The Puppet Master

How does Satan’s work relate to the attacks of our other enemies – the world and the flesh? Is Satan the cause of our temptation, or is the world, or our own sinful flesh? It is difficult if not impossible to separate the temptations that arise from these three sources. We have seen that Satan is the “god of this age,” “the prince of this world.” The world is under is his control. Something of what this means is seen when the apostle Paul describes Satan as “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient” – that is, “those who follow the ways of this world” (Eph. 2:2). The Greek word for “works in” describing Satan’s activity in those in the world, is the same word used to speak of God’s working in His people. In fact, whenever the agent of the “working’ is directly stated, it is either divine or satanic.

After talking about the satanic inspiration of the world system, the apostle goes on to tie in the flesh. Describing us before our salvation, Paul says, “We too all formerly lived in the lusts of the flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh” (vs.3). In other words, walking according to the world system is the same as living according to the flesh. The propensities of the flesh to define life apart from God are the very things that the world system values and lures the flesh to go after. Thus, according to Eph. 2:2, the world and the flesh operate “according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the sons of disobedience.”

A similar relationship of flesh, world, and demonic is seen in the epistle of James. In Chapter one, the apostle points to the origin of our sin as following the temptation of the flesh: “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire [of the flesh], he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (vss. 14,15). Later James reveals that demonic powers lie behind our personal evil desires. The “wisdom” that promotes the fleshly acts of “bitter envy and selfish ambition” and “disorder of every evil practice” (3:14,16) is ultimately “of the devil” or demonic in origin (vs. 15). When James warns against friendship with the world (4:4-6) his antidote it to resist the devil (vs. 7). The world, the satanic, and the flesh are all tied together in our battle with the power of sin.

Dr. Neil

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