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Christ's Holy War with Satan

As Dean Burgon (1883) pointed out, the history of the New Testament text is the history of a conflict between God and Satan. Soon after the New Testament books were written Satan corrupted their texts by means of heretics and misguided critics whom he had raised up.

  • Edward F. Hills,
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As Dean Burgon (1883) pointed out, the history of the New Testament text is the history of a conflict between God and Satan. Soon after the New Testament books were written Satan corrupted their texts by means of heretics and misguided critics whom he had raised up. These assaults, however, on the integrity of the Word were repulsed by the providence of God, who guided true believers to reject these false readings and to preserve the True Text in the majority of the Greek New Testament manuscripts. And at the end of the Middle Ages this True Text was placed in print and became the Textus Receptus, the foundation of the glorious Protestant Reformation.

But Satan was not defeated. Instead he staged a clever come-back by means of naturalistic New Testament textual criticism. Old corrupt manuscripts, which had been discarded by the God-guided usage of the believing Church, were brought out of their hiding places and re-instated. Through naturalistic textual criticism also the fatal logic of unbelief was set in motion. Not only the text but every aspect of the Bible and of Christianity came to be regarded as a purely natural phenomenon. And today thousands of Bible-believing Christians are falling into this devil's trap through their use of modern-speech versions which are based on naturalistic textual criticism and so introduce the reader to the naturalistic point of view. By means of these modern-speech versions Satan deprives his victims of both the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit and leaves them unarmed and helpless before the terrors and temptations of this modern, apostate world. What a clever come-back! How Satan must be hugging himself with glee over the seeming success of his devilish strategy.

1. The Gospel and the Logic of Faith

How can we dispel these dark clouds of error which the devil has generated and bring a new Reformation to our modern age? In only one way, namely, through the preaching of the Gospel. But the Gospel which we preach must be the pure Gospel, and we must preach it not according to the dictates of our own human logic but according to the logic of faith. We must preach the Gospel, first, as a message that must be believed, second, as a command that must be obeyed, and, third, as an assurance that comforts and sustains. Let us therefore discuss these three concepts briefly.

(a) The Gospel Is a Message That Must Be Believed The Gospel is a message that must be believed. Our Lord Jesus Himself teaches us this in the Gospel of Mark. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent ye and believe the gospel (Mk. 1:14-15). And what was this Gospel which Jesus commanded all who heard Him to believe? That He should die upon the cross for sinners. Jesus explained this also to His disciples on the road to Caesarea Philippi. And He began to teach them, that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. . . . And when He had called the people unto Him with His disciples also, He said unto them, Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it (Mk. 8:31, 34-35).

There are four things especially which we must believe concerning Christ's atoning death for sinners:

First, Christ died for many sinners. For even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mk. 10:45).

Second, Christ died for all kinds of sinners, for all sorts and conditions of men. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me. This He said, signifying what death He should die (Jn. 12:32-33).

Third, Christ died for sinners the world over. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved (Jn. 3:16-17).

Fourth, Christ died for all those sinners who down through the ages would be converted through the preaching of the Gospel. Neither pray I for these [the Apostles] alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they all may be one in Us; that the world may believe that Thou has sent Me (Jn. 17:20-21).

(b) The Gospel Is a Command That Must Be Obeyed We must believe the message of the Gospel that Christ died for sinners, but we cannot really do so until we apply this message to ourselves and believe in Jesus personally. And this is what Jesus commands us to do in the Gospel. What must we do, the Jews asked Him hypocritically, that we might work the works of God? This is the work of God, He answered sternly, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent (Jn. 6:29). And Jesus repeated this command again and again throughout the course of His earthly ministry. I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst (Jn. 6:35). I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die (Jn. 11:25-26). Ye believe in God, believe also in Me (Jn. 14:1).

But how do we obey the command of the Gospel? How do we believe in Jesus? How do we receive Him? By repenting and applying the message of the Gospel to ourselves (Mk. 1:15). By believing that Jesus died for us personally on the cross. This is what Jesus told Nicodemus when he came to Him by night seeking salvation. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life (Jn. 3:14-15). We must receive Jesus as our perfect sacrifice. Whoso eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day (Jn. 6:54). We must trust wholly in His body given and His blood shed for us at Calvary. And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is My body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of Me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you (Lk. 22:20).

