There is no more dangerous place to be than where the direct, straightforward teaching of the Word of God confronts dead religion. As long as dead religion is allowed to sleep the sleep of death, all continues placidly and peaceably. But when the truth of Scripture challenges empty religion, a cataclysmic collision is sure to result. This is because whenever the Word is taught in houses of worship that are devoid of gospel truth, hell is aggravated. As soon as the light of holiness and truth shines into the kingdom of darkness, sin is exposed, unclean spirits are angered, and Satan is provoked. Satan has no greater strongholds than houses of worship where the truth is suppressed. Nowhere is he more deeply entrenched in the lives of people than among those who are religious but who have no supernatural light of holiness and truth. But there is no greater threat to Satan’s kingdom than the penetrating light of holiness and truth as it invades these fortresses of demons.
And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” (Mark 1:21-24)
It was in such a dangerous place that Jesus found Himself one day in Capernaum. The synagogue there was a place where Satan had gained a foothold. It was a place that had religion but no repentance; ritual but no regeneration; rules but no relationship with the living God through His holy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Make no mistake, it was a ruthlessly religious crowd that most opposed Christ. They attributed His works to the Devil, accused Him of being born out of wedlock, maligned Him, slandered Him, and ultimately nailed Him to a cross. When Jesus fearlessly advanced with the truth into this bastion of demonic religion, He met the Devil head on. What followed was a clash between light and darkness, truth and error, heaven and hell, and holiness and un-holiness.
This excerpt is taken from Steven Lawson’s contribution in Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God. It appeared on the blog of Ligonier Ministries.