There is probably no doctrine in the Christian faith pertaining to which such light views are held as concerning Satan, the adversary of both God and man. To mention the name of the devil is to invite sarcasm and ridicule, and bring forth the word, "Oh, nobody believes in the devil nowadays." This is probably one of the cleverest schemes of the devil to obtain mastery over man. If Satan does not exist then what is the use of man preparing himself in any way to resist the machinations of such a being as "the evil one"? Of course the caricatures of Satan as found in literature outside of the Bible, such as Milton's Paradise Lost, for example, are responsible to a very large extent for such unbelief in the existence and personality of Satan. No earnest and devout student of the Scriptures can have a real or lasting doubt that such a being exists...
Satan is a person.
"He is a liar, and the father of it ... He was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44).
It is quite common in some quarters to speak of Satan as devil with the "d" dropped off: "evil," thus denying the personality of the evil one. We should not forget, however, in this connection that the word Satan is in the masculine, and masculine pronouns are used in speaking of him. "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it." The devil lies, sins, murders (John 8:44; 1 John 3:8)—can a mere influence do these things?
A careful and unprejudiced reading of the account of the temptation of Christ (Matthew 4) will undoubtedly impress one with the fact that Satan is just as much a person as is Christ. The same is true with regard to the story of Job, his integrity and trials, as found in Job, chapters 2 and 3.
Attributes and qualities of personality are recorded of Satan which should remove all doubt on this question (cf. Zechariah 3:1; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Psalm 109:6). "Such offices as those ascribed to Satan in the Scriptures require an officer; such a work manifests a worker; such power implies an agent; such thought proves a thinker; such designs form a personality."
Let us take, for example, the temptations of life which come to us all at some time or other. They are said to come from three sources: the world, the flesh, and the devil. We have no doubt concerning some of the temptations that beset us that they have their origin in the flesh, and that certain others have their promptings from a sinful environment. There are temptations in life, however, which we cannot honestly and fairly trace to either of these two sources—they must come from a personality of evil altogether outside of ourselves and our environment. It was the late Dr. Joseph Parker, of London, who said, "The old serpent, the devil, has spoken with fatal eloquence to every one of us no doubt; and I do not need a dissertation from the naturalist on the construction of a serpent's mouth to prove it. Object to the figure, if you will, but the grim, damning fact remains."
That Christ recognized the existence and activity of such a personality of evil is clearly evident from a careful reading of the gospel story (cf. Matthew 13:19, 39; John 13:2; see also Acts 5:3; 2 Corinthians 11:3, 14; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6.
The origin of Satan is not clearly stated in the Scriptures. It is inferred from certain scriptures (such as Ezekiel 28:12-19; Isaiah 14:12-14; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6; 1 Timothy 3:6; 2 Corinthians 11:14) that he was once an angel of light, probably the leader of all the shining hosts of God, and that, somehow or other, probably through pride, he and other angels fell from their glorious estate and were cast down from their places in heaven. That, to some extent at least, Satan still retains some of that former dignity, power, and might may be inferred from Jude 8 and 9: Referring to those false teachers who "speak evil of dignities," Jude says: "Yet Michael, the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee." What great power, think you, does Satan still retain, when, as Daniel says, he (Satan) had power to oppose one of the chief angels (Daniel 10:12-13)? Is he not referred to by Christ as the "strong man armed" (Luke 11:21), and "the prince of this world" (John 14:30)?
Nor is the teaching of Paul less clear and distinct than that of Christ. To Paul Satan is the "prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2). Is there not a tremendous supra-natural force of "principalities and powers" subject to his word and will—"his angels" as they are called (Ephesians 6:11-12, cf. Matthew 25:41; 12:24; Luke 11:14-18)? Who is "the god of this world"? To whom do the men of the world bow and whom do they serve? Is it not Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19)? Undoubtedly so. To the great apostle, the kingdom of darkness, over which Satan and his hosts presided, was as stern a reality as the kingdom of light over which Christ and His good angels ruled. He felt it his life work to turn people from the power of Satan unto the power of God (Acts 26:18).
The names of Satan.
"Adversary the devil" (1 Peter 5:8); "Satan" (Zechariah 3:1).
The name "satan" means "an adversary"; it is so translated in Zechariah 3:1, R.V. margin: "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of Jehovah, and Satan [the Adversary] standing at his right hand to be his adversary." In 1 Peter 5:8 he is referred to as "your adversary the devil." By this designation we are to understand that Satan is the perpetual and uncompromising foe, adversary of man, continually opposing him in every work of righteousness which he seeks to accomplish. Of course, in the same sense Satan is equally the adversary of God, for the purposes of God and the children of God are of the same nature.
