John Piper – God’s Sovereignty Over Satan’s Fall

from the Resolved Conferenced, 2009.

John Piper:

  •  Teach children about the sovereignty of God.
  • I’ve never known such a thing as not having this rock under our feet (the goodness of God’s sovereignty even in the midst of suffering). If you have cancer, or someone you love does, or if your spouse walked away from you,what I have to say really, really matters.

God’s gracious purposefulness in our lives: God is sovereign, God is purposeful, God is gracious and it really matters.

Since He is so purposeful… (pause) any time He does anything in your life; anytime he bumps you, He’s doing a million things! Every time God does one thing to you, he’s doing a million things. He knows the trajectory of every molecule He bumps another and another forever. And He knows them all. Millions of ages into the future. What happens now, makes a difference there… because everything relates to everything… when God’s in charge of everything. He’s always doing a million things in your life, when you see Him doing one thing, and you see two reasons and neither of them explain it and you’re mad at Him.

And I just said to my folks, „It’s not wise to get mad at God because you can’t see enough reasons as to why this just happened to you because there are a million… and I illustrate it with – Jesus walks into Samaria (which Jews didn’t like to do), He sits down on a well, which surely would be considered unclean because these Samaritans are half breeds and they are heretic because they don’t believe in the Bible except in the first five books,and they’re religious and political rebels from 700 years ago, and He sits on this well in broad noon daylight and a Samaritan woman comes, whom He knows, that slept with 6 men, in serial adultery, living with a man who’s not her husband, and says to her, not „Can I have permission to drink from your well?” but, „Can I drink from your bucket?”  She said, „Jews and Samaritans, they don’t „use” together. They use separate fountains at „Woolworth’s” and other places in 1959 (USA). And therefore, what Jesus was doing, in 30 A.D. in Samaria, was all about Greenville, South Carolina 1959. Thirteen year old John Piper, that’s what He was doing then; and a million other things. So, I regard it as gloriously significant that we have an infinitely, purposeful, sovereign, gracious, good, Savior who pursues us thousands of years before we were born to rescue us from our racism and other sins.

I am going to argue for God’s supreme, right and authority and active sovereignty over all things, including sin. Including Lucifer’s sin, the fall of the holy angels and Adam’s sin, the fall of  humanity.  My argument is: Everything, absolutely everything exists, including the devil and a fallen Adam, for the glory of Jesus Christ and that is what I will try to argue here.

I read my Bible from cover to cover, every year plus lots more and I bump into texts like these:

2 Chronicles 10:14b-15  My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the Lord might fulfill his word, which he spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

Well that was sin for him to reject such counsel and God is somehow managing, ordering the sins of Kings.

King Ahab is enticed by false prophets to go up and fight against the Syrians and Micaiah, the true prophet says:

2 Chronicles 18:22 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets. The Lord has declared disaster concerning you.

So, however God did it, so that  He remains impeccably holy, He ordained that there be a lying spirit in the mouth of the false prophets.

2 Chronicles 25:20 But Amaziah would not listen, for it was of God, in order that he might give them into the hand of their enemies, because they had sought the gods of Edom.

That’s what I find when I read my Bible through, year after year. Here’s a good summary one from

Proverbs 16:4 – The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

to which I ask, „What purpose?” Turn with me to Colossians chapter 1 for the answer to that question. We’ll be looking at several passages, some in more detail.

for Him

I regard these words as breathtakingly glorious and among the most important in the Bible and especially perhaps for the young people who are forming world views. You need some simple truths. You can’t remember Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Would that you could, but you can’t. You need a few sentences to live by because when the pressure is on, all you can remember is sentences. You can’t remember books, let alone paragraphs. You can’t do it. You have to have crisp, clear, short, true, solid, ultimate all encompassing sentences. This is one of them:

Colossians 1:16 – For by him (Christ) 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.

That’s important. That is so important! Just get that. Get that! All things were made for Christ! That means for His honor, for His fame, for His glory, not for His improvement. You can’t improve upon the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords.What you can do is make much of Him. Display Him. Honor Him. Magnify Him. Glorify Him. Praise Him. Reflect Him. That’s what this „for” means.

