December 3, 2020

Difficult Scriptures: 1 Peter 5:8

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8, NASB).

The devil? The devil made me do it. Between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Just how does the devil devour one? Where does he go to prowl? Does Satan still bargain with God as he did over Job? Just what is the role of the devil in this world, and—more specifically—in the lives of believers today?

Ok, iMonks. Your turn. Wrestle through this. I am not looking for a full dissertation on evil. Stick to this verse from 1 Peter. What is Peter saying? Consider his audience and what they were going through at the time.

How do we become of sober spirit? And what do we do when we meet this prowling lion face-to-face?


  1. Stay vigilant in seeking God. Don’t become complacent.

  2. Not so difficult. Peter is just reimagining what Jesus told him personally: “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: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

    Obviously Peter took it literally that satan is alive and active in the world and since he, himself, could be at risk so, then, could be the average believer.

    • Come to think of it, it was to Peter that Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan.” Good call, Oscar.

  3. Ground rule: The devil has NO power other than what God allows. And it goes without saying that he has no authority either. If we assign the devil any power whatsoever we fall into the trap of dualism, that the devil is the “opposite” of God, when we know that he was created by God and subject to God’s sovereignty. God allows the devil some latitude but it’s clear who wins in the end.

    The verse from 1Peter, that the devil “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” is a good metaphor, but it’s far more than that. While he is not really a lion and may not literally eat someone up, he’s also nothing to be trifled with. Although he has no power of his own he will use whatever he can to destroy a person–whether it’s through the power of suggestion, or through an addiction, mental illness, depression or other means. He may exploit whatever available while having no imagination or creativity of his own, because any positive attribute is from God. The devil has none of these.

    In trying to destroy the person the devil is ultimately trying to destroy God, and he fails to see that this is impossible. As a corollary, the closer a person gets to God the harder the devil may try to destroy him. C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, illustrates this colorfully, but I think he nailed it on the head.

    In the temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4 and Luke 4) Jesus dismissed the devil with the word of God, illustrating that the devil has no real power other than suggestion and temptation. He will flee, as in James 4:7, if we resist him and submit to God.

    Now, all of this is sometimes easier said than done—so, God gave us an escape clause: 1John 2:1 says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

    I think that’s called Grace.

    When Jesus answered Pilate, he said in John 19:11 “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” While Pilate may have interpreted this as imperial authority from Rome, Jesus meant it as authority coming from God, and we can apply this to anything the devil tries to throw at us. He can do nothing unless it has been given to him from above.

    So, this gets back to Mike’s question about Job: Does Satan still bargain with God as he did over Job? (Did he ever?) I take this as a parable, that God “bargained” with Satan on his own terms, demonstrating further that Satan has no power other than what God has given him from above.

    And that takes us into the question of why God allows evil, but that’s another difficult scripture. Eagle? Wanna take this one?

  4. I don’t think Peter is saying the devil is going to jump out of the bushes and devour someone – like a low-budget horror flick. Rather, the devil is crafty and seeking someone to lure into a trap – like the Pharisees tried against Jesus. In that context, being sober and alert is good advice. Don’t get punked by the devil. Don’t give in to fear. Don’t get suckered by false promises and deception. Watch out for wolves in shepherd’s clothing. Watch out for ego manipulation. Beware of the dungeon of despair. Don’t trade the promises of God for the lies of the devil.

  5. Tim Becker says

    Is the devil omnipresent? If not, how fast can he move? He must be pretty fast if he attacks millions of Christians all over the world at the same time. Also, in what sense did Jesus defeat the devil on the cross? I kind of think that the devil gets way too much credit for all the bad stuff that happens in the world.

    • Tim,

      We often hear about the Devil being after us. I suppose some of the reason why we think it is THE devil after us is because that is how Peter speaks of it in 1 Peter. But I am inclined to think we are just not that high up in the hierachy for the devil himself to come mess with us. There is an organzied realm of darkness. Paul makes this point in Ephesians. What that means is that what we probably contend with most of the time is other demons in the organization. But for some of us, it may be that we run into Devil himself….

  6. Christ is battling the world, the flesh, and the devil.

    Evil is a part of each and every one of us.

    I wouldn’t take the devil lightly. He is a powerful beast. Without Christ Jesus on our side we surely would not be able to withstand Satan’s lure.

    • Tim Becker says

      “Christ is battling the world, the flesh, and the devil.”

      If that’s true, he appears to be losing.

  7. The devil’s temptations are often going to be disguised as truth. He’s not going to show up at your door and announce his satanic intention to drag your soul into hell, but he will often show up as something disguised as Christianity.

    • Steve Newell says

      Paul called Satan an “angel of light” and Satan misused Holy Scripture when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness. Also Satan purposely misquoted God to Eve in the garden before the Fall.

      Even today, we see many calling themselves “Christian Pastors” and teach a religion that is not Christian but a false and deadly religion wrapped in Christian terms and Holy Scripture. What is most sad is that when their false teaching is pointed out, they may claim a new revelation from God or a movement of the Spirit or they

  8. I wonder if we should be starting at the beginning of 1Peter with instructions on how to live in the world and as a community. Taking this one verse out of context may be misleading.

    Take a look at Psalm 22 which he seems to refering to in 1 Peter 5:8.

  9. Chris K. says


    My take on this verse is a word of encouragement from Peter to call Christians to fidelity to Christ. The theme of this epistle is to remind Christians that suffering persecution from the world is to be expected as part and parcle of following Christ. Christ suffered for us, and if we follow Him, we must expect this to happen to us. God is being made manifest through the Christian’s fidelity in the midst of persecution. The admonition to beware the devil is, I believe, a plea for fidelity of the Christian in the midst of persecution; the temptation being to renounce Christ to avoid suffering, which only leads to the devouring of that person by the devil. Christ said in Luke 9:24 (ESV), “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever looses his life for my sake will save it.”

