Monthly Archives: February 2016

Additional On How satan Works

The word “satan” means “accuser” or “adversary.” This word indicates not only his opposition to mankind in general, but to the child of God in particular. He is called “the accuser of our brethren” by John and is said to accuse the saints “before our God day and night” (Rev. 12:10). While satan does not work directly on the human heart, he nevertheless relentlessly attacks us on various levels and on divers fronts with sundry machinations. Because of this constant and wicked assault on our spiritual well-being, Paul admonishes us in the Ephesian epistle to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 6:11).

Paul’s call to protect ourselves by putting on the armour of God shows that satan’s attacks are both real and vicious. Nothing less than the armour of God will suffice to protect us. They also show that the enemies’ attacks are of a spiritual nature since only the spiritual panoply of God can quench the fiery darts of the wicked (Eph. 6:16). We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12). In other words, our real enemies are not necessarily individuals, but the hell-spawned lies being propagated by those individuals.

The word “wiles” used in Ephesians 6:11 is translated from the word “methodeia.” In other words, he has his methods. Regarding this word, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states: “The reference is to machinations or (in military terms) attacks against which one must be armed. The nature of the attacks (the plur. suggests that they are constantly repeated or are of incalculable variety) constitutes their great danger, against which the armour of God is the only defence. They are distinguished not so much by technique or strategy as by refinement and insidiousness (Vulgate translates insidiae, Luther “cunning attacks,” A.V. “wiles”).” There is a madness to his method.

While the attacks of our enemy are often varied, there is one key element he employs when attacking us and that is to obfuscate the truth. The devil’s goal is to blind the mortal mind to truth, to cloud the thought and judgement (II Cor. 4:4). The business of the devil is deception (Rev. 12:9). The one thing the devil cannot afford to do is to let the word of truth be clearly spoken without attack or without distortions. Since satan is the father of lies, truth is inimical to him (John 8:44) and to those who follow him (John 3:19-21).

The devil has always tried to blind the minds of people to the truth. He did this in the garden with Eve when he told her “Thou shalt not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). This was a blatant lie. When the Lord began to show that He was going to go to Jerusalem and there be killed, satan, through Peter, said, “This shall not be unto Thee” (Matt. 16:23). Another lie of satan, couched in the language of false devotion. Down through the ages the understanding of countless millions has been darkened through the ignorance–and I underscore that word “ignorance”–and vanity that is in them relative to the truth (Eph. 4:17-20). Biblical knowledge and sound reasoning frighten satan. Against them he cannot stand.

Sometimes satan deceives the unguarded by transforming himself into an angel of light (II Cor. 11:14,15). No false teacher ever came forward and said “Follow me and I will lead you into the flames of Perdition!” He would be rejected outright. No, as Jesus said, they outwardly appear as harmless and adorable sheep, but inwardly are ravening wolves (Matt. 7:15). Thus, the influence of satan is often felt through the errors propagated by false teachers who preach peace when there is no peace (Jer. 6:14). The counsel of well-meaning but misguided friends can also be used by satan (Matt. 16:23). Sometimes satan influences us by sowing tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:24-30,36-43).

Another area satan uses to attack us is our fleshly desires. Jesus said, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). Notice that it is we who enter into temptation. Observe the difference in the response to temptation between David when he saw Bathsheba and Joseph when Potiphar’s wife made her advances (II Sam. 11:2,3; Gen. 39:9,12). Joseph fled the temptation while David did not. We need to learn not to make provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof (Rom. 13:14).

Our adversary the devil goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. 5:8). Unless we are always ready to recognize his attacks, unless we are always wearing the whole armor of God, we are susceptible to his attacks.

Eric L. Padgett

How Does satan Influence Us?

