I believe there is a Satan precisely because I believe in Jesus. If Satan is our mythological holdover from a prescientific age, then the lifelong struggle of our Lord Jesus was mere shadowboxing. Take Satan and his forces out of the Gospels, and Jesus is left like a fool punching the air.
From the beginning of his ministry (Matthew 4:1–11) to the end (Luke 22:3), Jesus was in conflict with the powers of darkness. And it is the clear teaching of the apostles, Peter (1 Peter 5:8), James (James 4:7), John (1 John 2:13; 3:8; 5:18), and Paul (1 Thessalonians 3:5) that Satan is against the church and must be resisted by faith and the word of God. We do well to know his tactics.
For example, I have been struck recently at how well Satan knows the Bible and how he loves to quote Scripture in order to destroy faith. Remember how he tried to persuade Jesus to throw himself down from the temple roof? He argued from Scripture! “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you’” (Matthew 4:6). Note well! Satan does not always try to ruin faith by saying, “The Bible isn’t true.” He often tries to destroy our faith by affirming some passage and using it to lead us into disobedience.
All Christians suck life from God’s holy word. We die without it. We will not let it be taken from us. We will go to jail rather than stop reading it. So what does Satan do? His one aim is to destroy our faith. The word of God alone keeps faith alive. But we cleave to it and Satan cannot tear it away. So he studies it. How else could he quote Psalm 91:11–12 to Jesus? He studies it. And he studies how to distort it and pervert it by plausible misinterpretations. Yes, they must be plausible. He is not so happy when his sub-demons put absurd misinterpretations into our head because they are far too easily corrected.
What makes Satan happy is when he can get Christians to believe that Proverbs 15:6 justifies the accumulation of wealth in a world of hunger; that 2 Thessalonians 3:10 abolishes charity; that Romans 9:16 makes evangelism superfluous; that 1 Timothy 2:4 means God is not sovereign in conversion; that John 10:28 means a “Christian” can do whatever he wants and still be saved; that Hebrews 6:4–6 means there is no security and assurance for God’s elect.
Is it a sobering thought that the word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)? Yes! And indeed it is. What did Jesus say when Satan quoted Scripture? He said: “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7). He quoted Scripture against Satan’s use of Scripture. He knew the Bible better than Satan.
What is the upshot for us?
- Do not believe everyone who can quote you a text. History is strewn with cults who twisted the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
- Read widely in the Bible and ask yourself continually how this part fits with that part and that with this. It is when the pieces start to fit together that we are most secure from distortion.
- Read theological books that the decades and centuries have proved to be deep, solid, and lasting.
- Fast and pray that God will open our eyes to see true and wonderful things in his word (Psalm 119:18).
- Obey what you do understand and you will understand more.