THE MORE SECRET ATTACKS OF THE DEVIL WITHIN THE WORSHIP LIFE OF THE CHURCH
A paper delivered to a Ministers’ Meeting at Westoning 17th March, 2000, by Colin Dawson.
Brethren ………. there is a war on!
A long, bitter, bloody battle – and, like it or not, we are all involved
in it in one way or another. We must discover when it started, how it has progressed, and how it is going to end. Also who its protagonists are, and what is being fought over.
First of all the protagonists. On the one hand there is God Himself. God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The blessed Trinity whom we worship. The leader, the Captain of the host of
God, is the eterNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.l Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself. “He is the Lord of hosts, He is the
King of glory.” With Him is “an innumerable company of angels,” and enlisted in the ranks of His army are all the redeemed of God, who atany one point in time are here upon the face of the earth. They are called upon “to fight the good fight of faith, to lay hold on eterNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.l life.” The necessary spiritual armour and weaponry is provided – for us, as Paul points out to the Ephesians, “Take unto you the whole armour of God”. As we begin to think of this subject let us remember that ancient battle cry, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
A good description of the opposing forces is found in Ephesians 6.12: “principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places.” Or we might simplify it by saying it is the devil and his angels. So much then for the protagonists. It needs to be asked how and why did this battle come about, and since angels are involved on both sides, who are they?
First of all we need to understand that they are part of God’s creation (Colossians 1.16). The Scriptures tell us very little about their creation but they do tell us that the whole of God’s creative work took place over the period of six days in the beginning. On which of those six days the angels were created we cannot tell.
What we do know for certain is that some of those angels sinned and were cast out of heaven; 2 Peter 2.4, “… God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment.” Similarly, Jude verse 6 speaks of “the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation.” They were not content with their created sphere of service, privileged and exalted though it was. They were not satisfied, they were not content. One can only assume that these events took place soon after the creation, and before the events recorded in
Genesis chapter 3 took place, because there we come into contact with one of these fallen angels, in fact the leader of them – the devil himself.
We soon discover that the devil wasted no time in seeking to bring about the ruin of the human race. Not content with coming under the judgment of God himself, he seeks to involve man, created in the image of God, in the same punishment. The Apostle John tells us that the devil sinneth from the beginning, so in order to bring men and women under the judgment of
God, he must first involve man in sin. Genesis 3 explains to us how he went about it. He used the serpent, described as the most subtle of all God’s creatures. The word means crafty, cunning. Notice also that the devil attacked the woman. The woman is described as “the weaker vessel”, created with less strength than the man. It is the weaker vessel that the devil attacks. He questioned the word which God had spoken, subtly seeking to infer that there was something unfair or restrictive about God’s command. In verses 4-5 he ends up by flatly contradicting God’s word, and he imputes base motives to God.
As we all know. Eve was taken in by the devil’s lies, took of the forbidden fruit, shared it with her husband, came under the curse of God, and ruined the whole of mankind. Paul explains in Romans 5.12,
“By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned.”
But now God intervenes, and curses the serpent, and the battle-lines are drawn. (Genesis 3.15), “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed;” So we are beginning to see the protagonists taking shape. You have got the serpent and his seed. (You remember when Jesus was locked in argument with the Pharisees, when they were boasting that they were the sons of Abraham, He said “You are of your father the devil.”
They were the seed of the serpent). So it has always been from earliest history down to the present times those who are the seed of the serpent are locked in battle with the woman and her seed. Galatians 3.16 identifies in a very special way the seed of the woman with
So you see, there is a war on! On the one hand Satan continues to seek to destroy man by sin. For example, Jesus said to Simon, “Simon, Satan hath desired to have you”, and that is still his desire. He desires to have you, to have you suffer with him, to have you punished with him, to have you endure the torments of hell with him for evermore. And that is what would happen to all of us were it not for the fact that Jesus came into the world to save
His people from their sin. “He was made to be sin for them” and promises that “sin shall not have dominion over them.”
Let us now, very briefly, consider how the battle has raged over the long years from the fall of mankind to the birth of our Saviour. It was not long before Cain murdered his brother Abel. After 1,656 years of human existence the situation was so bad, sin had spread so far and wide and had so deeply infected mankind, “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagiNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.tion of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” Genesis 6.4. So He determined to destroy man. To do so, of course. He brought the great flood upon the earth, and yet he saved Noah and his family. It was not long after the flood that there was another revolt against God at the time of the building of the tower of Babel. A few years after that there was a dreadful outbreak of the most heinous sin in
Sodom and Gomorrah which brought upon them the wrath of God. Satan seems to be driving rnen ever onwards more and more into the most heinous sins. But God has not forgotten His people. He had His Noah, His Abram, His Lot whom He saved from their sins.
