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Pastoral 2014

Satan: Our Foremost Enemy

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Introduction

One of the major reasons why Satan easily entraps many Christians in sin is because they are ignorant of the nature of his person and works. Insufficient understanding of the enemy will definitely lead to a lack of proper preparation in facing him. On the other hand, misinformation about the enemy’s character will also lead to an underestimation or overestimation of his capabilities, both of which are detrimental to one’s success in winning the spiritual battle. While underestimation will lead to complacency, overestimation can lead to fear, discouragement and eventual defeat.

Many grotesque myths and bizarre practices exist today in connection with Satan and demons. Christians should not heed these superstitions, for the Bible provides us with the truth about Satan. It teaches us all there is to know about this evil creature who opposes us. We should not allow our minds to think more or less about him than what God has revealed to us.

Knowing our enemy’s character and strength is a very important requirement in gearing up for the spiritual battle that faces us. So as in any battle, we should strive to have a proper knowledge and assessment of the opposition. This will adequately prepare us to defend ourselves and to eventually triumph, no matter how fierce the attacks.

The existence of Satan

Scripture is replete with evidence of Satan’s existence. To doubt his existence is to deny the biblical affirmation of his existence. Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible testify that Satan is real, and not an imaginary foe of Christians.

Right at the beginning of the Old Testament in Genesis 3, we see the first appearance of Satan shortly after mankind was created. This wicked being showed up in the garden of Eden under the guise of a serpent (Genesis 3:1; cf. Ezekiel 28:13). Then in the book of Job, we read how Satan sought to trouble a God-fearing man that he might deny God (Job 1:6-12). During the time of king David, Satan provoked David to commit sin which resulted in the death of seventy thousand men (1 Chronicles 21:1-14).

In the New Testament, every writer makes mention of Satan (though not in every book). 19 out of 27 books of the New Testament give credence to his existence. Yet, even those eight books that do not specifically mention him, four of them imply his existence in the form of demons or evil angels.1

In the four Gospel books of the New Testament alone, our Lord Jesus made reference to Satan at least 25 times. We can also read about the person-to-person encounter between the Lord and Satan in the parallel passages of Matthew 4:1- 11 and Luke 4:1-13.2

The evidence of his personality

We have further proof that Satan is a genuine person and not, as some have suggested, just a personification of evil by a hallucinating mind. The Scriptural records of Satan show him as being able to exercise his intellect, emotions, will, etc., thus proving his personality. Consider the following facts about him that give evidence to his personality:

His intellectual nature: His intellect is evident because God asked him, “Hast thou considered my servant Job?” Furthermore, he schemed to deceive Eve through his subtlety (2 Corinthians 11:3). His craftiness is most evident in his temptation of Christ when he manipulated Scripture to try and deceive Christ (Luke 4:1-12). Another proof of his intellect is his fluency and persuasiveness of speech. How he entices men to follow his will!

His emotional nature: He has emotions too, particularly that of pride. In fact, it fuelled his rebellious desire to oppose and exalt himself above God (Isaiah 14:12-17). In Peter’s description of Satan as a “roaring lion”, Satan appears to be so full of fury and rage. He is also able to affect the emotions of people. Just consider how he tormented Job with constant afflictions.

His moral nature: Since God will judge Satan (Revelation 20:10), we know that he is a moral being. He and his demons are also known as “unclean spirits” (Matthew 10:1; Acts 8:7; Revelation 16:13); and they would seduce men and women to live ungodly lives (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

All of the above aspects of his nature prove that Satan is very different from impersonal beings (like animals) or impersonal forces (like the wind) or impersonal things (like rocks). Moreover, Scripture uses personal pronouns when referring to Satan. He was addressed as “thou” in Ezekiel 28:14, 16; and “he / his / himself ” in James 4:7 and 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 respectively. We therefore conclude that Satan is a person and so are each of his demons.

The explanation of his power

Satan is, in essence, an incorporeal and invisible spirit being like all the angels and is thus more powerful than man (Psalm 8:5). He was among the “cherubim class” of the angels (Ezekiel 28:14, 16). In fact, he was ranked very high among the cherubim, for he was referred to as “the anointed cherub” and “covering cherub”.

Even though he is now a fallen angel, the Bible does portray him as a creature with tremendous power. In Jude’s epistle, we read, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (v. 9). Furthermore, Jesus’ reference to him as the “prince of this world” (John 12:31) gives credence to the power he wields. Paul called him the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

While he is thus portrayed in the Bible as a very powerful and dangerous adversary of God’s people, Satan is never depicted as equal to God. In fact, Scripture clearly teaches that Satan is far weaker than God, and an enemy doomed for eternal destruction. We must remember that Satan is only a creature, whereas God is the omnipotent Creator. Satan is finite and limited. He can operate only when and where he is allowed to by God (Job 1:10-12).

Conclusion

These images of Satan’s character as vividly painted in Scripture are more than enough for Christians to realise that we are not up against an ordinary opposition. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Having to fight a constant spiritual battle against a powerful foe, God’s people are not destined to journey ever so smoothly in this life. Remembering this will keep us from becoming lax and complacent. It will also help us to be all the more sober and vigilant.

At the same time, we also need not be overcome by fear in facing our adversary, for Scripture did say, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). If we abide in the Lord, Satan will have no control over us whatsoever. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Indeed, with God’s help, we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.


1C. Fred Dickason, Angels Elect and Evil, 122.

2Ibid, 122