Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Pankration

Are you ready to rumble?

A few weeks ago I came across a daily devotional that has become one of my favorites. Called A Word for the Day: Key Words from the New Testament, it gives a word study and encourages application of the principles of one Greek word from the New Testament each day.

A couple days ago was the word that is translated wrestle in Ephesians 6:12: For we do not wrestle against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies--the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world; and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world.

Here is what struck me from the reading:

Both ancient boxing and wrestling were horrendously brutal. In boxing matches, the "Greeks fought almost to the death with gloves reinforced at the knuckles with an iron band three quarters of an inch thick." The head was the only target, and "there was no rule against hitting a man who was down." There were no rest periods or rounds. The fight continued until one surrendered or was incapacitated. As the brutality increased in Greek times, wrestling and boxing were combined into a new contest, the pankration - from pas, "all," and kratos, "power," so literally, "game of all powers." Anything except eye gouging and biting was permitted, even kicking in the stomach. Some famous competitors won by breaking the opponent's fingers. One was noted for striking so viciously "with straightened fingers and strong sharp nails that he pierced the flesh of his adversary and dragged out his bowels."

That's why Paul says we are at war! As graphic and barbaric as the ancient pankration was, he says that we "wrestle" against an even greater spiritual foe. This fight is, indeed, "for keeps." It's not a "police action," a minor skirmish, a border dispute, or any such thing. It's an all-out war to the death. The devil has declared war on us, and we must do the same to him.
Maybe that's why many are drawn to various fighting competitions. We can live the battle vicariously and either imagine ourselves involved or pick up tips on strategy.

It is true that we can learn some spiritual principles from earthly battles. What we see with our eyes and understand about war can help us in the spiritual realm.

If you want to be involved in the ultimate fighting championship then take spiritual warfare seriously. You can be sure that the enemy of our souls does.

Philip

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