THE ORTHODOXY OF THE DEVIL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-22-74 8:15 a.m.
And you who are sharing the service with us on radio, thank you for your prayers and your listening ear. The subject this morning is The Orthodoxy of the Devil, and it is from a text in a passage in the second chapter of the Book of James.
In the context, the pastor of the church in Jerusalem is talking about faith and works; that our faith is demonstrated by our works [James 2:17]. And that was our exposition of the text last Lord’s Day. And as the author speaks of our works, which are a confirmation of the commitment of our lives to the Lord [James 2:22], he says a little sentence that is full of meaning: “Thou believest that there is one God.” This is verse 19 in chapter 2, “thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” [James 2:19]. What an interesting observation.
The daimōnia, translated almost always in the King James Version as “devil,” there is just one diabolos; there is just one Satan. There is just one Lucifer. But his demons are legion, so the word actually is “the demons,” presided over by the devil. “They believe” [James 2:19]. They are very orthodox; “and they phrisso,” phrissō. That is the only time in the Bible that word is used, phrissō, phrissō.
It is an exact of what the Latin is, harero, and the word literally means “to stand up, to stiffen, to stick up.” And it comes from the apparent feeling that all of us have when we are scared to death: our hair stands up. So the word meaning “your hair standing up” was the word that the Latin’s call harero and we have the word “horror, horrified.” The Greek is phrissō, phrissō, meaning the same thing, “your hair is standing up” and refers, of course, to abject and horrified fear. The word is translated here, tremble, “the demons also believe and tremble” [James 2:19]. But it is a far stronger imagery than just quake or tremble. It is a horrible fear, “They believe and are horrified in abject fear” [James 2:19].
Well, isn’t that a strange thing that the devils do that and remain devils? It is necessary that we distinguish between the devils and the saints: God’s redeemed and those who reject the Lord’s mercies. Jesus Himself took time out to explain how to do that. He said, in the seventh chapter of Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount, He said, “Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles? Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them” [Matthew 7:16, 20]. We’re not to judge one another concerning our salvation, whether we’re really redeemed or not, that’s in God’s hands. But we certainly can look at the life of those who profess to be committed to God to see whether it is genuine or not.
When a pastor was being regaled for saying things about some of his members, one of the members said, “But you shouldn’t judge.” And he said, “I’m not judging, I’m just fruit inspecting” [Matthew 7:20]. So the Lord taught us that it is right and good and smart to look at the people, how they do and how they work. And the apostle Paul certainly emphasized that. Paul said:
Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers. . .for what communion hath light with darkness?
Wherefore, He saith, Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord. . .
And I will be to you as a Father, and you will be to Me as a son.
[2 Corinthians 6:14, 17, 18]
Now I would judge from that, that it is necessary for us to distinguish between the devils and the saints in electing men to office, in choosing leadership in the church, choosing a Sunday school teacher—oh, in every area of church life. I would suppose, from the teaching of the Bible, it is necessary for us to distinguish between the devil and the saint. Now in many instances that is very easy, very easy. You’d have no trouble with it at all.
In the First Epistle of John, the second chapter, John says, and I quote now:
They went out from us because they were not of us;
for had they been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us:
but they went out from us, that it might be made manifest that they were not of us
[1 John 2:19]
Now in many instances, and he’s referring to one: that distinguishment between, that discerning between the devils and the saints, is very evident. They just separate themselves [1 John 2:19]. And mostly that’s true: the man who is not regenerated will not stay. Give him just a little while, and he’ll go back into the world from whence he came. But that’s not always true: there are many instances where it is difficult to distinguish between the devil and the saint.
Do you remember in the Book of Acts, in Philip’s revival in Samaria [Acts 8:5], there was a man named Simon Magus? And it says he believed, and it says he was baptized [Acts 8:13]. And then when he saw the marvelous works of Simon Peter and John, when they came down to Samaria to look at those who were converted, why, he sought to buy the gifts of the Holy Spirit with money [Acts 8:17-19]. Then follows the awesome condemnation by the apostle Simon Peter [Acts 8:20-23]. How would you know that he was that way? He believed like all the rest of them, He was baptized like all the rest of them, but he was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And the denunciation, the words that Simon Peter uses are heavy in castigation [Acts 8:20-23]. Well, that’s the devil.
