This column by the late Executive Editor ofCHRISTIANITY TODAYis reprinted from the October 9, 1964, issue.
Can we have victory over the Devil? We know that Satan will ultimately be destroyed forever, and this is a comforting thought. But our immediate problem is to gain victory now.
The first lesson to be learned is that no one can overcome the Devil in his own strength and wisdom. Never forget that he is “as smart as the devil.” This means that in any chosen field he is more astute and stronger than any mere human being.
We are told—and this is true today as it has been true all through human history—that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” This figure of speech is given to alert us to the acuteness of our danger.
Unable to stand against the Devil in our own strength, confronted by the reality of his person and activities, we must look outside ourselves for the answer to our problem. Can we be victorious over this implacable enemy who tempts, accuses, distracts, and destroys?
The answer is an unequivocal Yes! Not only is his ultimate fate sealed; there is open to every Christian the means of victory—day-to-day victory—in the conflict. It is possible to stand firm, to defy and to defeat every wile of Satan. It is possible to overcome him whenever and wherever he attacks. This is not to imply perfect sanctification. Rather, it is to affirm the complete effectiveness of the triumph of Christ and of the provision he has made for those who look to him for victory.
In Christ there is victory over sin, the object of Satan’s temptations. There is victory over what has aptly been spoken of as “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” And there is victory over death.
At the heart of victory over Satan there lies the finished work of the Christ of Calvary, the one who died for our sins according to the Scriptures, who was buried, who arose again from the dead according to the Scriptures.
There is victory now and for all eternity because at Calvary, in his malignant wrath, the Devil overstepped himself so that the Cross was not his victory but his doom.
There is victory now because God has placed in our hands the means of subduing his attacks and of waging a counterattack. Protected by the whole armor of God, blunting Satan’s arrows by the shield of faith, we have in our hands the one weapon against which the enemy cannot stand—the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.
Little wonder that from the first insinuation, “Yea, hath God said?,” there has been an unceasing attack on the divine revelation. Little wonder that the Bible continues to be the object of the Devil’s unending hate, of ceaseless efforts to weaken it by refutation, alteration, interpretation, and infiltration. Where formerly the Bible was the object of ridicule from outside the Church, now some of its most avid critics are found within the Church itself.
Nowhere is there a more convincing proof of the usefulness of the Scriptures to defeat Satan than in our Lord’s three thrusts with the Sword when tempted in the wilderness.
Nothing explains the weakness of the average Christian today more clearly than his abysmal ignorance of the Word of God. And this cannot be remedied by reading a verse a day, or by reading a book about the Bible. To have the ability to make victorious use of the Scriptures in our daily living, we must take the time to read and reread and reread until God’s way becomes our way because he has spoken to us through his Word.
In the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 we find out that in each case there is held out a hope and a reward, all based on “overcoming.” And it is revealing to find repeated this phrase, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says.…”
The war against Satan is a spiritual war. The means by which he is defeated are spiritual. The teaching and power of the Holy Spirit are necessary if we are to be victorious. Whenever man seeks victory by any other means he is always defeated.
To fight the Devil successfully we must exercise both confidence and distrust—confidence in the completeness of the means made available to us by God’s grace and distrust of ourselves and all man-devised weapons.
For us there is the daily ebb and flow of battle. Temptations come at unexpected times and in unexpected places. The enemy attacks where we are weakest. When we feel a sense of our own sufficiency, defeat is not far away. “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
Looking at ourselves and considering the enemy, we would be overwhelmed except for promises such as this: “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13, 14). The very practical application of this is that we look for the God-given exit when it is needed.
Our own victory over Satan is inexorably linked with our victorious Lord. Apart from him there is no victory; with him and by his grace we can overcome any attack to which we may be subjected. The words of our Lord hold forth a promise for us who live in an increasingly troubled world: “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
We should never forget that God has never promised peace and ease, as the world sees these things. But he has promised the necessary grace and strength, and ultimate victory. In the Revelation John tells of this victory: “They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful” (17:14).
In our armament there is also prayer. William Cowper’s words: “And Satan trembles, when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees,” are fraught with meaning, for he who prays for strength and guidance finds himself fortified against evil and the way of escape made plain. David expresses this in his prayer: “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty” (1 Chron. 29:11). Once we realize that victory is in and through Christ, prayer becomes the imperative two-way communication with the divine Headquarters.
Finally, Christians are “more than conquerors through him that loved us.” As the Apostle Paul so graphically states, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. He who has defeated Satan gives us the victory.
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