(1) Who was Jesus referring to when He said, “Get behind Me, Satan” in Matthew 16:23? (2) What did Jesus mean when He called Judas a “devil” in John 6:70? (3) How do we reconcile Matthew 4:1 with Matthew 6:13? (4) What do we make from 1 Samuel 16:14, which says an evil spirit came from the Lord?
The context of the first question is Jesus’ mention to His disciples of His coming suffering and death on the cross. Peter, thinking from a human viewpoint, protested that these events would happen. But, viewing these events from the divine viewpoint, Jesus knew that they were necessary for His mission as Savior. Therefore, He rebuked Peter. Jesus called Peter Satan, but He wasn’t saying that the disciple was Satan or that he even was demon-possessed. Rather, He meant that Peter’s protest was something that could be expected from Satan, not from a follower of Jesus. With his protesting words Peter had, in essence, adopted the language of the adversary of Christ and His mission. Satan is known in Scripture as the adversary, or accuser, since that is the meaning of the name. By the way, the context indicates that Jesus was likely addressing all of His disciples indirectly, not just Peter (see Mark 8:33).
Regarding your second question, Peter was a saved man, but Judas Iscariot was not. So we have Jesus’ remarks in John 6:70. The word “a” is not in the original Bible text, and Satan’s working in Judas was comparable to Judas’s being Satan. Judas wasn’t the Devil or a demon, but a slanderous, traitorous instrument of the Devil.
As for your third question, Matthew 4:1 begins the account of Jesus’ temptation by the Devil in the wilderness: “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Matthew 6:13 is part of the Lord’s Prayer, which says, “And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.” Obviously you are wondering if these two passages contradict each other, since one calls us to ask the Lord not to lead us into temptation, while the other indicates that Jesus was led by the Spirit into a time of temptation. There is no contradiction. First, the temptation of Christ was necessary to prove to us that as the perfect Son of God He could not be broken down; He could not sin. We humans are not God the Son.
Concerning Matthew 6:13, the best rendering of this verse is, “Leave us not in temptation.” The verse is not saying that we will never have temptations, for we do. Rather, the verse encourages us to pray that when we are tempted, the Lord will deliver us. We should ask for victory in the temptations. This truth harmonizes with James 1:13 and 14: “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” and with 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
Concerning your fourth question, 1 Samuel 16:14 reads, “But the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the Lord troubled him.” (The KJV uses the words “evil spirit.”) The evil spirit “from the Lord” came in the sense that Saul was beginning his fall as king. The evil spirit “from the Lord” came in the sense that God allowed it to happen because Saul had hardened his own heart. Saul, in his pride, rejected the voice and wisdom of the Lord. When a person rejects the Lord and Bible doctrine, that person makes him- or herself vulnerable to Satan.
According to Exodus 1, Pharaoh had the same problem. God allowed Pharaoh’s heart to harden due to the Egyptian king’s own stubbornness. Romans 1:18–32 shows us how God has given people up who turned their backs on Him. The phrase “God gave them up” or “God gave them over” appears several times in this passage, showing that there is a point at which God no longer strives with mankind. Because of an individual’s persistent rejection of God and of the truth, that person is allowed to follow his or her own course, the way of destruction.
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