“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Pet. 5:8
1 Peter 5:8 rarely captures the thought of many Christians today. Unfortunately, they fail to consider Satan as an insidious force to be reckoned with and appear unconcerned about his existence. Believers are however concerned with temptations, sin, sickness, or diseases, but rarely do they consider the great problem of demonic forces, which try them in nearly every aspect of life. They tend to be so introspective and subjective, that they fail to see the great problem that is outside themselves; a real and active spiritual warfare which works through the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2). The entire battle is against a triad of evil: the world, the flesh, and the devil, and the means the devil employs to menace and deceive people, is the world system, which is in his control. (1 Jn. 5:19). There is a tendency for many Christians to behave indifferently concerning Satan and do not consider him responsible for the world’s wickedness. I find it ironic though, that the whole of Christendom defaults to blaming the devil when something really bad happens to them or when they see an obvious act of evil in the news. Tragically, even some Christian leaders deny Satan’s villainous influence in the world or even his existence at all. Because of this erroneous thinking, Satan easily slips in under their radar regarding culpability for much of this present day’s wickedness.
Interestingly, Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones stated; (1) “…some 68 men describing themselves as Academics, and belonging to the Anglican Church, in a letter to the Times (a London newspaper) stated openly that they did not believe in a personal devil or demons.” That admission by church leaders is frightening, because it is unbiblical. The entire Bible, from Genesis through Revelation, is replete with references to Satan’s influence and terrorism. In fact, he is so ubiquitous in Scripture, he is known by a plethora of names.
The following list of names for Satan is not exhaustive but merely representative: The “Accuser” (Rev. 12:10); he falsely accuses God’s people. “Adversary“, (1 Pet. 5:8) enemy and rival of God and all believers; “Angel of Light” (2 Cor. 11:14); he emulates righteousness and godliness in order to deceive people, especially in false religions; “Antichrist” (1 John 4:3); the opposite of Jesus Christ, opposing holiness and obedience; “Apollyon” (Rev. 9:11); the destroyer; “Beelzebub” (lord of the flies–Matt. 12:24), ruler of myriads of demons; “Deceiver” (2 John 7, Rev. 12:9); attempts to deceive the whole world; “Devil”, diabolos (Eph. 6:11) slanderer; false accuser; “Evil one” (Matt. 13:19, 38, John 17:15, Eph. 6:16); the epitome of wickedness and nefariousness; “Father of lies” (John 8:44, 1 Jn. 3:8, 3:12); murderer and constant liar from the beginning; “Lawless one” (2 Thess. 2:8-10); the quintessential rebel of God; “Man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:3-4); The antithesis of truth. “Roaring lion” (1 Pet. 5:8), Peter illustrates the perniciousness of Satan as that of being a ferocious lion seeking prey to devour prey (believers); “Satan”; enemy of God. “Serpent” (Gen. 3:1-4) or “snake”, a manifestation of Satan (see tempter); “Tempter” (Matt. 4:3, 1 Cor. 7:5, 1 Thess. 3:5). He initially tempted Adam and Eve and caused them to sin, resulting in the monumental Fall of mankind (Gen. 3:1-6); he even tempted Jesus Christ in the wilderness. (Matt. 4:3-10). And is constantly tempting all believers to sin and disobey God. “Wicked one” (Eph. 6:16), the utter representation of evil; God flooded the earth destroying all living creatures because of his wickedness.
Are not shepherds supposed to protect their flocks against all enemies and blatant doctrinal errors, which ultimately are Satanic? (Acts 20:28-30, Titus 1:9-11, Heb. 13:17, 1 Pet. 5:2, Matt. 12:30). Therefore, Every step should be taken to educate believers on Satan’s existence and influence in this world. All believer’s have the responsibility to pray for God’s protection and guidance from Satanic influence or worse.
Again, I quote Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones; (2)”What I cannot understand is a man who gets up in his church and says, ‘I believe in the Holy ghost’, and then regards the devil as a joke! ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit’, but he does not believe in evil spirits. Such a man is utterly inconsistent. He says he believes in a spiritual realm, but only believes in one half of it; he does not believe in the other half.” (3)Jones also avers that a belief in the devil’s forces is essential to believing the authority of Scripture and critical to understanding the doctrines of sin, evil, and salvation.
