Home > Calvinism, Christian Institutes > God rules wicked spirits and permits them to test believers and to rule over unbelievers

God rules wicked spirits and permits them to test believers and to rule over unbelievers

calvin.jpg_7MA21605611-0015God so overrules wicked spirits as to permit them to try the faithful, and rule over the wicked.

18. God thus turning the unclean spirits hither and thither at his pleasure, employs them in exercising believers by warring against them, assailing them with wiles, urging them with solicitations, pressing close upon them, disturbing, alarming, and occasionally wounding, but never conquering or oppressing them; whereas they hold the wicked in thraldom, exercise dominion over their minds and bodies, and employ them as bond-slaves in all kinds of iniquity. Because believers are disturbed by such enemies, they are addressed in such exhortations as these: “Neither give place to the devil;” “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour; whom resist steadfast in the faith,” (Ephesians 4:27; 1 Peter 5:8.) Paul acknowledges that he was not exempt from this species of contest when he says, that for the purpose of subduing his pride, a messenger of Satan was sent to buffet him, (2 Corinthians 12:7.) This trial, therefore, is common to all the children of God. But as the promise of bruising Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15) applies alike to Christ and to all his members, I deny that believers can ever be oppressed or vanquished by him. They are often, indeed, thrown into alarm, but never so thoroughly as not to recover themselves. They fall by the violence of the blows, but they get up again; they are wounded, but not mortally. In fine, they labor on through the whole course of their lives, so as ultimately to gain the victory, though they meet with occasional defeats. We know how David, through the just anger of God, was left for a time to Satan, and by his instigation numbered the people, (2 Samuel 24:1;) nor without cause does Paul hold out a hope of pardon in case any should have become ensnared by the wiles of the devil, (2 Timothy 2:26.) Accordingly, he elsewhere shows that the promise above quoted commences in this life where the struggle is carried on, and that it is completed after the struggle is ended. His words are, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly,” (Romans 16:20.) In our Head, indeed, this victory was always perfect, because the prince of the world “had nothing” in him, (John 14:30;) but in us, who are his members, it is now partially obtained, and will be perfected when we shall have put off our mortal flesh, through which we are liable to infirmity, and shall have been filled with the energy of the Holy Spirit. In this way, when the kingdom of Christ is raised up and established, that of Satan falls, as our Lord himself expresses it, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven,” (Luke 10:18.) By these words, he confirmed the report which the apostles gave of the efficacy of their preaching. In like manner he says, “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armor wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils,” (Luke 11:21, 22.) And to this end, Christ, by dying, overcame Satan, who had the power of death, (Hebrews 2:14,) and triumphed over all his hosts that they might not injure the Church, which otherwise would suffer from them every moment. For, (such bein our weakness, and such his raging fury,) how could we withstand his manifold and unintermitted assaults for any period, however short, if we did not trust to the victory of our leader? God, therefore, does not allow Satan to have dominion over the souls of believers, but only gives over to his sway the impious and unbelieving, whom he deigns not to number among his flock. For the devil is said to have undisputed possession of this world until he is dispossessed by Christ. In like manner, he is said to blind all who do not believe the Gospel, and to do his own work in the children of disobedience. And justly; for all the wicked are vessels of wrath, and, accordingly, to whom should they be subjected but to the minister of the divine vengeance? In fine, they are said to be of their father the devil. For as believers are recognized to be the sons of God by bearing his image, so the wicked are properly regarded as the children of Satan, from having degenerated into his image.

John Calvin-Institutes of the Christian Religion-Book I-Chapter 14-Henry Beveridge Translation

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