We continue in the burden from the last Straightway articles dealing with the powers of darkness in the End Time. This issue carefully examines the drawing influences of the Devil upon Christians. May the Lord grant us understanding of how the Devil stealthily influences God’s people in drawing them away from the Lord and His Word.
He That Committeth Sin Is of the Devil
No bolder words can be stated to the Christian as a warning than these found in 1 John 3:8:
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
The verb committeth here is in the present tense, referring to the habit of sinning in the life of a professing Christian. Is this habit exclusively of himself? From one perspective, yes; for an individual initiates sinning from his own will and choice. However, John also declares that the Devil energizes this habit of sinning in this individual.
We were told earlier in 1 John 2:1,
My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not [“sin” is in the aorist tense; we are not to commit one single, premeditated sin]. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
The statement is not when a Christian sins, but if he sins. A premeditated sin is an exception to the rule of the Christian. However, in 1 John 3:8, John now declares that a “Christian” that is given to premeditated sinning (in the present tense) is of the Devil, “for the Devil sinneth from the beginning.”
We are also told that one of the purposes for the Son of God being manifested (or coming to the earth) was that He “might destroy the works of the Devil.” One of the great works of the Devil is “sinning.” Yes, Jesus came to deliver us from sinning, and from the power of sin. This will include delivering us from the character of being a sinner (or, one who sins). Sinning is the character of the Devil. He sinned and sins. Before Christ came into our lives, we were given to sin. The purpose of the Son of man coming into the world is that He might destroy these sinning works of the Devil.
John then states in verse 9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” The word born here is in the perfect tense, meaning a crisis (aorist tense) New Birth combined with the continuing (present tense) life of that birth. Once again, the word commit is also in the present tense. For a Christian to commit sin is an exception to the rule of his living. The rest of the verse (3:9) is somewhat difficult to declare:
For his seed [either God’s seed, one who is born of Him, or the seed being the Word of God] remaineth in him [either the believer being the seed, or the seed being God’s Word remaining in the Christian]: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God [perfect tense].
The individual who is born of God will continue to remain in God, or abide in Him, as declared in John 15. And thus, he cannot sin (or, be given to sin) if he is abiding. A Christian must break away from present-tense abiding in Christ in order to sin. I cannot willfully sin and continue to abide in communion with God. This is the great problem today among professing Christians. They believe they can be a Christian and continue to sin. There is no difference between a sinning sinner and a sinning Christian (except maybe one is wet from water baptism).
Resisting the Devil
James 4:7 calls upon us to “Submit yourselves, therefore to God.” Then He warns, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” In 1 John 4:4b it should be noted, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” This “greater” one, as we have noted in the previous issue of Straightway, is the anointing, the presence of the anointed one, the Holy One, Christ (1 John 2:20), as well as the anointing He has sent, the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27). With these powers within, I am now commanded to resist the Devil with the promise that he will flee from me. The command is to oppose the Devil or to stand against the Devil.
Now, how is the Christian to stand against the Devil? We realize the Devil is the “great” one, and satanically, he is naturally wiser, although with a dark wisdom. He truly knows more than we do. He knows our weaknesses even greater than we know our weaknesses. Nonetheless, we are called upon to resist him. Yet, how do we resist him?
Matthew 4 presents our beloved Lord being tempted of the Devil. Two important truths come from this event. First, Matthew 4:1 states that Jesus was “led up of the spirit into the wilderness”; Luke 4:1 adds that “Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” Secondly, Jesus used the Word of God to thwart each part of this threefold temptation He faced. When we come to the third temptation, Matthew 4:8, 9 declares how the Devil progressively got bolder with the Lord. The Devil then presents the proposition, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” Note our Lord’s response: “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the LORD thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (v. 10). Christ now boldly tells the Devil to leave Him, or “Get thee hence!”
