by Shawn Brasseaux
We as Pauline dispensationalists need to know who our adversary is, and who our adversary is not. In this Bible study, we will learn how Satan divides us, the grace believers, and how to prevent him from “getting an advantage of us.”
* * *
Even someone with a shallow understanding of the Bible knows that there is a battle between good and evil, between God and Satan. The devil and his fallen angelic cohorts are warring against God and His children, the Christians. Satan has employed perhaps the oldest military strategy—“divide and conquer”—in order to make the Christian army weaker and more susceptible to defeat.
For instance, the Church the Body of Christ can be divided into two groups: the denominationalists comprise the vast majority, while the Pauline dispensationalists constitute only a very small percentage. The denominationalists are segmented into thousands of groups, all of which claim to be “Christian.” Satan has the denominationalists under his influence because they do not understand the Bible dispensationally. They do not know what God is doing today, so they cannot do God’s will for their lives (they do not know what God’s will even is for this, the Dispensation of Grace). Fragmenting the Body of Christ into thousands of denominations, and the resulting confusion, is one of Satan’s ways of conquering God’s people.
With the denominationalists sidetracked by church tradition, we, the Pauline dispensationalists, are of particular interest to the devil’s tactics, for we know how to use God’s Word, the Bible, God’s way, and we serve as a threat to Satan’s agenda. Because we study the Bible and we know how to use it to find the answers that Satan and religion often obscure, the devil is usually unsuccessful in deceiving the local grace church with denominational doctrine. If he cannot infiltrate our local grace church with denominational teaching, then Satan will use our flesh to divide local grace church and thus discredit the message it proclaims and defends.
Let us consider 2 Corinthians 2:10,11 KJV, “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
The Corinthians and the Apostle Paul had forgiven someone. Who was this individual, and why was it necessary for the Christian brethren to forgive him? When Paul wrote the epistle of First Corinthians, he addressed nearly a dozen issues that disrupted Christian fellowship and hindered spiritual growth in Corinth. The problem associated with 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 is described in 1 Corinthians 5:1-5 KJV:
“1 It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.
2 And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.
3 For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed,
4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ,
5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”
A Christian brother in Corinth was having sexual relations with his father’s wife, an act that not even the pagan Gentiles committed! Unfortunately, the Corinthians were bragging of this sin, making light of it, and Paul’s solution was to temporarily cast out the man from fellowship, which would hopefully bring him to his senses, and cause him to change his lifestyle:
“9 I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”
Now, in Second Corinthians, a year or so has passed since the penning of First Corinthians. Evidently, the Corinthians had heeded Paul’s instructions by having nothing to do with the fornicator, and Paul now tells them how to go about restoring the brother to fellowship. Read 2 Corinthians 2:6-8,10,11 KJV:
“6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many.
7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.
8 Wherefore I beseech you that you would confirm your love toward him….
10 To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ;
11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
This brother had now straightened up, so the Corinthians were to forgive him, accept him, and show their love toward him, lest Satan would use bitterness and strife to further divide these Christians. Saints, we must never be ignorant of Satan’s “devices,” tactics he uses to thwart the ministry of the local grace church. May we forgive, and not “give place to the devil” by holding grudges or being bitter. Let us compare that to Ephesians 4:20-32 KJV:
“20 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
21 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour [shouting, demanding, uproar], and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
Our sin nature—our “old man”—has been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6). Grace teaches us to “deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, that we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11,12 KJV). Sin does not rule us anymore: Jesus Christ has given us victory to deny sin so that is does not control us. In Christ, we can walk pleasing to the Lord, fulfilling His will.
We are to be “renewed in the spirit of [our] mind” (Ephesians 4:23 KJV). Romans 12:2 KJV affirms, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” And Colossians 3:8-10 KJV:
“8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”
When we study and believe the Pauline Bible doctrine that discusses our identity in Jesus Christ—that is, when we walk by faith in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word to us (Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon)—then God’s Word will transform our minds for His glory (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
Returning to opening Bible passage, which mentioned forgiving a Christian brother, so that Satan would not get an advantage of the Christians (2 Corinthians 2:10,11). In Ephesians 4:26,27 KJV, we read something similar: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil.” There is nothing sinful about anger, if this anger is righteous and if this anger does not lead you to commit sin (cf. Matthew 5:22; Mark 3:5). It is when you do not control your anger—that is, you allow it generate bitterness and strife—that Satan will use this to isolate you from the grace saints, and vice versa. Forgiveness is necessary, especially within the confines of the local grace church, or the ministry of the church will be hindered, and it will risk the credibility of the church. This is why we read the Bible’s passages warning against bitterness and strife.
Ephesians chapter 4 concludes with: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour [shouting, demanding, uproar], and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (verses 31,32).
Saints, we must never be ignorant of Satan’s “devices,” tactics he uses to thwart the ministry of the local grace church. May we forgive, and not “give place to the devil” by holding grudges or being bitter. Let us understand that God has already forgiven us in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Now, that forgiveness that we have received from God is our motivation to forgive others (Ephesians 4:32). Satan is our enemy, not our grace brethren.