Satan is a prowling lion, an enemy of ours, who is right now seeking to devour Christians. But can we be devoured? Yikes. Or are we safe? And what does that mean anyways? And how can we find shelter for such an unseen threat to our eternal safety? John Piper addressed this important question straightaway in his 1994 sermon on 1 Peter 5. Here’s what he said.
Here is a question.
Can Christians be devoured?
First Peter 5:8 says, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The word is “to swallow whole,” like the fish did to Jonah: It’s the same word in Jonah in the Septuagint. Your adversary the devil wants to just make you disappear, vanish. You are out of here. You are gone. You are going with him to the lake of fire. That is what “devour” means. Now the question is: Can that happen to me and you?
First Peter 5:9 says, “Resist him.” And the reason you are to resist him is because he is trying to devour you. He is trying to devour you. Resist him. Is that a charade? War games. They are blanks. They are all blanks. There are no bullets in the gun. Nobody gets killed in this game. It is just “resist him” because—just do it. Nothing is really going to happen if you don’t, because it doesn’t happen to Christians. Is that right? Well, I think the devouring is real, and it sure sounds serious to me when Peter says, resist him, resist him. It doesn’t sound like a game. It sounds like heaven and hell are at stake here to me.
So, I ask again. Can true, born again Christians possibly be devoured by the devil? And the answer is no, because true, born again Christians always fight. They fight back. That is what it means to be a true, born again Christian. True, born again Christians have the Holy Spirit within them, so that when they see the lion coming, they don’t say, “Ah, nothing is at stake here. I don’t need to fight. I don’t need to stir up my faith. I don’t need to read the Bible. I don’t need to pray. I don’t need to be with other believers. I don’t have to be vigilant over my eyes and make sure that flesh doesn’t get the upper hand—because nothing is at stake here.” True, born again believers do not talk like that. True, born again believers have the Holy Spirit inside and embrace the Word of God that he inspired. They hear the Word, “Resist him now. Fight, because your life depends on it. I will give you the success, but you fight.” And they fight. If you don’t fight, you are probably not born again.
At least, if you go on and on and on and on slipping away from the vigilance of faith and fighting sin and the devil, you have no reason to think you are saved. It doesn’t matter what you prayed long ago. It doesn’t matter what card you signed. It doesn’t matter in baptism. It doesn’t matter what your parents did. Salvation is real. It is real. It is real. It is a work of God in a human heart, and there are effects from it. And one of the effects is, when the lion comes, you fight.
There is a promise in this passage which is just staggering. It is in this passage. It is also way back in chapter 1. In 1 Peter 1:5, it says that Christians are “kept” (or, as the ESV says, “guarded”)—precious word: kept by the power of God “through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”—through faith, through resisting the devil, firm in your faith. If you say, “I am kept, I am kept by the power of God,” and you don’t resist him, firm in your faith, you are contradicting God.
God says, “I am going to keep you by my power through your faith against the devil.” And you say, “I’ll take that, but I won’t believe.” It is like I go into a king’s hall, this great king in some enchanted empire, and he takes the ring off his finger and he puts the ring on my finger and he says, “Sir John, as long as you wear this ring, you will be invincible.” I say, “I will be invincible?” “You will be invincible.” “I will write that down. I will be invincible.” And I walk out. I take the ring off and I sell it, pocket the money and say, “I am invincible. He said. I got it written it here. You will be invincible.”
There is something wrong with that. There is something wrong with hearing God say, “You are kept by my power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed,” and then say, “I am kept by his power. And if Satan comes, I don’t need to fight by faith, because I am safe.” That is like taking off your ring.
But God will not let the elect—born of God, called—take off their ring. The evidence that you are a child of God is that you keep the ring on. The badge of the children of God is battle. The badge of the children of God is battle against sin and the devil, not perfection. That badge, that crown, that comes later. But the fight, I will fight. I will not lay down my shield. I will not take off my ring. I will not rip off my badge. I am a believer. And he will keep me safe through the faith that he himself works in me.
John Piper is the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. John is the author of more than 30 books and more than 25 years of his preaching and teaching is available free at DesiringGod.org. © Desiring God.