The Mystery Of Evil
Tim Temple


At the beginning of this past week, I had a conversation with a person who is not a member of our church, but who is a good friend of mine through some other associations I have. The man is a college graduate and former Marine fighter pilot and he is now a financial advisor, very successful in the world's terms, very will traveled in terms of things he has had the opportunity to do in this life. He has been a believer in Christ for the last three or four years, but moving in that direction for a long time before that, and he said to me, “You know, I am beginning to believe in the Devil.” To those of us who have known Christ for a long time and those of us who have had an opportunity to be in a setting where the Bible is taught and where we talk about these kinds of things, that may sound shocking that someone in this day and time in the United States and the buckle of the Bible Belt would just now be beginning to believe that there is a Devil.

On the one hand, we need to remember there are many people like that who are ignorant in the positive sense of the word. I don't mean that critically, but they just do not know a lot of the truth that we have had the opportunity to learn and are not aware of some of the things that are basic and true. It is also important to remember that there are a lot of people whose acceptance of the truth that there is a devil comes from reasoning that away and not wanting to blame the Devil for things that are his own fault. Of course, that is positive as far as it goes, but the amazing thing is that many of us even do not give to the Devil the credit and the caution and the wariness that he deserves from us. Satan is alive and well in the world today, and we don't want to go to the extreme of excusing anything that we do that is sinful or disobedient as “The Devil made me do it.” Flip Wilson, the comedian from a few years ago, built most of his career on that little saying and some of us have tried to build ours on it, too, maybe. We don't want to just go through life excusing anything that we do as the Devil, but on the other hand, Scripture is full of information about Satan and the power that he has to keep us from doing what God wants us to do, and he is very active in our world today.

In fact, if you think about it, the only explanation for a lot of what is going on in our world today is the fact that there is a being, an evil, corrupt being with great power, known as Satan, the Devil, and some other names the Scripture calls him, who is active. This is the reason even though the Cold War supposedly is over there is still international threats to peace all of the time. This is the reason that we have crime and unrest in our country, even though our educational level and our sophistication technologically and all of these kinds of things are superior to most of the rest of the world. We still have people committing crimes against each other and hating people and doing what they can to take advantage of other people. This is why we have a majority, if we believe some of the polls, of people who, even though they know that people at the highest levels of our government are corrupt and are practicing things that they themselves would not practice in their business and so forth, really care very little about those kinds of things as long as the economy is good. The Devil is behind a great deal of what is going on in our world today.

The Practice Of Righteousness

It is easy to just generalize things about the Devil and say, “We are against the Devil, and we are against sin,” but the Scripture speaks plainly about the danger that the Devil poses to you and me on an everyday basis, and one of those places is the passage that we come to today as we work our way through I John. Today we come to I John, chapter 3, verse 8:

I John 3:

8He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

We want to talk about those verses today as we think about the sons of God. We have talked in verses 1-3 about the fact that God has positioned us as His sons. He has given us the position of sons of God. We talked about that in some detail as we looked at verses 1-3. Then in verses 4-9 we talked about the practices of sons of God. Verses 4-6 point out the huge problem that we have in our world today even as believers in Jesus Christ—the problem of lawlessness, the problem of saying, “I want to be in charge. I will do what I want to do in this particular situation.” Carry it far enough and say, “I will do what I want to do in my life, and even God Himself is not going to tell me what to do.”

We talked about the fact that we rarely say that audibly, but in the minds of many people, even believers in Jesus Christ, that is the attitude that is there. That kind of attitude of lawlessness is a problem that keeps the Body of Christ from being all that God designed it to be. It keeps us as individual Christians from being all that God designed us to be. That selfish insistence of doing it the way that we want to do it, being above the law—“The laws, the rules, don't apply to me”—when it comes right down to it.

So in verses 7-9, John writes to us about the practice of righteousness that God wants for His sons. We are God's sons He tells us in verses 1-3. Even though we have the problem of lawlessness, God wants us to have the practice of righteousness. We talked last week about the certainty of that practice in verse 7:

I John 3:

7Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.

The reason we can talk about practicing righteousness is that Jesus Christ lives within us. God the Holy Spirit lives within us, and we can't practice righteousness in our own strength, but as we abide in Him, as we are at home with Him and let Him be at home with us, we can practice righteousness. Again, those are things that we have talked about in our past studies; and it brings us to verses 8-9, which elaborate on that practice of righteousness. Because God lives within us, verses 8-9 talk about the force of that practice in more detail.