During this first period of time it would seem that Satan was still allowed access to his
Maker. Job 1.6-7 describes one such instance. It speaks of the day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them. He is allowed this interview with God. He tells Him where he has come from. Indeed, it seems very likely that he falsely accused Job. He carries the attack against the Lord’s people in accusing them before the Lord. Revelation
12.10 describes him as the accuser of the brethren. He accused them before God day and night.
Let me give you one other illustration of this warfare in Old Testament times. We can see the battle very clearly in the prophecy of Zechariah, 3.1-2, “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” This is not war by remote control. This is hand to hand conflict. This is Satan grappling with one of the Lord’s people. “And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, 0 Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
I want now to move on to the time when the Lord Jesus Christ came down to this earth. If it is true that He came to save His people from their sins, and it is true, then it could not be otherwise than that He would come into direct contact with the devil. We could, of course, turn to the Gospel records to discover many references to this conflict between
Jesus and the devil. The two leaders of the two armies locked in battle for forty days and nights in the wilderness. Then the devil left Him for a little season, only to reappear in various guises and forms, all through the life of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But I want to look, instead, at Revelation 12. The first two verses introduce us to some stupendous events in heaven. First of all, there is a woman, (remember Genesis 3 – the seed of the woman) and she is travailing in birth, pained to be delivered. She represents the church of God from Adam’s day to the Lord’s day. Ever since man fell, and the promise was given of One who would come to bruise the serpent’s head, the whole church of God had been looking forward to that event – praying for it, agonising for it. Then there is her child – the seed of the woman, – the babe of Bethlehem – our dear Lord Jesus Christ.
Verses 3 and 4 introduce us to the great red dragon. He comes right up to this woman and he stands in front of her and his intention is to devour her child as soon as it is born.
This is Satan.
Verse 5 shows us that he was not able to do that. This verse summarises the birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and heavenly enthronement of the Lord. The finished work of
Christ! He came, He conquered. He did what His Father gave Him to do. He fought with the devil, and defeated him.
Now we will move on to verses 7 and 8. There is war in heaven. Notice again, the protagonists: Michael and his angels, versus the dragon and his angels. The great dragon is that old serpent the devil.
Verses 9 to 12: Michael and his angels prevail. The devil and his angels are cast out of heaven. They can no longer accuse the brethren. Satan can no more have access to God because
Christ is there. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He has defeated the devil, and the accuser of our brethren is cast down. The presence of Christ, the Lamb
of God, at the right hand of the Father, utterly confounds and silences the evil one.
Now back to verse 6, and link it up with verses 14-16: we see the woman again. She is now in the wilderness. This provides us with a glimpse of the Church on earth. The Church militant. The Church at war. You will notice that the Lord appoints her a place and protects her and provides for her and she is to stay there for a set time. The devil attacks her by unleashing a great flood but the earth comes to her aid and swallows up the water.
Then fiNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.lly, verse 17. The war is still on! “The dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.nt of her seed.” The battle lines are drawn again. The angry dragon with all the principalities and powers and fallen angels he has at his disposal, against “the remNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.nt of her seed” – the Church of God, true believers who keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. The remNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.nt? It is the rest of them. It is all those who are not in glory. He is locked in battle against them. There are none exempt, none excepted. The testimony? They have the testimony of Jesus Christ who witness for Christ. They keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus
Christ. There is a description of the true Church. This is where we are now. This is that fiNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.l phase of the battle in which we are involved if we truly belong to the “remNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.nt of her seed.”
What is being fought over? Christ and His Church. The devil has lost the battle over
Christ. He tried to tempt Him to sin. He tried to get Him to worship him. He tried to uproot Him from His rightful position in glory and failed. So he turned all his activity to the Church. He is still fighting over His Bride. That battle could be divided into two sections. Firstly, the open assault of the devil: “going about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour,” or secondly, the more secret attack of the devil, particularly within the worship of the church, or “Satan as an angel of light”. It is the latter subject which I now turn to.
