A friend emailed me a message by Dr. John Piper called, “Can Satan Devour True Christians?” It is a sermon and transcript from 1994. He was speaking on 1 Pet 5:8-9. This message was posted on the DesiringGod.org website on July 13, 2016. His answer may surprise you.
Here is Piper’s answer to his own question:
So, I ask again. Can true, born again Christians possibly be devoured by the devil? And the answer is no, because true, born again Christians always fight. They fight back. That is what it means to be a true, born again Christian. True, born again Christians have the Holy Spirit within them, so that when they see the lion coming, they don’t say, “Ah, nothing is at stake here. I don’t need to fight. I don’t need to stir up my faith. I don’t need to read the Bible. I don’t need to pray. I don’t need to be with other believers. I don’t have to be vigilant over my eyes and make sure that flesh doesn’t get the upper hand — because nothing is at stake here.” True, born again believers, do not talk like that. True, born again believers have the Holy Spirit inside and embrace the Word of God that he inspired. They hear the Word, “Resist him now. Fight, because your life depends on it. I will give you the success, but you fight.” And they fight. If you don’t fight, you are probably not born again.
Notice he says, “Fight, because your life depends on it.” That would be true if he were talking about one’s physical life. The believer who falls will likely die prematurely (Jas 5:19-20).
But Piper means that your everlasting life depends on you fighting: “If you don’t fight, you are probably not born again.”
Why did he say probably? Why not just says, “If you don’t fight, you are not born again”? The reason is that Piper thinks that it is slightly possibly that the one not fighting now might begin fighting in the near future. In his view born-again people can falter for a short time. But they will always get back up soon and start walking with the Lord again.
I recently preached through 1st and 2nd Peter. As you might imagine, my emphasis was significantly different than that of Dr. Piper. Here is what I said in my sermon on 1 Pet 5:5-11. I am commenting here on 1 Pet 5:8-10:
The devil wants to devour Christians. This doesn’t mean he can take away everlasting life. He cannot. It means he wants to cause us to fall away from the Lord. He wants us to cease serving the Lord.
We are to resist him. We resist him by remaining steadfast in the faith and by remembering that the sufferings we experience are being experienced by other brothers and sisters around the world.
Ernest Best says, “This does not mean that they should oppose their persecutors but that they should be steadfast under persecution so that they do not become victims of the lion through apostasy” (p. 174)…
A few verses earlier Peter spoke of possible future exaltation by God (v 6). Now (1 Pet 5:10-11) he picks up that theme again.
Peter speaks of God, the Almighty, as “the God of all grace.” That is, God is the source of blessings in our lives. He pours His favor out on us.
The God of all grace has called us “to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus.” Peter wants the readers to fully share in His coming glory. How much they will share in that glory depends on how much they share in His sufferings now. Compare 1 Pet 4:13 and this verse, 1 Pet 5:10.
God is the one to whom belongs glory and dominion forever. However, if we faithfully serve Him, then we will share in the kingdom glory and rule.
Can Satan devour true Christians? Yes. That is absolutely the point Peter is making. He is warning us that our battle is spiritual and that we need the Spirit of God to take the Word of God so that our minds are renewed and our lives are transformed. Victory is ours if we abide in Christ and in His Word. But it is not automatic. It is not guaranteed.
As the song writer put it in the famous song, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?”: “I must fight if I would reign.” All believers will be in the kingdom. Overcoming believers will reign with Christ in His kingdom.