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Footholds of the Devil
Q&A: What Does it Mean to Give Place to the Devil in Ephesians 4? What are Ways Believers Can Invite Demonic Troubles?
We are in a MIND War
Satan never sleeps, never stops stalking each of God’s children. But, as we turn onward to II Corinthians 10:4, Paul uses a Greek word that defines Satan’s chief strategy , that we must not ignore.
2 Corinthians 10:4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.
The word warfare in 2 Corinthians 10:4 means “campaign.” Paul explains that he was not simply involved in some little skirmish while ministering in Corinth; he defines Satan’s attack on him as just one little piece of a highly organized and relentless campaign.
Satan and his demons are alive, awake, and at work relentlessly, tirelessly, and devastatingly 24/7 as the ultimate spiritual terrorists. When you think about the safety of your life, home, and loved ones never ignore the reality of the powers of hell always trying to destroy the work of God (Matt. 16:18). Don’t ignore the devil, and don’t yield any ground to the enemy, not even one inch!
Satan is Drawn to Fleshly Sins
Satan looks for and uses landing places like anger, lying, pride, and lust. (5117) topos “any spot, place, or position” [ That is why Paul says, “I command you to keep your sword always ready]
Ephesians 4:27 nor give place to the devil.
Anger can give Satan great power over us, as it furnishes a motive to yield to his evil suggestions. With the article (the devil) this always means Satan, the great accuser, the prince of the demons or fallen angels, who is the great opposer of God and seducer of men, against whose schemes we are commanded to be constantly on our guard.
When anger begins to control the believer, rather than the believer being under Christ’s control, the devil gets a foothold (lit., “a place”) an opportunity for leading that Christian into further sin.
According to Jesus, anger is the first step toward murder (Matt. 5:21–26), because anger gives the devil a foothold in our lives, and Satan is a murderer (John 8:44). Satan hates God and God’s people, and when he finds a believer with the sparks of anger in his heart, he fans those sparks, adds fuel to the fire.
What are some of the Footholds for the Devil?
I spoke at a retreat last month at GLM, and it was fascinating to watch the rock wall climbers conquer that wall—one small foothold and handhold at a time. They could never make it rapidly, but feeling along for a spot to place a foot and then stretching out and feeling for a firm handhold—they clambered and conquered that wall. So any hand and foot holds let unguarded in our lives become Satan’s spots to slowly overwhelm us.
When Paul taught the Ephesian believers about the strategies of Satan in Acts 19:19-20, they collected and burned all of the objects associated with demonic and satanic contact. Do you remember how Paul taught them to rid their lives of these dangerous areas that invite Satan’s influence over our lives?
Acts 19:19-20 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
Have you carefully avoided any of these snares of the devil? Here is a brief list of the places believers can actually contact and get defiled by exposure to Satan and his army.
IMAGES: Worshiping any image is a place for demon snares or contact. That is the most literal and obvious kind of a place for demon intrusion, the kind so frequently denounced in the Old Testament. It is the kind in which a person makes an image with his own hands and then “falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for thou art my god”’ (Isaiah 44:17). Even statues or other images of Christ are not to be revered or worshiped. Only Christ is to be worshiper, not likenesses of Him. They do not represent Jesus Christ, no matter what our claims and intentions are. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Even non-liturgical Christians should be on guard, whether in public worship or private devotions, about associating any place, picture, or pattern of worship too closely with God. It is easy for such a thing to come between us and Him, though we may think it helps draw us closer.
ANGELS: Worshiping angels is a place for demon snares or contact. Paul warns, “Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self–abasement and the worship of the angels” (Col. 2:18). When, overcome with awe, John fell at the feet of the angel who was speaking to him, the angel said, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God” (Rev. 19:10). Angels are created beings and, whether holy or fallen, are not to be venerated or worshiped.
DEMONS: Worshiping demons is a place for snares or contact, and is closely associated with drugs, immorality, violence, and worshiping images, behind which are often demons. In Satan cults demons are worshiped directly. Speaking of the Tribulation, John foretells that “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood” (Rev. 9:20).
