Part A | Part B | Part C | Part D | Conclusion



Part A

Just as it is easy to confuse forms and methods in the church with its actual functions, so it is easy to confuse the forms and methods the enemy uses with the enemy himself. The devil, Satan, is the enemy of God and His church. We need to know what the Bible teaches about this enemy. He is a roaring lion (I Pet. 5:8-9), a murderer (Jn. 8:44), an accuser (Rev. 12:9-11) and a liar. In fact, Christ called him the "father of lies" (Jn. 8:44). He was a sinner from the beginning (I Jn. 3:8). He is able to appear as an angel of light and his evil servants as ministers of righteousness (II Cor. 11:1-4; 12-15). He is the tempter (I Thess 3:5), and the hinderer (I Thess. 2:18). He has the power to work signs and wonders (II Thess. 2:7-10), but all this power is directed against God and His church! This is why the Bible says that we are not fighting earthly rulers or authorities, although Satan may sometimes use them in his fight against the church, but we are against Satan's wicked rule (Eph. 6:11-12).

Sometimes Christians ask where Satan came from. Isn't God the creator of everything? Why would He create Satan? The Bible does not tell us very much about events before the creation of the world described in Genesis chapter one. However, many Bible scholars believe that it is possible to piece together certain information about that period. It seems that Satan was created as a member of a high order of angels that had the ability to either obey or disobey God (Isa. 14:12-15). Known then as Lucifer, he became very proud of his high position and attempted to exalt himself to equality with God (Ez. 28:12-19). As a result he was cast down from his favored position and some other angels who had joined his rebellion were judged along with him. Their eternal doom has already been determined, but while they await the execution of God’s judgment, they try in every way they can to destroy God’s church. God allows this so that His church can gain the strength that is only available through struggle.

The world today is under Satan's authority. He is called "the ruler of the kingdom of the air" (Eph. 2:2), and "prince of this world" (Jn. 14:30). He boasted to Christ that he controlled all the kingdoms of the world, and Christ did not dispute that claim (Mt. 4:8). He is even called "the god of this age." (II Cor. 4:4). How did he gain so much power in the world? Men have given it to him!

God created the world and gave it to man (Gen. 1:3-20), but man turned it over to Satan by submitting to him (Gen. 3:1-6). People still do not seem to understand the principle that is so clearly taught in Rom. 6:16 which says, "Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey...?" Of course, Satan has used his power to continually deceive man as he did in the beginning, and people still think that serving Satan can given them a good, enjoyable and prosperous life. But Satan can only imitate God. He cannot really create anything. God offers abundant life (Jn. 10:10). Satan can only give "the pleasures of sin for a short time." (Heb. 11:25). While God loves us and gave Himself for us (Rom. 5:8), Satan’s only goal is hatred and destruction. He still hopes to destroy God’s plan of a new heaven and a new earth populated with redeemed people who love God of their own free will.

When we face tragedy and seemingly senseless pain in this world we must remember that this is Satan’s world and it is operating just the way he likes it! (Rev. 17:17). But our God will still intervene on behalf of His redeemed children. We can still call on His power and then Satan must flee (James 4:7).

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. Sometimes people act as if Satan is just an evil influence. How do we know he is a person? Why does this distinction matter?

2. How does this chapter help answer people who say, "If there is a God, why does He allow innocent people to die in this earthquake [or flood, or other natural disasters]?"

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Part B

We see a very good example of how Satan works in his attempts to make Jesus sin (Lk. 4:1-13) . He first suggested that Jesus use his divine power to meet his normal human needs, then he tried to appeal to Jesus’ desire to be accepted as a leader, and finally he offered him the whole world--which was Jesus true heritage anyway, but he had to gain it God’s way! Satan was trying to find any weakness in Jesus, even quoting scripture in his attempts to lead Him astray. It is interesting to note that even Jesus used the Word of God to refute the devil.

Satan may openly attack the church, as a "roaring lion," or attempt to deceive from within, through his evil messengers. In the days of the New Testament church he used threats, imprisonment, beatings, mobs, and even murder in his open direct attacks against the church. But he also tried to work from within through Judas and the Jewish legalists who claimed to follow Jesus, but really wanted to change the Gospel. The Bible tells us about all these ways that Satan attacked the church so that we will know how to deal with him, no matter how he attacks. We must be determined not give him any opportunity (Eph. 4:27). We must arm ourselves against him (Eph. 6:10-18), and then resist him with all our God-given strength (James 4:7). We can call upon our Lord to rebuke him (Jude 9) and have the confidence that by the shed blood of Christ, victory can be ours (Rev. 12:10-11).

