T 1.6 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 6, The Apostles Taught About Our Adversary, the Devil, and that We Have the Power to Overcome Him

In the world, there is a lot of television programming these days about the devil. Lucifer is a TV program that presents the devil who looks like a charming man in all of his charming ways. He is the hero of the show and presented in a somewhat sympathetic way. Supernatural is a show where it’s hard to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys are the way angels and demons interact.

Witchcraft in the Scriptures is presented as a practice that taps into the power of the devil but there are a number of shows on TV that present that craft in a beguiling fashion. Years ago, there was Bewitched. Other shows like Charmed, and Sabrina all present witchcraft as pretty much a good thing. All of the witches are good people if misunderstood.  They are heroines.

So, in the world, we have this entertainment element that presents the devil and his domain as fantastic elements in stories and fables.  It’s fun, it’s playful, it’s great entertainment.

Scripture paints a totally different picture.

But before we start talking about the devil in scripture, we must start with the truth that “Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world”, and so we have within us at all times the power to overcome Satan.

and every spirit who doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world. (1Jn 4:3-4 WEB)

We state this now and we will refer to this truth regularly in our discussion of the Adversary. Additionally, Jesus was sent to destroy the works of the devil. There is a real battle, but Christians are on the winning side.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (1Jn 3:8 ESV)

Let me repeat that last sentence! The reason Jesus appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. And we need always remember that the New Testament is full of records of deliverance from the devil in every way, from simple healing to deliverance from possession.

While we are on the topic there is the belief in the world and even in Christian circles that devils do not exist and that everything can be explained by science. Some go as far as to say that devils didn’t really exist in New Testament times, that was just how people explained a lot of things back then.  And now, according to some, mental illness, addictions, and even criminal behaviors are can be boiled down to chemical imbalances.  In fact, killers now are using that reasoning as a defense.[1]

However, science also acknowledges the power of the mind to affect the body, it is thinking that is behind so much of what goes on in the body.[2]  Stress causes and worsens physical illness. Thoughts of fear generate a chemical ambush in the body generating a fight or flight response.  It is thoughts that generate nerve impulses that contract muscles, make your skin blush, or raise goosebumps.  Thoughts change the body.

The question is who is in charge of your thoughts. Most people are in charge of their minds, but not all.  And an important question is who or what is the person allowing himself to be influenced by.  And then,  who or what is in charge of the thoughts of an addict, be it to drugs, gossip, gambling, or serial killing?  That’s not to say that if someone takes too much hydrocodone after an automobile accident to the point where they are going to experience severe withdrawal if they don’t stop that they are possessed, that is not the criteria, although that is still a problem.

Now scripture calls some possessed by a devil. (Devil and demon are synonymous names for evil spirits.) Possession refers to control.  Why is it so wild an idea that someone could decide to give over control to some mental force not realizing its devilish origin and wind up addicted to any or several various compulsions from the less violent sins like lying and stealing to murder?  Yes, there are real diseases, mental imbalances, and treatments for a lot of those things, no one is disputing that.  But that doesn’t negate the possibility that somewhere in the cause of that, somewhere in the mind is devilish influence, or even in more extreme cases, possession by devils.

Let’s talk about examples and let’s take an easy one with stories online, serial killers.  The serial killer BTK, who went on a murderous rampage in Wichita, says he was possessed by a demon, “At some point in time, it entered me when I was young, and it basically controlled me.”[3] This is part of BTK’s story.  Another infamous serial killer was Ted Bundy who confessed to thirty murders besides kidnappings and rapes.  Here is an excerpt from Psyhology Today about Bundy

“To several of his post-arrest interviewers years later (William Hagmaier, Robert Keppel, Steven Michaud), Bundy described a malignant being — an “entity” — that emerged from him whenever he was tense or drunk…Defense investigator Joe Aloi seemed to have gotten a clear view. While they were talking, he suddenly noticed an odor emanating from Bundy as his face and body contorted. “I felt that negative electricity,” Aloi said, “and along with that came that smell.” Aloi was suddenly terrified that Bundy would kill him.” [4]

The same article in part 2 talks about John Wayne Gacy, Peter Sutcliffe, Israel Keys, Sean Sellers, Danny Rolling, and Gary Gilmore, all with demonic influences.[5]

There are no statistics on how many possessed people there are.  Serial killers get some press but what about people who have given control over to wealth to the point where they will do anything to acquire it, or political power, power in business, and other domains?

As mentioned above, in all this discussion, keep uppermost that Christ came to destroy the works of the devil and greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.  This article is about delivering people from the power of the devil, not increasing his influence.

The Scriptures talk about the devil and his domain starting in Genesis. Jesus, in his ministry on earth, delivered many of devil possession. He also taught some about how the devil works. But the greatest explanation about the workings of the devil and his kingdom is in the epistles. And the reason for that is because before the church age spiritual discernment was only available to those limited few who had the spirit upon them whereas now discerning spirits and spiritual operations is part of the manifestation of the spirit. That’s what it says in this verse.

Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him, and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1Co 2:14 WEB)

Scripture calls a man without spirit a natural man. And it says that things of the spiritual realm are unknown to the natural man because he has no spiritual discernment.  Before the ability to be born again with spirit on the inside that was made available on the day of Pentecost people didn’t have the ability to understand these spiritual realities.  Only people with the gift of the holy spirit can really understand.  There are a lot of “natural men (people)” in the world who can’t understand the workings of the devil.

and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits; to another different kinds of languages; and to another the interpretation of languages.  (1Co 12:10 WEB)

One of the manifestations of the spirit is discerning of spirits. Notice it doesn’t say discerning of evil spirits. It just says discerning of spirits.  That indicates the ability to discern both holy spirit and evil spirit.

So, until the spirit was made available for all on Pentecost, most people had no holy spirit and could not understand spiritual things.  But there were a few things made known. There is some information about the devil in the Old Testament starting in the Chapter 3 of Genesis. In the garden, we have the record of the serpent who beguiled Eve. While it doesn’t say a lot about him it does say that he was the shrewdest creature in the garden. We also see that God declared that there would be enmity between the devil and mankind as a result of this interaction in the garden whereby Satan convinced Eve to transgress the commandments of God, and cause him to become dead in trespasses and sins. We have that he beguiled Eve and Adam followed, but the deeper explanation isn’t given until the Church age as shown in the following verse.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Eph 2:1-3 ESV)

Look at that explanation! The sin in the Garden of Eden made a huge change according to scripture. The day that Adam and Eve transgressed the commandment of God they died (became “dead in trespasses and sins”) in fulfillment of God’s warning.  Prior to the sin Adam and Eve freely communicated with the Lord.  When they sinned, they lost that spiritual connection.  Physically they were still alive.  Spiritually they were dead as it says in the verse above.  Here is the prophecy of their death.

but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.” (Gen 2:17 WEB)

In Genesis before the sin, Adam and Eve had dominion.

God said, “Let’s make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Gen 1:26 WEB)

Now, the devil tricked Adam, Eve, and all their descendants into giving up that dominion. People, dead in trespasses and sins are ruled by the god of this world. That’s what it says in Ephesian above where it says, “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”  When the first people sinned, they relinquished their dominion and became under the influence of the prince of this world, the devil.  Everything changed as they now “lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

But in the Old Testament people couldn’t understand that so mankind had to wait for the Redeemer to come, enable us to be born again, and so have the ability to understand this spiritual reality.

Back to the Old Testament and what was known about the devil, again in Genesis 3, last but not least, there is the prophecy that the heel of the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head.

Yahweh God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed above all livestock, and above every animal of the field. You shall go on your belly and you shall eat dust all the days of your life. I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”  (Gen 3:14-15 WEB)

After that, there are tidbits about the devil and his domain. We have references in the OT (Old Testament) to lying spirits, and false prophets, but it’s not in the depth that is presented in the New Testament. In one place in the OT, it is presented that the lying spirit got his authority from Yahweh. So we see a lying spirit talked about as an agent of God.  But this is a figure of speech because God does not tempt man.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. (Jas 1:13 ESV)

Temptation is one of the tools of the devil.  And so is lying.

Yahweh said to him, ‘How?’ He said, ‘I will go out and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ He said, ‘You will entice him, and will also prevail. Go out and do so.’ (1Ki 22:22 WEB)

Before Christ believers could not understand that there was a domain of the devil in charge in the world so all actions, good or evil were attributed not to Satan, but to God.

In Zechariah we have reference to Satan standing before the Lord whereby Yahweh rebukes Satan showing him to be his adversary:

He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before Yahweh’s angel, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary. Yahweh said to Satan, “Yahweh rebuke you, Satan! Yes, Yahweh who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this a burning stick plucked out of the fire?” (Zec 3:1-2 WEB)

We also have references in the Old Testament to false gods.

Concerning the prophets: My heart within me is broken. All my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of Yahweh, and because of his holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of the curse the land mourns. The pastures of the wilderness have dried up. Their course is evil, and their might is not right; for both prophet and priest are profane. Yes, in my house I have found their wickedness,” says Yahweh. Therefore their way will be to them as slippery places in the darkness. They will be driven on, and fall therein; for I will bring evil on them, even the year of their visitation,” says Yahweh. “I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria. They prophesied by Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. In the prophets of Jerusalem I have also seen a horrible thing: they commit adultery and walk in lies. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one returns from his wickedness. They have all become to me as Sodom, and its inhabitants as Gomorrah.” Therefore Yahweh of Armies says concerning the prophets: “Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall; for from the prophets of Jerusalem ungodliness has gone out into all the land.” Yahweh of Armies says, “Don’t listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They teach you vanity. They speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of Yahweh. (Jer 23:9-16 WEB)

“They prophesied by Baal” in the above verses lists the work of the adversary, false gods who enabled men to prophesy, albeit falsely. “They commit adultery and walk in lies, They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one returns from his wickedness.” talks of the operation and power of the kingdom of the adversary.