Look around. See the evil. There can be no doubt that real, palpable evil exists in this world. There are child molesters, murderers, torturers, liars, cheaters, thieves, abusers of the innocent and helpless and so many more disgusting and abhorrent people and actions in this world. How did evil come to be in the world? The Bible clearly teaches that the devil is responsible for the evil that is in the world (Gen. 3). But how does the devil operate in this world today to bring about evil? How does satan work?

First, satan does not bring about evil through miraculous means. Maybe you’ve seen a movie which portrays satan taking over the mind and body of a person, causing them to do some terrible thing. While evil spirits have possessed people in the past (e.g. Matt. 8:16, 28-34), this does not occur today. The reason for this is that the age of the miraculous has ceased (Zech. 12:1,2; I Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:7-16). God does not now work miraculously in the world (i.e., invoking a superior law of God in a way superseding the laws of nature for to teach some spiritual truth). But if God does not work in this world today through the means of the miraculous, then neither does satan for, if he did, that would leave Christians without a viable defense. However, the Bible teaches that God has made a way of escape from every temptation (I Cor. 10:13; II Tim. 3:16; James 4:7; Eph. 6:10-17).

Second, satan does not act immediately. By “immediately” I mean he does not act directly, without mediation or agency. To be even more precise, satan does not act directly upon the human heart. Again, this question can be settled by understanding how God operates on us as Christians and on the unbelieving world. God does not act directly upon the heart of the alien sinner or of the child of God. If He did, then individuals would cease to be free moral agents but would become puppets instead. The false doctrine of Calvinism teaches that God operates directly on the human heart and some chosen few are irresistibly saved, but the Bible nowhere teaches this. In fact, many passages like the Great Commission teach just the opposite (Matt. 28:18-20; cf., Gal. 5:4).

In fact, clear examples can be shown where God worked on the heart of the alien sinner through the agency of His word. In Acts 8, God did not work directly upon the heart of the Ethiopian Eunuch but rather through the agency of His revealed word. Philip began in Isaiah 53, and, using others scriptures, preached unto him Jesus (Acts 8:35). This was even during the time when miracles were available to first century Christians. It was only through the agency of God’s written and spoken word that he learned what he needed to do to be saved (Acts 8:35-39).

Even in the case of Cornelius and his household, even when God allowed him to miraculously speak in tongues before he was forgiven of his sins, he first had to send for Peter to have him tell him words whereby he would be saved (Acts 10:6; 11:14). In Acts 2, those present for the Pentecost feast likewise were “pricked in their heart” when they heard the words of scripture Peter quoted and correctly applied (Acts 2:37). If God does not act directly upon your heart, then neither does (or can) satan.

The truth is, even I can move you to do things through the agency of words. If I tell you I would like you to come over because I have freshly baked, chewy, chocolate chip cookies, if you have any desire for freshly baked, chewy, chocolate chip cookies, you might be tempted to come over. If I, with an angry tone in my voice, called you a stupid idiot and told you I despised you, I think I would be able to incite an emotional, if not a physical, response from you. On the other hand, if a man whispers in a woman’s ear, among other sweet enticements, that she was a desirable, gorgeous creature with unsurpassed beauty, he might well move her heart amorously. These actions would all be precipitated through ideas conveyed through words.

Ideas conveyed through the medium of words have great power. Just as a man can influence another man through words, God influences us through the agency of His revealed Word. And, by the way, we also influence God through our words in prayer (Phil. 4:6).

Therefore, satan works through words and the ideas these words convey, to move us to act upon our own lusts. James said, “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14,15). Notice that it is our own lusts that entice us. When satan tempted Eve, he did so through the medium of words (Gen. 3:1 – “and he said unto the woman…”) because she saw that the tree was good for food and a tree to be desired (Gen. 3:6).

Observe how this works in the following examples. Luke states that satan entered into Judas’ heart (Luke 22:3). How did he enter Judas’ heart? Directly and immediately? No. Judas was already a thief at heart (John 12:6). When he saw the precious ointment being used to anoint Jesus instead of being used to line his own pockets, he balked (John 12:1-5). But notice, when he finally realized his own transgression, Judas said “I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood” (Matt. 27:1-5), indicating his own culpability. In the same way, Peter asked why satan had filled the hearts of Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Ghost (Acts 5:3). But in verse 4 he asks why they, themselves, had conceived this thing in their own hearts.