The Problem Of Sin

Verse 8 talks about why we need God living within us, why we need to have a source of righteousness within us, why we can't do it in our own strength. That is the verse that we read a moment ago:

I John 3:

8He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning…

The reason that we need an internal source of righteousness is that Satan is so active in our world today, so I want us to think about what this verse says about Satan. If we don't understand this fact, many things in life do not make sense. This is not the only place in the Bible that talks this way. Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 12, says:

Ephesians 6:

12For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Outwardly, our struggle would seem to be against flesh and blood. Our struggle would seem to be against those who don't hold the same standards and principles that we do. Our struggle would seem to be against those who don't know Christ as we do. Our struggle would seem to be against those who will try to influence us not to live by the standards of the Word of God. Our struggle on the surface would seem to be just a struggle that we have every day in trying to live the Christian life in the midst of people who don't know Christ. But the Scripture says that our struggle is not just with flesh and blood. Of course we have the problem of flesh and blood. Man's inhumanity to man is one of the difficulties that the whole human race has to live with, the fact that we are sinners—all of us as a race—and that brings a lot of problems. But the Scripture says that is not the whole problem. We wrestle not just against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.

If we took the time to trace through those references there in Ephesians, chapter 6, verse 12, we would find that those are all terms that are applied to Satan in various places in the Scripture. Our need for a source of righteousness, the reason we need to know and be reassured that we have an inner source of righteousness in Jesus Christ, is the power of Satan around us.

Actually, this middle section of I John, chapter 3, verses 3-9, repeats the same principle two times. We haven't analyzed it in that way, but there are three important principles that are repeated two times in verses 4-9. Let me just quickly survey those with you. First, it talks about this matter of sin. If you look at verse 4, John writes, “Whoever commits sin commits lawlessness.” That is what we have been talking about, being above the law. The reason we sin is that we think God's standards and the standards of our government do not apply to us. We don't have to obey those things. That is sin.

If you skip down to verse 8, he says, “He who sins is of the Devil.” So one of those verses describes the nature of sin—lawlessness, selfishness. The other describes the origin of sin—the Devil. The reason that we act on our lawlessness is that Satan uses various methods, which we will talk about in a few minutes, to trick us into adopting his attitude of lawlessness. So these verses talk about sin.

The Solution To Sin

A second thing that these verses talk about and stress two different times is the solution to sin. If you look at verse 5, it says, “He [talking about Jesus Christ] was manifested to take away our sin.” We have this great problem of lawlessness of sin, fueled by the Devil, but Jesus Christ was manifested to take away our sin. The middle part of verse 8 says:

I John 3:

8…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

Two different times in these five verses we have the problem of sin and we have the solution to sin, and then it gives more detail about that solution two different times in these five verses. In verse 6, He says, “Whoever abides in Him does not sin.” We talked about that verse in some detail last week. Then in verse 9, he says:

I John 3:

9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

The source of sin, the solution to sin and then the specifics about that solution are in these verses. The phases here are essential for us to understand the application of this to our lives. First, notice in verse 8, it says, “The devil has sinned from the beginning.” That is talking about the Devil's sin. Then it says that Christ has appeared that He might destroy the works of the Devil. It talks about Satan's sin in the first part of the verse, and Satan's works in the second part of the verse. Those are two separate things, and it is very important that we understand those two separate things in terms of the way those two things affect our lives.

First, I want us to think about the Devil's sin. You notice that John says in verse 8 that “…he sinned from the beginning.” Turn with me to Ezekiel, chapter 28. We don't have the time to go over all of the background of this chapter, so you will have to take my word for it; but God is describing, through the prophet Ezekiel, the sin of Satan. He gives us in this chapter the origin of Satan. Satan was not created as he now is by God. God did not create this evil, wicked creature. He began as he is described in verse 14: “You were the anointed cherub who covered…” In other words, apparently he was the very highest of the angels, the anointed cherub who covered. Notice the rest of the verse:

Ezekiel 28:

14Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

Many Bible scholars believe this is a description of Heaven before the earth was ever created. In the very presence of God, the picture is of that holiness, that glowing, fiery presence of God on His throne in Heaven before the earth as we know it was ever created. He walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. Then in verse 15:

Ezekiel 28:

15Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
16By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

There is the history of Satan, of the Devil. That is how he began as the top angel, the anointed cherub who covered. It refers to him that way two different times. Now turn to the book of Isaiah, chapter 14, where we have the reason. Ezekiel tells us that iniquity was found in him and Isaiah, chapter 14, tells us what that iniquity was. Notice, beginning with verse 12:

Isaiah 14:

12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

Those last verses tell us that the picture that many people have of Satan's ruling in Hell and that for those who do not accept the sacrifice of Christ and wind up going to Hell, there will just be an alternate kingdom in Hell. Satan will not be ruling in Hell throughout eternity. Satan has the power to go today in this era of world history that we are living in and he has for many, many years had the opportunity to go into Heaven, to come on the earth; but when he is cast into Hell, people will be amazed and marvel when they see this lowly creature in Hell, perhaps shriveled up physically, and people will say, “Is this the one who caused kingdoms to crumble? Is this the one who has done all the damage and put people as prisoners to their habits, to their addictions? Is this the one?”

