What if we took a poll and asked this question? Do you believe that Satan has the power and the ability to perform miracles? My guess would be that the overwhelming majority of professing evangelical Christians in this country and probably around the world, would say, well, yes, Satan can perform miracles. When Jesus cast out a demon, the Pharisees and teachers of the law accused Him of being under the influence of Satan. What followed is a clear rebuke of their thinking and a clear teaching on the ultimate powerlessness of Satan and his minions. Welcome to the Lord's Day edition of Renewing Your Mind.
I'm Lee Webb. Let's learn more about this as R.C. Sproul continues his exposition of the Gospel of Luke. Today he'll be leading us through chapter 11. Well, this morning we're going to continue with our study of the Gospel according to St. Luke. I'll be reading from chapter 11, verses 14 through 26. And he was casting out a demon, and it was mute. So it was when the demon had gone out that the mute smoke and the multitudes marveled. But some of them said, he casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.
And others testing him sought from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? Because you say, I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?
Therefore they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are in peace. But when a stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he takes from him all his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoils. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And when an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places seeking rest and finding none, he says, I will return to my house from which I came.
And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. And then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that man is worse than the first. This teaching about Jesus in many ways is about the devil, a being whom the Scriptures from Genesis 3 to the end of Revelation takes extremely seriously. And yet in our own time, there have been great distortions that have arisen about the nature and the work of Satan. And so we need to listen to the teaching of Jesus to get a proper understanding of this diabolical person who seeks our destruction. This record of this event comes to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
It carries the full weight of the authority of God himself, and I trust that you will receive it as such. Let us pray. Father and our God, as we contemplate the things that are contained in this text, we need Your help not only for understanding them, but also we need Your help to protect us against the evil one. It is our prayer of God every time we pray the Lord's Prayer or sing it that You would deliver us from the power of Satan. We ask that even now in this hour that deliverance may be manifest, for we ask it in Jesus' name.
Amen. The first time we meet the devil in the Bible is in the Garden of Eden where he is introduced in chapter 3 of Genesis with the somewhat cryptic and ominous and foreboding words, Now the serpent was more subtle or crafty than any of the beasts of the field. And Jesus tells us that this serpent was a liar from the beginning, and he used the power of the lie to seduce our primordial parents and to bring the whole creation into ruin.
It's the same serpent that assaulted our Lord in the wilderness and did everything in His power to seduce Jesus and to prevent Him from fulfilling the mission that the Father had given to Him. But fortunately for us and for the world, the second Adam stood firm and overcame the enemy. But even with that victory of Jesus, the assault against Him by Satan did not at that moment cease, but followed Him every step of His earthly ministry. And here we have this passage that tells us that on an occasion Jesus cast out a demon from a man who was mute.
And when the demon had gone away, the mute spoke, and everyone who knew this man knew that he didn't have the ability to speak. And so when Jesus performed this miracle, the people were absolutely astonished. However, not everyone celebrated this victory over the demonic world. The enemies of Jesus, chiefly the scribes and the Pharisees, took this occasion to bring perhaps the greatest insult against Jesus that they ever did.
It was in this moment that they came this close to committing the unpardonable sin. And they said that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub, by the power of the prince of demons, by the power of Satan. That's one thing to be hostile to Jesus. It's something else to say that He is in league with the devil. And others who were there wanted to test Him further and ask for a sign from heaven, but He knew what they were thinking. And so He responds to the charge that He was performing these works by the power of Satan.
Listen carefully to His answer. Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and a house divided against a house falls. So if Satan is divided against himself, how long will his kingdom stand? Because you say, I cast out demons by Beelzebub. And what is He saying here? He says that's a foolish supposition. How stupid would Satan be then to use his power in me to destroy his own kingdom?
Haven't you seen what I just did? Delivering this man who was under the control of a junior grade demon who answered and reported to Beelzebub one of his minions, one of his lieutenants. Do you think Satan is going to destroy his own army if he expects his kingdom to stand? And this is how Jesus gave His initial response to the charge that He was doing His miracles through the power of Satan.
But there are a few things here we need to get clear. In the first place, these leaders, many of whom were scholars, did not deny that Jesus was doing miracles. They didn't accuse Him of duplicity, of performing slight of hand or cleverly devised tricks. They fully acknowledged that Jesus was doing miracles.
But the issue was this. By whose power was Jesus able to perform these astonishing signs and wonders and powers and miracles? Do you remember Nicodemus who came to Jesus at night with a differing view from his fellow Pharisees? And he said to Jesus in a complimentary and flattering way, Teacher, we know that you are sent from God or you wouldn't be able to do the things that you were doing.
Now at that point, here was one Pharisee whose thinking was sound. Again, Nicodemus acknowledged that the miracles of Christ were authentic, but he took it to the next step. And he said, you couldn't do this unless God were with you. Now notice what Nicodemus didn't say. He didn't say, Jesus, we know that you're a teacher sent from God or from Satan, or you wouldn't be able to do the things that you're doing. Nicodemus had eliminated the second alternative, the idea that Jesus had been sent from Satan.