How exactly satan initially prompts people, the Bible does not explicitly say. He used Peter’s fears to tempt Christ not to go to Jerusalem (Matt. 16:23). In His response, Jesus said Peter did not savor the things of God but the things of man. We also know that God works in this world through His divine providence (i.e., using natural laws to bring about His purposes) to aid us, otherwise there would be no efficacy in prayer (Matt. 7:7). The working of satan in this world could never be anything more than what God is doing.  The Bible says that angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who will be the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). There is spiritual activity going on at a level we do not normally or naturally comprehend (Rev. 12; II Kings 6:16,17; etc.). As Christians, we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).  But one thing is clear: neither the Holy Spirit nor satan work directly upon the human heart.


(More on this issue later)
Eric L. Padgett

Preaching the Cross of Christ

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18).

Many people professing Christianity wear a cross about their necks, or on some other form of jewelry. Others have crosses on their walls at home or in their cars, hanging from the rear view mirror. Others will have the cross printed on their t-shirt or on their jackets, apparently making some statement of rebellion. Still others have a cross permanently tattooed on their bodies. Some religions make the sign of the cross with their hands, supposing it has some religious value while some denominations have crosses set up in their buildings as objects of adoration or meditation. The Bible, of course, authorizes none of this.

Instead of adoring some intrinsically valueless material object, Paul said we ought to preach the cross of Christ (I Cor. 2:2). This is essentially what Jesus commanded in the Great Commission when He commanded the apostles to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16). To preach the cross of Christ means to tell people of it’s meaning. Many people think preaching the cross should involve advancing some psychological pablum, lecturing on some self-help jargon or advising some Norman Vincent Peale style power of positive thinking message. But notice how the New Testament defines the preaching of the cross.

First, to the world, preaching the cross is foolishness (I Cor. 1:18). In their twisted, secular minds, there can be neither any lasting value nor any spiritual efficacy in the death of one man two-thousand years ago. This is because they do not want to admit the existence of God and, consequently, the reality of sin. Men of this kind called the apostle Paul a “babbler” (Acts 17:18) and ultimately mocked him (Acts 17:32). Unfortunately, there are those who still do this today and their numbers seem to be increasing daily. While the world sees the preaching of the cross as foolishness, to those of us who are saved it is the power of God.

Second, the preaching of the cross means preaching submission to God’s will (Phil. 2:8; Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Luke 9:23). Jesus did not have to go to the cross. He said no man took His life from Him, but He laid it down of Himself (John 10:18). Jesus could have called on more than twelve legions of angels to defend Him, but He chose to fulfill God’s will (Matt. 26:53,54). Jesus chose to humble Himself, to make Himself of no reputation, leave the glories of heaven and come to this sin-cursed world so that we might have the hope of eternal life (Phil. 2:5-9). Humbling Himself in such a grand way, it is no wonder that Jesus commands us to likewise humble ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 10:38; 16:24). This is a daily task (Luke 9:23).

Third, the preaching of the cross means preaching that offends people (Gal. 5:11). Christians to day are perhaps the least acquainted with this concept as any generation of Christians ever because they have been conditioned by our culture through political correctness never to say or do anything at all that offends. However, the Jews were offended because the cross revealed their rejection of the true Messiah (Acts 2:22-24). Jesus offended the Pharisees when He pointed out that their hearts were not right (Matt. 15:10-12). Jesus so offended His generation that they crucified Him. The apostles offended their generation by preaching the cross of Christ and were imprisoned and martyred for it. If we preach Jesus and Him crucified we will also be offensive (II Tim. 3:12).

