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August 2011 Issue

Joel, Amos, and Obadiah: The Day of the Lord

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Question & Answer

Some of my relatives maintain that the Devil is not a person. They say that the Devil is “negative thoughts that people have about themselves, negative thoughts that people allow to take on a life of their own.” What does the Bible say?

According to the Bible, the Devil possesses the attributes of personhood: He has a will (2 Tim. 2:26), emotions, and an intellect (Rev. 12:12). The Lord Jesus uses personal pronouns such as “he” and “him” in describing the malicious and malignant character of the Devil (John 8:44). The names “Devil” and “Satan” denote personhood. The name Devil means accuser or slanderer. The Devil accuses Christians to God (Rev. 12:10), and slanders God to people (Gen. 3:4–5). Impersonal influences do not accuse or slander. The name Satan means adversary. He is the enemy of God and the enemy of all those who belong to Christ. Some of the Devil's other names support his personhood, e.g., “the prince of this world” (John 12:31), and “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (Eph. 2:2). In short, the Devil is a personal being; he is the personal epitome of evil and hatred of God and all that is good. The idea that the Devil is “negative thoughts about oneself” is woefully uninformed, and is in fact a tool of satanic deception.

Does the Devil still have power and authority over us as Christians?

No! The Lord Jesus voluntarily became human in order “that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14). Through His death on the cross and resurrection by the power of God, the Lord Jesus decisively defeated the Devil, reducing him and the entire hosts of hell to impotence (Col. 2:15). Furthermore, when we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, God delivers us from the authority of darkness (Col. 1:13). The usurped satanic authority over every Christian has been revoked; Satan no longer has authority over us! Even though Satan and his demons are still active in the world, their power and authority over every Christian has been broken. Satan and his demons are already defeated, their eternal doom is sure, and they know it (Rev. 12:12).

If the Devil no longer has power and authority over us, why does the Bible command us to put on the full armor of God?

The Lord's decisive defeat of the Devil through the cross does not mean we are no longer involved in spiritual battles and fierce struggles. The Lord Jesus has already won the war, but we are still engaged in spiritual battles against the powers of darkness (Eph. 6:12). Sometimes these battles are fierce. But it is important to note what the text says. It says, “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes” (Eph. 6:11). The text does not say stand firm against the power of the Devil, but stand firm against the schemes of the Devil. His power was broken at the cross, but we do have to be prepared to stand against his schemes. These schemes are his diabolical methods, his cunning strategies that he uses to catch us off guard, to tempt us, and to deceive us. Armed, however, with the power and armor of God, we are enabled to stand against the cunning methods of the Devil.

It seems that daily I hear or read something about homosexuality. I do not believe the practice has God's approval, but could you point me to some biblical texts that deal with this issue? Is homosexual practice sin? If yes, where does the Scripture say so?

The question of homosexuality confronts us almost daily on the Internet, in textbooks, courtrooms, films, legislatures, magazines, newspapers, schools, and the streets. It is one of the burning issues of the early 21st–century world. It is imperative that we go to the Bible, God's Word, in order to ascertain what God thinks about homosexuality.

A number of passages in the Old and the New Testament deal directly with this question: Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; and 1 Timothy 1:9–10. In Leviticus 18:22 (NLT) the Lord Himself says, “Do not practice homosexuality . . . it is a detestable sin.” In the Old Testament Law the penalty for a homosexual act was death (Lev. 20:13). In Romans 1:26–27, homosexual desires and practices are condemned and are evidence of the universal rejection of God's will and revelation. In 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, Scripture asserts that the practice of homosexuality is not consistent with sanctification. The witness of Scripture is clear that God declares these practices to be a sinful perversion of His good gifts to His creation.

Can a homosexual be delivered from this lifestyle?

Thank God, yes! Jesus died on the cross for the sins of all people (1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:4; 1 Tim. 2:5–6, 1 John 2:2). It is the wonder and miracle of God's heart that He loves sinners and gave His Son to die on the cross for the sins of the entire human family. As His children, we are responsible to love all people (1 Thess. 3:12). We know that we, too, are redeemed from sin, and we must lovingly offer the gospel of grace and call those who live in sin to repentance and faith in Christ. In the Corinthian church, some believers there had lived in homosexual sin prior to their conversion. But Paul says to them: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11). I am so deeply thankful that Christ can deliver us from the guilt, penalty, and power of any sin!

By Dr. Winfred O. Neely
Professor of Pastoral Studies at Moody Bible Institute