|Volume II, Issue 1 |
|Overcoming By The Word |
Dr. E. Lee Bez
O Theophilus is the Quarterly Journal of The Center For Biblical Literacy
Overcoming By The Word
And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night.”
Be of sober [spirit], be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity [of devotion] to Christ.
A Biblical worldview acknowledges a fallen world and a fallen humanity. The origin of this fall involves a real Devil with real powers to work his deadly designs upon man. It seems abundantly clear from the passages cited that the Devil’s powers are principally accusation, intimidation, and deception.1 Yet man is not a helpless victim in this drama for dominion. The Savior has given him a mighty weapon, the sword of His Word, with which to disarm the adversary.The Devil’s first appearance in the Sacred Book shows “his lowliness” employing all three methods in his diabolical ploy to enslave humanity (Genesis 3). First he intimidates Eve by forcing her into a theological discussion for which she may have been ill-prepared. Then, plying his crafty trade, he weaves a web of deception to ensnare her. Finally, this master accuser intensifies the guilt and conviction of sin, and with echoing condemnation, causes Adam and Eve to run and hide from the presence of their loving Creator. Shameful fear grips the once peaceful garden and its inhabitants.
Satan knows of no passion that can cripple the mind of its powers of righteous acting and clear reasoning as effectively as fear. He delights in planting diabolical, hypnotic suggestions of the unreasonableness of God, faith and Christian truth in our thoughts. Yet, we are not left defenseless-truth is more ancient than error, for error is nothing but deviation, distortion and swerving from truth, 2 as Peter wrote
…which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16, NAS).
The antidote for deception is Truth; deliverance from ignorance is by knowledge. Jesus declared Himself to be the Truth and in Him “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (John 14:6; Colossians 2:3). Through the Scriptures we acquire both truth and knowledge and the wisdom to employ them.
Satan knows that the knowledge of Christ is power and so he strives to keep his subjects from it. The results are bondage and destruction. Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst (Isaiah 5:13, NAS).
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6, NAS)
Jesus promised if we continue in His Word we will know the truth and the truth will make us free. Knowledge of His Word brings freedom from theological intimidation by the subtle suggestions of the enemy in our minds, freedom from the accuser’s cruel whip-like tongue, and freedom from chimerical conversations with the Devil. The entrance of God’s Word gives light-light that dispels all darkness (Psalms 119:130).
But how do we come by truth, and how do we know that it is the truth? These are important questions of philosophy, epistemology, and religious studies which we hope to give more attention to at a later date. For the moment, this article assumes:
- That there is truth; objective, and noncontradictory.
- That God is the ultimate author and determiner of truth.
- That God has revealed truth in both general and special revelation.
- That the scriptures are inspired-God breathing out His Word.
- That the Bible is the vox Dei, the “voice of God” or the verbum Dei, the “Word of God.”3
- That God’s revealed truth is knowable by man even though it is neither exhaustive or comprehensive.4
- That truth must be pursued, loved, and obeyed. Though truth first comes to us by God’s gracious revelation, it must be purposely pursued if we are to “follow on to know the Lord.” Francis Bacon compared the inquiry of truth to love-making and wooing.5
In his article, “Romancing the Word,” Bishop William C. Frey, President/Dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, Ambridge, Pa.,wrote,
“In short, we need to love the Scriptures and, if I dare say it, to romance them. We need a romance with the Scriptures which will lead us into a joyful dance with the Word.”6
The Bible commends seekers after truth, but it also commands them to persist in their pursuit of truth.
Buy truth, and do not sell [it,] [get] wisdom and instruction and understanding (Proverbs 23:23, NAS). For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice [it,] and to teach [His] statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10, NAS).
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, NAS).
The pursuit of truth involves the hard work of studying. Pursuing Biblical truth requires a familiar-ization with literary forms, genres, and hermeneutical reference works, such as: Bible dictionaries, Atlases, Commentaries, and perhaps a general knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. Truth is not chanced upon or gotten by osmosis. Diligence, discipline, and dedication are sine qua non to apprehending truth, for the Bible yields its deepest treasures only to the persistent seeker.
Does it sound intimidating? Is it too much? Not if your study of the Christian scriptures becomes a lifetime pursuit. Apprehending the truth-truth that liberates and stabilizes-is grasped bit by bit, as Solomon wrote:
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings is to search out a matter (Proverbs 25:2, NAS).
While studying is our contribution to the process of discovering truth, we are not left unaided in our efforts; God has given His Holy Spirit, to be our guide. The Holy Spirit witnesses to the truth because He is the Spirit of truth.
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come (John 16:13, NAS).
For to us God revealed [them] through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the [thoughts] of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the [thoughts] of God no one knows except the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11, NAS)
From the beginning the Devil’s tactics are clear, as is his chosen ground of battle-the minds of men. The mind is fertile ground for both wheat and tares, truth and error, clarity and deception. Satan knows well that to infect the mind is to manipulate thinking. Leo XIII summed it up well:
“Since it is in the very nature of man to follow the guide of reason in his actions, if his intellect sins at all his will soon follows; and thus it happens that looseness of intellectual opinion influences human actions and perverts them.” 7
A deceived mind produces distorted feelings; distorted feelings produce inappropriate behavior; and bad behavior presents a scandalous witness to the world. Certainly the Church of this present age has exhibited a scandalous witness and superficial Christianity. Is this not because we lack the mind of Christ through a knowledge of His Word?
Christ purposed His church to be a light set on a hill that would shine before all men and cause them to glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). He has purposed that His Body be intimidators of the enemy rather than be intimidated, “in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly [places] (Ephesians 3:10,11). The Church the world sees appears a mile wide and but an inch deep, while Christ intends it to be both influential (mile wide) and substantial (mile deep).
How can we be both influential and substantial?
- By making a serious lifetime commitment to studying the Christian Scriptures.
- By daily romancing the Book.
- By allowing our minds to “marinate” in the Master’s Words.
- By humbly relying upon the guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Our part-diligent study; His part-guidance, comfort, and advocacy. The Devil’s powers can then be broken. Our thinking will become clearer, our feelings adjusted to truth, our behavior exemplary, and our witness powerful. We will have driven the enemy off of the fertile fields of battle-our minds. The field can then be made ready for the seed, not the sword. We can be free to love God with “all our minds” (Luke 10:27).
1. See also: Revelation 20:8; 12:9; 1 Timothy 2:14; 2 John 7; 1 Tim 4:1.
2. John Hales (1584-1666), Private Judgment in Religion.
3. R.C.Sproul. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith. Tyndale, 15-16.
4. COR. The Essentials of a Christian Worldview. “The Nature of Truth.”
5. Francis Bacon. Essays. 1597.
6. The Rt. Rev. William C. Frey. Seed and Harvest. Volume XIV, No.6. October 1993. “Romancing the Word”.
7. Leo XIII. 1879. Homily on the Christian Mind.
All materials on the O Theophilus Journal are Copyright by CBL. They may be copied for personal use only. They may be republished with permission from The Center.