Sunday, December 7, 2008

Does God give the devil permission to attack us?

I just finished an article on the topic above that I'm posting to my website. It's somewhat long (and I could have made it longer!), so I'm putting most of it below -- but for the whole thing please see here:

Have you ever heard someone say that the devil can't attack a believer (in Jesus Christ) unless he gets God's permission, as in the story of Job? And then there's sort of the underlying premise or statement, that IF you've been so attacked and God 'allowed it' -- then there isn't much you can do because that would go against God's will. Or maybe God allowed it to teach you to lean on Him. Right? I've heard it a few times from various believers, and even find it on a 'discernment' web site, yet even here some discernment is needed. Here's the quote:

This idea of the Devil claiming his wife is problematic in that believers are under the sovereign care of Jesus, it is he who has the keys of death and hell. No believer will die unless God himself allows it. The book of Job gives us insight on how God may allow the devil to afflict us but it is only by his permission, the Devil is not running around doing whatever he wants, his power and ability has to answer to God first.

Well, ok. This sounds plausible and not unreasonable at first glance. But, let us reason and see if these things be true. Since this sort of teaching appears to be somewhat prevalent, and since it does touch on issues that directly affect the issue of spiritual warfare, I wanted to sort it out myself, and write about what I found.

One of the premises is that as believers, we have a 'hedge of protection' around us, as Job had. Since there were no scripture references given to bolster this argument, as far as it may be applicable to Christians, I can't directly respond to this or any of the assertions in that regard. The only New Testament passage I may be able to liken to a 'hedge of protection', off the top of my head, would be the sheepfold that Jesus mentions in John chapter 10. He says that He is the door to the sheepfold, and that His sheep may go in and out and find pasture. However, He also adds that there may be some that try to enter in another way (sneaking over the fence perhaps?) and they would be thieves and robbers. [...] So to me, this argument is a mixed bag, one could make a case either way.

The first part of my response to the premise of God's sovereignty in our lives, is that according to Scripture (His Word), He operates in our lives under Covenant. We could speculate endlessly about what God could or might do or allow, but if it disagrees with His Word AND if we're believers, then Scripture is (or should be) our final authority. Right? From reading the Bible, there are many places where God tells his people that IF they do some thing, THEN he will do or not do certain things. I just did a search in e-Sword, for the term 'if ye' (King James Version) for both the Old and New Testament -- and it came up with 151 verses! Here's a very small sample, and not all of the 151 verses are in the 'if-then' category:

And if ye shall despise my statutes,or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: (Lev 26:15 KJVA)
And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. (Deu 11:13-14 KJVA)
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. (Gal 5:18 KJVA)
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (Joh 15:7 KJVA)

So clearly, where the word 'if' is used, it's a conditional sort of statement, there are conditions to be met. Jesus speaks of establishing the new covenant in Mat 26:28, Mar 14:24 and Luk 22:20. As far as I can tell, since I'm not an expert on the topic, a covenant is similar in some respects to what we in the U.S. would call a 'last will and testament' (hence the terms 'Old Testament' and 'New Testament'); and the terms of the will take effect after the person who drew up the will is deceased. Of course, in our case Jesus died and was resurrected, but it's through the covenant that we get to inherit the terms of his 'will', so to speak. So in relation to that part of the premise (namely the 'sovereign control' question), I think there's an element of free-will and choice along with God's sovereignty.

To me, the biggest question is: Does the devil need to get God's permission to attack a believer, or does God give such permission? This is the one I really wrestled with, and then after studying several scriptures the light came on.

First of all, we find in 1Jn 3:8b The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. (ESV) and that When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (Col 2:15 NASB) Which begs the question, why would God re-arm the devil when Jesus disarmed him? Finally, this is the passage of scripture that really settled the question for me: And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (2Co 6:16 KJVA) Oh yeah, this made me remember, and it finally sunk in past my thinking, that I am a temple of the living God! Why would God give the devil permission to attack His temple?
If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Mar 3:24-25 ESV)

And just to put the icing on the cake, there is only 1 verse of scripture in the New Testament that mentions Job:
Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (Jas 5:11 ESV) The KJV uses the word 'patience' instead of 'steadfastness'. And just to state the obvious, if Job were an example to the New Testament believer of God giving the devil permission to attack us, wouldn't that have been the place to say so? Yet, all it says is that Job was patient / steadfast, as we should likewise be patient and steadfast.

I think one reason I wrestled with this so much was because I end up contradicting some people whom I greatly respect. However, I decided to 'let the peace of Christ rule (govern) my heart', and I've been greatly edified in the process. I think this particular belief or teaching benefits the devil more than God -- I can almost imagine him or one of his dark cohorts whispering in someone's ear 'hey, don't go running to God about that trouble, he gave me permission to attack you! Look at Job!'. In the end, if you come across a statement that appears on the surface to be scriptural, but that leads to feeling despair or without hope, confused or having been forsaken; then I submit it's not of God. Of course, you can use EFT for some of these feelings; but more importantly, look to the Lord for His Spirit to lead you into the truth of the matter through prayer and His Word.

Also, I ran across this article that also addresses the issue with a similar conclusion.

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