How Does the Devil Work?
When we renewed our baptismal promises at Easter, we together renounced Satan and all his works and all his empty promises. How am I to understand this? How does Satan perform his works and how does he make empty promises? P Evans
At your baptism the priest or deacon handed over a lighted candle, saying: “Receive the light of Christ”, and keep the flame of faith alive. This is a highly symbolic gesture.
In contrast to the powers of darkness and the evil deriving from Satan, Christ is the light that is born of God our Father.
We profess this when we recite the Creed and say that Christ is born of the Father before all ages, “God from God, light from light”.
The lighted candle represents God himself. In receiving it, the newly baptised must now promise to live forever in that divine light and therefore have nothing to do with the opposite of light, that is the darkness of Satan.
Renouncing Satan is Ancient Practice
The practice of renouncing Satan goes back to the early days. In the third century, Tertullian observed that before baptism is administered, “we solemnly swear that we disown the devil and his pomps and angels”.
This renunciation of the devil and his wiles is underestimated. This is because the works and empty promises he practises are all around us and we live with them too comfortably. The devil is, as Jesus called him, a liar and the father of lies (Jn 8:44).
Satan’s influence is witnessed wherever men and women lie to one another and deliberately deceive one another. Satan is the “prince of this world” (Jn 12:31) whose sway of power cannot extend to eternal life with Christ.
Those who find themselves beguiled to believe that riches, fame and luxury are the only way to go are the ones who fall victim to Satan’s works and empty promises, as do those whose businesses or personal designs uncaringly exploit others to the point of poverty.
Mankind Prefers Darkness
They can easily lead lives of deception, lying or hiding the truth from others in order to achieve what they want in the here and now. Not desiring their fraudulence to be exposed, they keep it dark, away from the light of truth.
There is no better way to express this than in Christ’s words:
“Though the light has come into the world, men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed anyone who does wrong hates the light and avoids it for fear his actions should be exposed. The man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen what he does is done in God” (Jn 3:19-21).
Satan’s works and empty promises are the absolute opposite of the promise of eternal life we receive when we are baptised.