Piper: God or Satan? Which One Causes Calamity?

From the pen of John Piper:

It is true that Satan has remarkable freedom to “rule” this world. He is called the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31); and “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:3–4); and “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). He offers Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” if he would bow down to him (Luke 4:5–7).

Nevertheless God is clearly pictured in the Bible as holding sway over the world, even though Satan is called the “god of this world.” For example, the authority of governing rulers in the world is from God (Romans 13:1) includ- ing Pilate’s as he condemns Jesus (John 19:10–11); it is God who “removes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:20–21); “he does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What are you doing?’” (Daniel 4:34–35); and “the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1; see also Ezra 1:1; 6:22).

Even though Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered into Judas and brought about the final betrayal of Jesus to the Jews, nevertheless Peter asserts that behind Satan, God was guiding all things: “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23); indeed, “Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, [did] whatever [God’s] hand and plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27–28).

But all these satanically influenced and divinely guided leaders failed in their opposition to God. For “the Lord brings the counsel of the nations to naught; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:10–11; Isaiah 43:13). Of every attack on God’s people in the world it can be said, “Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and calamity come?” (Lamentations 3:37–38). “Does evil befall a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6).

Yet we must always be aware that in his mys- terious dealings with the world and with his own people the principle stands sure: “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

Behind Satan’s limited freedom to act is the hand of a sovereign God guiding all things for the good of his people (Romans 8:28). Compare the activity of God and Satan in these three pairs of texts: 1 Chronicles 21:1 and 2 Samuel 24:1; Luke 22:31 and 22:32; 2 Corinthians 4:4 and Romans 11:25.

The defeat and downfall of Satan is decisively accomplished in the death and resurrection of Jesus and will come to pass without fail. This is seen in Matthew 8:29; 16:18; 25:41; Luke 10:17–18; 11:21–22; John 17:15; 1 John 2:14; 3:8; 5:18; Romans 8:37–39; 16:20; Hebrews 2:14–15; Colossians 1:13; 2:15; and Revelation 20:10.

Therefore in the present age we are called to resist Satan by our faith in the triumph over him that has been accomplished and assured by Jesus. This is seen in James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:8–9; Ephesians 6:10–13; Acts 26:18; 2 Timothy 2:24–26; Romans 16:19–20; and 2 Corinthians 11:3.

-John Piper, The Pleasures of God, 53.

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