Satan is the slanderer, "the accuser of the brethren," the diabolos, the one who slanders God to man (Genesis 3:1-7) and man to God (Job 1:9; 2:4; see Revelation 12:9; Matthew 13:39). Herein lies our need of "an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). Satan is always on the lookout for the faults and failings of the people of God in order that, magnifying them, he may, misrepresenting the saints, bring their faults and sins before God.
No scheme, device, or plan is too wicked for him to resort to if only he can thwart the purpose of God or spoil the plan of God in a believer's life. For this reason he is called "the wicked one" or "the evil one" (Matthew 13:19; 1 John 5:18-19). And every such plan in the heart of any person, believer or unbeliever, to hurt, injure or destroy the child of God or hurt his influence or reputation has its origin with the devil: he "put it into the heart" (John 13:2; 27; Acts 5:3).
It is principally as the "tempter" that Satan is described in the Scriptures (Matthew 4:3). And as such not one of the children of men is able to escape his malicious scheming. God had one Son without sin, but no son without temptation. Even Jesus Himself was "tempted of the devil." And how cunning and sagacious is the tempter at such times! How we need to be on our guard against "the wiles of the devil," his carefully laid plots and plans to overthrow us or to cause us to fall! To accomplish such he appears to us as "an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:14), as one who would help our faith (Matthew 4:6). The "old serpent" is subtle (Genesis 3:1), and, as the "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8), is strong. Satan's subtlety is seen in tempting us in our weak moments, as he did Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4) and in the garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22), and Elijah, in the reaction that came from his great victory over the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 19). When we are strong, and after great successes we need to be on our guard against the temptations of the devil (Matthew 4:1; John 6:15; cf. John 6:1-14). How many a man, who would shun the thing that is confessedly and openly wrong, may be tempted as was Christ, to do right things in a wrong way, to bring about good results by questionable methods (Matthew 4:1-11). How often does Satan delude his followers by giving them power to perform "signs and lying wonders" (2 Thessalonians 2:9). The fact that any man or religious cult is able to perform healings is no sign that he or it is of God; that power may be given by the devil.
Victory over Satan.
"The prince of this world is judged" (John 16:11). Satan is a conquered enemy. The death of Christ on the cross did something to Satan; there, potentially at least, Satan and his authority over men received their death stroke. "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself" (John 12:31-32). "Ye have overcome the wicked one" (1 John 2:14). Jesus Christ by His atoning death and resurrection from the dead made Satan a conquered enemy so far as the believer in Christ is concerned. At Calvary our Saviour "spoiled principalities and powers," and "made a show of them openly, triumphing over them" by His cross (Colossians 2:15). Satan can touch the child of God only as he is allowed to by the Father, "Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought? Hast thou not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?... But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face" (Job 1:9-11). Jesus said to His disciples, and to us through them, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Christ in the heart of the believer is greater than all the power of the devil in the world (cf. 1 John 4:4).
It is exceedingly important for the Christian in his endeavor to lead a victorious life that he really understand exactly what has taken place with reference to Satan and his power because of the finished redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Victory is already achieved for us through Christ. We are under no obligation to yield to temptation. We do not need to sin (1 John 2:1). The place of Satan is under the feet of the believer and the God of peace "shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (Romans 16:20).
Of course Satan must be resisted: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith" (1 Peter 5:8-9). "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). In order to resist we must stand clad, not in any armor of our own making, but in the armor of God so completely described in Ephesians 6:10-20. Obedience and loving submission to the will of God (James 4:7) is also a secret of victory over the wiles of the devil. To store the Word of God in the heart (as Christ undoubtedly had done, judging from His ready use of it in the wilderness temptation) is to be always ready for the sudden and vicious attacks of the adversary of the soul (Psalm 119:11; Matthew 4:1-11; Ephesians 6:17).
Some day there will be no adversary of the soul of man roaming around seeking whom he may devour. In the plan of God for the ages there will be a time when Satan shall be cast into the lake of fire, there to be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 14:11; 19:20; 20:10)...
Copied and edited lightly by Stephen Ross for WholesomeWords.org from What Every Christian Should Believe by William Evans. Chicago: Moody Press, ©1922. Photo courtesy of Moody Bible Institute Archive.