The Wiles of the Devil


Dr. John Hoole




Ephesians 6:10-12 NKJV


10    Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

11    Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12    For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

13.   Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.


What is being described here by the apostle Paul?  We have answered this in past lessons, but I want us to think of it again.  The apostle is describing a struggle – he calls it “wrestling.”  Is Paul speaking of your life?  He is speaking of every Christian’s life.  Ephesians 1:1 tells us he is speaking to believers.


Is he speaking of a constant struggle in these verses?  Most of us would say that we are in a constant struggle with enemy of God.  And we know that this enemy and his cohorts will never stop.  He is constantly going out as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.


But I believe Verse 13 indicates that if the struggle is constant, its intensity level varies.  He tells us that he wants us to stand in the “evil day.”  The implication is that not all days are evil days.  Some are worse than others.  There are times or seasons when the pressures are more intense.  II turn to the 23rd Psalm to help me here.  There are definitely days when we are “walking through the valley fo the shadow of death” (23:4).  But there are also times and seasons when we “graze beside still waters” (23:2).


For the past two lessons, we have begun examining Ephesians 6:10-18 as we continue on the topic of Spiritual Warfare.  Two weeks ago, we took note of the immense power God has made available to us in our spiritual battles.  The apostle Paul instructs us to “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” [Eph. 6:10].  In Ephesians 1:19-20, we learned this power is the same as that which was utilized by God to raise Jesus from the dead.


In our last lesson, we looked at what I called the “Battle Plan.”  We must not only prepare ourselves for battle by becoming strong, we must also protect ourselves in battle by having a plan.


The battle plan has three parts.


1)  We must put on the armor of God,


2)  We must stand our ground, and


3)  We must watch out for traps laid by the devil.


We discussed parts 1 & 2 at length in our previous lesson.  Today, we address part 3.


3.    Watch Out For Traps


Paul calls these “the wiles of the devil” in Ephesians 6:11.


Ephesians 6:11 NKJV


11     Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.


In this verse we meet the commander-in-chief  of the invisible army arrayed against us.  He is our sworn, mortal enemy.  This is not a video game or a fairy tale but a very real war with a very real, deceptive foe.


Earlier in this letter to the Ephesian believers the apostle had warned them about the devil’s schemes in an effort to disrupt their lives and the unity of the church.


Ephesians 4:14 (NASU) tells them, and us…


14     As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;


In our text, Paul uses the word “wiles.”  Similar words could be used – like schemes, strategies, tactics and craftiness.


The Greek word for wiles is methodeia, which is where we get our English word “methods.”  So, the wiles of the devil are the methods he uses to injure, wound, and ensnare soldiers of Jesus Christ.


Satan’s schemes to destroy us and do us harm are built around stealth and deception, but as Paul writes to the Corinthians “we are not ignorant of his schemes” [2 Corinthians 2:11].


The term “wiles” or “schemes” indicate an orderly, logical, effective arrangement, usually in steps followed to achieve an end.  It describes deliberate planning or a systematic approach.  Our enemy has studied you and me.  And a “wile” or “scheme” that may work on me will not be effective on you.


In fact, Satan is so good at what he does, that sometimes, according to 1 Corinthians 11:3, 14, he appears as an angel of light.  This means that sometimes, when people think they are following light and truth, they are actually following darkness and deception.  to injure, wound, and ensnare soldiers of Jesus Christ.


Charles Spurgeon gave the following cautions regarding our adversary, the devil.


“He will attack you sometimes by force and sometimes by fraud. By might or by sleight he will seek to overcome you, and no unarmed man can stand against him. Never go out without all your armor on, for you can never tell where you may meet the devil. He is not omnipresent, but nobody can tell where he is not, for he and his troops of devils appear to be found everywhere on this earth.”


David Jeremiah has an interesting thought on Satan's methodeia writing that...


“If you could sneak into Satan’s office, wherever that might be (he’s not in hell yet), and take a peek into his files, you might be surprised to find a file folder with your name on it. I’m not exaggerating. He keeps a file on you, and inside that file are all the strategies he’s tried on you—the ones that have worked and the ones that have failed. He doesn’t waste his time with the ones that don’t work anymore. Instead, he uses variations on the strategies that have caused you to stumble in the past. As long as they keep working, he keeps using them. Somewhere in that file cabinet there’s a file labeled: Jeremiah, David. In this file, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if there was a notation that reads something like this: Subject may be prone to discouragement, especially if he becomes overly weary. This has worked several times before and seems a promising method of attack. Suggestion: Make sure he stays very busy, overcommitted, and physically tired. At all costs, keep him from extended times of Bible reading and prayer.


So what is Satan’s strategy for me? He looks for ways to discourage me, and if possible, cause me some depression. He will use whatever people, means, or circumstances it takes to achieve his goal.


It’s the same for you. Maybe your file says, “Frequently tempted to gossip,” or “quick temper,” or “prone to coveting and jealousy,” or “weak in the area of lust.”


Don’t kid yourself, he knows very well where your vulnerabilities lie. It’s all in his file. You’ve heard, perhaps, that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. That’s very good news, but it is also true that Satan hates you and has a plan and strategy to destroy your walk with Jesus Christ.”


Though Satan has millions of specific temptations, there are only three main types.


Three Types of Traps


In 1 John 2:15-17, the Apostle John says that there are three types of traps that we can encounter in our life as Christians.  He calls them: 1) The lust of the flesh, 2) The lust of the eyes, and 3) The pride of life.


1 John 2:16 NKJV


16     For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world.


So although there are a wide variety of specific temptations and traps that the devil can throw our way, each and every one will fall into one of these three categories.  I do believe every sin would fall into one or more of these three categories.  Look at how these three are mentioned in other translations.