The apostle Paul says, in the eleventh chapter of 2 Corinthians, that, “He is an angel of light” [2 Corinthians 11:14]. How do you distinguish him? Well, let’s look at him. He comes down the aisle here at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and he shakes the hand of the pastor, and he says, “I want to join the church.” So we listen to his testimony, and it is brilliant. We ask him, “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God?” And he replies, “Listen, I knew that before the worlds were made. I was with Him in glory [Ezekiel 28:13-14]. And they’ve got it down wrong concerning me in the fourth chapter of the Book of Matthew that you all just read. They have got that down wrong. They write that as though it were a subjunctive, ‘If You are the Son of God, make these stones bread [Matthew 4:3]. If You are the Son of God,’ cast yourself down’ [Matthew 4:6]. ‘If You are the Son of God’; they got that down wrong,” says Satan to the pastor. “They got that down wrong. That’s an indicative. What I said was, and what is written there is: ‘Since You are the Son of God, do this, because it would be easy for You to do it; since You are the Son of God, cast Yourself down from this pinnacle, and the angels will bear You up’ [Matthew 4:5-6]. They got it down wrong. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I have known Him ever since the foundation of the world.”
Man that’s great, that’s great. He believes that Jesus is the Son of God! “Well do you believe in the virgin birth?” [Matthew 1:23].
“I do, I do. I saw the holy angel announce the glorious good news to the virgin Mary [Luke 1:26-35]. And I was there in Bethlehem when He was born [Luke 2:1-7]; I saw the star shine [Matthew 2:9], and I heard the angels sing [Luke 2:12-13]. I believe that Jesus was born of a virgin.”
“Well, do you believe that He died on the cross, that He was crucified?” [Matthew 27:32-50].
“I do,” says Satan. “I was there. I saw Him suffer. I heard all of those who paraded before Him, mocking and casting His words into His teeth. I believe it.”
“Well, do you believe that He was raised from the dead?”
“I do, I was there. I saw the stone rolled away. I saw the Roman seal broken [Matthew 27:63-66], and I saw Him come forth. I believe He was raised from the dead.”
“Well do you believe that He is coming again?” [Acts 1:10].
“I do. Even the apostle John in the Apocalypse wrote that my time was short [Revelation 12:12]. I believe that He is coming from heaven down to earth again. I believe it.”
“Well, about your being a Baptist, do you believe that Jesus was baptized?” [Matthew 3:13-17].
“I do. I was there. I saw Him baptized by John the Baptist in the River Jordan [John 3:23]. John had to have lots of water. He couldn’t baptize in a tea cup or a little glass or out of a lily, he had to have lots of water. He was down there in the river, I saw Him baptized.”
Man he is talking like a good Baptist! “Well, just one other question; will you come to church every Sunday?”
“Man, will I! I’ll be there right by the side of the preacher; I’ll stand right by his side. I’ll be right there. I’ll be in the choir. I’ll be in some of the members. I’ll be there every Sunday, you can count on me. Count on me.”
Why, it’s just marvelous what he says, it’s just wonderful what he says! So we present him, “an angel of light” [2 Corinthians 11:14], and he stands up there absolutely orthodox. A lot of these folks out here, they don’t believe that. A lot of these theologians over there, they don’t believe that. And a lot of these other folks, they don’t believe that, but not the devil; he believes every syllable of it. He is as orthodox, as straight doctrinally as you could ever ask for.
So he stands down here and he wants to join the church, and after that brilliant testimony, why, one of the deacons says, “I make a motion we take him in.” Another deacon says, “I second that motion.” All of you that are in favor of taking him in to the church, why, would you raise your hand? And that’s all of us.
