In this passage Paul encouraged the church at Corinth to forgive and restore a repentant man within their congregation who’d committed incest/adultery (1 Corinthians 5:1-11). He did this “in order that Satan might not outwit us.” If the church had approached the man’s situation (which had become the church’s situation) with unforgiveness or with excessive harshness, Paul feared Satan would take advantage of the situation and cause further grief and hurt.
Satan is real. He is not the red-suited imp we often imagine him to be. Nor is he the mischievous gremlin whose chief job is to cause the church sound system to malfunction. He is the enemy and destroyer of all things holy.
The name Satan means the opposer. He is also known by several other names such as accuser, Lucifer, enemy, serpent, dragon, and king of this world to name but a few. His chief goal is to slander and destroy the testimony of Jesus. He seeks to steal, destroy, and kill mankind, and he has a seemingly endless bag of tricks in which to do so.
Another thing I might add, the problem is Christians either take Satan too seriously or not seriously enough. We either overemphasize him to the point of not taking responsibility for our own actions, or we underemphasize him to the point where we let down our guard against him. We want to think biblically about Satan.
The purpose of this blog is not to offer a full-on treatment of the doctrine of Satan or spiritual warfare. (Go here for that) I want to center on Paul’s admonition to the church at Corinth that Satan may not outwit us or trip us. I want to look at a few of the tactics he employs to harm us, his modus operandi, if you will.
Separation. 1 Peter 5:8 says “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” If you watch National Geographic at all, you know that lions identify and isolate the weaker and younger of the herd before moving in for the kill. One of Satan’s chief schemes is to separate and isolate us physically, emotionally, and spiritually us from God, our church, our spouses, and our friends in order to move in for the kill.
Satan even attacked Jesus when he was alone (Matthew 4:1-11). How much more will he attack us when we’re alone?
This is why it is important that we not become isolated as Christians. No man is an island. We were made for each other, and for communion with God. This goes far beyond simply being “in church.” I can’t stress the importance of Christians having close friends for accountability, admonition, and encouragement, especially as we tend to drift and become isolated. I can think back to all the times Satan has snared me, and each time I admit I was not in close communion with God and his church.
It’s a divide and conquer strategy, and it works gloriously. Be aware of when you are drifting.
Accusation. In Revelation 12:10, Satan is called “the accuser of our brethren.” The picture is of someone bringing a lawsuit against another. Satan is so bold in his accusation of Christians that he does it in the very presence of God (Zechariah 3:1).
When Satan accuses us, he reminds us of our past and present shortcomings, failures, and sins. He even reminds God of them. He always tells us that our sin is greater than God’s grace, and that God couldn’t possibly love us because of this.
There is no end to Satan’s accusation. As someone who often shares God’s word with groups of teens, I feel his accusations regularly. Most of them are too lewd and crass for me to mention in this blog, but suffice to say, the accuser knows just what to say to unnerve us, confuse us, and slander us. He does so to the point of rendering us useless and ineffective for service in God‘s kingdom.
Temptation. Satan knows what we like. He is aware of what turns us on. For some it is sex. For others food. For another it might be acceptance. Still for another it will be idolatry. He knows what draws us away from God, and he knows how to capitalize on our already weak and sinful flesh.
The Bible speaks of Satan as being subtle and crafty (Genesis 3:1). This is why we have to be alert and aware, as the scriptures exhort us. Satan knows what pushes our buttons, and he knows what tactics he’s employed to hurt us in the past. He will coax us back into the same practices, attitudes, and situations which caused our former fall. If the trick works, why would he change it?
This reminds me of how Lucy would tempt poor Charlie Brown to kick the football, and each time she’d pull the ball away and Charlie Brown would end up falling on his back, head spinning, embarrassed, and hurting. Yet, Lucy employed the same tactic often, and Charlie Brown fell for it each time.
When it comes to temptation, we may have to take radical steps to ensure we are out of its snare, especially if it is a temptation to which we often fall. “Run away!” is always a good thing to remember, especially in the area of sexual temptation (2 Timothy 2:22). This method is applicable to any and all temptations which Satan uses to lure us into harm‘s way, and ultimately our downfall if we continue falling for the same tricks.
Condemnation. Finally, Satan wants to condemn us. When something is condemned it is declared unfit and useless and worthy of destruction. Think of a house. Once its boards have bowed, its roof caved, and vines have overgrown it, the city will declare it condemned and eventually bulldoze it. In the case of death row criminals, once a sentence is rendered, he is escorted to his lonely cell to anguish, struggle, and serve his time. He knows death will eventually come, and there’s nothing he can do about it, barring a full pardon.
Satan wants to make us feel hopeless and alone; left to rot in the prison cell of our fears. He asks us continually, “Where is your God now?” He reminds us of all the reasons we don’t deserve God’s grace, of all the times we’ve abused grace, of all the times we have withheld grace. In condemning us, Satan creates a sham holding cell for us without bars, convincing us we belong there, and walks away laughing because he knows the Judge declared us free, but he convinced us otherwise.
These are just a few of the schemes and devices of Satan that God does not want us to be ignorant of. Thankfully, he has provided clear instruction in his Word for dealing with each of these situations as well as others.
These are a few scriptures to offer us hope, strength, wisdom, and encouragement as we daily withstand the wiles of Satan:
“You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
“When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Colossians 2:13-15).
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons. For the weapons of our warfare are not physical, but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10: 3-4).
“Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:15-18).
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The Strategy of Satan by Warren Wiersbe