Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

“Get Behind Me, Satan!”

In the fourth chapter of Luke’s gospel we have recorded the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. None other than the devil himself (vs. 2) took the opportunity of Jesus’ fast in the wilderness to put stumbling blocks before the Son of God.

The second temptation placed before the Lord, to reject the work of redemption for the glory of the world’s kingdoms, brought this response from Jesus, Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (vs. 8).

If Jesus had rejected the mission of His Father, and cast his lot with Satan, man would have lost the hope of redemption. Instead, Jesus established a willingness to stay the course, and remain faithful to His Father, and the work His Father gave him to do. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

In Matthew 16, the temptation was placed before our Lord once again. Jesus had predicted his eventual suffering and death to his disciples, leading Peter to rebuke him, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You” (vs. 22). Jesus admonished Peter with the exact same rebuke given to the Devil at the beginning of His ministry, Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (vs. 23).

The primary import of this rebuke is clear. The term Satan literally is translated “adversary.” While Peter’s emotions are understandable, in that he did not want his Master to suffer the predicted fate, Peter was in fact putting a stumbling block before the Lord. He was doing the exact same thing the Devil did, tempting Jesus to reject the very work the Father had given Him to do. As seen later in Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene, this was a very real temptation. There Jesus prayed to God, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).

Jesus, therefore, admonished Peter, resolutely choosing to suffer his fate as the suffering Savior of mankind. Peter, in seeking to sway Him from that path, had become his adversary.

What is not quite as clear is Christ’s intent in the wording of the admonition. In using the term Satan, was Jesus calling Peter the devil? Or what?

Many reject the concept of the devil as being in Jesus’ rebuke. Barnes, for example, says,

“But there is no evidence that the Lord Jesus meant to apply this term to Peter, as signifying that he was Satan or the devil, or that he used the term in anger.”

It seems to me, however, that the rebuke was very strong, and that the word, translated Satan in every standard translation, does call to mind the devil as an adversary. Of course, Jesus was not calling Peter Satan, per se, but indicating that Peter, in his rebuke of the Lord, was doing the devil’s work. Satan was the source of Peter’s words, as Peter was not minding the things of God, rather the things of men. As Robertson, in his N.T. Word Pictures, writes,

“Peter was acting as Satan’s catspaw, in ignorance, surely, but none the less really. He had set a trap for Christ that would undo all his mission to earth.”

In a similar vein, John used an interesting phrase to describe Judas Iscariot’s betrayal of the Lord, “Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him, the Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly'” (John 14:27).

On the same occasion, Jesus predicted Peter’s denial of Him. He said to Peter, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31).

In antiquity, God had a conversation with the devil about Job. After permission was granted for Job’s testing, we are told that Satan took his family and possessions. Later, after God had granted permission for Satan to afflict Job, we are told, “So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7).

In our day, evil is rarely personified. It is an abstract concept, and the idea that there is a malevolent entity directing it is considered laughable by most. Of course, that is exactly what the devil wants. Unfortunately, I fear that many Christians have been unduly influenced by this secular view of evil, and do not give the devil his due.

The apostle Peter warned, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). It is important that we recognize the devil for who he is, our adversary, our enemy. He exists, he is evil, smart, deceitful and desirous of our harm. He will destroy us if we give him an opportunity. He has “wiles”, he attacks with “fiery darts”, and we must arm ourselves against him (cf. Ephesians 6:10-20).

The next time a “friend” encourages us in sinful action, recognize that in his words he is serving as Satan’s minion. The movies and television shows that promote illicit behavior are the devil’s vehicle. The immodest dress of the worldly woman; the unethical business practices of the employer; the “go for the gusto” creedo of so many young men; the compromising spirit of the false teacher; all are indications that the devil is alive and active in seeking the destruction of God’s children. Brethren, Beware!