Oh, dear reader, sometimes the temptation from the Devil will be so aggressive that the Christian will almost have to audibly and boldly say, “Leave me, Devil!” The story is told that one evening Martin Luther (the great reformer of the 1500s) thought he saw the Devil come through the door of his study. Luther took the inkwell and threw it at him. We may think, “An inkwell will not get rid of the Devil.” The outward action was only a manifestation of his inward heart’s motive—He resisted the devil!
Continuing in the story of Christ’s temptation, “Then the devil leaveth him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto him” (Matt. 4:11). Luke 4:13 adds that the Devil “departed from him for a season.” The promise is “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7b). Yes, this is the promise! The story of Christ’s temptation includes the presence of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God along with the cry, “Get thee hence!”
Luke 22:31 grants us another insight that the Lord Himself reveals: “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon [Gr., “hearing one”], behold, Satan [your adversary] hath desired to have you [has begged to have you], that he may sift you as wheat.” There are times the Devil (according to Rev. 12:10) is at the Throne of God accusing God’s saints, begging for their souls as if he is saying to God, “Give me that soul; look at that soul: it has failed. Give me that soul.” “Satan hath desired [begged] to have you.” Back in Luke 22:31, the Greek pronoun for you is in the plural; it was the Devil’s desire to have all of the disciples: “that he may sift you as wheat.” But the Lord declared to Peter, “But I have prayed for thee.” The beloved King James translators gave us the pronoun thee to make clear the Lord was personally referring to Peter that his faith would fail not. Although we certainly read of Peter denying his Lord, the prayer of Christ was “that thy faith fail not.” It was not that the prayer of Christ would keep Peter from denying his Lord; it was that ultimately his faith would not fail. So, behind the scenes of Christian living, there are conversations (as witnessed in Job 1 and 2) between Satan and God. These conversations have been, no doubt, frequent between the Devil and God throughout the centuries.
Concerning the powers of Satan, we gain another insight from the apostle Paul when he spoke before Herod Agrippa. The apostle revealed the words of the Lord Jesus given to him at his calling:
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me (Acts 26:16–18).
What was to be the content of his preaching? The apostle reveals a fivefold message given to him from the Lord: (1) to open their eyes; (2) to turn them from darkness to light; (3) and from the power of Satan unto God; (4) that they may receive forgiveness of sins; and (5) inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Christ. Yes, an important part of Paul’s preaching was “to turn them from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified.” This inheritance among the sanctified was the infilling of the Spirit. But how is this turning from Satan to God to take place? It will be through the preaching of the powerful Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel within the human heart becomes the power to resist the Devil.
Committing a Soul to the Devil
Another insight concerning the dark powers of the Devil is found in 1 Corinthians 5. This chapter unveils a unique sin found within the Corinth church—fornication. The young man of this church was not a typical fornicator; he was one living immorally with his step-mother, the wife of his father. Paul states, “It is reported commonly that there is fornication [Gr., porneia] among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.” What does Paul command the church at Corinth to do? In verse 4,
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together [the next time you come together], and my spirit [is going to be present with you], with the power [presence] of our Lord Jesus Christ [this is what you must do], To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh . . .
Before continuing in verse 5, what is Paul commanding them to do? Surprisingly, he tells the church to turn this man over to Satan. Yes, Paul is very bold here: “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of [not of the body, the physical body but the power of] the flesh.” In other words, let him go to the Devil and sin his sin all out, “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” This would be as the prodigal son going to the far country: let him sin; let him fully sin, get it all out of him, even it if takes him down to nothing. Let him sin to the fullest.
Sometimes Christian parents are afraid to let a determined, rebellious son or daughter leave their Christian home and go to the world. Some Christian parents may even compromise truth to keep their children from leaving, such as permitting them to get away with things that are not becoming to a Christian home. My dear father, Dr. O. Talmadge Spence, used to say, “I would rather for my children to go to the gutter in deep sin if it takes such a life to finally reveal to them that salvation is by grace alone.” There comes a point where the parents must release them and let them go. If not, what you have at home will be lost, including the Christian spirit that should dominate that home and its environment.
