:12). But never did he learn the secret of being cursed. He could tell Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach sickness (1 Tim 5:23). But he tells none to spend a few overnights or pray harder over his cursed state.
For Paul, hunger and sickness are things believers must endure for the time being. He realizes that God, through Jesus’ birth, begun a grand work against sin and decay, which stretches beyond human salvation to the restoration of all things (Rom 8:20-25). Our bodies belong to the same old creation under corruption. They will be fully restored at the resurrection (1 Cor 15:42-43). Paul does not think the resurrection of our bodies is something we should ‘claim’ now. As such, we will die, not under judgment, but to be raised entirely in the newness of life. In joining himself to creation, Christ began cosmic healing only to be complete at his return.
In the meantime, we do not escape the tragedies of the broken world. The ground still produces thistles until all things are made new. Our prayer does nothing to change this. Creation is unwillingly still subjected to futility until our full manifestation as Children of God (Rom 8:19-21).
Objection #3: Doesn’t Paul say that we wrestle against principalities and powers?
The flow of our discussion naturally leads us to discuss spiritual warfare. Eph 6:10-20 takes it for granted that we are involved in the cosmic battle against the darkness. The cross of Christ launched a campaign that reaches beyond individual salvation. Through his earthly life, Jesus bound the strong man and robbed him (Mk 3:27). His miracles were not mere philanthropy, but a clear break into creation to reverse the consequences of sin. And our salvation is proof that Christ successfully plundered Satan (Heb 2:14-18; Col 2:15).
Having redeemed us, Christ enlisted us as his soldiers (2 Tim 2:4). Our task is to advance his kingdom to the ends of the earth (Matt 28:18-20). This missional advance of the gospel to the ends of the earth is what spiritual warfare is. Spiritual warfare is not Christians claiming their marriage partner or riches. It is taking the gospel to Satan’s strongholds so that ‘the gates of hell’ suffer the assault (Matt 16:18). Christ builds his Church through mission work.
But deliverance theology espouses an individualistic and self-centred understanding of spiritual warfare. Thus, it misses that the war against Satan happens on the mission field. Consumed with how to get a husband or good job, deliverance pastors lost sight of the actual battle against the gates of hell. Biblical spiritual warfare is missional. It is the casting down of false philosophies and worldviews in our marketplaces and cultures (2 Cor 10:4-6). We are in spiritual warfare when we persistently share Christ with your Muslim neighbour and show the beauty of the gospel to an atheistic professor challenging our faith.
Hence, Eph 6:15 states that our shoes are ‘the readiness given by the gospel of peace’ (Eph 6:15). Witnessing is war. Putting on the ‘full armour’ prepares us to ‘go into the whole world and make disciples of nations’ (Matt 28:18-20). As such, spiritual warfare is not what happens on Friday overnight in the room alone, but what happens Monday morning when Jehovah’s Witnesses knock on your door, and you let them in.
We are involved in a battle in which God’s kingdom is advancing into new territory. And we wrestle against principalities in heavenly places because that’s where we seat with Christ (Eph 2:6). And we sit there because God ‘made us alive together with Christ’ having ‘raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus’ (Eph 2:5-7).
Spiritual warfare, therefore, is proof that we are no longer under God’s curse. For we could not engage in war in heavenly places unless we sat there with Christ. And it is in those ‘heavenly places’ where we are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3). But more so, we can only invite people to salvation if only we are saved. The unhealed cannot point people to the Physician.