Satan’s attacks on the Christian are inevitable. He is called “the accuser of the brethren” in Revelation 12, and the Hebrew word הַשָּׂטָ֖ן HaSatan literally means “The Adversary,” or “The Opponent.” Scripture says in 1 Peter 5:8-9,
“Be self-controlled. Be alert. Your accuser the Devil walks about seeking someone to devour, whom you resist, firmly-grounded in the faith, having known the same sufferings are being fulfilled by your brethren in the world.”
It is important to note that the apostle specifically says, “Your accuser,” not merely “the accuser.” Satan is the personal enemy of every born-again child of God; he is not a mere “evil force.” Satan is a fallen angel who rebelled against God eons ago and tempted the first man and first woman to also rebel. Since then, he has become “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and “ruler of this world” (John 12:31). This is not to say, however, that Satan is in any capacity equal with God; while he is far more powerful than we are, he is a created being who is far below God’s power. Satan is not omniscient, omnipotent, nor omnipresent, constrained by the limits of a created being. Rather, such descriptors about him refer to him being the instigator of the entire present world system, whether the religious sphere, the economic sphere, the entertainment sphere, or the political sphere. Satan thus positions his demonic forces to wage war against Christians whom the Lord has saved out of the present world system, his primary objective to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
Of course, if you belong to Christ then Satan cannot touch your spirit. However, if you’re not careful, he will tempt you and continually harass you about your wickedness until he finally breaks you down, steals your joy, ruins your witness for Christ, and renders you useless to God. This is the meaning of the infinitive καταπιεῖν, katapiein, translated “devour” in the verses above. The word is in the active voice showing Satan’s initiative, and means “the complete and sudden destruction of someone or something.”¹ Satan is a powerful enemy that Christians must not take lightly; the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19 know that all too well. Yet many Christians today actually invite satanic oppression by taking part in satanic activities, reading their daily horoscopes, performing Yoga, playing with Ouija boards, or reading tarot cards.
So the question that must now be asked is, how can Christians resist such a powerful enemy? The apostle gives the answer in verse 9, by being “firmly-grounded in the faith.” Some translations say to be “firm in your faith,” but the personal pronoun “your” is not in the text, and instead, the text employs the definite article. We must be grounded in the faith as described in God’s Holy Word, not our nebulous, personal ideas about faith. The apostle Paul further emphasizes this in Romans 2:16 in which he says that all the secret things of men will be judged by Jesus Christ “according to my gospel” (cp. 2 Timothy 2:8). That is, the gospel that Paul preached is the only gospel by which Jesus Christ will judge humanity and the only sure foundation to firmly-ground you (Romans 16:25). Christians cannot afford to be ignorant of God’s Word; a Christian without a devotional life is like a wounded gazelle being watched by a lion. Christians can only resist Satan by reading and digesting the Word of God, integrating it into their lives every day and understanding true from false doctrine.
Notice now, however, that Peter calls Satan “Your accuser.” This word that Peter uses, ἀντίδικος, antidikos, translated as “accuser,” is a legal term for “one who brings a charge in a lawsuit,” and specifically a “plaintiff.”² This is how Christians distinguish between Satan’s accusations and the Holy Spirit’s conviction. An erroneous meme making the rounds on social media says, “Satan accuses you to God day and night – Don’t give him ammunition.” This idea, however, promotes a subtle works-based salvation, implying that if Satan accuses you, the accusation has merit. However, satanic accusation will always tell you how wicked of a person you are in general and will make you feel guilty of past sins which you have already repented. The fact of the matter is, as soon as you are born, Satan has enough ammunition to accuse you day and night. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, will always be very specific in His conviction and will never point out how bad or wicked you are because as a believer, your sin has been nailed to the cross of Christ.
When a Christian sins, the Holy Spirit immediately brings it to mind such as the following examples:
It is only Satan who points his finger guiltily at you saying, “Wow, you’re such a failure. You can’t honestly believe that God loves you?” The fact of the matter is, though, that when the Holy Spirit convicts you of a specific sin and you confess it, then God settles it (1 John 1:9), never to come up again unless you repeat the sin. Any further discouragement or guilt is satanic.
¹Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 233.
²William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 88.