“The devil is God’s fool,” Luther once quipped. It is a fascinating thought. The idea, one that on the surface seems utterly terrifying, is that God uses the devil for His own ends, in spite of the devil. You see, the great promise of your baptism is that the devil cannot remove you from the nail-pierced hand of Christ Jesus. Nothing–including Satan–in all creation can separate us from God’s love in Christ (Romans 8:38-39). But, this does not stop the devil from attacking, tempting, and accusing. He seeks to make God’s Law the loudest voice in your conscience in an effort to silence the sweet promise of the Gospel. The devil accuses with no view for repentance, forgiveness, nor faith. You see, he hates you completely and desires to either fill you with pride or drive you to despair. His only goal is to take Christ from you.
But, he can’t. You’ve been rescued from his dark dominion and brought into the kingdom of God’s Son in whom you have redemption and forgiveness (Colossians 1:13-14). You have been purchased with Christ’s blood which floods out Satan and his lies.
So, why does he come for us? Why would God allow him to do it? Well, perhaps it is because the devil is God’s fool. What is more, you are complacent, sinful, and lazy in prayer. So, perhaps there are times in which God allows the devil to remind you of your need for Christ, to strengthen you in your faith, and to teach you to pray.
From our view, Satan is quite powerful and deceiving. We are much too weak for him. But, there are times when we forget that. From God’s perspective, however, the devil is weak, foolish, a tool to be used. So, John Kleinig, in a delightful passage, writes, “Amazingly, God does not just allow Satan to attack us in this way; He actually uses it to fulfill His plans for us. The devil, says Luther, is God’s fool. He unwittingly ends up doing God’s work. Satan’s strategy usually backfires on him by driving people to Christ rather than away from him. Satan’s attacks on the saints are often ineffectual and counterproductive, for, unless they are carefully managed, they result in repentance and consolidation of faith in Christ.” (Grace Upon Grace, pg. 233)
Think about the devil’s primary work: accusation. Think of Job 1, where Satan appears before God. What does he do but accuse Job of a weak faith to God. Or, in Zechariah 3 where Satan stands accusing Joshua the high priest. Or, even in Genesis 3 in the temptation account where we find him accusing God of not being true to His Word. He is an accuser by nature. And, he lives to accuse you. God will no longer consider his accusations against you in heaven as Christ has already paid the penalty for all that you are guilty of (Revelation 12:1-17) and now lives to plead for you. With Christ your advocate pleading your case to the Father, Satan has no voice in heaven. So, he brings his accusations to earth and breaths them into your conscience. He wants you to doubt Christ’s promises and love. So, he tells you that you are too sinful for Christ, you are not worthy of Christ’s love. His is the language of accusation and condemnation.
But, for the baptized, this is quite literally that fool’s errand. Accusation only drives the baptized back to Christ and the promises. So Luther, “For the more these enemies press in upon us, accusing and vexing us with their cries, they more do we, sighing, take hold of Christ; with heart and lips we call upon Him, cling to Him, and believe that He was born under the Law for us, in order that He might redeem us from the curse of the law and destroy sin and death. When we have taken hold of Christ by faith this way, we cry through Him: “Abba! Father!” And this cry of ours far exceeds the cry of the devil.” (Luther’s Works: Vol. 26, pg. 352)
Thus, against his own will, the devil drives us to Christ. The devil says you are too sinful for Christ, but Christ says, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) The devil says God will never listen to a sinner like you, but Jesus promises, “I have called you friends…so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” (John 15:15, 16). The devil belittles your prayers, undermines your motives, and mocks what you say. Jesus says, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)
The devil is a fool. God can even use his wicked accusations to magnify His promises of grace and mercy. In attacking you, he only ends up driving you back to Christ in prayer for help and protection, forgiveness and a word of hope. As Luther reminds us, “This we must know, that all our safety and protection consists in prayer alone. For we are far too weak against the devil and all his might and forces arrayed against us, trying to trample us underfoot…But by prayer alone we shall be a match both for them and for the devil, if only we persevere and do not become weary. For when ever a good Christian prays, ‘Dear Father, you will be done,’ God replies from above, ‘Yes dear child, it shall be done in deed, in spite of the devil and all the world.’” (Large Catechism, Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, Book of Concord, pg. 444)