DEAD PEOPLE: Worshiping dead people is a place for demon snares or contact. Referring to a place for demon intrusion that Israel learned from Moab, the psalmist wrote, “They joined themselves also to Baal–peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds; and the plague broke out among them” (Ps. 106:28–29). We do not worship human beings, whether they are alive or dead, saintly or otherwise. Even the great heroes of Scripture—such as Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, Mary, or the apostles—are never to be worshiped. That is a place for demon intrusion.
SELFISHNESS: Supreme loyalty in our heart to anything other than God is a place for demon snares or contact. Every person is tempted with ambitions, desires, possessions, recognition, and a host of other such things that easily can become idols. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” Jesus said (Matt. 6:21). The greatest heart treasure, or heart idol, is self. Isaiah 14:12-14
GREED: Covetousness is a place for demon snares or contact. Those who covet or are greedy worship at the shrine of materialism, one of the most popular and powerful idols of our day But Paul says, “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:5; cf. Col. 3:5). Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? (NKJV)
LUST: Inordinate desire, or lust, is a place for demon snares or contact. Paul speaks of “enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil. 3:18–19). The person whose mind, desires, longings, and appetites are set on fleshly things is an idolater. The feeding of one’s mind on the lewd information and photographs so widely and easily available gives a ground of entrance for the demons of sensuality.
AMUSEMENTS: Intentionally exposing your mind to satanic ideas and stories must be constantly avoided as a place of demonic snares or contact. Some examples are:
Beware of the demonic influences of:
- Movies that follow the theme of Satan and his demons.
- Science fiction that portrays superhuman powers available from cosmic sources leave unguarded minds open to endless fantasies about what if this may be true, and thus a conflict with the authority of God’s Word.
- Television programs dealing with the occult directly or indirectly.
- Music that popularizes demonic activities, through satanic words and occultic mantras.
- Plays promoting contact with demons.
- Games which encourage contact with demons and their related activities should be avoided and burned! (This is the scriptural method of dealing with all such things that offend God, grieve His Spirit, and defile and ensnare us as believers.)
ACTUAL OCCULT PRACTICES (these are things which bring with them demonic contact): black magic, astrology, fetishes and talismans, fortune-telling, séance meetings, witchcraft, palmistry, spiritism, ESP (extra-sensory perception), pictures of witches and occult propaganda, voodoo dolls, candles with occult significance, incense, excessive superstition, religious practices that highlight the emotional, cults, Satan worship, tarot cards, Ouija boards, crystal balls, black cubes and related occult practices.
When Paul taught the Ephesian believers about the strategies of Satan in Acts 19:19-20, they collected and burned all of the objects associated with demonic and satanic contact.
Acts 19:19-20 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
Have you carefully avoided any of these landing places of the devil?
Guard the Mental Targets of Satan’s Attack
Remember that Satan uses his mind to overpower our minds and has a great advantage if our minds are not protected by captivity to Christ. Satan can trick believers who listen to his lies into losing their focus upon Christ. [That is why Paul says, “I command you to wear your helmet]
2 Corinthians 2:11 “Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices [noema ‘devices, schemes, mind’ 3540) .”
“Devices”, along with the words for “take advantage” and “ignorant” in this verse, strongly implies that Satan targets the believer’s mind; but God has provided protection by unmasking Satan’s schemes in Scripture, along with providing the counteracting truth.
The word translated devices is actually the word usually translated “mind” everywhere else in the New Testament. Paul says don’t be ignorant, don’t IGNORE the devil. What part of the Devil are we to watch out for? Guard against his powerful mind.
This and similar passages of the Word of God teach that Satan is a personal being; that the great systematic theologian Charles Hodge once said:
“he exerts great influence over people’s minds; that although he is finite (and therefore not everywhere present), he nevertheless works on people’s minds generally and not merely on those in any one place. His powers of intelligence and agency must, therefore, be unimaginable. No individual and no community can ever be sure that he is not plotting their destruction”.
Satan had the greatest created mind in the universe. His mental powers are so great that even the Apostle Paul says, “Don’t ignore what he has the capability to do”. Satan has such a high-powered mind he is capable of jamming our signals, distorting our minds, and basically using any means to distract and distance us from God.
What is the lesson for us from II Corinthians 2:11?
In the context of the entire chapter it is, beware of Satan’s powerful, mental influence in the realm of his “accusations” that makes us believers feel our case is hopeless when we have sinned.
