H. Winfield Graham
Not only among the unbelieving but also among the children of God there is an appalling ignorance about Satan, his works and his ways. A look at his first activities in the human family, as recorded in Genesis 3, gives an insight into his present efforts.
What aim did Satan have in that successful attack upon the race? It was the separation, or alienation, of man from God and his subjection to Gods enemy Satan. The result was that the mind, affections and will of man were alienated from God. His thoughts about God became distorted, his love for God turned into hatred, and his will became antagonistic to God. At the same time he came under Satans control as God and prince of this world.
Note carefully that Satan made no effort to corrupt man morally. No charge of immoral conduct is ever brought against Adam and Eve. In the temptation of Christ there is no suggestion of wrong conduct. The devil is not the direct instigator of debauchery; this springs from the evil heart of man (Mark 7:21-23). This evil is the result of the serpents success in separating man from God, the disintegration of normal human life and the powers of evil thus let loose.
What means did he really employ to bring about the fall? The emphasis is on deceit, craft, seduction and lies. First, he aroused doubt as to the goodness of God, picturing Him to the mind of Eve as harsh and arbitrary. Secondly, there was his open denial of the awful consequences that their disobedience to God would bring. He said "Ye shall not surely die." Then came a positive declaration that to be independent of the rule of God would bring great advantage: "Ye shall be as gods."
The activities of Satan for the destruction of mankind are to be seen not especially in debauchery, crime and immorality, although such do ruin man in this life and for eternity. His efforts are directed to sustaining the separation between the creature and the Creator; to preventing man from finding out his need of reconciliation and regeneration; and to preventing the acceptance of the gospel of Christ which is the divine means for bringing man to God (I Pet. 3:18). To these ends he employs the same weapons as in Eden. He works upon the minds of men to keep up their unbelieving ideas about Gods goodness. He accuses God before man. All suffering is attributed to a lack of love on Gods part and Gods law is represented as interference with the liberty of man. The teachings of Scripture about judgment and eternal punishment are set aside; and man is now told, by Satan and his ministers that God is too kind to cast any of His creatures into the lake of fire. "Ye shall be as Gods" is repeatedly promised in a variety of ways. Satan promises that rebellion against God will bring independence, greatness, happiness, elevation and divinity. The ultimate example is the super-man who will oppose all that is called God and will set himself in the temple of God as God (2 Thes. 2:4). The elevation of man apart from God is Satans great purpose and thus he seeks to keep him in his power. He is prepared to let them have the highest forms on civilization, cultivate works of charity, maintain high standards of behavior and practice religious devotions. All this is done that man may be happy and content without God. His ideal is an educated, cultured, peaceful, prosperous, religious humanity without God. He is therefore more active in the religious community than in the center of vice.
His next great effort is to annul the emancipating power of the gospel of Christ. This he does by corrupting it, by sending forth his own servants, disguised as servants of God, to declare Satans gospel (2 Cor. 11:4, 13-15). This keeps men at ease in their sins, duped as to their need of the new birth, doped as to the awful doom that awaits them and deluded as to the way of salvation. When Gods gospel is preached he snatches away the good seed from their hearts lest they should believe and be saved (Luke 8:12). He blinds the minds of unbelieving men lest the light of the gospel should shine upon them (2 Cor. 4:4). He is the promoter of sham conversions, where there is great manifestations of joy but no root of reality (Luke 8:13). Thus he seeks to blur the clear distinction between the saved and the lost, introducing compromise and confusion.
When sinners are saved and forever freed from sharing his eternal doom, he seeks to spoil their life and testimony, so that they may cause no real harm to his kingdom. He has a special hatred of them because they have acknowledged Jesus as their Lord and he seeks to swallow them up (I Pet 5:8). He seeks to ensnare any who give promise of future usefulness in the service of God by pushing them into a place of prominence (2 Tim. 2:26; 1 Tim. 3:6). He sows tares among the wheat, sons of Satan among the sons of the kingdom, thus introducing those who are stumbling blocks and workers of lawlessness (Matt. 13: 38-41). He strives to maintain the unholy mixture of saints and sinners in religious activities (Ezra 4:1-3). Where there is a church of God, a gathered company of saints, his effort is to seduce them from simple, wholehearted devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 11:3).
The apostle said: "We are not ignorant of his devices." But today most of the children of God are in a great measure ignorant of them. A believer falls into moral sin and attributes it to a temptation of the devil instead of the lust of the flesh. He sees certain religious activities but fails to perceive that they are satanic and not divine. In times past, unwary Christians hailed the supposed conversion of the Emperor Constantine as a triumph of the gospel. Time proved it to be a strategy of Satan for the corruption of the Christian testimony.
He employs many methods to effect his great deceptions. His ministers are often functioning in the very places where men might expect to hear a message of salvation. Where an unsaved man stands in the pulpit, Satans strategy is evident. Miracles take place and many unwary Christians are foolish enough to believe that all such are wrought by God. Satan can perform miracles (2 Thes. 2:9). He is a masterhand at imitation and can produce sham revivals as well as sham conversions.
All this constitutes a call to the people of God to be alert and to test every preacher, all doctrines, all practices, every method and activity by the word of God. "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (1 Thes. 5:21). "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God" (1 John 4:1). The one who deceives the whole world is more than a match for the believer. "Submit yourselves therefore to God: resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4.7).