The Devil Didn’t Make Me Do It
John 17:15 (English Standard Version)
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
Contrary to the opinions of many, there is evil in the world. It touches all of us ─ not just political dictators, African warlords, and corporate CEOs. Furthermore, that evil has a source.
The one whom the Scriptures call Satan, or the Devil,1 is very real indeed. He is more than a concept: he is a living being. Like the true God, he has a distinct purpose, and is actively at work today.2 And he is evil. In contrast to common portrayals of the devil as merely a clever trickster, God’s Word reveals him as he truly is. Every hurt you have ever experienced, every degradation you have ever witnessed, every dark thing you have ever imagined originated with and is exemplified in him. This is who our Adversary is.
This evil being originated in rebellion.3 Though once an exalted angel of God, Lucifer chose lawlessness over subjection to God. He has remained in lawlessness ever since. He is dedicated to reproducing this same lawlessness in mankind. The Scriptures have a word for this lawlessness: sin.
1 John 3:8a
He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning.
Yes, evil is directed. Sin has a source. But we must not take this to mean that men and women are merely puppets in his hands. The Devil is indeed a deceiver. He is a master of temptation. But we have a choice.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.
Note that this verse does not say, “by one Devil…,” but rather, “by one man .…” Adam and Eve had a choice; they, not the Serpent, were held accountable for that choice.
Genesis 3:11–13, 16–19
And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
After this tragic choice on the part of Adam and Eve, both the condition and the position of humanity were radically altered. All who are born of Adam are born with a very different nature, and a very different ruler.
Ephesians 2:1–3 (English Standard Version)
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins
in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Even this fate, however, did not alter one’s ability to choose. Throughout the Old Testament, we witness God still holding men accountable for their actions. He was still able to command, “Thou shalt…” and “Thou shalt not…” Certainly, due to their changed nature, even the most pious individuals found themselves frustrated by sin,4 but they still recognized that Satan did not force them into it. They chose something other than God’s way.5
Believers should thank God daily that, in Christ, both their condition and position have been gloriously restored. We are free from Satan’s rule: we belong to another. And we have received a new nature, one that enables us to walk in righteousness.
Romans 6:17–22 (New International Version, 1984 Edition)
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.
You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.
What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death!
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.
What a triumphant reality! Really and truly, the Christian can choose to obey God in all things, at all times. However, this is not automatic. We can still choose sin. If and when we do, we still have the assurance of God’s forgiveness, but we must recognize that we could have chosen a different course. If this was true for the Old Testament believer, how much more so for those who have been given victory over sin?6
Yes, until the return of our Lord we will all be deceived at times. But we must never allow ourselves to become so accustomed to temptation that submission to it becomes a habit.
Sadly, far too many of us, through ignorance or spiritual numbness, fall easily into the same sins as though the completed work of Jesus Christ had accomplished nothing. Don’t be one of those. Be alert to the movements of our Adversary, and resist!
1 Corinthians 16:13 (New International Version)
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.
1 Peter 5:8–9 (New International Version)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
 Satanas, meaning the Adversary, and Diabolos, meaning the one who slanders or accuses. The reader should note that the Scriptures also ascribe other names to him, each of which emphasizes an aspect of his nature, his purpose, or his domain.
 See Ephesians 1:11 and 2:2. In both verses, the verb “work” is better rendered as “is working.”
 See, for example, Isaiah 14:12–15 and Ezekiel 28:13–17.
 For a graphic description of this frustration, see the depiction of man under the law in Romans 7:14–24.
 See, for example, the account of David in 1 Chronicles 21.
 In the sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11), you will note that Peter doesn’t blame Satan for filling Ananias’ heart, but rather reproves Ananias for allowing him to do so.