Satan: An Overview
be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor
of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the
devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the
spiritual forces of wickedness in the
heavenly places. Therefore, take up the
full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and
having done everything, to stand firm.
(Ephesians 6:10-13 NASB)
The Nature of Satan
Ask the average Christian today, "just who is
Satan?" You will get a variety of answers, but for large numbers of
Christians Satan is a mythical beast. They just don't believe in that red guy
with the tights and the forked tail. As a result, they can't believe in the
Satan in the Bible either. But the two are quite different characters. We may
now examine just who Satan is.
Satan is a
spirit, if you will an angel, who is in rebellion against God. The Bible gives
us little else to go on, but this should be sufficient to convince us that our
opponent is quite formidable.
Satan is the
spirit of evil. As such, he is not the opposite of God. If he has an opposite,
is the Angel Michael. Evil is produced by twisting what is good; Satan cannot
create, only lie steal and destroy.
As such, he is
the enemy of God. But he is also the enemy of man, for God loves us. Therefore,
Satan hates us.
The Power of Satan
It is a matter of first principles: Satan cannot create, only
God can create. Therefore Satan must take what God has created and twist it.
That's why he's the father of lies. Unfortunately, Satan is also the Prince of
this world. As Mark Twain put it, "he is the spiritual head of 4/5 of the
human race, and the political head of all of it." Christians involved in
politics should remember this; fundamentally, the world's system of getting
ahead is contrary to God's desires for his children. If you feel that
politically you can reform the people so that heaven on earth arrives, then
remember that you are reforming Satan as well. Good luck with that.
It's clear from the passages in Isaiah that Satan is some
sort of fallen angel. We are taught that he fell from heaven through pride.
This may pose a difficulty to some Christians today, as our society has decided
that pride is now a virtue. May I suggest the problem is with our society? Is
pride really a virtue? Or is it a sin? The teaching of the church since the
beginning has been that pride is the most deadly of sins. CS Lewis called it,
"the complete anti-God state of mind." When you look down on others
you are sharing Satan's sin.
The Works of Satan
Satan works in two ways. The first is the one most familiar
to us: temptation. It is the normal way by which Satan works on human beings.
In rare circumstances he is permitted to work on human beings by demon
possession. This often confuses Western readers, since they have never seen a
case of demon possession (and therefore conclude that it doesn't exist.) You
might take up the subject with the missionary to the Third World. One of the
missionaries this class supports can tell you quite clearly that demon
possession is a familiar sight in lands where Christianity is not the dominant
religion. Satan's purpose in the first world is to convince you that he does
not exist; his purpose of the Third World is to convince you that he is
mightier than Jesus Christ. Both assertions are false.
The Armor of God
firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE
BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF
THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with
which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the
sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
(Ephesians 6:14-17 NASB)
May we begin with the observation? It is the "whole
armor" of God, not just the pieces you select.
Belt of Truth
Truth is one of the attributes of God, Aquinas tells us. That
is to say that truth is so inextricably bound up in the character of God that
it cannot be separated from him. This carries specific implications for
Christianity. It means, for example, that Christianity must say to the world,
"examine the facts." Other religions may tell you that they came out
of the mists of time, or they are the speculation of learned and wise men, but
Christianity must start you with the facts. This is why we are commanded to
have a ready defense. Most Christians today do not study apologetics cancel
all, but we should.
Some Christians are afraid of this. They are afraid that
somebody will find a contradiction in what they say and the reality that other
people see. And there is no doubt that some people see things differently. But the
Christian knows that truth is central to the character of God — and truth is
self consistent. This self consistency means that we can defend the faith by
reason. The belt of truth might be easily found in apologetics.
Breastplate of Righteousness
This phrasing is somewhat ambiguous. It could mean that we
are to put on the righteousness of Christ — claiming by his blood to have our
sins forgiven. The sacrifice of the truly righteous one has done this for us.
Alternately, it could also mean that we are to be righteous as individuals. A
goodly amount of ink has been wasted on this controversy; I suspect Paul of
meaning both at the same time — since both are equally valid.
Gospel of Peace
There is great wisdom in that little phrase. It also carries
with it ambiguity; it could mean either peace with our fellow man or peace with
God. I think it means both. But notice that the peace comes through the gospel.
