Bible Basics (5th edition): A study manual revealing the joy and peace of true Christianity

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APPENDIX: The Devil and Satan
Is the Devil a Supernatural Person?

“Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires”  JAMES 1:14

Is The Devil A Supernatural Person?

Many religions believe there is a monster called the Devil or Satan, who is the originator of all problems and is responsible for the sins we commit.  But the Bible teaches us that God is all-powerful and that the Angels cannot sin.

This means it is impossible that there is any supernatural being that is opposed to God.  We are questioning the supremacy of God Almighty by believing that such a being does exist.

The Source of Evil

There is a belief that good things come from God and bad things from the Devil or Satan.  The ancient Babylonians believed in a god of good, and a god of evil.  God’s response was, “I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides me … I form the light and create darkness.  I make peace and create calamity.  I, the LORD, do all these things” (Isaiah 45:5-7,22).  God is the Author, the Creator of “calamity” and sin.  There is a difference between calamity and sin.  Sin entered the world as a result of man not God (Romans 5:12).

God tells the Babylonians, “There is no God beside me.”  There is no source of power apart from Him.  Thus a true believer in God cannot accept the idea of a supernatural devil or demons.

God: The Creator of Disaster

There are many examples of God bringing “evil” into people’s lives.


So God is the source of “evil” in the sense of being the ultimate permitter of problems in our lives.

The Orthodox Devil – Illogical

“For whom the LORD loves He chastens … If you endure chastening … afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:6-11).  This shows that trials given by God eventually lead to our spiritual growth.

To say that the devil forces us to sin while at the same time bringing problems which lead to our developing “the peaceable fruit of righteousness” is inconsistent.  Here the orthodox idea of the devil runs into problems.  For example, the passages which speak of delivering man to satan “that his spirit may be saved”.(1 Corinthians 5:5), or “that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Timothy 1:20).  If Satan is really a being bent on causing men to sin, why do these passages speak of “Satan” in a positive light?

The answer: an adversary, a “Satan”, or difficulty in life, can often result in positive spiritual effects on a believer’s life.

The Origin of Sin

Sin comes from inside us.  It is our  fault that we sin.  Remember, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) – sin leads to death.  If it is the devil’s fault that we sin, then a just God should punish the devil rather that us.  But the fact that we are judged for our own sins, shows that we are responsible for them.


The idea that there is something sinful outside of us which causes us to sin is incompatible with the teaching of Jesus.  From within, out of the heart of man, come all these evil things.  James 1:14 tells us how we are tempted: “Each one is tempted when he is drawn by his own desires and enticed”.  We are tempted by our own evil desires evil desires, not by anything outside of us.  “Where do wars and fights come from among you?” James asks; “Do they not come from your desires for pleasure?” (James 4:1).  Each of us has temptation generated by our own evil desires.

Pual identifies the source of sin

Paul laments: “In me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells … For the good that I will to do, I do not do …if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Romans 7:18-21).  Paul does not blame his sinning on an external being called the devil.  He located his own evil nature as the real source of sin: “it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells in me.  I find then a law, that evil is present with (i.e. within) me, the one who wills to do good” (Romans 7:20-21).  So he says that the opposition to being spiritual comes from something that he calls “sin that dwells in me”.

The word ‘Satan’ in the Bible

1 Kings 11:14 records that 2the LORD raised up an adversary (same Hebrew word elsewhere translated “satan”) against Solomon.  Hadad the Edomite”, “And God raised up another adversary (another satan) …Rezon … He was an adversary (a satan) of Israel” (1 Kings 11:23,25(.  God stirred up ordinary men, not a supernatural being, to be satans/adversaries to Solomon.

Another example: Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem to die.  Jesus turned and said to Peter “Get behind Me, Satan! … you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23).  Thus Peter was called a satan by Christ.


God can be termed a ‘satan’

Because the word ‘satan’ just means an adversary, a good person, even God Himself can be termed a ‘satan’.  There is nothing necessarily sinful about the word itself.  God can be a satan to us by:

But the fact that God can be called a ‘satan’ does not mean that He Himself is sinful.

The books of Samuel and Chronicles are parallel accounts of the same incidents.  2 Samuel 24:1 records “the LORD … moved David against them (Israel)” to make him take a census of Israel.  The parallel account in 1 Chronicles 21:1 says that “Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David” to take the census.  In one passage God does the provoking, in the other Satan does it.  Therefore God acted as a ‘satan’ or adversary to David.

