“Satan promises the best, but pays with the worst; he promises honour, and pays with disgrace; he promises pleasure, and pays with pain; he promises profit, and pays with loss; he promises life, and pays with death. But God pays as he promises; all his payments are made in pure gold.
I have written two articles on the workings of Satan. One focuses on the value of his attacks for the Christian, the second directs our attention to the methods he employs against the a person. Today, since it is Good Friday, I want to show a critical connection between Satan and Jesus’ death.
In Romans 16 there is a little sentence that is easily passed by with the eyes. It is verse 20, part of which reads, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Here is one of those passages that should bring our minds hurtling backward to Genesis 3 where God tells fallen Adam and Eve that the Seed would one day crush the head of Satan. It is not uncommon to hear that Satan was defeated at the Cross, but this is not quite proper. Notice how Paul is looking to the future in Romans 16 regarding the crushing of Satan, not backwards to the Cross. So, when does it happen? When is Satan finally crushed beneath the feet of our Lord? Like many things in the bible the answer is that it occurs over time through various events.
The first step is that it began in the Garden—Genesis 3:14-15. There are several players in this curse by God. There would be an enmity put between the serpent and the woman. The enmity is to be beyond merely Satan and Eve. It is to involve generations of people. There will be a war that will be ongoing between the devil’s offspring and her offspring . And then the ultimate battle, the offspring of the woman would do battle with Satan, not his offspring, and crush him.
The second step is the first advent of Jesus. Passages such as Luke 10:17-18, John 12:31; 16:11 are examples on how Jesus exerted His authority over Satan. Over and over we read that the demons were subject to Him.
The third step is at the Cross–John 3:8. It is at the Cross where Jesus becomes that perfect sacrifice for the very sin that Satan exploits as the god of this age. It is at the Cross where the justice and love of God kiss and the power of sin is broken.
The fourth step is at the resurrection of Jesus. It is in the resurrection that we see that the death of Jesus was an acceptable sacrifice. We see in the resurrection that the power of death is broken. It is the resurrection of Jesus that becomes the first fruit (1 Corinthians 15:20) of all other resurrections to come. Without Jesus’ resurrection everything else simply doesn’t matter.
The fifth and final step is at the end of this age (Revelation 20:1-6). There Jesus utterly destroys Satan, casting him into the lake of fire never to be a factor again. As we enter into eternity and the glory of the new heavens and earth, there we will exult when death, sin, and Satan are banished. Gone forevermore, swallowed up in the victory of our Lord and Savior.
It is Good Friday and so today I want to give two more posts on Satan. Strange? Perhaps but I think it is fitting. Satan is misunderstood in so many ways and yet the bible gives us much information that we may live with our eyes wide open. Even more important is that one of the key purposes of Jesus’ death was to destroy Satan and his works, but that will be for later today. Below I boil down how Satan works, stripping away a lot of the drama and emotion that comes with any discussion on Satan.
A summary of Satan’s methods:
- Deception. He dresses sin up and makes it look beautiful and desirable. Even once the wrapping comes off he has a way of trapping people in the horrors of their sin. Ask any drunk or any drug addict—they know they are killing themselves and yet, like beasts being led to the slaughter house they keep moving forward. Here is the great battle over life-dominating sins, whatever they might be. When we think of temptation we can forget that it is just a form of deception. It is the worm on the end of the hook (cf. James 1:13ff).
- False teaching. In Romans 16:17-18 speaks of those who create dissension by denying sound teaching, they speak with smooth speech but they are really enslaved, pawns of Satan. They are promulgating something at good and true but it is false and deadly. It is a lie wrapped up in a gloriously pretty deception. This is why Paul calls them those disguised as servants of righteousness in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15.
