by Brad Beals
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.” Rev 12:10
Our picture of Satan probably doesn’t include horns and a pitchfork, but how we think of him as active in the world and in our lives today may still need tweaking. Yes, Satan is a deceiver (Rev 12:9), a schemer (Eph 6:11), a rebel (Is 14:13), and a fraud (1 Cor 11:14). He is also a liar, thief, destroyer, and murderer (Jn 8:44, 10:10). But his primary effort against God’s people involves a more subtle kind of work: accusation. Satan is the accuser of the church.
That is, he was the accuser until Christ threw him down. Before the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, Satan had good reasons to accuse us: 1) We were guilty of sin, and 2) God cannot let sin go unpunished. But Christ’s atoning work on the cross and his victory over death have satisfied completely the demands of God’s law. Jesus utterly destroyed Satan’s basis for accusation. If you are in Christ, this is absolutely true for you right here, right now, in time and space, today and forevermore. Satan simply has no grounds for accusing you.
And yet, for many of us this truth feels anything but settled. If our sins (past, present, and future) have been removed, why do we seem to struggle so often with guilt and heavy consciences? If Satan is defeated, why does it seem that he is still such an effective accuser?
Part of the answer is that we’re willing to listen. Satan can no longer accuse us before God because Christ is there at the throne defending us, and that defense strategy is foolproof. Satan can’t defeat it. Instead, he whispers to us, reminding us of past sins, enticing us to rehearse them in detail, accusing us all over again of guilt before God. Our adversary knows that if he can shake us to the point where we doubt our assurance, then he’ll have moved us off the solid ground of truth (where Paul’s soldier in Ephesians 6 stands firm) and onto his own ground where he can employ his other roles, those of schemer, deceiver, liar, and murderer.
The other part of the answer is that we may not know how to leave those past sins in the past. Satan can remind us of them precisely because our brains don’t forget them. Paul remembered his own sins and even wrote about them. In Galatians 1 he says, “I persecuted the church violently and tried to destroy it.” To Timothy Paul calls himself the foremost of sinners, and to the Corinthians he says, “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (v15:9)”
Paul is fine with mentioning his sins because he understands the gospel that he preaches. It is because of this gospel that he is also fine with saying things like “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” And before the Sanhedrin he says, “I have conducted myself before God in all good conscience to this day.” Paul knows his sins, and yet his conscience is clear. He sees no contradiction in these things because he knows the work of Christ.
In three of the four gospels we read of the strong man. “No one plunders the strong man’s house,” Jesus says, “until he first binds the strong man.” As Jesus was about to ascend to the right hand of the Father and reign until all of his enemies are put under his feet, he gave the church her marching orders: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…”
Satan, the strong man and our would-be accuser, was thrown down and tied up 2000 years ago, and the church has been plundering his house ever since. Each of us is a part of that plunder. We have been won and claimed by Jesus, and he has purchased for us (at an inestimable price to himself) a clear conscience before God and man.
Grace Greater than Our Sin
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin!
~ Julia H. Johnston (1849-1919)