Most of us are taught that the name of God’s enemy is “Satan”. However, the fact is that in both Greek and Hebrew languages the word “satan” is not a proper noun (a name) at all – it is a common noun based on a verb that means to oppose or obstruct – so “satan” simply means “adversary” or “enemy”; someone who stands in opposition against you. In spite of this, almost all English translations treat the word as a name and capitalise it – even though satan is not a name and can refer to either a human or a spiritual enemy. One translation of the Bible (Young’s) doesn’t have the word “satan” in it; the word is correctly translated into English as “enemy” or “adversary” instead.
The word “satan” is used 27 times in the Old Testament, and of those 27 times only 15 of them are translated (or mistranslated!) as the name “Satan”. If you look up “satan” in a Christian Lexicon, it may say that it is a proper noun because that is the way that Christianity has misinterpreted the word. In Judaism where the word originated, it has always meant an enemy, sometimes specifically with “the”: the satan, the enemy. If “satan” was the actual name of the enemy, it could not have “the” in front of it – in Hebrew “the” is never used before a name so ha’satan (the satan) cannot correctly be interpreted as being the name of an entity.
“In biblical sources the Hebrew term ‘the satan’ describes an adversarial role. It is not the name of a particular character. Although Hebrew storytellers as early as the sixth century B.C.E. occasionally introduced a supernatural character whom they called the satan, what they meant was any one of the angels sent by God for the specific purpose of blocking or obstructing human activity.” [Elaine Pagels, “The Origin of Satan,” 1995] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=satan
For example, if the word “satan” were the name of a spiritual entity, then these verses would make no sense:
“God raised up Rezon son of Eliada as an enemy (satan) against Solomon” (1 Kings 11:23). “The angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary (satan) against him” (Num. 22:22).
David, the man after God’s own heart, is referred to as becoming a satan in 1 Samuel 29:4. David also used the word about others: “David said, What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be adversaries (satan) unto me?” (2 Sam. 19:22).
Many also think “Lucifer” is our enemy’s name. This comes from a fourth century Roman Catholic theologian who “translated” the Hebrew word “helel” (meaning “morning star” or “light bearer”) into the Latin word “Lucifer” – which was Latin for Venus: the morning star. The word “Lucifer” occurs only once in the English Bible in Isaiah 14 and refers to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, not “the enemy”.
In the New Testament we’re told to submit to God and resist the devil. The word translated as “devil” is “diabolos”, and again it is NOT a proper noun or name, it is an adjective, a descriptive word. “Diabolos” means “false accuser” or “slanderer”. “Diabolos” is used of women in Titus 2:3 and 1 Timothy 3:11, and refers to men in 2 Timothy 3:3. Clearly it is not just an unseen spiritual enemy who accuses and slanders, it is also us humans.
The only names we are given for the enemy are Belial (2 Cor. 6:15), and Beelzebub/Beelzebul (2 Kings 1:2,3; Matt. 10:25; 12:24-27; Luke 11:15-19) but perhaps it is more valuable to know how our enemy functions than it is to know what to call him….
The Work of the Enemy
We know that the enemy is very cunning and snake-like: a false accuser, oppressor, murderer, tempter, seducer, slanderer, deceiver, liar, stealer; one who blinds, confuses, distracts; and is like a lion and an angel of light.
“Devil”, meaning an accuser, is particularly interesting because the accusations we receive are typically through other people. While sometimes we may feel accused and condemned from within, too often we also receive accusations from without. Jesus warned us that we would be accused of many things, just as He Himself was: “It is enough for a student to become like his teacher and a slave like his owner. If they have called the owner of the house Beelzebul, they will certainly call the family members the same name” (Matt. 10:25). So we should not be surprised when we are falsely accused.
“We are not unaware of his schemes… We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” (2 Cor. 1:11; 10:3-5).
We must be aware of this scheme and tactic of our enemy so that we do not accept false accusations, or in turn be accusers of Family members ourselves. Instead we need to be supporting one another, standing up for and defending one another, and always thinking the best of one another. No good father likes to see his children fighting and accusing each other, and our Father is no different. Accusations cause rifts and divisions in what God desires to be One. With us so ready to accuse, criticise and slander one another, it is us who often do the enemy’s work!
And there is a very fine line between “speaking the truth in love”, and falsely accusing someone. There seems to be two extremes of thinking in this area. Some believe that love means they must point out whatever they see that is “wrong”, while others believe that if they say nothing and just accept whatever is wrong without giving correction, that is truly loving. The fact is that both extremes may be wrong and unloving because it depends on who is governing in the situation: yourself or the Spirit of God.
