Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
We have considered in some detail the personality of Satan. We now look at some of the features of his power, outlined for us in the Scriptures. Of one thing we can be completely sure. Satan does not share the attributes of deity. He is not omnipotent—his powers, though great, are limited. He is not omniscient—there is a veil drawn over his ability to know all circumstances, though he knows much more than we do. He is not omnipresent—his movements are much restricted although, through his agents, he moves behind the world scenes and behind the lives of men. This is obvious from Job 1. 6-12. The conversation between the Lord and Satan concerning Job demands careful thought. From going to and fro in the earth, the enemy of souls presents himself, with the sons of God, before the Lord. As the Lord calls attention to the character of His servant, Satan takes issue with the Lord about His reasons for integrity. Satan implies that Job only serves the Lord because of blessing and prosperity. Notice the words of the Lord to Satan, v. 12, "Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand". Then out of this confrontation we can learn something of the mystery, yet reality of the power that Satan can wield. And he is allowed to exercise it by divine permission. We may be sure that he exercises it to the full, but we can be glad that his is not a sovereign power. He works only as long as he is permitted to do so. God in His sovereignty has the final word.
As we look at the Scriptures we can learn much about Satan's activities from the titles that are given to him. What he is called very often gives an indication of those things which he does, especially if we read them in the context in which they are written.
He is called Satan. We have already noted some of these passages and also noticed that the meaning of the name is the Adversary. In this role he is set for the discrediting and spoiling of every believer. Even in the presence of the Lord he is seen as the adversary to accuse and debase. Thank God that for every activity of the Adversary we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, 1 John 2. 1-2. When Paul would have visited the Thessalonians, it was Satan that hindered him, 1 Thess. 2. 18. When Paul spoke of his "thorn in the flesh", he viewed it as a messenger of Satan to buffet him, 2 Cor. 12. 7. With the evils at Corinth and their possible permanent damage to the church, Paul was concerned lest Satan should gain an advantage over them. "We are not ignorant of his devices (or methods)", 2 Cor. 2. 11. So we could go on. As Satan, he works for the damage, discredit and debasement of every believer. How good that we can count on the constant ministry of the Lord Jesus in the presence of God our Father to meet the strategies of Satan.
He is called the devil. Let us look more closely at this. Scripture seems to use this title for the enemy as an epitome of all that is vile and evil about him. So "the devil sinneth from the beginning", 1 John 3. 8. Speaking to the Pharisees, Jesus said they were of their father, the devil. Note how he is described, "He was a murderer from the beginning", John 8. 44; "he is a liar, and the father of it". Peter tells us "your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour", 1 Pet. 5. 8. Thus he is called the "evil one" and the "wicked one". We can thank God that "for this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil", 1 John 3. 8. And through death, He has destroyed "him that had the power of death, that is, the devil", Heb. 2.14-15. It is good to ponder again on the complete answer of Christ in His person, to the evil, sinister, power of the devil.
We notice now that he is described as the serpent or, that old serpent. This is significant in that it takes us back to the events of Eden, Gen. 3. 1. It presents the enemy in his subtlety and cunning. It is essential to notice his approach to Eve. The seed of doubt is sown with "hath God said?" Bewildered, Eve states the command of God to them in the garden. Soon the doubt cast in her mind is followed by a flat denial of God's command, "Ye shall not surely die". It was not long before the dreadful deed was done and the beginning of enslavement of the whole human race was effected. The subtlety of Satan has caused the downfall of many. He will quote Scripture to suit his ends. He will approach any saint in the guise of an "angel of light" 2 Cor. 11. 14, if through this means he can achieve his ends. Today we need to beware of the insidious suggestions of evil which have their source in the serpent's mind. We are told in 1 Timothy 4. 1 -2 about the perils of "seducing spirits, and doctrines of demons" r.v. marg. These are all too prevalent in our generation.
He is called "the prince of the power of the air", Eph. 2. 2. This description of Satan suggests that the high court of evil administration is higher than, and outside of, the realm of time and space. Ephesians 6. 12 confirms this when it speaks of the spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. We face the devil here as the ruler of unseen forces of wickedness which infiltrate into human lives and affairs and do their damaging work. We can praise God that, however high the realm of evil is, Christ is higher. His location, through resurrection and ascension, is far above every principality and power and every name that is named, Eph. 1. 21.
Again he is called the "prince of this world", John 12. 31 ; 14. 30. This designation of Satan is used by the Lord Himself. The Lord Jesus was in the cosmos and as He moved He faced the antagonism of the one He describes as the prince of the cosmos— the ordered, material substance of the world, whose people God loved and into which He was sent. The crisis of the cross marked the judgment of this person. The wonder of the experience of Christ in the world is that He could say about the prince of this world that he "hath nothing in me". The perfect Man had the only effective answer to the power of Satan, and eventually destroyed him.
We notice also that he is called the "god of this world", 2 Cor. 4. 4. Here it is not the cosmos but the "age" of which Satan is called the god. In Galatians 1. 4 it is called this "present evil age" r.v. marg.—that from which the Lord Jesus gave Himself to deliver us. This speaks to us, not of a place, but of a period of time throughout which Satan has power. And for this time, which includes our generation, he has dominion over those who inhabit the cosmos, to blind and seduce and destroy. We can be sure that during this "age" the devil is seeking to move against God with all the forces he possesses, and to enslave as many souls as will obey him.
We close our study with the description of the devil in Revelation 12. Here he is called the dragon. All the marks of power that are evil are gathered to him. His object is to destroy the "man child" born to the woman. There is a climax of warfare between the forces of heaven and the forces of the evil one. He is eventually cast down to earth, there to pursue wickedness. It is noteworthy that just as Satan was the originator of all that is evil, so he will be the one who brings evil to its climax. Revelation 13 describes how through the beast and the antichrist, the "man of sin", Satan will make this world the scene of his final desperate bid for dominion and power.
Satan is a reality. Perhaps the impact of his power is becoming more evident today. How essential it is to face facts concerning the growing evils of the last times. There is no room today for compromise or slackness in spiritual things. The words of the Lord Jesus in Gethsemane come to us in vital force, "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation", Mark 14. 38. Thank God, we serve a triumphant Saviour, who through the conflict of Calvary, conquered in resurrection the great enemy of souls. We follow in His train.