The Institutes (27)

Book 1 Chapter 14 Sections 13-19

God has created a vast multitude of supernatural beings whose ultimate purpose is to praise Him and “adorn His glory.” Angels point us back to God… this is their purpose. For us, they comfort and protect. For Him, they praise and glorify. But… what about the demons? What about Satan? In short, if God allows evil to exist, does that mean that He’s not all good? These and other questions Calvin takes on in his next section on angelology… in this case, the fallen angels. Satan is the enemy of God and Christ, and thus the enemy of the believer.

We have been forewarned that an enemy relentlessly threatens us, an enemy who is the very embodiment of rash boldness, of military prowess, of crafty wiles, of untiring zeal and haste, of every conceivable weapon and of skill in the science that we should not let ourselves be overwhelmed by carelessness or faintheartedness, but on the contrary, with courage rekindled stand our ground in combat. Since this military service ends only at death, let us urge ourselves to perseverance. Indeed, conscious of our weakness and ignorance, let us especially call upon God’s help, relying upon him alone in whatever we attempt, since it is he alone who can supply us with counsel and strength, courage and armor.

If there really is an evil force arrayed against we and our Master, then there are all kinds of practical applications to our daily lives. Calvin focuses on these:

… if we have God’s glory at heart, as we should have, we ought with all our strength to contend against him who is trying to extinguish it. If we are minded to affirm Christ’s Kingdom as we ought, we must wage irreconcilable war with him who is plotting its ruin.

And yet, I can’t help but think how absolutely insane it must be to try to stop God. This isn’t the realm of Hollywood playwrites and fantasy novels… the reality is, God’s Kingdom cannot be stopped. It is here, and it will finally be here. And Satan will have his place… he knows this. And he’s seen the hand of God throughout history.

So, although he totally resists God’s power, he is still under that power, and all his evil host. Can it only be by divine permission that the demonic hordes exist? Or is the explanation that God’s power is somehow limited? All of Scripture cries out no! God’s power is in no way limited, and so when Paul writes Colossians 1:16, he has in mind the knowledge that none of this evil came about apart from God. Concerning Christ, he writes:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Thrones and dominions is used in Colossians 2:15 to refer to evil spiritual forces being disarmed and mocked at the Cross. Paul uses it in Colossians 1:16 the same way… even the angels that Christ knew would rebel were still created and subjected to him. Thus, Paul could write to the Roman church in Romans 16 that God would soon crush Satan under their feet. This is our encouragement as well.

So, the theological aspect of demonology shows that 1) God created everything perfect, 2) Satan fell of his own accord, 3) Satan and his forces are still subject to Yahweh and His Christ, and therefore 4) we have a victory over Satan because of the Cross, and have nothing to fear from him.


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