Do You Know the Enemy?

God gives us clear insight into the maneuverings of the evil one, from the opening pages of the Old Testament through the entirety of the New Testament,

Many of the seventeenth-century Puritans emphasized the importance of knowing the enemy and his tactics when they approached the subject of spiritual warfare. For instance, in his Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks highlighted “the essentials” of spiritual warfare: “Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched. If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter.”

 

Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is one of the most ancient and most revered military manuals in all of human history. In it, Sun Tzu set out what he believed to be the “essentials of military victory.” He wrote: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”1

Many of the seventeenth-century Puritans also emphasized the importance of knowing the enemy and his tactics when they approached the subject of spiritual warfare. For instance, in his Precious Remedies against Satan’s Devices, Thomas Brooks highlighted “the essentials” of spiritual warfare: “Christ, the Scripture, your own hearts, and Satan’s devices, are the four prime things that should be first and most studied and searched. If any cast off the study of these, they cannot be safe here, nor happy hereafter.”2

It is vital that we are aware of the schemes of the enemy. God gives us clear insight into the maneuverings of the evil one, from the opening pages of the Old Testament through the entirety of the New Testament, so that—as the Apostle Paul said—“we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Cor. 2:11). It is to this end that we turn to the Scriptures to glean all that we can about the strategies of the devil.

We will never understand the tactics of the enemy properly until we understand the first three chapters of Genesis. The New Testament—in setting out a biblical theology of temptation—records the first enticement with which the evil one led our first parents into rebellion against God. In 2 Corinthians 11:3, the Apostle Paul writes, “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” He draws attention to the subtle nature of Satan and then explains that the cunning way in which he deceived Eve is paradigmatic of his deceptive attacks against believers.

Satan is the “most cunning” of God’s creatures. Every one of his strategies, temptations, and attacks is full of cunning deceit. As Brooks put it, Satan loves to “present the bait and hide the hook.” He “paints sin with virtue’s colors”; then, he “extenuates and lessens sin.”3

In his initial approach, Satan comes as a cunning deceiver—subtly and strategically seeking to lead Eve to listen to him rather than hold fast to God’s words. Satan denied the truth about the words of God. He made himself a counterfeit authority. “Did God actually say . . . ?” (Gen. 3:1) carried with it a denial of not only the authority of God’s words, but it also cast aspersions on the sufficiencyclarity, and necessity of what God had told His image bearers. Whenever Satan seeks to lead men and women into sin and rebellion, he does so by planting seeds of doubt about what God has said. He knows that if he can tempt us to turn from the Word of God, we will be susceptible to any and all forms of unrighteousness and evil. Even after a believer sins and falls prey to a temptation, Satan continues to seek to lead him or her to doubt God’s Word. “The accuser of the brethren” loves to paralyze fallen believers by tempting them to distrust God’s gracious promise to forgive and cleanse all who come to Him through Christ in contrition of spirit and confession of sin (1 John 1:8–2:1).

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