We may be tempted to say, “But if I let them go, what will happen to them?” Only God knows what will happen to them; only God knows how far they will go into sin; only God knows how far the destruction will be in their lives. But here is a passage that the great apostle Paul boldly and authoritatively declared to the Corinthian church: “Deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (5:5). We are to turn him or her over to Satan.
Now, in this statement, we presuppose that God is right there in providential forces accompanying this “turning over” unto Satan. God will have His hand on the circumstances, just like He had His hand on the prodigal son in the far country. And when will the pig field become the end for the prodigal? How far will such an individual go? How far will he sin? What damage to the mind and body will he experience? Yes, to some children in a Christian home, there may come a day when they want to do what they want to do; they do not desire anyone telling them what to do. They do not want their father telling them how to live and what to do with their money. They dream of going to the far country and living life without God and their parents. There may come a day when they will go all the way to the bottom; yea, they will go to the swine of the world, the scum of the gutters.
The passage in 1 Corinthians 5 is a revelation of this man’s lust and fleshly cravings. Paul tells the church, “Give him over; give him over to the Devil for the lusting of the flesh.” But, we may ask, “Suppose something happens to him or her?” Something may happen, yet, we must believe that God is still on the throne. The apostle presses for the local church to remove this man from among them, or the “little leaven will leaven the whole lump.” Such a man’s cravings and talk of immorality will entice others within the church. The principle is evident—a child’s talk and rebellion in the home will affect the other children, and the “Christian” identification of that home will be destroyed. We may ask, “But are we giving him over to the Devil?” Yes, but, again, God has His hand on this matter.
When children become rebellious in the home or within the church, many parents tend to compromise in order to make them feel comfortable in spite of their rebellion against the authority of the home. Dear parent, dear pastor, we cannot compromise the home or the church in order to make it more convenient for such individuals to live the way they want to and to infect the others. We must protect what we have in Christ, even if it means turning the individual over to Satan. Nevertheless, again, we are trusting God to be there when we do turn them over to such an extreme situation. Otherwise, the rest of the family and the church will fall away. Again, a little leaven left to rise among the rest will leaven the whole lump.
Be not deceived: evil communications [bad companions] corrupt good manners [good character]. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame (1 Cor. 15:33, 34).
Another passage, 1 Timothy 1:19, is of equal importance to the passage in 1 Corinthians 5:
Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith [the faith] have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan [though bold and raw, note the comma], that they may learn not to blaspheme.
Give them over to Satan so that they will learn, “Don’t blaspheme your parents. Don’t blaspheme God. Don’t blaspheme sacred things.” Sometimes being “given over to” is the only way to learn. They must be committed to Satan. But, we repeat for emphasis, God has His hand even on Satan and how far Satan is permitted to go in the matter of destruction. He may try to literally destroy them physically, even bringing them nigh unto death.
But, as God told Satan concerning Job, “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD” (Job 1:12). We then read in Job 2:6, “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.” If this was stated about a godly man with the protection of the Lord upon the degree Satan can test, how much more over a wayward soul, a rebellious soul, a stubborn soul, and a sinning soul that refuses to stop what he is doing. When this happens with those who will not learn otherwise, we must let them go and turn them over to Satan for the destruction of the fleshly things, the fleshly principle, the fleshly ways, and the fleshly thoughts that have been so consuming their mind. Yes, let them go.
We may carnally declare, “Suppose they lose something; suppose they lose an arm, or a leg, or an eye, or an ear, or they end up with a physical affliction?” Even then, we must trust God, for He controls to what degree Satan is permitted to lay hold of such an individual. And the motive must ever be that the spirit, the soul of that individual may be saved.
The church of Corinth obeyed what Paul commanded them to do. The separation of the church from the man living in fornication produced shame in his heart and conscience, and an eventual turning to God. Later in 2 Corinthians 2, Paul reveals that the young man separated from his step-mother and deeply repented of all his sin. We are not told what darkness, guilt, shame, and rejection he experienced during this season of time in being committed to Satan by the Corinthian Church.
