In 1 John 5:19, John readies the close of this epistle by observing, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (NKJ). The Greek word translated “lies in the power of” (ESV, NAS) or “is under the sway of” is a word meaning “to be in the power of one” (Zodhiates) and “to lie in” (TDNT). Bauer adds, “As the believer abides in Christ, so that he is nourished and fruitfully sustained by Him, so the world lies in the devil, by whom it is controlled and rendered helpless and powerless, and finally killed” (ibid.). This gives us a clear picture of not only what the saints in John’s day dealt with, but also what our current spiritual climate is.
There is a growing culture of unbelief in contemporary society, a skepticism toward a truly biblical worldview. With that, there is an intolerance bred by ignorance, a bias against the objective truth of Scripture. In its place, there is a glorification of and infatuation with people and things the Bible calls sin. That is not novel to our age. Yet, it is good for us to be reminded that such misplaced affection is the result of a culture that lies in the devil, controlled and subdued by his way of thinking. Paul tells the would be soul-winner to approach that work this way, “gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses” (2 Tim. 2:24-26a). What’s their problem? They are in “the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26b).
We encounter people every day whose choices are the result of having come under the sway of the devil. They have shaped their lives, their goals, and their desires, by the way he says that fulfillment, satisfaction, and pleasure are derived. For many, they do not know another way much less the way God has laid out in His Word. Perhaps if we remind ourselves how people got where they are, we can help them get where Christ wants them to go. So many are looking for a better way and they know they have not found it. Let us invest ourselves in them and through that relationship show them “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).