THE ORTHODOXY OF THE DEVIL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-22-74 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas bringing the message entitled The Orthodoxy of the Devil. Last Sunday we expounded upon the second half of the second chapter of James [James 2:14-26], and the message this morning is a text in the nineteenth verse [James 2:19]: the pastor of the church in Jerusalem, the Lord’s brother James, writing about those who say that they have faith, but they don’t demonstrate it. They are not incarnate in it. They just say it, but it isn’t a part of their life.
So he says, verse 19, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” [James 2:19].
That’s an interesting avowal he makes, “the devils,” daimonia, actually “demons.” There’s just one diabolos, just one devil, just one Lucifer, just one Satan, and he presides over a fallen kingdom of daimonia, demons. And they all, Satan and his legions, they all believe that there is a God, one.
And he uses another expression here that’s very, very forceful. They not only believe, but they phrissousin. It’s the only place the word is used in the Bible, phrissousin. That is an exact word as you have in Latin, horrēre. And when we take the Latin word in English, we spell it “horror,” horror. The Greek word is phrissō, and plural here, phrissousin. Both words, whether in Greek or in Latin, means “standing straight up.” And it refers to a man’s hair when he is frightened out of his wits and his hair stands straight up. Now the word refers to a hair standing straight up out of terror. And that is the word that is used here, translated, “tremble, quaking,” here, but actually means “extreme fear.” The devils believe and, knowing what is true, they are terrified. They are horrified. They are in extreme and agonizing fear.
You’d think—if I could just make a comment in passing—you’d think that they’d change. Isn’t that a strange thing about evil? You’d think with all of the agony that people who live criminal lives go through, you’d think that they’d change.
You all are too young to remember Dillinger, but I don’t suppose there ever lived a man who ever went through so many horrors. He even had the tips of his fingers cut off in order to destroy the identifying marks of his fingerprints. He lived a life of horror and yet he was more criminal every day that he lived.
Why doesn’t he change? Why doesn’t the devil change? Or maybe I should say, “Why don’t we change?” Somehow it just doesn’t work that way. And that leads me to the sermon of orthodoxy and change, regeneration, salvation. It is necessary that we be able to distinguish between the devils and the saints. Pragmatically it is very vital to us in the house of God. A church is an ekklēsia, and ek kaleō, a called-out, redeemed people of the Lord. And that means if they are called out, they are separated from somebody. And it is necessary that we be able to distinguish in that separation.
Now I’m not saying something that I just thought of. Jesus taught us that. In the seventh chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord said, “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? By their works ye shall know them” [Matthew 7:16, 20].
Now a pastor who was saying something about his members and about the work and their assignments, a man said to him, “Pastor, you’re judging and you ought not to judge.”
And the pastor replied, “I’m not judging. I’m just fruit inspecting.”
And that is what we have to do in the church in the choice of your teachers and your deacons and your leaders. There has to be that decision made, a distinction between the devils and the saints.
Not only did Jesus teach us that, but the apostle Paul enforced it. In the sixth chapter of the 2 Corinthian letter, Paul writes:
Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers . . . for what communion hath light with darkness? . . .
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord…
And I will be to you a Father, and you will be to Me a son.
[2 Corinthians 6:14, 17, 18]
The distinction between the devils and the saints—now, sometimes that distinction is very patent, it’s easy to make. For example, in 1 John the apostle writes, “They went out from us, because they were not of us; for had they had been of us, they would not have gone out from us; but they went out from us, that it might be made manifest that they are not of us” [1 John 2:19].
Now that’s very plain and very simple. People that are not regenerated, they’re not Christians, they soon fall away. They go back into the world. And when that happens, it is manifest the difference between the child of God and the child of unbelief. But it’s not always that way. Sometimes the line, the distinction, the demarcation between the devils and the saints turns gray and you don’t know. And it’s hard to make that distinguishment.
Do you remember in the eighth chapter of the Book of Acts, when Philip was in Samaria and had that tremendous revival meeting [Acts 8:5-13], and there came down Peter and John? [Acts 8:14]. And when Simon Magus who was—the Bible says he believed and he was baptized—when Simon Magus saw the wonderful miraculous works wrought under the hand of Simon Peter by the gift of the Holy Spirit, Simon Magus sought to buy the gift of the Spirit with money [Acts 8:18-19]. That’s where you get the word “simony.” Simony refers to buying places in the church with money, in the days when they would sell the office of a bishop or auction the office of a cardinal—simony, buying preferment, ecclesiastical prelates, with money.
