Biblical Principles for Christian Maturity

John H. Stoll, Th.M., Ph.D

Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll

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Chapter 7 - The Conflict Through the Ages

In Genesis 3:15 there is the first prophetic notice in scripture of a divine major announcement. It signaled the commencement of an age long unceasing conflict between God and Satan, with mankind in between. This is a declaration of war between God and that old serpent, Satan, as Rev. 12:9 states. The Bible provides us with a picture of both sides in this ongoing conflict. It is important to understand each side, so that we, as Christians, might comprehend the "wrestling" that goes on as Eph. 6:12 points out, which is not in the time/space world of mankind, but is carried on in the spiritual (i.e. metaphysical) world, between God and Satan, and how it impacts mankind.

God's side of the conflict has four basic truths. The foundation of these elements are found in Gen. 3:15. First, in the context of Gen. 3:14-19, we note the word spoken by God resulted in a curse upon the man, the woman, the ground, and Satan (the serpent was the embodiment & representative of Satan at this point). This was a pronouncement by God, not a question. It must be remembered that though Satan has supernatural power, God is omnipotent. This curse has remained through the history of mankind to today.

Second, all God's goodness to Adam/Eve did not prevent them from being beguiled by and yielding to the serpent. What he presented was very attractive, and he won a victory over God at this point. He spoiled God's creation, he alienated the affection of mankind toward God, and he brought mankind under his spell. Though Satan won a victory here, there is no note of despair in God's speech.

Third, from this time on there would be two groups of people: 1) Satan and his seed, and 2) the woman and her seed. The word "enemy" in v.15 means a mutual state of hostility, a continual struggle between an evil supernatural power and struggling mankind. This is seen in John 10:10 and I Peter 5:8.

Fourth, in this conflict both sides would suffer. Satan would ultimately bruise the heel of the seed of the woman (i.e. Christ's death for the sins of the world - Heb. 2:9), and the seed of the woman (i.e. Christ - Gal. 4:4) would crush Satan's head, in that Christ's resurrection would forever destroy Satan's power (Heb. 2:14; I John 3:8). The seed of the woman expressed by the pronoun, "He" (Gen. 3:15), would terminate in a single individual, who would be the Lord Jesus Christ.

From God's point of view, we turn now to Satan's side of the picture. In John 8:44,45, the Lord Jesus Christ pointed out Satan's two basic ways of fighting. In the context of John 8 we have the so called Pharisaical truth squad that hounded Jesus wherever He went, to set the record straight from their perspective. In v.19 they wondered aloud if He knew who His father was (some versions use a capital "F", meaning God the Father, but it should be a lower case letter, since the Pharisees weren't referring to God, but questioning Jesus' legitimacy); then in v. 41 they accused Him of being born of fornication; and finally in v. 48 they accused Him of being a half-breed (Samaritans were the intermingling of Nebucadnezzar's colonists and the poor Jews he left in Palestine, when he depopulated the land in 586 B.C. They were still in existence in Jesus' day).

In v.44, Jesus turned on the Pharisees and said, "You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him". In this judgment, Christ put his finger on Satan's two basic ways of fighting: 1) Destruction - from the beginning of Old Testament history to the cross, Satan trafficked primarily in destruction and murder. 2) Deception - from the resurrection to the end of the age, he has used primarily deception. This is not to say that he never used deception before the resurrection, nor that he never uses destruction in this present age. But, if one examines the Old Testament and the New, it is easily seen just how Satan has operated, as Jesus pointed out.

After the primary deception of Adam/Eve, Satan caused the first murder; Cain killed his brother Abel. Later Satan threatened to kill Joseph, through his brothers, and ultimately annihilate the people of Israel in Egypt, by the edict of the Pharaoh, who wanted to kill all male Hebrew babies. When Israel became a nation he used Saul to try to kill David, and later two wicked queens, Athaliah and Jezebel, to destroy the royal line from David to Jesus Christ. When the Jews were in exile, he tried to use the edict of Haman in Esther's day to kill all the Jews.

Having failed to destroy God's chosen people, Satan used all his evil schemes to try and kill Jesus, Himself. At His birth, Satan got Herod to make a decree that all Hebrew children under two years of age should be destroyed. Herod even used the wise men to try to discover where the Christ child was, but God intervened and told them to go home another way, and then told Joseph to take Mary and the baby into Egypt until Herod was dead. One can easily see the conflict between God and Satan, over the person of Jesus, and how the world of the spirit impacted the world of time/space. This is the import of Eph. 6:12.

During the public ministry of Jesus, Satan tempted Him three times (Luke 4:1-13); he tried to get many groups to kill Jesus (John 5:18), but the record notes that He "passed through their midst, because His time was not yet". Satan never killed Jesus; He lay down His own life at the judicious time according to God's plan (John 10:18).

Finally, when Jesus was crucified, Satan used all his evil schemes and power to try and keep Christ in the grave. He placed a huge stone to seal it; he ordered a legion of soldiers around the grave; and he put the seal of the Roman government on the grave (Matt. 27:65,66). But, all his wicked designs failed to keep Jesus in the grave. When Christ arose, He forever sealed the doom of Satan (his head was crushed). In I Cor. 15:1-58 there is a powerful testimony, by way of summary, as to the conflict, and God's omnipotence over Satan. It is also a note of victory to those of us who are God's children.

What then is left for Satan? Deception. From the resurrection to the end of the age, is what Satan is using today to deceive and destroy mankind. In I John 3:8 it states that Christ came to destroy the works of Satan. This He did in His death/burial/resurrection. In the book of Acts there are seven verbs used in reference to Christ's death, but not one states that anyone destroyed Him. But scripture plainly states Christ destroyed the power of Satan. What then is left for Satan but deception. And, this is what he has so effectively played upon mankind since Christ's resurrection.