(c) The Gospel Is an Assurance That Comforts and Sustains We are saved, first, by believing the message of the Gospel that Jesus died for sinners and, second, by applying this message to ourselves so that we repent and believe that Jesus died for us personally upon the cross. But there is also a third requirement. We must persevere, we must abide in Christ. Jesus reminds His Apostles of this obligation in His famous metaphor. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned (Jn. 15:5-6). How about this third requirement? Will we persevere? In the future will we still believe and be saved, or will we cease to believe and become unsaved? Will we abide in Christ, or will we be cast forth as a broken branch and perish?

The Gospel gives us the assurance which we need to comfort us and calm our fears. In the Gospel Jesus teaches us that the sinners for whom He died were given unto Him by God the Father in the eternal Covenant of Grace before the foundation of the world. All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up, again at the last day (Jn. 6:37-39). Because true believers have been given to Christ by God the Father, they shall never perish. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand (Jn. 10:27-29).

I am the good shepherd, Jesus says, the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep (Jn. 10:11). Christ died for the elect, for those that had been given to Him by God the Father before the foundation of the world. I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine. As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep (Jn. 10:14-15). There are three ways especially in which this doctrine comforts believers. In the first place, this doctrine teaches us that Jesus loved us not only on the cross but from all eternity. He loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20). In the second place, this doctrine reveals to us that on the cross Jesus not only fully satisfied for all our sins but also purchased for us the gift of the Holy Spirit and of faith. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear (Ac. 2:33). And in the third place, this doctrine assures us that we will never lose our eternal redemption, which was obtained for us by Jesus through His sufferings and death. Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:12).

2. The Logic of Faith and the Christian Thought-System

"Lord Jesus, I repent. O blessed Redeemer, I believe that Thou didst die for me personally upon the cross. Forgive me and take me, O Thou my Saviour." When a sinner receives Jesus in this manner by the power of the Holy Spirit, he has taken the first step in the logic of faith. And this first step leads to three momentous changes in his life and thinking:

First, the converted sinner exchanges a sinful life for a godly life. This was the emphasis of the Ancient Church. Justin Martyr (165 A.D.) thus describes the striking change which Christianity made in the lives of these early believers: "We who once served lust now find our delight only in pure morals; we who once followed sorcery, now have consecrated ourselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who once loved gain above all, now give what we have for the common use and share with every needy one. We who once hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live with them, pray for our enemies, and seek to convince those who hate us unjustly that they may live according to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God, the Ruler of all" (First Apology, Chap. 14).

Second, the converted sinner exchanges a guilty evil conscience for a good and peaceful conscience. This was the emphasis of the Reformation Church under the leadership of Martin Luther. During the Middle Ages professing Christians tried to rid themselves of guilt and secure peace of conscience through penances, pilgrimages, crusades, the building of great cathedrals, and finally through the purchase of indulgences from the pope. It was at this point that Luther arose and nailed his Ninety-five Theses on the church door in Wittenberg. In them he insisted that an indulgence can never remove guilt, for God has kept this authority in His own hand. Only by true faith in Christ can guilt be taken away, justification granted, and peace of conscience obtained (Rom. 3:28). This was the message that ushered in the Protestant Reformation.

Third, the converted sinner exchanges a carnal mind for a spiritual mind. This must be our emphasis today in the modern Church if we truly desire to bring in a New Reformation. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Rom. 8:6). This is a favorite Bible verse with many pious, modern Christians. The only trouble is that they take far too narrow and restricted a view of the spiritual-mindedness which God requires. It is not sufficient for us to be spiritually minded only in our private devotions or when doing mission work or talking with Christian friends or speaking in a Church. Many modern Christians are spiritually minded in these respects but are carnally minded in their New Testament textual criticism, in their philosophy and science, and in their economic and political views. In these areas their thinking is the same as the thinking of unbelievers.