At best, in the Old Testament we learn that there is a devil who is our adversary and, especially seen in the case of Eve, incites man to sin. We see devil worship in gods like Baal, and that the influence of the Adversary is real and pervasive, even operating false prophets. But, in the OT we do not see references to fallen angels, occurrences of devil possession being delivered by men of God, and beyond all this, there is not a lot of awareness of the workings of the devil, especially as attributed to the fact that the Jews attributed all things, good and bad, to Yahweh.

So, we don’t see deliverance from devils until Jesus in the gospels and then the apostles and disciples in the Book of Acts. In the gospels and epistles, we see explanations of what was going on in the old testament concerning the dealings of the devil.

Why don’t you understand my speech? Because you can’t hear my word. You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and doesn’t stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you don’t believe me. (Joh 8:43-45 WEB)

Above we see that Satan is the force behind murder and all manner of lying. People under his power are blinded to the truth by him. Before this verse, Jesus calls unbelieving Jews children of Satan

“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; (Mat 25:40-41 WEB)

Above we see that the devil has angels (devils or demons) under his command, and they are slated for the everlasting destruction of eternal fire.

Here is another record of deliverance.  Notice it says many were possessed with demons.

When evening came, they brought to him many possessed with demons. He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, “He took our infirmities, and bore our diseases.” (Mat 8:16-17 WEB)

There are more references in the Gospels and the epistles. There are many places in the New Testament that refer to devils as unclean and evil spirits. They include Matthew 2:43; Mark 1:23; 3:11, 30; 5:2, 13; 7:25; 9:17; Luke 6:18; 7:21; 8:2; acts 5:16; 8:7. devils are angels who have fallen from their highest state through sin and will eventually be consigned to help, Matthew 25:41; second Peter 2:4; Jude 6. In the meantime, they can roam about the earth (Luke 8:31; first Peter 5:8;). They dwell in the air, Ephesians 2:2; 6:12, and in desert places, Matthew 12:43; Luke 11:24,. They live near tombs Matthew 8:28; Mark 5:2; Luke 8:27. They can inhabit unclean animals such as swine, Matthew: 31; Mark 5:12; Luke 7:33. They are listed as principalities and powers who cleverly holds sway over the whole earth in Ephesians 6:12. (See the Bibliography for more details on these functions of the devil.)

Their ruler is called Satan, the adversary, Matthew 410; Romans 16:20. He’s called Beelzebub in Matthew 10:25; 12:24, 27; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15, 18, 19. He’s called a liar in second Corinthians 6:15. He’s called the devil, the Diablos, the accuser, in Matthew 4:1 and following; 13:39. He’s called the prince of the demons in Matthew 9:34. He’s called the prince of this world in John 12:31. He’s called the prince of this age in second Corinthians 4:4. He’s called the great dragon, the serpent, the seducer of the whole world in Revelation 12:7, 9 and 20:8.

Satan puts obstacles in the way of those who preach the gospel, first Thessalonians 2:18. He is the tempter in 1Thessalonians 3:5. And in second Corinthians 2:11, he exerts all of his craftiness to seduce men to sin.

Now I also forgive whomever you forgive anything. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes. (2Co 2:10-11 WEB)

This is the Apostle Paul writing about him and his cronies being potentially bested by Satan!  If the apostle Paul was concerned about being influenced by the devil, we are certainly susceptible also!

Even the most sacred persons are not immune from his solicitations as evidenced by Jesus’s temptation and verses like Matthew 4:1 and following; John 12:2, 27: Luke 22:31. He receives divine worship when men adore idols as seen in first Corinthians 10:20.

But I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God, and I don’t desire that you would have fellowship with demons.  (1Co 10:20 WEB)

Then there is the topic of doctrines of devils as the source of division in the church:

But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; forbidding marriage and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.  (1Ti 4:1-5 WEB)

Doctrine is a word that puts some people off, but it just means instruction. Scripture warns us that some will teach doctrines of devils.  The topics, forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from foods indicate that these are religious groups, possibly Christian, that are being talked about here. We aren’t just talking about Satanic cults here, we talking about groups and churches that may call themselves Christian teaching doctrines of devils.

The scriptures instruct us one way and the devil tries to instruct us another way.  God instructed Adam and Eve that in the day they ate that certain fruit that they would die and Satan instructed that not only would they not die, but they would be like God knowing good and evil.  Unfortunately, they listened to the devil and brought death into the world, spiritual death as well as physical death.

Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but you shall not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die.”  (Gen 2:16-17 WEB)

As an example today, scripture instructs us that “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his wife, and they will be one flesh.” (Gen 2:24 WEB), but the world today tries to instruct us that “Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother, and will join with his husband, and they will be one flesh”, and “Therefore a woman will leave her father and her mother, and will join with her wife, and they will be one flesh.” And the world (the domain of the devil) says those are all the same instructions.  When you change God’s word you no longer have God’s word.  That is one of the wiles of the devil, to influence people to change God’s word to something that promotes the devil’s agenda.

There are countless examples, as discussed above scripture warns us that some will forbid to marry (1 Tim 4:3) but in scripture, we are instructed that it is better to marry than to burn. (1 Cor 7:9)

God puts limitations on the devil in that men are not allowed to be tempted beyond their strength in first Corinthians 10:13, and God provides ways to overcome the wiles of Satan as seen in first Peter 5:8; James 4:7; Ephesians 6:11, 16.

Be sober and self-controlled. Be watchful. Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1Pe 5:8 WEB)

Still, the Bible says that demons can take possession of people and afflict them with ailments as seen in Matthew 12:22; Mark 9:20; Luke 9:39.

We just need to remember that Jesus had absolute control over all devils whom he expelled at will during his lifetime as in Matthew 4:24 and Mark 134. And he granted this power to his disciples into his church as in Matthew 10:1, Luke 10:17, and in Acts 5:16.

Again, that people possessed by devils have various ailments in no way means that the ailments are not real, or that everyone who gets sick is possessed. It just means that part of the power of the god of this world is working to bring sickness and death to everyone as much as it suits his purpose. And he is good at it.

When we are sick, we certainly want to seek the Lord in prayer, maybe also be ministered to for healing. But we still treat our ailments with medicines and follow good health practices to maintain our health in this challenging world.

Again, remember what we said at the beginning, Greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world, and so we have within us at all times the power to overcome Satan.

More than that, the Apostle Paul charges us in the book of Ephesians to “lock and load”, to arm up with the whole armor of God to stand against the devil!

Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having the utility belt of truth buckled around your waist, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having fitted your feet with the preparation of the Good News of peace; above all, taking up the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; with all prayer and requests, praying at all times in the Spirit, and being watchful to this end in all perseverance and requests for all the saints: on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in opening my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the Good News, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Eph 6:10-20 WEB)

The verses above say that our spiritual battle is not with people, but with the devil and his whole realm!  This is part of the whole counsel of God and part of the Apostles’ traditions that we are to follow. The whole armor includes having the truth of God’s word as opposed to doctrines of devils or man’s traditions and philosophies. That truth of God’s word is our utility belt.  Our armor includes the breastplate of righteousness (right living) as opposed to following the ways of the cultures of the world and not being concerned with sin.  It includes the shield of faith which is able to withstand all the wicked one’s fiery darts.  Salvation protects our heads while skillfully using the rightly divided word of God is able to pierce the lies of the devil. We are to stand diligently, prayerfully in the spirit, standing such for the requests of all the saints.

Thank God that we can now see what is going on. Look at these records in the book of Acts of deliverance over the devil:

The multitudes listened with one accord to the things that were spoken by Philip, when they heard and saw the signs which he did. For unclean spirits came out of many of those who had them. They came out, crying with a loud voice. Many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. There was great joy in that city.  (Act 8:6-8 WEB)

As we were going to prayer, a certain girl having a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much gain by fortune telling. Following Paul and us, she cried out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us a way of salvation!” She was doing this for many days. But Paul, becoming greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” It came out that very hour.  (Act 16:16-18 WEB)

Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I perceive that God doesn’t show favoritism; but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him. The word which he sent to the children of Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all— you yourselves know what happened, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.  (Act 10:34-38 WEB)

Standing against the devil is part of the Apostles’ traditions that we are called to follow including following the Lord’s teaching on exposing the work of the devil and his world, putting on the whole armor of God, and being part of the solution.

Greater is he that is in us than he who is in the world!


THE DEMONOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT, Michael J. Gruenthaner. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 1 (January, 1944), pp. 6-27 (22 pages), Published by: Catholic Biblical Association (available on Jstor)

[1] Blame my brain: A killer’s bold defense gets a court hearing, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/blame-my-brain-killer-s-bold-defense-gets-court-hearing-n998676
[2] What Happens to Your Body When You’re Thinking? https://www.verywellmind.com/what-happens-when-you-think-4688619

[3] https://nypost.com/2018/09/03/notorious-serial-killer-says-demon-possessed-him-in-new-confession/

[4] Bundy’s Demon: Part I, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201309/bundys-demon-part-i

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shadow-boxing/201309/bundys-demon-part-ii

As mentio

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