The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin so that we will confess it and turn to Christ for cleansing; but Satan accuses us of sin so that we will despair and give up. Solution: thank Jesus right now for becoming sin for you, bearing your sin away forever. Tell Him you believe and thank Him for your salvation He purchased. That is how we tighten the strap of our helmet of salvation!
Satan can corrupt our minds. Now, turn to II Corinthians 11:3 where we see Paul using the same word “noema” as he enlarges upon our need as believers to keep our heads (our minds) protected from the work of Satan. Here we see that we must not ignore the Devil’s attempts to “corrupt” our minds as believers. We are to walk with Christ in “simplicity” which means single minded obedience; but that desire can get corrupted by Satan’s influence upon us.
2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness [panourgia (3834) 5x craftiness, trickery], so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Paul here compared the church in Corinth to Eve. Instead of resisting the devil’s inducement to disobedience (as James 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:9 command us as believers to do) Eve listened and succumbed (as we saw last week in Gen. 3:1-6). The serpent enticed her by his craftiness (panourgia, “trickery”; as in 2 Cor. 4:2). Each time we, like Eve, listen to Satan’s lies, we become guilty of disobedience to God and disloyalty to Christ; and are no longer single mindedly loving and obeying Him.
Satan’s focus is on the mind, he is a liar and tries to get us to listen to his lies, ponder them, and then believe them. Remember what he did with Eve in Genesis 3:1-5. First, he questioned God’s word (“Yea, hath God said?”), then he denied God’s word (“Ye shall not surely die!”), and then he substituted his own lie (“Ye shall be as gods”).
Note the following “mind war” Satan is capable of. This is the New Testament usage of the Greek work in v. 11 ‘noema’.
Satan blinds minds: 2 Corinthians 4:4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
Satan corrupts minds: 2 Corinthians 11:3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Christ wants to captivate your mind: 2 Corinthians 10:5 casting down arguments (NKJV) [speculations (NASB); arguments (NIV); imaginations (KJV)] and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, (NKJV)
Christ wants to guard your mind: Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Beware of allowing Satan to corrupt your mind. You have if you are not single-minded for Christ. Satan can corrupt your mind, his mind is super-powerful yours apart from Christ is no match.
Solution: repent of any corruption as in any double-mindedness (living one way here, another way there, and so on—invites Satan’s corruption); and then ask for Christ’s ‘simplicity’ which means “single-mindedness”. Christ’s desires for our minds is that we avoid that dangerous tendency we all have of compartmentalizing our lives; God wants to fill all of life; Christ’s gracious Lordship wants to permeate every room of our life.
Satan Can Directly Attack Believers
Satan can buffet God’s servants. kolaphidzo “with fist” (2852) [That is why Paul says, “I command you to keep your feet shod]
2 Corinthians 12:7 And because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me—to keep me from exalting myself!
In the Bible the idea is often presented that bodily diseases are at times produced by the direct agency of Satan, so that they may be regarded as his messengers, sent by him.
“Thorn in the flesh” (lit. “a stake for the flesh”) was a demon or a physical illness. Of the 188 uses of the Gr. word, angellos, in the NT, at least 180 are in reference to angels. This angel was from Satan, and may even have been a demon afflicting Paul.
We need to endure the struggles and afflictions of life in the grace that our God of all comfort can give to us. The way we resist this attack is to affirm with Paul in:
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Satan Can Directly Disrupt Ministry for the Lord
Satan uses a variety of hindrances to disrupt our ministry for God. egkopto “interrupts, cut into” (1465); [That is why Paul says, “I command you to always pray]
1 Thessalonians 2:18 For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan thwarted us.
Paul says that Satan was ‘thwarting’ him like one army hindering the advance of their enemies. The literal meaning of ‘hindered’ here that Paul used was for Satan “breaking up the road and putting up obstacles”.
Satan is always at work seeking to tear down the church that Christ promised to build (cf. Matt. 16:18). Throughout the Scriptures we find Satan present at the churches of Jerusalem (Acts 5:1–10), Smyrna (Rev. 2:9,10), Pergamum (Rev. 2:13), Thyatira (Rev. 2:24), Philadelphia (Rev. 3:9), Ephesus (1 Tim. 3:6,7), and Corinth (2 Cor. 2:1–11). And so you can be assured that he and his evil influences are presently arrayed against each of us in Christ’s church today!