Fourth, the preaching of the cross means preaching endurance. Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame (Heb. 12:2). Jesus was not a masochist. He did not want to go to the cross for He prayed to the Father, “If it be possible let this cup pass from Me” (Matt. 26:39). Jesus went to the cross willingly so that He could deliver us from the fear and bondage of death (Heb. 2:14,15) but He went not without strong crying and tears (Heb. 5:7). He was despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Is. 53:3). If we follow the example of Christ, we, too, must endure trials (I Pet. 2:20,21).

Fifth, the preaching of the cross means preaching against false teaching. Paul observed that there were many who were enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18). There were already too many in the first century perverting the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:6-9), grievous wolves, they were, entering into the fold and not sparing the flock (Acts 20:29,30). John warned against believing every spirit and commanded Christians to try those who come to them with a different doctrine (I John 4:1).

Finally, preaching the cross of Christ means preaching reconciliation to God. Paul said God reconciles both Jew and Gentile unto Himself by the cross (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20). To preach man’s reconciliation to God (note that it is not God’s reconciliation to man) means that man has sinned and left God (Is. 59:1,2). God is of purer eyes than to behold evil (Hab. 1:13). It was only through Christ coming into this world and shedding His blood that we could have this reconciliation (I Cor. 5:14-21).

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged Cross
The emblem of suff’ring and shame
And I love that old Cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain

O that old rugged Cross so despised by the world
Has a wondrous attraction for me
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary

In the old rugged Cross, stain’d with blood so divine
A wondrous beauty I see
For the dear Lamb of God, left his Glory above
To pardon and sanctify me

To the old rugged Cross, I will ever be true
Its shame and reproach gladly bear
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away
Where his glory forever I’ll share

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross
Till my trophies at last I lay down
I will cling to the old rugged Cross
And exchange it some day for a crown

George Bennard

The cross is not an object to be worn but a life to be lived and a message to be preached.

Eric L. Padgett

Does God Hear The Alien Sinner’s Prayer?

Many in the religious world believe in the “sinner’s prayer.” This is the “prayer” which you would hear, say, at the end of a Billy Graham crusade, or in various denominational churches around the country, in which the sinner is encouraged to come to Christ and “invite Jesus” into his life and thus be saved by prayer. Going even further, there are some who believe that God hears and answers the sundry prayers of those who have never even obeyed the gospel, who are not Christians. But what does the Bible says about this issue?

The first point that needs to be made is that there is a difference between the alien sinner and the child of God. Addressing the situation of the Gentiles under the Old Covenant, Paul said that “at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). While the alien sinner is now amenable to the New Covenant, as all men are because it is universal (e.g., Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16), because he has not submitted himself to God’s covenant, he does not enjoy the benefits of that covenant.

When Jesus said, for instance, “Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28), He was saying that those who do not come to Him cannot have rest from their sins. There is a difference, therefore, between the one who has come to Him and the one who has not. In fact, all spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3). There are no spiritual blessings that are not found in Christ.

Prayer, however, is a spiritual blessing. It is the prayers of the saints which John says rises as an odor of spiritual incense in the nostrils of God (Rev. 5:8; 8:3,4). It is the prayer of a righteous man that avails much (James 5:16). Because prayer is a spiritual blessing, and all spiritual blessings are found only in Christ, prayer is only effectual to the one in Christ. The alien sinner’s prayer is no more effectual than the alien sinner’s Lord’s Supper.

Furthermore, there are various passages which state explicitly that God does not hear the alien sinner’s prayer.

  • John 9:31 – Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth His will, him He heareth.
  • I Peter 3:12 – For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
  • Isaiah 59:1,2 – Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.
  • Proverbs 28:9 – He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.
  • Proverbs 15:29 – The LORD is far from the wicked: but He heareth the prayer of the righteous.