While it is important to know our enemy, it can be depressing to let our minds dwell on his power. We must turn our minds to Jesus Christ, for victory is in Him. Our victory is assured in Jesus. Our Lord saw Satan fall as lightning from heaven when the disciples ministered in divine strength (Luke 10:17-20). Jesus has promised us the same victory (Jn. 16:33). The Apostle Paul experienced this, and wrote to the church at Rome about it (Rom. 8:28-29). The Apostle John promised Satan’s final defeat (I Jn. 3:8). Although the churches of John’s day were suffering at the hands of the enemy; torn by false doctrine--made evident by the unholy living of some of its members, and the complacency of others--still Satan could not prevail (Rev. 3:8-l0; 12:l0-11, 20-l0).

The enemy is cruel and strong. We must recognize him as such. But we can still be victorious, for the Bible says, "Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (I Cor. 15:57).

It may be helpful to focus on some of the methods we see Satan using in our day:

  1. He has been stirring up racial hatred of one group against another, and some Christians have been caught up in this hatred.
  2. He has inspired rulers to try to force Christians to return to the pagan gods of their ancestors in the name of "nationalism."
  3. He has led many religious groups to unite around a mixture of religious teachings, and then branded honest Christian believers as "bigots" because they cling to the truth of salvation in Christ alone.
  4. He has caused some militant religious groups to wage open war against Christianity.
  5. He has lead in the world-wide growth and acceptance of "Humanism," which exalts human wisdom above the revelation of God. Most world leaders in the fields of government, education, international business, etc., have accepted this lie and mock Christian beliefs.
  6. He has stimulated the open practice of evil in every form until many evil practices are becoming widely regarded as socially acceptable!

Suggested Discussion Questions:

l. Someone has said, "Satan cannot harm a Christian." Do you agree? What does the book of Hebrews, in the Bible, teach about this? (cf. 11:32-39)

2. Name some of the things God has provided to help us fight the devil.

3. Discuss each of the modern methods of Satan described in this chapter. Are any of these seen in your home area?

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Part C

Although we must not assume that Communism was anymore "satanic" than any other human generated system of government, it is interesting to see how Communist governments treated Christians in the countries they ruled. Throughout the 20th Century the pattern holds true. There were those who tried to minimize the danger to the church that resulted from a Communist takeover of a country. They claimed that Communism didn’t really care about the church. Yet a clear pattern is evident time and time again. Anyone who has had training in basic Communist teaching will understand why the Communist had to oppose the church. If Communism were merely another political or economic system, it could simply ignore Christianity. In fact Marx and Lenin did not expect to have to fight Christianity, they expected it to just "fade away" in a Communist state. But when it didn't fade away, the Communists had to attempt to destroy it, because their father, the devil, will not allow them to ignore it! If you are interested in this matter you should read a book like Marx, Lenin, Mao & Christ, to understand how Communism was really an anti-Christian religion, and was used as a tool of Satan to try to destroy the church.

What could a Christian do if he were to find himself suddenly under such an anti-Christian authority? Some have fought and been killed or imprisoned. Others have denied Christ and submitted to the authorities. Some have fled the country or died in the attempt. But a surprising number learned how to live in that hostile environment. If a Christian was familiar with the way the Communists usually worked, he was prepared. Normally pro-Communist sympathizers began to infiltrate the church organization long before the actual takeover of the country. They tried to stir up sympathy for their teachings, identified those that are particularly opposed, and attempted to divert the church from its spiritual functions. Once the area had fallen to Communist control, they encouraged "peaceful cooperation" and "unity." Anyone who resisted was made to feel like he was opposing the "will of the people." During this time, religious freedom was assured and Christians were often deceived into thinking that they could live peacefully with the Communists government. Meanwhile government agents continued to infiltrate the churches. They prepared lists of ministers, elders, lay leaders and members. They also gathered "damaging testimony" of those who dared to oppose Communism and had "ties with foreign elements." A few well-known Christian leaders were killed during this period in order to frighten the Christians and make them realize that cooperation was necessary. Then the Communists moved on to the next stage. The church was stripped of its schools, hospitals, orphanages and social programs. Many "Christians" who were affiliated with the church only because of these institutions fell away. Others who had never known anyway of expressing their faith except through social service were left confused, uncertain, and impotent. During this stage, Christian leaders were discredited whenever possible. They were linked with supposed financial irregularities, immoral scandals and trumped up charges of foreign involvement. All foreign connections were severed, including receipt of funds. Those religious institutions that were dependent on foreign funds ceased to exist.

