Posted on Dec 11, 2017 by Mike LeDuke
But what about the devil? While “satan” simply means adversary, what does “devil” mean?
Once again, it’s helpful to look a bit deeper into what the word means in the original language of the Bible. “Devil” is a Greek word, thus, it doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the Old Testament.
In the Greek, the word translated as “devil” is “diabolos,” and it appears to carry the idea of a slanderer or liar. While it is most often simply translated as “devil,” there are a few times in Scripture where its meaning is more or less spelled out––and those instances give us a bit of insight into what the devil truly is:
1 Timothy 3:10-11 “And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.”
Here Paul described some of the qualifications of those who wished to serve as deacons, as well as the qualifications of their wives. And can you guess which of the words in that list of qualifications is the word “diabolos”?
It’s right near the end of the quotation: slanderers. Because really, that is what devil means.
Again, the apostle Paul used the term once more in his second epistle to Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:1-3 “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good.”
Just as before, the word diabolos has been translated as slanderous.
And, did you notice what else is extremely interesting about these uses of the word devil?
Here it’s applied to people.
Just as we saw with the word “satan,” it would appear as though it is possible for people to also be devils.
And why is that?
Because a devil is simply a slanderer or a liar.
So then what is the devil?
Well, if a devil is a slanderer and a liar, would it not make sense to say that the devil is the slanderer and the liar?
So what is it that is responsible for sin?
We covered that in our first post about this subject. Scripture is extremely clear that sin comes from the heart. It is the heart that is desperately wicked, above anything else (Jeremiah 17:9).
In other words, oftentimes both “satan” and “the devil” are used as a personification of our own fleshly and deceitful hearts and minds.
Furthering this point, just consider what the writer to the Hebrews wrote about the Lord’s flesh and his sacrifice:
Hebrews 2:14 “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.”
Christ had the same flesh as us (and the writer is at pains to emphasize that!)––because that flesh was the devil! There was no supernatural being that was destroyed when Christ was crucified! Instead, the apostle wrote that in having this flesh, resisting it, and ultimately putting it to death, Christ destroyed the devil. He never gave in to deceitful thoughts. He never let the slanderer win. Instead, he victoriously hung it on the cross.
And to tie it all together, consider the fact that the apostle Paul wrote very similarly about Christ’s flesh and his fight against the devil––except he didn’t call it “the devil”:
Romans 8:3 “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”
It’s the same idea as what was written in Hebrews. Christ came in the flesh in order to destroy the devil––and yet, reinforcing what we’ve said all throughout this post, the apostle called the devil something else. He called it sin.
Because that’s what the devil is. It’s sinful tendencies that come from our human hearts.
And really, recognizing this is of paramount importance––only when we recognize what the devil actually is, can we truly be able to stand against it.
- Jason Hensley