I had hoped to get this post out sooner, but I was unable to last week. For those of you who didn’t know, Owen was in the hospital again. Many of you saw him at Etch last night, so you know he’s doing great now! Either way, apologies for the delayed follow-up that I promised from the last sermon on 1 Peter on March 31.
If you remember, we had a brief conversation about the devil. Peter warns the churches in Asia Minor their true enemy is not against the people who are bringing persecution (1 Peter 2:12; 3:16; 4:16), but against the dark spiritual forces that are trying to draw humanity away from the Lord (1 Peter 5:8).
As I’ve been a pastor for over 12 years now, I’ve been asked many times about angels and demons, and their roles in how they interact with humans and God. But more than questions about angels and demons, I’ve been asked questions about Satan. Who is he? Was he a fallen angel? Why does he have power? What kind of power does he have?
These are all really good questions! But many questions that I often don’t have answers to. The Bible is a collection of narratives, letters, poems, and more that give us a glimpse into the One who created the heavens and the earth. Therefore, the Bible’s main objective is to paint a picture of the One the Israelites called Yahweh. Secondarily, the Bible tasks to show how this Wonderful Lord interacts with his prized creation: humanity, and conversely how humanity interacts with its Creator.
As you can see, this presents a problem when people have questions about Satan. He is a character in the Bible, but he’s not the main character, nor is he even a secondary character. So, the Bible doesn’t give us much detail of Satan’s origin story, motivations behind his hatred toward humans and it doesn’t focus on his characteristics in the same way it details God’s characteristics and even ours.
On the flip side, much of what is believed about Satan comes from Jewish tradition (that is derived from extra-biblical books – such as the book of Enoch), Dante’s inferno, and a conglomeration of different religions, cults, cultural traditions and their views of an evil spirit. Essentially, our knowledge of Satan is very limited, but what we do know about him we should be aware of, and guard against.
Satan has power. It’s evident throughout scripture. He held up Paul from visiting the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 2:19), he displayed his power when he tempted Jesus to give him the world (Matthew 4:1-11), and we know he has the power to ruin a person’s life, such as Job. But here’s where we need to be careful: Satan was a created being; therefore, he is not like Yahweh in that he is All-Powerful. Nor is Satan All-Knowing or Omnipresent. Satan has limitations because he was created by God, which is also why we can have confidence that we can overcome him, because God dwells within us as the Holy Spirit!
He’s been given many different names throughout the Bible: Satan, devil, the evil one, the tempter, the prince of this world, in the King James version, Lucifer (which means morning star). But the two most used to describe him are the Hebrew: satan, and the Greek: diabolos. Both are derived from the words meaning accuser, or slanderer. We see this very plainly in his interaction with Job (Job 1-3) where he accuses Job of only loving God because God gave him wealth and a large family. It’s these accusations that Satan is trying to use to separate us from God eternally.
When Satan is mentioned in the Gospels, it is often in conflict with Jesus and who (or what) one pledges allegiance to; meaning the devil is trying to draw us away from The Lord. This includes the warnings in the letters of Paul to avoid and stand against “the devil’s schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11, Ephesians 6:11, 1 Tim 5:15). We see this in the Gospels and Acts where people are declared to align with the devil (Matthew 25:41, John 8:44, Acts 13:10). We can also see this in Jesus’ time in the wilderness (Matthew 4, Luke 4), where Satan tries to tempt Jesus into worshiping him as Lord.
Many verses that mention Satan in the New Testament comes at the expense of his power as it relates to God’s power where we are given encouragement that because of Salvation through Jesus Christ, we how the power to overcome Satan (1 John 3:8, James 4:7, 1 Pet 5:8). But more importantly, we are given a clear picture of Satan’s defeat (Romans 16:20, Revelation 20:2-10).
In the end, it’s important for Christians to be aware of Satan, but not to make him our priority (God is our priority). It’s important to know his power, but even more important to know his power does have limitations. It’s important to know his schemes, but to know we have the power of Christ dwelling in us to overcome those schemes. And it’s important to know the victory found through Jesus Christ and the defeat of sin and death.