The activity of Satan as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11.4. In this chapter Paul had been writing about false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And he goes on, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” He transforms himself into an angel of light, and he transforms his ministers into ministers of righteousness. So the first thing we have to notice in this ongoing battle is that our enemy has successfully disguised himself. He appears to be what he is not. This really does have frightening implications for all who profess to be ministers of the gospel, because among them Satan has his ministers of unrighteousness who appear to be ministers of righteousness. Remember Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders, “Of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.”
So we are in a war of subterfuge, of deceit, of underhand dealings. We do not know who
we are dealing with, sometimes.
On the other hand, Paul also asserts that we are not ignorant of his devices! (2 Cor. 2.11). So although we must be on our watch for these underhand attacks made by our adversary, we are not ignorant of his devices, his thoughts, his plans, his scheme of things. We know how he operates. So we need not to be completely outflanked by his manoeuvering. We know his strategy, we know what he is up to. We know where to look for his attacks and for his agents – or we certainly ought to!
Here are five of Satan’s devices as an angel of light:
1. To develop and to sustain an unforgiving spirit amongst the saints.
2 Cor. 2.10-11) “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan .should get an advantage of us:”. This is an area where he gains advantage by provoking the saints to manifest an unforgiving spirit;
Paul is dealing with a repentant sinner, someone who has sinned. The person concerned had to be put out of the church because of his grossly immoral conduct. But now the man has come to repentance and the people are unwilling to forgive. Paul is saying, No, that is wrong.
This is Satan. That is how he gets in, by sustaining this unforgiving spirit. verse 7, “ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.” There is a danger of this man being irreparably damaged spiritually if you do not forgive him. Think of this subject in the broader, biblical context. Remember how the disciple asked Jesus, “How many times shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him. Seven times?” “No,” says Jesus, “Until seventy times seven.”
Forgiveness is the way in which a repentant sinner is brought back into communion with the one against whom they have sinned. In its highest form it is, of course, seen in the forgiving love of God to sinners. How many times have you sinned against God, seven times?
Seventy times seven? Seven hundred times seven? And God forgives. We must forgive one another. Remember satan is an angel of light, so he will be able to suggest to you many plausible reasons why forgiveness is not appropriate in your particular case. As we have been forgiven freely, so we are to freely forgive.
2 To try to seduce professing Christians to depart from the faith.
The more I studied the subject, the more it became clear that this is probably the greatest area of Satan’s activity as an angel of light. He is trying to seduce Christians to depart from the faith. 1 Timothy 4.1, ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” these seducing spirits are trying to cause professing Christians
to depart from the faith. The meaning of seducing or seduction is to lead astray. The truth, the deposit of truth has been entrusted to the Church of God to keep. It is to hold on to it and to obey its teaching. It is into this area that the great deceiver comes.
One method of seducing used by Satan is “signs and wonders,” “False Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect” (Mark 13.22). The gullible ones can easily be led astray by what appears on the surface to be remarkable events. The latest “wonder” was experienced by people whose tooth fillings turned to gold. Why, this is incredible, is it not? And the gullible are taken in by this sort of thing. It is true that God’s servants in certain circumstances and at certain times have produced signs and wonders. They have been true signs and wonders. For instance, when Moses went to Pharaoh to demand the release of his people, God gave him the sign of the rod. Aaron’s rod became a serpent. But the magicians of Pharaoh were able to do the same. Their rods turned into serpents. There was a genuine sign of God, the power of
God, working through Moses, and there is the power of Satan working through the magicians of Pharaoh. They can produce signs and wonders. When commenting on present day “signs and wonders”, the issue is not whether or not it has actually happened, but where has it some from? Who is responsible for it? Satan can produce signs and wonders ad infinitum. But it does not make Satan God. This should serve as a very loud warning to us against the
Charismatic Movement and its excesses. Remember, the first “sign and wonder” was the talking serpent. And we all know what happened as a result of that!
This process is going to get worse according to Paul writing to Timothy. He says in 2
Timothy 3.13, “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” We may readily conclude that these people are the agents of Satan. They are those who are deceived. They are those who are described in verses 2 to 9 in this chapter and they remind Paul of Jannes and Jambres who withstood Moses. We do not know who these two people actually were, but the tradition of the Jews is that they were two of Pharaoh’s magicians.
That may well be the case. We do not know for sure. But we know the type of person they were. They were “men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith”. They were those who resist the truth. So we are still in this area of Satan attacking the truth, and trying to get people to deviate from it. JESUS is the Truth and if you are fighting against the truth, you are fighting against Him. You are on the wrong side. Those who are on the Lord’s side, are not fighting against the truth. They are fighting for the truth and with the truth.