Going back to verse 13, notice the reason for this. Satan who was known as Lucifer originally—highest of the angels—said, “I will be like the Most High.” The sin of Satan was that he was not thankful for that beautiful place of significance in God's program that he had been given. He became lawless, as John refers to it in I John, and he said, “I will be like the Most High.” The description that we have in Isaiah, chapter 14, and Ezekiel, chapter 28, would indicate that he was very much like the Most High already. He was in the throne room of God. He was able to walk back and forth in the throne room of God. Other Scriptures indicate the fact that he perhaps had a built in pipe organ or some kind of beautiful music that he was able to produce. He sang the praises of God. He was like the Most High in many, many ways, so all that he could have meant by saying, “I will be like the Most High,” is what is elaborated on in the next verse: “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.” Not content with the place of importance and glory and honor as a part of God's honor and glory, he said, “I will be above God.” That is the sin of Satan. That is the lawlessness of Satan, and the significant thing about that is that, as we have already seen from God's Word in I John, lawlessness is something that you and I are very easily swayed to do.

Works of Satan

Going back to I John, chapter 3, we want to talk about the Devil's works. The first part of verse 8 talks about his sin. He sinned from the beginning, and the reason that he became that creature we now know as the Devil is that he sinned against God. But out of that sin of Satan comes the Devil's works. The natural result of his attitude of lawlessness is the kind of activity that he has pursued from that day until this. That is important, I say, because verse 4 tells us that lawlessness is something that we can adopt, and it will have the same effect in us that it had in Satan if we are not careful.

In John, chapter 8, Jesus described the works of the Devil. It may be that John, as he wrote this letter that we are looking at, had in mind these things that he heard Jesus say that he recorded in his gospel. Look at verse 44:

John 8:

44Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Jesus said these words to the Pharisees, who were like a lot of Christians and non-Christians today. They put on a great front. They put on a great show of religion. In another place, Jesus said, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” Jesus said to these Pharisees, “The reason you are the way that you are is that you are of your father the Devil.” But the purpose in looking at verse 44 is that in this verse, he summarizes two, at least, of the works of the Devil. He says, “He was a murderer from the beginning,” and then secondly, “He does not stand in the truth. There is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources for he is a liar and the father of it.”

So two of the works of the Devil are lying and murder. Now turn to John, chapter 10. Jesus was talking in John, chapter 10, about Himself. He characterized Himself as The Good Shepherd , and in opposition to The Good Shepherd, down in verse 10, we read:

John 10:

10The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.

Here Jesus adds the third work of the Devil. He mentions one of the ones that we have already talked about, but He mentions here that he is a thief. What this tells us is that all of the works of Satan, and they take many different forms, can be categorized in one of these three ways. He is a liar; he is a murderer; he is a thief. Satan is still practicing those three works and many, many sub-categories of each of those three to this very day. He is a liar; he is a murderer; he is a thief.

Let's think about this for a minute. Satan steals, if he possibly can, blessings that God intended for you and me. God has promised us so many spiritual blessings; so many physical blessings, but just as an example, God has promised us that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, kindness, temperance. God has promised us these things, and Satan tries to steal those things from us. Satan tries to see to it that we do not enjoy that peace and that contentment and that love and that joy, and he has many different ways of doing that, but he tries to steal from us what God has promised for us.

Why is it, do you suppose, that so many Christians do not have that peace that God promised? They don't have that joy that God promised. It is because Satan has enabled them in one degree or another to adopt his attitude of lawlessness. “I don't have to obey God. I don't have to do it God's way.” By getting us to adopt that attitude, he steals from us the joy and peace and other fruits of the Spirit that God will produce in our lives if we would allow Him to be God instead of setting ourselves up as God. Satan steals from us.

Satan murders through warfare and crime and hatred. Many times people say, “How could a loving God allow the kinds of travesties of justice that go on today?” Let me tell you something. God is not responsible for those things. It is Satan who stirs up hatred and warfare. He is the one who crushes and mangles and finds any way that he can to bring murder and mayhem into our society. He brings hatred on a personal level where it may not be physical murder, but many relationships, many marriages, relationships between father and son, mother and daughter and parents and children, Satan has murdered by bringing in hatred and discord and disobedience. He murders. Satan lies to us with human wisdom that sounds so good. Lies like “God helps those who help themselves.” That is something that maybe some of us have claimed. There are people who think that is in the Bible. That is not in the Bible. God helps those who realize they can't help themselves.

