How to Defeat Satan

Matthew 4:1-11

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
February 2009

We now know what Satan is (fallen angel), why he fell and what he does today. The question now is, How do we respond when we are tempted by Satan? How did Jesus respond when he was tempted by Satan?  He did two things.

1. He used the Word of God as a weapon.

We have to know the Word and know it well. Many are in bondage to Satan because they don’t know the Bible (John 8:32). If you know the word, Satan will not be able to deceive you. If you know the Word you will be able to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

If we know the Word, we have a weapon we can use when Satan tempts us. Paul called it “a sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). The NT describes the Bible as a sword and not just a dull sword, a sharp sword (Hebrews 4:12). Hebrews does NOT say that the Bible is a two edged sword.

It says it is sharper than a two-edged sword. A sharp sword only cuts on the outside. God’s Word cuts on the inside and convicts hearts. If you are going to be successful at spiritual warfare you have to know the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

We cannot be content to just know a few proof texts or favorite passages. We need to know it all and to know it well. The Bible is not just one sword but many. Every verse in the Bible is a powerful sword. The more verses you know, the more weapons you have at your disposal.

People sometimes ask me if I own any guns. I always tell them that I don’t own any guns but I have a whole bunch of swords of the spirit. Here’s the problem. It’s not enough to have the Bible. You may have a whole stack of Bibles at home. That’s like having a nice sword on your wall at home for decoration.

It doesn’t do you any good unless you use it. We need to spend time studying, meditating and memorizing Scripture so we can have it ready for immediate use when our thoughts and minds are under attack from the enemy. We need to do this on a daily basis. Reading a short devotional with a few verses out of context may not be enough. It’s better than nothing but we need to do more.

I would like to look at how Jesus responded when he was tempted by Satan. His response is a model for Christians today. We need to follow his example. Satan tempted Jesus as a man. He didn’t tempt him as God. Remember, James tells us that God cannot be tempted with evil (James 1:13). Jesus responded as a man. He responded to Satan with the same weapons and tools that we have and can use today. Let’s read Matthew 4:1-11.

If you notice, three times Satan tempted Jesus. One bait doesn’t work, so Satan throws another one at Jesus. Three times Satan tempts Jesus and three times Jesus responded with the words, “It is written”. We see that in Matthew 4:4, 7 and 10. Jesus answered Satan with Scripture, not once but very time.

Each verse just happened to come right out of the Book of Deuteronomy and applied those verses to his own situation. That is VERY significant. Jesus didn’t try to reason or argue with the devil. He did NOT use logic. He did NOT use tradition or psychology.

He did NOT use experience.  He used Scripture.  Most Christians do not know the Book of Deuteronomy today.  They do not read it too much.  They could not quote any verses out of it but Jesus knew it and quoted it.  Jesus did not quote his friends.  He did not quote the leading scholars of his day.

He did not quote the church fathers or the leading rabbis of the day.  He simply quoted from the Bible. The implication is that the Bible is the final authority.  It is the final authority for living.  It is the final authority for doctrine.  It is the final authority for spiritual warfare.

If Jesus, who is perfect and sinless did this, how much more do we need to do that? When Satan tempts us to do something evil, we should know the Bible well enough that we can pull out a verse of Scripture that we can use to keep us from sinning.

God’s Word keeps us from sinning (Psalm 119:11). If there is an area of our life we are weak, we might want to memorize some Scripture on that subject. To defeat Satan we have to have the armor of God on (Ephesians 6:10-19).

Temptation One  – Turn Stones into Bread

Was this a real temptation for Jesus? He was hungry. He had been fasting for forty days.

Did Jesus have the power to do this? Yes. The one who turned water into wine could have turned stones into bread.

Was this an unreasonable request? Not really. Satan was just asking Jesus to take care of necessities, not wants but needs. He doesn’t ask Jesus to pamper to a luscious gourmet meal out in the desert.

Why was it wrong? This was a temptation for Jesus to misuse his powers. Jesus never used his miraculous powers for himself or for his own personal needs, even if it was for a legitimate desire (hunger). You never see Jesus doing a miracle in the Gospels for his own needs. That was never God’s will.

It was a temptation to misuse his powers, to fulfill a legitimate need in an illegitimate way by doing the right thing in the wrong way. Jesus knew he was the Son of God. Satan knew he was the Son of God. He did not need to do a miracle to prove it.

He certainly would not do a miracle because Satan asked him to do it. He only performed miracles in obedience to the will of his Father. He may not have performed any miracles yet, if my chronology is correct.  Jesus replies with a quotation from Deuteronomy 8.

Temptation Two –Jump off the Temple

What was the temptation? To put himself in danger, to jump off of a tall building. It was a temptation for Jesus to be a stunt man, to act like superman.

Why did he ask him to do this? Because the Bible says that God will protect you if you do this. Now Satan gets into the business of quoting Scripture. If Jesus is going to quote Scripture, Satan will quote it back to him. The Devil knows the Bible.

He is an expert at quoting it out of context to confuse people. His ministers also quote it frequently. That is why we need to know it well. The JW can tie the average Christian up in knots. They know what they believe. They spend time studying it. Unfortunately, the average Christian doesn’t know the Bible very well.

How was Satan quoting the Bible out of context? Cf. Psalm 91:9-13. There are several things to note about this passage. It is poetry. It is figurative language. Satan takes something figurative and poetic and makes it literal. It is hyperbole.

It is not saying that you can never get sick, have an accident, like stubbing your toe on a rock, or that big lions and poisonous snakes will not be able to harm us. It is also a conditional promise (91:9). There is also a big difference between stubbing your toe accidentally and deliberately jumping off of a cliff.