Christ realized Satan's designs of deception, when He gave the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matt. 13:24-30). As He stated to His disciples, that the sower sowed the grain; then another sowed tares/weeds. The Disciples said they should take out the weeds, but Jesus said to let the two grow together until the harvest, and the farmer would separate the grain from the weeds. In this analogy (parable), He stated that the seed was the good Word of God, and the weeds the deception of Satan. Thus we see in today's world that both righteousness and wickedness are prospering, and just as weeds outstrip the grain with little or no food, so wickedness seems to prosper and righteousness has a difficult time. But, this is not the way it will always be; someday, God will come in judgment and destroy wickedness forever (John 5:22-27).

Satan has used three great deceptions today, in seducing mankind away from the truth of God's revelation in Jesus Christ. It is important for the Christian to understand these, since we are not immune to Satan's deception, even though we are God's children. Granted, the Christian has the indwelling Holy Spirit to give us discernment (I Cor. 2:14; I John 4:4), so that we can be aware of the deception, whereas the unbeliever has no help from falling into Satan's trap.

The first great deception is that of Doctrine - Matt. 24:4,5. After coming out of the temple in Jerusalem, Christ spoke of its destruction, which elicited three questions from His Disciples (v.3). He answered only the second, "What shall be the sign of your coming?". He then stated, " - Take heed that no one deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ and shall deceive many" (v.4,5). The first and foremost deception of Satan is in reference to Biblical truth. He has tried, down through the centuries to produce many false Christs (i.e. so called Prophets); he has tried to undermine the truth of Scripture by addition or subtraction; he has used religious people to convolute scripture, to try and get it to say something that it doesn't, and all these things are intended to deceive unsuspecting people. Whereas, Christ said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes unto the Father but through me" (John 14:6). By that He meant that the only way of reconciliation of mankind to God was through acknowledging Christ as the only way of eternal life.

If Satan is unable to deceive one through a false Christ or false teaching, he then turns to the second great deception, that in regards to Sin - Heb. 3:13, "But encourage one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin". In today's world there are two popular words, "Rationalize" and "Justify", that are used by people to do what they wish to selfishly do, in order to avoid guilt and the consequences of their behavior. Since "Everyone is doing it, isn't it all right", according to many? Under this rubric the dirt of sin is swept, and people go on about their business, feeling they are getting away with it. God calls this being deceived in sin. In II Cor. 5:10 it says that we must all stand before God in judgment to, "Receive the things done in his body, according to that he has done, whether it be good or bad". Then in Heb. 4:13 it notes that, "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do". Just because the person of the world feels it is all right for him, does not necessarily mean that behavior is right for the Christian. The child of God marches to the beat of a different drummer.

The third and most subtle deception of Satan is in regard to Humanistic Philosophy - Col. 2:8, "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends upon human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ"(NIV). The basic humanistic philosophy is that mankind's nature is good, even though he has fallen upon hard times, and needs help. Whereas, the Bible states that, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Mankind has separated himself from God through sin. Satan tries to gloss this over through educated philosophical manipulation, intended to overwhelm people into believing they are O.K., and thus be deceived into believing to be somebody they are not. In Col. 2:9,10 God tells us, His children, that only in Christ dwells all the fullness of Deity, and that through regeneration in Him we are complete.

In I Tim. 4:1, it points out that "In the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines that demons teach". Demons deceive first in doctrine (e.g. most cults and isms deny the Deity of Jesus Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the work of Christ on the cross, and His resurrection). Then in II Tim. 3:1,2 it states that in the "Last days perilous times shall come. For mankind shall be lovers of SELF". We see a proliferation of self- centeredness in our world today; the "Me" generation is prospering as never before, and mankind desires to get "All the gusto" out of life he can. Verse 13 says, "Evil men and deceivers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived". The Christian should not be surprised at what is transpiring in the world today, since God foretold this in His Word.

As Christians we are not left without admonition, as to how we should respond to all these things. In II Tim. 3:14-17 there is God's commendation to us, as to how should live in a wicked world. The Apostle Paul used a personal illustration in the life of Timothy, to apply to us all. He told him to continue to do the things he had been taught in a Godly way, by his Mother Lois, and his Grandmother, Eunice (See: II Tim. 1:5). A Godly heritage is one of the finest things parents can pass on to their children. Paul noted that Timothy had, "From a child known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto Salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ" (v.15).

Finally, in II Tim. 3:16 we have God's antidote to Satan's three deceptions of False doctrine, Sin, and Humanistic Philosophy, which says, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine (as the antidote to false doctrine), for reproof, for correction (as the antidote to sin), for instruction in righteousness (as the antidote to humanistic philosophy)". God's conclusion is found in v.17 which tells us, "That the child of God may be brought to maturity, thoroughly equipped unto all good works". God's Word is, "A lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my pathway (Ps. 119:105).

Satan does not deny the historical Jesus (even the cults don't do this), but he denies that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, the only Redeemer that can save mankind from his own self destruction.

In 1952 in the New York Times Sunday supplement magazine it stated that there were 113 notable books published, according to their reckoning, that had impacted our nation, between 1850 and 1950. It is interesting to see that not one of those books was written to honor the Lord Jesus Christ. So, how easily it is seen that Satan has riveted the chains of deception upon our country today. We are reaping what we have sown. "The one who sows to please his sinful nature (SELF), from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life" (NIV).

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