Thursday, May 21, 2009

Satan vs The People of God

"Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?"
-the serpent in Eden

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” –Jesus Christ

“Even the devil is God’s devil”- Martin Luther.

There is probably no more misunderstood subject than that of Satan, the devil, the accuser, the evil one, etc, etc. Since Dante’s Inferno was put to paper, the church has been laboring under a false image of Satan and the demonic realm. We must rid ourselves of the imagery of the horned gargoyle that we have fashioned as the devil, and go to the Word.

In order to arrive at an accurate scriptural assessment of the devil and his authority, we must first come to grips with the philosophy of classic dualism.
Unfortunately today, dualism is misrepresented as any propositional, i.e. either/or, truth. This is simply not so. It is spurious argument which is meant to deconstruct the facts that the Word of God is black and white in its presentation, that salvation is a yes or no proposition, etc.
Classic dualism is the belief that good and evil, God and devil, have co-existed side by side from the beginning, locked in pitched battle. This battle rages between the two; and it can never be known which will prevail on a day to day basis. This is a blatantly false teaching. The victory is assured, in fact already won, in Christ, and whether or not it looks as if evil has triumphed, we walk by faith not by what is seen. God cannot be defeated, and we have His Word on it.
We are more than conquerors as he has won the victory and gives it to us, We don’t have to do anything other than receive it, and walk in it, facing our daily battles in full assurance of the finished work.
1 Cor 15: 54-58; 1 John 5:4; 2 Chron 20:17; Romans 8:28-39; Isaiah 53:12

We must also recall that scripture says that Satan come as an angel of light. He looks good, and so do those who do his work. 1 Cor 11:12-15

Therefore, this study is based on these foundational, and biblical truths:
Satan is a created being. Both he, and evil, have never co-existed with God from before the beginning of time
He is not able to function outside of the sovereign will of God.
He is a completely defeated foe. Colossians 2:15
God is completely sovereign, in that He is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient,(this includes the fact that He has foreknowledge of every event, choice etc that occurs, i.e. He is fully prescient).

Satan possesses none of these attributes, which comprise God’s very nature.

One of the most overused phrases in the "christianese" language is; “I am being attacked” or, “we are under attack” or, “this is an attack”, etc. This is especially true for many in “the ministry” who view any roadblock to their work as Satan’s attempts to thwart them.
Since Satan is not omnipresent, he cannot be possibly be personally engaged in launching simultaneous and round the clock attacks against the saints. (Some people think way too much of themselves.)

If anything, the Scriptures show otherwise.
Acts 16:6-10 is the story of Paul and his companions and how the Holy Spirit leading them through Asia, prevented them from ministering in certain areas. Evidently neither Paul, nor Luke, the author of Acts, misconstrued this as a Satanic attack.
When you compare this to 1 Thess 2:17-18, we can safely assume that Paul could discern the difference between the Holy Spirit’s correction, and a true roadblock of Satan. The fact remains that whether it be God’s direct intervening, or His allowing a satanic attack, His will is accomplished regardless.

Jesus also addressed the issue of satanic hindrance in Matthew 16:22-24.
He spoke to Peter, a man, who just proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God. However, He referred to Peter as satan. The word “satanas” means adversary. Jesus wasn’t calling Peter the devil, He was calling him an adversary to the will of God.

Jesus’ words;
“You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.

Peter’s sincere statement, "Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you", is born as are all lofty thoughts and opinions, from the very first lie, i.e. did God really say that?
Did the Father really send the Son to suffer and die? That can’t be. Think of all the good He could do were He to live. Think of how good it would be for us. The flesh is pre-eminent in what looks holy and pious. Man’s ways and thoughts are truly not His ways and thoughts. We are to tear down these strongholds with the provided weaponry of the Spirit, the armor of God. Eph 6:10-18
Obviously, Satan did all the work he needed to do in his “conversation” with Eve in Eden.

Satan hinders through theologies and philosophies that originate in the minds of men, i.e. man’s methods, philosophical arguments, emotions etc. This is critical in dealing with the post-modern era. 2 Cor 10:3-6; Isaiah 55:7-9 .
I would add that it is possible for men to do the work of Satan without even being aware that they are doing so; even a follower of Jesus, like Peter, who obviously loved the Lord, but stumbled nonetheless. Matthew 26:30-35; John 21:15-17
Jesus said: "forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing."

Jesus told Peter that Satan demanded to sift the good hearted apostle as wheat. Luke 22:31-32
The Lord then says that He has prayed on Peter’s behalf that he may not fail and when Peter has “returned” i.e repented, he should strengthen his brothers, the other disciples

From this we can see that in the plan of God at work in the world, Satan as hindrance is used to direct people and events. ALL things work together for GOOD.

This then takes us to Jesus the son of man, and Satan’s attempts to distract Him from His mission.
In Matthew 4: 1-11 we have the well known narrative describing Jesus’ temptation by Satan. It is of utmost importance that we do not gloss over 4:1;
“Then Jesus was led BY THE SPIRIT into the wilderness TO BE TEMPTED BY THE DEVIL.”

In other words, this is God’s plan. Jesus, the man, had to be tempted.
Hebrews 2:17-18 and Hebrews 4:14-16 reveal why this was done. He had to be made like His brothers in every respect so that He would be able to make propitiation for our sins. He Himself suffered in being tempted, therefore He is able to aid us in our temptations.
He is empathetic to our weakness, as he was tempted just as we are, yet without sinning. This makes Him to be a lamb, one of the sheep just as we are, but without spot or blemish. He is the only one worthy to die on behalf of the saints.
So now we enter into the holy place through the torn veil of His body, and draw near to the throne of grace, the mercy seat, to receive grace and mercy in our time of need/temptation.

