The Strategy of Satan
By Pastor Ray C. Stedman
will never understand and comprehend what is going
on in our world for these many centuries until we
accept the biblical diagnosis of life. Paul puts
this diagnosis very plainly in Ephesians 6:
"For we are not contending against flesh and
blood, but against the principalities, against
the powers, against the world rulers of this
present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of
wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore take
the whole armor of God, that you may be able to
withstand in the evil day, and having done all,
to stand." [Eph 6:12-13]
says the battle is not against flesh and blood; it
lies deeper than that. The basic problem is that
this is a battle between the kingdom of God and the
kingdom of Satan, and that man himself is the
whole race, according to this passage, has fallen
under the control of satanic forces, whom Paul
calls, "the world rulers of this present darkness"
-- a most significant phrase. ... The picture of the
Bible from beginning to end is that all human
beings, without exception, regardless of how clever
or educated or cultured they may be, if without
Christ, are the helpless victims of satanic control.
Under the control of satanic forces human beings are
uncomfortable and unhappy, but also completely
unable to escape by any wisdom or power of their own.
But the good news is that some have been set
some have been delivered. Through the
coming of that "stronger one," Jesus himself, who
came, as John tells us, "to destroy the works of the
devil" [1 Jn 3:8], deliverance is obtained. Through
the amazing mystery of the cross and the
resurrection, Jesus has broken the power and
bondage of Satan over human lives. Those who
individually receive and acknowledge this (i.e.,
those who believe, for Scripture always addresses
itself to belief), are set free to live in the
freedom and liberty of the children of God.
But they are not set free to live unto themselves.
That is a common misconception of Christianity. Many
believe that Christ has come into their lives by
means of the cross, and the things which have bound
them and blasted them and ruined them have been
stricken away, and they have been set free. All too
frequently they feel they have been set free to do
as they please, to live as they want to live. But
they are set free in order to battle. That is
the call which comes to all Christians.... We are
set free to do battle, to engage in the fight
against the powers of darkness, to
overcome in our own lives, and to become the
channels by which others are set free. Thus there
comes this call to us in this closing chapter in the
letter to the Ephesians:
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the
strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of
God... " [Eph 6:10-11a]
...If this conflict is the basic problem of human
life, how much devolves upon us in conducting or
fighting this battle? How do you do this? Paul's
answer is in one phrase:
"Put on the whole armor of God."
Full provision has been made that you might win in
this battle. ... God has made full provision for us
to fight these great and powerful forces which hold
the world in their grip. But it would be a mistake
to start there, to begin with the armor of God....
Armor is made for defense, and we will see no value
in these pieces designed for our defense until we
see what we are defending against. Let us realize
something of the cleverness, the cunning wiliness
of the forces against which we are battling, and
we will begin to appreciate the armor with which we
have been provided. Therefore we shall start there.
Today, I want primarily to look at this phrase of
"the wiles of the devil."
The first step for any soldier in training is to be
introduced to the strategy and weapons which the
enemy will use against him....
James says, "Resist
the devil and he will flee from you,"
[Jas 4:7b]. Think of that! This clever, cunning
strategist who has held the world for centuries in
defeat, whom no man is able to out-maneuver, will
flee from you when you learn, like Paul, not to be
ignorant of his devices.
..."What is the general strategy of the devil? How
does he plan to do this? How is it that he keeps the
world in such bondage and such powerlessness?" The
only one in all history who has ever consistently
and unbrokenly defeated the devil, not only in his
life but also in his death, is the Lord Jesus
Christ. He put his finger squarely upon the strategy
and the tactics of Satan when he said,
"The devil is a liar and a
murderer from the beginning,"
strategy of the devil is to murder. The tactic by
which he accomplishes this is to lie. If we consider
these phrases carefully we will see how accurate
How does the devil plan to oppose the work of God in
Well, by murdering, by destroying. One of
the names given to the devil in the book of the
Revelation is "Apollyon," the "Destroyer." What does
"destroy" mean? It is to create chaos, to lay
waste, to ruin, to make desolate. There you have
the explanation for the whole tragic story of human
history: A destroyer is at work among men.
is a God of beauty, harmony, order, and perfection,
of love, of light, and grace. There is enough
evidence left in the world of nature, including our
own being, and in the world of ideas, to see this
marvelous symmetry, beauty, and perfection of
But into this scene a destroyer came. It is his
delight to smash, to mangle, to twist, to mutilate,
to disfigure, to darken and blast in every way he
can. It does not make any difference whether it is
bodies or souls, flesh or ideas, matter or spirit,
the aim of the devil is exactly the same in every
case: It is to distort, to blast, to twist, to
destroy.... His power is
totally negative, completely destructive in every
What are the tactics the devil employs to
accomplish this dastardly destructiveness.... How
does he do it? Well, by deceiving, by lying, by
distorting, by counterfeiting, by play-acting and
masquerading, by illusion and fantasy. This is what
Paul calls "the wiles of the devil."...
The Bible makes clear that the tactics of the devil
fall into two major divisions. He attacks the
human race both directly and indirectly.
... there are fallen hosts of angels called
demons, whom Paul calls here
"the principalities and powers, the world rulers of
this present darkness, the spiritual hosts of
wickedness in heavenly places."
Now "heavenly places" does not mean far off in
heaven somewhere. "Heavenly" means "the realm of the
invisibilities," i.e., the invisible realities of
life. The devil and his hosts are not visible....