It is disturbing that many charismatics, who profess to be Christians, believe they have the power to “bind Satan”, to “command him to be gone,” or that they can perform miraculous “healings” and “exorcisms”. Such beliefs are dangerous error and hopefully any individual who believe these lies does so out of ignorance to the truth, because they are living heretically, in fact, this belief system is Satanic! The caveat to anyone unequipped in biblical knowledge who encounters such heretical teaching, should flee fast and far away as possible. However, if you are knowledgeable in the Scriptures, lovingly but firmly point out his error and attempt to correct with sound doctrine. (2 Tim. 3:16). But, if the false teacher is intentionally aiming to deceive people, then he must be exposed and rebuked, for the sake of church purity. (Eph. 5:11, Ti. 2:9-10). As I stated previously, false doctrine gives strong evidence of Satan’s evil activity and influence; his deceptive practices keeps many on the broad road leading to destruction (Matt. 7:13). Incidentally, God’s powerful arch-angel Michael, dared not pronounce a railing judgment against Satan, but rather declared; “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 9).
Unfortunately, there are some professing Christians, who cling to the verse; “… Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jn. 4:4). They cite that verse as if it were some sort of divine phylactery, in which they take comfort, and because of that verse, believe they are impervious to Satan’s temptations. However, a wise and sagacious seminary professor once asserted; “Greater is He who is in you than he who is the world, but, greater is in he who is the world, than you.” It was a powerful and eye-opening statement. His point being, that unless Christians evoke the help of the indwelt Holy Spirit, they cannot resist Satan’s powerful forces. Christians need to come to grips with the reality that he is a formidable foe, who cannot be overcome apart from God’s intervention through a deep knowledge of the Scriptures and fervent prayer. Even the Lord Jesus Christ, who was God incarnate, exhorted His disciples to pray and be on alert against temptation. (Matt. 26:41, Mk. 14:38, Lk. 22:40, 46). One would think the Creator of the universe, would not be concerned about the wiles of Satan. But evidentially He is, for He knew the weakness of man and his susceptibility to Satan’s schemes. (Matt. 26:41, Jn. 17:9-26). When Jesus recited the paradigm for prayer, it encompassed asking for deliverance from the evil one (Matt. 6:13 NKJ). In fact, in Jesus high priestly prayer (the true ‘Lord’s prayer’), He specifically asked His Father to keep His disciples safe from the evil one (Jn. 17:15).
Incidentally, when I reference Satan I imply both him and his demons, unless otherwise specified. Originally, due to vain glorious pride, Satan was ousted from heaven, but also expelled with him were one third of all angels; these are considered demons or evil spirits. (Rev. 12:3-4, 9). Demons are enslaved to Satan’s command and carry out his usually well-devised and flagitious plots. Because he is not omnipresent, he requires assistance from an army of wicked servants to terrorize God’s people. That is not to say, Satan never independently attacks an individual, because he does. For example Satan himself assailed God’s upright servant Job (Job 1-2). Or when Jesus declared to Peter, that Satan desired to sift him like wheat. (Luke 22:31). Satan and his demons are very active and in control of this unbelieving world. (1 John 5:19, Eph. 2:2). Satan’s reign of this world only ceases in the future to come (see the book of Revelation). After God binds and imprisons him in the “abyss” for 1,000 years, he is released and mounts one final and vicious attack against believers, but is permanently defeated by Christ and cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:3, 7, 10). However, until that future event occurs, Satan poses a viable and serious threat to all humanity.
Satan owns the unregenerate man (Jn. 8:44, Eph. 2:2, 1Jn. 5:19), and one way he controls them, is by masterminding and operating through false religions, including secularism. (1 Tim. 4:1-3). In a recent sermon, Pastor John MacArthur, stated; (4)”(Satan) works most of the time in religion. His ministers are angels of light. All false religion is called by Paul doctrines of demons. In other words, all false religion is concocted by Satan as a part of his system to lead people into deception religiously. To add to MacArthur’s statement; Scripture is explicitly clear when it states that Satan is the god of this world, who blinds the mind of unbelievers. (2 Cor. 4:4). And because of that blindness, they cannot perceive Jesus Christ as being the only way to salvation (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). Therefore, they fatally attach themselves to false religions which fatally claim that salvation can be obtained apart from faith in Jesus Christ.
Because all religions other than true Christianity are under Satan’s authorship, he does not need to focus his attention on them. It would not make sense for Satan to assault those who are already under his control (Eph. 2:2). Satan is too clever and wise to make such a mistake. For the Lord Jesus declared; “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.” (Matt. 12:25-26). In other words, any kingdom whether good or evil requires unity in order to function appropriately and maximally. Understanding that concept, Satan opts to attack those who proclaim the truth and since he is the “Father of all Lies” and the word of God represents all truth, his obvious targets is the people of God. His ultimate agenda involves zealous attempts to hinder or abate God’s work, especially that of salvation.
