How Much Power Does Satan Really Have?

And the LORD said to Satan, “Behold, all that (Job) has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD. Job 1:12

Satan afflicts believers. Don’t underestimate him. He’s not an imp in red tights with a pitchfork. But don’t give him more credit than he’s due.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul said a messenger of Satan was given him to afflict him. Satan was behind Job’s suffering. The enemy can afflict us physically. He tempts us to sin.  But his greatest weapons are his fiery darts – his lies about God that he launches against our faith.  We are in a serious conflict with the powers of darkness.

Yet sometimes I hear Christians talk as if Satan were all-powerful.  “The devil has really been having a field day in my life lately.” “Satan’s really been kicking me around this week.”

When I first became a Christian I thought demons were everywhere. (I’d definitely watched too many episodes of Twilight Zone and Outer Limits).  In my early Christian years I spent lots of time rebuking and binding demons of lust, demons of fear, and demons of unbelief, anger, self- pity, and sickness. Pretty much everything bad in life was caused by a demon.  I probably rebuked demons of bad coffee.

Then I found out just how limited Satan’s power really is.

He’s powerful, but not all-powerful. He is the god of this world. Unbelievers are significantly under his power, though they don’t realize it. He has blinded their eyes. But once Jesus opens our eyes to his glory and saves us, we come under his ownership.  We’re no longer slaves of Satan. We’re new creations in Christ and share his victory over the enemy that he won on the cross.

When Satan afflicts believers he must get permission to do so, even as he did with Job.  God determined the parameters of what Satan could do to Job.  Each time Satan requested, God said you may do this and this but not this. He could only do what God allowed.

Lots of people seem to think the devil is the equal and opposite of God, like the dark side of The Force. But Satan is a created being. God is infinite.  Satan is less than a speck compared to the infinite One.

If anything, Satan might be compared to Michael the Archangel, another created being.  A.W. Tozer said we tend to think of created beings in a hierarchy, for example on the bottom are amoebas, then above them garden slugs and above them fish, then dogs.  Above dogs are monkeys, then humans and slightly above them are angels and then slightly above angels is God. But God is infinitely exalted over his creation.  The most glorious Seraphim in heaven is closer to a caterpillar in it’s being than it is to God.

Satan is a tool of God , and when he allows him to afflict a believer it’s for God’s glorious purposes – to make that believer rely on Christ, become like Christ and display the power of Christ in him (see Stephen’s post yesterday).

So remember you have an enemy, but fix your gaze on Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords.

  • Elaine

    "Satan is more like a Chihuahua on a leash barking his head off." What a picture!

    Amen, Mark! Along with Stephen's post from yesterday, this article is medicine for our souls. Thank you for the encouragement.

    Your post brings to mind the scene from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress: Christian becomes frightened by the pair of lions along the path to the castle called Beautiful. He continued to travel down the path, even though he was fearful that the lions would cause his death – but even as they were roaring and clawing at him, he passed by unharmed because he humbly submitted to the porter's instructions and never wavered from the safe path the Lord had provided for him. Once he had safely passed the lions, the book says, "He clapped his hands.and went on.." What an expression of joy and thankfulness; what a reminder how trusting the Lord gives us strength to carry on. He is a good and loving Father.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Mark Altrogge

      Great illustration, Elaine! Thanks!

  • Geoff

    Awesome reminder Bro! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Like yours, check out most recent tweet:

    Put on Gods Costume

    Ephesians 6:10-20: Gods Armor

    God bless you and yours.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Good tweet Geoff! Thanks!

  • http://offsetinnocence.wordpress.com Dave

    "Satan is a tool of God." I don't think there is any better way to say it. And the implications of actually believing that…God is so much bigger than we make him.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Amen – So much bigger!

  • Ronna

    We have all kinds of choices in life. I dont mean to sound simplistic, but Jesus or satan is a choice also. As a christian I dont always make the right choice. Choosing to follow Jesus is the right choice. All of my failures are then paid in full by His precious blood. He is the only way to overcome sin in your life.

    • Mark Altrogge

      Yes, Ronna! Praise God – all our failures are paid for by Jesus' precious blood. As long as we continue to follow Jesus we will overcome sin. Thanks for adding your comments!