“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.
Biography of the Devil
One thing should motivate us to continually battle the devil: the fact that everywhere in the Bible he is called both our adversary and God’s adversary. If God’s glory is dear to us, then we should struggle against the devil who aims for the extinction that glory. If zeal for Christ’s kingdom energizes us, we must wage war against him who conspires to ruin it. If we are anxious about our own salvation, we cannot make peace with him who continually plots for its destruction.
In Genesis 3, Satan seduces man to give up his allegiance to God. He wants to deprive God of his due honor and plunge humanity headlong into destruction. The same description is given to him in the Gospels (Matthew 13:28), where he is called the enemy and attempts to corrupt the “seed” of eternal life. Jesus adequately sums up all of his actions we experience in one phrase: he was “a murderer from the beginning and does not abide in the truth” (John 8:44). Truth, he assaults with lies. Light, he obscures with darkness. He clouds people’s minds with error. He stirs up hatred. He inflames strife and war. He does all of this to overthrow the kingdom of God and drawn people in eternal condemnation with himself. His whole natured is depraved and evil. Extreme depravity must exist in a mind bent on assaulting the glory of God and salvation of people. John backs this up when he speaks of the devil as having “sinned from the beginning” (1 John 3:8). He is the author, leader, and creator of all malice and wickedness.
But since God created the devil, we must remember that his malicious nature is not because he was created but comes from depravation. Everything which condemns him, he brought upon himself by his rebellion and fall. Scripture reminds us of this so that we don’t attribute evil to God as if God created him evil. Christ declares that when Satan lies, he “speaks of out of his own character because he does not abide in the truth” (John 8:44). He was once in the truth; he just doesn’t abide in it any longer. He is the father of lies. Therefore, Jesus tells us that we cannot blame God for the devil’s depravity. He brought it upon himself. Although these verses are brief and not very explicit, they provide enough evidence to vindicate the majesty of God from any blame.
Why should we be concerned about demons? Some people complain about Scripture because the Bible doesn’t give us much information on Satan’s fall–it’s cause, mode, date, and nature. But we shouldn’t think about these things much because the Holy Spirit doesn’t see fit to feed our curiosity with idle, unprofitable guesses. God gave us Scripture to build us up. Therefore, instead of dwelling on superfluous matter, we should hold to the “core truths” about demons. God made them as angel but they revolted against him. By rebelling, they ruined themselves and became a means of damnation to others. Peter and Jude tell us that God “did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgement” (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 1:6). Furthermore, when Paul speaks of elect angels, he obviously draws a contrast between them and reprobate angels.