Sometimes we want to speak out, and sometimes we don’t want to – but that is not to be what governs us. The truth is that sometimes Love requires us to speak out, and sometimes Love requires us to say nothing – we simply don’t know what is best in any situation; there is no rule we can apply. We must be governed continually by the only One who does know!
I have often been a “good” accuser and have also received accusations. What I want to expose here is why this occurs and how we can avoid being an accuser/devil and enemy/satan to others. I’m not suggesting that there is no spiritual enemy. It is quite obvious that there is – I don’t think that needs proving – we know it from Scripture and we know it from our own personal experiences. What I am suggesting is that we have given the enemy not only a name that isn’t his, but often a power and control that isn’t his either. He loves to delude us into thinking that he is more powerful than he is and make us afraid of him, but he is not God! He is a defeated enemy! Regardless, it is usually not our mutual spiritual enemy that we have to deal with directly, but with quite another enemy that he does not want us to see….
The Cause of Enmity
The Hebrew word “satan” was transferred to the Greek. Jesus used it when He rebuked Peter in Matthew 16, “Get out of My way enemy/satan”. He wasn’t saying that His friend Peter was suddenly the enemy; He was exposing just who our main enemy/satan is: our old nature – the way that we as humans naturally think.
It was Peter’s natural compassion, pride, and even His friendship with Jesus that made him say what he did. It seems perfectly right to us, because he was responding out of his natural love and concern, and yet Jesus called it enmity and opposition to God. Jesus went on to make this even clearer, “You are tempting Me to sin. You aren’t thinking the way God thinks, but the way humans think” (Matt. 16:23) – Peter was speaking as an enemy/satan of God.
This enemy of our old nature is so subtle and devious that we may think we are perfectly right and yet have absolutely no idea that we are opposing God. Even if our motivations and intentions are honourable and good (as were Peter’s) the source of our words and knowledge can still be in opposition to God because they may originate from us instead of from Him. The problem is that so often we think we know, and are right, and so God has to say to us, “Get out of My way, you aren’t thinking the way I think, but the way humans think”.
The source of criticism, accusations, and “helpful advice” is our pride. In Peter’s case, pride caused him to criticise the Son of God and tell Him what He should and shouldn’t do. And our pride can cause us to tell sons and daughters of God what we think they should or shouldn’t do too.
It is absolutely critical that we learn to discern between criticism or accusation, and what is true spiritual discernment and correction.
Spiritual discernment is essential – without it we will just accept anything that sounds good and appealing to us – without discerning its source. But when we criticise and accuse someone based on what we perceive to be wrong, it is usually because we believe ourselves to be right. Pride makes us think we know and need to correct what we think is wrong.
That is not to say that God doesn’t correct us through others because, of course, He does. It is also pride that can prevent us from hearing Him through another – either because we think He should speak to us directly Himself or because we think we already know… ourknowledge and pride are great enemies of God. We can even be found fighting against God without realising it (see Acts 5:38,39).
We need to read the third and fourth chapters of the book of James – pride is a major enemy of God and therefore a major enemy of all who are in Christ.
Our Worst Enemy
We ourselves are often our own worst enemy as well as God’s. Our pride, fear, and unbelief (they are connected) can prevent God from revealing more of Himself to us, and through us, to others. Christ must become greater and more important to me, but I must grow less and less important. He must be superior in my life, and I must be inferior (John 3:30). He is, of course, already far greater and far superior, but you wouldn’t know it to see how we typically think, speak, and act….
God’s enemy tempts us to do things independent of Christ by trusting and relying on ourselves: believing and listening to ourselves (or others) instead of God. At the root of all temptation is an appeal to self – we are constantly tempted to listen to ourselves and believe our judgments, and put ourselves and whatever concerns us before all else.
We really need a revelation of ourselves just as much as we need a revelation of Christ. And we need a revelation of the necessity of the progressive daily work of the Cross in us just as much as we need a revelation of the once-and-for-all work of Christ on the Cross for us. We have so much to learn and so much to unlearn… and that makes our pride all the more absurd and abominable!
Some can see nothing wrong with themselves, they believe that because God made man in His image and loves them, He doesn’t judge or correct them. This leads to the conclusion that they, in themselves, are inherently good, holy, and that they are guiltless with nothing to repent from. Oh, how we deceive ourselves… we love such a conclusion because we love ourselves – but this message is an illusion generated by pride. It is what man teaches, and is not what the Holy Spirit of God or the Scriptures teach (see Heb. 12:5-13).