The Word ‘Devil’ in the Bible

Similarly with the word ‘devil’.  Jesus said “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?  He spoke of Judas Iscariot ..” (John 6:70-71) who was an ordinary, mortal man.  The word ‘devil’ here simply refers to a wicked man.

Another example is in 1 Timothy 3:11.  The wives of church elders were not to be ‘slanderers’; the original Greek word his is ‘diabolos’, which is the same word translated ‘devil’ elsewhere.  Thus Paul warns Titus that the aged women in the ecclesia should not be “false accusers” or ‘devils’ (Titus 2:3 KJV).

The words ‘devil’ and ‘satan’ do not refere to a fallen Angel or a sinful being outside of us.

Sin, Satan and the Devil

The words ‘satan’ and ‘devil’ are used figuratively to describe the natural sinful tendencies within us.  These are our main ‘satan’ or adversary.  They are also personified, and as such can be spoken of as ‘the devil’ – our enemy, a slanderer of the truth.  This is what our natural ‘man’ is like – the very devil.

The connection between the devil and our evil desires – sin within us – is made explicit in several pages:

Continued overleaf …
            … He (Jesus) condemned sin in the flesh.”  This shows that the devil and the sinful tendencies that are naturally with human nature are effectively the same.

It is vitally important to understand that Jesus was tempted just like us.  Misunderstanding the doctrine of the devil means that we cannot correctly appreciate the nature and work of Jesus.  It was only because Jesus had our human nature – the ‘devil’ within him – that we can have the hope of salvation (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15).  By overcoming the desires of his own nature, the Biblical devil, Jesus was able to destroy the devil on the cross.

If the devil is a personal being, then he should no longer exist.

‘Our sins’ = ‘the works of the devil’

“He who sins is of the devil” (1 John 3;8), because sin is the result of giving way to our own natural, evil desires (James 1:14,15), which the Bible calls ‘the devil’.  “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

If we are correct in saying that the devil is our evil desires, then the works of our evil desires, i.e. what they result in, are our sins.  This is confirmed by 1 John 3:5, “He (Jesus) was manifested to take away our sins”.  This confirms that “our sins” and “the works of the devil” are the same.

Acts 5:3 provides another example of this connection between the devil and our sins.  Peter says to Ananias, “Why has Satan filled your heart?”  Then in verse 4, Peter says “Why have you conceived this thing in your heart?”  Conceiving something bad within our heart is the same as Satan filling our heart.


However, the Bible does talk as if the devil is a person!  Hebrews 2:14 speaks of “him who had the power of death, that is, the devil”.  The Bible often uses personification – speaking of an abstract idea as if it is a person.  Thus Proverbs 9:1 speaks of a woman called ‘Wisdom’ building a house, and Romans 6:23 likens sin to a paymaster giving wages of death.

Our devil, the ‘diabolos’, represents our evil desires.  Yet you cannot have abstract diabolism, the evil desires that are in a man’s heart cannot exist separately from a man; therefore ‘the devil’ is personified.

Sin is often personified as a master (eg Romans 5:21; 6:6,17; 7:3).  It is understandable, therefore, that the ‘devil’ is also personified, seeing that ‘the devil’ also refers to sin.  In the same way, Paul speaks of us having two beings, as it were, within our flesh (Romans 7:15-21):


Yet it is evident that there are not two literal, personal beings fighting within us.  This sinful part of our nature is personified as “the evil one” (Matthew 6:15) – the Biblical devil.

The devil is a common figure for our own nature; sin and temptation originate from within.  The real arena of spiritual conflict is the human heart.

Practical Implications

If we grasp this, we will battle daily for control of the mind; we will strive to fill our mind with God’s word, we will read the Bible daily, we will be cynical about our motivations, we will examine ourselves, we will appreciate the latent liability to sin which we and all men have by nature.  We won’t take the weakness of others towards us so personally; we will see it is their ‘devil’.  Belief in a personal devil is so popular because it takes the focus away from our own struggle with our innermost nature and thoughts.