To be truly spiritually minded, therefore, is something much bigger and more comprehensive than these pietists suppose. To be spiritually minded in the largest and best sense is to follow the logic of faith out into every realm of thought and life and thus to work out Biblical views concerning the nature of faith, concerning the holy Scriptures, concerning philosophy and science, and concerning politics and economics.

(a) The Biblical View of Faith The Difference Between Faith and Mere Belief What is the difference between faith and doubting? Many Christians are unable to answer this question because they confuse divine, God-given faith with mere animal or human belief. Animal belief arises spontaneously out of habit. If you put your dog's food in a certain bowl, he will soon believe that this is the place to go when hungry. But if you stop putting food in the bowl, his belief will begin to give place to doubt and will eventually cease. Our human beliefs likewise arise involuntarily out of our experience. For example, unless we are very ill or in great danger, we cannot help believing that we will be alive tomorrow, because this has always been our experience. Yet we cannot be sure. So when we believe anything, we partly doubt it, and when we doubt anything we partly believe it.

But our faith in God is different from all our other beliefs. For otherwise this faith would be in part a doubting, and our thinking would be no better than a dog's. God is the Truth, the Supreme Reality on which all other realities depend. A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He (Deut. 32:4). And because God is most real, we must believe in Him as such. We must let nothing else be more real to us than God. For this is faith! Anything less than this would be doubting. We must make God and Jesus Christ His Son the starting point of all our thinking.

We see, then, the difference between the carnally minded man and the spiritually minded man. The carnally minded man begins his thinking with something other than God and then believes in God merely as a probability or a possibility. Hence he cannot distinguish between believing and doubting. All his beliefs are doubtful. The spiritual man takes God and Jesus Christ His Son as the starting point of all his thinking. When anything else becomes more real to him than God and Christ, then he knows that he is doubting and must repent and return to the feet of his Saviour.

(b) The Biblical View of the Holy Scriptures Their Content and History The spiritual man is drawn to the Holy Bible by the logic of faith as by a magnet. For how else can he take God as the starting point of all his thinking save through the diligent study of the sacred Scriptures. They are God's revelation of HIMSELF, the eyeglasses through which we may view aright God's revelation of Himself in nature, the key to God's revelation of Himself in history, the pure well of salvation to which the preachers of the Gospel must continually repair for fresh supplies of living water. In the Scriptures God reveals Himself as the God of Creation, the God of History, and the God of Salvation. In the first chapter of Genesis God reveals Himself as the almighty Creator God. In the Prophets He reveals Himself as the faithful Covenant God. In the Four Gospels and the other New Testament books He reveals Himself as the Triune Savior God.

Right views of the content of the Bible lead to right views of the history of its text. Because the Gospel is true and necessary for the salvation of souls, the Bible which contains this Gospel must have been infallibly inspired. And since the Bible was infallibly inspired, it must have been preserved down through the ages by God's special providence. And this providential preservation took place not in holes and caves but in the usage of the church. And it did not cease with the invention of printing. Hence the true text of holy Scripture is found today in the printed Masoretic Text, in the Textus Receptus, and in the King James Version and other faithful translations.

The logic of faith also shows us the inconsistencies and absurdities of unbelieving Bible study. The Old Testament critics, for example, admit that the art of writing had been known for centuries before the time of Moses, but they still insist that the Old Testament material was transmitted orally for hundreds of years after the death of Moses, not being written down until the 8th century B.C. And in the New Testament field unbelieving scholars tell us that the books of the New Testament were written not by the Apostles but by anonymous persons in the Early Church and that Christianity, including even Jesus Himself, was also the invention of such anonymous persons. But if these anonymous persons had so much ability as this, how could they possibly have remained anonymous?

