It having been a while since I posted on this, a refresher for some may be in order. About a year and a half ago, I listened to a sermon called “Why Does God Allow Suffering?” by John Slye of Grace Community Church in Arlington, VA. The content of the message shocked me in many ways and I have slowly spent the past year and a half responding point by point to his 7-point message. I do hope to take this content and actually put it into book form some time in the future. Anyway, point 4 was the point of Slye’s that frustrated me the most, so it has been separated in to three parts. Part 5a was about God’s Sovereignty and Present Authority over Sin, this one’s about Satan, the last one will be about God’ Sovereignty in Salvation.
Once more: Slye’s point and his scriptural support:
4. God is not on the throne.
- “…Satan, the ruler of this world…” –John 12:31(Msg)
- “Then the devil led Jesus to the top of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and all their splendor. The devil said, ‘If you will bow down and worship me, I will give you all these things.’” –Matt. 4:8,9(NCV)
- “The devil who rules this world…” –2 Cor. 4:4(NCV)
- “…the world around us is under the power and control of the evil one.” –1 John 5:19(NLT)
God’s Sovereignty and Present Authority over Satan
I hope this part doesn’t get too long. The origin of Satan is never explicitly spoken of in the Bible. Most of our understanding’s come from Milton’s Paradise Lost rather than the Bible. Classically, there are two texts used to try and give Satan a story. Ezekiel 28, which is a prophecy against both the “Prince” and the “King” of the country of Tyre. The passage in question is referring to Tyre’s “King,” so the text could be a poetic expression of Satan as the “true King of Tyre” or the real power behind the “Prince.” We don’t know explicitly, but Post-Milton, it’s been generally accepted as talking about Satan. The second passage is in the middle of Isaiah 14. There’s some disagreement among scholarship as to where the passage in question begins and ends, because it is in the middle of a prophecy against Babylon, where the subject is referred to in the plural, so right when you think it’s talking about Satan it refers to “their fathers.” Long story short, it’s ambiguous. The Bible obviously doesn’t think it is a great necessity to give us Satan’s origins. So we aren’t given very much concerning Satan in the Bible, but here is what we do know that reasserts Christ’s rule and reign over all created things including him:
- Satan is created along with Hell and his demons. Jesus, upon His ascension declares that ALL authority in heaven and earth is His, not Satan’s (Matthew 28:18-20)
- Satan is merely another angel. The Bible declares that believers will judge over angels. (1 Corinthians 6:3)
- Jesus came (past-tense) to earth to destroy the works of the devil (Hebrews 2:14).
- Whenever the BIble talks about any one fighting with the devil (be it verbal or physical), it’s always angels, not God or Jesus that are described as doing so. Including the end of time. God’s ultimate “enemy” is destroyed not by God Himself, but by God’s angels (Jude 1:9; Revelation 20:1-3)
- Genesis 3:14-16 is what theologians call the “protoevangel.” It is the first preaching of the Gospel found in the Bible. And to whom is the Gospel preached first? Satan!
- In Job, God orders Satan around and asks questions of him. In fact, putting Job through all those things was God’s idea! He mentioned Job’s name first (Job 1:7-8). In fact after it is explicitly said Satan does specific things to Job, Job turns around and attributes these things to God. The very next verse says: “In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” (Job 1:20-22)
- Satan could not touch Job nor Peter without asking God (and Christ’s) permission first. (Luke 22:31)
- The Spirit drew Jesus into the desert for temptation, Satan didn’t relentlessly pursue some showdown. Also, this time of tempting was necessary to bring establish Christ as the “Second Adam” who resisted temptation where Adam fell. So that time was preordained, planned, and executed by God, not Satan. (Mark 1:12-13, et al.)
So, this is all good and fine, but how do we resolve the very real sense of authority that the Bible seems to give Satan. I would say that Satan’s legacy is still seen in the fallen state of man and creation. But we see many examples in every day life of someone who has real authority over a given sphere, but is still answerable to one higher than themselves. Revelation 1:4-5 calls Jesus the “ruler of Kings on earth.” Another well-known name for Jesus is “King of kings.” This does not mean that there aren’t very real rulers and authority in the world, it just says that any authority they have is at the will and discretion of Christ to bring about His purposes! So does Satan have power, rule, and authority? Absolutely! But he’s on a very short leash only doing that which God allows him to do.
I’ll end with this: Does this make God responsible for what Satan does? Ehh . . . yes and no. Everything in the universe (God included) acts in accordance to their nature (Matthew 7:16-20; James 3:12). Satan is no different. His nature being corrupt and standing against all that God is and loves, Satan will only act in line with this. Thus God merely allows Satan to do what he is already inclined to do when evil or suffering enters this world. So God doesn’t make Satan be evil, BUT He does allow it for greater, better purposes that will always ultimately lead to the Glory of God and the joy of His elect.
Next, we will explore God’s sovereignty and present authority in the salvation of human souls, then move off of this point of Slye’s message.