I knew that title would grab you. To think that there could ever be such thing as Satan in the church, what must I be thinking? This concept is not really foreign at all. There is plenty of examples of Satan attempting to create division in the church to cause it to break from the inside out.
There are plenty of places you could speculate that Satan’s hand was at play, and though they cannot be proven, there is likely truth to quite a bit of it. Judas sought to betray Jesus. Plenty of suggestions exist as to his true purpose behind this betrayal but in any case, you can make an argument for Satan’s temptations.
Did he tempt Judas with the wealth of 30 pieces of silver? Perhaps. Did he believe that if he forced Jesus to move against the Jewish and Roman rulers and set up His kingdom now? Also a potential. Of course this would have eliminated Jesus’ sacrificial death which of course Satan was trying to do at all costs. So yes, Satan was certainly involved in influencing Judas, one of the 12 disciples.
In the same light, when Peter attempts to tell Jesus that He will never be crucified, Jesus responds “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matt 16:23)
Satan has one simple goal, deny the cross.
He has succeeded with the Jews in the fact that he as blinded them to this fact. They believe Jesus was a blasphemer and not the Son of God, so He was just a criminal punished for His crimes.
He has succeeded with the Muslims by guiding them to teach that God removed Jesus (a great man and teacher in their eyes) from the cross and replace Him with Judas. They then preach that Jesus was taken to paradise still alive and Judas died in His place. No sacrificial death, no resurrection, no salvation.
He has succeeded with other non-believers in that they either don’t believe He even existed at all or they believe more like the Jews, that He was a common man that was punished for His crimes.
But this still leaves us pesky Christians. We believe in the cross. We believe in the resurrection. We believe that Christ took our place of punishment and died for us. His blood has now paid the price for our sins and as a result, we’ve been washed clean, we’ve been made Holy, and now will be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and be with our Father.
So what is Satan to do with this group of Christians? He seeks to guide us to destroy ourselves from within. He does this through division in the church.
Paul warned about this in 1 Corinthians 3. The divisions he speaks of there are mainly about groups of people within the church turning small points of contention into major battle points of salvation.
There are facts about our faith that we should be willing to die for. I call these ‘closed hand’ items. Things like, Jesus is part of the trinity. He died on the cross a sinless man, but paid the price for our sins. He was resurrected. He will come again.
Then there are facts about our faith that we can be convicted about but should in now way be willing to die for. These are ‘open hand’ items. Things like should we dance in church, what kind of music to play, how to take offerings, how to serve the community, how we should pray, what day should the Sabbath be, how should we conduct communion, etc. It is fine to have strong beliefs in these, but not to the point that it creates strife and contention between us.
These ‘open hand’ issues is what Paul was arguing about in 1 Corinthians 3. But there is still one more way that Satan involves himself in the church, and that is with inter-personal battles. Paul mentions one such battle that had obviously grown so large it was affecting the larger church. “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers,whose names are in the book of life.” (Phil 4:2-3) While we don’t know the issue between these two women, it had become such an issue that people were choosing sides. Paul is pointing out that both women have done great things for the Lord and are both saved. But something has come between them that was now festering throughout the church.
We need to be on guard at all times from Satan. His #1 goal is to remove the value of the cross. If he cannot succeed in getting us to no believe in the cross, he will then simply get us to take our eyes off the cross. If we are so focused on the small ‘open hand’ issues…. if we get distracted with petty in-fighting between ourselves… we take our eyes off the cross and place them on ourselves, believe we are more righteous than others. In fact, this very act makes us less righteous.
So, I beg you. Take your eyes off the petty issues. Stop believing you are greater than you are, that you are greater than another brother or sister. Move your eyes back to the cross.
- He died for Peter (whom he accused of being possessed by Satan for a moment).
- He died for Paul (who has persecuted and killed many Christians prior).
- He died for the soldiers who place Him on the cross.
- He died for your fellow brothers and sisters that don’t believe the exact same way you do.
- And He died for you!