If faith is the sole yardstick for salvation, then the devil becomes a “Christian.”
A man preaches the gospel to some atheists. They listen to him attentively and finally agree that Jesus is the Messiah. Then he preaches the same gospel to some Christians. But by the time he finishes, they want to lynch him. Why would Christians want to kill him when atheists accept him? That is kingdom dynamics.
Jesus preached to unbelievers in a Samaritan city and many immediately believed he is the Messiah (John 4:39-42). But when he preached to some Jews who “believed in him,” they wanted to kill him (John 8:31/59). What truth of God might provoke a more violent reaction from ostensible believers than from unbelievers?
Let me deal with one here. Tell some Christians they are not sons of God and you would get a distinctly un-Christ-like reaction. Tell them they are enemies of the cross and they might decide to crucify you in retaliation.
When Jesus encountered this kind of reaction during a discourse with some Jews “who believed in him,” he said to them: “Why do you not understand my speech? Because you are not able to listen to my word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:43-44).
Paradoxically, his opponents confirmed the veracity of this assertion that their father is the devil by wanting to kill Jesus there and then.
Faith without works
Can a Christian really be satanic? Yes indeed. Today, we often define a Christian according to Paul’s standard which says: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). But what many Christians fail to appreciate is that Paul’s salvation yardstick is satanic precisely because it is deceptively based on faith alone.
James is quick to point out that if faith is the sole yardstick for salvation, then the devil becomes a “Christian:” “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe- and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:19-20).
When Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter declared that Jesus is “the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16). Jesus immediately acknowledged that Peter’s response was inspired. He said to him: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). In effect, Peter was the first person in the bible to fulfil Paul’s requirement of making a “confession unto salvation.”
A demonic faith
But a few verses after Jesus’ acknowledgement of Peter’s inspiration, he tells his disciples he is going to Jerusalem where he would be killed. When Peter protests against this divine agenda, Jesus says to him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:23). This reveals that, in spite of Peter’s Pauline confession, he remained on the side of Satan and men and not on the side of Christ and God.
This is the dilemma of many of us who call ourselves Christians. We think we belong to Christ because we answered an altar call and confessed Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. But everything about us shows we are really of the devil. The life we love is the one the devil gives. Our prayers are all about getting the bread and fish that evil fathers of this world give. The churches we attend are those of motivational preachers who provide us with “five keys” and “seven strategies” for gaining this world.
This makes us mad and furious at anyone who dares to preach the true gospel to us. We abuse and persecute anyone who pricks our conscience and calls our attention to the need to lay down our lives in order to gain the kingdom of God.
Thus, day-in day-out, we betray Christ with a kiss. We call him our Lord and Saviour, but our values, aspirations and lifestyles testify against us. They speak eloquently that we are of the world and not of the kingdom. They reveal that we are on Satan’s side.
Jesus says: “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). But many satanic Christians insist Jesus does not really mean what he says.