Resist the Devil...
The warfare for the souls of men has continued ever since Eve first fell prey to Satan’s deceit in the great long ago (Genesis 3:1-6; cf. 1 Timothy 2:14). At times, it seems that humanity has taken one step forward and two steps backward in this critical conflict between good and evil. One ancient, inspired writer lamented: “[F]or all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), with the end result being that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). One modern, non-inspired writer lamented: “Even now there are millions who consciously worship Satan and many more millions who are increasingly open in their hatred of God” (Morris, 1971, p. 215).
Not a very pretty picture, is it? Is our battle against God’s archfiend and man’s ardent enemy a losing one? Are Satan’s powers too great for us to overcome? Shall we simply give in, give up, and raise the white flag in ultimate surrender, knowing that we are beaten down and destroyed by a foe whose powers know no limits? What shall be the end of this matter?
While we never should underestimate Satan’s power and ability, neither should we underestimate the power and ability of our great God and His Word. Satan may have the power to ensnare us, but Jehovah has the power to remove us from that snare (2 Timothy 2:26). Truly, “the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation” (2 Peter 2:9).
But we have a part to play in that deliverance. Steadfast, unmovable faith is the key (1 Peter 5:9; 1 Corinthians 15:58). John wrote: “For whatsoever is begotten of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). We must not, we cannot, be “ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Neither can we be double-minded (James 1:8), nor lukewarm (Revelation 3:15-16). Rather, we must be alert to the ever-present danger that our enemy represents. Like Abraham of old, we must stand firm. Abraham, “looking unto the promise of God, wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Romans 4:20-21).
But how do we accomplish this? What weapons may be found in our arsenal? And how may they be employed successfully against this, the most pervasive and powerful of enemies? First, we need battle armor, which is why Paul wrote:
Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:10-13).
What, exactly, is the “whole armor of God”? The apostle went on to explain himself in the same context when he wrote:
Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: with all prayer and supplication praying at all seasons in the Spirit, and watching thereunto in all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:14-18).
Is not this the exact same weaponry employed by our Lord in His spiritual struggle with Satan in the wilderness? Each time the devil tempted Him, the Lord’s resistance was couched in the repetitive refrain: “It is written...” (Matthew 4:4,7,10), after which the Scriptures state simply: “Then the devil leaveth him...” (Matthew 4:11).
Seizing upon Christ’s example, years later the inspired James would write: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, emp. added). If we steep ourselves in a working knowledge of God’s Word, if we take courage and press on, if we adamantly refuse to give in or give up, we, like Paul, can say:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).
Second, we must realize that while God will not necessarily move to prevent our temptation by Satan, neither will He allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to endure. Paul wrote: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Third, we should remember that while Satan may indeed be the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10), we have an Advocate—Jesus the Christ—Who stands with us, pleads our case, protects us, and refuses to forsake us. The same apostle who wrote the beautiful book of Revelation to comfort first-century saints who were losing their lives daily to the “evil one” also wrote: “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). The Hebrew writer said that “he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (7:25). What a great consolation—to know that the Son of God stands before the great white throne in the city set foursquare to plead our case before the “Judge of all the earth” Who will “do what is right” (Genesis 18:25).
Fourth, let us never forget that victory is within our grasp. The outcome of the battle for the souls of men already has been decided. As Paul said: “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20). We may defect from God’s army if we so desire, and become “AWOL” as a result. Through the millennia, many have done exactly that. They grew weary of the battle, and gave up. They set aside the “whole armor of God.” They stripped away the loincloth of truth. They discarded the breastplate of righteousness. They took off the shoes of the gospel of peace. They laid down the shield of faith. They removed the helmet of salvation. But they did so at their own peril.
Judas, for example, became so filled with the essence of Satan that Jesus actually referred to him as the “devil” (John 6:70). When Paul wrote the Ephesian Christians, he warned: “Leave no loop-hole for the devil” (4:27, NEB). But some did. Two early Christians, Hymenaeus and Alexander, were so overcome by the devil that Paul told Timothy he already had “delivered [them] unto Satan” (1 Timothy 1:20). When God spoke through John to the church at Thyatira, He indicated that some of those Christians had become so wicked as to know the “deep things of Satan” (Revelation 2:24). What a horrible indictment!
And what a needless waste! Obviously, these individuals had ignored the Lord’s admonition: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation” (Matthew 26:41). As a result, they never would be able to say with the great apostle to the Gentiles, and with the faithful of all the ages: “But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
Morris, Henry M. (1971), The Bible Has the Answer (Nutley, NJ: Craig Press).