Why would this have been a sin? It is testing God. What does it mean to test God? We have to turn to Exodus 17:1-7 to find out. Testing God involves doubting God. It’s like saying, “Okay God, I’m going to jump off a skyscraper, and if you’re really there and if you really love me, you’ll save me.” “Do a miracle God, then I’ll believe”. Asking God to do a miracle in your life is not testing God.

Claiming the promises of God in Scripture is not testing God but doing something stupid like jumping off of a skyscraper, so God can work a miracle to supernaturally protect you from injury is testing God (e.g., driving real fast and deliberately putting yourself in danger but expecting God to keep his promises to protect you from danger).

If you do that, you won’t see God work but you will see the devil work. For Jesus to jump off the temple would not demonstrate faith. It would be a gross act of unbelief. God hadn’t asked Him to do that. That would not be faith, just presumption.  Jesus replies with a quotation from Deuteronomy 6

Temptation Three –Worship the Devil

What was this temptation? This was a temptation to compromise, a temptation to literally make a deal with the Devil. It was a temptation for instant gratification. “You want the world to accept you as the Messiah, I will give you that without you having to go to the cross and die, if you just break the First Commandment, fall down and worship me.”

The third time Satan tries to get Jesus to worship him in exchange for the kingdoms of the world. This was a temptation to compromise, a temptation to literally make a deal with the Devil.  Jesus replies with another verse of Scripture, a passage out of Deuteronomy 8 again.

2. He resisted Satan

We are to do the same.  This is brought out in two passages (James 4:7; I Peter 5:9). These passages teach five important truths.

Resisting Satan

There are seven important truths from James 4:7 worth considering.

1) We have an adversary

The Devil is not our friend.  He is our enemy. He walks around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may destroy (I Peter 5:8).  Jesus said that the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:8).

2) Our adversary can be resisted.

Our adversary is stronger than us but he CAN be resisted.  He cannot do anything to us against our will. We don’t have to give in to him. The Devil only has as much power over us as we give him.

3) We are commanded to resist him.

This is a command.  It is an aorist imperative. It is not optional. He does not say, resist him if you feel like it.  Are you resisting the Devil?

4) Resisting the Devil is not easy

The Devil tempts us in our weakest areas.  Jesus was tempted to eat food when he was hungry.  The Devil will tempt us to do things that we want to do.  He does not tempt us in our strongest area but in the weakest area of our life.

5) If we don’t resist him, we can’t defeat him.

It’s not enough just to know the Bible. None of that will do you any good if you don’t resist the Devil. The word “resist” in the Greek is in the active voice (aorist imperative). We have to do the resisting. It is not something we can be passive about. When you resist someone, you are fighting back. It is defensive.

6) There’s power in resisting Satan.

If we resist the Devil, he will FLEE from us.  He will not just leave us, he will RUN from us.   Instead of coming after us, he can flee from us.  It is strange to picture demons on the run but the fact is that we can do things to make him run from us.  When we do certain things, Satan does not want to be anywhere near us.  When we do other things, we attract him and almost encourage his presence.

In order for demons to flee from us we have to do three things: submit to God, resist the devil and repent of our sins (James 4:7-8).  If we live in open sin unrepentant, the devil will have power over our lives.  If we try to resist him in our strength, we will also fail.

7) We can’t defeat him on our own.

It takes more than will power to defeat Satan. That is why the first half of James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves to God”. If we do not submit ourselves to God, he will not flee from us, because we will not have the power to resist him. We cannot try to battle Satan in our own strength. We can’t do it on our own. We need God’s help.

That is why Ephesians 6:10 says, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (not in your own power) and Paul was talking in the context about spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons. We saw what happened to the Apostles when Jesus was arrested.

They were afraid and ran away. Peter denied that he even knew who Jesus was. They tried to deal with this in their own strength. Instead of praying like Jesus did, they fell asleep. Our problem is that we often resist God and submit to the devil instead of the opposite.

Should We Rebuke The Devil Today?

Some charismatics believe we should also rebuke the devil. The argument is that we have all authority. We have authority over the devil and we can command the devil in the name of Jesus. There are a couple problems with this.

1) Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth. We do not.

Nowhere does the NT say we have all authority.  It was only Jesus who was given all authority. Matt 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

It is not the church that has all authority; we need to be under Jesus’ authority just as he was under the Father when he came as a servant. God did give the Twelve Apostles special authority that he never gave us. Matthew 10:1 says, “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness”.

I was never called to be an apostle. I was never given the authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease. I wish I had that authority. The Twelve Apostles had it. Not only could they cast out demons and heal the sick, they could raise the dead (10:5-8). Eventually, we will have authority over the nations (Revelation 2:26-28). We will rule over nations but we are not doing that now.

2) Jesus gave special authority to SOME believers, not to all believers.

Jesus said in Luke 10:19, “I have given YOU authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you” but who is the “you” in that passage? It is not the whole church; it is the Seventy-two in a verse right before this (10:17, 1). They had the power to cast out demons (10:17) and to heal the sick (10:9). Christians today do not have the authority of the Seventy-two. Nor do we follow the instructions Jesus gave them today (10:4-5).

3) The Bible tells us to resist the Devil.  It never tells us to rebuke him.

Rebuking the devil is God’s job, not ours. It is not commanded in Scripture and there is no example of anyone doing it. In fact, there is an example of even an angel who REFUSED to do this (Jude 9; II Peter 2:11). Paul had a thorn in the flesh. This was a “messenger of Satan sent to buffet” Paul (2 Cor. 12:7). Paul did NOT rebuke him. In fact he freely admitted that this messenger of Satan was a gift from God to keep him humble.

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