I have died and my real life is above with Christ, but that revelation and truth takes a lifetime to be fully apprehended and fulfilled in my humanity. When our spirits have been born from above our spirit is instantly a new creation, but until the day we die we still have our soul or old nature (our thoughts, feelings, desires) to deal with because that part of us is still in the process of being changed and transformed! (See Rom. 12:2; 13:14, Gal. 4:19, Jam. 4:1-3, Col. 3:1-14.) Even Jesus was tempted to preserve Himself and listen to Himself instead of His Father.
We need to be saved from ourselves! When we see ourselves for who we really are, we see that it is mercy that we desperately need. As one friend puts it, “Grace is getting what I don’t deserve, Mercy is NOT getting what I DO deserve”.
A message that emphasizes only grace can be used to encourage our old nature that is at enmity with God, but needing mercy admits that we are all wrong and need saving. We only think we don’t need mercy if we are full of pride. Encouraging us to believe that we are all good and right is one diabolically successful scheme of the enemy to rob God and keep us in bondage to self.
And here we need to beware of being too introspective as that makes your perspective all about you yet again. Concentrating on yourself, whether as a good or bad person, means you are not concentrating on Christ. We cannot afford to be in bondage to self. We are naturally the centre of our lives, but we have to forget about ourselves, lay ourselves aside, and discover Christ as the centre of everything.
Our pride gives the enemy of God an advantage, but humility gives God the advantage. “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Only those who have seen themselves for who they really are will know genuine humility and will know and love Mercy. Only those who have seen themselves in the Light of Christ will stop accusing their Family’s members.
We are never devoid of personal responsibility. We are responsible for our words, our actions, and our decisions. Some people blame their failings on other people or on circumstances, while some people blame the enemy – as though he has complete and utter control of their lives! And some people accept that they themselves are the only one to blame….
When we accept that we alone are responsible, then we are ready to be corrected, ready to turn away from our wrong thinking and wrong beliefs. Then God has something to work with and pours out mercy! He will not encourage stubborn pride and self-will, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh (craving for sensual gratification) and the lust of the eyes (greedy longings of the mind) and the pride of life (assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things)—these do not come from the Father but are from the world” (1 John 2:16 AMP).
The Scriptures are very clear that even though God loves us dearly, He still judges everything that is an enemy and opposed to Him, and that includes our pride (Prov. 16:5; 1 Pet. 5:5; 1 John 2:16). It also includes God-given things when those things take the place in our heart that belongs to God alone. What happened to Israel as God’s original chosen people ought to be illustration enough to prove that fact to us! They were rejected and judged because they chose to trust themselves and their own judgments instead of believing and trusting God. And God holds them responsible for that choice.
The best way to deal with darkness and the enemy is simply to live in the Light – to give no place to accusation or criticism, but be open and honest with God and one another. You only stay in the dark if you have something to hide. “If we say, ‘We have a relationship with God’ and yet live in the dark, we’re lying. We aren’t being truthful. But if we live in the light in the same way that God is in the light, we have a relationship with each other. And the blood of His Son Jesus cleanses us from every sin. If we say, ‘We aren’t sinful’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:6-8). The antidote to the enemy of pride is to see ourselves as we really are, to repent from our proud ways, to love mercy, and walk humbly with God and with each other.
Some people are obsessed with the enemy and think he is behind everyone and everything and that is their focus. They are bound and limited by the one they focus on. And what an awful one to concentrate on and be limited by!
Some people are obsessed with themselves – in either a positive or negative way – and whether it is because they think themselves good or bad, they remain the centre of their universe and they themselves are their own focus. They are bound and limited by the one they focus on.
And some people are obsessed with Jesus Christ… and in seeing something of the awesome, vast greatness of Him, they lose sight of themselves and their enemies… keeping their eyes fixed on Him and looking away from all else (Heb. 12:1,2) especially looking away from themselves. They are released and unlimited because of the One they focus on! And what an awesome and all-encompassing Person to concentrate on!
So much depends upon where our focus is – with what we see or do not see spiritually. Instead of focusing on the enemy, others, or ourselves, our salvation is found in concentrating on only One: Jesus Christ. When He fills our vision, our thoughts, our lives, then there is no room for any other and the kingdom of our own world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He will reign forever and ever!