Stand Firm Against Satan’s Machinations
“Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations [Greek, “crafty acts”] of the Devil.”—EPHESIANS 6:11.
1. What evidence that Satan exists is provided by the temptations of Jesus?
DOES Satan really exist? Some people argue that in the Bible, “Satan” refers only to the evil within man. They deny his existence as a creature. But what do the Scriptures tell us? The Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke show that Christ Jesus was directly tempted three times by Satan, and each time Jesus rejected him, using Scripture. Why did Jesus answer him from the Hebrew Scriptures? Because Satan came to him misapplying those very Scriptures in order to make him sin and fail as the Son of God, the promised Seed.—Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13.
2. How do we know that Jesus did not imagine his encounters with Satan?
2 Obviously, Jesus, a perfect man, did not imagine these encounters. (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26) He was confronted by the same one who was the power behind the serpent in Eden, his own former angelic brother who ages before had rebelled and now was out to thwart the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. Satan wanted to break the integrity of the promised Seed. Wise to his crafty acts, Jesus firmly rejected the Tempter. What was Satan’s reaction? “So the Devil, having concluded all the temptation, retired from him until another convenient time.” Clearly, Jesus did not retire from himself! Satan, frustrated, left him, “and, look! angels came and began to minister to [Jesus].”—Luke 4:13; Matthew 4:11.
3. What does one historian say about the significance of the existence of the Devil to Christianity?
3 Reasonably, one historian comments: “To deny the existence and central importance of the Devil in Christianity is to run counter to apostolic teaching and to the historical development of Christian doctrine. Since defining Christianity in terms other than these is literally meaningless, it is intellectually incoherent to argue for a Christianity that excludes the Devil. If the Devil does not exist, then Christianity has been dead wrong on a central point right from the beginning.”* That conclusion presents a challenge for every person on earth today. Do you recognize the existence of an invisible enemy who is out to subvert God’s sovereignty and man’s allegiance?
Satan’s True Identity
4. How did a perfect spirit creature become Satan?
4 Satan is a powerful spirit creature, originally created by God as an angel, a spirit son with access to Jehovah’s heavenly court. (Job 1:6) However, Satan exercised his free will in opposition to God; with cunning he led Eve and, through her, Adam into disobedience and death. (2 Corinthians 11:3) Thus, he became Satan, meaning “Adversary”—a rebel, a demon, a manslayer, and a liar. (John 8:44) How appropriate is Paul’s expression that “Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light,” when in actual fact he is a ‘world ruler of this darkness’! (2 Corinthians 6:14; 11:14; Ephesians 6:12) By enticing other angels to rebel, he led them out of God’s light into his own darkness. He became “the ruler of the demons.” Jesus also identified him as “the ruler of this world.” Obviously, in order to be a ruler, he has to exist as a created spirit person.—Matthew 9:34; 12:24-28; John 16:11.
5. How clearly is Satan identified in the Christian Greek Scriptures?
5 While Satan is rarely mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, he is fully exposed in the Christian Greek Scriptures—so much so that we encounter the name Satan there 36 times and the word Devil, 33 times. (See Comprehensive Concordance of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.) He is also identified under other names and titles. Two of these were used by John at Revelation 12:9: “So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.”—See also Matthew 12:24-27; 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.
6. What is the meaning of the word “Devil”?
6 Here in Revelation appears the Greek word di·aʹbo·los, translated “Devil.” According to Greek scholar J. H. Thayer, it literally means “a calumniator, false accuser, slanderer.” (Compare 1 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 3:3, Kingdom Interlinear.) W. E. Vine describes the Devil as “being the malignant enemy of God and man.”*
7. Why can Satan concentrate his efforts on Jehovah’s people?
7 The great Adversary is not idle. (1 Peter 5:8) Perhaps that is why a proverb says, “The Devil finds work for idle hands to do.” He is out to subvert all genuine Christians. (2 Timothy 3:12) And he can concentrate on Jehovah’s people for one simple reason—he already has the rest of the world in his power! (1 John 5:19) Today’s world is Satan’s world. He is its ruler and god, whether people recognize it or not. (John 12:31; 2 Corinthians 4:4) As a consequence, he will resort to every crafty or subtle act or suggestion in order to subvert Jehovah’s people, either individually or collectively. Let us examine some of the ways he operates.—Mark 4:14, 15; Luke 8:12.