That’s the devil, that’s the devil. Well, what’s the matter? This is the matter. This is the matter: “Satan, I have just one other question to ask, just one other, just one. You believe everything. You believe in God. You believe that Jesus is the Son of God. You believe in His birth. You believe in His death. You believe in His resurrection. You believe in His coming again, and you will be here at every service. Now I have just one other question to ask. You just think of the oversowing you have done in God’s field, the tares [Matthew 13:24-25]. You think of the tears that you’ve wrung from broken hearts. You think of the children you have afflicted and the sorrows you brought into the world. You think of the waste and the hurt from your hands. Satan, we have one question to ask: is it in your heart to turn? In the Bible you call it ‘repent.’ Is it in your heart to turn and to bow down before the Lord and accept Him as Savior in the forgiveness of sins? [Ephesians 1:7]. Will you do that?”
That is why he’s a devil. He’s still the same. He doesn’t change on the inside. The outside is just fine. He’s an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14], but the inside? He doesn’t change. He’s like a beautiful sepulcher, full of dead men’s bones [Matthew 23:27].
The apostle said, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away; all things are become new” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. That’s what it is to be a Christian, it’s to be changed. It’s to be a new creation on the inside. It’s to be different. That’s what it is and without that, it isn’t that.
You can’t have rain without water, that’s what it is! You can’t have the sun without energy and light and heat, that’s what it is. You can’t have gravity without pull, that’s what it is. You can’t have steel without iron, that’s what it is. You can’t have matter without elements, that’s what it is. And you can’t have the Christian life without a new heart, one that is turned toward God, that’s what it is [2 Corinthians 5:17].
So may I expatiate upon that for just a minute, that the heart of the Christian life is the change? The very substance of the faith is the new creation. The very woof and warp of the Christian faith is the devoted, devout, consecrated life to God, that’s what it is. That’s what it is [Ephesians 6:6-8].
So when I look at the Christian faith and at the Christian life, I see several things about it. First: what it is not: it is not intellectual ascent, never. I may ascent to everything that the Bible says, all of it. I believe that those miracles were wrought by Moses, by Elijah, by Jesus, by the apostles; I don’t doubt it at all. I even believe that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, I believe it all. Intellectually, I accept it all.
And I believe everything that the Bible testifies about Jesus. I believe that He lived [Revelation 1:18; John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16]. I believe that He died [Matthew 27:50; 1 Corinthians 15:3]. I believe that He is coming again [Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7]. Intellectually, I believe it all. So do the devils! There’s not anything about it that they doubt. But salvation is more than intellectual assent [James 2:19].
Second: it is more than social custom and tradition and even social liking. You could even associate with God’s people and like them and still not be regenerated. In the Bible, in the sixth chapter of the Book of John, there was a great multitude following Jesus. And the Lord said, “You know why you are following Me? Because you ate of the loaves, and were filled” [John 6:26].
Over there in the Orient, they have an expression. There are many, many people who follow the missionary and who even belong to the church, and they’re called “rice Christians.” They’re just socially amalgamated with them. They just are there, and they like to eat with them, and they like what is brought to them. “They ate of the loaves, and were filled and so followed the Lord” [John 6:26], it is not social.
It is not emotional. Now, I don’t deny that there is a concomitant of emotion in religious faith. I don’t think a man can give his life to Jesus and not feel it. And I don’t think he could serve God and not have something happen to him in his heart while he did it, but it is not that; it is not emotion.
Do you remember in the story of Jesus when He came into the royal city in the royal entry? Do you remember the crowd shouted, “Hosanna, blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord? Blessed is the Son of David [Matthew 21:9]. Blessed is the coming kingdom.” And they took their garments and put it in front of the little animal on which He rode [Mark 11:8-10]. And they put palm branches, and they waved them [John 12:13]. That is the same crowd that a few days later, before the palace of Pilate, shouted, “Crucify Him! Do away with Him! [John 19:15]. It’s not fit that such a one live on the face of the earth.” It is not emotion; you tie your religion to emotion, and it’ll drag you to death.
