Do you think the devil not a Bible teacher? In the Garden of Eden, the serpentine enemy taught his first of many “bible studies.” His lesson plan included words of the Creator, revealing his precocious memory. The devil knows and remembers all of God’s words. But he delivers them twisted, changed, and infused with deadly poison.
The devil studies thoroughly the people he wants to destroy. He accumulates material for his lesson plans—our words, actions, struggles, fears, sins, weaknesses. He takes time to approach us—like a lion on its prey—studying every angle, looking out for weak spots, and waiting for his time to strike. The Bible doesn’t give many details about why and how the serpent was even allowed in Eden. But the devil’s crawling craftiness didn’t elude God’s sovereign eyes, that’s for sure. The devil was given permission to study the first man and woman up close and with great care. The crown of God’s creation, barely up-earthed and newly displayed—has already attracted the hissing prangs and the devious schemes of God’s archenemy. In God’s perfect garden, addressing God’s chief creatures, the devil pulls the woman in a biblical conversation.
Even before the devil spots the holes in our theology, he studies up on this theology himself. He is more Word-minded than most believe him to be—even though his purposes in learning the Bible are for people’s doom not their sanctification. In Genesis 3, I noticed how, when confronted by the crafty reptile about the forbidden tree, Eve answered but not with God’s exact words. She adds to God’s command (“nor shall you touch it”) and subtracts words from His command (“you shall die [muwth]” instead of God’s full command, “you shall surely die [muwth muwth] Genesis 3:3; Genesis 2:17, emphases mine”). The “surely die” [muwth muwth] is a unique, beautiful Hebrew phrase, hard to translate into English but its literal meaning is “dying you shall die” or “dying die.” The double use of “muwth” denotes a beginning of dying and its culmination in death, unlike its single use, which tends to refer to an immediate death.
Eve left out the exact wording of God’s command, but surprisingly, the devil didn’t. He comes right back and fills the holes of her knowledge of God’s words with the exact but denied words of God. “You shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:4, emphases mine). The Devil knew God’s command word by word. He rendered its depths better than Eve—and changed it just as quickly and swiftly, unbeknownst to her. Maybe his words reminded Eve of something similar in God’s voice. Maybe he was up to something. Maybe God really did mean to say she will be like Him. The devil played Eve by praying on her half-knowledge of God’s words. In twisting her around the syntax, preying on her faint memory of some sounds that were similar to God’s words, and dangling aesthetic distractions in front of her gaze—the devil un-worded the very command God clearly worded for her and her husband.
The devil is a toxic student of the Word, with centuries of practice and memorization of every single of the 783,137 words in the New King James Bible, for instance. He analyses, studies, and misspeaks God’s Word to lead astray and confuse believers with newly devised hisses, roars, traps, (small) changes, throngs, darts, you name it. Every day he hopes Christians remain clueless and illiterate with their Bibles. The less they know, the more he suppresses them. Satan plants tempered seeds and awaits a harvest of heretical theologies.
Satan is not surprised at Christians “being in the Word” if that means patchy knowledge, inconsistent study, feeble theology, and a lack of true understanding of the gospel. He even encourages us to stay that way—for our weakness in the Bible is his strength in leading us astray. Unlike Eve, he will never find Christians alone and unprotected though. He often can corner us and show us how little we truly know of our Savior’s words. He can cause distractions, barriers, excuses to surface in our sinful hearts. Because Satan studies Christians daily, he can quickly spot our weaknesses, failures, tempting spots, and what keeps us Bible-lukewarm. But today, he is up against more than just believers and our grasp of the Bible. Because every Christian is in Christ, the devil is against the word in-fleshed—Jesus. When the devil comes after Christians, he has Jesus to deal with!
The devil may bank on our not-yet-full knowledge of the truth, but Christ invests in our growth by meeting us daily in His powerful Word and sanctifying us through His Spirit, under the loving presence of God. As Christians, we must strive to know God’s Word in its entirety—changing no words, leaving out no verse, or adding no extra traditions. All the gospel in our hearts and mouths matters today simply because the Bible tells us so. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Christians knowing the whole Bible doesn’t stop the devil from surrounding us with false gospels. But it will surely arm us with the right sword in cutting away his dark prongs, enslaving roars, and hissing tongue. As the devil encounters more and more Christians who believe and know the full council of God, his wicked sermons will become but distant, strangled echoes of a dying, fake theologian.
The devil knows the word better than we Christians. For satan was in heaven that is why he is able to deceive us with the word. Satan knows all he has to do is change a word or two and we will fall for it.
That is why God tells us to study the word, 2 Timothy 2:15
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