Certainly God has given us the ability to do some things. He has given us our minds and He has given us the opportunity to get our minds trained and He has given us the ability to do things and He expects us to be good stewards of that which He has given us. But God, at the same time, expects us to depend on Him. God doesn't help those who help themselves. God blesses those who are good stewards of what He has given them, but God helps those who turn to Him for their accomplishments. A lie of Satan is that God helps those who help themselves.

Another lie is that anybody who is really sincere will get to Heaven. It doesn't really matter what they believe. God said, “I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Satan says, “Oh, as long as anybody is sincere, they will get to Heaven.” God has given to every human being enough information about Himself that if they follow up on that God-consciousness, if they are sincere in wanting to know God, God takes the responsibility of getting the truth about Jesus Christ to them. But God does not put people in Heaven because they were a sincere Buddhist or a sincere Hindu or a sincere anything else. No one comes to the Father but through Christ. Satan says, “Oh, if you are sincere enough, if you go to church often enough, if you will just be religious, everything will be all right and you will get to Heaven.” That is a lie of the Devil.

Satan's biggest lies are summarized in the poem Evictus by William Ernest Henley. When I was in high school, it was a very popular poem that was quoted by valedictorians in their speeches. Very often when people who are graduating from high school or college will quote from this poem which says, “I am the master of my fate. I am the Captain of my soul.” That is a lie of the Devil. Satan lies to us constantly. He murders, he steals, he lies and he finds many, many ways of doing those three things. Those are the works of the Devil. He has been doing those things from the beginning of time. The first human being who was born into the world, Cain, murdered his brother. King David, this man after God's own heart, was influenced to use all three of the works of Satan. He stole his neighbor's beautiful wife. He lied about his purpose in sending Uriah, the husband, into battle, and he murdered Uriah by sending him into the heat of the battle. Ananias and Sapphira, among the first believers in Jesus Christ in the New Testament, lied about some property they had sold and they said they were giving all of the money to God when really they had kept some for themselves. God judged Ananias and Sapphira. God put them to death, not because they kept back some of the money, but because they lied about it. You see, Satan actively pursues getting us in the traps of his work.

If you give in to lawlessness, if you give in to the attitude of Satan, to the sin of Satan, if you give in to that concept that he gave into of “I will be in charge of my life,” he will get you to do his work, just as he has gotten other believers in God, perhaps some smarter than you are. Satan is actively trying to get you to do that. That is the danger that we face.

When we begin to come under the sway of Satan, we often think, “I will just do it this once.” But let me tell you something. It won't be just once. Once we decide, “I'm in charge,” we will discover as Eve did that that thing that God told us not to do is pleasant to the eyes and pleasant to the taste, things to be desired. Someone summarized it by saying, “Sin will take you farther than you meant to go. It will keep you longer than you meant to stay, and it will charge more than you ever wanted to pay.” That is because Satan will get you to do his work. Jesus said, in John, chapter 8, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” Some of us here today know what Jesus meant by that. You can't trifle with sin; you can't play with sin; you can't experiment with sin without its becoming your master.

Solution To Works Of Satan

Go back to I John, chapter 3. The solution to the works of Satan is in the last line of verse 8:

I John 3:

8…For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

That is why Jesus came. He came to give us power over the Devil. Verse 6, which we talked about last week, says that the specifics of that are abiding in Him, being at home in His presence, letting Him be at home in us. Jesus said in John, chapter 10, “If you obey my commandments, you will abide in my love.” We talked about that in great detail last week. Abiding is obeying.

He elaborates then in verse 9. He says:

I John 3:

9Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

In a very summary way, I want to say verse 9 is written in a Greek tense, the present tense, the continuous tense, just as verse 6 was that we talked about last week. What verse 9 is saying is, “He that is born of God does not continually sin.” He does not habitually sin. We will talk more about that next week, but the thing that is important is the promise, “His seed remaineth in him who has been born of God.” If you have trusted Christ as your Savior, God the Holy Spirit has come to live within you, and Jesus said, “I will abide in you.” God Himself lives within you and this promise says, “He will remain in you.” If you have been born of God, you have the power of God to renounce the lawlessness of Satan and to prevent getting caught up in the works of the Devil. Why? Not just because you become stronger and stronger and become able to resist him. Not because you become wiser and wiser and are able to out argue him, no longer susceptible to his lies. No, because God is within us, and He is going to stay within us. As we step by step and day by day call upon His power to resist that lawlessness, to resist those lies of Satan, we can have victory over him.


This matter of the Devil and his power and his activity is no fairy tale. It is not some of that mythological stuff that we read about. It is as real as it can possibly be, and it is kind of old-fashioned to talk about it these days, but you cannot study the Word of God without coming across this truth again and again. This is one of those places where it is made abundantly clear that Satan is alive and out to get you. He will do whatever he can to keep you from doing anything that honors God in any way. But God is out to keep you. God is out to defeat the works of the Devil in your life. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”

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