“Oppose the Devil”
“Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.”—JAMES 4:7.
1. What can be said of the present world, and why do the anointed and their companions need to be vigilant?
“GOD has disappeared, but the Devil remains.” Those words of the French author André Malraux could well be applied to the world in which we live. The works of men certainly seem to reflect the wiles of the Devil more than the will of God. Satan is leading men astray “with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing.” (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10) In these “last days,” however, Satan is concentrating his efforts on God’s dedicated servants, waging war with anointed Christians, “who observe the commandments of God and have the work of bearing witness to Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:1; Revelation 12:9, 17) These Witnesses and their companions who have an earthly hope need to be vigilant.
2. How did Satan seduce Eve, and what fear did the apostle Paul express?
2 Satan is a deceiver through and through. Using a serpent as a cover, he tricked Eve into thinking that she could find greater happiness by acting independently of God. (Genesis 3:1-6) Some four thousand years later, the apostle Paul expressed fears that anointed Christians in Corinth might fall victim to Satan’s craftiness. Paul wrote: “I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, your minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) Satan corrupts people’s minds and warps their thinking. Just as he seduced Eve, he can cause Christians to reason falsely and imagine that their happiness depends on something Jehovah and his Son disapprove of.
3. What protection from the Devil does Jehovah provide?
3 Satan can be compared to a birdcatcher who sets traps to catch unsuspecting victims. To avoid Satan’s traps, we need to ‘dwell in the secret place of the Most High,’ a figurative place of protection that Jehovah provides for those who recognize his universal sovereignty in what they do. (Psalm 91:1-3) We need all the protection God provides through his Word, his spirit, and his organization so that we “may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:11) The Greek word for “machinations” can also be translated “crafty acts,” or “tricks.” Without a doubt, the Devil uses many tricks and crafty acts in his efforts to ensnare Jehovah’s servants.
Traps Satan Set for the Early Christians
4. In what kind of world did the early Christians live?
4 Christians who lived in the first and second centuries C.E. were living at a time when the Roman Empire was at its zenith. The Pax Romana (Roman Peace) enabled commerce to flourish. This prosperity brought much leisure time to the ruling class, and the rulers saw to it that the masses got plenty of entertainment so that they would not rebel. During some periods, public holidays were as numerous as working days. The leaders used public funds to give the people bread and circuses, keeping their stomachs full and their minds diverted.
5, 6. (a) Why was it inappropriate for Christians to frequent Roman theaters and amphitheaters? (b) What trick did Satan use, and how could Christians avoid it?
5 Did this situation constitute a danger for the early Christians? Judging from the warnings written by early postapostolic writers, such as Tertullian, most of the leisure activities at that time were fraught with spiritual and moral dangers for true Christians. For one thing, most of the public festivals and games were held in honor of pagan gods. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) At the theaters, even many of the classical plays were either grossly immoral or bloodily violent. As time passed, public taste for the classics waned, and they were replaced by lewd pantomime shows. In his book Daily Life in Ancient Rome, historian Jérôme Carcopino says: “In these plays the actresses were permitted to undress entirely . . . Blood was shed copiously. . . . [The mime] plumbed the depths of a perversion which had conquered the masses of the capital. They were not sickened by such exhibitions because the ghastly butcheries of the amphitheatre had long since debased their feelings and perverted their instincts.”—Matthew 5:27, 28.
6 In the amphitheaters, gladiators fought each other to the death or fought wild animals, either killing them or being killed by them. Condemned criminals and, eventually, many Christians were thrown to ferocious beasts. Even in those early times, Satan’s trick was to blunt people’s repugnance to immorality and violence until these things became commonplace and were sought after by the populace. The only way to keep out of that trap was to stay away from the theaters and amphitheaters.—1 Corinthians 15:32, 33.
7, 8. (a) Why would a Christian have been unwise to attend chariot races? (b) How could Satan have used the Roman baths to entrap Christians?
