Looking, Lurking, and Losing – The Biblical Teaching of Satan (Eph. 6:10-12)
Looking, Lurking, and Losing
There is a poem written by William Henley that might have been brought to your attention because it was in the movie called Invictus which starred Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. I’m not so much interested in the movie itself, although it was a good movie and worth watching… but I’m interested in the poem and its sentiments…
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William E Henley
Humans are so arrogant. We think that we are the master of our fate. We think we are the captain of our soul.
A smarter man than William Henley said that there are only two masters. Satan is the master of our fate and the captain of our soul. Or Jesus Christ is the master of our fate and the captain of our souls. There is no third alternative.
The reason why we believe we are the master of our fate and the captain of our soul is because Satan is clever. When Satan appeared to Eve in the garden of Eden, he did not appear as we often see him depicted, as a red demon with horns and a pitchfork and a pointed tail. Satan chose the form of a serpent because the serpent was seen as more “cunning,” or “clever” than any other animal God had made.
That word translated “clever” or “crafty” of the devil is used a dozen times in the OT and it is translated in these ways:
You can see by the words used to translate this word that Satan chose the form of the serpent because it was in that form, for whatever reason (which the Bible never reveals), that Satan had the strongest possibility of deceiving Eve into disobeying God.
No, Satan does not appear in the form of a demon with horns and a pitchfork and a pointed tail. He comes to us in the form of a teacher whom we respect, a friend whom we love, our spouse whom we appreciate. Satan tries to deceive us through the most shrewd, most crafty, most prudent form he can. That means that the way he deceives you is going to look differently than the way he deceives me.
Let’s “know our enemy” and see what the Bible says about our great adversary, the devil…
There are about 27 different designations for Satan. The word “devil,” in the original language, means “slanderer,” one who tries to create division by making false statements. If you think back to the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:5), he made a false statement about God to man. He told Eve, “God knows that you will be like Him.” That is, Satan is portraying God as being selfish.
He also made a false statement about man to God. In the account of Job (1:9), he argues that Job only serves God because God gives him stuff. That is, man is basically selfish.
The name “Satan,” means “adversary.” In other words, he is our enemy. And to conquer him, we need to know something about him. So, let’s study…
The Bible was not written about Satan. But, we get glimpses of him and his nature through various passages that mention him in the context of other discussions. For example, in 1 Timothy 3:6, in a discussion of the elders, we learn that Satan apparently was one of God’s servants in the beginning and he fell from God’s grace because of pride.
It is most likely that Satan was a spirit being, probably a member of the angelic group of beings, created by God who did not humbly serve God as he was designed to do (Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4). When we look at these two passages, we learn:
These angels were under condemnation, put into some type of “holding place,” a “prison” for angels. They are to stay there until the judgment, but
We are dealing with some kind of revolt among the angels against the holy, loving God of heaven. In Hebrews 2:5, the Hebrew writer, quoting Psalm 8, says that Jesus was made a “little lower than angels.” That implies that angels are more powerful than humans. The angels are “mighty in strength” (Psa. 103:20) and many of the passages that mention angels portray them with a power that humans do not have.
In Matthew 25:41, Jesus tells us that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels (we’ll study “Hell” next week). Notice the use by Jesus of the word “his angels.” That implies Satan has some headship / leadership over his followers.
God allowed Satan to take the form of a serpent in order to present Eve and Adam with the opportunity to obey God or not. Now, Eve and Adam both had sufficient knowledge to say “no” to Satan’s temptation. They had all the motivation they needed, including the threat that they would die if they did eat of the forbidden fruit. God allows Satan certain powers, but we have seen in the story of Job (1:6-12; 2:1-10) that God powerfully limits Satan relative to what he is able to do to us. For example, in 1 Cor. 10:13, Paul says that God will not allow Satan to tempt us beyond what we are able to endure.
SATAN IS A REAL BEING:
What all this shows us is that Satan is not just a bad influence nor is he the personification of bad qualities. He’s not a legend and he doesn’t dress up in a red suit.
Let’s look at the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4… In verse 1, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. In verse 3, the tempter spoke to Jesus. In verse 5, the devil took Jesus up into the city of Jerusalem. And in verse 9, he offers to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would only fall down and worship Satan.
So, he is a real being. A real person.
When we see examples of demon possession in the New Testament, we see that they are also presented in a very similar way. Let’s take Matthew 8 as an example… Here, we have a demon-possessed man, possessed by a plurality of demons. In verse 31, they asked Jesus to send them into the herd of swine. Jesus did so and then, in verse 32, the whole herd ran down the bank and perished in the sea. This is not just some kind of evil influence in these pigs! This was the possession of living beings by another group of living beings.
Yes, Satan is responsible for the origin of evil. He is the ultimate representative of evil on earth. In 1 John 3:8, the apostle writes, “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” In John 8:44, Jesus said of the Jews in His audience, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
I said at the beginning of the lesson that we are not the “master of our fate, the captain of our soul.” When someone lies, they are showing that they are following their master, the devil. He is the origin of sin and evil in the world.
HIS TREMENDOUS POWER:
Let’s go back and look again at the power at work through his demons, his evil angels in Matthew 8:28-32. These demons were exceedingly violent (vs 28, 32). They caused that whole herd of swine to rush down the bank and perish in the sea. They are powerful. In Mark’s account (5:4), we see that the demons enabled the demon-possessed man to break chains.