A new problem then arose in 2 Corinthians, that the church would not permit the repentant man to return. For Paul did not tell them in the first epistle, “Now, if he repents, bring him back.” The apostle did not want to address a scenario where the man repents, because the Corinthians may not have handled it well; they may have pressed for compromise. Obedience to this spiritual father’s voice was the pressing crucial need.
But now in 2 Corinthians 2:9, Paul says, “For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things.” No doubt, some of the carnal believers said, “I don’t think Paul knows what he is talking about; this demand will kill this man, and where is the love of God in the matter?” But, God had moved upon Paul’s heart to write what he did, and now he declares,
To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us (2 Cor. 2:10, 11a).
The apostle declares that the appointed separation did work; but now, since the man has truly repented and separated from his sins, that if you don’t forgive him, the Devil is going to take more than what has been appointed for him. Satan is going to overreach (“take advantage”).
The Overreaching of Satan
The apostle Paul, though strong in the first letter in getting rid of this fornicator, now sees in the young man’s full repentance to God and to others, another danger that could arise: “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us.” Paul is now concerned that if they don’t forgive this man, he will never get over it; he will never have any hope; he will never believe that the blood of Christ can cleanse from all sin. So, lest Satan should get an advantage of us: “for we are not ignorant of his devices.” Amazingly, this word devices is in the context that we are not ignorant of his mental thinking or plans, his plan to destroy us. This is Satan’s thinking, his thoughts against us.
This truth is witnessed in 1 Corinthians 7, in the context of marriage. We read early in this classic chapter on marriage, that one of the reasons for marriage is to avoid fornication. Although this was not one of the original reasons back in Genesis 2, since the fall of man, this reason has been added.
Nevertheless, to avoid fornication [any form of sexual uncleanness], let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband [or her own man]. Let the husband render [same continuing context here] unto the wife [the] due benevolence [in the loving of her]: and likewise also the wife unto the husband (7:2, 3).
There must be a mutual reality of the purpose of this marital intimacy. “The wife hath not power [authority] of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife” (7:4). Paul, under divine inspiration reveals that separate ownership ceases once a person becomes married. A man doesn’t have a right to look at pornography: his eyes, his ears, his body belong to his wife. Although ultimately, the body belongs to God (6:20), in the context of marriage, the body of the husband belongs to his wife, and the body of the wife belongs to the husband. Therefore,
defraud ye not one the other [do not withhold this ownership], except it be with consent for a time [and if there is this consent of not being together], that ye may give yourselves to [spiritual things as] fasting and prayer; and [but] come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency [or for the inability to control the natural passions that God has given] (7:5).
Yes, Satan can enter a marriage through the carnal misconception of intimacy.
“But Satan Hindered Us”
Another truth we must observe regarding Satan’s power to hinder God’s people. Paul declares in 1 Thessalonians 2:18, “Wherefore we would have come unto you [Thessalonians], even I Paul, once and [I would have done it] again [I wanted to come to visit you]; but Satan hindered us.” Can Satan destroy God’s will in a Christian’s life? Did he actually hinder Paul from coming to the Thessalonians? Does Satan hinder? If he does, it must be viewed that God has permitted Satan to do this. Satan’s hindrance of Paul was a part of God’s permissive design. How often this happens in our lives when we believe it was God’s will to do something or to go to a certain place, but we were hindered by Satan. In Acts 16:6, 7, we read of Paul on his second missionary journey,
Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia. After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.
In each of these contexts, it was definitely God that hindered: “they were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia. . . . but the Spirit suffered them not.” But Paul, under divine inspiration reveals to us that Satan himself hindered Paul from coming to the Thessalonians. We must remember that the Thessalonian Christians were under intense persecution. Paul’s presence would have been a great strength to them, and Satan knew this. Therefore, somehow, he hindered Paul from going.
Some . . . Turned Aside After Satan
In 1 Timothy 5, Paul speaks of a distinction between a younger widow and an elderly widow.
But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ [when they desire marriage; when they begin to wax wanton instead of giving their life to Christ in the aftermath of being a widow—which an elderly woman would do], they will marry. Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith (5:11, 12).
