Satan and Bathwater Theology

hell.jpgRecently, I was emailed by a follower basically asking, “is Satan real, or an illusion?”

I can’t believe I’ve reached the stage of being asked questions – yeeeeeeeeeeee – but fortunately, there’s Scripture. I’ll just go there.

Satan is real. He is treated as a conscious being with intelligence and personality. And he is a (limited) threat.

This subject makes people sensitive. There’s a lot of (pardon the expression) heated opinion about Satan and his precise role in the Christian’s life. Good teachings, bad teachings, and bad teachings that spring off both the good and bad.

Personal conviction: I want Scripture, straight-up, as it truly is. I don’t want man’s “compensational” teachings. Np Scripture tossed aside or marginalized because “people will run the wrong way with it”, or because it frightens them, or because it diminishes God in their preferred system. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater, in other words. The term “bathwater theology” describes this phenemenon well, and there’s a lot of it floating around.

Here’s what I find in Scripture (and may God lead me well in this).

1. Satan is doomed.

The closing battle of the War of 1812 was fought without either side knowing that a peace treaty had already been signed. The era’s slow travel meant they didn’t get the memo before reaching the battle lines.

In a similar way, though our battle is real, Jesus has secured the victory. Satan is on his way out. Revelation predicts that he’ll be cast into the lake of fire and forever barred from touching the secure-in-heaven believer again. I figure I’d open with that. Encouraging note.


2. Satan is a threat.

There’s a common sentiment that Satan has already been disarmed and all he can really do is “nibble” on you, like a mouse. That’s a mockery of 1 Peter 5:8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” A mouse doesn’t merit sobriety, much less devour you.

In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul chimes in,” I have done this so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.” Implication being, there are schemes. And the off-guard believer can be outwitted. (Forgiveness is the context here – it’s a defense against Satan.)

Practicality has a nice way of cutting through tough questions.  If the Word tells us to be alert, sober, and forgiving, then we can be assured God wants that from us – period.

Satan cannot touch the believer’s ultimate destiny. But until we get there, he prowls. Ignoring that is ignoring the Word.


3. Satan tempts.

Satan is behind a great deal of temptation. There’s too much Scripture to quote here. He’s not just an anthropomorphism or projection of our evil psyche (though James 1 teaches that our flesh is one of the partnering agencies to which he appeals). Temptation is one of Satan’s primary modes of operation. He tempted Ananias and Sapphira to lie (Acts 5:3).

This does not mean we can blame Satan for our sin. We are responsible.

But ignoring Satan’s role in our temptations is unhelpful. I’ve found a great deal of clear space from temptation that comes specifically from resisting Satan, out loud, with Scripture.


4. Satan can do damage – within divine boundaries.

Satan afflicted Job. He was blamed for the binding of a woman for eighteen years (Luke 13:16). He hinders mission work (1 Thessalonians 2:18).

The first two chapters of Job imply heavily that Satan must secure God’s approval for his activities. Thus, God’s sovereignty is secured. Where do the two collide, exactly? Hard to say. And you might have noticed that God seems to allow rather a lot.

But remember that Paul maintains a habit of staying aware. That’s such a helpful grip point. God makes a space in which we have a role in resisting Satan, and the results sometimes depend on our efforts. Don’t despair. Just be aware. (Hey, that rhymes.)


5. Satan’s forces can be resisted.

Jesus did it by quoting Scripture. Paul cast an evil spirit from a fortune-teller. Peter teaches us to “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:9). Satan can be shut down.

Jesus also cautioned against becoming “demon hunters” and getting overly enthralled by spiritual warfare: “However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20).

Do not fear what he can do in this life. He will not have the last word. Keep your eyes on the battle, but more so on Jesus. Rejoice that he has written your name down.

32 thoughts on “Satan and Bathwater Theology

  1. Yeah man! good stuff 🙂 Just one question: how did you set up an email for your blog? I’m struggling here *facepalm*


  2. I recently blogged on Satan too – for reasons I was evasive about in my post. I’ll say slightly more, here, still being vague. I was being reviewed for something, and in the particular work of mine reviewed, I assumed and spoke of Satan as a real entity. (He is a real entity after all.) And I was criticized for this! I was blindsided – considering from where the critique came. This was a Christian setting. Anyways…my post in case it interests you or anyone else…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. T.D. Jakes taught something recently very thought-provoking concerning Satan. He said, in essence, that the devil’s number one target is a person’s FAITH. If he can destroy that then his objective has been accomplished and the person will perish.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And that really opens a theological can of worms 🙂 I have definitely found, though, that Satan wants to dishearten as well as tempt, accuse, and separate. If we lose heart, he is winning.


  4. Amen, Brandon. I sometimes like to quip about how I’ve known the Lord since I was a child, but I didn’t really come to faith until I met the enemy. Nothing quite like that fear to send you running headfirst towards God. 🙂

    It’s a good thing. God is right there, like a good Father ready to protect us. What’s kind of sad is that many Christians don’t really believe in satan. Or at least according to polls,they see him more as a metaphor,vague, unreal. The problem being, without a good understanding of who satan is, we will always lack a good understanding of why we need the Lord, His power and His strength in our lives.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Excellent post. I think you hit the two big extremes people take with Satan: that he is either completely weak (or does not exist) or that he is equal to God. Both lies.
    My pastor points out that, although a lot of people think Satan is somehow equal to God the Father or to Jesus, he is actually no more powerful than Michael the archangel. Greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Great post, Brandon. Satan is real, and he teams up with the evil in this world and the evil still within each of us to (try to) continue his rebellion against God. Yet he is chained by the power of God’s Word. He is a roaring lion… in a zoo, restrained by the commandments and the promises of God. Yet every month somewhere in the world, some person climbs into the lion’s cage, and usually that person is badly hurt. Far more often, people approach too close to Satan, attracted by his lies and abandoning the protection of God’s Word. J.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. So this actually came up in a bible study I am participating in. The study is focusing on redemption, but to understand redemption we started by looking at the beginning with when sin entered the world at the Fall. The question that was posed was that if God gave us free will, did God also give the angels free will when He created them? It is a question not really answered in the Bible but I guess would be implied because of the choice Satan made in pride to try to be equal to God (which I am so thankful that He is not! Amen!). I think we have to be careful though because some people want to blame every bad choice or event on Satan when sometimes it is just our plain sinful flesh.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: The Many Shades of Singleness, Part 4: Dating | Brandon J. Adams

  9. Love this post! I love talking about spiritual warfare because it seems so few recognize the spiritual realm as part of our Christian lives. They tend to forget the armor we must put on because we have one foot in the spiritual realm and the other in this world. They sometimes miss how a lost person’s angry or hate shouldn’t be taken to heart. They have wounds on their soul that are still throbbing and it’s causes them to lash out. Also, don’t forget the dragon in Revelation 20:2. 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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