The Wiles of Satan
What is the explanation for the evil in the world? Some people will be quick to point to the wrong political party which won the elections, others might complain about the education system, while yet others might attribute the decline and fall of the Western world to the invention of television. No doubt, these all do a fair amount of damage, but in the parable of the weeds, the master laments: 'An enemy has done this' (Matt. 13:28). The enemy is later identified by Christ as the devil (Matt. 13:39). This life is thus a battleground between God and the devil. The Christian is told to put on the whole armour of God in order to stand against the schemes of the devil (Eph. 6:11 ), while the whole of human history can be viewed as an assault by Satan upon Christ and His people (Rev. 12).
The devil was originally created good, because God created all things good, but he fell into sin before the Fall of Adam and Eve. Ever since he has been prowling the world like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Admittedly, he is on a leash. As H. L. Ellison put it, he is 'a rebel to whom God gives as much rope as will glorify His name'. This is made obvious in the book of Job where we see that Satan can only touch Job to the extent that God allows (Job 1-2). The devil's most obvious characteristics are that he is a murderer and a liar (John 8:44) – he was the one who lied to Eve (Gen. 3) and who inspired Cain to murder Abel (Gen. 4).
Since his fall he has continued to lie and to murder bodies and souls. Wherever people are hindered from hearing or understanding the gospel the devil is present. The gospel is proclaimed to all and sundry, but the devil keeps some people from ever considering it (Luke 8:11-1 2). Indeed, the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). Those whom Satan has most effect on become like him (John 8:44; Acts 13:10). For example Satan entered Judas (John 13:2.), who was actually called a devil by Jesus (John 6:70). Because of the graphic description of the wild-eyed and demented demoniac living with the Gerasenes (see Mark 5:1-20) we might be tempted to think that Satan's onslaughts are obvious, severe and extreme. No doubt they often are, but the roaring lion can also appear as the wily serpent. The Corinthian church struggled with false apostles who appeared as true apostles. The Apostle Paul warns us to beware of counterfeits, for 'even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, so it is no surprise if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness' (2 Cor. 11:14-15a). It is in this guise – or disguise – that the devil can do most damage. Thomas Jones once commented: 'I would rather meet a hundred devils roaring than one smiling.'
Some theologians have taught that the devil cannot touch true believers in Jesus Christ. It is true that ultimately the believer is eternally secure in Christ, but that does not mean that Satan cannot lead Christ's people astray for a time. Satan incited David to conduct a census in Israel, perhaps leading him to rest more on the might of his army than the arm of the Lord (1 Chron. 21:1). This was at the same time an act of God's chastening of David and his people (2 Sam. 24:1), but it remains true that Satan was involved. Later, when Peter sought to keep Jesus from the way of the cross, Jesus told his 'apostle of rock': 'Get behind Me, Satan' (Matt.16:21-23). In the terrible hour leading up to his threefold denial of Christ, Peter would be told that Satan would sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31). The devil is a formidable foe, far too strong and crafty for us, but we have the biblical promise that the Holy Spirit is greater than Satan: 'He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world' (1 John 4:4). Satan is the lion who roars, but Christ is the Lamb who was slain. And in the gracious plan of the Father, the cross triumphs over all the powers of hell (Col. 2:15).