7 Chariot races held in vast oblong arenas called circuses were doubtless very exciting, but they were unacceptable for Christians because the crowds often got violent. A third-century writer reported that some of the spectators came to blows, and Carcopino states that “astrologers and prostitutes had their place of business” under the arcades of the circus building. Clearly, the Roman circus was no place for Christians.—1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
8 What of the famous Roman baths? Certainly, there was nothing wrong with bathing to keep clean. But many of the Roman baths were huge establishments that included massage rooms, gymnasiums, gaming rooms, and places to eat and drink. Although, theoretically, times were set aside for each sex to use the baths, mixed bathing was often tolerated. Clement of Alexandria wrote: “The baths are opened promiscuously to men and women; and there they strip for licentious indulgence.” Thus, a legitimate institution could easily have been used by Satan as a trap for Christians. Wise ones abstained.
9. What snares did the early Christians have to avoid?
9 Gambling was a favorite pastime among the people when the Roman Empire was at its height. The early Christians could avoid the betting that went on at the chariot races by simply staying away from the circuses. Minor gambling was also done illicitly in the back rooms of inns and taverns. Players bet on the odd or even number of pebbles or knucklebones held in the other player’s hand. Gambling added spice to people’s lives, for it offered the hope of making easy money. (Ephesians 5:5) Furthermore, barmaids at such drinking places were often prostitutes, adding the danger of sexual immorality. Such were some of the snares that Satan set for Christians who lived in the cities of the Roman Empire. Are things very different today?
Satan’s Snares Today
10. How does the situation today resemble conditions that prevailed in the Roman Empire?
10 In the main, Satan’s tricks have not changed over the centuries. In order for Christians living in the corrupt city of Corinth not to be “overreached by Satan,” the apostle Paul gave them strong counsel. He said: “We are not ignorant of [Satan’s] designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:11) In many developed countries, the situation today is similar to that prevailing in the Roman Empire in its heyday. Many people have more leisure time than ever. State lotteries give even the poor a glimmer of hope. There is plenty of cheap entertainment to occupy people’s minds. Sports stadiums are full, people are gambling, crowds sometimes get violent, and players often do. Degrading music fills people’s ears, and lewd shows occupy theater stages as well as movie and TV screens. In some countries, mixed bathing in saunas and hot springs is popular, not to mention nude bathing on some beaches. Just as in the early centuries of Christianity, Satan tries to entice God’s servants by means of worldly leisure activities.
11. What snares lie in the desire to unwind and relax?
11 In a world where stress is common, it is normal to feel the need to unwind or to get away from it all. However, just as the Roman baths included features that were potentially dangerous for the early Christians, some vacation facilities and resorts have proved to be a trap Satan has used to lead modern-day Christians into immorality or overdrinking. Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth: “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits. Wake up to soberness in a righteous way and do not practice sin, for some are without knowledge of God.”—1 Corinthians 15:33, 34.
12. What are some tricks used by Satan to ensnare Jehovah’s servants today?
12 We have seen in the case of Eve how Satan used cunning to corrupt her thinking. (2 Corinthians 11:3) Today, one of the Devil’s snares is to lead Christians into thinking that if they go as far as possible in trying to show that Jehovah’s Witnesses are just like other people, they will succeed in drawing some to Christian truth. Sometimes, they go too far, and the reverse occurs. (Haggai 2:12-14) Another of Satan’s tricks is to embolden dedicated Christians, both young ones and adults, to live double lives and ‘grieve God’s holy spirit.’ (Ephesians 4:30) Some have fallen into this trap through the abuse of the Internet.
13. What disguised snare is one of the Devil’s crafty acts, and what counsel in Proverbs is appropriate here?
13 Another of Satan’s snares is disguised occultism. No true Christian would deliberately dabble in Satanism or spiritism. Yet, some unwittingly let their guard down when it comes to films, TV series, video games, and even children’s books and comics that highlight violence or uncanny practices. Anything that smacks of the occult needs to be kept at a distance. The wise proverb states: “Thorns and traps are in the way of the crooked one; he that is guarding his soul keeps far away from them.” (Proverbs 22:5) Since Satan is “the god of this system of things,” anything that is very popular could possibly hide one of his traps.—2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 2:15, 16.
Jesus Opposed the Devil
14. How did Jesus resist the Devil’s first temptation?
14 Jesus provided a fine example of opposing the Devil and causing him to flee. After being baptized and fasting for 40 days, Jesus was tempted by Satan. (Matthew 4:1-11) The first temptation sought to use the natural hunger that Jesus felt after fasting. Satan invited Jesus to perform his first miracle to satisfy a physical need. Quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, Jesus refused to make selfish use of his powers and placed spiritual food above physical food.
