It may be profitable at this juncture to consider some of the characteristic tactics of this great Master of Strategy. These are to be found in Gen. 3:1-6; Job 1; Matt. 4:1-11; 16:21-23, and other such passages. Of these we shall confine ourselves to Gen. 3, the chapter which describes the Devil's first attack upon our Race, and from which Paul drew his warnings of Satan's methods in 2 Cor. 11:3, 13-15; 1 Tim. 2:12-15; 2 Tim. 3; 6-7. In this passage we may notice the following thoughts about Satan’s attack :
One of its chief purposes was to put to an end the communion which the creature enjoyed with his Creator. That communion was so refreshing both to God and man that Satan’s envy could no longer suffer it. It must be destroyed. The lines of communication between Eden and Heaven must be severed. Such was at least part of the purpose of Satan’s initial attack. Its lesson for us is patent. Fellowship with God, whether individual or collective, is vital to our spiritual well-being and must sedulously be guarded. At no price must anything be allowed to hinder or hamper it. Many things may seem harmless, but if they rob us of fellowship with God. they are the enemies of our souls and must, therefore, be eschewed.
THE GUISE ASSUMED
Satan came in the form, not of an obscene monster, but of a serpent—the most subtle of beasts, and no doubt, a creature of dazzling beauty. From this we may learn that the Devil often assails the saints in the most unthought of manner. But when you see craft, deceit, duplicity, and guile in evidence, BEWARE. These are his hall-marks. They lie at the root of many of the troubles which arise in assemblies. It is not surprising that some ungodly politicians engage in intrigue and underhand methods to get the better of their opponents, but surely we may expect something nobler from brethren in the Lord. Such evils breed only distrust, suspicion, and hatred, and are unworthy of Christians. Further, since “Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light.” the men he employs to unsettle the saints can “fashion themselves as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:13-15. R.V.). Usually they are polished, plausible, and fair-spoken, and only the saint with keen spiritual discernment may be able to detect that they would “corrupt from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3).
THE SMALL BEGINNING
Satan’s assault opened with the seemingly innocent question, "Yea, hath God said . . . ?” In a later day, his temptation of the Israelites which ended in their bodies being strewn upon the desert sands, began by causing them merely to desire what was forbidden —they lusted after evil things” (1 Cor. 10:6). Similarly, in the case of Lot. of Achan. of David, and of Peter, the sin which ended so tragically had such a slight beginning as to be almost imperceptible.
The same important lesson may be learned from Rev. 2 and 3. “A little turning of heart from God and Ephesus had lost its "first love" ... A little false doctrine as to separation and Pergamos stumbled over Balaam’s stumbling-block; a little false charity to those who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes and God had to fight against Pergamos ... A little step further and Thyatira suffered Jezebel to teach. A little departure from God's way of making converts and Sardis was full of those who had a name to live but were dead. A little mixture of hot and cold—being nominally on God's aide and yet on the world’s . . . and wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked Laodicea has to be spued out of Christ’s mouth” (Dr. E. A. Martin in “The Pattern Assembly”). Should not these things be a warning to us? Is there not a process of insidious spiritual degeneration at work in many assemblies to-day? “In reviewing just over fifty years of assembly fellowship," writes an aged brother in England, “one is staggered by what has been let go—not all at once, else we should have stood in conflict for the truth; but in small things that we have not thought it worth while breaking the peace of the assembly to retain. So much has been lost in this manner that In these days of looseness it will be difficult to recover it. These are sad words and we cannot afford to ignore their warning, for what will conditions be, say 20 years hence, should our Lord not come, if steps are not taken to arrest the present drift? As things are, so much of the power of God has been forfeited as the result of innovations having grieved the Holy Spirit, and human organisation having usurped His Divine prerogatives, that were it possible for departed godly guides to behold the proceedings in professed assemblies in some parts of the world to-day, they would weep as did the returned captives when they remembered the “former glory of God's house” (Ezra 3:12; Hag. 2:3).