In the Bible, we are told very little of the origin
of the devil and his angels, these principalities
and powers.... There is a brief reference to the
fall of this great angel, whose name was Lucifer,
and who was lifted up by pride. Pride is always the
mark of the devil. Lifted up by pride, he chose to
rival God and, in doing so, he fell from his station
of might and glory and beauty and became the devil.
He drew a third of the angels with him, and these
constitute the principalities and powers, the
organized kingdom of darkness, as opposed to the
kingdom of God.
It is through these hosts of wicked
spirits that Satan is able to make a direct
assault upon human life. This direct assault
covers what the Bible refers to as "demon
possession," the outright control of human
personality by the power of a wicked spirit. It also
extends to such activities as soothsaying,
occultism, spiritism (or spiritualism), and related
black magic arts such as astrology, horoscopes,
voodooism, fortune telling, etc....
The Bible consistently warns against dabbling in
these matters. Under the Law, the people of Israel
were strictly forbidden to have anything to do with
wizards "that peep and mutter" [Isaiah 8:19], and
those who try to make contact with the dead, or
those who deal with the world of the occult....
...throughout the Christian centuries there have
been various outbreaks of demon possession described
by missionaries in many lands. It is significant
wherever Christian teaching spreads, the direct
assault of these evil powers upon human life is
kept in abeyance. ... But when education becomes
purely secular and denies the Bible and denies God
then, even though men and women reject superstition
and profess a degree of sophistication about these
matters, this is not enough to keep these powers at
bay. As our world grows more and more godless and
more and more secularized, we will find an
increasing tide of demonic manifestation
creeping into our culture and insinuating itself
into our civilized life. There is no power in man to
withhold these or to stand against them....
By far, the majority of the attacks of the devil
against Christians are not direct but indirect.
That is why they are called the wiles of the devil.
Wiliness means deviousness, circuitry, something not
obvious. A direct attack of the devil upon a human
life is an obvious thing, but this is something
devious, something circuitous, difficult to
This indirect approach comes largely through two
media, or channels. One is what the Bible calls
and the other, "the
We often hear the idea, "The enemies of the
Christian are the world, the flesh, and the devil,"
as though these were three equally powerful enemies.
But there are not three. There is only one enemy,
the devil, as Paul brings out here. But the channels
of his indirect approach to men are through the
world and the flesh. If you would like to see these
in Scripture in one passage, I suggest you study
you were [spiritually] dead through the trespasses and sins in
which you once walked, following the course of
this world , following the prince of the power of the
spirit that is now at work in the sons of
disobedience...." [Ephesians 2:1-2]
"Do not forget, you Christians, that you too once
were following the course of this world, under the
grip and in the control of the prince of the power
of the air, the evil spirit which is now at work in
all the children of disobedience." Further, he says,
"Among these we all once lived in the
passions of our flesh... following the desires of body and mind."
you say, "we were not aware of any control of
No, of course not. You did what you
felt like doing, the natural desires of the body and the mind."
see how consistently the Bible presents this
picture? Now the most basic of these two channels of
approach to subverting the Christian life is "the
flesh." I would like to say a word about it now:
When the Bible speaks about the flesh, of course, it
uses it in a symbolic sense. ... It is a term which
describes the urge to self-centeredness within us,
that distortion of
human nature which makes us want to be our own
god, that proud ego, that uncrucified self which is
the seat of willful defiance and rebellion
...We were all born with "the flesh," and it is the
presence of this which makes us sinners. James calls
this the wisdom which is from beneath, which is
"earthly, sensual, devilish,"
[Jas 3:15]. Devilish! It is the devil, attacking
indirectly, through the essential character of human
nature, distorting it and twisting it, changing it
from what God designed it to be....
The world, on the other hand, is the corporate
expression of all the flesh-centered individuals who
make up the human race. Since the flesh is in every
one of them -- acting satanic, devilish, sensual,
earthy -- therefore the total combined expression of
such beings constitutes the world, and determines
the philosophy of the world. It is that tremendous
pressure of the majority upon the minority to
conform, adjust, keep in step, not to digress or to
Bible addresses itself to Christians it says,
"Be not conformed to this world"
i.e., "Do not let the world around you
squeeze you into its mold." Why? Because the world
is flesh-centered, flesh-governed, and as Jesus said
"That which is born of the flesh
remains flesh. It needs a new birth in order to be
changed. It must be born of the Spirit,"
3:6]. So this is the world -- that human society
which insists on satanic value judgments, and is
guided by satanic pride and philosophy. It is
totally unaware of it, yet nevertheless it is under
the control of satanic philosophy....
Many are falling by the way. Many are slipping back
under the control of satanic ideas and satanic
philosophy and are denying the essential truth of
God. But these are the days when, more than ever
before, we are to respond to this mighty call:
"Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his
Father, we pray that you will awaken our hearts
and minds, and tear away the delusive veils by
which we have allowed ourselves to be defeated
and weakened and rendered powerless and
ineffective in this great battle. Help us to
understand that we would have no possibility of
fighting in this battle were it not for the
delivering work of the Lord Jesus who, as the
stronger one, has come to bind the power of
We thank you that the victory is
already won. Thank you for the privilege we have
of moving over into the kingdom of God, and for
the chance to stop fighting a battle already
lost and to begin to fight a battle already won.
In Christ's name, Amen.
Read the whole
The Armor of
Contenders in the Spiritual War
and Tactics of Satan |