Well, when that happened, Simon Peter turned to Simon Magus and said words of denunciation that are bitter indeed [Acts 8:20-23]. You didn’t know that until the man came forward trying to buy the Holy Spirit with filthy lucre. You just don’t know. And that is exactly what it is with the devil. It’s hard to know the devil from the saint.
In the eleventh chapter of the second Corinthian letter, Satan is called an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14]. And it’s hard to distinguish him. Anytime you see the devil depicted as with red suit and horns and a forked tail and a pitchfork, that’s a caricature. He likes that because he hides his face, what he actually is, by what you think he is.
He’s not that way at all. He is described as an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14]. He is brilliant. He scintillates. He shines. He is attractive. He is persuasive, and he is orthodox! He is doctrinally correct.
Down the aisle walks Mr. Devil, and he shakes hands with the pastor, and he says to the pastor, “I want to join the First Baptist Church in Dallas. It’s a great a great congregation, and I want to belong to it. So I want to join the First Baptist Church in Dallas.”
So I say, “Well, this is amazing! This is surprising. The devil wants to join the church.”
“Well, let me ask you some questions first,” and listen to his brilliant testimony.
I ask, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?”
“I certainly do. I certainly do. Why,” says the devil, “you got me down wrong in that fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew that you read just now. I heard you read it just now. You got me down wrong. It says there as you read it, ‘If You are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread [Matthew 4:3]. If You are the Son of God, You cast yourself down from the pinnacle’ [Matthew 4:5-6].
“And you make it a conditional. You make it a subjunctive. It’s not. It’s indicative. What I said was—and what is written there in the Book if you would just translate it correctly—‘Since You are the Son of God, make these stones into bread. Since You are the Son of God, You throw Yourself down.’
“No,” says the devil, “they wrote me down wrong there. I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I’ve known Him from before the foundation of the world. I knew Him in heaven. I knew Him before He was incarnate. I certainly believe that He is the Son of God.”
“Well, do you believe He is born of a virgin?”
“I certainly do. I saw the angel make the glorious announcement to the Virgin Mary [Luke 1:26-38], and I was there in Bethlehem when He was born [Luke 2:1-11]. I saw the star [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11]. And I heard the angels sing [Luke 2:13-14]. I believe in the virgin birth” [Matthew 1:20-25]—a whole lot more than a whole lot of these half infidels who preach the gospel in some of these places. He [Satan] believes. “I certainly do” [Matthew 1:20-25].
So I say, “Do you believe Jesus died on the cross?” [Matthew 27:32-50].
“Yes, sir, I was there.”
“Well, do you believe that He was raised from the dead?” [Matthew 28:5-7].
“Yes, sir, I was there. I saw the stone rolled away [Matthew 28:2]. I saw the Roman seal broken [Matthew 27:66]. I saw Him step out. I was there.”
“Well, do you believe that He is coming again?” [John 14:2-3; Acts 1:11, Revelation 1:7].
“I do. The apostle John wrote of me in the Apocalypse that I had a short time [Revelation 12:12]. I believe.”
“Well, we are a Baptist church. Do you believe in being baptized? [Matthew 28:18-19]. Do you believe in immersion?”
“I certainly do. I was down there at the Jordan River, and I saw John the Baptist baptize Jesus, not with a cup of water, or a glass, or a lily. I saw him baptize Him in the river [Luke 3:21-22]. He was down there where he had lots of water [John 3:23]. I certainly do. I’ll make you a good Baptist,” says the devil. “I’ll make you a good one.”
“Well, I have just one another question to ask you, Mr. Devil. You say you want to join this church. Will you come? Will you be present?”
“Oh,” he says, “I’ll be there every service. I won’t miss a one. I’ll stand right beside of the pastor. In fact, I’ll join the choir; in fact, I’ll get into the members themselves. I’d be a good deacon for you. I’d go to all the deacons’ meetings. I won’t miss a one. I’ll be right there.”
Well, with a testimony like that, one of the men, “I make a motion that we take him in.”
“I second the motion.”
“All of you in favor say ‘Aye’ and hold up your hand. Amen. It’s unanimous. That’s all of us.”
We’ve got him in the church. He’s here, just as orthodox as he can be; believes every one of the things, every article of faith. He doesn’t doubt any of it. Dr. Estes in his prayer thanked God for a pastor that believes the Bible is true, the whole Word of God.
“Man,” the devil would say, “I believe it too; just right, every miracle. I believe in every miracle. I believe Jonah was swallowed by a whale [Jonah 1:17]. I believe all of it.”
