For the personification of evil there has been exchanged the idea of evil as an impersonal influence; for" the works of the Devil" there has been substituted the wrong-doing of man, and while this may be due in part to the sophisticated outlook of the day which must subconsciously affect us all, it is doubtless also due in some degree to confusion of thought regarding the part played by evil in the purposes of God.
Since we have our Lords assurance that Satan is a liar from the beginning--the father of the lie---and in view of the universal human tendency to believe the lie rather than the truth, there can be little doubt that this creature, designated in one place the Prince of this World, must have extended his "kingdom" in vast measure since he has managed to get him self overlooked by both unbeliever and believer alike and his lies are now accepted as progressive thought in both the secular and religious spheres. A very clever Devil!
Our apostle, writing to the Corinthians, said "I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and purity that is in Christ," and in the same chapter, speaking of deceitful workers and false apostles "fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ" he goes on;
"And no marvel; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing if his servants also fashion themselves as servants of righteousness."
Never for one moment did Paul allow himself to forget that he was opposed (as his Master had been opposed) by the most powerful and dangerous being in the universe, equipped with incalculable resources and deploying such vast power that he was able even to encompass the murder of Gods Son by direct and personal means. That he did not understand Gods purpose in permitting this is not surprising, for even to Gods faithful messengers the wonder of the cross is a mystery that they long to look into. As it should be a perpetual source of wonder to His saints
Those who believe the Scriptures know that their warfare is not against flesh and blood, but they wrestle with principalities, with powers, with the spiritual forces of wickedness in celestial places. They know this in theory, but do they appreciate it in fact? Do we ask ourselves, when did we last engage in any combat? When did we last consciously utilise the divine armament either for defence or offence? Is the shield rusty and the sword blunt through disuse? Are we in fact lulled into a sense of security by the idea (prevalent in the world of politics) that ours is only a cold war which need not worry us too much, while the possibility of a hot war is comfortably remote? This, of course, is precisely what the Adversary would have us think, and the more we think it the more likely are we to practise unilateral disarmament. It is easy enough to see where Communism gets its inspiration from
It is an interesting exercise to go through Pauls epistles and for once, instead of searching out truths which delight and refresh our spirits, make a note of the many references he makes to Satan, his snares, his devices and his works. Let us study his recommendations on how to defeat the desires of the Adversary, as, of course, they can all be defeated. \Ve have im measurably superior armour.
How fortunate we are in having the Corinthian epistles. . . what, indeed, should we do without them, linking as they do both doctrine and deportment in easily understood fashion. It is to the Corinthians that Paul writes about being "overreached by Satan " adding "for we are not ignorant of his devices." Well, Paul may not have been ignorant, but can we say the same for ourselves? If the evidence of what happens among the saints is anything to go on, it would appear that Satan fools us very easily. And so far as nominal believers are concerned, he has become almost a figure of fun, popularly referred to as "Old Nick."
Now so far as the writer is concerned the Scriptures do not offer any full and definite account of the origin of Satan, and what has not been revealed may not be guessed at. These same Scriptures do, however, tell us a lot about him, reveal many of his activities, and most solemnly warn us regarding him, so we ignore him at our peril, for to make himself inconspicuous is one of his many devices. We know from the book of Job that he has access to God in the celestial spheres, and we know also from the Unveiling that he will ultimately be thrown out of those spheres. We know that he is a figure of great power whom even an Archangel (or Chief Messenger) dares not rebuke too openly. We know that he is the accuser of the brethren, a Slanderer and a liar from the beginning. And from his first appearance on earths scene we see the main line of his constant attack--to question Gods Word, to deny Gods Word, and to substitute something else for Gods Word. We know also that Gods Word, truly believed and understood, is a weapon that he cannot withstand. In his personal encounter with our Lord in the wilderness the entire conflict was upon this issue, and the Living Word used the Written Word as a completely effective sword against him . . . . "It is written . . . ." And when the Devil twists and misapplies Scripture (one of his most cunning devices) and himself says "it is written" the Captain of our Salvation is quick to use the other side of the two-edged sword with an immediate riposte "Again it is written," giving an example for all time that Scripture, rightly divided and correctly applied, cannot be broken.
