There’s a lot of what I’d consider to be “hype” about this topic of spiritual warfare. People take isolated scriptures and extrapolate some odd ideas about how to go about resisting satan. I’ll address some of those as we continue this series.
However, today, instead of reading the latest books on the subject, I decided to do the research myself and see what the Bible has to say. The best way to begin that, in my thinking, is to look at what the Bible says Satan can do. So, below you have a quick list of scriptural truth to consider…along with some commentary…
What CAN the devil do?
- Incites people to action – “ Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” 1 Chronicles 21:1-3
The devil was inciting David to do something God had specifically ordered should not be done. God wanted David’s faith to remain in Him, not in the size of the nation. This inciting was probably not done through a blatant manifestation of his power, but rather through the introduction of thoughts into David’s mind.
- Accuses people before God – “Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.’” Revelation 12:10
The only ground for a legitimate accusation that can be made against people is over the issue of sin. If they have not had their sins covered by Christ’s substitutionary atonement, then they are liable for their sin and Satan’s accusations are valid. But if Christ’s atonement has been applied to the person through faith, then Satan has no basis for any accusation against that person.
- Controls the weather to some degree - ’While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”‘ Job 1:18-19
God gave satan permission to bring trouble on Job, and he used weather (and enemies, etc.) to do so. It’s clear that he has the ability to influence and control weather, at least to some degree.
- Tempts people – “and He was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” Mark 1:13
None of us would deny this one. We’ve all known that something was wrong and yet felt drawn to it. Satan, or some demon has a part in that – you can bet on it.
- Takes away the word of God – “Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them.” Mark 4:14
Any time the scriptures are presented, satan tries to steal away their truth so that there is no positive impact on the life of the one who is hearing. He may do this through distractions, thoughts, etc. Maybe we believers should be praying more as the word is being presented…
- Causes some sicknesses – “should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” Luke 13:16
While not all sickness is a direct result of satan’s influence, this passage makes it clear that Jesus believed that some of it was. We should keep this in mind when praying for the sick…
- Enters into some people – “Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. Luke 13:16
This is only one instance in the gospels of a demonically possessed person. This time satan himself did the work, as Judas’ job was quite important to him. While it may sound pretty “old fashioned” to believe in something like this, I’ve seen the reality of it myself in South America, as well as once here in the good old U.S.A. It’s real, today.
- “Sifts” or tests people – “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. Luke 22:31
This seems akin to the overall impact satan was trying to have on Job. He was trying to break him down, to press faith out of him – as was the case with Peter here. He wanted to intimidate, use fear, use worry, etc. to cause Peter to deny Christ permanently. But, the verse continues as Jesus says, “But I have prayed for you…”
- Masquerades as good – “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” 1 Corinthians 11:13-15
Any good opponent will have an “undercover” aspect of his warfare. Satan is no different. He’ll desquise himself and his emmissaries as agents of good if that will enable him to catch someone by surprise or off guard. Nothing is beneath him…
- Hinders ministry efforts – “For we wanted to come to you-certainly I, Paul, did, again and again-but Satan stopped us.” 1 Thessalonians 2:18
Again, an item for prayer anytime God’s work is being undertaken. It’s not paranoid or “hyper-spiritual” to keep this in mind. Scripture clearly teaches that satan is in opposition to anything God is doing. Why should we expect that he’s not active in opposing the efforts we are making for the kingdom?
- False signs, wonders, and miracles – “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders,” 2 Thessalonians 2:9
While this passage is speaking of a future time, we see another example of this in the book of Acts, when a slave girl would “tell the future” and gain money for her owner. Satan will trick us by deceit, doing wonders, making us think it is from God, so that he can lure us more deeply into his trap. False teachers fit in here. Most false teachers are really, really nice guys. Some of them are pretty powerful in their persona or charisma too. Some may even seem to do miracles. It’s hard to believe that they could be so wrong in what they teach when they are so very, very nice and doing such “amazing” things.
- Leads people astray (deceives, tricks) - ”The great dragon was hurled down-that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” Revelation 12:19
Anything he can do to keep us from knowing and acting on what God has revealed, he will. That’s his job-description, if you will…
- Imprisons, persecutes, attacks people – “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.” – Revelation 2:10
This seems somewhat incredible, but notice that he’s even allowed to take believers to the point of death (read the verse, it does say that). God allows satan great latitude in what he is able to do, even against Christians.
- Blinds the minds of unbelievers – “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4
Unless God liberates the mind of an unbeliever, they will continue in their unbelief. This gives us a bit more direction in our prayers of those who do not know Christ. We should be asking God to free them from the blinding influence of the devil.
What’s the point of all this? That we not be ignorant. We do have an enemy who is powerful. None of us can go toe to toe with him and get out alive. It’s our faith in Christ that makes us able to face him. I want to wrap up this post with a bit of foreshadowing into what is coming next…
Dont’ fear him! Even though he is powerful – don’t fear him! Christ has done everything to counteract the devil and to provide us with His authority and power over him. It’s all a matter of God’s will when it comes to satan’s activity. More on that later…