For Him. Now that’s a sweeping statement. Every University should have it over every door: „This class for Christ!”, „This science for Christ”, „This seminar for Christ”, because everything exists for Christ!

Of all the thousands of things that Paul could have named in verse 16, that He made and that exist for Him, look what he named: thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities. Now, Paul knows. He’s writing it; he knows what he means when he says rulers and authorities. He means wicked heavenly powers. The reason we know that is because of chapter 2:15. This very phrase, sometime translated principalities, powers in Colossians 2:15 it says, „He disarmed the rulers and authorities; same phrase.  You go to Ephesians 6:12 „We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against rulers and authorities. These are cosmic, evil powers out to destroy you. Of course the destruction might be by making you rich. But, destroy you. Chapter 1:16 says, „thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities were made by Him and for Him.

The devil exists for the glory of Christ!

And, so do all His minions who obey Him. Now, it does not say He created them evil. It says He made them. In fact, little Jude over and near the end of the Bible says, „Angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling… 2 Peter, Jude, give us a little window unto pre-earth heaven where this evident rebellion took place and angels that were created good, rebelled. However, Paul knows something else about God, namely that God knows the future, perfectly.

God’s sovereignty over sin

So, before He made all those angels, He dealt in His mind with the certain prospect that they would rebel. He dealt with that. He thought that through and what the implications of it would be before He made them. And then, He made them.

Now, I use the word ordain as my verb of choice when I talk about God’s sovereignty over sin. And, I am not weaseling. I’ll explain what I mean by „God ordains the fall of Lucifer, the fall of the angels who fell”. Inside the word ordain there is the possibility of Him causing something directly and the possibility of His permitting something to happen, knowing what all the implications of that will be. Whether He causes directly or permits with infinite knowledge or wisdom, concerning what will come if He permits, He is ordaining.  I am just not choosing. I find it doesn’t help when you say that God permits. You’re damned with one and damned with the other because both miss the main point; namely, He’s in charge! He could stop it and He doesn’t, and, in not stopping it, He has reasons and reasons are purposeful. Therefore, there is design in what He permits. And, therefore, when I say He ordains, I mean He has a history in view and He’s going somewhere with what He permits to happen. That is the way I am talking about the ordaining of or the governance of sin or the fall.

Before the ages began we got unmerited grace !

So, Paul knows that God knows before creation that his heavenly creatures and his earthly creatures are gonna go wrong. He knows that and He makes them anyway, certainly knowing they’re going to go wrong. Here are 2 passages where I get that idea:

Revelation 13:8 – and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

Christ, in the mind of God, was already planned to be slain for sin before He made anything! So, He obviously knew when He would make anything, it was gonna turn out to need dying for. That’s clear.

2 Timothy 1:9 – who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because ofhis own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,

Before the ages began we got unmerited grace, in Christ Jesus! … which clearly in all the other places Paul talks about, grace in Christ Jesus was bought for us by the Lamb on the cross. There’s grace for sinners like us because the Lamb was slain and we received that grace in Christ Jesus, before anything was created which means that when He made the angels and when He made Adam and Eve He knew exactly where this was going and it was all part of a magnificent plan to magnify Christ! This entire history is to make Christ look great.

Join the biggest cause in the universe

You need a cause to live for? Join the biggest cause in the Universe. I don’t even know how to say it because the universe is too small. There was no universe when this plan was made. Nothing had come into being and He saw His Son crucified. The pinnacle of the display of the glory of His grace and everything is planned to get there. So, get a sentence that sums that up for you and live it. Join Him in it! It will keep you from a thousand stupidities… a thousand wasted days… so many sins, so much digging around on the computer. Digging around, wasting your life with stuff. If you know you’re caught up in stuff so absolutely, spectacularly breathtakingly magnificent as before there was anything, God almighty is planning the display of the glory of His Son in history, through the fall of Lucifer and the fall of Adam.

