No man can enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
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Augustine of Hippo
It is not difficult, therefore, to see how the devil was conquered when he, who was slain by him, rose again. But there is something greater and more profound of comprehension: to see how the devil was conquered precisely when he was thought to be conquering, namely, when Christ was crucified. For at that moment the blood of him who had no sin at all, was shed for the remission of our sins. The devil deservedly held those whom he had bound by sin to the condition of death. So it happened that One who was guilty of no sin freed them justly from this condemnation. The strong man was conquered by this paradoxical justice and bound by this chain, that his vessels might be taken away. Those vessels which had been vessels of wrath were turned into vessels of mercy. .
He conquered the devil first by righteousness, and then by power. First by righteousness, because he who had no sin was slain by him most unjustly. But then by power, because having been dead he lived again, never afterwards to die. For Christ was crucified, not through immortal power, but through the weakness which he took upon him in mortal flesh. Of this weakness the apostle nevertheless says, “God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” .
The “strong man” in this passage means the devil who was able to hold the human race in bondage. By his “goods,” which Christ was coming to plunder, the devil was keeping for himself those who would in time become faithful, but had remained in the clutches of ungodliness and various sins. It was for the purpose of binding up this strong man that John, in the Apocalypse, saw “an angel coming down from heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” The angel checked and repressed his power to seduce and possess those destined to be set free.
The adversary enticed humanity to transgress our maker’s law, and thereby got us into his clutches. Yet his power consisted only in tempting the human will toward trespass and apostasy. With these chains he bound up the human will. This is why in the economy of salvation it was necessary that he be bound with the same chains by which he had bound humanity. It would be through a man that humanity would be set free to return to the Lord, leaving the adversary in those bonds by which he himself had been fettered, that is, sin. For when Satan is bound, man is set free; since “none can enter a strong man’s house and spoil his goods, unless he first bind the strong man himself.” It is in this way that he became exposed as the opposer of the Word who made all things, and subdued by his command. The new man showed him to be a fugitive from the law, and an apostate from God. He then was securely bound as a fugitive, and his goods hauled away. These goods are those who had been in bondage, whom ...