(c) The Biblical View of Philosophy and Science Truth and Fact Through the study of the Scriptures also we are led to a Biblical view of philosophy and science and especially of truth and fact. It is in this last respect that modern unbelievers fail notably. For the most part they are positivists. They insist that we must begin our thinking with facts, facts which (they claim) are independent of God, facts (they say) that are so no matter whether God exists or not. But when you ask them what facts are, they cannot tell you. Hence they are beginning their thinking blindly. The Bible, on the other hand, tells us what facts are. Facts are temporal truths which God, the eternal Truth (Jn. 14:6), has established by His works of creation and providence. God reveals these facts in nature and in the holy Scriptures, and in and through the facts He reveals Himself. The facts which God clearly reveals are certain, the facts which He less clearly reveals are probable and the facts which He does not reveal at all are His secrets (Deut. 29:29), forever hidden from the mind of man. Error and falsehood, however, are not from God but from Satan, the evil one.

By virtue of God's common grace unbelieving scientists know many facts, but because they ignore God's revelation of Himself in and through these facts, they too fall into many inconsistencies. For example, they say that the universe has been expanding into infinite space from all eternity. Why then hasn't it disappeared long ago? Some try to answer this question by supposing that the universe is constantly being replenished by hydrogen atoms which come from nothing. Others say that the universe is alternately expanding and contracting like an accordion. They admit, however, that this oscillation could not have gone on from all eternity but would have eventually "damped out" and come to a halt.1

In other scientific fields also unbelievers contradict themselves in fundamental ways. In geology, for example, the uniformitarians admit that the fossils were buried quickly, but at the same time they insist that the strata in which the fossils are buried were laid down very slowly. And similarly, evolutionists appeal to reason in the effort to justify their theory, but at the same time they overthrow the authority of human reason by assigning it an animal origin. And nuclear physicists also contradict themselves, professing to believe in scientific law but at the same time maintaining that the atom is governed by the laws of chance.

Newton, the father of modern science, believed in God, but he was led by his rationalism to give first place in his thinking to four independent, disconnected absolutes which he had set up, namely, time, space, inertia, and gravity. To God, creation, providence, and the Bible, Newton gave only second place in his thinking. And later scientists dropped these religious concepts, retaining only Newton's rationalistic absolutes. Hence the contradictions which we have noticed.

Einstein revised Newtonian science (on his own confession) in a pantheistic direction. He made simultaneity relative to the human observer. This led to two different kinds of simultaneity, namely, the simultaneity of events near at hand in which the observer is present (mathematically plus), and the simultaneity of events far away in which the observer is absent (mathematically minus). But Einstein ignored this discrepancy. And Einstein also ignored the observable fact that simultaneous events do not occur in exactly the same space but do occur at exactly the same time. Hence simultaneity is coincidence in time only and does not at all depend on the human observer and his position in space.

On what then does simultaneity depend? On the eternal plan of God. In the Bible God reveals Himself as the only Absolute. I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like Me (Is. 46:9). God's eternal plan for all things is the only ultimate continuum. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure (Is. 46:10). Hence God created time when He began to fulfill His eternal plan, and God created space when He created the world. Simultaneity, therefore, depends on the eternal decree of God, who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). Such is the comprehensive framework which the Bible affords for all the details of science.

(d) Why Believing Bible Students Must Use the King James Version A Recapitulation In regard to Bible versions many contemporary Christians are behaving like spoiled and rebellious children. They want a Bible version that pleases them no matter whether it pleases God or not. "We want a Bible version in our own idiom," they clamor. "We want a Bible that talks to us in the same way in which we talk to our friends over the telephone. We want an informal God, no better educated than ourselves, with a limited vocabulary and a taste for modern slang." And having thus registered their preference, they go their several ways. Some of them go with the modernists in using the R.S.V. or the N.E.B. Others deem the N.A.S.V. or the N.I.V. more "evangelical." Still others opt for the T.E.V. or the Living Bible.

But God is bigger than you are, dear friend, and the Bible version which you must use is not a matter for you to decide according to your whims and prejudices. It has already been decided for you by the workings of God's special providence. If you ignore this providence and choose to adopt one of the modern versions, you will be taking the first step in the logic of unbelief. For the arguments which you must use to justify your choice are the same arguments which unbelievers use to justify theirs, the same method. If you adopt one of these modern versions, you must adopt the naturalistic New Testament textual criticism upon which it rests. This naturalistic textual criticism requires us to study the New Testament text in the same way in which we study the texts of secular books which have not been preserved by God's special providence. In other words, naturalistic textual criticism regards the special, providential preservation of the Scriptures as of no importance for the study of the New Testament text. But if we concede this, then it follows that the infallible inspiration of the Scriptures is likewise unimportant. For why is it important that God should infallibly inspire the Scriptures, If it is not important that He should preserve them by His special providence?

