Author: Ron Graham
Do Not Give the Devil a Place
Ephesians chapter four talks about how Christians should live —or as Paul expresses it, how we should walk. A key verse is, "Do not give the Devil a place" (Ephesians 4:27). Paul means of course that we must not give the Devil a place in our hearts, nor an opportunity in our lives.
If we think about it, three things must be true, otherwise it would be silly to say, "Do not give the Devil a place".
1 There must be a Devil
If there were no Devil, why warn us about him? Paul might as well warn us about leprechauns or dragons. I'm not being sarcastic. In the days when Paul was writing, the populace believed in all kinds of mythical beings, but Christians did not. For example, in Acts 14:8-1.5
Paul and his friend were taken to be the human forms of the mythical gods Zeus and Hermes (Jupiter and Mercury). Paul the Christian said it was nonsense: "Turn from these vain things!". We find another example in Acts 19:23-27, where the god Artemis (Diana) was worshipped. The Christians didn't worship or believe in her however.
Now, if Christians gave up believing in Zeus, Hermes, Artemis, Cupid, Aphrodites, and all the other gods and creatures of mythology, why would they then turn around and believe in another lot (Satan the Devil, Michael and Gabriel the Archangels, and so forth) if they were also just fairy tale beings? In becoming Christians they did not exchange one superstition for another, but turned away from all mythology and superstition to believe in what is real and true.
Some theologians consider the Devil as merely a personification of evil. They think that the devil isn't real, but the Bible had to invent him, because simple folk needed the abstract concept of evil explained in story form using the device of personification.
Note —PERSONIFICATION means representing an idea or principle as a person, real or imaginary. One might say that a certain dictator is the personification of evil. In stories or visions fictional beings may personify love, beauty, innocence, lust, greed, death, etc.
The problem with the personification notion, apart from it being patronising to simple folk, is that it snowballs. If the Devil is a myth, then at least three Bible stories are myths (see box).
Bible Chapters About the Devil
- Eve’s temptation (Genesis 3),
- The affliction of Job (Job 1),
- The testing of Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4).
If we say these are myths, it is not long before we are saying that even God is an imaginary being! For example, there are four beings in the garden of Eden story: God, Satan, Adam, and Eve. If we say one is imaginary, why not say all are imaginary, as indeed many people do?
There are three beings in the wilderness story: the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and Satan. If we say one is mythological, why not say all are mythological? You cannot consistently believe in God and disbelieve in the Devil.
Note —MYTHICAL: means imaginary, fictitious, invented. Mythology is the inventing and telling of stories that are not true in themselves but supposedly represent truth. A legend is based upon something or someone real, but mixed with make believe.
Of course, there is mythology about the Devil, that he is a goat man with horns and a pointed tail, who smells of sulphur and wields a pitchfork. This is not in the Bible at all, and it has no part in the Christian faith. This is just pagan nonsense. However, the Biblical truth about the Devil shows him to be a real and very dangerous being from whom we have to protect ourselves.
2 It Must Be Possible for the Devil to Have a Place in Our Lives, and He Must Be Seeking It.
If the Devil cannot have a place in our lives, or isn't interested, why say, "Do not give the Devil a place"? Paul knew that Satan could take advantage of him, and that Satan had schemes to do so (2Corinthians 2:11).
"The Devil roams about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1Pet 5:8). Satan troubled himself in seeking permission to tempt Job. He did exactly the same with Simon Peter, who thought lightly of it, yet before the cock crowed he fell prey (Luke 22:31-34,54-62).
Satan has his eye on each of us too, and we'd better beware of him.
3 We Must Be Able to Resist the Devil
If we cannot resist the Devil’s powers why tell us to deny him a place? We do have strength before him. "Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7-8). God assures us (1Corinthians 10:12-13) that Satan tempts us only...
- in ways that are common to man,
- to the degree we are able to bear,
- and where there is a way of escape
The Devil’s best weapon is deception, but he can succeed in deceiving only those who do not "receive the love of the truth " (2Thess 2:7-12). In the presence of one who loves truth, Satan is impotent. Love truth, and you will not be deceived, and you will not give the Devil a place.
Note —IMPOTENT: means powerless, weak, innefectual. Power from God and the gospel (Romans 1:16) can achieve all godly aims and desires.
Against all odds we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). Other powers fall short and disappoint.