Superior, Not Equal

“Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.”

- Mark 3:11–12

When it comes to Satan and his minions, we must take care to guard against two errors. First, we might underestimate the power of the demonic or treat it as if it does not exist. The Sons of Sceva learned to their chagrin that the devil is not one to be trifled with (Acts 19:11–20). Those who are not united to Christ but attempt to cast out demons in His name can expect only disaster. In our secular society, we are perhaps more tempted to act as if Satan is a myth. This is particularly true of disciplines that have embraced metaphysical naturalism, believing that physical forces and chemical reactions can explain everything. Talk about demons among secular psychologists, for example, and the response will be laughter or skepticism. The French poet Charles Baudelaire once said, “The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist,” and Satan has convinced many.

The second error we might make with respect to demons is to overestimate their power. Christians, because they affirm the existence of the supernatural, are probably more likely to commit this mistake than the one mentioned above. In fact, certain theological traditions encourage people to blame demons for every ill—to attribute sinful behaviors not to the person committing them but to the “demon of alcoholism” or some other spirit.

We dare not deny the reality of the demonic, but we err if we believe that God is constrained in any way by His enemies—even His supernatural enemies. Scripture does not teach dualism. Good and evil are not equally ultimate and powerful, and they are not locked in an eternal combat that will never be resolved to the advantage of one or the other. The Lord created Satan as a being that was originally good, for the Bible tells us God made everything “very good” in the beginning (Gen. 1:31a). As powerful as He is, Satan is still a finite creature and not the infinite, self-existent, good Creator.

Mark’s gospel denies dualism in its record of Jesus’ account with demons. Whenever they saw Him, “they fell down before him.” The sense here is that they fell down in absolute submission. What is more, they confessed His deity, proclaiming Him “the Son of God” (Mark 3:11). Despite their opposition, they had no illusions about their proper place. They knew who He was and rightly trembled in abject fear. And because they fear our Savior, we who are united to Him by faith can never be destroyed by them.

Coram Deo

Many believers have questions about the demonic such as “Can a Christian be demon possessed?” The fact that Satan is not equal in power to God helps us understand that though the devil is mighty, He is still subject to the Lord’s sovereign control. God’s omnipotent care for His children means that believers cannot be possessed by demons and that no scheme of the evil one will result in his ultimate victory over God’s people. Safe in the hands of Jesus, we need not fear anything Satan can throw at us.

Passages for Further Study

John 10:22–30
Romans 8:31–39

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier. For permissions, view our Copyright Policy.