Understanding the Devil

Today I was reading from the book of Matthew and I came across a passage that has influenced my understanding of what exactly the devil is. I have had problems understanding the devil as a being in competition with God, because I believe God has all power in existence (and therefore, how could a being like the devil exist in opposition to Him?).

The passage that inspired me was Matthew 16:21-23 which says this:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

When he rebukes Peter, it is clear to me that Jesus doesn’t consider him to literally be Satan (after all, he is one of Jesus’ chosen disciples), but instead he is speaking about Satan in a metaphorical way. The devil in this instance is a spirit of distrust and a lack of faith.

We all experience distrust, but does this mean we have Satan inside of us too? I would argue that this is only the case if we understand Satan to be a certain spirit or attitude, rather than that fallen angel with the red horns as he is often depicted.

It is also true that in the Bible people are given demonic possession by God in order that He might be glorified through their healing by Jesus. Again, the devils in question aren’t horned beasts or fiery dragons, but are spirits that come from God to serve a specific purpose. There is a theme in the New Testament that God gives people ailments in order that He might be glorified by Jesus’ miraculous healing ministry. See, for example, John 9:2-3:

His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

So again here we see that the ailments of the sick are given to them by God (and I believe we can include demonic possession) according to His higher purposes. When viewed in this light, I find it much easier to accept Biblical references to the devil or Satan, as He is not some kind of great dragon that is literally fighting with God, but is a spirit under God’s control.

Feel free to join the debate: Who or what exactly do you believe the devil is?

5 comments

  1. Maybe Steve there are more than one aspects to the being of the devil.. Before the universe was created God existed with only angels. Yet according to The Holy Bible, a third of the angels fell from grace after man was created in the image of God. Also remember when Christ rebuked, I think it was St Peter, saying “Get behind me Satan.” I dont think he believed Peter was possessed by evil, but was being influenced by his ego which is a separation from both the will and holy spirit of God.. None of these thoughts of mine are written in stone as they have just come to mind and not been long mulled over…
    Blessings, peace and love to you my brother in Christ.

    1. Yes Peter, I think there may well be other aspects to the devil (when one studies the book of Revelation, for instance). These are just the thoughts that came to me today. Thanks for your comment, brother 🙂

  2. Steven, the book of Job might give you food for thought in that it shows Satan (Lucifer when God created him from /adorned him with precious and semi precious stones as the most beautiful, the most intelligent and senior in position to all of God’s Angels before he began to think of himself as God) was / is an actual being capable of conversation with God (and later Jesus Christ) Job Ch 1: 6 – 12 and, Job Ch 2: 1 – 6.

    And who tempted Adam and Eve? … since, God had already given them their instructions which Eve was deceived into disobeying by satan disguised as a snake. And if satan didn’t have his own voice/ mind he couldn’t have been the one who tempted Jesus Christ in the wilderness the so ‘incident’ would have been insignificant; not worth a mention in the God inspired scriptures!

    I believe God gives us trials, personal nightmare situations … which would NEVER include demonic possession of us … but that is to pull us up short, bring us back to faith if we are slipping away from Him.
    Satan is the god of this earth because God gave it to him when He threw him; as Lucifer down to earth with a third of His angels who had chosen to follow Lucifer. But satan does not have the power over our individual deaths… as we see in the book of Job.

    God’s word is our Armour against satan and his demons when they try to possess us.
    And try telling satan- worshipers that their god doesn’t exist!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s