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul refers to “the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6.11).
The wiles of the devil. This involves craftiness and deception. This links back to 4.14,
“That we henceforth be no more
children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” A literal rendering of the phrase “cunning craftiness” would be the systematising of error.
In 2 Timothy 2.26 we read of the “sNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.re of the devil”. He sets a sNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.re and the unwary are allured. The sNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.re is almost certainly referred to in verse 23 as “foolish and unlearned questions”. This is the trap which he sets: “Let us have a talk. Let us have a debate.”
These are the foolish and unlearned questions. These are “words to no profit” (vl4).
These are the “fables and endless genealogies” (1 Timothy 1.4). Where do they lead to?
They minister questions, they foster disputes, they gender strifes. This is the sNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.re of the devil. He has set the trap and men have foolishly fallen into it. Have we got ourselves caught up in these foolish and unlearned questions?
3. To try to incite and encourage professing Christians to sin.
If we have been saved from sin by our Lord Jesus, Satan will try to get us all tangled up in sin once more. “He that committeth sin is of the devil” (1 John 3.8). Christians may have been born again, saved by God’s grace, been baptised, joined the church, and be involved in serving God in some capacity, but Satan has been at them and he has brought some particular sin into their lives and they have taken it on board, so that they are living a double life.
They are living the life of a Christian, but they are also living a life of sin. So if you see a Christian who is walking in sin as well as walking in a profession, then they are of the devil. They are not doing righteousness. They are not conforming to the will of God.
A particular sin is referred to in 1 John 2.11, “He that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” This is one of Satan’s ways in encouraging you to sin. Not in an outward way. He does not tempt you to go and rob a bank, but assures you that you are justified in all those strong feelings of bitterness and hatred towards that person. Let us always remember, that not loving a brother leads to murder. There are Christians, if they do not actually get involved in physical murder, are guilty of character assassiNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.tion, and it is almost as bad. They will destroy a man’s character if they hate him. Christians doing that? In this Satan is so busy.
One of the routes to unrighteous behaviour, is false doctrine. The one comes out of the other as sure as day follows night. When a person deviates from the faith he deviates from true Christian practice. This is illustrated by the situation in the Church at Thyatira, described in Revelation 2.18-24. Notice what God has against this church: “Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.” The blame for this state of affairs is laid firmly at the door of the “angel” or pastor.
“Thou sufferest”. You have allowed. There has been a state of drift. Things in this church have just been allowed to happen against the better judgment of the pastor.
“That woman Jezebel”. You have allowed the woman to take the lead in the church.
“Which calleth herself a prophetess.” The church did not call her a prophetess. She called herself a prophetess.
“To teach” – in clear violation of the command. In 1 Timothy 2.12, “I suffer not to a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man,”
“And to seduce my servants to commit fornication, to eat things sacrificed unto idols.”
Her doctrine is described in verse 24 as “the depths of Satan” and it led to sinful conduct in the lives of those who followed her teaching.
4. To attack the church in its most vulnerable area or in its weakest members.
This highlights something of the cowardliness of our adversary. We have already seen that he attacked and then used the woman, Eve, rather than the man.
What can be more sacred than the marriage bond, but here in the most intimate relationship between husband and wife, the evil one may intrude in any number of different ways. 1 Cor. 7.5 is a case in point.
I have already referred to the matter of forgiveness of an erring brother. This may indeed be one of the weak areas in church life. We need to give due attention to this “lest
Satan should get an advantage of us” (2 Cor. 2.11). It was clearly at a time of persoNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.l weakness, or it may have been some physical or emotioNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.l weakness that caused Paul to cry out for deliverance from his thorn in the flesh, 2 Cor. 12.7-9, but clearly Satan was hounding and harassing him in his weakness.
5. The more active we are in serving the Lord the more likely we are to receive the attention of the evil one.
Satan may leave those alone who cause his kingdom no trouble, but once let the church become active in prayer and obedience to the commands of the Lord Jesus the great Head of the Church, then he will come with renewed bitter hatred to oppose that church. We must not be surprised at this and be ready for it.
It only remains for me to say that the eventual outcome of this conflict is not in any doubt.
Romans 16.20. “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”
Revelation 20.10. “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophets are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever.”