Satan’s Secret Weapon
By Certified Church Consultant, Dr. David Smith
It’s safe to say the Church is under attack. It seems like the further we move in time the harder it is to proclaim a simple gospel of repentance and faith, stand for the truth of Scripture, and disciple believers into fully committed followers of Christ. We’ve got an enemy who hates us and wants nothing more than to see the Church ineffective and off-track. Our enemy’s secret weapon is as old as the Church herself, but it might not be what you think.
You might think that Satan would launch an all-out assault on the Church, kill her leaders, scatter the believers, and grind the gospel into oblivion. The Book of Acts reveals that Satan didn’t spend as time and energy coordinating attacks against the infant Church as you might think. Oh, the Church has experienced our fair share of persecution, and many within the body of Christ around the world still do. From the Church’s inception, the same Jewish Sanhedrin that killed Jesus tried their best to wipe out His followers through physical persecution (cf. Acts 3-7). But it backfired. As a result of their efforts, the believers leave Palestine and Saul of Tarsus becomes the Apostle Paul – two factors that contributed to the church permeating the Roman empire with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Between AD 64 until the Edict of Milan (AD 313) there were 10 major persecutions by Rome against the Church. Of the 54 emperors who ruled Rome between AD 30 and AD 313, only about 12 went out of their way to persecute Christians. None of these emporers’ efforts were able to hamper the spread of the gospel throughout the Empire.
Sandwiched between Acts 4 and 5 is a short account that clues us in to Satan’s secret weapon; one that has proven to be his greatest weapon ever. Satan, in his maniacal methodology, added another tactic to his assault against the fledgling Church…internal division. Satan’s attempt to dissolve the harmony of the church through disunity fails. He tries again in Acts 6 with the apparent neglect of the Hellenistic Christians. Again, another failure, but that doesn’t dissuade Satan. Acts 10-11 witness the beginning of a very problematic stage of the early Church’s growth. The gospel makes its way to Gentiles. Peter ends up in Antioch with Saul (Paul) and Barnabas where he sees its impact on the Gentiles and rejoices, eating and fellowshipping with them. When a Jerusalem delegation sent from James arrives and sees Peter eating Gentile food and fellowshipping with them, he shamefully withdraws. Peter’s hypocrisy even leads Barnabas to withdraw from these new Gentile converts. Saul/Paul gets so angry he publicly confronts Peter (Gal. 2:12-21). This incident, and the rapid spread of the gospel among the Gentiles, leads the Jerusalem church to hold a council to discuss the matter of Gentile inclusion within the Church (Acts 15). Judaizers follow Paul during his first journeys; teaching the newly converted Gentiles that they had to become essentially Jewish if salvation was going to be theirs. Satan’s tool of disharmony and discord threaten the Church’s effectiveness. The New Testament epistles are full of practical admonitions dealing with disunity and discord.
In the simple problem of disunity, Satan found a weapon that’s hampered the Church’s effectiveness and the gospel’s spread for two millennia.
How Do We Fight Back?
The Church is described with three key metaphors: building, family, and body. These picture a singular key truth: the Church’s strength is found in her interdependent unity. We are many different parts fused into one entity with one mission.
In obedience to Ephesians 4:1-6, pastors must preach, model, and advocate to replace fear, bigotry, and loneliness with partnership, fellowship, and accountability. Healthy churches function within a community of interdependence and mutual responsibility. American culture is marked by a narcissistic individualism that tends toward self-isolationism and the attempt to meet one’s own emotional, psychological, physical, economic, and spiritual needs apart from a larger community. The church is intended by God to be a community through which man’s basic needs may be met in the context of a common faith relationship with Jesus Christ. The church is intended to function in an interdependent relationship.
God wants churches to function as a united family of God where every member uses his or her God-given gifts and abilities to benefit the whole rather than pursuing a personal agenda. Because we still live in a sinful world and our enemy still hates God, His plan, and His people, this will never be perfectly realized in this life. But that’s no excuse to allow Satan to disrupt the harmony of God’s Church to hamper the gospel’s advance. Unity and harmony are key tools against our enemy’s infiltrations and persecutions. If we keep our Churches on mission and interdependent we will nullify Satan’s secret weapon.