“The Devil made me do it.” Or did he? I’ve heard similar sayings, “Satan’s got me,” or “I just can’t kill the Satan in me,” or “Satan won’t let me go.” This might sound funny to some, and maybe others don’t take it seriously when they hear it. The problem is, this kind of thinking shows a really weak theology of Satan at best, and a gross understanding of man’s depravity and human responsibility at worst.
But we often don’t hear much taught about Satan in most circles… not that I would recommend that there should be a Bible study on the subject, because I probably wouldn’t. Just going through the section of the library on Satan is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies. There’s a lot of danger involved there, but I think there’s a few things that Scripture teaches about him that’s helpful for Christians to remember, especially when it comes to “the Devil made me do it,” kind of theology.
1. Satan isn’t omnipresent.
I tend to think this is probably the most misunderstood belief about Satan – the fact that he can’t be everywhere at the same time. But if someone were to believe that if they fall into temptation because the Devil made them, then it’s probably because they have really never thought through this. If Satan can’t be in more than one place at a time, is he really going to mess with Dick and Jane on the street? Probably not. I think he would have bigger fish to fry. This doesn’t mean that Satan doesn’t deceive. Certainly he does. In Scripture, Satan is often referred to as the “Deceiver.” In fact, there are many passages that refer to him in this way, or at least refer to his deceptive nature.
And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him (Rev. 12:9).
…and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while (Rev. 20:3).
This is also characteristic of the Antichrist described during the tribulation and millennial kingdom who is indwelled by Satan.
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved (2 Thess. 2:9-10).
And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur (Rev. 19:20).
But what about Job? Doesn’t that show that Satan runs around tempting people? Well, yes and no. Yes, he does deceive many,, but only one at a time because he is only in one place at a time, certainly he would be strategic. Remember, Job was declared by God to be the most righteous man walking the earth (Job 1:8). If he is the most righteous man, then obviously it would be strategic for Satan to afflict him. I stress that point because although Satan tempts Job, he can’t actually make Job do anything. The responsibility for sin on Job’s shoulders. Furthermore, Satan is clearly held accountable to and is restricted by God in his afflictions, and God proves Himself in Job not to allow His children not to be tempted beyond what they are able to bear (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13).
So, if Satan can’t be more than one place at one time, then where would he commit most of his time?
2. Satan isn’t omniscient
This is another element to understanding Satan that we might fail to consider. But how does this contribute to the argument here? If Satan isn’t omniscient, meaning that he doesn’t know all things, then it also means he doesn’t know the timing of God’s plan for humanity. I’m speaking of the End Times when Satan will use the Antichrist to deceive the world. A key here is John’s statement that “even now, many antichrists have come.” No doubt Satan would have been frustrated by God’s response after the first deception in the Garden. God is extending grace to humanity? This didn’t happen to the one-third of angels that were fallen with Satan. They were condemned with no redemptive promise. Satan would therefore work for the rest of history to deceive the nations. The fact that Satan doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean he doesn’t know something.
Thousands of years of watching human sinful nature and God’s interaction with mankind would undoubtedly make Satan knowledgeable, but not enough to know when he would be able to use his antichrists to the maximum effect. For this reason, he would need to prepare an antichrist for every age, not knowing when the Tribulation period would come. Much of his time, to say the least, would be invested in establishing this evil one, and explains why there are seemingly evil men in prominent, influential positions for every generation. Such men as Nero, Genghis Khan, Vlad Dracula, Ivan the Terrible, Rasputin, Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Kim Sung, just to name a few, were all men of horribly gross and unimaginable evil. All of these men, as you can imagine, were Satanic, anti-Christian, and performed every form of evil known to man. Reading their biographies are not for the faint-hearted, and I’m sure you could name a few more as well.
But how does any of this apply to my Christian living? This leads us to the last point,
3. Satan isn’t our master
This doesn’t mean that we can’t be afflicted by Satan or his demons. Even Jesus was afflicted/tempted by Satan (cf. Matt. 4). However It DOES mean that we are not controlled by Satan, so we can’t say, “The Devil made me do it,” while also claiming to be a Christian. Still, there are a few final considerations I think we should make:
- First, we need to prepare to defeat the enemy. Understand the power and deception of Satan, but Satan is still restricted by God and is accountable to Him. Nevertheless, as Paul exhorted the Ephesians, we must put on the full armor of God.
Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Eph. 6:11-13).
- Second, we need to recognize our sin. Paul is clear from Romans 1 that the satisfaction of sinful desires is the consequence of the human heart. We sin because it’s our nature, our flesh. The desires are our own. We don’t need the influence of Satan to be evil. We’re already evil.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Rom. 1:24-32).
- Third, we need to know our victory in Christ. While it is true that the unregenerate man can do nothing but sin because of his condition of spiritual death, the Christian has a new Master. For the Christian, because of grace, he or she has become a slave of righteousness. In other words, the Holy Spirit provides them with the strength needed to overcome any and every sin.
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:1-7, 12-14).
No doubt we can praise God that He is infinitely greater and superior to any dominions and authorities in this world! Truly He is the King of kings, and Lord of lords.