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor 10:12-13, that all the temptations we undergo are common to all men, but God provides the way of escaping them so that we can endure. In light of the scriptures from Hebrews I just referenced, that Jesus endured temptations and was able to overcome them all; this Jesus, who said that He is the “way”; this Jesus who is the lamb without blemish, slain on our behalf, is the very way of escape that Paul speaks of.
Jesus must be tempted in order for all of this to happen.

This also brings understanding to James 4: 4-7. We cannot be friends with the world, as that is synonymous with having enmity with God. “He yearns jealousy over the Spirit that He has caused to dwell in us” Therefore we cannot be proud, as God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. So first of all, submit to God, then we resist the devil and he will flee. Comparing this to Jesus’ temptation by Satan, reveals amazing parallels.
Jesus was not proud. Instead of proclaiming His place in the Godhead and destroying Satan with a mere thought, He answered each temptation with “it is written….”, with the holy scriptures, the Word of God; never mind that He was Himself the Word made flesh.
Then Jesus told the devil to depart.
So humble yourself, submit your self, then resist the devil/temptation (with the word), and he will flee.
Jesus must be tempted!

Peter exhorts the church in similar terms.

1 Peter 5:
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

The roaring lion on the prowl, looks for the weakest member of the herd or the inattentive, immature one who has foolishly strayed away from the protection of the herd (brotherhood). We resist the devil through the Word of God as Jesus did, and the Word of God brings faith and strengthens that faith. Romans 10:17
A fellowship that is rooted and grounded in the Word has no problems with the devilish lion, as they are well able to resist him.

James 1: 12-15 describes the progression into sin, (being devoured by the lion) when we do not follow the Lord’s example in the area of temptation. It is our own evil desires that cause temptation to manifest, and when that desire has conceived in our hearts, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown it brings death,

1 Chron 21:1-3 is an example of this; David ordering the census of Israel which displeased the Lord so much that pestilence fell on the people and 70,000 died.
David also gave into his lust for Bathsheba. 2 Sam 11:2-4
The Hebrew word “suth” used in reference to David, and the Greek word “deleazo” that James uses are translated as entice, beguile, allure.David was seduced by Bathsheba, and by the census, as his heart already desired both; Bathsheba in desiring sexual experience, and the numbering of Israel as a pride issue. He wanted to know how many subjects HE ruled over, Perhaps to claim regional bragging rights? Were the people his possessions?
They are both related to his kingly authority. (How many pastors spend time comparing the size of their congregations?)

Satan is also used by God as a means of bringing the saints to repentance.
(now there's a thought!)
We have the examples that Paul gives in 1 Cor 5:3-5 and 1 Timothy 1:18-20. We “turn men over to Satan” for the sake of their souls. They are able to be disciplined, and have the flesh put to death in this “being turned over”, for their very salvation is at stake.

There is also the story of Job.
Job 1 is an absolutely stunning account of God’s sovereignty in all things.
Notice these facts:
God strikes up the conversation with Satan.
Satan was simply roaming the earth. (like a roaring lion?)
God brings up Job in the conversation.
God gives Satan permission to afflict Job.
All of this leading to God being glorified, which is the reason why Job was made to endure such trials. God never tests us. WE will always fail the “test”
He tests/proves His work in us, in order to shut the mouth of the accuser. Eph 2:10.
Humble yourselves under His mighty hand and He will exalt you in due time. Job 42

Peter’s denial of the Lord, i.e. his being sifted by Satan, was allowed for a purpose
God granted the demands of Satan for Peter’s sake, as well as for the sake of the other apostles.

Jesus spoke of Judas as a “devil” John 6:70-71 and in John 13: 21-30 we are told that Satan “entered” Judas. This is a rare case of satanic possession.
This was allowed in order that Jesus would be betrayed by one of His own, thus fulfilling prophecy. Acts 1:16-17

Finally, in 2 Cor 12: 6-9 we have the well known account of Paul and his “thorn in the flesh” The thorn was a “messenger of Satan” sent to keep Paul from being prideful concerning the greatness of the revelation that was given to him by the Lord in the third heaven.
Paul prayed for the removal of this thorn, but God would not take it away, as His will was for Paul to manifest the strength of the Lord in his (Paul’s) weakness. So Paul’s boasting was always in the Lord, and not in himself.

In conclusion, it should be very clear that Satan as a defeated foe, and subject to the sovereign will of God, should not cause the people of God to cower in fear.
Satan, as does all of creation, plays his part in God’s sovereign and glorious plan of salvation. Satan‘s greatest role is to accuse, and Jesus stands as our justification in answer to the accusations. Rev 12:9-11. Satan has no power over the body of Christ.

John 14:
30I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.

Whenever I want a look at the greatest enemy of God, I stand in front of a mirror.
Contrary to Flip Wilson’s “Geraldine” character, the devil did not make Eve do it, nor does he make you or me do it.

It is written;
Get behind me Satan!

Resist the devil and he will flee.

Scripture Reference List:

Job 1:8-12

Luke 22: 31-32

John 6:70-71

John 13:21-30

2 Cor 12:6-9

1 Cor 5:3-5

1 Tim 1:18-20

1 Chron 21:1-3

1 Thess 2:17-18

Matthew 16:22-24

Matthew 4:1-11

Hebrews 2:17-18

Hebrews 4:14-16

James 4:4-7

1 Cor 10:12-14

James 1:12-15

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