All throughout the Old Testament Satan did everything within his power to prevent God from redeeming mankind. Through his influence man became so corrupted that God destroyed the world–except for eight souls. The nation through whom God chose to bring the Messiah into the world departed from God time after time. Even as the Christ was born into this world, Satan moved Herod to attempt to destroy Him.
But (as always) the devil could not become victorious against God. The sacrifice for the sins of all mankind has been paid (1 John 2:2). So now what can Satan do? He has failed utterly in preventing God’s overall plan of salvation from being implemented, but he has not given up the fight. He is as determined as ever to wreak as much havoc as he can in the time yet allotted.
Imagine what it must have been like to be Satan on the morning of the resurrection. First of all, the victory celebration was cut short. Next, the devil had to consider the implications of the resurrection. Jesus was dead but is now alive–alive forevermore (according to Rev. 1:18). He also has the keys of death and Hades. Every person that dies can be freed from death by Jesus–raised up on the last day (John 5:28-29).
What will Satan do–give up? No, he will continue to fight against God any way that he can. He will work for the destruction of men’s souls. He still has all the old techniques that have worked through the centuries so well on individuals. There is still the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life to keep people from obeying the gospel–or to get them back into the world if they have obeyed (1 John 2:15-17). But if I were Satan, I would do more than rely on these things, effective though they are. If I were the meanest individual in the whole creation, I would try to deceive those who cared nothing for evil. What special fiendish delight would be mine to mislead those who are willing to forsake the world and turn to God.
Yes, if I were Satan, I would keep sincere people out of the kingdom of God by perverting the gospel of Christ. The gospel is defined as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (in its most limited sense–1 Cor. 15:1-4). To become a Christian one must obey that form of doctrine (Rom. 6:17) by repenting of sin and being buried with Christ in baptism for the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 6:3-11, Acts 2:38).
There is, of course, one and only one gospel (Gal. 1:8-9), but I would introduce various optional gospels (grace only, works only). I would try to circumvent every aspect of the gospel. I would change immersion into sprinkling (which is not a burial). Sprinkling is so much more convenient that people will prefer it. In fact I’ll make it so commonplace that people will think that immersion is strange.
While I’m at it, let’s start using it (sprinkling) on babies, too. It seems like a pious thing to do–especially if I can convince people that they are born with the guilt of Adam’s sin. They’ll need to wash that off right away, and they’ll resent anyone who dares to teach that children don’t need to be baptized. Resent? Religious authorities tortured and put to death Anabaptists such as Michael Sattler, who was accused (among other things) of teaching that “infant baptism was not promotive of salvation” on May 17, 1527. Three days later part of his tongue was cut out. “Pieces of flesh were cut from his body twice with red-hot tongs”; later he was pushed into a fire and burned to death (The Anabaptist Story by William Estep 40-47).
Yes, entrench people in falsehood so they will hate the truth. And while I am at it, it would be a tremendous oversight not to confuse people about the purpose of baptism. I must convince them that baptism is not for the remission of sins despite Acts 2:38. To get this point across I’ll invent the phrase “an outward sign of an inward grace” and suggest hypothetical situations of someone getting struck by lightning on the creek bank before being immersed.
Of course, I don’t want to be short-sighted in this matter. I must also convince them that repentance means you can continue in sin and that faith is just a “leap in the dark” instead of resulting from knowledge and understanding.
If I were Satan, I would change the worship God has designated. After all, He says He wants to be worshiped in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). So, if we can just inject a little error into worship, that should be sufficient. After all, some are going to obey the true gospel; we’ve got to snag them somewhere else. Let’s try to persuade everyone that they are just observers of the worship instead of active participants. Then let’s add instruments of music that were never used in the New Testament church and remind people there is no “thou shalt not” against it. That ought to do it. I think I can convince most everyone to only incorporate the Lord’s Supper into worship once a month or so–it’s so time-consuming anyway. Maybe I can talk some into thinking the bread and fruit of the vine really are the body and blood of Christ instead of just representing them.
If I were Satan, I would mix in a number of strange doctrines, some of which may even sound a little bit Biblical. Sorting out fact from fiction ought to keep believers busy for a long time–too busy to do the work they need to do.
If I were Satan, I would alter the structure of the church so that each congregation is no longer autonomous. The more dependent they can become on each other, the faster apostasy can spread. And while I’m at it, why not suggest a “pastor” system instead of elders? Everybody will probably think that’s a Scriptural concept despite Acts 20:28-32 and 1 Tim. 3.
If I were Satan, I would spark problems between congregations and even sound individuals. Keep things stirred up; that’s my motto. Internal strife has some merit; but the brotherhood-wide hostilities work best. Nobody will trust anybody. And as in the days of Corinth, parties can form around personalities and opinions rather than real Biblical issues that would be a matter of fellowship.
If I were Satan, I would try to discourage everyone. By constantly reminding them of all the problems (which I have created), my goal is to get them to give up on God. If I can just get Christians to blame Him for all their problems, I would almost be happy. Now hold on. I’d better be careful. It’s not time to get delirious yet; there’s more work to be done.
I must call faithful brethren “sectarian,” Pharisaical, exclusivistic, and judgmental. That way everyone can draw false conclusions about them, and their effect can be lessened. I must also create a desire in the hearts of Christians to belong to congregations known for love, peace, and tolerance, in which you can “believe your own thing.” I absolutely love it when people become too lazy to think, reason, evaluate, and contend for what is true (hee hee).
I don’t want God to have any followers left when I get done implementing all my devices, but He will. Despite all my best efforts (this really gripes me!), He will.