Bible Basics: Contents

Part 1: "The things concerning the Kingdom of God" Study 1: God 1.1  The Existence Of God || 1.2  The Personality Of God || Belief In Practice 1: Knowing God || 1.3  God's Name And Character || Belief In Practice 2: Grace (John Parkes) || Belief In Practice 3: The All Seeing God || Belief In Practice 4: God Is Omnipotent || Belief In Practice 5: Responding To The One God || 1.4     The Angels || Belief In Practice 6: God As Creator || Digression 1: God Manifestation || Digression 2:  Why The Trinity Was Accepted || Study 1: Questions Study 2: The Spirit Of God 2.1  Definition || 2.2  Inspiration || 2.3  Gifts Of The Holy Spirit || 2.4  The Withdrawal Of The Gifts || 2.5  The Bible The Only Authority || Digression 3: Is The Holy Spirit A Person? || Digression 4: The Principle Of Personification || Belief In Practice 7: The Implications Of Inspiration || Study 2: Questions Study 3: The Promises Of God 3.1  Introduction || 3.2  The Promise In Eden || 3.3  The Promise To Noah || 3.4  The Promise To Abraham || 3.5  The Promise To David || Belief In Practice 8: Covenant Relationship With God || Study 3: Questions Study 4: God And Death 4.1  The Nature Of Man || 4.2  The Soul || 4.3  The Spirit || 4.4  Death Is Unconsciousness || 4.5  The Resurrection || 4.6  The Judgment || Belief In Practice 9: Judgment Now || 4.7  The Place Of Reward: Heaven Or Earth?|| 4.8  Responsibility To God || 4.9  Hell || Digression 5: Purgatory || Digression 6: Ghosts And Reincarnation || Digression 7: The 'Rapture' || Belief In Practice 10: The Motivational Power Of Understanding Death || Study 4: Questions Study 5: The Kingdom Of God 5.1  Defining The Kingdom || 5.2  The Kingdom Is Not Now Established || 5.3  The Kingdom Of God In The Past || 5.4  The Kingdom Of God In The Future || 5.5  The Millennium || Digression 8: The Kingdom Of God Now (Graham Bacon) || Belief In Practice 11: What The Kingdom Of God Means Today || Study 5: QuestionsStudy 6: God And Evil 6.1  God And Evil || 6.2  The Devil And Satan || 6.3  Demons || Digression 9: The Implications And Origin Of The Belief In A Personal Satan || Digression 10: Witchcraft || Digression 11: What Happened In Eden? || Digression 12: Lucifer || Belief In Practice 12: Battle For The Mind || Study 6: Questions

Part 2: "The things concerning...the name of Jesus Christ" (Acts 8:12) Study 7: The Origin Of Jesus. 7.1  Old Testament Prophecies Of Jesus || 7.2  The Virgin Birth || 7.3  Christ's Place In God's Plan || 7.4  "In the beginning was the word" || Digression 13: Jesus The Son Of God (Michael Gates) || Digression 14: Did Jesus Create The Earth? || Belief In Practice 13: Jesus Didn’t Pre-exist: And So What? || Study 7: Questions Study 8: The Nature Of Jesus 8.1  Introduction || 8.2  Differences Between God And Jesus || 8.3  The Nature Of Jesus || 8.4  The Humanity Of Jesus || 8.5  The Relationship Of God With Jesus || Belief In Practice 14: The Real Christ || Digression 15: How The Real Christ Was Lost || Digression 16: The Divine Side Of Jesus || Study 8: Questions Study 9: The Work Of Jesus 9.1  The Victory Of Jesus || 9.2  The Blood Of Jesus || 9.3  Jesus As Our Representative || 9.4  Jesus And The Law Of Moses || 9.5  The Sabbath || Digression 17 The Crucifix || Digression 18: Was Jesus Born On Dec. 25th? || Belief In Practice 15: The Meaning Of Christ’s Resurrection For Us || Belief In Practice 16: Christ Died For Me- So What Should I Do? || Belief In Practice 17: The Real Cross || Belief In Practice 18: The Inspiration Of The Cross || Study 9: Questions || Study 10: Baptism Into Jesus 10.1  The Vital Importance Of Baptism || 10.2  How Should We Be Baptized? || 10.3  The Meaning Of Baptism || 10.4  Baptism And Salvation || Digression 19: Re-baptism || Digression 20 The Thief On The Cross || Belief In Practice 19: The Certainty Of Salvation || Study 10: Questions Study 11: Life In Christ 11.1  Introduction || 11.2  Holiness || 11.2.1  The Use Of Force || 11.2.2  Politics || 11.2.3  Worldly Pleasures || 11.3  Practical Christian Life || 11.3.1  Bible Study || 11.3.2  Prayer || 11.3.3  Preaching || 11.3.4  Ecclesial Life || 11.3.5  The Breaking Of Bread || 11.4  Marriage || 11.5  Fellowship || Study 11: Questions ||