But praise God that we have been infinitely blessed by Jesus Christ’s victory on the cross, that Satan was not able to stop Jesus’ work (Jn. 19:30), because he tried hard to prohibit it (Matt. 16:22-23). The crucified and risen Christ, vouchsafed victory over death and cemented salvation for all who would believe in Him. (1Cor. 15:55-56, Rom. 10:9-10, 13, 1 Jn. 3:8c). And because of His victory on the cross, darkness will never overcome light (Jn. 1:5).
However, knowing man’s frailty, the crafty serpent preys on that weakness by deceiving him, causing him to doubt God and sin. So he terrorizes him with temptations, hardships, afflictions, sickness, poverty, etc, hoping for disobedience. That is one reason why Satan relentlessly tries to penetrate the church, subvert the truth, and create disunity among brethren. If he could pervert or squelch the preaching and teaching of the Bible, he would successfully extinguish a vital source of light among the congregants. Sadly, we can witness many examples of disobedient churches today. Even so-called sound Bible-believing churches, have compromised the truth and succumbed to darkness by embracing Satan’s destructive lies. Furthermore, disunity among Christians is rampant. Tragically, issues unrelated to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, are dividing brethren. Just peruse “Twitter” and other forms of “social media” where Christian posts validate my point. Rather than utilizing extremely profitable resources for globally transmitting God’s word, they are being employed by professing believers to bicker, wrangle, and malign each other. Even esteemed church leaders are partaking in such disgraceful blather on “social media”, which surely grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30).
Appearing as an angel of light, Satan invades the church by stealthfully creeping up the ranks of leadership (2 Cor. 11:14-15, Jude 4, Acts 20:29). Even the most learned and sound Christian leaders are vulnerable to his deception; nobody is exempt. The Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, once stated; (5)”Now there are a thousand razors with which the devil can shave off the locks of a consecrated man without his knowing it.” Paul recognized the probability for destruction in the church of Ephesus. And for three years tearfully exhorted the elders to “guard” the flock against “savage wolves” who would rise up from among them. (Acts 20:28-31). Those were not the actions of a minister unconcerned or indifferent to the wiles of Satan, to the contrary, he acted as a true shepherd of God’s people. Furthermore, like all books of the Bible, Luke wrote Acts under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so Paul’s concerns were not only warranted by God, but divinely motivated. I often contemplate on how Adam and Eve were in absolute paradise, the Garden of Eden, and the crafty serpent (Satan) was able to cause them to doubt God and sin. Incredibly, they were free from possessing a sin nature and even the knowledge of sin, yet they were still deluded by Satan! Adam and Eve were the closest creatures to being like God. Closer than any human beings ever were, this side of heaven. If the sinless Adam and Eve were susceptible to the Serpent’s craftiness, how much more susceptible is mere fallen man?
What makes today’s battle with Satan even more frightening, is that it is solely a spiritual battle; no “serpents” representing Satan appear to tempt us. His warfare is invisible and unseen (Eph. 6:12, 2 Cor. 10:4). Furthermore, he utilizes unregenerate man and the allurements of this world to assault believers with temptations to sin. Because the Apostle Paul understood the battle against Satan was indeed spiritual, he exhorted the saints at Ephesus to thoroughly prepare; “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places…And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, (Eph. 6:11-12, 17-18). Paul experienced firsthand the perniciousness of Satan so he used a vivid metaphor, the armor of God, and exhorted believers to prepare for battle (2 Cor. 11:23-27, 12:7, Eph. 6:11-18). Furthermore, he encouraged fervent prayer (Eph. 6:18). In fact, Paul included himself when he beseeched the Ephesians to pray for him to boldly proclaim the Gospel. (Eph. 6:19). Incidentally, that is how we summon; “Greater is He who is in you than he who is the world“; the Holy Spirit, who supernaturally works through Scripture. (Jn. 6:13, 1 Jn. 4:4).
John Calvin, commenting on Eph. 6:11-18, wrote; (6) “…He (Paul) says in the first place that the encounter we have to engage in is much more difficult and perilous than if all other creatures set themselves against us, for the strength of Satan surpasses them all. And that is the reason why he says that our ‘fighting is not against flesh and blood’…”the devils have such power against us that we could not tell how to withstand them, unless God were both my shield and rampart, protecting us from all assaults, yes, and fighting for us when we can do nothing at all. I say, we must note that well, and also suppress the foolish presumption which is so rooted in our hearts that it is extremely hard for us to weed it out…”Let us consider (I say) on the one hand Satan” violence and power, and on the other hand his craft and subtlety. And at the same time let us call upon God and also consider the benefits that God’s Word brings us.”