NIV:      For everything in the world — the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does — comes not from the Father but from the world.


Barclay: For everything that is in the world—the flesh’s desire, the eye’s desire, life’s empty pride—does not come from the Father but comes from the world.


MLB (Berkley): because everything in the world, the passions of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the proud display of life have their origin not from the Father but from the world.


Here are a couple of examples from Scripture where these three enticements are used by the enemy. 


In Genesis 3:6, Satan uses these same three traps on Eve.  She saw that the tree was good for food (the lust of the flesh), that it was pleasing to the eyes (that’s the lust of the eyes), and that it was desirable to make one wise (that’s the pride of life).


Similarly, when Satan tempted Jesus for forty days in the wilderness, the Gospel accounts tell us that he presented Jesus with three different temptations.  Satan wanted Jesus to turn stone into bread (the lust of the flesh), then showed Him all the kingdoms of the world (the lust of the eyes), and tempted Jesus to throw Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple in order to easily declare Himself as the Messiah and prove that God was working for Him (the pride of life).



This may be helpful to recognize, for it means that after you’ve been a Christian for a day or two, there is no new temptation you will ever face that you have not faced before.  The specific details might be different, but all temptations will fall into one of these three categories.  Therefore, when a temptation comes, rather than say, “Uh oh! I’ve never faced this specific temptation before!” you can instead confidently say, “Oh, I recognize this as a temptation that tugs on the lust of the flesh.  I’ve faced similar temptations before and stood strong against them, so I can stand up under this temptation as well.”


Once you recognize that every temptation will fall into one of these three types, and you remember that you have withstood various temptations in all of these types before, it will give you more confidence and faith to withstand similar temptations in the future.


Three Targets for Traps


Along with three main types of temptations, there are also three main targets for these temptations.  There are three areas that Satan is constantly trying to undermine and destroy.   These three targets are the church, the family, and your own personal life.


1. The church


There is a wide variety of ways that Satan seeks to destroy and undermine the church, but the primary method is to confuse people about what the church actually is.  Many people have fallen to this temptation, and are quite confused about what the church is.  Some equate the church with a building, while others think of it as an event.  Also, some people think that only a certain denomination is the true church,  and everyone else is false.  This way of thinking creates division and strife.


So, what is the church?  What does Satan not want you to recognize about the church?  He does not want you to know that the church is made up of people.  The church is people. It is not a building. It is not a place. It is not an event.   It is not a denomination. You cannot “go” to church or “attend” church.


Instead, since you are the church, the church goes with you.  The church exists regardless of whether or not there is a building.  The church functions regardless of whether or not there is a Sunday morning “service” with four songs and a sermon.


Satan does not want the church to recognize what the church truly is, because as long as he can keep us deceived about the nature of the church, he can then lead us to argue about what type of building is best, and how long the Sunday service should be, and what type of music to play, and who gets to stand up front and preach, and all the other numerous types of issues that have split and divided the church for centuries.


But as soon as we recognize what the church truly is, the need for all of these arguments disappear, and we will start living as the church in our communities and towns, which is what Jesus has always wanted.


2. The Family


Satan’s second primary target is the family.  The family unit is God’s primary method of world evangelism and life transformation.  The family is where people learn about love and relationships, and the importance of working together as a team.  It is also through our human families that we learn about how to live within the family of God.


Therefore, the family unit is central to the church, central to the kingdom of God, and central to what God seeks to accomplish in this world.  Since the family is so important to God’s plan and purposes in this world, Satan does all he can to destroy the family.  He tries to break up marriages, and get children to disobey their parents, and parents to neglect their children.  This is why Paul spent so much space in Ephesians talking about marriage and family (cf. Ephesians 5:22–6:4).


3. Personal Life


The third primary target of Satan is your own personal life. Each Christian is under nearly constant attack from the devil. He tries to ruin our lives by tempting us to sin, encouraging us to be selfish, and leading us toward activities that can stunt our spiritual growth and make us physically sick.


One Tactic for the Traps


While Satan has three types of traps, and three primary targets for these traps, there is only one tactic he uses when he targets us with these traps.  It is this: he challenges what God has said.


He raises doubts in our minds about the truth of Scripture.  He twists and perverts what the Bible says.  He makes subtle changes to the Word of God He adds to the Word of God, or subtracts from the Word of God.  He rips verses out of context from the Word of God.  He exaggerates the strictness of the boundaries in God’s Word.  He denies the consequences of disobeying God’s Word.  He distorts the supreme revelation of God in Jesus Christ to make us think that Jesus reveals the opposite of what He actually did reveal.


All of Satan’s temptations and traps revolve around misusing or abusing the revelation of God.  The serpent tempted Eve in Genesis 3:1-5 by questioning and challenging the instructions of God regarding the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.


Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness by challenging why Jesus came and what He was here to do (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13).  When tempting Jesus, Satan even quoted Bible verses to provide “biblical support” for what he was trying to get Jesus to do.


This shows that just because someone has a few Bible verses to support their beliefs or behavior, this does not mean they have properly understood or applied those Bible passages.  Other than God Himself, Satan is probably the greatest Bible expert in existence.  He knows how to quote and twist Scripture to support his temptations and provide cover for his traps.


Whenever you see someone being tempted in Scripture, it is because they are wondering if God’s Word can be trusted.  This is how Satan tempted the Israelites in the wilderness, how he tempted the kings of Israel, how he tempted the apostles and the early church, and how he tempts you and me.


He not only invites us to believe wrong things or behave in wrong ways, he also loves to support and defend his temptations with fine-sounding arguments from Scripture, which, when carefully examined, prove to be nothing more than twisted perversions of Scripture.  But these distortions of God’s Word are very effective in tricking Christians to follow the ways of Satan instead of the ways of God.