Part 4 – What are we to do?
CHAPTER 5 – Living The Christian Life continued…
Our Conduct Or Behavior As Believers
The Christian life is
A WALK, A RACE, A WARFARE, FRUITFUL,
A LIFE OF PEACE, A REST, A LIFE OF PRAYER.
The Walk is One of Obedience (continued)
How The Believer Is To Overcome The Devil
In order to have a clear understanding of the Scriptural principles for being victorious over the devil, there are three primary passages that will be considered (in chronological order).
First, in James 4:7,8, we read,
Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye doubleminded.
Note that the command to resist the devil is placed between two commands regarding the believer’s relationship to God. The point is that the child of God must first, Submit to God, then he is able toresist the devil. Although James does not explain how a believer submits, the word in the Greek translated, submit, has the primary meaning of “to be under obedience”, and is used in Ephesians 5:21 in describing one of the characteristics of being filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18), which characteristic is, Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God (Eph 5:21). The place of greatest protection from the devil is for the child of God to be filled with the Spirit constantly, putting himself under obedience to God. Conversely, when a believer is not being filled with the Spirit, he is most vulnerable and will not be effective in resisting the devil.
The phrase, Resist the devil, could be paraphrased, “Oppose the opposer”. Since Satan is the one who opposes God and everyone who belongs to God, James gives the command, Resist (or, oppose) the devil. The most literal translation of the original Greek word is “to stand against” or “withstand” (as used in Eph 6:13). The Scripture does not instruct the believer to command Satan to flee or to have to say anything to him, but to hold one’s own position in submission to God and to not allow Satan to dissuade the believer by any deceitful actions the devil might attempt to use.
As the believer resists the devil by submitting to God in obedience and standing fast against the devil, the Scripture then states that …he (Satan) will flee from you. Rather than Satan’s setting the believer to flight, the believer stands in the place of authority and security, and the devil is set to flight. The believer can claim the victory he already has in Jesus through Jesus Christ’s shed blood on the cross, death and resurrection. This is only effective when all sin has been confessed, saying the same thing about it that God says, that it is sin, as in I John 1:9.
As a proper follow-through, James admonishes the believer to Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. The word for draw near is also translated “approach” in other passages (e.g., Heb. 10:25). Therefore, after confronting and resisting the devil, the believer is admonished to approach God. It is possible to say then, “Approach God and He will approach you”. Just as Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations in the wilderness and was ministered to by angels, so the believer, after resisting Satan’s temptations, is ministered to by his approach to God in fellowship.
By (1) Submitting to God in obedience, (2) Resisting the devil, and (3) Drawing near to God – the believer transforms each confrontation by the devil into an occasion for fellowship with God.
The second passage to instruct the believer in how to have victory over the devil is found in I Peter 5:9, which states,
Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
Again, the word, resist, is given as in the passage in James 4:7,8. In this present reference, the one who resists the devil is exhorted to be steadfast in the faith. There are eight different Greek words that are translated steadfast. The word used in I Peter 5:9 occurs in only two other passages and has a distinctive sense. It is the Greek word, “stereos,” and has the meaning of “strong, firm, unmoveable,” as used in II Timothy 2:19, where it states, Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure. In Hebrews 5:12,14, stereos is translated as “solid” or “strong” (K.J.V.) in reference to thesolid food (strong meat) of the word of righteousness (v.13), which is for those who have grown beyond the milk of the word.
The emphasis of I Peter 5:9 is, therefore, that the devil can be resisted as the believer continues to be strong and unmoveable in his life and walk of faith centered in God and Christ.
The believer is not expected to resist Satan apart from God’s provision. In Ephesians 6:10,11, the believer is instructed,
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
The Apostle Paul knew the importance of the admonition, Be strong in the Lord, Eph. 6:10. The statement is introduced by the word, finally. This has the meaning of henceforth. After everything else had been written earlier in the epistle concerning the believer’s position and walk, the Apostle puts this command as his last word to them because they will always need to heed what he says here. There is always the need for the child of God to be strengthened. The strengthening comes only from his position in the Lord. The strengthening is not within the person himself. (See II Cor. 12:9,10.)
Then, there is the additional word given that the strengthening is in the power of His (God’s) might. Paul had prayed for the believers in Ephesians 1:19, that they might know …what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power. Now in Ephesians 6:10, the Apostle is saying that what he prayed for them in his earlier prayer is the strength which they are to appropriate in order to be strong. This strength needs to be experienced before Satan attacks, not only when he attacks.
Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
This truth of putting on the armor parallels Romans 13:14,
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Rom. 13:14)
Because the believer is united with Christ, the strength with which he is able to stand against the wiles of the devil is Christ’s strength. The believer does not stand in his own strength alone, but relies upon Christ to strengthen him to resist Satan’s attacks as the believer “yields” to Christ in obedience. (See Reckon and Yield.)
Verse 12 gives the reason that the believer needs to be strong in the Lord (v.10), and to put on the whole armor of God (v.11). The opposition confronting the believer is neither physical nor visible, but is in the spiritual realm. The opposition is very real, although it is invisible. There are four ways in which the spiritual opposition is described.
