The Devil #3
Man Is No Match For The Devil
The devil was very real to Martin Luther. He recognized the devil as a formidable enemy and taught us to sing:
The old, evil Foe now means deadly woe;
Deep guile and great might
Are his dread arms in fight
On earth is not his equal.
That estimation of the peril posed by the devil is thoroughly scriptural. Many passages reveal the malicious might which the devil directs against mankind’s physical and spiritual life.
We cannot hope to outwit him. Consider how easily he was able to deceive Eve. He led her to disobey a direct command of God. It is for good reason that Paul counsels: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6:11).
Yet, for all his craftiness the devil does foolish things. Certainly he knew the meaning of God’s curse spoken upon him after he tricked Eve: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). Certainly he knew the words of Isaiah 53 which clearly speak of the redemption of mankind through Christ’s death. In spite of this he promoted the death of Jesus which caused his overthrow.
While we may marvel at such folly, the devil remains (the devil is) a fearsome and powerful enemy of mankind — particularly of Christians. Luther points out that, in contending with the devil,
With might of ours can naught be done,
Soon were our loss effected.
See the proof in Scripture. The devil can harm men’s bodies, Luke 13:15; he can take possession of men’s bodies, Luke 8:26ff; he has complete control over the will, mind, and soul of unbelievers, Eph. 2:1-3; he can do amazing things which appear to the ungodly to be works of God, 2 Thess. 2:9-10; he can destroy men’s possessions as with Job; he can cause trouble in the state as in leading David to number Israel, 1 Chron. 21:1ff; he can cause trouble in marriage and in the home, 1 Tim. 4:1-3, 1 Cor. 7:5.
It is in the area of spiritual matters that Satan is most dangerous. We pray the Sixth Petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” so that the devil “may not deceive us nor lead us into misbelief, despair, and other shameful sin and vice.”
Sometimes the devil comes as a roaring lion and attacks the individual’s heart, mind, and will directly. One very effective strategy is to lead people to doubt God’s Word and to turn away from it. The low esteem in which the Bible is held by many self-styled Christians today is a direct result.
The devil also effectively employs indirect means of attack by using others to do his dirty work. Sometimes his agents are people who are close to us. He led Peter to tempt Jesus, Matt. 16:23. He has flooded the world with false teachers both inside and outside of the visible church. They seek to lead people away from their one infallible defense against the devil–Jesus Christ.
Luther refers to Jesus:
But for us fights the Valiant One,
Whom God Himself elected.
Trusting in Jesus we have hope in our warfare against Satan:
This world’s prince may still,
Scowl fierce as he will,He can harm us none,
He’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him.
That “word” is the good news that Jesus has defeated the devil. By giving His life, Jesus paid for the sins of all people. Those who are led to trust in this are free from the tyranny of Satan. Though the devil may persecute them in this life, believers in Christ hold the eternal victory.
May our prayer be that of another hymn writer:
Oh, keep us in Thy Word we pray!
The guile and rage of Satan stay!
O may Thy mercy never cease!
Give concord, patience, courage, peace.
–Pastor em. Keith Olmanson