Some teachers, having finally understood that we all are affected by Satan or one of his emissaries, have made demonic exorcism to be the primary means of breaking stubborn habits or dealing with a painful past. At best, Satan is found to be the cause of virtually every problem; at worst, he has been thought to be well-nigh all-powerful. Rather than inspiring faith, such counseling has led to helpless pessimism. Oh, yes, God will win in the end, but in this world, we are told, Satan has free rein to do whatever he wishes. Though most agree that at the end of the day God will win, some people live and talk as if it will be a close finish. Well, it won’t be!
I shall say it one more time: The devil is just as much God’s servant in his rebellion as he was God’s servant in the days of his sweet obedience. Even today, he cannot act without God’s express permission; he can neither tempt, coerce, demonize, nor make so much as a single plan without the consent and approval of God. We can’t quote Luther too often: The devil is God’s devil!
Satan has different roles to play, depending on God’s counsel and purposes. He is pressed into service to do God’s will in the world; he must do the bidding of the Almighty. We must bear in mind that he does have frightful powers, but knowing that those can only be exercised under God’s direction and pleasure gives us hope. Satan is simply not free to wreak havoc on people at will.
Yes, if God had so chosen, He could have banished the fallen servant to another planet or sent him directly to the lake of fire. Either of those plans or any other that God would choose would be right and just. But God kept Satan in this world for one reason: Satan had to play his part in the drama on planet Earth, and he will play it according to God’s rules and not his own.
Why is it important that we know this? That God might be rightly honored as King of kings, as God, the ruler of heaven and earth. God created Lucifer before he became the devil. It was God who cursed the serpent. It was God who predicted his ultimate defeat and humiliation. It was God who allowed the devil to fight against Christ. And it will be God who will supervise the conflict to the very end. God has not abandoned His responsibility of being in charge of all of His creation, even that part that has foolishly chosen to stand against Him.
We must also be reminded of Satan’s limitations that we might fight against him in faith. The more secure we are in the knowledge that the devil is not autonomous (that is, capable of acting independently), the more faith will arise in our hearts so that we can defeat him. He is not the devil you might have heard about in the latest TV talk show or read about in the latest book.
Lutzer, Erwin W., and R. C. Sproul Jr. 2015. God’s Devil: The Incredible Story of How Satan’s Rebellion Serves God’s Purposes. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
The title of the book, God’s Devil, is a paraphrase of Martin Luther’s teaching on the Devil. It will equip your people to understand and defeat our enemy. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of the Good Questions Have Groups Talking subscription service. (Like Netflix for Bible lessons.)