Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.—Galatians 1:3–5
Years ago, I attended a church that was made up of people and practices from Fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, and third-wave charismaticism. The people I met there were very committed to their understanding of the Bible, willing to be foolish for Christ. Demons, the devil, and sin were real enemies, and they believed that people needed deliverance. There were prayer meetings for people caught in the grip of addiction, held under the sway of Satanic forces, and in need of freedom from their demon-oppressed state. For these Christians, the church stood between God and the devil seeking to bring God’s healing and love to the dark places of the human psyche where sin and Satan reigned and needed to be cast from a position of authority.
Later in life, I went through a deep struggle to find a more intellectually acceptable Christianity, a Christianity without the weirdness, a Christianity that modern people could look at and not think it simply foolish and out of touch with the modern world. I struggled with the Bible’s strangeness, its world of angels and demons, of miracles and healings, of a cosmic battle between forces of good and evil. I wanted to be the kind of Christian who could accept the findings of modern physics, geology, biology, and philosophy. I wanted a sure footing in reason. I still do; but as much as I would like to get away from the strangeness of the Bible, I can’t. The Bible’s supernatural claims put it at odds with modern thinkers, and one of these claims at which modern people balk is the claim that every single human being needs deliverance from sin, death, and the devil.
Popular understandings of the demonic often contain more myth than reality, but in Galatians 1:3–5, Paul opens his letter to the Galatians with a gospel-greeting: Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.” In Paul’s letters, he often speaks of this age or “this present evil age” in contrast to “the age to come.” When the Bible speaks about this age as evil, it isn’t because this world is essentially evil but because this age is “under the present rule of sin and death.”
The early church knew well what it meant to live under the power of sin and death. They understood how demonic powers were active in the world. They experienced the reality of persecution. They saw the injustice of a political power which had sided with evil over the common good. They knew how the Jewish authorities had seemed to be blind to the fulfillment of their own Scriptures, going so far as to make common cause with Rome in having the Son of God crucified. They knew of their own sin, their own struggles to believe a gospel that had no place for human works of merit. They knew that they had participated in the evils of the world, what Paul called “the works of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19). They knew that had it not been for the work of Jesus Christ, they would still be dead in their sins under God’s condemnation, destined for judgment. But Christ had delivered them. And this is why Paul can send them a message of grace and peace. In the words “grace and peace,” Paul speaks of what they have gained in Christ. They have received grace and peace with God. They have tasted of the beginnings of freedom brought to them in the gospel: freedom from sin, freedom from death, and freedom from the demonic powers who had enslaved so many in a life of addiction and bondage.
Jesus’s entire life and ministry from the cradle to the grave was a cosmic battle between good and evil. Jesus came to deliver the world from the power of sin, death, and the devil. These supernatural realities began with what seemed to be a very natural situation. When Jesus was born, “wise men from the east” came to Jerusalem so that they might worship him (Matt. 2:1–2). King Herod heard about these “wise men from the east” and it troubled him (v.3). So he assembled the scribes and chief priests to discover where the Messiah was to be born and from there developed a plot that involved killing all the male children of Bethlehem and the surrounding region (v. 16). The baby Jesus narrowly escaped because an angel warned his father in a dream: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (v. 13).
Later when Jesus became a man, his ministry was characterized by miracles and exorcisms and the preaching of the coming kingdom of God that would end all evil, injustice, sin, and death. But Jesus—in what at first seemed like a sudden turn of events—was captured, beaten, and crucified by Roman authorities. He was crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). It seemed, for three days, as if the demonic forces of this present evil age had succeeded. But then he rose again. He turned a moment of defeat into the moment of victory. He died and rose for our deliverance—not just from sin, but also from death and the power of Satan. It’s part of the gospel that Jesus died and rose to free us from the power of the devil (Acts 26:18; Rom. 16:20; Eph. 6:11; Rev. 2:10; Heb. 2:14).
For us who believe and have felt that in our struggles with sin, a supernatural force of tyranny fights to maintain its grip, the gospel of deliverance from the supernatural forces of sin and the devil is a word of hope. To those who haven’t accepted Jesus, who think that the Bible is too kooky and too spooky for the modern world, Paul’s word to you is that you need deliverance.
 Michael Horton A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship, 126.