  10. Eagle see’s 1st Peter 5:8 and he reaches for his barf bag as he is green and feels sick.

    Oh boy……this verse for me has a lot of baggage to it. I’ll try not to heave as I explain why….perhaps this is another example of how toxic Christianity can be. At least the Christianity I experienced….
    I was in an accountability relationship with my second accountability partner here in the Washington, D.C. area. It was legalistic in many ways and very one sided. He could probe, ask and inquire in my life and dive into personal details…while he removed himself from similar scrutiny thereby eliminating the possibility of me asking similar questions of him. It was flawed and quite cancerous. But it was evangelical Christianity at its finest!!
    So me and several other people were celebrating “my victory” over sin on the path to the victorious Christian life at a bar in Washington, D.C. in 2008. Out of anxiety and fear I found myself in a faith system that was falling apart. Out of anxiety and fear I learned to overcome “lust” but it was not like what I was taught in my accountability program. I felt trapped and was in growing despair as I knew what had happened yet I was expected to tell my accountability partner, and a couple of others that my spiritual victory was by living in the Holy Spirit.

    So I was at this bar and my former mission team leader gave me a talk about how I learned to live under the Holy Spirit. I couldn’t tell him that God had absolutely nothing to do with this….nothing. I felt trapped. I couldn’t tell him that I feared being disciplined again as I had lived with the consequences of previous evangelical actions. No when I was in that bar that night I said nothing but listened to what other people expected and I let their façade stand. Correcting them would be like telling a 5 year old Santa Claus doesn’t exist. How could I pop the bubble of an evangelical? If I had told them that my ability to rise above lust was not spiritual but rooted in fear than I would have been the heretic as I was telling them that this victory didn’t happen through Jesus and the Holy Spirit alone. In 2008 my accountability partner who worked on Capitol Hill was now in Kenya being a missionary as he was globetrotting.

    In celebration (though at the time I could not tell him that his accountability was cancerous for me….) while he was in Kenya he sent me an email quoting me 1 Peter 5:8. It was the passing of time that I faced this growing dilemma that confronted me. Do I…

    A. Live the façade, tell people what they want to hear, and feed the beast and give the spiritual appearance that many Christians give. This would be dishonest but it would be simple. And this is already a dominant theme in fundgelical Christianity.

    B. Be honest, tell people what happened and run the risk of being a heretic. Realize the importance of being honest but understand that it will have consequences and come with a cost. I also realized that it would likely cause me to leave Christianity as this was a factor as I had some fundamental doubts and concerns.

    In the end I choose B. I saw Christianity as being a threat to my integrity and character. And I couldn’t go around being dishonest to feed the beast. Saying, “the hell with it…” had consequences and brought the end of relationships, church experiences, etc… but at the end of the day I have to live with myself. And I prefer being honest. But Christianity can be cancerous….and dangerous to your character. So for me 1 Peter 5:8 has some nasty connotations.

    (Eagles heaves again into his barf bag….)

    • Eagle:

      So, help me understand, where does that leave you. I can relate to being spiritually abused by a Christian “Elder”. It can be a very devastating thing, but I found with the support of those who loved me, I made it through. I am inclined to think God was loving me through those things. May it be the same for you.

  11. Recognise that temptation is there and will always be there. Even for the saved or the converted, particularly whenever you’re feeling especially perfect, or when you’re proud of your own efforts.

    “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

    When you have recognised your sins and repented them, keep on in that state of watchfulness, because the fault you are aware of is not the one you should be guarding against; when you know you are proud, do you realise that you are also wrathful? Or if you know you are prone to vanity, do you see how you are slothful?

    Don’t kill yourself seeking for perfection, but don’t go overboard on thinking you’ve got it all sorted out, either.

  12. I used biblegateway to check some of the other translations of the part of the passage that NASB reports as being, “Be of sober spirit.” One said “Discipline yourself.” One said “Be on close guard” (or something like that). The Message has it “Keep a cool head.” So, overall, I guess that part would mean, “Take this seriously.”

    I wonder from time to time what to think of “the devil.” I can’t say that I really understand. I know evil when I see/hear it happening, but where did it come from? Are humans capable of conjuring up all kinds of evil things without any help from a devil? Has the energy created by evil acts taken some kind of form that can then act upon humans? Is there really a personal evil being some call Satan that used to be an angel? I don’t know the answers, but I choose to ask Jesus to protect me from evil, whatever it is and however it got here. He knows; I don’t.

  13. i think the imagery is useful in that demonic forces are cunning, bent on destruction (the devil comes to kill, steal & destroy), stealthy (sneaky & not obvious) & prey are always easiest to hunt when they are alone, wandering off into unfamiliar territory, already in a panic, easily spooked…

    and trying to fend for oneself along the journey unwise. it is always good to be in a group moving together in the same direction. be sober minded. aware of your surroundings. travel as a team. be looking out for areas that can be used as an ambush or pitfall. don’t wander off after mirages or seeming shortcuts…

    anyway, just got back into the site after it was down…


  14. Monotheism means that Christ and the Devil are one. (Brothers, as Mormon folklore has it.)

  15. MStephens says

    It means temptation to sin is everywhere and if you let down your guard, you will sin. Temptation comes in the form of unwanted thoughts that inexplicably pop into our minds. Temptation can come unexpectedly from other people around us, in thoughtless moments of perversity. Temptation can come from the products that have been made by wicked men to glorify evil.

    Being of a sober spirit means to be serious about fighting temptation and see sin as sin, and avoid it.