Where, oh where, dear brother or sister, did you ever get the idea that it is up to you to decide which Bible version you will receive as God’s holy Word? As long as you harbor this false notion, you are little better than an unbeliever. As long as you cherish this erroneous opinion, you are entirely on your own. For you the Bible has no real authority, only that which your rebellious reason deigns to give it. For you there is no comfort, no assurance of faith. Cast off, therefore, this carnal mind that leads to death! Put on the spiritual mind that leads to life and peace! Receive by faith the True Text of God’s holy Word, which has been preserved down through the ages by His special providence and now is found in the Masoretic Hebrew text, the Greek Textus Receptus, and the King James Version and other faithful translations!

3. Why Satan Cannot Win — God’s Eternal Purpose

Today Satan seems successful as never before not only in raising up adversaries to persecute and destroy God’s people but also in depriving them of their faith in the Word of God through naturalistic New Testament textual criticism and the resultant modernism. Will Satan’s clever come-back be finally successful? No, for this is but a phase of his losing battle. The Bible indicates that Satan was once the fairest of God’s creatures. He was the anointed cherub (Ez. 28:14). He was Lucifer, son of the morning (Is. 14:12), bright as the morning star. But he fell through pride (1 Tim. 3:6) and dragged down a multitude of rebellious spirits with him (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Then, after his fall, Satan began his long and stubborn guerrilla-warfare against God. In the Garden of Eden he persuaded our first parents to violate the Covenant of Works and thus involved the whole human race in his ruinous conspiracy.

But God was ready for this stratagem of Satan. Even before He created the world God had provided the remedy for Adam’s sin. In the eternal Covenant of Grace He had appointed Jesus Christ His Son to be the Second Adam and to do what the first Adam failed to do, namely, to fulfill the broken Covenant of Works and save His people from its condemnation. As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). By His life of perfect obedience and by His sufferings and death Jesus completely fulfilled the requirements of the Covenant of Works and paid the penalty of its violation. Through His obedience Christ earned for His people the gift of righteousness and delivered them from the guilt of Adam’s sin. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous (Rom. 5:19). By the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit Christ unites His people to Himself and constitutes them one new human race. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17). And finally. His saving work shall culminate in the restoration of the whole universe. Behold, I make all things new (Rev. 21:5).

God in His eternal plan and purpose decreed the fall of Satan and the sin of Adam in order that He might reveal His wrath, His power, His longsuffering, and His redeeming love and mercy. What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory, even us whom He hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? (Rom. 9:22-24).

Satan’s attack upon the holy Bible is bound to fail, because the Bible is the Book of the Covenant (Ex. 24:7). The Bible is eternal, infallible, pure and sure, and in it God reveals Himself, not mere information concerning Himself, but HIMSELF. In the Bible God reveals Himself as the almighty Creator God, the faithful Covenant God, and the Triune Saviour God. The God of Creation, the God of History, and the God of Salvation! In the Bible Christ reveals Himself to sinners as Prophet, Priest, and King.

“I believe that Jesus died for me!” This confession is the foundation of the Christian thought-system, the beginning of the logic of faith. Because the Gospel is true and necessary for the salvation of souls, the Bible, which contains the Gospel, was infallibly inspired and has been providentially preserved down through the ages. Therefore, dear Christian readers, continue in this life-giving logic. Be spiritually minded in all your thinking, especially in your New Testament textual criticism. Take your stand with Christ and receive from His hands the True Text of Holy Scripture which He has preserved for you by His special providence. Then, armed with the sword of the Spirit and sheltered by the shield of faith, press on to victory.


  1. Recent Developments In Cosmology,” by Fred Hoyle, Nature, vol. 208, Oct. 9, 1965.
  2. N. Y. Times, Sept. 26, 1961.