We just have one, one other question to ask you, just one other. “Satan, you have walked up and down the earth oversowing God’s field, tares everywhere [Matthew 13:25], tears from broken hearts, children that you have afflicted, homes you have destroyed, lives that you have ruined. Satan, have you repented? Have you turned? Have you changed, and do you open your heart to accept Jesus as your Savior, and do you bow down and worship Him as the Lord of life? Do you? Will you?”
“Oh! Oh, that is something else!”
And that’s the sermon this morning.
“If any man—if anyone—be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; and all things are become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. That’s what it is. When a man is regenerated, when he is saved, when he’s born again [John 3:3-7], he has a new heart, a new disposition, a new love, a new life, a new vision, a new hope. He is somebody else! That’s what it is.
You can’t have the Christian faith without that change of life, that new and holy disposition. That’s what it is. Just as you cannot have rain without water, that’s what it is. Just as you cannot have the sun without energy and light and heat, that’s what it is. Just as you cannot have steel without iron, that’s what it is. Just as you cannot have matter without elements, that’s what it is. Just as you cannot have a man without a soul in him, that’s what he is, a living soul [Genesis 2:7].
So it is you cannot have a regenerated, redeemed child of God without a new disposition, a new heart, a new love, a new commitment, a new God-wardness, Christ-wardness, heavenwardness in his life. That’s what it is. Now that would mean; without that holy disposition, that commitment to Christ, regeneration and salvation is impossible. That’s what it is. We may have many different kinds of experiences, but without that, it is not real. It’s not genuine. It’s not true. A man can have an intellectual assent and be very readily assent-able in his attitude toward the Christian faith. He can believe every article of the doctrine, all of it. “I just accept it all. I accept this as the Word of God. I believe all these miracles came to pass, and I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe this is the Word of the Lord.”
You can intellectually assent to it, but you can be in that assent just like the devil himself. He also assents to it. A man can be intellectual in his approach to God, very intellectual. Some of the most intellectual professors in the earth are men trained in theology, all through the centuries. But they’re not saved. They’re not regenerated. They don’t know Him as Christ the Lord, the Savior, the Redeemer. It is something other than intellectual assent. That’s what the devil does, but he’s not saved.
We can have a social experience in the circle of the church, be pulled into it in a social way through friends or through family members. In the sixth chapter of the Book of John, the Lord said to that multitude that was following Him, “You are following Me. . . because you ate of the loaves, and were filled” [John 6:26].
Over there in the Orient, they have what they call “rice Christians.” They come to the church and they associate themselves with the church because they eat from the hands of the missionaries.
We can be pulled into the orbit of the church socially. We join it because of the family, or because of friendship, or for some other reason.
Another way that we can have an experience in this is emotionally. I’m the last one in the world to discount feeling in religion. I think when you take emotion out of religion you wring it dry like a potsherd. If you take emotion out of human life, we become clods, and it is because we have taken emotion out of religion that you see some things happening today.
Here’s one thing, that they find their emotional responses and happinesses outside of the church. They’ll go to a cheap picture show and just cry over some sorry melodrama, or they’ll go to the Cotton Bowl and just holler their lungs out, or they go somewhere and they never express themselves.
I’ll tell you another thing that comes out of the drying of emotion in religion, that’s the charismatic movement. The charismatic movement, what you call the charismatic movement, is nothing in the earth but a response of people against the dry ritual that they find in the church. Their hearts are hungry, their lives are hungry, and God made us this way.
Love is an emotion as well as a dedication. Patriotism is an emotion. The great moving forces we know in life are emotional, and yet it is not just emotional. It is something more and beside.
On Sunday when the Lord went into Jerusalem in the triumphal entry, the people shouted, “Hosanna to God! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the Son of David!” And they took off their garments and put them on the street where the animal could walk over, and they took palm branches and placed them in front of the Lord as He entered, and they waved the palm branches in the air [Matthew 21:8-9; Mark 11:8-10]. They were emotionally ‘up’ that day. And you know, those were the same people, they were the same people that the following Friday before the courthouse of Pontius Pilate cried, “Crucify Him! Away with Him! It isn’t fit that such a man walk on the face of the earth!” [John 19:15].
Emotions are like this and that; they go up and down. And if you ever tie your religious faith to an emotion, it will drag you to death. One day you’ll say, “Oh glory, I’m saved. I can just hear the angels sing. I can just see the courts of heaven. Oh glory, I’m saved!”
And the next day, you say, “You know, I wasn’t really regenerated. I’m self-deceived. I don’t really know the Lord. I’m not a Christian,” because the feeling has ebbed, and all feelings rise and fall, they rise and fall. All feeling is that way, all of it.
