by James A. Webb

THE BIBLE SAYS "The Devil sinneth from the beginning" (1John3:8, King James Version). His sin lies in the motive behind his acts, but his acts had to be done in the sense that they were required for the purpose of God to be fulfilled. This is seen in the death of God's Son. Those who demanded that He be crucified did so with a sinful motive. But Christ, after His resurrection, asked -- "Must not the Christ be suffering these things?" (Luke24:26, Concordant Version). Yes, He had to suffer. Without His suffering and death there could have been no salvation. And there would have been no sinners to be saved if the Devil, or Adversary (which is the better translation), had not sinned from the beginning, for it was he who introduced sin into the universe and among the human family. His motive was to defeat God, and his motive constituted sin. But without sinners to be saved, there would have been no need for the Son of God to come and go through His sacrificial suffering, and hence no need for Him to be "the Lambkin slain from the disruption of the World". (Rev. 13:8).

     The Adversary did not do something that God planned for him not to do. He did that which was required to be done for the future glory of God. If the Adversary had acted contrary to God's purpose, then, at that time, God was not operating "all according to the counsel of His will" (Eph.1:11). But God does - "according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Daniel4:35).

     The Adversary himself is the work of God's hand, for "by His spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His hand formed the crooked serpent" (Job26:13).

     The crooked serpent is "the Adversary and Satan" (Rev.20:2). The Adversary, in the form of a serpent, beguiled Eve (Gen.3:13), thus proving that he was, and is, the deceiver. The woman, being deluded, had come to be in the transgression" (1Tim2:14).

     God intended the deceiver to delude the woman. The Adversary was under God's control, the same as the woman was. When He used the deceiver to delude her, He was using creatures that were His (Job12:10). Yes, both were His, and He used them to bring about an increase of knowledge.

     God well knew that the Adversary would deceive Eve, for He formed him to be an Adversary and a Deceiver. "Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, 'Why hast Thou made me thus?'". (Rom.9:20, King James Version)

     The Adversary was fulfilling God's intention when he deceived mother Eve. It was part of God's purpose to bring about an awareness. The woman did not partake of the fruit until she saw that it was desired to make one intelligent. The serpent said - to the woman, "God doth know that in the day that ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise (intelligent), she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Gen.3:5,6). While the motive of the Adversary was sinful, yet what he did in deceiving the woman was something within the purpose of God, for the result was an increase in awareness, in as much as we read that the eyes of both the man and the woman were opened, and they knew that they were naked (v.7)

     Many believers are blinded concerning the truth, even as Joseph's brethren were blinded. There are those who say that God did not have, and is not having, anything to do with Satan and his works. When we refer them to Joseph and ask, "Why did Joseph's brethren sell him ?", they answer, "Because they hated him." This of course is true, but when we point out to them that in later years Joseph said to his brethren, "Therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life" (Gen.45:5), they become confused, for they do not like to believe that God actually did evil to Joseph. They want to place all the blame on his brethren. Of course, God cannot be censured but the truth is that Joseph's brethren did exactly what God intended them to do. There is no doubt that it was the Adversary who suggested their actions to them, but the Adversary belongs to God in the sense that God created him and can use him as He wills.

     So God used Satan, and Joseph's brethren, to preserve life. This seems strange, for the Adversary is a murderer, but God can, and does, use him for the opposite purpose whenever He pleases to do so.

     That the Adversary is subordinate to God is proved by his obedience to the command of the Lord Jesus. When Jesus said to him, "Go away, Satan," he went without tarrying. He left Christ (Matt.4:11 ).

     Concerning God, the Scriptures declare that "out of Him, and through Him, and for Him is all" (Rom.11:36). He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omniparous. That is, ' He is able to do all; He knows all; He is present everywhere at the same tire; He is the producer of all.

     If He is able to do all, then He is able to keep the Adversary from going contrary to His intentions, and He is able to have him do whatever is in accord with His intentions. If God knows all- even the end from the beginning (Isa.46:10),- then the Adversary has never deceived Him. God knew beforehand just what Satan was going to do at all times. If God is present everywhere at the same time, them Satan has never been able to hide from God. If God is the producer of all, He made the Adversary as well as everything else.

     Satan never thwarts God's plans; instead God uses him in carrying out His plans, as has been shown. A look at the book of Job will show that Satan does whatever God intends him to do. And if we are to take the record in Job as a model, he does not do any more than God allows him to do. God gave him authority to afflict Job, but told him to spare his life, and Satan obeyed implicitly. He afflicted Job, and he spared his life. In the temptation in the wilderness, Satan did just what God had purposed him to do, when he tested Jesus. The Scriptures say that Jesus "was led by the spirit into the wilderness to be tried by the Adversary" (Mat.4:1). When the period of testing was over, Jesus told him only once to go away, and immediately Satan left Him.

