First Peter 5:8 states, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (ESV). This verse appears in the final chapter of the book and is followed by Peter’s appeal to his readers to resist the devil and stand firm. As we focus on obeying God, we must also understand why the devil is our adversary and how to handle his attacks.
One reason that Satan, whose very name means “adversary” or “one who opposes,” is described as our adversary is that he is God’s enemy. While the Bible does not provide a comprehensive account of the events that transpired between God and the devil in eternity past, Isaiah 14:12–14 and Ezekiel 28:12–18 give some clues. These passages suggest that the angel we now call the devil rebelled against God, and other angels joined the rebellion, leading to their exile from God’s presence. Having no power against the All-Powerful, the devil turns his attention to humanity, God’s cherished creation.
This raises uncomfortable questions. We may wonder why God permitted the rebellion or why He created Satan in the first place. Since there are no explicit biblical answers to these questions, we find ourselves like toddlers attempting to understand quantum physics. What we do know is that God created everything with a purpose, including the angel that became the devil (Revelation 4:11).
It is important to remember that God originally made Satan as a holy angel before the latter rebelled. Furthermore, just because God possesses foreknowledge of an event does not mean that He causes that event to happen. At most, we can only inquire why He created anything at all. Similar to reading a suspense novel, understanding the ways of God may only come at the end when God restores all things (Revelation 21:1–6).
Until the grand denouement, we live with unanswered questions in the middle of the ultimate suspense story. There is more to be said about our adversary. The term devil originates from the Greek word diabolos, which means “slanderer” or “accuser.” This notion is conveyed in Revelation 12:10, which portrays the devil seeking to accuse us as guilty before the Ultimate Judge, like he did to Job (Job 1:6–12; 2:1–6) and Joshua the high priest (Zechariah 3:1).
The devil is also known as the “father of lies” (John 8:44) and is responsible for leading the world astray (Revelation 12:9). He deceived Eve into rebelling against God (Genesis 3:1–7), and he continues to feed the world lies. The devil even attempted to deceive Jesus (Matthew 4:1–11).
The widespread persecution of Christians, both in the past and present, can also be attributed to our adversary, the devil. First Peter 5:9 mentions suffering, and the entire letter was written to encourage persecuted believers. The devil uses persecution as a means to discourage Christians. The assault is emphasized in Revelation 2:7, where the church of Smyrna is warned that “the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you.” Also, Revelation 12:17 predicts that the dragon will wage war against “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.”
The devil is our adversary because he opposes all that God is and does. Humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), humans represent the pinnacle of God’s creation, and humans are the object of God’s love (John 3:16). Further, Satan opposes even more vehemently all those who are bound to Christ. Our battle is not against politicians, new atheists, or anyone else who combats Christianity; it is fundamentally a spiritual conflict (Ephesians 6:11–12). Like vigilant soldiers, we must remain alert and armed with spiritual weapons.
Our armor against our adversary the devil comprises God’s truth, His gift of righteousness, salvation, the peace of the gospel, the unshakable Word of God, and our faith in Christ (Ephesians 6:14–17).