While Satan has “tremendous power” in this world, all of his power is subordinate to the authority that is vested in Christ. And he has no authority to do anything God does not permit for infinitely wise purposes, John Piper explains.
In an episode of “Ask Pastor John” posted to Desiring God on Wednesday, a listener inquired about just how much authority Satan has in this world and how it relates to God’s complete sovereignty over all things.
Piper first explained that God, and not Satan, is the ultimate authority in the world. Yet, God considered it wise, as part of His curse on the world after the fall of Adam and Eve, to give Satan “a huge power” in this world.
“But he doesn’t have ultimate power,” he said. “We’re not dualists. We don’t think there’s God and Satan duking it out for power in the universe. God is God, not Satan. Satan’s not God. All Satan’s power is by permission. He has no autonomy to do anything God does not permit for infinitely wise purposes.”
The pastor further explained that God gave Satan permission to afflict Job: “All his acts of opposition to God and God’s people are part of God’s plan as he gives Satan permission to exercise tremendous power in this world,” he said.
Still, Satan’s sway over the world is “terrible and vast,” Piper admitted, citing 1 John 5:19, which reads: “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
Yet, in Christ’s death and resurrection, the decisive blow against Satan has been struck, Piper said, referencing Luke 22:53, where Jesus tells Satan: “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
“Jesus basically says, ‘You know, you get an hour. You get one hour. I know when it starts. I know when it ends. That’s your hour. It’s all by sovereign permission that you can do your dastardly deed in Judas and in me tomorrow morning,’” Piper said.
In dying on the cross for the sins of humanity and “nailing your record of debt to the cross,” Jesus effectively defeated the “great accuser,” Piper contended.
“Satan’s power is that he’s a great accuser,” he said. “If he has nothing in his court folder as he stands before the bar to accuse us, what’s he going to do? He becomes powerless in this courtroom because our record of debts has been canceled.”
“His one damning weapon against God’s elect is taken out of his hand,” he continued. “There is no unforgiven sin anymore. We’re forgiven. So what’s he going to condemn? Nothing.”
In every battle with the devil, those who believe in Christ can “have total confidence of final victory,” Piper said, citing Romans 8:38–89: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers [satanic power included], nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“He has been decisively defeated,” he concluded.
According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, about nine-in-10 Americans say they believe in God (89%). However, the same poll shows that only about 61% believe Satan actually exists.
Similarly, the Pew Research Center's 2014 Religious Landscape Study found that roughly seven-in-10 (72%) Americans say they believe in Heaven — defined as a place "where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.
But at the same time, only 58% of U.S. adults believe in Hell — defined as a place "where people who have led bad lives and die without being sorry are eternally punished."
Pastor Jimmy Evans, senior pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, previously told The Christian Post that when Satan inevitably attacks a Christian, he begins with the mind, instilling fear, doubt, anger, and frustration and convincing them they're unworthy of God's love.
"Everything starts with the mind. In the Garden of Eden, when Satan first attacked humans, he did it with thoughts," Evans said. "The same thing with Jesus; when the devil attacked Him in the desert, he attacked His thoughts. Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare, and the weapons of this warfare aren't carnal. That's why Romans 12 tells us to let God transform us into a new person by changing the way we think."
The pastor told CP that God created His children to be warriors in His army — and equips them with the tools necessary to battle the Prince of Darkness and live a life of freedom, victory, and peace.
"My encouragement to people is to have a serious, committed relationship with God as the most authoritative source in your life to tell you what truth is," he said. "To combat Satan's lies, the Word of God must be the standard on how we choose our thoughts."