THE ARCH-ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
"Your Adversary the Devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about,
seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the
faith."--1 Peter 5:8,9.
THE Authorized Version of the New Testament makes frequent use of the word devil, and leaves the impression that there are many devils; but this thought is not borne out by the Scriptures in general. In the New Testament two Greek words are thus translated, daimonion and diabolos. Of these two words, the first should be properly rendered "demon"; and the second "devil." The demons are the unclean spirits, the familiar spirits, the fallen angels; while the Devil is Satan. The term Satan signifies adversary, opponent; for the Devil is the opponent of righteousness and of Jehovah.
Whoever has failed to discern that there is a Devil is all the more liable to come under the influence of this great, malevolent being, who is portrayed in the Scriptures as the greatest foe to God, to men and to righteousness. St. Paul speaks of the "wiles of the Devil" and warns the Church that her warfare is with "wicked spirits in the heavenlies." (Eph. 6:11,12, margin.) He also mentions "the prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2), and intimates that it would be impossible for us really to contend with him; for he is too wily, too wise for us.
There is an evil influence constantly exerted in the world, operating against truth, righteousness and purity, and therefore operating against God. The Scriptures inform us that this influence is exerted by the Devil, Satan, who was once a holy angel. It was by permitting pride and ambition to gain control of his heart, that Satan became an opponent of God and of righteousness.-- I John 3:8; I Tim. 3:6; Isa. 14:12-14.
Although mankind cannot see Satan, yet he can see them, and by means of mental suggestion can gain control of them. He has a variety of ways by which he exercises his influence. The most potent way is through human agents--using one person against another. His favorite method of operating is by putting darkness for light. This he does by making the good appear evil, the true, false, and the right, wrong.
St. Peter tells us in our text that Satan goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The lion has a very stealthy walk. On his feet are soft cushions, which enable him to come very near to his prey before his approach is recognized. It is said that, at this point, when the beast is about to spring upon his prey, he roars so loudly that the victim is paralyzed with fear and thus is easily caught.
Satan, the Adversary of the Church, is strong and lion-like, vigilant and fully awake. As the Apostle Paul declares, he seeks to use every opportunity against us. He lies in wait, seeking to devour us. Although he is alert, yet he never approaches us with a roar, but creeps stealthily upon us in some unlooked for place or time, to devour us, to overcome us, to crush out our spiritual life, and particularly to destroy our faith in God. As those whose ears are trained to detect the footfalls of the lion will hear his steps, while those who are unfamiliar with [R5184 : page 54] his habits will not hear the slightest sound, so may we, whose ears the Lord has opened, and whose eyes have been anointed with the eyesalve of consecration and submission to the Lord's will, be of quick perception to recognize the approach of our arch-enemy and to resist him. Let us stand, clad in the full armor which the Word of God supplies, and in His strength wielding the Sword of the Spirit.
St. Paul shows that the most subtle attacks of the Adversary are to be expected through human agencies. Satan works in the hearts of the children of disobedience; and the more honorable they are, and the more closely identified with the Lord and His people these children of disobedience may be, the greater service they may render to the Adversary. For this reason, Satan presents himself as an angel of light, and not as a messenger of darkness; for well he knows that error and sin will repel the children of light.--Eph. 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:4; 11:14,15; Eph. 6:11,12.
Satan uses various methods against those whom God is seeking and calling. As an angel of light, he has done much harm. His constant endeavor is to lead the people of God astray from the Lord and from their covenant of sacrifice. While we know that God is able so to succor His people that the Adversary could not touch them, yet His providences inform us that this is not His way. He permits Satan seemingly to gain a great triumph over the Lord and His people; but in no way does this seeming interruption affect the Divine Plan of the Ages.
By this we do not mean that God is co-operating with Satan and his evil work. God is testing His people, by permitting those conditions that make the way so narrow that only the faithful will walk perseveringly to the very end. All others will sooner or later fall out of the way.
PROPER METHOD OF RESISTANCE
The Christian's warfare is a fight of faith. St. James' statement, "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7), does not mean that we are to battle with him in order to confound him. Whoever thinks that he is able to battle alone with Satan surely must possess great self-conceit, or else must overestimate his own ability and underestimate that of the Adversary. In any contention, Satan would surely gain the victory.
Malice, envy, hatred and strife, the Apostle says, are [R5184 : page 55] the kind of works which Satan supports and into which he endeavors to lead mankind. (Gal. 5:19-21; I John 3:8.) His methods are deceptive. His suggestions come along the line of pride and self-conceit. The mental suggestion, "You can do it; you are a person of great ability; do not be afraid; show people what is in you," has led to the downfall of many.
In order to deceive the children of light, Satan transforms himself into an angel [messenger] of light; for well he knows that he would not deceive them, if he were to present himself as a representative of sin. Ever since the fall of Adam, the Devil has sought to entrap mankind. Particularly for the past eighteen centuries, he has been endeavoring to introduce error into the Church, in order to produce false Christians--Christians who would be a detriment to the cause of Christ. Evidently he has had much to do with formulating the creeds of Christendom.
The Lord's people are to resist the Devil by not allowing his seductive arguments to have weight with us. We have the sure word of prophecy and the instructions of our Lord and of His Apostles; and if we love the Word of the Lord, we shall seek to be guided by it. "He that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that Wicked One toucheth him not."--I John 5:18.
