In reading through the Temptations of our Lord in Luke, I was struck in a fresh way, by the Devil's intimate Bible knowledge.
Satan, Luke recounts, is a master-twister of Scripture: the Dark Prince can sugar-coat any suggestion with a plausible religious veneer by a footnote with a text.
For several millennia now, he has memorized the Bible verbatim, studied the contexts exhaustively, and engaged in careful word-studies, so he knows Scripture back-to-front!
He is expert at quoting flawlessly, omitting words cleverly, ripping verses out of context, misapplying their teaching and bolstering them with smatterings of theological half-truths.
He was able to deceive the First Glorious Human, Theological Professor of Eden Seminary, Doctor Adam, by tricking his secretary Eve. Only One Man ever floored him in theological debate.
The Father of Lies misled every rabbi, including Gamaliel, Paul and Nicodemus, as to the true meaning and thrust of God's whole counsel - at least at first.
If these things are true, there are many applications that follow: let me just suggest some that spring to mind in order to close this piece:
- Pray for the assistance of the Holy Spirit to give you light and power to read, learn, study, understand and relate Scripture.
- Beware of spring-board theology - the sort that almost quotes a biblical text correctly and then writes a book or series of books based on that misunderstanding (there are some popular examples of bible teachers like that).
- Be cautious writing papers or sermons to make your own cause or advance your own case - sheep follow Christ's voice in shepherds who are faithful not false.
- Watch out for temptations that make you try to find a verse that excuses conduct that you know (or sense) in conscience may be wrong. Like a person intent in succumbing to the evil of fleshly lust who piously and often cited the Jeremiad word to exiles: "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" - Jeremiah 29:11!
- When pressing a truth make sure your reasons argue soundness - beware of what one of my dear friends calls '1,000 leaky buckets' that don't hold any water.
- Strive to master and memorize the big ideas of the Bible - its narrative flow, the progress of redemption; how a text plugs into the the mother-promise of Genesis 3:15; be able more and more to outline, summarize and state the succinct theme of each book (the ESV Study Bible is a great resource in this respect, but better is your own work); ask, in all honesty, what do the plain words of the verses and chapters mean in their Grammatical and Historical sense; and how does the section in question harmonize with other clear parts of Scripture.
- Learn large chunks of the Bible as early in life as you can: take on-board as much of the Scriptures verbatim as you can throughout your days, praying for a willing, Christlike heart in this respect. For the parts of the truth that you will not memorize (like Chronicles perhaps), try to always have your sword to hand by your bed or by your side.
- Above all, lift your eyes, to the Supreme, Exalted, Glorified Bible Professor, at the right hand of God, as you pray for needed help. "Lord Jesus Christ, you are both the author and central message of Scripture! Teach me its meaning, and supply all grace that I need to pray it into my heart and then outward into my life."
- If you teach or lecture you need to ask for special help - it is just at this point, when on the front-line, advancing truth for Christ, that Satanic hits are hardest, fiercest, most-frequent and intense: if he can derail you, make you a casualty or put you off the field of play, it serves his purpose well, to undermine the cause of Christ. And finally...
- If you have erred, strayed, misquoted, twisted, supplemented, disobeyed or de-contextualized truth (that is all of us without exception, to various degrees, I think), let us rejoice that there is One who never did any such thing - the perfect Bible Scholar, Lecturer, Teacher, Pastor and Author - who always had the right text at the right time used in the right way to repulse Satan's attack, all the way to, and past, the Cross! In light of that event, to which Christ fully commits (the Devil was unable to make Jesus deviate from His gloriously loving and merciful, God-ordained, course), He has borne our errors, grants us full remission, and now supplies strength to penitent preachers and practitioners if they ask. So get back to the text in order to spread the truth. Repent and believe the Good News.