What was he thinking? What Nicodemus was thinking was that only God can empower a miracle. That Satan does not have the ability or the power to perform miracles. Now if we took a poll of all the evangelical Christians in America and we asked the question, do you believe that Satan has the power and the ability to perform miracles? I haven't taken this poll and I'm only guessing, but my guess would be that the overwhelming majority of professing evangelical Christians in this country and probably around the world would say, well, yes, Satan can perform miracles.
And at that point I would have to step forward and ask if I could bring the minority report, because I don't believe for a second that Satan has the power to perform miracles. Satan's not God. Satan's a creature. He's stronger than we are, more crafty than we can be, but he doesn't have the attributes of God. I doubt if you and I will ever meet Satan in our lives, because as a creature he can only be at one place at one time.
And so he's spending his time assaulting the big boys and the big girls. He sends his junior grade demons to torment us. So we'll never have to deal with him like Jesus did and Luther did and Edwards did, because he's not divine. He doesn't have the attribute of omnipresence, nor is he omnipotent. Again, his power is greater than mine and greater than yours, but there is a limit to that power, and that limit falls far short of the power of God.
Well, they say, well, wait a minute. Doesn't the Bible warn us against the miracles of Satan? Let me take a minute to read a passage that those who believe in the ability of Satan to perform actual miracles will go to. First of all, to 2 Thessalonians, and I have it marked, and while I'm filibustering, I'm searching for it. In the second chapter of his letter to the Thessalonians, verse 1, Paul wrote these words of warning.
Listen carefully. Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him, we ask you not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us as though the day of Christ has come. Let no one deceive you, for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first when the man of sin is revealed the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.
Just a brief excursions here. You've heard of the phrase antichrist. The term anti or anti in Greek does not simply mean against.
It does mean that, but it also means in place of. So we expect the antichrist to be not only one who is an opponent of Christ, but one who wants to usurp the position of Christ and to be his vicar, if you will, to take his place and establish himself as the great authority. And then Paul goes on to remember that I was with you, I told you these things, and he goes on and talks about the restrainer and so on, and he says, The coming of the lawless one is according to the work of Satan with all power, signs, and lying wonders, with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, and so on. So here in his warning, the Apostle Paul says that the one who comes in the power of Satan will come with the power of lying signs and wonders. So wonderful, so powerful, as if possible even to deceive the very elect.
Now here's the question. What does Paul mean? What does the Bible mean when it gives or attributes to Satan the power of performing lying signs and wonders? What does it mean by lying? Does Paul mean that Satan will come doing bona fide authentic miracles in support of a lie? Or does the term lying here mean that those signs and wonders are not true signs and wonders establishing a lie, but they are false signs and wonders trying to establish a lie? Do you get the difference? I think it's the latter that Paul is saying, that what Satan can do is perform signs that are so prodigious that they can persuade and deceive even the very elect of God. Nevertheless, as clever and as impressive as they may be, they're phony.
They're not real miracles. Now, you recall way back in the book of Exodus when God called Moses out there in the Midianite wilderness. You remember Moses, Moses, and all of that, and he tells Moses, go to Pharaoh and tell Pharaoh that I said, let my people go. I want you to go and see Pharaoh and tell Pharaoh that he has to dismiss the greatest free slave labor force in the history of the world. And then I want you to go to the people and say, let's go. Pack up your bags. We're out of here.
We don't have any weapons. How are we going to resist the chariots of Pharaoh, the people are going to say? Moses says, trust me, we're going on the largest wildcat strike in the history of the world. And Moses is impressed by the presence of God, of course, but he says, God, how am I going to pull this off? How do you think Pharaoh's going to believe me when I say you sent me?
And how are the people going to believe me when I tell them you sent me? Well, how did God answer Moses' question? He said, Moses, take your stick, throw it on the ground.
Throws it on the ground, it turns into a snake. He said, okay, pick it up by the tail, picks it up by the tail, turns back into a stick. Moses, put your hand in your shirt, pull it out, leprosy. Okay, Moses, put it back in your shirt, pull it out, it's clean.
He said, here's how they're going to know that I sent you. I'm going to empower you to do miracles, the kind of miracles that only I can empower. The whole world was changed. All history was changed because God empowered Moses to perform true miracles, not lying signs and wonders. Oh, I know, he went into the palace of Pharaoh and told Pharaoh the message, and the message says, bring me my magicians. Moses throws down his stick, turns it into a snake, and the magicians of Egypt throw down their sticks and they become snakes.
It's a standoff, right? Until Moses' snake ate all their snakes up and it was all over. See, the magicians were great magicians practiced in sleight of hand.
They could have empty sticks that already had snakes in them and collapse those sticks and let the snakes go. But there was a limit to their magic. It was no more magic than the magicians that we see on television today.