- Accusation. He is the master accuser—in Revelation 12 he is called the “Accuser of the brethren” and in Zechariah 3:1 ff Satan stands beside the high priest ready to accuse. This is where dissension and in-fighting comes into play. Someone is whispering something to someone else who doesn’t need to know. Bitterness and old memories are dredged up and we allow a place for them. We hear the whispers of our failings time and time again until our heart stops believing that in Jesus we are forgiven and that the Father bids us to come into His presence for grace. We become worn down and furtive, hiding our failings like Adam hid from God in the garden. And in doing so we believe the words of the Liar rather than our Father.
Everything Satan does is going to be captured under these three umbrella-like activities. Give thought to them over the day, you may be surprised as things that you begin to see that must change in your thinking or living.
He has a plan and he knows it well. But do you know his plan? The fact is that he has a program:
“But one whom you forgive anything, I forgive also; for indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I did it for your sakes in the presence of Christ,
11 so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11). When you have a person in the church who is not wanting to forgive you have a person who is cooperating with Satan.
‘Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”(Ephesians 6:11). Here the word refers to crafty, deceptive plans and strategies. His work is one in which he labors to pull us into his plans through deception, then, unknowingly we become accomplices in his efforts and work! This means we must not allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that he is not actively working now in our world and lives. He is the master tactician who makes Sun Tzu (who wrote The Art of War) look like a child. This plan focuses on all of creation, from God, to angelic beings, to the world in general, to Christians specifically. Below is a simple tour of how Satan operates.
In relation to the non-Christian:
- He has sway over them (John 12:31; 1 John 5:19).
- He incites men to sin (1 John 3:10-12).
- He blinds people to the gospel (Luke 8:12; 2 Corinthians 4:4).
- He incites men to oppose God’s Word (Ephesians 2:2).
In relation to the Christian:
- He accuses and slanders (Job 1:9-11.Revelation 12:10). And this should come as no surprise because this is what he does toward God as well: Genesis 3:4 “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely shall not die!’ For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
- He hinders (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
- He sows tares among them (Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43).
- He incites persecutions against them (Revelation 2:10).
- He tempts them to sin (Acts 5:3; 1 Corinthians 7:5).
One of the blogs I follow had a good little post on why God allows Satan to attack us. This is a good example of why holding to a high, extensive view of God’s sovereignty is so healthy for a Christian. It acknowledges that God is providentially working in our lives and in all of creation. So whether it is a sick child or a tsunami, we can see the hand of God. A wise Christian then begins to meditate on this and ask what God is doing in these acts. This meditation is not something you do fast, just slowly think about it, let it be part of your thoughts as you read the Scripture and as you listen to others. The result can be a much richer, humbler faith that learns to order itself under the mighty hand of God. Here are eight reasons God allows Satan to attack us:
- They drive us to take refuge in God
- They train the believer in the duties and exercises of the Christian warfare
- They are made a means of intensifying our hatred for sin
- They can be an aid to self knowledge as unsuspected germs of evil are brought to light
- They afford the occasion to grace to develop itself in forms which otherwise it could not assume
- They wean the heart from the love of this present world
- Having been bravely and successfully resisted, they shall heighten future glory
- They redound to the glory of God’s grace
Here is a short glimpse into what I see as part of the spiritual battle in which every Christian is involved yet too often is ignorant of. I remember preparing a sermon from a passage that is blatantly gospel-centered (Philippians 2:1-11). An easy sermon to prepare right? Wrong!
My mind was tortured and fractured. I had a terrible time even concentrating for more than a minute or two. I would type a few words and then find my mind going blank. I stared at the screen, looked at the passage, talked out loud, prayed and nothing came. I found that there was a growing tension in my hands so that I could not even type consistently, with constant misspells. Then there were the interruptions, not many, but they came only at the times when my mind seems clear and focused.
I love the gospel. I know the gospel is the only means by which God has ordained sinners to be saved. I rejoice in the truth that there is much salvific power in the proclamation of the gospel. And I know that Satan despises it. This battle takes place every time I am preparing an overtly evangelistic sermon. This last time it just seemed much stronger.
I would suggest that the same is for any who is contemplating speaking to others about Jesus.