The Expository Files


"Do Not Give the Devil a Foothold"
Ephesians 4:26-27

"Do not let the sun go down while you are angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Eph 4:26-27, NIV)

Every Christian is engaged in a fierce, life-defining battle with Satan. He is our "adversary"(1 Pet 5:8), and he has crafted elaborate "wiles"(Eph 6:11) and "devices"(2 Cor 2:11) to gain ground and win us to his side. In his instruction on dealing with festering anger, Paul warns us: "do not give the devil a foothold"-don't make it any easier on him!

This statement teaches us that we must give no ground. The smallest ground, the tiniest foothold, the briefest opportunity is to be zealously guarded against falling into his hand. In this text, unresolved anger that continues to poison our minds and harden into bitterness and malice gives the devil an opening. We will struggle enough with the devil without willingly placing ourselves within his grasp. "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Rom 13:14). Toeing the line of sin or cozying up to temptation to see how close we can get gives ground to the devil, and dramatically increases the chances that we will fall into sin. Don't give the devil even a foothold!

Further, we have power to resist the devil. "Do not give a foothold" emphasizes that this is something within our power to control. The devil can only come as close as we allow him. "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). Though powerful and cunning, the devil can never control our will or force disobedience. Yet active resistance is essential! Satan is not one to lay down his arms and take mercy on us out of pity or generosity. He only flees from those who have the courage and faith to resist him and turn to God's promise and power.

This phrase emphasizes that we need sobriety and vigilance. If we were at war, we would not think of turning our back on the enemy until the battle was won. Negligence in this battle is far more costly. Every advance must be thwarted, each temptation resisted, each subtle lie countered. Not even a foothold can be spared. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour"(1 Pet 5:8). This fearful description is motivation for our increased alertness. Practically, we need to watch for people who will turn our hearts to the devil. We need care to ensure that we do not compromise what we know is right for some "gray area" pleasure. We need sobriety to think clearly when our senses are enticed to sin-to see consequences rather than pleasure or convenience.

"Do not give the devil a foothold" is a call to arms-to engage in the battle that will define our lives. Are you ceding ground? Are you watchful? Are you winning?

By Jacob Hudgins 
From Expository Files 16.8; August 2009