First, there are “principalities or rulers applied here to the powers of evil”.
Second, are powers, “here designating demonic authorities”.
Third, are the rulers of the darkness of this world, which is translated, that we are wrestling “against the world rulers…of this darkness”. “It means…powers dominating the world as such and working everywhere.” The word, darkness, “limits their dominion…to the world as it now is in the darkness of its ignorance and evil, and suggests the destined termination of their operation”.
Fourth, is spiritual wickedness in high places. This can be more clearly understood as being “the spirit forces whose essential character is wickedness”. These forces are seen to be operating in high places, which means in the Greek, in the heavenlies. “Their haunts are those superterrestrial regions, not the highest heavens which are the abode of God, Christ, and angels, but those lower heavens which are at once subcelestial and superterrestrial.” In view of this fourfold description of the forces opposing the Christian in his spiritual life, the believer can see the importance of being protected by the armor, as described in verses 14-17 of Ephesians 6, which armor is stronger than the wicked forces opposing him.
In Ephesians 6:14-17, the believer is commanded to stand, followed by a description of the armor pieces he is to wear for his protection. Each piece of his equipment is described by qualities that are spiritual. These qualities of the armor are: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God. When seen in their entirety, they speak of Christ’s characteristics. The believer’s protection is centered in his position in Christ. Therefore, he is able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Eph. 6:13) because of who he is in Christ.
Whereas the believer runs a race and he is to walk in the Spirit, when confronted by Satan and his demons, the believer is to stand fast. The believer is provided with righteousness, faith, peace, and the other qualities that characterize the armor, through Christ, so that the believer does not have to respond to circumstances caused by Satan. By the believer’s standing fast, Satan cannot gain ground which rightly belongs to Christ since the believer belongs where he is, under Christ’s control. As believers stand firm when Satan seeks to devour them, it serves as a testimony that The earth is the Lord’s…(Psa. 24:1), since the believer is the one indwelt by the Lord. It also serves to assure the believer that Satan is only here as a usurper and does not have right to the earth ultimately. It is Christ’s!
The final passage to be considered is I John 2:13c,d;14c-f, which states,
I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one.
I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
Instead of giving a command to resist or to overcome, the present passage makes a simple statement, perhaps as a commendation, that the young men to whom John writes have overcome the wicked one (the devil). In verse 14, a further statement is added that the young men…are strong, and the word of God abideth in you.
The term, young men, would include all individuals, female or male, who are children of God by faith in Christ who have grown beyond the childhood level by knowing God through knowing Scriptures and applying them in their daily living. As a person internalizes the Word of God in his life and knowledge, he matures past childhood to spiritual strength as a young man. As he comes to be ayoung man spiritually through the knowledge of the Scriptures, he has learned who Satan is, and he has learned that victory over Satan has already been accomplished through Christ’s death and resurrection. So the young man overcomes the devil by standing in the truth of God’s Word.
The child of God needs to know Christ and his own position in Christ and Satan’s true nature and conduct as revealed in Scripture. With such knowledge of Christ and the Scriptures, in obedience to Christ, the believer is able to stand firm in faith and in continuing fellowship with God and Christ, and thereby be an overcomer.
Just as Jesus used the Scriptures to answer Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, it is most effective to recite aloud Scriptures which affirm the believer’s confidence in God’s provision when Satan attacks. Some appropriate Scriptures are listed here:
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, James 4:7b.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world, I John 4:4.
Being confident of this very thing, that he who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, Philippians 1:6.
He who dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; in Him will I trust, Psalm 91:1,2.
The entire 23rd Psalm may be recited aloud, as well as other Psalms of praise and our affirmations of praise. After prayer and praise to God, we have personally also found that listening to, or participating in, sacred music that exalts Christ, to be an effective means to dispel Satan’s presence, as songs of praise are an extension of our praise to God and Christ in the Spirit.
Notice the statement that concludes Satan’s temptation of Jesus, Matt. 4:11:
Then the devil leaveth Him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto Him.
Satan will not continue in the presence of one who is delighting in the Lord and who relies upon the Word of God. The above Scriptures may be used in our prayers to God to claim His promises and to claim the victory that we, as born-again believers, already have in Christ Jesus. (Please see the last part of this chapter, For The Believer’s Deliverance From Oppression, for specific prayer for victory when oppressed.)
Next Week: Part Five continued: The Christian Life is Fruitful
Copyright © 1996 A. Ward Brandenstein
Used with permission.
A. Ward Brandenstein
Pastor Ward earned an M.A. in Guidance and Counselling from Eastern Michigan University after taking special courses in psychology at Wayne State University, and earned a Bachelor of Theology (Th.B.) from Baptist Bible College and Seminary with Greek and Hebrew studies, and earned a diploma from Philadelphia Bible Institute (now Cairn U.), including New Testament Greek studies. His knowledge of the Bible and close walk with God are appreciated by all who know him and have sat under his teaching. Pastor Brandenstein and his wife Rose Ann reside in California, teaching college level singles and married couples, young professionals, and retired pastors and missionaries.