THE TIMING OF THE ATTACK
It was the woman, the weaker vessel, that Satan assailed; and he evidently made his approach when she was apart from her husband, and so deprived of his wisdom and counsel The blow was thus timed to fall at her weakest moment. May this not teach us that the enemy studiously considers the most vulnerable spot in our armour, and that he chooses the most opportune moment to strike there! It was when Esau was “faint” (Gen. 25:29) that Satan tempted him to sell his birthright. Now, there are two occasions in which saints seem to be weaker and consequently more susceptible to temptation than at any other. The tint is immediately after a season of blessing and victory. Thus it was when God's people were flushed with victory over Jericho that Israel sinned in the matter of Achan (Jos. 7), and it was just after our Lord had commended Peter for his noble confession that that disciple actually became the mouthpiece of the Devil (Matt 16:13-23). One is reminded that “it takes a steady hand to carry a full cup.” When success attends us, we naturally become self-confident and lose our sense of dependence upon the Lord, and this is the reason that it is often after a season of gracious visitation by the Spirit of God that Satan gets the better of God's beloved people.
The other time at which saints often manifest weakness is lust after the death of an outstanding leader. It was when Moses died that Israel “went after strange gods” (Deut. 31:16, R.V.). Uzziah’s decline began once Zechariah, upon whom he had so Iong leaned, was removed (2 Chron. 26:5); and Paul knew that his departure would leave Ephesus weak, and that Satan was biding his time to attack then (Acts 20:29). It is when stalwarts for God are removed that lawless men, feeling that restraint is gone, assert themselves, and Satan is quick to take full advantage of such an occasion. Happy it is for us, if in a crisis like this, we cast ourselves upon God for help, while refusing to yield what we have learned from Him. “His strength is made perfect in weakness’' (2 Cor. 12:9), and He will be to us all that He was to those whose passing we mourn.
GOD’S WORD ASSAILED
First, Satan questioned it (“hath God said?”). Next, he altered it (“Ye shall not eat of every tree.” Ct. chap. 2:16-17). Finally, he contradicted it (“Ye shall not surely die.” Ct chap. 2:17). Moreover, it was doubtless his influence which caused Eve to tamper with what God had said (“Neither shall ye touch it lest ye die.” Ct chap. 2:17). With all this compare how the Devil misquoted and misused Ps. 91 when tempting Christ (Matt. 4:6; Lu. 4:10-11). Clearly, Satan’s hope of success lies in nil preventing our strict adherence to Scripture. Therefore we must own allegiance to every jot and tittle of Holy Writ The New Testament pattern of church order has never been revised or modified to suit the times. When asked why a certain unscriptural practice was permitted in his assembly, a brother replied, “Ah, they’re not too particular in our meeting.” That is the very attitude towards God's Word which Satan wishes every church to adopt.
DOUBT AND DISCONTENT INCULCATED
When he said, “Ye shall be as gods,” Satan insinuated that God was withholding blessing from her. This thought entertained in Eve’s mind, created doubt and discontent and ere she was aware, she actually believed that disobedience would open to her the door to knowledge, blessing, and happiness, as yet unknown. This is still one of the enemy’s methods of attack. Secret discontent with God’s Word and ways is bred in the soul. This manifests itself in fault-finding. The faithful ministry by which assemblies have been built up becomes irksome to bear. That which is a “delight” to the separated man of Psa 1, is resented as being bondage, as it is by the lawless of Ps. 2 when they say, “Let us break their bands asunder” (v. 3). We imagine that holding fast God’s Word is hindering fruitfulness in God's work, and that the denominations experience more blessing than the assemblies. Who has not heard such reasoning? How foolish and short-sighted the Lord’s dear people can become!