It was lying signs, lying wonders. Now, to accommodate this, theologians who have defended the idea that Satan can perform miracles made this fine distinction. I'm going to ask you to put your thinking caps on and excuse me if I get just a tad technical.
My wife's already nervous. But in classic theology, part of the definition of a miracle is a work wrought through the power of God that is contra naturum, meaning against nature, violating the normal laws of nature, like having an ax and float, a virgin bringing forth a child, someone turning water into wine. That's not a natural thing that occurs. To do that involves working contra naturum, against nature. Well, the question is, can Satan perform miracles against nature? He's not the Lord of nature. He's not the author of nature.
Does it say yes? But he's supernatural. He's an angelic being with more powers than we have, so he can work contra naturum. But what he can't do is at the same time that he works contra naturum, he can't work contra peccatum, which is what Jesus is saying here. He can work contra naturum against nature, but not contra peccatum against evil, whereas Jesus' miracles are both against nature and against evil.
Do you see how they take that from this discussion right here that we've read? Well, I believe and agree that Satan never works against evil, against peccatum. He works pro peccatum, for evil. But I disagree that he has the power to work contra naturum, because that is the basis for a real and truthful miracle. Now, why am I exercised about this and concerned about it? If I take you, please, to Hebrews chapter 2, where the beginning of chapter 2 of Hebrews starts with these words, Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For the words spoken through angels prove steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience receive the just reward. How then shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
Let me pause where the comma is. That's something, that's a question that every one of us needs to be able to answer, that the salvation that comes to us in Jesus Christ is not a mean salvation. It's not an insignificant salvation. It's not one way of salvation. It is a great salvation. This is the greatest work of benevolence that the providence of God has ever wrought in history. I drive here every Sunday morning, and I see multitudes of people along the way who are utterly indifferent to this, who systematically neglect it.
That's the way of the world. God provides a great salvation. We neglect it. We dismiss it. We overlook it. And so the rhetorical question that is raised here by the author of Hebrews is, how can we possibly escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
Let's make it personal. How could I escape the judgment of God if I neglected that great salvation? How could you possibly escape if you neglect that salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him? This great salvation was announced by Jesus is what the writer is saying.
We heard it from Him at first. And what He told us about this great salvation was confirmed. And what does it mean to confirm something? It means to authenticate it. It means to take away any doubt about it.
It's to make it certain as the confirmation comes. Now how was the word of this great salvation confirmed? God confirmed it by bearing witness with signs and wonders and various miracles. Now, the truth of sacred Scripture, the truth of the gospel, the truth of Christ was authenticated by miracles, because that was God's way of certifying and confirming that this is His truth. Do you see what's at stake? If Satan can really perform true miracles, then the miracles of Christ, the miracles of the apostles, the miracles of Moses confirm nothing.
No, no, no. Satan is clever. He can disguise himself as an angel of light. He goes about as a roaring lion seeking those whom he can devour. But he's not God.
There is a limit beyond which he cannot go. That's why we give a tight definition of a miracle and we get loose about it when people say, oh, what's a miracle? Every time a baby's born, that's a miracle. No, every time a baby's born, it's a wonderful thing, but it's not a miracle.
I go in the minister's office and I see the sign on the wall, expect a miracle. If you're expecting one, it's not a miracle. A miracle is the least thing that you expect. It is so extraordinary. There's nothing ordinary about a miracle. A miracle by definition is so extraordinary, so unusual that it demands our attention so that God answers prayers every day, inward things that we don't see, but nobody, even the guy who spoke here recently, nobody's raising people from the dead.
Nobody's making ax heads float. Nobody makes these kind of works that only God can do. And when those miracles, true miracles, come to pass, they bring with it divine certification, and that's what the point of the miracles were principally and chiefly to prove once and for all that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. You can have a demon cast out, and the demon can roam about the dry places, but if he's not replaced by the Holy Ghost, he'll come back with all of his friends, and your end will be worse than the beginning. We can respect the power of Satan, but let's not give him the power and authority that only God possesses. We're glad you've joined us for Renewing Your Mind on this Sunday.
I'm Lee Webb. Each Lord's Day, we return to R.C. Sproul's sermon series from the Gospel of Luke. Studying Jesus' life, His parables, and His miracles has been thrilling through the first 11 chapters, and I hope you'll join us again next week as we continue our study. Let me also encourage you to request Dr. Sproul's commentary on Luke.
It's nearly 600 pages, easy to read, and it provides helpful insight and application for each passage. To receive a digital download of this commentary, contact us with your donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. In addition to biblical teaching like we've heard today, we continue to produce new teaching resources on Christian living, theology, church history, and cultural issues. You can find a broad selection of teaching in our online learning community called Ligonier Connect. You can get involved with interactive video courses and learn at your own pace. Find out more and get started at connect.ligonier.org. Renewing Your Mind is the listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. Thank you for joining us today, and I hope you'll make plans to be with us again next Sunday. .
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