by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
Summary: The bible tells us to resist the devil. Fine, but what does that actually mean? Some Christians erroneously think that determination and will power will suffice. Others shout at the devil, but with predictably discouraging results. Still others invoke “formulas” that they know in their heads but don’t truly believe in their hearts. To gain the ability to resist the devil successfully will require much of you, but the results will be dramatic!
John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
•• The "thief" in this verse is generally understood to refer to the devil. Never lose sight of the fact that the devil has an unending desire to steal, kill, and destroy anything he can in your life.
• Jesus called him a “murderer” (John 8:44).
• You cannot make a truce with the devil. He is and will always be, 24 hours a day, “your enemy the devil” (1 Peter 5:8).
•• Let’s turn now to three Scripture portions which give us invaluable insights on how to resist the devil victoriously.
1 Peter 5:8-9 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
•• “Resist” here is the identical Greek word (anthistemi) found also in our other two Scripture portions — that is, James 4:7 (“Resist the devil”) and Ephesians 6:13 (“...to stand your ground” [NIV] ... “to withstand” [KJV]).
•• There is lots of confusion, plus many diverse opinions, concerning how to “resist the devil”. Let’s now examine those three Scripture portions in relation to their central theme of resisting the devil, beginning with 1 Peter 5:8-9.
•• (vs. 8) “Be self-controlled” [NIV] ... “Be sober...” [KJV]
• Strong’s Concordance reveals that this Greek word has the meaning of “to abstain from wine.”
• Vine’s Greek dictionary tells us that this word “...signifies to be free from the influence of intoxicants.”
• The message here is clear — intoxicating drinks lessen our ability to resist the devil and his attacks.
•• (vs. 8) “Be ... alert” — Satan wants to catch you napping.
•• (vs. 8) “Your enemy the devil” — never forget that his desire is to “rob, kill, and destroy” you.
•• (vs. 9) “Resist him, standing firm in the faith” — A solid walk in faith, and “in the faith”, is a strong defense against the devil.
James 4:6-8 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
•• (vs. 6) To resist the devil, live a life of humility. The proud and arrogant are high-profile, easily-hit targets for the devil.
•• (vs. 7) To resist the devil, stay “submit[ted] ... to God”.
•• (vs. 8) To resist the devil, [KJV] “Draw nigh to God”. The nearer you live to God in your daily life, the more difficult you make it for the devil to harass you.
•• (vs. 8) To resist the devil, “Wash your hands, you sinners.”
• This speaks of repenting of sinful conduct. If we continue with unrepented sin in our lives, we do not have a secure foundation from which to resist the enemy of our souls.
•• (vs. 8) To resist the devil, “purify your hearts” — from which, Jesus said, sinful conduct originates (Matthew 15:18-19).
Ephesians 6:10-18 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
•• This entire portion teaches us to “stand [our] ground (13) ... against the devil’s schemes (11).”
• “Stand your ground” is translated from the same Greek word for “resist” in our texts in 1 Peter and James.
•• (vs. 10) To resist the devil, we must “be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power”, that is, fully depending on Him.
•• (vss. 11, 13) To resist the devil, we must “put on the full armor of God” listed in verses 14-18 — His armor, not our puny weapons. And all of His armor, not just a haphazard dressing for battle.
• The armor of:
• the gospel of peace
• the word of God
• and prayer, including that portion of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Our Father...deliver us from the evil one...”
•• (vs. 12) To resist the devil, we must remember that we are not wrestling against “flesh and blood [that is, people], but against ... rulers ...authorities ... powers of this dark world ... spiritual forces of evil.”
• We often presume that we are in a natural battle (for example, concerning our health), when many times we are in a spiritual battle.
Summary: We have seen a number of keys to help you to victoriously resist the devil:
• Be self-controlled, sober, not intoxicated.
• Be alert.
• Never forget that he is “your enemy the devil”.
• Stand firm in faith and in “the faith”.
• Live a life of humility.
• Submit to God in all things.
• Draw near to God daily and throughout the day.
• Repent of sinful conduct.
• Purify your hearts.
• Remain dependent on the Lord and His mighty power.
• Put on the full armor of God — salvation, the gospel, truth, righteousness, faith, His Word, and prayer.
• Remember, it is the devil, it is the spiritual forces of evil — not your fellow humans — who are the real enemy that we fight.
• And always remember that it is in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 16:17) that victory over the devil is made certain.
• Finally, remember how Jesus successfully resisted the wilderness temptations of Satan (Luke 4:1-13). In each instance, Jesus' response to the devil was, "It is written!" Incorporate God's Word, the bible, into every facet of your lives — into every thought, word, and action. Such a biblically grounded believer will consistently overcome the devil and his strategies.
©2000, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.