The experience of our Lord in the Wilderness affords a good example for all the people of God to follow. He did not seek to keep up the controversy, the discussion with the Adversary; but when the evil thought was presented, He promptly resisted it. Satan was well versed in the Scriptures, portions of which he presented with a view to misleading our Lord into taking a wrong course. Jesus did not say to the Devil, "Merely because that is a Scripture, I yield to your argument." On the contrary, He immediately thought of the principle involved, and showed the Adversary wherein he was mistaken. When prophecies were quoted out of order, our Lord made very positive statements to that effect.
This course is a very good one for us to follow. If one of the Lord's people should be drawn by Satan into a discussion about some Scriptural text, and if he should recall, or if another brother should suggest, a text which would answer right to the point of discussion, he should decide, "The Scripture which tells me to 'resist the Devil' is the proper guide to my course of action. I will not stop to discuss what I do not understand." Thus he would "resist," and at the same time rebuke the Adversary.
St. Paul urges the Lord's people to put on the whole armor of God, that they may be able to withstand the wiles of the Devil. His statement seems to imply that none will be able to withstand Satan without Divine aid. The Apostle points out the fact that these are the days when the whole armor of God will be necessary. (Eph. 6:13-18; Rev. 3:10.) The question may be asked whether those only who are furnished with the whole armor will be able to stand. The answer is that the Lord is supervising the affairs of His people and that He will see that all who are putting their trust in Him shall have opportunities for putting on the whole armor of God.
Many devote to frivolity the time which they could employ in putting on the armor which God has provided for His people. The Lord is so arranging the matter that such will not be able to withstand the darts of the Adversary; for He wishes none to stand in this evil day except those who are thoroughly consecrated to His will. To these He will render assistance, so that all things shall work together for good to them. His grace is sufficient to carry all through who have come to a knowledge of Him and have made a consecration to Him. This grace may be supplied through the Scriptures, through reading matter, through a service or through a hymn; but the protection will be along the lines of the Truth. When we lose the Sword of the Spirit, we lose our only protection against error.
THE LESSON OF CONFIDENCE IN GOD'S WISDOM AND
The Adversary's method of attack is well illustrated in the fall of our first parents. Mother Eve should have resisted the suggestion which came to her through the serpent--that God had forbidden that which was for their highest interest in life. She should have said, "I will not entertain such a thought; for to do so would be disloyal to my Creator." When the suggestion to eat came to Father Adam, apparently the thought came also, "You may as well join with her in the partaking of the food. It will be better to die together, for there will be no pleasure in life without her." Adam stopped to reason on the matter, but he did not have a sufficiency of knowledge to permit him to do so successfully. He should have said, "God knows; He arranged it. What He has said is enough for me. I will be true to Him, and trust the results to His Wisdom and Love."
Obedience is the lesson for us to learn from the experience of Adam and Eve. We have not a sufficiency of knowledge with which to reason on some subjects, even if our reasoning faculties were fully developed. Consequently when a suggestion of evil of any kind is made, our only proper course is to say, "No! The Lord our God has said that we must not touch it, lest we die." Mother Eve allowed reasoning to come in and thus was persuaded. We should profit by her mistake. A proper confidence in God and a recognition of our own lack of wisdom should decide us immediately. There should be no controversy. We should say, No!
Evidently God is seeking those who are in this attitude of mind. Christ and the Church have been called for this very work of bringing mankind back to perfection of character. Many times the Divine Plan may not seem to us to be the wisest course; and if we should not learn the lesson of absolute trust in the Divine Wisdom, Justice, Love and Power, we could not trust God in everything. The Father seeketh such to worship Him as will do so in spirit and in truth, and who have perfect confidence in Him as the One who is all-wise and all-loving to direct and guide their affairs. Those who do not learn this lesson of trust, will not be fit for the responsibilities to be put upon the glorified Church. Let us learn this lesson and be very positive in our endeavors to be in harmony with God.
Faithfulness in trial will develop the overcomers. The Lord does not wish to have in the Little Flock any who are disloyal in any sense of the word. They may be weak in many of the essentials of character, but they are all loyal to God. The Lord is seeking those who will remain loyal under trials and difficulties, and thus develop characters pleasing to Him. These are not alarmed at Satan's onslaughts, which are seen to be an occasion for an increase of faith; for greater is He that is on our part than are all that are against us!
In Pilgrim's Progress this inability of the Wicked One to touch the faithful people of God is very beautifully pictured. While walking in the narrow way, Christian beheld two lions; and for a moment he was terror-stricken. Christian studied the situation and decided to go forward. When he came near the lions, he found that they were chained. So it is with our adversaries. They can do no harm to the children of God. Although [R5185 : page 56] they may roar, yet they cannot injure the New Creature.
The New Creature may develop even when the outer man is perishing. Satan succeeded in having the chief priests and Pharisees cause the death of our Lord; but this was the very means by which He entered into glory. In His dealings with our Lord the Father has given us an illustration of His dealings with us. So we may know that even if Satan should appear to get the victory over us, these "light afflictions" will, as we are told, "work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." --2 Cor. 4:17.
We know that we have no power with which to oppose Satan. None is sufficient for these things except the Lord. But He is greater than are Satan and all his angels. We are looking forward with the eye of faith to the things that are unseen. So it behooves us to be steadfast, immovable, full of faith, and therefore able to meet whatever the Father permits to come upon us.