Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hell's Angels

No biker gangs today, just a discussion on Satan and his angels.  Once again it is appropriate that I am drinking Dark Magic this morning.

You might think that a discussion about Satan would be eerie and uncomfortable.  Instead, Calvin presents a very comforting picture of the relationship between God, Satan, and his elect.  Calvin starts by stating, "All that Scripture teaches concerning devils aims at arousing us to take precaution against their stratagems and contrivances, and also to make us equip ourselves with those weapons which are strong and powerful enough to vanquish these most powerful foes."  Where do we get these weapons that Calvin spoke of?  "...let us especially call upon God's help...since it is he alone who can supply us with counsel and strength, courage and armor." 

Like the legions of angels we read about before, there are also great armies of demons.  We know Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven evil spirits.  Christ warned that after a demon has been cast out of someone, he will try to return with more demons.  There is the story in Mark where the crazed man in the cemetery was possessed by a legion of evil spirits.  Therefore we are not waging war against one spirit, but many.  When Satan or the devil is mentioned singularly in Scripture, it is often referring to all who are opposed to God.  "For just as the church and fellowship has Christ as Head, so the faction of the impious and impiety itself are depicted for us together with their prince who holds supreme sway over them."

We should remain vigilant in our opposition to Satan.  He is in an "unceasing struggle" against God.  Calvin states, "we must wage irreconcilable war with him who is plotting its [Christ's Kingdom's] ruin.  Again, if we care about our salvation at all, we ought to have neither peace nor truce with him who continually lays traps to destroy it."

The devil was created by God.  I know that some people struggle with this, and Calvin knew it too.  They want the devil to be something else because if God created the devil, did God create evil?  He addressed these people by stating, "Yet, since the devil was created by God, let us remember that this malice, which we attribute to his nature, came not from his creation but from his perversion.  For, whatever he has that is to be condemned he has derived from his revolt and fall."  Later, speaking of all the fallen angels Calvin writes, "...they were when first created angels of God, but by degeneration they ruined themselves, and became the instruments of ruin for others" (emphasis mine).  II Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 both provide evidence of this.

It is so comforting to know that Satan cannot do anything without God's permission.  "As for the discord and strife that we say exists between Satan and God, we ought to accept as a fixed certainty the fact that he can do nothing unless God wills and assents to it."  Some may call this statement rubbish, but I whole-heartedly believe it.  Consider Job and what we know about his struggles.  Satan had to get permission from God in order to torment Job and God gave Satan limits as to what was permissible.  Calvin lists other examples such as King Saul in I Samuel 16 and 18. 

Calvin continues to comfort believers by reassuring them that if their lives belong to Christ, they cannot be overcome by demons.  He of course cites Luke 11:21-22 (NIV), "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.  But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils."  Christ is the strongest man and no one can take over a house that belongs to him.  Calvin writes, "Therefore God does not allow Satan to rule over the souls of believers, but gives over only the impious and unbelievers, whom he deigns not to regard as members of his own flock, to be governed by him."

He concludes the section on devils by reminding us that they are actualities, not thoughts.  Remember when he had this same discussion about angels?  The Sadduccees did not believe in angels.  Devils are fallen angels, therefore, they too exist.  Once again Calvin cites Jude, Job, and II Peter when defending the reality of Satan.  He presents as further evidence, "How meaningless would these expressions be, that the devils are destined for eternal judgment, that fire has been prepared for them, that they are now tormented and tortured by Christ's glory, if devils were nonexistent!"  As a reminder why this section on the reality of the devils was necessary, Calvin sums up by stating, "But it was worth-while to touch upon this point, also, lest any persons, entangled in that error, while thinking themselves without an enemy, become more slack and heedless about resisting."

We are warned to be on constant lookout for Satan and his angels.  We must resist them at all times, never giving in.  However, we are comforted in knowing that God is infinitely more powerful than Satan and he cannot do anything without God's permission.

1 comment:

  1. "we must wage irreconcilable war with him who is plotting its [Christ's Kingdom's] ruin. Again, if we care about our salvation at all, we ought to have neither peace nor truce with him who continually lays traps to destroy it."

    Great quote, and a reminder of the extreme seriouness of this battle we are part of. I think of people who consider the faith to be boring, or of little relevance to the things of "real life." What a sad understanding of the awesome struggle between ultimate good and limited evil, and more personally, between the Spirit and the flesh! If we actually stop and consider what's at stake here, we would be foolish to treat our roles in the kingdom so casually.


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