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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Angel of Light (Part 1)

The essays of Maurice Roberts, former Editor of the Banner of Truth Journal, are always helpful reading. His essay on The Angel of Light in the December 1988 Journal number 303 is worth repeating here in two parts because we will all encounter the Angel of Light or those unwittingly acting for him:

The Christian who is to get through this life unscathed must learn to fight Satan not only as an angel of darkness but also as an angel of light. Even the world has the wisdom to see that 'the devil you know is better than the devil you do not know'. The point is that we do not recognise an unknown enemy so easily and an enemy in the guise of a friend is obviously the worst combination imaginable. The terrorist who approaches us dressed as a policeman is the most deadly foe of all
because he has all the advantages of surprise and deceit. So is the devil to God's people when he poses as 'an angel of light' [2 Cor. 11:14] The velvet glove of hell's diplomacy succeeds where the mailed fist of persecution fails. We are accustomed to meeting Satan as a devil but not as an angel and we are trained to expect him wearing the mantle of darkness but not the garment of light.

It goes without saying that the devil's motive and intention is always precisely the same. He aims to drag God's Name down into the dust. Satan cares comparatively little for the creature. It is the Creator's declarative glory he intends to destroy. In striking at the church, he is aiming his blow at God. But because God is eternally beyond his reach and because Christ, since his exaltation, is beyond the power of temptation Satan directs his fury against the church. The church is almost all that is left to Satan to attack. It is, so to speak, the Achilles' heel of Christ, the only place where Christ is vulnerable. The world lies already in his power [1 John 5:19], So not a day nor a part of a day elapses but all hell schemes fresh attacks upon the kingdom of grace. Every move and counter-move of the devil is made with the end in view of mining God's honour by leading His people into sin.

Sin is seldom, if ever, original. The newest vices of our modern world appear to have all had their counterpart in the ancient world, and, no doubt, were practiced before the Flood. Similarly, the devil's temptations have no need to be original because the old, well-tried snares of the past are usually successful enough in each succeeding generation.

Our particular concern here is not with Satan's fiery darts' [Eph. 6:16] so much as with those subtler methods which he employs as an 'angel of light'. The twentieth-century western church is not so much under attack from Satan's bloodthirsty and brutal attacks as from his 'cunning craftiness' [Eph. 4:14]. It is all the more necessary that we should become a little more familiar with some of the tricks which belong to his 'velvet-glove' diplomacy.


This is a marvellously successful mode of temptation, remarkable alike for its simplicity and effectiveness. The perfection of both doctrine and practice always lies in the mean between two extremes. Christ, so to speak, is always between two thieves, one on the right and the other on the left.

It is the devil's task, therefore, to drive us to one extreme or the other. This he does, not by force of arms, but by the suggestion of serving God more consistently. The movement which extolled virginity and celibacy in the early church did so with the laudable motive of consecrating the whole of life to God's work. Marriage was degraded as a consequence and, by the Middle Ages, the monastic life was marked by the vices which result from sexual repression. The devil foresaw it. Earnest churchmen like Jerome did not.

Generally speaking, Satan will lead us along the path of temperamental inclination so that we end up by making vices out of our virtues. The man (and more especially the minister) who excels in culture and courtesy ends up in compromise. The independent thinker becomes autocratic and ends up a tyrant. The efficient congregation becomes so smooth-running that it resembles a machine rather than a church for needy sinners. What begins as virtue ends up as vice. 'Pray be more like your virtues,' says the angel of light, till extremes are reached and we undo the good we intended to do. To turn the paraffin lamp up too high gives, not more light, but more smoke. It is a common device of our adversary. The history of the church of Christ illustrates his successes in both theory and practice

Final instalment in a few days.

Sam Drucker

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