The Work of the Devil
The devil is just as much an actual being as God himself is. In fact, the same Bible that introduces God to man also presents the devil as a real entity, having superior intelligence to man (Gen. 1: 1; 3: 1, 2). The devil is not simply the figurative embodiment of evil, according to the Bible (2 Cor. 11: 3, Rev. 12: 9). The devil is the archenemy of man, seeking man's spiritual destruction (I Pet. 5: 6-9). Consider Peter's teaching relative to the devil:
"8: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (I Pet. 5).
The devil was responsible for the introduction of sin into the world as the result of the successful deception of Eve (Gen. 3, I Tim. 2: 14). Sickness, disappointment, and spiritual alienation from God along with all that is unpleasant are the result of the devil (cp. 2 Cor. 12: 7). As seen in Peter's statement, the devil definitely has a role and work to perform. In this article, we shall briefly examine the work of the devil. The more knowledgeable we are of the methods of our opponent, the more likely we are to overcome.
The devil tempts man. The word and inherent action involved in "tempt" has two basic applications. Tempt is sometimes used in the sense of trial or test. In this respect, God tried ("tempted," KJV) Abraham (Gen. 22: 1). However, the inspired James tells us that God does not "tempt" man (Jas. 1: 13). In the use of "tempt" by James, "tempt" means to solicit do to evil or to seek to sinfully excite. God does try man by various possible circumstances to purge and prove man; however, God is incapable of sin himself and does not attempt to incite man to sin. Notwithstanding, the devil is every ready to tempt man (cause man to sin). The devil succeeded in his first great effort to tempt Eve (Gen. 3). The next great opportunity to cause one to sin with enormous attendant results was in the matter of Jesus' temptation (Matt. 4: 1ff.). The devil again employed all the resources available to him through the lust of the flesh, eyes, and the pride of life (Matt. 4: 3-9; Gen. 3: 6, see I Jn. 2: 15-17). Unlike Eve, Jesus put God and his word first and refused to sin (notice how Jesus used the word to frustrate the efforts of Satan, Matt. 4: 4, 7, 10).
It should be realized and appreciated that the devil cannot successfully cause man to sin without man's participation. This is why James said to "resist the devil and he will flee from you" (Jas. 4: 7). The devil attempts to cause man to disobey what God has said (cp. Gen. 2; 3). The meaning of sin is lawlessness or a failure to do what God has said (I Jn. 3: 4). The very reason God's word (the Bible) is so perverted by man today is a reflection on the success of the devil. The devil seeks all opportunities and circumstances to tempt man (I Cor. 7: 5). Hence, the devil is called "the tempter" (I Thes. 3: 5). However, with all temptations God provides a means of escape (I Cor. 10: 13).
The devil deceives. Sin is terrible and results in everlasting punishment (Jas. 1: 14-16; Matt. 25: 46). If man could see sin for what it really is, man would be encouraged not to sin. Man would realize the temporary pleasure of sin and the enduring adverse consequences (Heb. 11: 25). Hence, the devil must disguise sin and deceive man into committing sin (Rev. 12: 9; Heb. 3: 13). The devil with man's permission (lack of resistance) plays with people's minds and thinking (cp. 2 Tim. 2: 26).
As a result of Satan, many seem to lack ability to think clearly and soberly. They accept all kinds of fallacious thinking and rationale. In some cases, it is apparent people have received a "strong delusion" in their rejection of God's word (2 Thes. 2: 10-12, Rom. 1: 24 ff.). Some expend all their energies in pursuit of the dollar (Lk. 12:16-21). Some are led into rejecting such simple but essential truths as Mark 16: 16. "Jesus did not say 'and is not baptized shall be damned,'" they vainly reason in an effort to eliminate baptism. "It is permissible that couples continue in adulterous marriage," people are heard saying. However, many of these same people would say, "the man who robs a bank cannot keep that money and be a Christian." The devil, I am convinced, is behind much of the irrationality in religion, due to deception.
The devil has a fellowship. Many always think of any so-called religious fellowship as good. However, the devil himself has a fellowship (I Cor. 10: 20). The devil wants people to enjoy and approve of each other in their sinful activities (see Prov. 1: 10 ff.). There are many components that often make up the devil's fellowship.
The devil has "a synagogue" (Rev. 2: 9). False religion is the devil's religion. The devil has religious doctrine and teaching. The way to determine the devil's teaching is by knowing and contrasting God's teaching, as found in his word. "Obedience is not involved in man's salvation," we are told. However, the falsity of such teaching is established when such passages as James 2: 14-26 are considered (see "doctrines of demons," I Tim. 4: 1 ff.). The devil often fakes miracles to deceive the simple-minded (2 Thes. 2: 9). The devil is also busy sowing tares among God's real people (Matt. 13: 24, 25, 38, 39, 41). Since the word of God produces faith and can enable man not to sin, the devil is ever busy attempting to preclude and eliminate God's word (Matt. 13: 19).
The devil perverts the word of God. We have already seen that the main object of the devil is to change what God has said. All this began with Eve. God said, "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 17). The devil told Eve, "Ye shall not surely die" (Gen. 3: 4). Again, be reminded that sin is lawlessness and righteousness is God's word (Ps. 119: 117). The devil is skilled in misapplying scripture (cp. Matt. 4: 6, 7, see Ps. 91: 11, 12). The servants or ministers of the devil appear righteous and true, adding to the devil's ability to deceive the na´ve (2 Cor. 11: 13-15). However, these men can be known "by their fruits" (Matt. 7: 15-20). Hence, the Christian is to "test" those who come to him, determining if they have "the doctrine of Christ" (I Jn. 4: 1, 2 Jn. 9-11).
Beloved, the devil should not ever be underestimated. He is cunning, intelligent, and an opportunist. He is also without pity and compassion. He wants you and he will do whatever he can to have you! However, with God's help you can prevail. Learn the word of God and apply it to your life. Ascertain what God requires of you in order to acquire and maintain salvation and use God's word to put the devil to flight. Those who presently serve the devil, alas, will forever be with the devil (Matt. 25: 41, 46, see beginning with verse 31 following). (Be sure to also read, "The Truth about the Devil" and "The Devil is Limited.")