Interestingly, the devil is God’s devil. What do I mean by that? Not only does Satan have to ask God for permission to assault His children (Job Chapters 1-2), but he is also an instrument God utilizes for His own sovereign purposes. Quoting Pastor John MacArthur; (7)“God allowed Job to be hammered by Satan in order that He might prove that saving faith can never be broken and that he might come out a purer worshiper than if it had never happened.” MacArthur also said; “There may be occasions when God permits demons to do certain things that effect believers, not from the inside but from the outside… “But the primary issue that we have to understand is that Satan works against believers by developing a world system in which believers must live that brings temptation to bear on their flesh.” Job for example, was the most righteous man on earth and God offered him up for Satan to ambush. Amazingly, the reader is uniquely privy to God and Satan dialoguing in heaven and that Satan had to present himself to God. (Job 1:8, 1:7-12, 2:1-6). Satan desiring to terrorize someone righteous, so God confidently offered Job. (Job 1:8, 12, 2:3, 6). God allowed Satan to test Job–to showcase the strength of Job’s faith (He omnisciently knew Job would pass the test despite the calamities Satan would besiege upon him). In conclusion, God was pleased by Job’s steadfast faith and allegiance to Him and blessed him with double of what he had initially lost from Satan’s attack. (Job 42:10-17).
Unfortunately, because the story of Job was unique to the Bible, many Christians erroneously assume Satan is not capable of such treachery today. They tend to believe he was just a onetime legendary oppressor, who only terrorized God’s people during ancient times. Therefore, they purport that he is predominately impotent, especially because Scripture indicates believers possess the indwelt Holy Spirit. (1 Jn. 4:4). Again, the Holy Spirit only works if He is called upon to intercede. Given how increasingly immoral and debased this culture has become, I believe Satan’s world dominance is glaringly obvious. In fact, I dare to say that Christian’s face temptations in ways that were never before available. Virtually everywhere we turn with technological advancements, we are inundated with temptations to sin. For instance Satan can be summoned by virtue of a simple mouse click! In times past, a sizeable effort had to be made in order to commit gross immorality. However today, immoral sins can enter the sanctity of the home with minimal effort and by various methods. In fact, certain companies help their customer’s maintain a secret lifestyle of iniquity! Imagine men such as John Calvin or Jonathan Edwards, had never experienced the allurements of temptation and sin we live with as normal. We face temptation to sin which is made so simple, convenient, and even glamorized. I am quite certain if Jonathan Edwards was alive today, he would need to expand his list of “Resolves”.
Over forty years ago Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones stated; (8)”In a world of collapsing institutions, moral chaos, and increasing violence, never was it more important to trace the hand of ‘The prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience’, and then, not only learn how to wrestle with him and his forces, but also how to overcome them ‘by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony’. If we cannot discern the chief cause of our ills, how can we hope to cure them?” Even though he made this startling declaration before the nocuous computer age, Scripture is timeless and equally applies to any age, therefore, “…Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” and “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (James 4:7, 1 Cor. 10:12).
The good news is that no matter what temptation(s) Satan besieges us with, we can take great comfort in God’s promise; “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Cor. 10:13). We can also take comfort and be thankful for Jesus Christ’s victory over death and sin. That through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can resist and overcome the devil’s schemes. For Scripture declares; “…The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 Jn. 3:8c). Furthermore, we have the glorious guarantee: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 1:6). “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
Yet, I implore any Christian reading this, Do not be Tempted to Temper the Temptations of the Tempter! And sing the first stanza of a hymn written by, Keith Getty and Stuart Townend: (9) “O church arise and put on your armor; hear the call of Christ our captain; for now the weak can say that they are strong in the strength that God has given. With shied of faith and belt of truth We’ll stand against the devil’s lies; An army bold whose battle cry is love!…” Amen!
(1) Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Christian Warfare, An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13, Baker Book House, 1977 “Preface”, pg. 5–(emphasis added).
(2) Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Christian Warfare, An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13, Baker Book House, 1977, pg. 49
(3) Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Christian Warfare, An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13, Baker Book House, 1977, pg. 50
(4) John Macarthur, The Armor of God, Eph. 6:10-13, #90-364, 2010–(emphasis added).
(5) John Calvin, John Calvin’s Sermons on Ephesians, Banner of Truth, 1973, pgs. 662, 663, 665, 675–(emphasis added).
(6) John Macarthur, The Armor of God, Eph. 6:10-13, #90-364, 2010.
(7) C.H. Spurgeon, Exploring the Mind & Heart of the Prince of Preachers, Kerry James Allen, Fox River Press, 2005, pg. 404
(8) Martyn Lloyd Jones, The Christian Warfare, An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10-13, Baker Book House, 1977 “Preface”, pg. 6.
(9) Words and music by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, O Church Arise, “Hymns of Grace”, #353, The Master’s Seminary Press, 2015.