Defeating the Devil

Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”

- 2 Corinthians 11:14

As we conclude today our brief look at what Scripture says about our growth in holiness and the obstacles to our sanctification, we will be looking at the third of the Christian’s three major enemies—the devil himself. Our battle to grow in holiness is an explicitly supernatural one, and it involves defeating the devil as well as the world and the flesh.

In the modern West, Satan is largely relegated to the category of myth. Many people deny the existence of a personal being known as the devil, even many people who profess the name of Christ. It has not always been this way. Our forefathers in the faith were acutely aware of the power and presence of Satan. Martin Luther, for example, spoke regularly of his encounters with the Prince of Lies. Luther struggled with bouts of Anfechtungen—extreme depression—and he even spoke of being able to see the devil and throw his inkpot at him. Today, people think the devil is little more than a historical curiosity, a being invented to explain certain phenomena and not a supernatural creature in his own right.

Luther was at the forefront of the greatest revival of truth since the Apostolic age, so it is unsurprising that Satan might focus his attention on the great German Reformer. In the case of most of the rest of us, the devil likely has bigger fish to fry. We should not take that, however, to mean that we will not be called upon to defeat demonic forces as they wage war on our own lives. There is a legion of demons who exist to influence the world for ill and lead God’s people astray (Mark 5:1–20). Jesus Himself frequently dealt with evil spirits. To ignore them is to be unprepared for the spiritual battles that we must fight.

We need not go looking for a demon under every rock, for the world and our flesh can entice us to enough law-breaking without demonic assistance. Still, we must know how evil spirits present themselves if we are to resist them. As today’s passage indicates, we should not necessarily expect our spiritual enemies to look overtly evil. Satan is the master trickster who often disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). In many cases, evil does not look all that disgusting to us. The devil draws us in by offering things to us that look good, not by broadcasting it loud and clear that we are being tempted to do what is wrong. Wise Christians train their powers of discernment by the Word of God, seeking to know God’s thoughts that they might recognize evil when it comes in the guise of an angel of light.

Coram Deo

Because the Son of God came to destroy the devil, we need not fear the devil. We also need not wonder too much if there is a demon behind specific temptations that confront us. What we should do is become fully grounded in God’s Word. As we grow in our knowledge of Scripture, our discernment improves, and we find it easier to identify as sinister things that might at first glance appear to be good. Let us train our minds by the Word of God.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 32:15–18
Psalm 106:34–38
Luke 8:26–39
1 Timothy 4:1–5

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you do not make more than 500 physical copies. For web posting, a link to this document on our website is preferred (where applicable). If no such link exists, simply link to www.ligonier.org.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org | Phone: 1-800-435-4343