Many and varied are the ways which Satan devises to destroy the Church of Christ in this world and at the same time to establish his antichristian kingdom. Although many of these ways become boldly evident to us as we watch for Christ’s second coming there are others which are much more subtle and for that reason can sneak by undetected. Every way conceivable Satan is out to destroy the Church and the cause of Jesus Christ in this world. And he sets out to do so with the savagery of a roaring lion. He stalks us unrelentingly. If we are caught sleeping but for a moment we become the prime target of his attack. For that reason we must be on our guard every moment of our lives, carefully watching every aspect of our lives as the people of God.
One such attack upon the Church of Christ through which Satan attempts to destroy her is a lack of knowledge of God and His works and ways. This attempt of Satan to render the people of God ignorant of God’s Word has been evident throughout all of the history of His Church.
Soon after the nation of Israel had inherited the land of Canaan for a possession, Satan set to work to sway the hearts of the people. Because Israel had already possessed the land and become quite powerful she felt no need to drive out and to destroy the heathen nations that had previously dwelt there. Instead of obeying God’s command Israel allowed the heathen to dwell among, them. Already Satan was at work fulfilling his scheme to destroy the church by causing her to forget God and His mighty works. Now that Israel dwelt among the heathen nations of Canaan the next step was simple. In Judges 3:6 and 7 we find, “And they took their daughters to be their wives and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God and served Baalim and the groves.” Satan’s tactics were simple enough. At that time all the great works of God which He had done for His people were passed from generation to generation only by word of mouth. The knowledge of God and His precepts was passed in tradition from father to son. By means of intermarriage Satan had caused the ignorant, unbelieving heathen to enter into the very homes of Israel. The result is evident. The knowledge of God and His commandments that had passed from generation to generation by word of mouth now ceased. Therefore, “there arose another generation which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).
Today the avenues through which God instructs His people are more than those used in the early, old dispensational church. No doubt covenant instruction in the home remains basic to all instruction in the Word of God and His commandments. Now, however, there are more means. We receive instruction in God’s Word by means of the preaching of the gospel, by means of the Christian school, and also by means of the printed page. Because of all these different ways by which we are instructed in God’s Word, Satan’s attacks upon the church become more varied. In order for him to make us ignorant of God and His mighty works he must in some way approach each of these avenues of instruction and rend them apart. That he does.
In this article we focus our attention on Satan’s attack upon our knowledge of God by means of the printed page. To be sure, Satan still works in the home, he still works in the schools, and he still works within the church. Now, however, he must also contend with the fact that there is readily available to the child of God good, sound, spiritual literature. In fact, this means of instruction in God’s Word can be found within all three of the spheres mentioned above. We can be sure that Satan emits a painful roar every time a book or a periodical which instructs in the Word of God comes from the printing press.
With the Reformation God raised up godly men who translated the Bible into the everyday language of the people: These same men began writing concerning the truth of God’s Word. By means of the printing press the Bible was not only given to the laity but a need for good literature was filled with the writings of godly men. Through the years their writings were preserved and many more books of a sound, exegetical character were added. Today you and I have at our fingertips the best spiritual literature available.
But Satan never gives up. He has his ways, shrewd, cunning, and oh so devastating. He realizes that at this time he is unable to destroy all of those books that have been written concerning the mighty works of God. But it really does not matter. He has other ways. He is able, for example, in some parts of the world where the child of God is suppressed by the government, to check the flow of spiritual literature. Or, if this cannot be accomplished, Satan will cause that spiritual literature to be watered down. Instead of books based upon Scripture and an explanation of Scriptural truths the market will be flooded with the trash of Christian experience and personal testimony. Books such asCalvin’s Institutes will become scarce, while others such as How I Accepted Christ Into My Life, will fill the walls of the bookstores.
But Satan does not stop there either. He works within the hearts of God’s people. He attempts to destroy within them any desire to read these spiritual works. He attempts to make the child of God a spiritual illiterate, that is, one who is unable to read or understand the truths written between the covers of those books. The child of God will have no trouble picking up an easy-reading, novel and reading it through from cover to cover, but give to him a book filled with abstract ideas and after ten or twenty pages he has had enough.
Satan works that tendency within us in several different ways.
He does so first of all by means of a doctrinal error. Somehow people begin to believe that they can have astrong, vibrant faith without possessing knowledge—the most essential element of faith. It is true, of course, that this knowledge is a certain, heartfelt, spiritual knowledge, yet it does necessarily imply an intellectual knowledge. It is felt, however, that one can be a strong child of God and yet not have a knowledge of Scripture. All the abstract truths of Scripture are too difficult for the common member of the church to grasp, but it really does not matter. His faith is not dependent on that anyway. Therefore those books which speak concerning these truths of Scripture also become too difficult to read. But again it really does not matter. It is of no consequence to being a strong child of God.
Secondly, Satan works a kind of spiritual illiteracy within us by means of the world’s influence. In the schools of the world, “Johnny can’t read,” so teach him skills instead of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Find textbooks which show him pictures, instead of forcing him to read and understand concepts. In the homes of the world, children are no longer forced to sit and read. Life is too filled with activity and fun. Being with the family is no longer sitting with one another in the family room. It is going out with the family and having fun. Or, if it is sitting with the family, it is in front of what worldly authorities peg as the idiot box. There the family can sit for hours, not required to use their intellect but being spoon-fed the trash of this world. Such is to be found within the schools and homes of the world. No wonder “Johnny can’t read.”
But what has already become true of the world now begins to filter into the church. The result is the same. God’s people become illiterates as far as reading and understanding the abstract, spiritual truths of Scripture are concerned. Good, spiritual books are written but all they do is decorate our book-shelves. They are not read. Reading and studying the Bible becomes too difficult and far too time-consuming; and to spend time reading other religious books and periodicals just takes too much time out of our busy lives.
This spiritual illiteracy which begins to infiltrate the Church of Christ is a contributing factor in the rise, of antichrist. Because of the failure to read and understand the terminology of Scripture the church becomes characterized by a lack of knowledge. Even as Israel of old we begin to lose sight of the wonderful works of God for us and in us. The precious doctrines of Scripture become vague, abstract concepts which we fail to understand. Not understanding the truth of God’s Word paves the way for heresy. Once heresy has entered the confines of the church it spreads until the church crumbles and falls.
Then begins the amalgamation found within the church world today. Because there is no more knowledge of doctrine, because there is only ignorance of God’s work of salvation, there are no longer any barriers to separate churches. The only difference between them is their names. No one understands the clear truth of Scripture any more. Those books which teach the Word of God are discarded. The idea soon arises, let us join hands and all march happily to heaven. That is the rise of the great antichristian kingdom of Satan. Satan uses every means possible to build that kingdom of antichrist—including spiritual illiteracy.
How do we fight him? We must first of all recognize this tendency for what it really is, an attempt of Satan to build his antichristian kingdom. As we see more and more the spiritual inability of people within the church-world to read and understand Scriptural truths; as we see the inability of the same to pick up a soundly spiritual book and read it from cover to cover, we must watch for the rise of the antichrist. Then too we must heed the Word of God to us in I Timothy 4:13-16, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. . . Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” Only in this way will we resist this particular attack of Satan upon the Church. And when we resist he will flee from us.