The Devil is exceedingly subtle, and we are amazingly simple. He has a broad field on which to attack us and we cannot hope to compete with him on the score of tactics, for our flesh is too weak. In strategy, however, he is already defeated, however many his local tactical gains . . . . possibly he does not realise this and still hopes for ultimate success, but we ought to know it whether he does or not. The Cross of Christ is the historic fact of and the future assurance of the complete victory of Gods Son, so that with confident triumph Paul can ask, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"
We live in a world which at present belongs to him, admittedly he once offered it to Christ, on terms, but the offer was turned down out of hand. We live in bodies which, by nature of their mortality leave us wide open to attack, and here is a field in which he must constantly bring defeat to most of us. The apostle gives us a remedy for this, in telling us to present our bodies to God.
In the world and in the flesh it may be that many of us are aware of his devices, but what about the realm of the spirit? The subtle influences which he exerts upon the mind can be far more deadly than anything else. . . his foul smear can spoil even our most solemn moments. Even in the most intimate prayers he can create a distraction or insinuate a doubt. . . . anything to get between the believer and his God. Into the most devoted service he can insert an unworthy aim, he can put pride before truth, self-importance before honesty, the list is endless. . . . he is always vigilant, while most of us are half asleep.
Dissension between believers must delight him, yet they seem to be blissfully unaware of his pleasure and delude themselves that they are contending for truth. If we could only have that complete perception which our Lord had, recognising him even when he spoke through the lips of one of the twelve, and the authority to give the instant command "Get thee behind me, Satan!" Most of us do not even seem to notice that he is present at all
But it is evident from Scripture that all the men of God who subscribe to that record were extremely conscious of his active presence, and what is more, they were able to see the way he was working. Pauls disability was not misunderstood by him; he precisely detected its origin--" a messenger of Satan to buffet me" (this is Corinthians again); he also understood why his God permitted the attack, "lest I should glory overmuch." From such a passage we can learn much, for it postulates a supernatural spiritual being of great power, of incalculable malice and dedicated to evil, opposing the work of God by every possible means, and permitted to do so for some wise purpose until that purpose is fuffilled. . . when he is firmly and finally put down. The whole tenor of Scripture indicates that such a being is an adversary of God, not a servant which He uses (as some mistakenly imagine) . . . an adversary whose origins and destiny are beyond our finite comprehension, for we are not told what happens to him at the conclusion of the eons any more than we are given information regarding his activities previous to his appearance (disguised) in Eden. . . . we can only draw inferences regarding the future from our knowledge that ultimately, in Gods Christ, there will be a completely reconciled universe.
Do not let us go to an opposite extreme, and imagine that the power and authority of Satan is greater than it really is. There is no duality between him and Gods Christ, for the demons everywhere recognised the greatly superior authority of Christ; they knew Him Who He was, the Holy One of God, and they were terrified.
James tells his readers, "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you"; a general truth, this, even though it does not appear in one of the Pauline writings. But in order to resist him we have to be aware of him, and not be lulled into a false sense of security. Aware of him not only in the blatant wickedness of his overt acts, the wanton cruelty of war, the vice, oppression and inhumanity which he instigates and which we instictively shrink from and condemn, but in the cunning devices of simulated righteousness which are deliberately calculated to deceive the very elect. If we are ignorant of his devices we advertise that we are ignorant of Scripture! And to be ignorant of Scripture makes us an easy prey; in fact, it deprives us of our sword.
And to sound a note of warning.. . it is yet another of his devices to get us preoccupied with him! If we are constantly worrying about our adversary we shall work ourselves into a neurotic state of fear--we must recognise him, watch for his offensives and be wary of his traps, but our preoccupation must be with our God and His Word. A mind that is God-centred is invulnerable, as are hearts and apprehensions which are garrisoned by His peace, and in such a state we shall say, with Paul, " Thanks be unto God, Who always leads us in triumph in Christ."
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