Satan Tries to Ensnare God’s Servants
Satan is a master hunter and very skilled at using snares (3803) pagis 5x “snare, trap, noose” from pegnumai ‘to get stuck or fastened’ [That is why Paul says, “I command you to wear your armor of righteousness over your heart]
1 Timothy 3:7 And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he may not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
1 Timothy 6:9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
2 Timothy 2:26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Paul uses a word translated come to their senses (2 Tim. 2:26) that describes a person snared by Satan as needing to come out of a drunken stupor. Satan snares people by getting them drunk with his lies, and then without the restraint of God’s Word–they disobey the Lord. Serving God means we use the Bible to instruct them ‘sober them up’, for this is the only way they are rescued from Satan’s captivity. Satan is a liar (John 8:44); and he captures people by his lying promises, as he did Eve (see Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 11:3).
Satan Can Devour Unsuspecting Believers
Satan has the capability to swallow up believers who do not resist his constant . The word Peter uses is to drink down (katapino) and not eat down (kataphago) as we would equate with the lion metaphor. [That is why Paul says, “I command you to wear your sword]
1 Peter 5:8-9 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.
Our confidence in God’s sovereign care does not mean that we can live carelessly. Satan’s evil forces which come against us demand that we stay alert. Satan and his forces are always active, looking for opportunities to overwhelm the believer with temptation, persecution, and discouragement (cf. Pss. 22:13; 104:21; Ezek. 22:25). Satan does everything he can to drag the Christian out of fellowship with Christ and out of Christian service (cf. Job 1; Luke 22:3; John 13:27; 2 Cor. 4:3,4; Rev. 12). And he constantly accuses believers before God’s throne, attempting to convince God to abandon them (Job 1:6–12; Rev. 12:10).
Resist him, steadfast in the faith. Just as we saw in James 4:7 we are to “resist” which means “to stand up against.” The way to resist the devil is not with special formulas, or words directed at him and his demons, but by using the truth of God’s Word to defeat his lies in our mind. When believers know sound doctrine and obey God’s truth, Satan is withstood by the sword of God’s Word (cf. Eph. 6:17). The same sufferings. Believers around the world are always going through similar trials brought on by the roaring lion who never stops trying to devour believers.
Satan’s Counterfeit Gospel
Satan can appear to be a messenger from God (angel of light) when he and his servants masquerade themselves. metaschematizo (3345) 5x “transform, masquerade, changing the outward form” [That is why Paul says, “I command you to keep on your belt of truth]
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
Satan has always is peddling a counterfeit gospel (Gal. 1:6–12) that involves a different savior and a different spirit. The preachers of this false gospel (and they are with us yet today) are described in 2 Corinthians 11:13–15. Instead of being empowered by the Spirit, these ministers are energized by Satan. Three times, Paul used the word transform in referring to their work (see 2 Cor. 11:13–15). This Greek word simply means “to disguise, to masquerade.” There is a change on the outside, but there is no change on the inside. Satan’s workers, like Satan himself, never appear in their true character; they always wear a disguise and hide behind a mask.
If we carefully study the various religions and cults of the world, we soon discover that each are founded on some variety of human effort and works righteousness. All religions and cults that have any supernatural elements, also trace their origins to angels, extraterrestrial creatures, or other spirit beings.
For example, the angel Moroni is said to have presented the Book of Mormon on golden plates to Joseph Smith; the angel Gabriel supposedly dictated the Koran to Mohammad; and it was on supposed angelic revelations to Mrs. Herbert Armstrong that Armstrongism (the Worldwide Church of God) was founded.
In addition to that, every human religion and cult denies the Deity of Christ, denies the tri-unity of Father, Son, and Spirit; and denies Christ’s substitutionary and complete sacrificial atonement for man’s sin.
The only protection is wearing the ‘belt of truth’ as Paul tells us is our armor. Study God’s Word the source of truth, then know the truth, remind yourself of the truth, teach others the truth and defend the truth.