That this is what brings us peace with God is obvious. But it is also what
brings us peace with men. How? Simply this: if you accept the gospel of Jesus
Christ, you admit that you are a sinner. You must also admit that you have no
right to judge somebody else in this regard. Your task is not to judge them;
your task is to bring them the good news of the Gospel. Since you do not judge
them, you give them no reason to be in conflict with them. It's really hard to
be in conflict with someone who is bringing over a plate of cookies.
Shield of Faith
As of late the word "faith" has been tarnished in
meaning. There are those who think the word means simply having faith in a
blind way, with no evidence to back it up. That is not the sense in which the
Bible uses that word. We might substitute the word, "trust." God's
use of this is required in a strange sort of way. Permit me to explain.
God could, of course, have made mankind so that we had no
choice but to believe in him. He could have wired our minds that way, or he
could've made the evidence so overwhelming that no one but the village idiot
could deny it. But because he wants us to love him, he must give us a choice.
To do that he has constructed the universe in which there is plenty of evidence
— but no gun pointed at your head. You have to make the logical leap of faith.
It's like getting married; you really don't know what she's like, and you
really don't know what is going to happen. But the evidence you have indicates
that you will be happy with her, and therefore you marry her. It's not a blind
leap, it's a logical leap.
The truth is, if there is no faith as a possibility then
there is no choice as a possibility. And God wants us to choose to love him —
therefore he must woo rather that compel.
Helmet of Salvation
In another passage Paul refers to the helmet as being the
hope of salvation. It's a bit obscure, but consider that the helmet covers the
area of your body in which you do your thinking. Even to this day, 2000 years
later, soldiers still wear helmets. It is in the brain that you have the hope,
which is the hope of the resurrection of the dead. You will live again; and
that message still rings down through the ages.
Some Christians don't think this is very important. Their
view is that we all go to heaven as disembodied spirits, and we play harps
therefore ever. That is not the view of the Scripture. More to the point, it's
clear from the Scripture that this hope is extremely important. May I remind
you that Goliath forgot to wear his helmet? Getting your doctrine right does
Sword of the Spirit
Perhaps you didn't notice, but this is the only offensive a
weapon in the bunch. It's the weapon Jesus used to defeat Satan in the
wilderness. May I point out to you that there is something quite important
about offensive versus defensive weaponry? You put on the armor; you practice
with the sword.
all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view,
be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to
me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the
gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to
speak. But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing,
Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make
everything known to you. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that
you may know about us, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace be to the
brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love.
(Ephesians 6:18-24 NASB)
Paul is rather inclusive of his prayer requests here:
He asks us to
pray at all times. I suspect this is a reaction to the idea that there are only
certain times of the day when you pray. He makes it clear that you don't have
to go to a particular place or wait for particular time to pray. That does not
mean, however, that we should not set aside particular place and time to pray.
He asks us to
pray in the Spirit. This is a known function of the Spirit, something given to
us to assist us in our prayers. I do not know of a Christian who has ever told
me that prayer is easy and complete without effort on his part. Prayer is
difficult; but if we practice the difficult it becomes easier. It is also
easier because we have the Spirit to help us.
He asks us to
pray for all the saints. Dare we say that this includes those with whom we
Praying for the Preacher
Have you ever wondered how to pray for your preacher, or an
evangelist? Paul gives us a model for such prayer right here. There are two
First, we are to
pray that God's words will be given to the preacher. The preacher should be
sound in his doctrine and alert to the needs of his congregation. We should
also seek the guidance and assistance of the Holy Spirit so that his words will
be those that God wants him to preach.
Second, we are to
pray that he will speak those words boldly. If you want to call someone to
action, it's best not to mumble.
When your children go off to college you often send them off
with good advice. My dad sent me off with good advice, and precious little
cash. Paul is doing the same thing here; he wants you to be reminded of the
important things that he has brought forward this letter:
implores us to be at peace with each other — peace with the brothers. The
choice of the word "brother" is not an accident.
challenges us to love with faith. If you think about it, if you do not have
faith your actions of love are quite different. If you expect God to repay you,
you will do things differently than if you don't.
pronounces grace upon all who love Jesus "with incorruptible love."
This is not the love of the emotional sort that comes and goes, but the solid
love upon which great marriages are built. This is fitting; the church is the
bride of Christ. If you want to know what kind of love this is, look at those
who have been married many, many years and are still happy.