To Resist or Not to Resist
I have been thinking lately about the element of resistance and how that figures into our relationships with God and with others including resistance against evil people. In Scripture I find some interesting instructions about resistance, some of which can make us very uncomfortable. I have been learning that it is our internal resistance against love and resisting the truth about who God is that will become the fuel, the internal cause of what is termed “the fires of hell” that destroys the wicked. To my amazement I discovered from the Word that it is not an angry God bent on punishment or revenge that burns the lost but rather their own resistance to His passionate love for them that creates the torture, suffering and finally brings about their own annihilation. Yet at the very same time and in the very same place, those who have been saved, who have allowed God to bring them into full harmony with His character and the principles that govern the universe (God's laws) find themselves glowing intensely with His glory and light as their response to the full revelation of God's glory and character.
This is particularly why I find myself very interested in learning more about this element of resistance in my own heart. Who or what I resist becomes the central issue in determining which group I will find myself among on that final day of full revelation and judgment. If I allow resistance to God and His kindness to remain in my own heart I store up wrath as fuel within myself against the day of judgment as Paul points out in Romans 2:5. I certainly don't want to follow that way so I am keenly interested in learning and practicing the true use of resistance the right way God as designs for me to live.
I used to pray for God to remove all resistance from my heart, but sometimes time I sensed that maybe this was not the right thing to be asking. I was reminded that Scripture sometimes tells me to resist, but the only specific references I can recall usually have to do with resisting the devil. In contrast I remember that Jesus explicitly taught that we should not resist an evil person. Finally I decided that this subject needs some intentional research on this word to see just what the Bible really has to say about it. I want my beliefs and life to be shaped by the reliable Word of God rather than assumptions and opinions either of my own or of those around me that have not been confirmed by the context of the Word.
I find it extremely valuable to allow the Bible to shape the definitions of the words that it uses rather than relying on our common usage and assumptions about what a word means. Dictionaries only provide what is called the 'common usage' whereas many words in the Bible have had their true meaning largely obscured because the common usage has become so distorted from what God wanted to convey. Therefore I have found it very helpful to make much more sense out of what the Bible really means if I take time to allow it to define its own terms while laying aside all preconceived opinions. The only filtering criteria I feel is helpful is to apply the filter of the plain teachings about what God is like that Jesus came to reveal about the Father. If a definition is in conflict with what God seeks to reveal about His consistent character of love, mercy and fairness then I have cause to examine it much more closely to see where the problem may be.
Here are the results of my research in the Word that I have uncovered so far. By examining the context of the verses in which a word is used the true meaning of the word can become more evident. This first list is all the verses that contain the word translated resist from the following Greek word.
Anthistemi - to stand against, i.e. oppose:--resist, withstand. (Strong's)
Matthew 5:39 "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
Luke 21:15 "for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.
Acts 6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
Acts 13:8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
Romans 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?"
Romans 13:2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
Galations 2:11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed;
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
2Tiimothy 3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; (Resist the truth contains a double resistance.)
2Timothy 4:15 You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. (This one contains a double use of resistance in it.)
James 4:7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
1Peter 5:9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
Here are additional verses that use a very similar Greek word.
Antitassomai - to range oneself against, i.e. oppose:--oppose themselves, resist. (Strong's)
Acts 18:6 But when they opposed him and blasphemed, he shook his garments and said to them, "Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles."
Romans 13:2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."
James 5:6 You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. (Double use of the word for resist.)
1Peter 5:5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
Here is yet another Greek word with its one usage.
antipipto - to oppose:--resist.
Ac 7:51 "You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. (This verse contains a double use of the word for resistance.)
Another very interesting observation I found in my research are the translations for the word satan. In the last reference below it is translated resist and quite often it is not translated as Satan in the English. Here is a cross-section of examples to see how this word was translated.
satan - to attack, (figuratively) accuse:--(be an) adversary, resist. (from the Hebrew.)
Numbers 22:32 And the Angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me.
1Samuel 29:4 But the princes of the Philistines were angry with him; so the princes of the Philistines said to him, "Make this fellow return, that he may go back to the place which you have appointed for him, and do not let him go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become our adversary. For with what could he reconcile himself to his master, if not with the heads of these men?
1Kings 5:4 But now the LORD my God has given me rest on every side; there is neither adversary nor evil occurrence.
1Chronicles 21:1 Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.
Job 1:6-7 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it."
Psalms 38:20 Those also who render evil for good, They are my adversaries, because I follow what is good.
Psalms 71:13 Let them be confounded and consumed Who are adversaries of my life; Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor Who seek my hurt.
Psalms 109:4 In return for my love they are my accusers, But I give myself to prayer.