Love is that way. A man said, “You know, one day I love my wife so much I could eat her up. And the next day, I wished I had done it.”
That’s just typical, typical. You are not going to stay way up high upon anything. It just doesn’t stay that way. It rises and falls; that is, if you are normal, you’re normal. If you stay down all the time, you’re afflicted with melancholia. If you’re up all the time, you’re an idiot. If you’re normal, you go up and down, up and down, up and down, up and down. It is not an emotional experience, nor is it a reformational experience.
In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Matthew, our Lord tells a little parabolic story here that is pungent, and cogent, and dynamic, and true. He says there is a man that had an unclean spirit, and the unclean spirit was pushed out of him, cast out of him. And the unclean spirit went around trying to find rest and could not, came back and looked in that man’s heart and it was empty, swept, and garnished. Then he goeth—”he, and taketh seven other spirits worse than himself,” comes back, dwells in that man, and the last state is worse than the first [Matthew 12: 43-45].
Here’s a man that has an unclean spirit. He is full of lust, or he is full of cursing, or volitive badness, and he gets drunk and oh, whatever. And then he says, “I’m going to do better.” And the first day of January, New Year’s resolution, he casts out those evil spirits in his heart. He’s not going to cuss any more. He’s not going to lie anymore. He’s not going to be bad anymore. He’s going to be good. And for a while he just does fine, through the fifteenth of January, and maybe the first of February.
Then after that he goes back into that old life and he was worse than he ever was. Why? Because he wasn’t regenerated. His heart was empty. Reformation; he reformed, but he didn’t fill his heart with the Spirit of God, and all those evil spirits came back, and he was worse than he ever was. It is not reformation.
Well, if it is not intellectual, if I just don’t be-smart my way into the kingdom of God, if I can’t assent into the doctrines and be saved; and if it’s not social, if I can’t just come down here and break bread with the people of the Lord; and if it is not emotional, if I don’t get high; and then if I don’t get into the kingdom by reforming: “I’m going to do better; I’m going to quit cussing, and lying, and drinking, and carousing, I’m going to do better”—if it’s not that, then what is it?
The Bible surely is plain in that, plain in that. The apostle Paul, describing his ministry in the Asian city of Ephesus, said in Acts 20:21, “By the space of three years with tears [Acts 20:31], publicly and from house to house pleading”—and this is it—”repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” [Acts 20:31, 20-21].
What is the Christian faith? What is redemption? What is regeneration? What is it to be saved? What is salvation? It is this. “In my heart of hearts, I turn. I turn. I’ve been going this way, [but now] I’m going this way. I’ve been going this way, [but now] I’m going this way.”
It is a turning. Repentance means exactly, metanoeō, a change of mind, a change of direction. It is a turning. I now face God-ward, and heavenward, and homeward, and Christ-ward. It is a turning. Just like Naaman driving his chariot away in a fury [2 Kings 5:9-11], and a servant put his hand on the hand of his lord and said, “My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great and mighty thing, like conquering a nation, or like buying it with five million tons of gold, wouldn’t you have done it? How much rather then, when he saith just, Wash, and be clean?” [2 Kings 5:13].
And Naaman drew up those fiery steeds, and turned them around, and went down into the waters of the muddy Jordan and bathed, dipped himself. The Greek says baptizō. He baptized himself seven times. And when he came up the seventh time, “behold his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” [2 Kings 5:14].
It’s a turning. That’s first. It’s a turning. It is an acceptance of Christ as Savior. It is an opening of the heart, the life, the soul to the blessedness of Jesus. It is a bowing down before our Lord.
“I accept Him for all that He said He was. I believe He is able to do all that He promised. I even believe He could raise me from the dead. Though I die, yet in my flesh shall I see God. I believe He will stand by me in the hour of my death. I believe He will be my lawyer, my mediator, my counsel, my pleader in the day of judgment. I believe He is able to forgive me all of my sins and to see me through” [Mark 2:10]. That makes you a Christian, a child of God, a member of the household of God’s saints.
Our time is spent. We must sing our hymn of appeal now. And while we sing it, to decide for Christ in your heart [Romans 10:8-13], to put your life with God’s people in this precious church, make the decision now [Hebrews 10:24-25]. And in a moment when we stand to sing, walk down one of these stairwells at the front or the back—if you’re on this lower floor, down one of these aisles. “Here I am, pastor. Here I come. I make it now. I’ve given my heart to Jesus,” or, “I’m putting my life in this church,” and welcome. Angels attend you in the way while you come, as we stand and as we sing.