The devil is a mere fable and superstition, so men believe; according to Scripture he is the unseen enemy who constitutes the greatest problem for men in general and for the churches in particular. While we may expect unregenerate men to have no discernment on this issue, it has to be a matter of concern when – given the prominent warnings of the New Testament – the demonic ceases to be a vital part of the belief of professing evangelicals. For the apostles, understanding the existence and wiles of Satan was essential to Christian living [Eph 6:10-12]. Non-Christians are in a condition of blindness and bondage. They are under a power greater than the will of man and from which only Christ can set them free. Here was the recognition which led the apostles to repudiate all the world’s methods for winning disciples. Supernatural power had to be met with supernatural power. [2 Cor 10:3-4]
We are constantly warned that Satan works principally through doctrinal deception and falsehood. He was the inspiration for all the false prophets of the Old Testament: “He is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44). His great intent is to bring darkness and confusion into the church as he did among the Jews. It was a lie of Satan which brought judgment into the infant church at Jerusalem (Acts 5:3). It was Satan who at Paphos opposed Paul on his first missionary journey by using a sorcerer to turn away the proconsul from the faith (Acts 13:8). The church at Corinth was in danger of allowing a different gospel to be unopposed because of the serpent who deceived Eve by his craftiness was working to mislead her (2 Cor 11:3). False prophets arise within the church yet they do not appear as such, And no wonder! writes the apostle, “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). The idea that Christianity stands chiefly in danger from the forces of materialism, or from secular philosophy, or from pagan religions, is not the teaching of the New Testament. The greatest danger comes rather from temptations within and from those who, using the name of Christ, are instruments of Satan to lead men to believe a lie and to worship what in reality belongs to the demonic (2 Thes 2:3-9; rev 13:11).
Instead of believers in the apostolic age being directed to listen to all views with an open mind, they were told how to test the spirits, whether they are of God (1 John 4:1). For there are deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (1 Tim 4:1); false teachers who will secretly bring in destructive heresies (2 Pet 2:1). There are words which spread as a cancer (2 Tim 2:17). When churches have been in a healthy state they have always been watchful in this regard.