Does ‘Resist the Devil, and He Will Flee’ Still Apply Today?
- Aaron Berry Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2020 17 Jan
The Christian life is a battle. Spiritual warfare is real; angels are real; Satan is real. As the sworn enemy of our Savior, Satan’s greatest desire is to turn people away from Christ through his lies and deceit. For a Christian to function as if this is not a reality is a recipe for spiritual disaster.
Although the Devil cannot snatch believers away from Christ (1 John 5:18), he is still hard at work to cause division among believers, render them ineffective in their testimony, and damage their relationship with God. Because of this reality, Christians are called to “resist the Devil.” We are to stand firm and oppose the adversary of God’s people.
What Bible Verse Encourages Us to ‘Resist the Devil, and He Will Flee’?
The command to resist the Devil is found in James 4:7, ”Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” To fully understand this command, it needs to be considered within the larger context of James 4.
In this section (James 4:1-12), James appears to be confronting some problems his readers are experiencing in the church. He references divisions and quarrels among them, stating that the true source of those quarrels was the sinful desires and passions raging within them (James 4:1).
Then he gives them a startling rebuke: “You adulterous people” (James 4:4). These lust-driven quarrels were a type of spiritual adultery as the people were choosing friendship with the world over friendship with God (James 4:4).
They were “cheating” on the One who had redeemed and rescued them from their sin.
What Is the Context of James 4:7?
This is the context in which James commands them to “resist the devil.” Although it was ultimately their own sin that was the problem, Satan was capitalizing on the people’s spiritual adultery to promote division--between Christians and between God and his people.
This is how Satan works. The devil is not responsible for our own sinful choices, but if we “give place to the devil” (Eph 4:27) by following our own passions, then we shouldn’t be surprised when we see him wreak havoc in our churches.
Thankfully, James provides a solution to this struggling church, and resisting the devil is a step in the journey from sin back to our loving Father. If we are to know what resisting the devil looks like, we need to consider the commands immediately before and after James 4:7.
After James’s pointed rebuke, he lovingly reminds them that grace is available to those who humble themselves (James 4:6). Therefore, right before he tells them to “resist the devil,” he tells them to “submit yourselves therefore to God.”
These commands are two sides of the same coin.
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Submitting to God and Resisting the Devil Go Hand in Hand
As one commentator puts it, “Submission to God is itself an act of resistance to the devil…As people align their lives with God, the result becomes a growing resistance to the temptations of the devil and he loses any foothold and must flee.” 
To think that we can resist Satan without humbly submitting our lives to God is the height of arrogance.
Submitting to God means elevating his Word above our own desires, yielding ourselves to God’s revealed will in the Scriptures, and desperately calling to him in prayer to ask for “grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
There is no better illustration of what this looks like than the example of Jesus himself. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, he had to resist the devil in the wilderness (Matt. 4; Luke 4). Even though Jesus was God in flesh, he resisted Satan by submitting to the will of the Father and quoting Scripture.
For us to think that we can resist the devil any other way is foolish!
After his command to resist the devil, James commands his readers to “draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” This command is also indivisibly connected to the command to resist the devil. It shows that the ultimate goal is a restored relationship with God.
We resist Satan, not to make our lives easier, but to restore our walk with Jesus. Just as submission to God is an act of resistance to the devil, so is a zealous pursuit of God. Satan cannot dwell in the presence of God. So the one who desperately runs the throne of grace can rest assured that the devil cannot follow him there.
How Does ‘Resistance’ Cause the Devil to Flee?
James includes a comforting assurance to this important command: If we resist the devil, he will flee from us. He cannot overpower a child of God who is humbly submitting to and actively pursuing Jesus. Jesus died on the cross so that he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Heb 2:14-15). We have the ability to resist the devil only because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross of Calvary.
There are a couple of other Scripture passages in which we learn of our ability to resist the devil. In 1 Peter 5:8, Satan is described as a “roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” In 1 Peter 5:9, we are commanded to “resist him, firm in your faith.” It’s interesting to note that, just like James, Peter states that humble submission to God is a necessary prerequisite for resisting the devil (1 Peter 5:6).
Another well-known passage is Ephesians 6:10-20, where we read of the Armor of God. We are to put on this armor so that we “may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). Just as in every other passage that we have considered, the ability to resist the devil is not found in ourselves, but is only found in Christ. It is his strength (Ephesians 6:10) and his armor (Ephesians 6:11) that guards us against the devil’s fiery darts (Ephesians 6:16).
The source of our strength should not cause us to stand up and arrogantly rebuke the devil (not even Michael the archangel did that—see Jude 1:9), but to bow our heads in humble gratitude in thanks to our gracious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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What Can Christians Do To Resist the Devil?
It’s important for believers to remember that our ability to resist the devil should not be viewed in isolation. There are things that must happen in our hearts before, during, and after we resist. Here are some practical ways that we can resist the devil:
Take stock of your own sinful desires. Do you have deeply-held desires and cravings that produce relational tension and conflict when they aren’t fulfilled? Realize that the devil has you right where he wants you. Repent of those sinful desires and ask God for the grace to love him more than yourself.
Compare God’s Word to your own lifestyle. Satan is the Father of lies. So often we fall prey to those lies without knowing it (“God just wants me to be happy,” “I deserve better than this,” “Money will solve all my problems,” “I can handle this on my own”). We need a regular dose of God’s Truth in our lives so that we can clearly discern truth from error. Pick up your Bible and see if you’re living it or ignoring it.
Don’t be casual in your Christianity. If Satan is a master deceiver, then his tactics won’t always be obvious and his attacks won’t always be overt. Don’t think that you can cruise through life, picking and choosing when to follow God, and think that you can escape Satan’s attacks. Put on the Armor of God before Satan’s attacks; don’t wait until you’re in the thick of battle.
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A Prayer of Encouragement to Resist the Devil So He Will Flee:
Lord Jesus, I thank you that you have already won the victory. Because of your death on the Cross, Satan’s fate has been sealed. Thank you for equipping and enabling me to resist the devil’s attacks. Thank you for your Word that can expose my own sinful desires and refute the lies of the Devil. Help me to stand firm, rooted in the faith, shielded by your armor, and dependent on your grace. Help me to resist the devil today. In the name of the one who crushed the head of the serpent, Amen.
Take courage Christian! You can resist the devil because Christ already won the victory. Don’t allow your own sin to give Satan a foothold in your life. Stay humbly submitted to God and actively pursue him every day.
 Blomberg, Craig and Mariam J. Karnell, James in the Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, Zondervan: 2008.
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Aaron Berry is a co-author for the Pursuing the Pursuer Blog. You can read more articles from Aaron and his colleagues by subscribing to their blog or following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Aaron currently resides in Allen Park, MI with his wife and two children, where he serves in his local church and recently completed an MDiv degree at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.