This account presupposes they are marrying outside the will of God for their life.
And withal they learn to be idle [as a young one, when they need to marry or keep themselves occupied], wandering about from house to house [easily done by phone and internet today]; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary [the Devil] to speak reproachfully. For some [some women have] . . . already turned aside after Satan [in this matter] (5:13–15).
This turning aside is to be understood that some widows, in the light of how they were living, had already given occasion to Satan to speak reproachfully concerning their words and actions. Such women had turned aside from living the virtuous Christian life in which at one time they walked faithfully. Now, they were following Satan whose beguiling manner had drawn them into the life of sin and folly. Yes, Satan works through women who give themselves to being busybodies. Such women tend to be given to talk—talk against God’s work, God’s way, God’s people, God’s authority—they ceaselessly talk. You would think they would have enough at home to keep them occupied. But they tend not to keep their own house and children. Being turned aside after Satan is when Satan hinders a woman from being what God has appointed her to be at home; she involves herself in the affairs of others.
In Acts 10:38, we read the words of Peter in preaching to Cornelius and his household: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Over the years we have met individuals who experienced terrible, sinful backgrounds. But one would never know their past life because of their present close walk with God. The Lord not only forgave them of their sins but also healed them from the side effects of those sins. And yet we may meet others who have never permitted Christ to deliver them from the oppression of the Devil that was evident from their younger years. They never gained the victory over it all. Sad to say, as they grew older, still the lingering side effects from the Devil that never were healed by Christ continue.
This truth is going to be more important as the days unfold. We pray for people, especially young people who were greatly influenced by the Devil in their thinking and responses to life. If they eventually come to God in salvation, or come back to God one day, we know they will suffer horrific side effects of their past—their thought life of so many years in open or secret sin. And then, there may be the grief and pain over words they said against their parents, words and actions against God, and His Word and His work. How does one declare, “I am sorry” for all of this? How does one get over the haunting memory of all of it?
We must pray that our Lord will bring liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. When does the healing come? At what point are they released from the prison of the past? Does the Devil still have hold on them? Is this the way it will be until they die?
Satan has three titles given to him in the Scriptures, setting forth his malignity against God’s saints: (1) a dragon, to note his malice; (2) a serpent, to note his subtlety; and (3) a lion, to note his strength. Thomas Manton, one of the great Puritan writers stated, “Till we sin, Satan is a parasite; but when once we are in the devil’s hands he turns tyrant.” He knows how to subtly work his influence into our thinking. He can shape himself to the fancies and desires of all men. He meets a proud man or a prodigal as a flatterer; he meets a covetous man with a reward in his hand. He met Eve with beautiful fruit though forbidden, he met Noah with the fruit of the vine, he met Gehazi with a change of raiment, and he met Judas with a bag of silver. As the Devil is called “The prince of the power of the air,” he has a way through his influences to infect the air of an age. His craftiness is drawn into the soul without pain; spiritual disease becomes a reality even before there is a consciousness of its presence.
The child of God must realize that he was born into the world with a corrupt heart that was as a factory of the Devil. Such a heart living in the corruption of sin can be at work in evil without the Devil’s presence. For coming out of the heart is malice, envy, and all unrighteousness that can pervade every aspect of man. When such sins arise, they can walk on their own legs. Even if the Devil was bound, the sins of man would still be fertile and produce the fruits of hell. The Devil knows when God has forsaken a man; when this happens Satan will also leave him; for such workers of iniquity he looks upon as truly sealed in their sins. There is no need to tempt such a man.
We must remember that Satan is a great student of divinity, and he often uses the distortion of theology to drive us away from truth and eventually from God. We dare not be ignorant of his devices and his wiles. We must realize that Satan is at his most artful hour of history, the End Time. We must never sail our vessel of life daily without a convoy of God’s Word, Spirit, and His anointing. Otherwise, we will be in the crosshairs of the great foe that has brought down many who professed to be God’s own.