Satan’s Subtle and Crafty Acts
8. With what advantage may Satan be working against us?
8 Satan has had a long time to study human psychology, to analyze human nature with all its inborn and acquired defects. He knows how to play on our weaknesses and our vanity. Now, what is the situation if your enemy knows your weaknesses and you fail to recognize them yourself? Then you are ill-equipped to defend yourself, since you are not aware of the chinks in your spiritual armor. (1 Corinthians 10:12; Hebrews 12:12, 13) How appropriate the words of a Scottish poet: ‘O would some power the gift give us to see ourselves as others see us! It would from many a blunder free us.’
9. What may be the unhappy result if we fail to analyze ourselves and change?
9 Are we willing to see ourselves as others see us—especially as God or Satan might see us? That requires honest self-analysis and appraisal and the will to make a change. Self-deception is so easy. (James 1:23, 24) How we sometimes rationalize to justify our course of action! (Compare 1 Samuel 15:13-15, 20, 21, 24.) And how easy it is to say, “Well, nobody is perfect, you know!” That is just what Satan knows, and he takes advantage of our imperfection. (2 Samuel 11:2-27) How sad to reach middle age and come to realize that because of the despotic, impersonal, or unkind way one has dealt with others over the years, one has become friendless; or to realize that one has done little or nothing to make other people happy. With subtlety Satan has perhaps led us through life using our inborn selfishness to blind us. We have failed to capture the essence of the true mind of Christ—love, compassion, and kindness.—1 John 4:8, 11, 20.
10. What questions might we ask ourselves, and why?
10 Therefore, in order to resist Satan, we must examine ourselves. Do you have a weakness that Satan could exploit or is exploiting right now? Do you have an ego problem? Must you always be number one? Is pride your hidden motivating force? Does jealousy, envy, or love of money distort your personality? Do you have a chip on your shoulder? Are you cold and cynical? Or are you hypersensitive when offered suggestions or criticism? Do you resent or even refuse counsel? If we know ourselves, we can rectify such problems, provided we are humble. Otherwise, we are leaving ourselves open to Satan.—1 Timothy 3:6, 7; Hebrews 12:7, 11; 1 Peter 5:6-8.
11. By what subtle means might Satan try to undermine our spirituality?
11 Satan can also undermine our spirituality in a subtle, insidious way. Perhaps we get upset about the way things are being done in the congregation or the organization. Often we do not have all the facts, but we easily jump to conclusions. If our relationship with Jehovah is weak, then it is a short step to negative thinking and doubts about the truth. Some may look for a self-justifying way out of the responsibilities that the truth entails. Satan then puts disloyalty and treason into their hearts. Soon they are victims of apostasy, and Satan rejoices.—Luke 22:3-6; John 13:2, 27; 2 John 9-11.
12. (a) How have some been emboldened by Satan? (b) How does Satan trap many into immorality?
12 Others are emboldened by Satan not only to commit gross sins worthy of disfellowshipping but even to resort to lies and deception in order to try to fool the congregation elders. Like Ananias and Sapphira, they think they can deceive the angels and God’s holy spirit. (Acts 5:1-10) Many thousands in recent years have fallen into Satan’s trap of immorality. The Devil knows that mankind’s sexual impulses are powerful, and through his world system, he highlights, perverts, and distorts the role of sexuality. (Numbers 25:1-3) Unmarried Christians may be tempted into fornication or other sexual abuses. (Proverbs 7:6-23) If married Christians allow their minds and hearts to wander, they can easily fall into treasonable conduct, betraying the spouse to whom they vowed fidelity.—1 Corinthians 6:18; 7:1-5; Hebrews 13:4.
13. (a) How could television shape our thinking? (b) How can we resist such influence?
13 We live in a world in which lies, deceit, and violent anger are commonplace. Satan makes full use of the media to put across this degraded mentality. Television serials or soap operas portray attractive-looking people living in a web of mutual deceit. If we allow that thinking to affect us, we can soon start giving way to “minor” sins, which become the thin edge of the wedge for “major” ones. Satan’s subtle suggestions easily insinuate themselves into our thinking. How can we resist such influences? Never “allow place for the Devil,” as Paul counseled. That also means to control whom you allow into your home through the television. Should we not abhor the intrusion of violent, immoral, foulmouthed persons who bring pollution into our living room?—Ephesians 4:23-32.
How Can We Resist Satan and Remain Faithful to God?
14. What twofold resolve is needed in order to resist Satan, and what does this require?
14 With such a powerful, superhuman enemy ranged against us imperfect human creatures, how can we keep our integrity? The key is found in James’ words: “Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Notice that James’ counsel is twofold. While we oppose the Devil and his will, we must subject ourselves to God’s will. That involves loving God’s will and hating Satan’s. (Romans 12:9) Thus, James says: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you indecisive ones.” (James 4:8) Yes, in our resistance to Satan, there is no room for halfheartedness and indecision. We cannot afford to risk our integrity by seeing how close we can come to the line of demarcation from wickedness. We must thoroughly “hate what is bad.”—Psalm 97:10.
