Does Satan Know the Bible? Does Satan Twist The Bible? #179
Hello friends and Happy Wednesday to you! I hope you are staying safe out there – it seems like the danger level around us is increasing day by day. I am grateful that God is our refuge and an ever-present help in a time of need.
Today’s passages are Deuteronomy 29, Psalms 119:49-72, Isaiah 56, and Matthew 4, our focus passage. A word or two should be said about Isaiah 56. There is a wonderful promise made in that passage to foreigners, and lest you should forget – if you weren’t born in Israel, then you are a foreigner in the eyes of the Old Testament! Here is the promise:
No foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord
“The Lord will exclude me from his people,”
and the eunuch should not say,
“Look, I am a dried-up tree.”
4 For the Lord says this:
“For the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
and choose what pleases me,
and hold firmly to my covenant,
5 I will give them, in my house and within my walls,
a memorial and a name
better than sons and daughters.
I will give each of them an everlasting name
that will never be cut off.
6 As for the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to become his servants—
all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
and who hold firmly to my covenant—
7 I will bring them to my holy mountain
and let them rejoice in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house will be called a house of prayer
for all nations.”
Our focus question is inspired by the Scripture duel that Jesus and Satan have during the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. It needs to be seen clearly that Satan is using Scripture against the son of God – the Word made flesh. If he has the temerity and audacity to try that tactic with Jesus, we should be very sure that he will try it with us too. Let’s read Matthew 4 and see how the enemy twists the Word.
So – we see quite clearly here that Satan himself knows the Word, isn’t afraid to speak the Word, and will use it in a deceptive and misleading way. False teachers will do the same, and 2nd Peter tells us that others will as well:
15 Also, regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our dear brother Paul has written to you according to the wisdom given to him. 16 He speaks about these things in all his letters. There are some things hard to understand in them. The untaught and unstable will twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.
2nd Peter 2:15-16
So – people will twist the Scripture, and doing such a thing is so dangerous that it could actually lead to destruction. When I think about how the Word of God can be twisted, I think of a few possible ways it could happen:
#1 – Ignore the Scripture:
Probably the most obvious way to twist the Scripture is to absolutely ignore it. Those who might wish to divorce their wife and marry somebody they like more might want to just ignore the Scriptures that forbid such a practice and join up with a church that ignores such Scriptures too. This is a head-in-the-sand kind of approach that just ignores anything that God’s Word says that is contrary to a person’s desire.
Proverbs 8:33, “Listen to instruction and be wise; don’t ignore it.”
#2 – Pick and Choose in the Scripture/Cherry-picking:
This is pretty much a sub-set of #1 – where a person picks one or a few Scriptures that seem to be back up their perspective and completely ignores other Scripture. For instance, the whole thought of, “God won’t judge me for doing this, because He is patient and kind and wants me to be happy!” We need the whole counsel of God – not just a small portion. This is the basic attack that satan attempted to use against Jesus. He ignored the command to not put God to the test, and urged Jesus to do just that very thing by quoting a Scripture that ensured that Jesus would be protected by God.
Matthew 23:23-24 23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. 24 Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel!
I have also seen people cherry-pick in regards to how the Bible describes the character of God, recently having seen more than one friend of social media completely dismiss the idea that God could ever judge or punish people because He is a God of mercy, not punishment. Yes! God is a God of mercy, but He is also a God of justice – He is both, and we will fail to see the character of God clearly if we ignore parts of how the Bible describes Him.
#3 – Reinterpret the Scripture. Examples of this sort of twisting of the Word abound in church history, and proliferate today. The Bible clearly forbids a certain thing, but some will seek to justify their doing of such a thing by saying something like, “What Paul really meant was…” Or Jesus wasn’t talking about that thing that He is clearly saying, but some other thing that isn’t relevant to me. The Word says what it says, and we must deal with it in that way. Yes there are passages that are difficult to understand, but honestly the vast majority of the controversial truths that many people struggle with in the Bible aren’t difficult to understand at all – they are quite clear…some just don’t like what they have to say.
Why would Satan and false teachers seek to twist the Word of God? Because it is so important and central to our life in Christ. Here is John Piper discussing this:
…The Bible stands at the center of Christian life. It is why this pulpit is at the center of the front and is lifted up. For we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God—that it stands before us as our guide, and over us as our judge, and under us as the rock of our hope. John Wesley wrote in the preface of his Standard Sermons: “I am a spirit come from God and returning to God; just hovering over a great gulf; ‘til a few moments hence I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing—the way to heaven … He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri (a man of one book).” O that we might be a people of the book. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers, but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1). The apostles are united with each other and with the Old Testament in one great inspired book of God. The more you read it, the more you will see with the eyes of God
John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).
And this is Tim Keller talking about the modernist and postmodernist tendency to reinterpret and twist the Word:
When somebody tries to reinterpret Christianity and says, “Ah, we need to stress the commonalities. We need to stress the fact we all have the love ethic. Let’s not talk about the resurrection, the miracles, and those sorts of things.” That is not a more liberal kind of Christianity. That’s not a more enlightened kind of Christianity. That’s a fundamental change in the very nature of the message.
It’s moving from being a witness to being a philosophy. It’s unfair. The resurrection proves and shows the character of our message. By the way, we see what Peter is saying. What Peter is saying is, “I saw this. I ran into the tomb, and I saw the grave clothes but no body. Then later I saw him myself. He came through doors that were locked, yet he ate a fish. I spoke to him. I saw him.”
Now the dam has burst. That’s not philosophy. That’s not a commonality. It’s either right, or it’s wrong. That’s the nature. Do you know what’s great? In a pluralistic society … Christianity does so well, because Christianity is about truth, about reasoning, about evidence. It’s about using your brain. Christians say, “Don’t believe this because that’s your people, that’s your nationality. Believe it because it’s true, and here’s why.”
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
And finally, here’s John Piper, discussing the twisting of the Word in relation to the core of Christianity – the resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:14b: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” Or, as it says in verse 17a: “Your faith is worthless.” Your faith is empty and useless, if Christ is not raised. It’s not going to do you any good. One wonders, What did they have faith in—what was their faith—if they didn’t believe Jesus was raised from the dead? Well, he doesn’t tell us. But these were savvy, philosophical, cosmopolitan folks who didn’t like the idea of believing anything as literal and physical as the actual resurrection of Jesus’ body from the dead and, later, the resurrection of our bodies with him.
Perhaps they were like many more liberal “Christians” today. Perhaps their faith was that Jesus was a great teacher, or that he was a good example of the way of love and that the stories of his resurrection are simply symbols pointing to the triumph of the human spirit, or that his influence lives on after him. In other words these folks in Corinth had not said: this resurrection business is all a myth so we reject it. They had said: this resurrection business is all a myth and so we reinterpret it. It’s just a symbol of God’s love and the indomitable power of the human spirit, or, perhaps, the divine world-force.
Paul’s response to this was to say, If Christ has not been raised, your faith is empty. That kind of faith has no substance. It’s worthless in the end. It profits nothing.
John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2014).