Satan Hates the Pastorals image

Satan Hates the Pastorals

Satan hates the Pastoral Epistles. He accuses them of everything under the sun, hoping that some of the mud will stick. They are institutionalising and formalising documents, squashing the charismatic spirit of early Christianity. They are chauvinistic. They are bourgeois. They smack of early Catholicism. They weren't even written by Paul. They are full of cultural assumptions. They are personal letters, so they don't apply to churches today. Yada yada yada.

Reading through them in my devotions recently, it became freshly apparent to me why they rile him so much. Five reasons in particular stood out.

1. They champion the truth that salvation is by grace not works (even as they show that salvation will produce good works). Satan loves legalism; the Pastorals hate it. Here’s 1 Timothy: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy ...” 2 Timothy: God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” Titus: “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy.”

2. They bang on about the value of strong, godly leadership. Satan dislikes Christian leadership in general. There are only two types he can tolerate: leaders who stand for nothing and let false doctrine run amok, on the one hand, and leaders who lead ungodly lives and abuse their authority, on the other. What he cannot stand is leadership that is above reproach, faithful, courageous, gentle, hospitable, wise, and clear on the truth. So if he finds letters that require godly character from church leaders (1 Tim 3:1-13; 2 Tim 2:22-26; Titus 1:5-9; etc), yet are replete with instructions to give false teaching a punch on the nose (1 Tim 1:3-11; 4:1-5; 6:1-10; 2 Tim 3:1-9; 4:1-5; Titus 1:10-2:1; etc), he will do everything in his power to stop people reading them.

3. They are clear on the realities of spiritual warfare. As fictional characters from Uncle Screwtape to Keyser Soze have pointed out, Satan loves it when nobody even realises he is there. He loves it when people fail to acknowledge spiritual dynamics at work in the interpretation of Scripture, or life in the Church. But the Pastorals make that incredibly difficult. I have handed Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan (1 Tim 1:20). New converts can fall into a snare of the devil (3:7). False teaching isn’t just misguided, but orchestrated by deceitful spirits and demons (4:1). Young widows can stray after Satan (5:15), and opponents of the gospel are in a snare of the devil (2 Tim 2:26). Nobody can study the Pastorals and miss the realities of spiritual warfare. Satan finds that annoying.

4. They ground believers in the authority of Scripture. Satan hates the Bible; the Pastorals celebrate it. There’s the famous one: “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness ... Preach the word. Be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort” (2 Tim 3:16-4:2). But there are all sorts of other references to biblical authority, which are all the more dangerous to the devil for being dropped in so incidentally. “This saying is trustworthy, and deserving of full acceptance” (1 Tim 1:15; 4:9; cf. 3:1; 2 Tim 2:11; Titus 3:8). “What you’ve heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim 2:2). “Hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught” (Titus 1:9). “Follow the pattern of sound words that you’ve heard from me” (2 Tim 1:13). “Guard the deposit entrusted to you” (1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 1:14). And so on.

5. They overflow with encouragement for those who are suffering. Suffering, as anyone who has done much apologetics will know, is usually the biggest objection that people have to the Christian faith; it is also, as anyone who has done much pastoral care will know, one of the biggest challenges most Christians face as well. The Pastorals are full of encouragement and hope for such people, which severely blunts one of Satan’s sharpest weapons. “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim 6:12). “Share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling” (2 Tim 1:9). “This is why I suffer as I do, but I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (1:11). “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2:11-12). “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom” (4:18).

Satan hates the Pastorals. They expose him, rob him of the key tools in his armoury - accusation, legalism, confusion, suffering - and give strength to those who oppose him, by the Word, through the Spirit. They give hope. They bring joy. And they trumpet the glories of the king who has thrown him down forever: “the blessed and only Sovereign, King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen!”

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