Psalms 109:20 Let this be the LORD'S reward to my accusers, And to those who speak evil against my person.
Psalms 109:29 Let my accusers be clothed with shame, And let them cover themselves with their own disgrace as with a mantle.
Zechariah 3:1-2 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
One thing I find very compelling is the reference from 1Chronicles 21:1. Many become very confused by when they read in one place that Satan motivated David to number Israel against God's will while at the same time the story is reported seemingly opposite by Samuel.
2 Samuel 24:1 Again the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, "Go, number Israel and Judah."
I have heard all sorts of convoluted explanations attempting to reconcile these two passages, but what I now see here is a much simpler explanation that the account in Chronicles may be more a problem of translation more than of confused identity. If the same Hebrew word was translated so many times in other places as adversary or opponent, it clearly could have been translated the same way in this verse. Given that interpretation it could easily be understood that David was likely responding to a threat by some enemy that God allowed to threaten him that motivated David to resort to counting up his own military resources rather than turning to God to learn the underlying reason why God was allowing an enemy to threaten him. Viewing it this way it can be seen that David was very possibly avoiding facing some sin, either in his life or among his people. David was choosing this alternative as a way of avoiding facing the real issues God wanted him to deal with in his life.
The reason this makes more sense is that throughout Scripture it can be seen that often when Israel fell into sin or backsliding God would allow outside enemies to come against them in order to get their attention when nothing else seemed to work. Given that background this could both explain and reconcile these two seemingly conflicting passages to reveal that David was choosing to ignore or avoid something God wanted him to face instead of seeking repentance and reconciliation with God. David was choosing to rely on human force of arms in resistance to God's providence. Thus Scripture portrays as God becoming angry with David which is often how God is perceived when we put ourselves at odds with His ways and resist His discipline in our lives.
After viewing all of these verses related to resistance it is becoming clearer to me that there is a legitimate place for resistance in our hearts, just not against God or His discipline. Like a friend pointed out to me recently, a particular type of electrical resistor called a diode only resists current flowing in one direction. If that diode is inserted into the circuit the wrong way serious problems will result. Similarly, God is seeking to rewire the circuits of our minds to resist the right things but not resist Him.
This analogy is profound to me, for is helps me to see that sin has reversed nearly everything from God's original design for my life. When I am out of harmony with God I find myself resisting Him while not resisting the devil. To be salvaged (salvation) through having my circuits repaired, I must allow God to come in and rearrange the 'resistors' inside of me, to align them according to His original design for me as revealed in the Word of God. As I have my resistance reversed and get the 'diodes' of my heart realigned properly I will then resist Satan's temptations to act like him but at the same time will not resist the attacks of evil people against me. Jesus is the greatest demonstration of this principle in how He humbled Himself and allowed evil people to abuse Him without any thought of retaliation or resentment. (1 Peter 2:21-25 and Philippians 2:3-11)
In contrast I see God immediately implanting resistance into the human psyche as part of our salvation process as soon as sin had infected our race. God declared to Satan, I will make you and the woman hostile toward each other. I will make your descendants and her descendant hostile toward each other. He (Jesus) will crush your head, and you will bruise his heel. (Gen 3:15 GW) This divinely infused resistance to Satan and his lies about God is a vital component of our humanity or we would be hopelessly caught in Satan's trap with no way out. This divine internal resistor implanted by God and revealed to Eve and Adam right after their sin was a glistening diamond of hope that they could be restored from their fall and be at last fully reconciled to God. And although sin will tragically take a very long time to be worked out of the universe, this resistance that God implanted is something we need to be aware of and to utilize in our fight against evil, especially the evil within our own hearts. This built-in resistor is one that we can activate for our benefit by choosing to use it whenever we are tempted to assume lies about ourselves or about God from the great sorcerer of all lies.
Father, continue your rewiring activity in my heart and mind. Remove all the resistors that clutter and confuse my circuits to your ways while strengthening your resistor against Satan's temptations, accusations and lies about you. Help me to remember that evil people are not my enemies but that Satan and his lies are the real problem. You are passionately desirous of saving those who presently seem hopelessly evil and you want to use me to demonstrate the truth about your constant love and forgiveness through my reactions to their mistreatment of me. This is why you said not to resist evil people's mistreatment toward me while at the same time positively resisting the devil.
I want to be a much better reflection of the truth about you so that others, whether evil or not, may want to know you better and will become attracted to the charms of your beauty and grace. Fill my life with your unconditional love and forgiveness like Jesus revealed under extreme pressure so that your reputation may be vindicated and the charges against you may be shown to be totally baseless.