Luk_22:31-32. And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.
THE agency, or even the existence, of evil spirits is scarcely credited amongst us; but there is nothing more certain than that they exist, and act in the world. To conflict with them, constitutes a principal part of the Christian’s warfare [Note: Eph_6:12.]; and to be aware of their devices is no inconsiderable attainment in Christian knowledge [Note: 2Co_2:11.]. There is however a Being who is able to counteract their agency: and of this we have a proof in the history before us. Satan, the prince of the devils, meditated the destruction of Peter. Our Lord with affection and earnestness warned Peter of his designs; and, by his own intercession, secured him against his assaults.
The malice of Satan—
Satan is the great adversary of mankind—
[He was once as bright a morning star as any in heaven. But he rebelled against the Most High, and incurred his displeasure [Note: 2Pe_2:4.]. Full of hatred against God, he sought to efface his image from our first parents. Through subtlety he prevailed to the destruction of them and us [Note: 2Co_11:3.]. Nor does he cease to assault those who through grace are restored.]
He desires to agitate and distress them—
[This is evidently implied in the expression in the text. He has various ways of effecting his purpose. He may harass us with temptations and persecutions: he may perplex us by artful insinuations and suggestions. His efforts were exerted against all the Apostles [Note:
.]: but the more eminent any are, the more they are hated by him. Peter was distinguished for his knowledge and intrepidity [Note: Mat_16:16.]: yea, he had had a peculiar honour conferred on him [Note: Mat_16:18.]. On this account Satan’s malice raged against him more especially.]
But his ultimate end is to prove them hypocrites, or to make them apostates—
[This was evidently his design in assaulting Job [Note: Job_1:9; Job_1:11; Job_2:5.], and in asking permission to try the Disciples [Note:
seems to imply a kind of challenge, as in the case of Job, wherein he undertook to prove them to be but chaff, if God would suffer him to make the trial.]. Nor would he leave one faithful person upon earth. “As a roaring lion he seeks to devour all”. He can do nothing indeed but by Divine permission [Note: He could not afflict Job more than God saw fit to suffer him: nor could he enter into the swine without our Saviour’s permission, Mat_8:31.]: but if suffered to fulfil all his will, he would destroy every soul. His influence on the herd of swine shews what he would do to men [Note: Mat_8:32.]: not one vassal of his would escape the fate of Judas [Note: Compare Luk_22:5. with Mat_27:5.].]
But God has not left his people without means of resistance—
Our security from his assaults—
God has both armed his people for the combat, and given them a great Deliverer—
Faith is the grace whereby he enables us to maintain our stand—
[It was by faith that we were translated from Satan’s kingdom into Christ’s [Note: Gal_3:26.]. It is by that also that our daily warfare is to be carried on [Note: 2Co_1:24.]. Yea, through that are we to attain our full and final salvation [Note: 1Pe_1:5.]. Faith is the shield whereby alone we can ward off the darts of Satan [Note: Eph_6:16.]: if that fail, we are exposed to the fiercest assaults of our enemy. If we lose our hold of the promises, we shall be driven away as chaff: we shall have no point around which to rally our scattered forces. Whereas, if faith be strong, we shall hope even against hope [Note: Rom_4:18; Rom_4:20.]; and, though wounded, we shall return with fresh vigour to the combat. Nor shall our great adversary be able to prevail against us [Note: Rom_10:11.]. Hence that earnest caution against unbelief [Note: Heb_3:12.] — and that express direction respecting the mode of opposing Satan [Note: 1Pe_5:8-9.]—]
But the intercession of Christ is necessary to uphold our faith—
[Peter’s faith would have failed utterly, if he had been left to himself; but through the intercession of Christ he was preserved. Thus we also should “make shipwreck of our faith.” But our prevailing Advocate pleads for us also [Note: Joh_17:20.]: as our High-Priest he bears us on his breast-plate before the throne [Note: Exo_28:29.]: he obtains for us fresh supplies of the Spirit. In this way he, who has been the author of our faith, will also be the finisher [Note: Heb_12:2.]. Hence the encouragement given us to rely on the intercession of Christ [Note: Rom_8:34.]— Hence the encouragement given us to regard it under every backsliding [Note: 1Jn_2:1.]— Hence the encouragement given us to rest assured of Christ’s power to save [Note: Heb_7:25.]—]
What need have we to be ever on our guard!
[Perhaps at this moment Satan may be desiring to sift us. And what if God should give us up into his hands? If suffered to exert his strength, he could soon dissipate whatever is good in us; nor should our past zeal in God’s service remove our apprehensions; that would rather provoke Satan to more activity against us. Let us then “not be high-minded, but fear.” Let us follow the salutary advice which our Lord has given us [Note: Mat_26:41.] Let us plead with fervour those important petitions [Note: Mat_6:13.]— At the same time let us “put on the whole armour of God,” and prepare, as God has taught us, for the assaults of our enemy [Note: Eph_6:13-18.].]
What a mercy is it to have an interest in Christ!
[They who know not Christ, are wholly under the power of Satan [Note: 2Ti_2:26.]; but they who are Christ’s, have a watchful and almighty guardian. Our Lord provided for Peter’s safety, before Peter even knew his danger. Thus “will he keep the feet of all his saints.” He will suffer none of them to be plucked out of his hand [Note: Joh_10:28.]. If he permit Satan to sift them, it shall be only for the removing of their chaff [Note: Compare 2Co_12:7. with Heb_12:10-11.]. He has pledged his word for the security of the weakest of his people [Note: Amo_9:9.]. Let us therefore commit ourselves entirely into his hands. Let us beg him to remember our unworthy names in his intercessions, and to deal with us as with Joshua of old [Note: Zec_3:2-4.]—]