Like many of Ralph Winter’s most enduring projects, the Roberta Winter Institute (RWI) is built on an explosive idea. That idea comes straight from 1 John 3:8, “The son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” (NASB) For Winter, rather than being a proof text, 1 John 3:8 was a hermeneutic key. It revealed something to him about God’s nature—who he was and what he was doing. Winter took this discovery and traced it through scripture and arrived at a fuller story than ever before. What he found, was a kingdom mission [1] mandate from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 which recognizes confronting evil as an integral theme in the Biblical story. 

What are the Works of the Devil?

If destroying the works of the devil is such an essential motif, the next logical question is, what are the works of the devil? Many people would naturally assume that there is just one work of the devil: tempting human beings to sin. Though one of Satan’s chief activities is indeed temptation, a brief study of scripture reveals a picture of just how far Satan’s claws extend.

Click on pie chart below to expand.

A Pattern to Follow

The majority of believers will mainly think of two types of effort against evil: evangelism and discipleship. But, these efforts—crucial as they are—may not be enough. You can’t win a war simply by recruiting and training soldiers.

In a real war, there are at least seven kinds of essential effort:

  1. Recruiting—you can’t fight a war without troops.
  2. Training—soldiers must know how to shoot, think and communicate under fire. This includes endlessly rehearsed routines for building bases, loading weapons, falling asleep in a warzone, maintaining focus amid the chaos of battle, and making decisions while exhausted and overwhelmed.
  3. Military Supply Chain—soldiers can’t fight without field rations, weapons, ammunition, combat uniforms, etc.
  4. Medical Corps—every military must have trained medics attending to the wounds and diseases of soldiers, and the civilians caught in the crossfire of the war as well.
  5. Intelligence—the military leaders need to know the enemy’s composition and capabilities before any battle.
  6. Strategy—the how, when and where of troop deployment and a plan of action to ensure victory.
  7. Battle—execution of strategies and plans, i.e., engaging the enemy on the ground, in the air, or at sea.

This list provides a potential pattern to follow in this cosmic battle. But, before any spiritual comparison is made, it's important to clarify that our "weapons" in this war are not bombs or bullets, but non-violence and self-sacrificial love. With this proviso as our backdrop, we can explore some rough equivalents between human warfare, and God's war on evil:

  1. Recruiting—Evangelism. Not simply reconciling estranged human beings to God and giving them a ticket into heaven, but recruiting them into an active war in which their participation is crucial.
  2. Training—Discipleship. Acquiring knowledge, skills and competencies to repel Satan’s flaming arrows—e.g., temptation, sickness, delusions, fear—obey the voice of the “general,” maintain morale, and oppose the enemy.
  3. Medical Corps—Caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional health of each member of the body and the "civilians" caught in the crossfire of the war as well, i.e., medical practitioners, pastoral counselors, healing ministries, spiritual directors, member care, etc.
  4. Military Supply Chain—domestic ministry workers and cross-cultural workers alike need theological encouragement, practical support and prayer.
  5. Intelligence —to quote Winter, “We need to recognize and ponder more seriously the kind and degree of harm Satan is able to cause. We need to unmask the works of Satan.”
  6. Strategy—Devising plans on how, when and where to carry out our “great campaign of sabotage” as C.S. Lewis called it, against the prince of this world with the end goal of God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven.
  7. Battle—Focusing our resources and collective will to carry out these plans: tackling the roots of the great world problems of our day by strategically (i.e., in a culturally sensitive manner) planting new churches, new relief and development projects, new educational ventures, new anti-corruption programs, and new medical research and public health initiatives aimed at eradicating or neutralizing debilitating diseases.

As you look at this list you will rightly see that the body of Christ is already substantially active in items one through four. It is the position of the Roberta Winter Institute that believers can make significant new inroads in items five through seven.

Reverse Engineering

Direct your attention for a moment, if you will at Number 5— Intelligence. On the surface, recognizing and pondering the kind and degree of harm Satan is able to cause may sound like an impossible task. While there are several passages that credit Satan for suffering, such as Job 2:7, Luke 13:16, and Acts 10:38 which attribute to him sickness and infirmities, how does he do that exactly? Did he somehow devise virulent germs by perverting the very structure of life at the DNA level? Is it preposterous to wonder if Satan is able to tamper with the DNA molecule at least as skillfully as our contemporary scientists? We can theorize, but how can we ever be certain?

Perhaps certainty is unneeded. Perhaps the only necessity is to postulate that an intelligent evil will, opposed to God, is behind the suffering in our world. If this intellectual leap is made, reverse engineering becomes an option. In military espionage, reverse engineering refers to capturing an enemy’s prototype, and dismantling it, often resulting in development of better countermeasures.

Or, to use another analogy, perhaps we can approach a given problem like a detective solving a murder mystery. To quote Harold Fickett in The Ralph D. Winter Story:

"What if a scientist asked himself: I wonder if pathogens are the result of intelligent, evil design? How would I, if I were a demonic agent, take an otherwise benign life form and engineer it to cause destruction? Perhaps cancer is not a fluke of nature but an elaborate and highly complex crime to be solved?"
~Harold Fickett

What kind of reverse engineering could be achieved regarding our most rampant world problems if we presumed that Satan damages and distorts creation from the microbiological level on up to the systemic causation of natural disasters? These are questions the RWI was founded to address.


[1]    Kingdom Mission – One way to understand kingdom mission is to distinguish it from “Church Mission.” Church mission is “winning people into the Church wherever in the world, and thus extending the membership of the [global] church.” Kingdom Mission focuses on “the work of the church beyond itself, going beyond Church Mission to see that his will is done on earth outside the Church.” Here’s the point: “Church Mission is basic and essential but must not become merely a goal in itself. It must be seen also as a means of relentlessly pressing for God’s will to be done on earth, thus to declare his glory among all peoples.”

Taken from Ralph Winter’s article “Three Mission Eras and the Loss and Recovery of Kingdom Mission, 1800–2000