One day you will say, “Pastor, O Lord, am I saved. I hear the angels sing. I can just see the saints in heaven, am I saved!” And then the next day, when the feeling maybe has subsided, “I don’t think I’m really saved. I have been mistaken. I have been deceived. I’m not really regenerated.” It is not emotion.
Nor is it reformational. In the twelfth chapter of the Book of Matthew, the Lord tells a story that is, oh, how illustrative! He says: the unclean spirit went out of a man. And he said, “I am going back into that man,” and he came to his heart and found it empty, swept and garnished. “So he goeth out and gets seven other spirits more evil than himself, and [they] come back and dwell in that man. And the last state of him is worse than the first” [Matthew 12:43-45]. It is not reformational.
Here’s a man who says, “You know I’m going to cut out that cussing, and I’m going to cut out that drinking, and I’m going to cut out that whoremongering, and I’m going to cut out that vile living, and I’m going to cut out this lying and cheating, and I’m going to live a new life.” So the first day of January, when they make resolutions, why, here he is. He starts out anew, why, it isn’t any time until he’s back as he was, just worse than ever. He was just reformed; there wasn’t anything in his heart. No Holy Spirit came into his heart to live. That evil spirit came back into his heart and looked in him and he found his heart empty, swept, and garnished [Matthew 12:43-44]. It’s not reformational.
Well, what is it then, this thing of being regenerated? What is it that the devil doesn’t do? What is it that the devil doesn’t have? What is it that he’s not like? Why, it’s very simple, and as I present it you can see it plainly. The apostle Paul said, in Acts 20:21, that, in the Ephesian city of Asia, “he preached repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is what it is to be saved, to be a child of God: it is one, for us, a turning [Matthew 3:8; Mark 1:15]. “I’ve been going down that way, I’m going to turn around and go this way. I’ve been walking away from the Lord; I’m going to walk toward Him. My face has been toward the earth, I’m going to set my affections now upon things above. I’ve been going in that direction, I’m going to turn around and go in this direction. I’m going to turn my life heavenward and God-ward and Christ-ward.” It is a turning. “I’m going to forsake my sins. I’m going to ask God to forgive me my sins. And I’m going to come into the presence of the Lord as a penitent. I am turning, this day I look God-ward.”
And the other is, “And I open my heart to the presence of Jesus in my life [Revelation 3:20]. I’m going to pray to Him. I’m going to offer Him my heart. I’m going to seek His face, and if He will give me help, I’m going to do His will. I bow down and worship Him.”
That’s what Satan won’t do. And that’s what we do do, when we look in faith and in repentance and in asking forgiveness and blessing to the precious Savior [Acts 20:21]. That’s what it is to be saved, to be born again, to be regenerated, to be counted among the redeemed of the Lord [1 Peter 1:18-19].
Not what we say, not our orthodoxy, not all of these things that Satan would ascent to but how we are in our hearts. My love is with the people of God, my heart is with the kingdom of Savior. I want God to bless me. I want Him to live inside of my soul. I take Him. I receive Him. I accept Him, and Lord, as weak and unworthy as You know that I am, if You will have me and if You will take me, I give myself to You [2 Corinthians 8:5].
Isn’t that a wonderful thing for a man to do? Isn’t it a blessed thing for the saints to seek? And doesn’t it strengthen the household of the faithful to see people do that? Coming to Jesus, opening heart and home and life to the blessed Savior, and loving God’s saints.
And that’s our invitation to you this beautiful Lord’s Day morning: to accept Jesus as your Lord, to open your heart to Him, and having done it, to put your life in the circle and circumference of the church. We’re going to stand and sing our hymn of appeal, and while we sing that song, thus to accept the Lord as Savior, or thus to put your life with us in the circumference of our dear church, as the Spirit shall press the appeal upon your heart, would you make it now? Would you decide it now? Would you come now, while we stand and while we sing?