BROTHER A. L. Holden, of Durham, N. C., writes us as follows: “Will you please give your views in answer to a question suggested from the following Scripture, to wit: ‘Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ – John vi. 70; also, ‘And after the sop, Satan entered into him.’ – John xiii. 27? The words ‘Satan’ and ‘devil’ in the Scriptures appear as synonymous. If so, there also appears a dormant principle in the creature, devil, that the entrance of Satan brought to light; hence, the question: What principle dormant in the one was brought to light upon the entrance of the other?”
While we do not believe in splitting hairs, or laying stress on fine distinctions that amount to nothing, we scarcely think the words “devil” and “Satan “ in the above two passages noted by brother Holden are fully synonymous; it seems to us there is a shade of difference worth our while to note. It is true that in many places where these two words occur they do mean one and the same thing, but not here. In those Scriptures where the word “devil” is preceded by the definite article “the” it means the same as Satan. Where the word “devil” is preceded by “a” it does not denote as full a measure of wickedness as would be involved in the expression, “the devil,” which would embrace the whole of Satan and all his arts. Had Jesus told Judas that he was “ the devil,” we should have been compelled to believe that he was no less than Satan himself. But, by his saying that he was “a devil,” we know that Judas instead of being the entire embodiment of evil, was but one of many that falsely accuse the truth. The word “devil” is diabolo in the Greek, and literally means an accuser, an opposer. All men by nature are in opposition to righteousness, thus are opposers; hence, diabolical, therefore devilish. Every man in a state of nature is a devil, but every man is not “the devil.” It would take the whole of that portion of the world that is unregenerate and out of Christ to make up the sum and substance of the devil. In 1 John v. 19, “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” and the marginal reading is, “The whole world lieth in the wicked one.”
But the particular question of brother Holden is, What principle dormant in Judas, a devil, was brought to light upon the entrance of Satan after the giving of the sop to him by Jesus’? This principle was money lust, the greed for gold. It has wrecked many a life and marred many a fair profession of faith in Christ. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Money is all right in its place; it is the love of it that does the damage. Sadly has the fine gold of a believer’s walk and conversation ofttimes been dimmed and sullied by this diabolical love of money simply for money’s sake. Mixed with this excitement of his passion for gold, which had since his becoming a disciple lain dormant in Judas, but now, by the entrance of Satan into him, was roused into activity, we doubt not there was mixed jealousy. This must have been so, because Jesus openly exposed his traitor in the presence of all his disciples, and, no doubt, it fired Judas with a determination to get back at him, to be revenged for having been openly exposed, and, as some men might say, insulted. Jealousy, greed, revenge, what a mixture is here, a very devil surely. These devils, or evil spirits, adversaries of our peace, diabolical as they are, are in the flesh of us all. Grace, and grace alone, can keep these in subjection. The new man of the Spirit, created in righteousness and true holiness, alone is able to keep the body in subjection. Not one of us have anything to boast of over Judas, therefore let us put our hands over our mouths and leave him to his God. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” L.
Elder H. H. Lefferts
Signs of the Times
Volume 82, No. 20
October 14, 1914