15. (a) What natural desire did Satan exploit to tempt Jesus? (b) What is one of the Devil’s main crafty acts against God’s servants today, but how can we oppose him?
15 An interesting thought with regard to this temptation is that the Devil did not seek to have Jesus commit a sexual sin. Hunger, which naturally arouses a yearning for food, seemed to be the strongest physical desire to use in tempting Jesus in this instance. What temptations does the Devil use to lure God’s people today? They are many and varied, but he is using sexual temptations as one of the main crafty acts in his effort to break the integrity of Jehovah’s people. By imitating Jesus, we can oppose the Devil and resist temptations. Just as Jesus thwarted Satan’s advances by recalling appropriate scriptures, when tempted we can recall such texts as Genesis 39:9 and 1 Corinthians 6:18.
16. (a) How did Satan tempt Jesus a second time? (b) In what ways might Satan try to tempt us to test Jehovah?
16 Next, the Devil challenged Jesus to leap off the temple wall and test God’s ability to protect him by means of His angels. Quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, Jesus refused to put his Father to the test. Satan may not tempt us to jump from a temple battlement, but he can tempt us to test Jehovah. Are we tempted to see how closely we can imitate worldly fads in our dress and grooming without being counseled? Are we tempted in the area of questionable entertainment? We might then be testing Jehovah. If we have such inclinations, instead of fleeing from us, Satan may linger with us, incessantly trying to lure us into taking sides with him.
17. (a) How did the Devil tempt Jesus for the third time? (b) How can James 4:7 prove to be true for us?
17 When Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for a single act of worship, Jesus again opposed him by quoting Scripture, taking his stand firmly for the exclusive worship of his Father. (Deuteronomy 5:9; 6:13; 10:20) Satan may not offer the kingdoms of the world to us, but he constantly tempts us with materialistic glitter, even a vision of a little personal kingdom. Do we respond as Jesus did, giving our exclusive devotion to Jehovah? If so, what happened to Jesus will happen to us. Matthew’s account states: “Then the Devil left him.” (Matthew 4:11) Satan will leave us if we take a firm stand against him by remembering appropriate Bible principles and putting them into practice. The disciple James wrote: “Oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) A Christian wrote to the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in France: “Satan is truly cunning. In spite of my best intentions, I find it very difficult to master my feelings and my desires. Nevertheless, with courage, patience, and above all, Jehovah’s help, I have managed to pull through and hold fast to the truth.”
Fully Equipped to Oppose the Devil
18. What spiritual armor equips us to oppose the Devil?
18 Jehovah has supplied us with a full suit of spiritual armor to enable us “to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:11-18) Our love for the truth will gird our loins, or prepare us, for Christian activity. Our determination to hold to Jehovah’s standards of righteousness will be like a breastplate protecting our heart. If our feet are shod with the good news, they will regularly take us into the preaching work, and this will strengthen and protect us spiritually. Our strong faith will be like a large shield, protecting us from “the wicked one’s burning missiles,” his crafty attacks and temptations. Our confident hope in the fulfillment of Jehovah’s promises will be like a helmet protecting our thinking abilities and giving us peace of mind. (Philippians 4:7) If we become expert at handling God’s Word, it will be like a sword we can use to help free people from spiritual bondage to Satan. We can also wield it to defend ourselves, even as Jesus did when tempted.
19. In addition to ‘opposing the Devil,’ what is necessary?
19 By keeping on this “complete suit of armor from God” and carrying on prayer continually, we can be confident of Jehovah’s protection when Satan attacks us. (John 17:15; 1 Corinthians 10:13) But James showed that it is not enough to ‘oppose the Devil.’ We must also, and above all, ‘subject ourselves to God,’ who cares for us. (James 4:7, 8) How we can do this will be considered in the following article.
How Would You Answer?
• What snares of Satan did the early Christians have to avoid?
• What crafty acts does Satan use today to try to ensnare Jehovah’s servants?
• How did Jesus oppose the Devil’s temptations?
• What spiritual armor enables us to oppose the Devil?
[Picture on page 8, 9]
Jesus firmly opposed the Devil
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First-century Christians rejected violent and immoral entertainment
The Complete Encyclopedia of Illustration/J. G. Heck