     Is is admitted by all that when messengers came to Christ after Satan left Him, they were doing just what God had told them to do. This is true, but it is also true that, in testing Jesus, the Adversary was doing just what God intended him to do. When we attribute false values to the Adversary, we also attribute false values to God, for we assume that the Adversary is operating independently of God, and that God cannot have it otherwise. The fact remains that the Lord God is the Lord God of the Adversary (though Satan would not acknowledge this), for the Lord Jesus quoted to him the words from Deuteronomy (6:16), "You shall not be putting on trial the Lord your God" (Mat.4:7. Luke4:12).

     Satan is a slanderer, but much of Christendom (including many of its clergymen) is slandering the slanderer, and in doing so, is also slandering, maligning God. If we assume that the Adversary operates independently of God, and that God is not having him (the Adversary) do the things that he is doing, it is evident that we would be guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and would be subject to the penalty therefor, were it not for the precious truth of Justification. The members of the ecclesia which is the body of Christ, (Eph.1:22,23; 2:13-16; Col.1:13 and 24) are extricated from this entanglement, for they are "Saved in grace, through faith", and this is not of themselves, but is the gift of God, and so not of works (Eph.2:8). Justified through the faith of Christ, (Rom.3:21-23, Gal.2:16, and 3:14), the members of the ecclesia are complete in Christ (Col.2:10). To the ecclesia, in spirit, "the consummation of the eons have attained", (1Cor.10:11). The believers were "entombed together with Him through baptism into death" (Rom.6:4), and, "being entombed together with Him in baptism," God "vivifies us together jointly with Him, dealing graciously with all our offences......." (Col.2:12,13). The resultant position is: " Nothing, consequently, is now condemnation to those in Christ Jesus...." (Rom.8:1). Hence, those who are "in Christ Jesus" cannot do anything which will add to, or subtract from, anything that they are or have in Christ Jesus.

     Yet, in the light of such Scriptures as these, and many others, there are teachers in Christendom who tell us not to commit that sin which, if committed, will not be pardoned "neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Mat.12:32) - see also Mark3:29). The truth is thus ignored that those who are "in Christ Jesus" have been JUSTIFIED, which is greater, by far, than forgiveness.

     That which is usually termed "the unpardonable sin" - blasphemy "against the Holy Spirit"- is the attributing of the work of God's spirit (as it was manifest in the works of God wrought by the Lord Jesus - John5:36; 9:4; 14:10; etc.) to demonic power. To say that the Adversary acted quite independently of God, and of God's intention - in the introduction of sin and estrangement into the universe, is, really, to sin against the Holy Spirit.

     God brought the Adversary into being, for ALL is out of God (Rom.11:36), and God had determined beforehand that sin and estrangement would enter the universe through the acts of the Adversary, but this fact must not be considered in isolation. God had also purposed His mighty work of SALVATION by way of the cross of His beloved SON and, in order to reveal the glory of HIS SAVING POWER IN CHRIST JESUS, God required the dark background of sin and estrangement. God, Who Himself is love, could never have suffered His love to remain for ever unrevealed and unrequited.

     Had Satan, the Adversary, in introducing (through his activities) sin into the universe, acted in absolute independence of God, them he should be praised for bringing about the condition that gave God the opportunity to manifest His saving grace. God will not give HIS GLORY to another. (Isa.42:8).

     Until we are able to recognize the mighty power of God, "Who is operating all (and Satan is included in the "all") in accord with the counsel of His will" (Eph.1:11), we cannot avoid attributing to the Adversary what God achieves and will achieve. But this we must refrain from doing, being concerned always to ascribe all praise to God.

     It should be known that Satan is not an intruder in God's universe, but rather holds, as the chief of the jurisdiction of the air, high office among God's celestial hosts. In the book of Job, he is referred to as "Satan", and Satan, in Hebrew, means "adversary". It is just as necessary that God should have an adversary in His government as it is that He should have any other officer. An adversary opposes, and Satan opposed Job, and thus God had an opportunity to show what His grace and compassion could accomplish for Job. Indeed, had it not been for the Adversary, there would have been no "wisdom of this world" (1Cor.1:20), against the dark backdrop of which is revealed the glory of Christ, Who is the power and wisdom of God, the universal Saviour (1Cor.1:18-25).

     If those who seek to expound the Scriptures would first of all realize and then proclaim that the Adversary, Satan, fills the role assigned to him (and required) by God, and that in that role he is subject to God's authority and control, and can go no further than the limits God has prescribed for him, then there would be less uneasiness within the ranks of Christendom.

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