With regard to preaching the gospel to unbelievers, the New Testament pattern is the same: although occasionally Jesus or Paul would cast out a demonic spirit that was causing significant hindrance to proclaiming the gospel in a certain area (see Mark 5:1–20 [Gerasene demoniac]; 16:16–18 [soothsaying girl at Philippi]), that is not the usual pattern of ministry presented, where the emphasis is simply on preaching the gospel (Matt. 9:35; Rom. 1:18–19; 1 Cor. 1:17–2:5). Even in the examples above, the opposition was encountered in the process of p 421 gospel proclamation. In marked contrast to the practice of those who today emphasize “strategic level spiritual warfare,” in no instance does anyone in the New Testament (1) summon a “territorial spirit” upon entering an area to preach the gospel (in both examples above the demon was in a person and the demon-influenced person initiated the confrontation), or (2) demand information from demons about a local demonic hierarchy (3) say that we should believe or teach information derived from demons or (4) teach by word or example that certain “demonic strongholds” over a city have to be broken before the gospel can be proclaimed with effectiveness. Rather, Christians just preach the gospel, and it comes with power to change lives! (Of course, demonic opposition may arise, or God himself may reveal the nature of certain demonic opposition, which Christians would then pray and battle against, according to 1 Cor. 12:10; 2 Cor. 10:3–6; Eph. 6:12).
In the lives of Christians, as we noted above, the emphasis of the New Testament is not on the influence of demons but on the sin that remains in the believer’s life. Nevertheless, we should recognize that sinning (even by Christians) does give a foothold for some kind of demonic influence in our lives. Thus Paul could say, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil” (Eph. 4:26). Wrongful anger apparently can give opportunity for the devil (or demons) to exert some kind of negative influence in our lives—perhaps by attacking us through our emotions and perhaps by increasing the wrongful anger that we already feel against others. Similarly, Paul mentions “the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14) as part of the armor that we are to use standing against “the wiles of the devil” and in contending “against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:11–12). If we have areas of continuing sin in our lives, then there are weaknesses and holes in our “breastplate of righteousness,” and these are areas in which we are vulnerable to demonic attack. By contrast, Jesus, who was perfectly free from sin, could say of Satan, “He has no power over me” (John 14:30). We may also note the connection between not sinning and not being touched by the evil one in 1 John 5:18: “We know that any one born of God does not sin,17 but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.”
The preceding passages suggest, then, that where there is a pattern of persistent sin in the life of a Christian in one area or another, the primary responsibility for that sin rests with the individual Christian and his or her choices to continue that p 423 wrongful pattern (see Rom. 6, esp. vv. 12–16; also Gal. 5:16–26). Nevertheless, there could possibly be some demonic influence contributing to and intensifying that sinful tendency. For a Christian who has prayed and struggled for years to overcome a bad temper, for example, there might be a spirit of anger that is one factor in that continued pattern of sin. A Christian who has struggled for some time to overcome a sense of depression may have been under attack by a spirit of depression or discouragement, and this could be one factor contributing to the overall situation.18 A believer who has struggled in other areas, such as unwillingness to submit to rightful authority, or lack of self-control in eating, or laziness, or bitterness, or envy, etc., may consider whether a demonic attack or influence could be contributing to this situation and hindering his or her effectiveness for the Lord.
 John F. MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, (Dallas: Word Publishing) 1997.
 Hodge, Charles, 2 Corinthians: The Crossway Classic Commentaries, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books) 1997.
 John F. MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, (Dallas: Word Publishing) 1997.
 Wiersbe, Warren W., The Bible Exposition Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books) 1997.
 Hodge, Charles, 2 Corinthians: The Crossway Classic Commentaries, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books) 1997.
 Adapted from John F. MacArthur, Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible, (Dallas: Word Publishing) 1997.
 Wiersbe, Warren W., The Bible Exposition Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books) 1997.
 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (pp. 420–421). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
17 The present tense of the Greek verb here gives the sense “does not continue to sin.”
18 Not all depression is demonic in origin. Some may be caused by chemical factors that will respond to medical treatment. Other depression may be due to a variety of behavioral patterns or interpersonal relationships that are not being conducted according to biblical standards. But we should not rule out demonic influence as a possible factor.
 Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (pp. 422–423). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.