In this way with the Communists effectively neutralized the impact of Christianity in one country after another! Only those Christians who knew how to function as members of the body of Christ were able to continue to have a thriving spiritual life. As time went on, the persecution became more open and severe. Individual Christians aware singled out for economic pressure. They lost their jobs or were demoted. Fellowship meetings were forbidden. Travel by known Christians was restricted. Known Christian leaders were more severely persecuted and weak Christians found they had no one to turn to for help. Harassment became commonplace. Bibles became scarce. All printing presses were controlled by the government, and could not be used for Bibles and Christian literature. This came as a shock to many Christians because early in the takeover, Bibles were freely distributed until stocks were exhausted. During the time of the distribution, it did not seem important to carefully protect the scriptures. Then the collection of reactionary literature began. Bibles were prime targets. Soon very few copies remained and the most serious blow had been struck against the church. By this time, many church buildings were virtually unused, and the government took them over "for the use of the people." A few are allowed to remain open in some countries as show places for propaganda purposes. But even these were mere shells. In Laos, for example, the government seized the church records when they took over the buildings, and used the membership rolls to identify "reactionaries." Then pressure against the few remaining Christians mounted. Children were indoctrinated against Christian teaching. Christian children were denied educational opportunities. Christians were given the most menial jobs. Food rations were cut.

Would you be able to stand for Christ in the face of such pressure? The thrilling fact is that millions of Christians have survived victoriously in Russia, Hungary, China, Vietnam, Uganda, Ethiopia and other places in spite of such persecution!

Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. The Communist pattern could be summarized as an effort to put ever increasing pressure on Christians until all outward expression of Christianity had disappeared. How successful would you say they were in these countries?

2. Why is "infiltration" so difficult for the institutional church to stop? How is a true church fellowship (as described in Lesson I ) better equipped to deal with this?

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Part D

In the last section we considered some of the specific methods Satan uses to put pressure on Christians. Here are some more examples drawn from around the world:

  1. Totalitarian authorities rely heavily on threats. They believe that they can frighten everyone with a few violent acts, and the fear they generate. They do not consider that a greater power [God] may not permit them to carry out their threats against His children. In the Old Testament of the Bible we read that a powerful king of Assyria told the people of God, "I have conquered every nation I have attacked in spite of their gods. Surely you don’t think that you and your God can stop me!" But the Jews called on their God, and He destroyed that mighty army (Isa. 37:8-38). Of course, we must be realistic enough to realize that sometimes God permits the abuses of evil men to fall on his followers. A good attitude is expressed by Daniel’s three friends when they were faced with the demand of the king to worship his golden image, or be killed. They said, "Our God is able to deliver us...but even if he does not, we are not going to worship the golden image." (Daniel 3:17-18). This attitude is echoed in Revelation 12:11 where we are told that those that had overcome the evil one had been able to do so because they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Many times implied threats are used by the authorities so that they can avoid taking a public stand that might arouse indignation against them in the eyes of the rest of the world. For example, they often do not outlaw the Bible, they just label it "reactionary."
  1. Oppressive governments depend very heavily on "re-education" to change the thinking of people with "wrong ideas." This began with the amazing success the Communists had with captured U. S. soldiers during the Korean War. It usually began with a forced period of self-evaluation and self-criticism. Those who were recognized as leaders were usually sent to special "camps" for especially intensive re-education. The masses were required to join self-criticism groups where they spent hours and hours thinking negatively about themselves and their past actions. The psychological effect of these sessions was to make a person doubt that he can make any correct decisions at all. Thus he comes to depend upon the "party" to make all decisions for him. After a lengthy study of American servicemen who could not resist this type of "re-education," U. S. military psychologists determined that a person with strong personal spiritual convictions was the most likely to be immune to it. The Chinese Communists realized the same thing after many Christians were "re-educated" repeatedly in China without success. Finally the authorities simply quit trying!
  1. The enemy uses many excuses so as not to admit that he is attacking people because they are Christians. In Europe, for example, the Soviet Union claimed that well-known pastor, Georgi Vins was an income tax evader. They frequently used such economic excuses because the poor masses find it easy to believe that leaders are dishonest in handling money that is entrusted to them. The Communists also liked to claim that Pastors and Bible Teachers were "parasites" because they failed to "produce" anything. They had no regard for their spiritual contribution, so this was an easy way to attack them. In Vietnam, when seminary students tried to comply with government standards by working at production jobs and only studying part-time, the government kept raising the production quotas until their was no time left to study.

Suggested Discussion Questions:

Discuss each example. What would you have done?

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Conclusion :

As we summarize this lesson on the enemy of the church, note that all of his attacks revolve around two main points of his character: deceit and fear.

He tries to misinform, confuse and deceive believers in every way possible. But the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth, can expose all Satan's lies, if we seek His guidance.

Satan also relies heavily on fear. It is natural for finite man to fear. It is one of the basic elements of our personalities. Satan knows this and plays on our fear, especially the fear of the unknown. Christ advised us to get our priorities straight when He said, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell." (Mt. 10:28) Remember, when we are fearful, we can claim the promise of scripture: "For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-discipline." (II Tim. 1:7).

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