Forewarned Is Forearmed.
I suppose that not all clichés are necessarily accurate all the time. Even a good saying can have its limits. For instance, while it seems obviously true that “laughter is the best medicine”, I suppose there are scenarios where that would not be the case.
But, when it comes to the phrase, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed”, it’s hard not to see this as pretty much universally accurate. The prior knowledge of possible dangers or problems allows a tactical advantage that is hard to deny. If we know that trouble is coming, it is so much easier to avoid. I am sure that something like this was in Paul’s mind when he said to the Corinthians that, “we are not unaware of Satan’s schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:11). Being aware of how Satan might plot against us helps us prepare for the onslaught.
Of course, this begs the question a bit—how did the Corinthians become aware of Satan’s schemes? We do not have any explicit story in the Bible or indication in Paul’s letters that he addressed this question directly. Perhaps he did, which is why he could confidently assert that the Corinthians were not ignorant of Satan’s ways. But, how do we become aware of these things? We, too, need to be forewarned against temptation so that we might be forearmed to defend ourselves.
One of the great blessings in every Christian’s life is his or her connection to the overall community of God’s people both in the present, into the future, and in the past. Which means that we are not out here on our own, trying to figure out what faithfulness means. By God’s grace, He has placed us in a Church body with centuries of the experiences of godly men and women seeking His truth. And so it shouldn’t surprise us that the Church, through the ages, has sought to gain an awareness of the schemes of Satan. It is not just up to us alone to figure out how temptation comes; we are not on our own in our desire to be prepared for the struggle against sin. The godly saints through history, striving for faithfulness as we are today, examining the Scriptures and the experiences of daily life, were able to articulate an easy formula for the sources of temptation—the world, the flesh, and the devil.
The world: in all its brokenness, temptation arises simply through the sinful, godless ways our world so often functions. The flesh: it is from within, from our distorted and depraved desires that temptation so often attacks. The devil: as shown throughout the pages of Scripture, there is a demonic being who desires to destroy our fellowship with the Father. To be aware of these, to know that temptation comes so often by means of the world or arising from our own desires or as the result of the evil one… to know this is the way we are tempted is to be better prepared to defend ourselves. With this knowledge, we are not shocked when we are enticed to sin; we are on our guard against the insidious nature of these temptations; we are better able to cry out to our Savior for grace and mercy.
The world, the flesh, and the devil: Our Christian forefathers called them, “the enemies of the soul”. And, so they are. And we best take them seriously—for our Lord certainly does. And by His grace, from these and so much more, we shall be saved.
As you prepare for worship this week, read 1 John 2:15-17 and Daniel 3:1-15.
1. John’s use of the term, “world”, is not always the same. Here “the world” sounds pretty negative and bad. Where else in John’s writing is the “world” used in a more positive sense?
2. What might be the difference in the two usages of the term “world”? In other words, what different ways might that one word be used to mean two different things?
3. What would it mean to “love the world”? What would that look like? How would you know if you are doing this or not?
4. How does verse 17 summarize John’s overall view of the world and temptation here?
5. In Daniel, what is an example of “the world”? How were Daniel’s friends tempted by the “world”?
6. What is the source of the friends’ resistance to the world? What do they use to fight off temptation?
7. In Daniel’s story, the choices seem pretty clear; yet in practice that is not always the case. What can you do to help prepare yourself for the same kind of challenges which confronted Daniel’s friends, and which are part of the world every day?