These passages are indeed clear. However, because God is omniscient (I John 3:20; Job 37:16), He actually knows what the alien sinner is praying. Therefore, the question, Does God hear the alien sinner’s prayer, is not simply a question of God literally hearing and knowing what the alien sinner is praying, but does God hear with the intent of answering those prayers. Clearly, according to scripture, God does not listen to, with a view to answering, the alien sinner’s petitions to God.

Sometimes, Cornelius is offered as an example of an alien sinner whom God heard. Cornelius was neither a Christian nor Jew. Yet Acts 10:31 says, “Cornelius, thy prayer is heard.” How can this be reconciled with the previous passages and the thrust of the argument presented in this article? Here are two possible answers to this.

First, while it is said that God heard Cornelius’ prayer, his prayers were heard as a memorial that came before God. Notice verse 4: “Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God.” It is not that God had heard and answered the specific prayers Cornelius prayed, but that God acknowledged that Cornelius was praying and that he was a good man. This is in perfect harmony with the view that God knows all things and would know Cornelius’ prayers.

We don’t know all that for which he was praying. Did Cornelius think he was doing right? The fact that he was giving alms and praying to God presupposes he was doing what he thought was acceptable to God. Like others who believe that they are acceptable to God, he very likely was praying for quite a lot of things, good health, wisdom, temperance, patience, etc. But did God answer those specific prayers? The implication surely is that when the angel first appeared to Cornelius, that this was the initial response to Cornelius’s actions, both prayers and alms. If God hears with a view to answering the alien sinner’s prayers, then God would have been answering at least some of his prayers all along. But Acts 10 suggests this is not the case.

The word used for “hear” in Acts 10:31 is defined by W. E. Vine as “‘to listen to’ (eis, to, and No. 1), has two meanings, (a) ‘to hear and to obey,’ 1 Cor. 14:21, ‘they will not hear’; (b) ‘to hear so as to answer,’ of God’s answer to prayer, Matt. 6:7; Luke 1:13; Acts 10:31; Heb. 5:7.” The basic idea of the word is “to listen to.” Vine says that this word when used in Acts 10:31 means “to hear so as to answer.”

Because God is omniscient, He knew Cornelius was a devout man seeking Him. Because of this, God responded to his prayers and his deeds by sending an angel to instruct him to send for Peter who would give him the information needed to obey Him (Acts 10:6). Cornelius’ case was unique in that he was the first Gentile convert to Christ who was not first proselytized to Judaism. Even in this, God heard his payers as a memorial, and did not specifically answer his petitions.

A second answer to this question of Cornelius’ prayer was offered by Guy N. Woods. Brother Woods suggested that Cornelius was still under the law of patriarchy and that is why his prayers were heard. Under this view, he was not an alien, but an obedient child of God living under the final moments of the Patriarchal Law.

Brother Woods wrote:

“That the devout officer was worshipping God under the system of patriarchy is the only conclusion harmonizing the difficulties of the case. It is, to this, no valid objection that, after the angel’s visit, Cornelius was to hear words whereby he and his house were to “be saved” ; at the moment the angel appeared to him he became accountable to God under this, the Christian dispensation; prior to the visit of the angel he was answerable only under the system which alone was available. Nor, can it be affirmed, from these premises, that on the foregoing assumption, all men, who have not heard the gospel today ought to be regarded as in his category. No one lives in his category; the gospel had never been extended to embrace the Gentiles prior to the events of Acts 10. It follows, therefore, that the condition of the Gentiles, from Pentecost to the house of Cornelius was legally that which characterized the Jews from the cross to Pentecost. When one law supersedes another, the effects of the superseded law carry over to the point where the newer law becomes effective” (Questions and Answers Open Forum Freed-Hardeman College Lectures, 1976).

Either one of these two possibilities answer the question regarding Cornelius’ prayers. Whatever may be the answer, the correct answer will not contradict the clear teaching in both the Old and New Testaments that God does not hear, with a view to answering, the alien sinner’s prayers.

Eric L. Padgett