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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

God's adversary

In one of the comments regarding yesterday's post, it was made clear to me how very attached some folks are to the notion that Satan is somehow ultimately responsible for our sins. Is that so? Will God accept the excuse from our mouths, "The Devil made me do it!" Does the "buck" stop at Satan?

Another comment underscored the fact that many folks believe that Satan is so powerful that "his" powers are just barely superseded by those of Almighty God. These folks look at the landscape of the Bible and see God engaged in a titanic struggle with the Devil for the souls of mankind. In this view, mankind is held in the chains of a gigantic prison that Satan has devised and built for them; and God is desperately trying to free the captives before it's too late. Are these views consistent with Scripture and reason?

Jesus Christ did tell the Pharisees: "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." (John 8:44) The reasoning goes something like this: Satan is the originator of sin and the father of lies (fact). Therefore, he is responsible for every subsequent sin that has ever been committed and every lie that has ever been told. (conclusion) The problem with this reasoning is that the jump between the fact and the conclusion is much too big. It is, in short, illogical.

We all remember the story of the Serpent's temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden. (Genesis 3:1-7) We know that, by persuading them to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, Satan insured the death of Adam and Eve and their descendants. Hence, we can all understand why Christ referred to Satan as a "murderer from the beginning." Likewise, we understand that Satan lied to Eve when he told her that she would not surely die if she ate the forbidden fruit - the first awful lie with horrible and long lasting consequences. So we can all see why Christ called Satan the father of lies.

Now take a moment to consider. How do those facts allow us to reach the conclusion that Satan is responsible for everything that followed? Do humans have free will? Did Satan coerce Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, or did "he" persuade them that it would be OK to eat it? If Satan's power is coercive in nature, then I concede the point to my friends on the other side of this proposition (but that presents some profound philosophical and theological problems for them). If Satan's power is persuasive in nature, then the one who has been persuaded is still ultimately responsible for his/her own sins!

This idea of personal responsibility for sins is directly connected to the free will that God has given to each and every one of us as an essential component of "His" plan for us. Satan is the father of all liars. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." (Ezekiel 18:20) In other words, Satan is responsible for "his" sins; and "his" children are responsible for theirs! "The Devil made me do it," will not work on Judgment day!

"OK, so the Devil doesn't have the power to coerce us; but isn't it fair to say that Satan has almost unlimited power at his disposal?" my friends will persist. "Doesn't Scripture make it very plain that "he" is much more powerful than humans?" Let's look at what Scripture reveals about these topics.

In the first pages of the Bible, Satan's movement and activities are limited; and "his" ultimate fate is predicted. (Genesis 3:14-15) As mentioned in other posts on this blog, Isaiah and Ezekiel reveal that Satan's rebellion against God was a failure; and that "he" will ultimately be destroyed by God. (Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28) The book of Job makes very plain that Satan had to acquire God's permission before "he" was allowed to do anything to Job. (chapters 1 and 2) In numerous passages, Christ (and Christ's name) was shown to be in absolute authority over the demonic kingdom. (Matthew 4:1-11, 8:16, 28-34, 9:32-33, 12:22, 15:21-28, 17:14-21, Luke 9:1, 49, 10:17, Acts 5:12-16, etc.) The book of Revelation reveals that Satan and "his" angels were defeated in battle with Michael and "his" angels. (Revelation 12:7-9) We are also informed in that book that Satan will be imprisoned for one thousand years, and then thrown into the Lake of Fire where "he" will be consumed by the flames. (Revelation 20:1-10, Satan does not have God-life, immortality; also see elsewhere an explanation of what is meant by eternal torment or punishment). Hence, from these scriptures, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Satan is on a very short leash; and that God is in complete control of the overall fulfillment of "His" plans and purposes.

"But doesn't Scripture indicate that Satan is walking around like a 'roaring lion' seeking people to devour?" (II Peter 5:8) my friends will persist. Yes, that's why Peter instructed his readers to be sober and vigilant. It is not inconsistent with what we have discussed heretofore to acknowledge that Satan is more powerful than us. After all, Scripture does say that we were created "a little lower than the angels." (Hebrews 2:9-16) However, just like Peter, Paul assured his readers that they had the necessary tools available to them to be able to withstand the wiles of the Devil. (Ephesians 6:10-17)

Brethren, Satan has hoodwinked all of us into believing that "he" is much more powerful than "he" really is. That is "his" modus operandi (how he operates) - he deceives. The Devil has no power to coerce you to sin. Jesus Christ came here to pay the penalty for your sins - not the sins of Satan. So let's all stop giving to our Adversary more credit than "he" deserves. God is in control!!


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