Satan himself is “the Prince of all the sons of pride.” Pride caused the “condemnation'’ into which he fell (1 Tim. 3:6), and it is a snare into which he ever seeks to lead unwary souls. He beguiled Eve to imagine the would “be as gods"—elevated to an exalted life, and led into the delights of boundless knowledge. He dangled before her wondering eyes the world in embryo (with v. 6 cf. 1Jo. 2:16), and she in the vanity of her mind, grasped at the prize and fell. Pride assumes many forms. Are not the haughty and overbearing spirit, the lofty airs, the affected manner, and the striving for social status, symptoms of its presence? Is it not pride that prompts men with little grace, gift, or godly interest in the saints, to push themselves into prominent positions? And when sisters vie with each other in extravagant dress, expensive furniture, and lavish entertainments, is it not because pride swells their hearts? There is no sin. perhaps, to which we are more disposed, and certainly none to which the Lord is more opposed, than pride. He abominates it. He will not bless proud Christians; yea, “the proud he knoweth afar off" (Ps. 138:6).
THE SECOND MAN
It was by these wiles that Satan overcame our first parents, and as they have characterised his temptations from then till now, there is no reason why we should be ignorant of them (2 Cor. 2:11). Having been forewarned we should be forearmed. Not only so, but in the Gospels we are given for our encouragement die example of the One Who triumphantly resisted every temptation. “The first man" when tried was in a smiling garden, surrounded by the luscious fruits of earth, and in the company of one who had been given a" “an help meet for him,” YET HE FELL. “The second Man" (1 Cor. 15:47) was tempted in a barren desert, where he had fasted 40 days, and where He was alone with the wild beasts” (Mk. 1:13), YET HE OVERCAME. What, then, was the secret of our Lord’s victory? What were the weapons by which He conquered? For the defensive. He carried “the shield of faith,” which “quenched all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph. 6:16). He trusted in God, and throughout the temptations His confidence, unlike that of Eve, never wavered. For the offensive, He wielded “the sword of the Spirit which it the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17). Each fresh assault was repelled by the thrust, “IT IS WRITTEN,” which swept resistlessly through all Satanic illusion and completely routed the enemy. It was in her use of the Word that Eve failed, but so skilfully did Christ handle it that no blow had to be struck a second time. Thus He overcame, and thus we, too, by cleaving fast to that Word of unimpeachable authority, can be “more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”
“Son though He was, incarnate God,
Omniscient and all-wise,
Of kings the King, of lords the Lord,
He yet did not despise Complete dependence on the Book
That we depend on, too—
Like Him, we must drink of the brook.
And bring out old and new.”
Lastly, let us remember for our further encouragement that this blessed One Who was here in lovely grace as our Examplar, is now at God's right hand on our behalf, and that having been “in all points tempted like as we are,” He is a sympathetic High Priest, “touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and “able to succour” us when tempted (Heb. 4:15; 2:18).
AS to political life, the Old Testament gives instructions:—
1st.—How to act as a subject. Ex. 22:28, etc.
2nd.—How to act as a ruler, Ex. 23:6-8, etc.
3rd.—How to appoint rulers, Deut. 16:18, etc.
In the New Testament also, we are taught how to act as subjects, there being at least two dozen verses in it which give definite commands about this. But of how earthly rulers are to act, or how they are to be chosen, there is not a word to guide us DID GOD FORGET?
BY 1st John 5:19 (R.V.) we learn that while we are of God, the whole world lieth in the Evil One. In this are included the great political parties, with all their sub-divisions. Should the sons of God, then, participate in that which has such sinister associations?
CONCERNING an evil worker it is said, “He that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds,” 2 John 11. If so, much more when vou give a man your vote, do you become jointly responsible for ALL his acts in the position to which you have helped him.
DOES your interest in politics extend to obeying constantly. 1st Tim. 2:1-2?
“EVEN as I am not of the world,” said the Lord Jesus, comparing our position with His own. DID HE TAKE PART IN POLITICS?
FIT your attitude on this matter to the following Scriptures :
"The weapons of our warfare are not carnal,” 2 Cor. 10:14. “My kingdom is not of this world,” John 18:36.
“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,” Eph. 5:11.
"Enemies of the cross . . . mind earthly things . . . our citizenship is in heaven,” Phil. 3:18-20 (R.V.).
“Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together’ . . . and I sent messengers unto them, saying, 'I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down,’” Neh. 6:2-3.