Yet, in this same context (Matt. 8:31), we see that God’s power is still greater. Notice that the demons asked Jesus to send them into the swine. They recognized Jesus’ power to do with them what He will.
I do not believe the Bible allows us to believe in this type of demon possession today. God has limited Satan’s power so that he cannot control people today the way he did during the life of Christ.
Yet, Satan is still powerful. We go back to some of the 27 designations the NT gives to Satan…
We see in John 12:31 that Satan is referred to as the “prince of this world.” A “prince” is someone who rules. The “world” is the hearts of the disobedient.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul similarly designates Satan as the “god of this world.” A “god” is the source of one’s highest affections, the object of one’s deepest affections. Satan is the source of this world’s disobedience; he is the object of the disobedients’ affections.
In 1 John 5:19, the apostle said that the whole world yet lies in the power of the evil one.
Satan still tempts men to sin. That’s why Matthew identifies him as “the tempter” (4:3). In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter identifies Satan as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. You know, the lion does not roar when he is prowling for his prey. He does not roar until after he has captured his prey. Satan has consumed the hearts of many people through his deceit and trickery. Who will be the next victim?
IN Ephesians 6:10, the apostle Paul tells us that we have the Christian armor in order for us not to be deceived by Satan’s subtlety and trickery. But he still deceives, as John pictures him as the “old serpent, the devil” in Revelation 12:9. He does not come to us in the form of our worst enemy. He comes to us in the form of our best friend.
Let’s stay here in Ephesians 6 and let’s look at verse 12. Satan tries to induce us to do evil. How? Perhaps he manipulates things behind the scenes, causing disobedient men to suggest thoughts to us. In some way, Satan tries to tempt us and deceive us through spreading lies in some way.
Do you remember how Peter responded to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:3…? He said, “Satan has filled your heart to lie.” How? Maybe it was through some relative who had encouraged them to lie about their offering. Maybe it was Satan or one of his demons who had put the “seed” of lying in their hearts.
In 1 Corinthians 7:5, Paul says that married men and women need to meet each other’s physical needs “lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” How? Maybe through Satan or one of his demons would suggest having your physical needs meet by some other woman besides the wife.
It is no wonder, then, that Paul speaks of Satan “taking advantage of us” in 2 Corinthians 2:11. In that passage, Paul affirms that we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes.
Again, in 2 Corinthians 11:14, Paul warns that Satan’s workers can transform themselves into angels of light. In that sense, they seem to be on God’s side but really, they are Satan’s workers, his minions. When someone abuses the doctrine of grace, arguing that grace allows us to live in sin, they are dressing up a lie of Satan into an “angel of light.” When someone argues that we should love people and tolerate their sin, they are dressing up a lie of Satan to look like an “angel of light.”
Now, the good news is that as powerful as Satan is and as deceitful as Satan can be, if we want to,
CHRISTIANS CAN OVERCOME SATAN:
Before we go any further on this point, I want to make it very plain that it is Jesus and only through Him, with His assistance, that we can overcome Satan.
We saw in 1 John 3:8 that Jesus came into the world to destroy the works of Satan. In Matthew 4, when Jesus was tempted, He came through every single temptation unscathed. He had the spiritual strength to turn down every one of Satan’s temptations. Jesus became human (Heb. 2:14-15) so that he could deliver us from the fear of death. Of course, Jesus was successful in His goals.
In Colossians 2:15, Paul writes that through His death and resurrection, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”
In Matthew 12:29, in the context of Jesus casting out an evil spirit, Jesus said, "how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house?” Jesus overpower Satan at the cross and rose from the dead to prove to us that He does have more power than Satan. Jesus ascended into heaven, exalted “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:21-23).
Victory over Satan can be ours, if we desire it.
For those who are not Christians, the invitation stands open: “let the one who wishes, take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).
But it is for those who are in Christ, who have access the power of the blood, who can defeat Satan as long as we desire it.
We are told not to “give a place” to the devil (Eph 4:27). For example, in Ananias’ and Sapphira’s case, rather than lying about their giving, they could have given twice as much.
In James 4:7, we are told to resist the devil and he’ll flee from us. When Satan tempts us to forsake the assembly of Christians, we could do extra service for God.
In fact, when we submit ourselves to every single teaching of Jehovah God (cf. James 4:7), we’ll find that the Lord will protect us from the temptations of the great dragon (1 Cor. 10:13).
The devil is still powerful. He is still exceedingly shrewd, deceiving us into believing and obeying things that sound true but they are not God’s truth.
Christ’s power is greater than Satan’s power. When Moses and Aaron stood before the great king of Egypt, the Pharaoh, they told Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Pharaoh had two magicians named Jannes and Jambres who withstood Moses and Aaron, trying to deceive Pharaoh into not obeying Jehovah God. Aaron threw his staff down on the ground and it turned into a snake. Jannes and Jambres threw their staffs down and they became snakes too! But, Exodus 7:12 says that Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staff. God’s power is greater than Satan’s power!
Finally, if we stand with God, desiring to have victory over Satan in our lives, Paul promises that we can crush Satan under our feet (Rom. 16:20). In the end, Satan will be destroyed, cast into the lake of fire which burns forever and ever (Rev. 20:10).
Take home message: If you want to overcome Satan, take your stand with Jesus Christ!