Who is Satan?

I ran across this great quotation from Calvin’s commentaries in preparation for my sermon tomorrow. I just had to share it. The reasoning is amazing.

What is Satan but God’s executioner to punish man’s ingratitude? This is implied in Paul’s language, when he represents the success of Satan as confined to unbelievers; for the children of God are thus exempted from his power. If this be true, it follows that Satan does nothing but under the control of a superior: and that he is not (αὐτoκράτωρ) an unlimited monarch.



  1. Rob Somers said,

    March 24, 2007 at 2:39 pm

    Perhaps Isaiah 54:16-17 speaks to this very thing?

  2. greenbaggins said,

    March 25, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    I would say that passage certainly speaks to the idea that God created Satan (though did not create evil), and that there are specific purposes for God’s creating Satan. It would also speak to the idea that the children of God are not under that control. All in all, a pretty good proof-text!

  3. Thomas Twitchell said,

    March 26, 2007 at 1:52 am


    I know we disagree on this, and it is truly an enigma. Is evil a thing? The view that evil is diminished good, answers nothing. While I would agree that God cannot be the doer, nor the participant with evil. Whether you define it as a thing essential to itself or as thing not itself but the imperfect of another, it is still a thing. It exists, and I have to contend for God here, that it cannot self-exist or the statement that is made by Calvin disagrees with itself. For evil would be automous, and able to control entities less than itself. We cannot even go so far as to state that it is a lesser creative principal ground of being than God, and therefore subordinate. Nothing in Scripture warrants the existence of any other creator of any degree outside of God. If we entertain the possibility that God divested Himself of a portion of His creatorship we would also have to admit to a diminishing of God’s sovereignty. For the thing created outside of His creating, would be by the very definition, not His creation and none of His to rule.

    That being said, the purposes of God are fully realized no matter the authority that is given. That authority is not the same as the power behind it. Nor is it of the same nature as the authority that is essential to the Sovereignty of God. It can only be in the creature and is therefore subject to the creator and by nature a created thing. Even though the final purposes of God toward His Children is for their good and not for evil, it does not follow that His Children are not subjected to the authority of Satan, at least for the sake of discipline. It is not of the same nature as the authority of God and by that very thing can have what ever administrative use God desire over men. What of those whom Paul could turn over to Satan for the distruction of their flesh. Or, those believers who have been taken captive by Satan to do his will. The key word in Calvin’s claim is “success.” It is not that he is not given any authority over the Children of God in any sense, but that as with Peter, God grants authority to Him for the perfecting of His Children. This is also relfected in James. In fact, those firey trials there may well be connected to Pauls discription of the firey darts of the enemy. The comfort that we can have from Ephesians and James, is that the testing (like that in the wilderness of Christ) brings forth the true worth of our Faith, producing perserverance. That word “trying” in James when followed through with the rest of what is being said is “assay.” Which is to make demonstration of the exact quality of what is current reality. Here in is the difference between the authority that Satan has over the Children of God and the children of the world. As Christ said of Satan, he has no part in Him. Satan’s authority then cannot penetrate into Christ where we are hidden and so can do no damage to the true “ore” of Faith. Instead, just as in the trials and temptations of Christ from the wilderness to the cross, the external attacks authorized by the Father serves only to more clearly reveal the hidden nature. It remains the same authority that Satan has over the children of the world, but with vastly differing effects. As Christ said to Pilate, “You would have no authority over me except that My Father in Heaven granted it to you.” The effect on Christ was to bring forth from the grave the Glorified Savior.” But to the world this authority brings forth corruption and prepares them for judgement. So Isaiah correctly says that his authority stops at the destruction, for we know this, that in the day of Judgement, the Authority is in the hands of Christ. To His own he has given the authority to become the Children of God, but as to the children of devil, he retains all authority and will destroy them, both body and soul, in hell, along with Satan and his demons.

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