Monday, May 18, 2009

Resisting the Messenger of Satan

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Therefore submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
Paul was dealing with demonic resistance to his ministry. A “messenger of satan,” he called it (2 Corinthians 12:7). Three times, he asked God that it might depart from him. God’s answer: “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

In other words, “Paul, I have already given you everything you need to deal with this. It’s not about your strength, it’s not even about your weakness — it’s about My strength being made complete in you.”

James speaks a similar word about resisting the messengers of satan: “Therefore submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” There are three parts to this word. Two instructions and one promise:
  • Submit to God
  • Resist the devil
  • The devil will flee
Our part is to submit to God, to yield ourselves to Him in obedience. Paul had done this. But we have a second instruction to obey that is just as important as the first: Resist the devil. The Greek word for “resist” is anthistemi and means to stand against, to oppose.

See, Paul asked God that this devil that had been harassing him might “depart.” The Greek word is aphistemi (note the root, histemi). Paul wanted the devil to desist, to stop standing against him, to cease resisting him, to withdraw — to flee! But he wanted God to make it happen for him. However, as James teaches us, that’s not how it works. Paul was trying to get God to resist the devil for him, and that was not working out too well for Paul because the devil was not fleeing.

However, God wanted Paul to learn how to resist (anthistemi) the devil for himself. In fact,He had already given him the grace to do so. Indeed, Paul already had everything he needed to deal with this satanic messenger, he had just not yet learned how to do so.

He finally did understand, though, as we can see in Ephesians 6, where he teaches us how to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (v. 10). Notice how that echoes 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My strength.” The Greek root for “strong” and “strength” is dunamis, power. We are to lay hold of God’s strength, to be empowered with the power of God. How do we do that? Paul details it for us (Ephesians 6:11-18):
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand [histemi] 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 [anthistemi], and after you have done everything, to stand [histemi].

Stand firm [histemi] 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 saints.
God has given us His all-sufficient grace, empowered us with His own strength and provided us with the complete armor we need to stand against every messenger of satan. He will not do Himself what He has given us to do, but He has promised that when we submit to Him and resist the devil, the devil will flee.

See also Pulling Paul’s Thorn and Super-Elated with the Things of God.