Please comment on how we should cope with Satan. The Bible in some places tells us to be bold in dealing with him. In other places, such as Jude 9, it seems to say almost the opposite.
Believers must be careful to avoid two extremes. One extreme is to be unaware of Satan, to be ignorant of what the Bible teaches about him, and to be unfamiliar with what he can do in a Christian’s life. Such ignorance is only inviting trouble. But it is just as dangerous for the believer to place an undue emphasis upon Satan, his demons, exorcism, and how to fight him. This type of focus can lead to despair, false doctrine, and defeat.
A preoccupation with Satan doesn’t in and of itself bring about spiritual growth and victory. Many books on spiritual warfare today are not entirely sound theologically, and we must be very careful. We must test everything by Scripture, and in some cases we should take books and other materials to a sound pastor or another teacher or spiritual leader astute in the Word to evaluate. Be especially careful about the many novels and fantasies written today. They might be fascinating, but they may not necessarily be doctrinally accurate and thus would lead one into error or a distorted picture of the Christian way of life. Other books on the Devil and spiritual warfare are so focused on self and one’s supposed personal needs and problems that they lose our real object of attention—Jesus Christ.
It may seem ironic that resisting Satan effectively comes not by an excessive focus upon him but by focusing on Jesus Christ and other important facets related to Him, on God’s Word, on the various ministries of the Holy Spirit, and on prayer. As we saturate ourselves with the Scriptures and spend quality time in prayer, it is as though a light turns on each time, and we come to see among other essential things Satan’s latest wiles or how he attempts to destroy us or neutralize our testimony. We see from the mirror of Scripture what we’re doing that Satan wants us to do and doesn’t want us to do. Satan works so subtly. We cannot realize how subtle he is unless we are continually in God’s Word and prayer.
We cannot possibly enumerate all the ways Satan hurts us. However, one example might be his shielding young parents from seeing their spiritual responsibilities toward young children. Because of their parents’ failure, the children grow up indifferent or even antagonistic. How often have the words “too late” come to our minds as we see teens and older persons who “might have been,” spiritually speaking. And that thinking reveals still another ploy of Satan—giving up on people just because of their age or circumstances, rather than praying for them and helping them.
Another example might be the matter of compromise. Satan convinces Christians that certain matters aren’t all that important, that certain things don’t make any difference to God. In time, Satan succeeds in breaking down a believer’s influence bit by bit. Pride and various attitudes are also great tools of Satan. I cannot stress discernment enough, especially with regard to recognizing the many workings of the Devil.
In resisting Satan we must start with the basic but vital truth that he is a defeated foe. God’s sentence upon Satan came in the Garden of Eden upon the fall of man into sin (Gen. 3:15). Jesus, the perfect Son of God, defeated Satan during His earthly ministry (see Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:28–30; John 8:59; Hebrews 4:15) and in His death and resurrection (see John 16:11; Acts 2:24; Hebrews 2:14). Because of these victories, believers need not be victimized by sin and Satan (see 1 Corinthians 15:57 and 58; Colossians 1:13; James 4:7). We can consciously, willfully go to God and give ourselves to Him for victory. We can rest upon the promises of His Word, and we can be victorious when the Devil seeks to convince us God doesn’t love us or that we cannot trust in Him.
To answer your question about apparent contradictions in Bible passages, none exist. We can boldly resist Satan by making Christ our supreme focus, by obeying Him, and by doing in His strength the work He wants us to do. We are to be looking unto Jesus continually (Heb. 12:1, 2).
But Jude 9 shows us we do not resist Satan flippantly or foolishly. Jude 9 cautions us not to be like the false teachers Jude described, who were brazen and headstrong, rejecting divinely appointed authority. The foolish ways of these puny men contrasted starkly to the powerful archangel of God, Michael, whom God will someday use in casting Satan down from Heaven (Rev. 12:7–9). Yet even during a certain encounter with Satan involving the body of Moses, Michael did not dare to accuse Satan but rather said, “The Lord rebuke thee.”
In contrast, we have people all around us who are going about rebuking Satan for this and that, taking on an arrogant, bossy type of attitude toward him, rather than having a prudent regard for our mighty adversary. We had better let the Lord rebuke Satan. Resist him we must, but it has to be the Biblical way—in the strength of the Lord, which we get through the Word, prayer, and the Holy Spirit, not our own devices.
Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.