The Devil is Limited
In order to experience a measure of success, one must define their goals and identify and avoid matters that can prevent achievement. The same is true in a spiritual application. The goal of the child of God is to please his heavenly Father and have heaven as his home (Matt. 5: 48; Matt. 5: 12). The one that can keep one from achieving this noble goal is the archenemy of mankind, the devil (cp. I Pet. 5: 8). The devil must not be underestimated because he is a powerful foe (Eph. 6: 11, 12). However, many, I am afraid, overestimate the devil and attribute to him ability that he does not have. For instance, it appears that the devil cannot directly take human life (cp. Job 1). It is evident from the scriptures that the devil cannot against man's will control man's mind (cp. Phili. 4: 6). There is no indication that the devil can appear incarnate (in human form) or through his demons possess people at will today. In fact, the devil is plainly said to be resistible (Jas. 4: 7). When one really thinks about it, there are many matters that are indicative of limited power belonging to the devil. Let us now consider some of these manifest indications of the devil lacking ability.
The devil could not prevent Jesus from being born. The most important birth and one that was the most threatening to Satan was the birth of the Son of God. It would appear that from early on, the devil knew that God would raise up One to present ultimate defeat (cp. Gen. 3: 15). The Abrahamic promise that offered the hope of blessing the world looked to and anticipated the birth of the sinless Son of God (Gen. 22: 18, Gal. 3: 16-19). If Satan could have prevented Jesus' birth, he certainly would have, but he did not.
When Jesus was born, the devil could not kill him. When the devil failed to preclude Jesus coming to earth, his next option would have been to kill him once born. In this matter, we do see the devil becoming active. Through an agent, Herod, an insecure and power hungry ruler, the devil effected a ruthless slaughter of male babies two years and under in an attempt to destroy the Christ. Matthew records the following:
"16: Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men" (Matt. 2).
The devil's efforts through Herod, however, were ineffectual and the baby Jesus is not harmed (Matt. 2: 19ff.). Appreciate another fact that is reflective of the limited power belonging to the devil: Satan did not even know the identity of Jesus. This lack of knowing the identity resulted in the slaughter of all the babies. Hence, the devil is not all knowing.
I was invited to watch a police video of an actual satanic worship service engaged in by a religious cult. "Great and all-knowing art thou," they said in praise of the devil, "You have unlimited power and ability and we, therefore, serve you." Not so! These worshippers of Satan worshipped a limited being. Not only is the devil limited, but in view of the horrible acts of fornication and even murder in which those followers of Satan engaged demonstrated, the devil is representative of all that is bad, sinister, and against man (the worshippers cut out the heart of the victim and offered it as a sacrifice to Satan and then they passed around the heart each one consuming parts of it).
The devil could not induce Jesus to sin. After having failed to prevent Jesus' birth and destroying him once born, the devil is seen attempting to persuade Jesus to sin. The devil used all the influence he had in appealing to Jesus through the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and the lust of the eyes (Matt. 4: 3, 4; 6; 9). However, Jesus steadfastly resisted every thing the devil offered. "It is written," was Jesus counter reply (Matt. 4: 4, 7, 10). The devil had used these same avenues in causing Eve to sin and thus introduced sin to the world (Gen. 3). However, in the case of Jesus, the devil utterly fails. After Jesus resisted Satan, we read, "Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him" (Matt. 4: 11). Satanists teach that the devil has more power than God; however, such is a false claim as seen in Jesus' temptation.
Just think what could have been accomplished had the devil succeeded to cause Jesus to sin. In view of the devil's first major success involving Eve, with Jesus he would have total control and God would have been utterly defeated. I mention all this to show the apparent determination of Satan to succeed and, yet, he failed!
The devil failed in stopping Jesus from becoming the sin offering for the world. Jesus' death was not single and without great consequence. Consequence, I might add, that the world had never experienced before and has not since the event of Jesus' death. Isaiah prophesied the following:
"4: Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53).
Jesus knew ahead of time regarding his death and what it meant, but he continued on to Jerusalem and what awaited him (Matt. 16: 21-23). If there was any way possible, the devil would have stopped Jesus' vicarious death, but he did not because he could not!
The devil was unsuccessful regarding the greatest victory of all, Jesus' resurrection from the grave. As we have seen, there were a series of events, each viewed separately, meant so much as to Satan's failure or success. However, collectively considered, these events all culminated in Jesus' triumphant victory over death and the grave. If the devil failed regarding Jesus' birth, the fact of His incarnation, failure to cause Jesus to sin, and Christ's death, the devil now had to succeed in keeping Jesus from experiencing the greatest victory, arising to die no more, but again the devil miserably fails. Consider some of the accomplishments of Jesus' resurrection and what a blow these were to the devil:
"13: But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15: Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16: For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18: Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19: If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20: But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 21: For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. 22: For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (I Cor. 15).
Beloved, the devil does not deserve the image and reputation that some ascribe to him. "The devil is so strong that I simply cannot overcome him" is false and a cop out. The devil is a failure and those who are controlled by him are weaklings, this is the truth of the matter. Some are heard saying, "I cannot continue in truth because there are so many false teachers." Listen to John, "Ye are of God, little children and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (I Jn. 4: 4). It is true that we must not underestimate our enemy the devil, but neither are to we overestimate him. There have been many things that the devil could simply not do because of lack of ability and there are numerous matters today regarding which the devil is inept. Man needs to cease giving too much credit to the devil and start himself resisting the devil and put him to flight (Jas. 4: 7). (Be sure to also read, "The Truth about the Devil" and "The Work of the Devil."