15. Why is “the complete suit of armor from God” essential? Illustrate.
15 Outstanding counsel on resisting Satan is found in Ephesians chapter 6. How does Paul say we can resist Satan’s “craftiness,” “schemes,” or “tactics”? (Ephesians 6:11, Phillips, New International Version, The Jerusalem Bible) “Put on the complete suit of armor from God,” he counsels. This expression “complete suit” leaves no room for a sloppy attitude toward Christianity, any more than a Roman soldier could afford to be sloppy when preparing for battle. How would the soldier fare if he prepared himself with the entire suit of armor except the shield and the helmet? He could have thought, ‘That really is a large shield, and the helmet is so heavy. They weigh a lot, and I don’t really need them.’ Imagine the situation—a Roman soldier armed to fight but without his main items of defense.—Ephesians 6:16, 17.
16. (a) How must we follow Jesus’ example in using our “sword”? (b) How may we keep up our guard against Satan’s “burning missiles,” and with what result?
16 Imagine, too, a soldier without his sword. “The sword of the spirit” is a fine defense, as it is used to slash away the weaponry that Satan brings against the Christian. Our “sword” should be ever at the ready. It will be that way if we do not neglect our personal and family Bible study. But preeminently, this “sword . . . God’s Word” is our instrument of offense. Jesus used it both ways. (Matthew 4:6, 7, 10; 22:41-46) So must we. We must keep sharpening our appreciation of the truth. We cannot maintain our spirituality on the basis of what we learned in our first few months or years in the truth. If we failed to renew the spiritual circuits of our mind, our spiritual vision would become dimmed. Our zeal for Jehovah’s true worship would diminish. We would become spiritually feeble. We would no longer be able to repel the attacks of relatives, friends, companions, and apostates who may heap scorn upon our beliefs. But God will save us from the Devil and his “burning missiles” if we keep equipping ourselves with “the complete suit of armor from God.”—Isaiah 35:3, 4.
17, 18. Against whom is our fight, and how can we win?
17 Yes, Paul emphasized the danger involved in the Christian fight when he wrote: “For our fight is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens.” (Ephesians 6:12, The New English Bible) How can we puny humans resist and win in such an uneven battle? Paul reiterates his point: “On this account take up the complete suit of armor from God, that you may be able to resist in the wicked day and, after you have done all things thoroughly, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13) The key expression is: “After you have done all things thoroughly.” This again leaves no room for halfhearted or distracted Christianity.—1 John 2:15-17.
18 Therefore, let us stand firm in the truth, loving Jehovah’s righteousness, preaching the good news of peace, holding fast with a strong faith in the salvation that Jehovah gives through Christ Jesus, while we rely on God’s Word as our mainstay. (Ephesians 6:14-17) Remember, God cares for us and will help us to triumph over the trials and anxieties that come our way in Satan’s system of things. May all of us heed the warning: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.” Yes, “take your stand against him, solid in the faith.”—1 Peter 5:6-9.
19. (a) What further essential provision must we use in order to resist Satan? (b) What will eventually happen to Satan?
19 Let us not forget Paul’s essential addition to the “suit of armor.” He says: “While with every form of prayer and supplication you carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit. And to that end keep awake with all constancy and with supplication in behalf of all the holy ones.” (Ephesians 6:18) Our invisible enemy is so powerful that we need “every form of prayer and supplication.” How genuine and varied, then, our prayers must be! Our total reliance on Jehovah is vital if we are to win the fight and maintain integrity. Only he can supply “the power beyond what is normal” that will enable us to resist our relentless Adversary. What a comfort it is to know that our great Adversary will soon be abyssed and then finally annihilated forever!—2 Corinthians 4:7; Revelation 20:1-3, 10.
Satan—The Early Christian Tradition, by Jeffrey Burton Russell, page 25.
An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.
Can You Answer?
□ How do we know that Satan is a real person?
□ Why are Satan’s other names and titles fitting?
□ What self-analysis might help us to resist Satan’s subtle attacks?
□ What counsel will help in overcoming Satan, and why?
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One way to resist Satan’s influence is to be outgoing, helpful, loving
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We should guard against being like Ananias and Sapphira, who yielded to Satan
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To repel Satan’s missiles, we cannot omit any part of our spiritual armor