“Whatsoever is not of faith is sin,” Rom. 14:23.
GOD reigns still, therefore “Say ye not, ‘A confederacy’ . . . neither fear ye their fear . . . Sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let Him be your fear,” Isa. 8:12-13.
Which fear have we, that of the Lord, or that of man ? “The Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth over it the BASEST OF MEN, He doeth according to His will . . . and none can stay His hand,” Dan. 4:17, 35.
HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THAT OUR OWN MAN IS REJECTED STILL?
Words fail lo describe the amazing condensation of the Almighty Creator, the Eternal Son of God, in coming into the depraved race of Adam, to be hated, falsely condemned, and to suffer the slow agony and public shame of crucifixion between two criminals. We realise that He was no mere martyr or hero, but the On* “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20) to become our Surety and Substitute. In this death we may say that we see Christ :
(1) AS THE PERFECT SERVANT
“He became obedient unto death,” Phil. 2:8. This is the first and most important aspect of the death of Christ. He died that He might do the will of God. He was the true Burnt Offering, who said. “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God," Heb. 10:9, and who when prostrate in Gethsemane prayed, “Not my will, but thine, be done,” Luke 22:42. He knew all the suffering that the Cross would entail, yet to please His God He submitted to it. Blessed Saviour, what devoted obedience was Thine! It is no wonder that “God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name,” Phil. 2:9.
(2) AS THE RECONCILER
“Christ also hath once suffered for sins . . . that He might bring us to God,” 1 Pet. 3:18. Sin has separated man from God, and has filled his breast with enmity against all that is Divine (Rom. 8:7). Ignoring the fact that they are dependent upon the Lord for every breath, the wicked say, “Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways,” Job. 21:14. The result is suffering, death, and judgment. The desire of Christ, and the purpose of His death, was to bring us back to God, to know Him, love Him, serve Him and enjoy Him eternally. This is much more than merely to save us from Hell. “Thou hast redeemed us TO GOD,” will be the everlasting song of the ransomed in glory.
(3) AS THE REDEEMER
He “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” Tit. 2:14. The unconverted please themselves, their lives are spent "doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (Eph. 2:3). “Our lips are our own,” they say, “Who is lord over us?” (Ps. 12:4). The Lord Jesus laid down His life to purchase our freedom from all lawlessness, that henceforth we might be His servants, “doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6).
(4) AS THE DELIVERER
“He gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil world,” Gal. 1:4 (R.V.). The age in which we live is evil. Christ died to take us out of it. He has placed the Cross between us and a doomed world. Are we living in the power of this truth? Many seem to have lost sight of it and are found in association with the ungodly in pleasure, in politics, in business, and in religion. It was far otherwise with the beloved Apostle, who said, “The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
(5) AS OUR EXAMPLE
“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps,” 1Pet. 2:21. The Lord Jesus offered no resistance to His persecutors, but humbly submitting to their cruel treatment, suffered for righteousness. His holy footprints have marked the path for His people, who often suffer for conscience sake. It is impossible for us in any way to share in the atoning sufferings of Christ, but it is our privilege to share with Him the reproach of the world that hates both God and us.
(6) AS LORD OF HIS PEOPLE
“Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord,” Rom. 14:9. This brings home to us our responsibility to Him as our Lord. God has made Him “both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). That we should own Him thus in a practical way is surely the least that we can do. especially when we recall His love and the costly price at which He made us His own. It will be a further incentive to our acknowledging Christ's Lordship, if we remember that we must stand before His judgment seat. In view of “that day,” with what care our short lives here should be spent!
(7) AS THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
“Who died for us, that, whether we wake (i.e., watch) or sleep, we should live together with Him,” 1Thes. 5:10. What marvellous grace these words express! It was for “the joy that was set before Him”—the joy of having His redeemed people in His own presence forever—that our Lord “endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). Our being in the glory does not for a moment depend upon us. Alas! we do not always “watch”; but He “died for us, that, whether we watch or sleep, we should live together with Him.” That is His purpose for us and nothing can frustrate it. “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!”