This is what I think we need to tell our children

Back to rulers and authorities, which have been made for Christ. That seems to imply that they’re gonna do God’s bidding. That implies a purpose; they’re gonna do everything for the glory of His Son. This is what I think we need to tell our children. They ask you a question like, „Daddy, how strong is Satan? Can Satan stop God from doing what He wants to do, daddy?” You better have an answer for that! And it’s real clear: NO!!!! And the child will say, „Good! ‘cause I was scared last night. I mean, Kids are ready for this glorious teaching! (Piper jokes: It’s only college students that aren’t ready. They’re too smart)

We are not dualists

We Christians don’t say, „Here’s God and here’s Satan, the principalities and powers and then here’s God and they kind of flying and jockeying with 2 different powers…and this one has ultimate self determination, this one (the other) has self determination and you just don’t know how it’s gonna go today, tomorrow, forever… That is totally NOT what’s in the Bible! That is so obvious, but…. texts, texts…

John 12:31 – Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.

Satan is called ruler of this world. That’s serious…ruler of this world.

Daniel 4:17 – The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of menand gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’

The most high is ruler over mankind. Yes, Satan has the delegated kind of sway…in this fallen world and he does his bidding and God rules over him. Unclean spirits, Jesus dealt with them, they’re running rampant all over the world, inclining people to evil. Are they free?

Mark 1:27 – And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

He commands the unclean spirits and they obey Him. This is 6 year old theology. Awesome theology! „I’m scared daddy, I think there’s a monster in the closet.” And you say, „Well, what if there is? Because Jesus says, ‘Monster, you stay in the closet!'”

John 8:44 – You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Satan is a murderer. He’s a murderer, really!

James 4:15 – Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

You don’t know about tomorrow. What is your life? Your life is like a vapor. You should say, „If the Lord wills.” And if He doesn’t, then Satan can kill you, but not if He wills that he not kill you. Of course Satan can kill you. It says so in Revelation 2:10. He’s gonna put people to death. But, not without God loosening His leash to do it. That’s why there are martyrs according to chapter 6:11, appointed to die because God is going to give leash to the devil in the last days and he is going to waste the church. But, God will not have lost control. That’s why the book of Revelation is in the Bible so when those kinds of things happen we don’t say, „Yeah, what happened to God?” God is in heaven and ruling over the beast and the false prophet and the devil himself.

Job, it’s clear as daylight that Satan comes to Job and wants at him and God says, „You can have his stuff but you can’t touch him. So he kills his kids. Satan comes back, Job hasn’t given up his faith, he says, „Skin for skin, let me have his skin and then he’ll curse you.” And God says, „You can have his skin, but don’t you kill him.”  In other words, this dynamic that’s going on here in other words is „You can’t do anything without my permission Satan”, and Satan knows it. We are NOT dualists.

Luke 22:31 –  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,

Poor Peter. Now pause there and ask, „Does Satan get his request with Peter?” Sift you like wheat… I think that means put Peter in a sieve and push him through so that everything comes through but his faith, to get his faith out of him; to get Peter minus faith. So that’s what Satan was asking. Put you through the sieve and then there’s the useless Peter. And then Jesus says, „But, I have prayed for you, that our faith fail not,” and then this glorious word- „when” not „if” . When you turn, strengthen your brothers. You talk about sovereignty in the face of sin and Satan. What a horrible thing for Peter to do; to deny  His Lord. Jesus is orchestrating in His prayer to the Father, how far He will let Satan with Peter go, and no farther. I love a sovereign Savior! The only reason any of you has not made shipwreck of your faith is that Jesus is praying for you, today, in heaven, at the Father’s right hand.

2 Corinthians 4:4 – In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Now we’re in big trouble because you’ve got a supernatural power blinding the minds of unbelievers, we ourselves get nowhere with demonic blindness. You’ve tried, haven’t you? How helpless we feel! Just 2 verses later, „The God who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” He gives light in the heart. Satan doesn’t have the last word when it comes to blindness. God can shatter that blindness anytime He wants with His sovereign „Let there be light”.  And that’s how you got saved. He said that into your heart.

In conclusion about Satan and rulers and authorities: God is sovereign over Satan and all of Satan’s horrible deeds. He hasn’t lost control of history, or of your life or of your parents lives or of your church. Colossians 1:16- Let it be loud and clear „He made all things on earth, in heaven, visible and invisible, thrones, dominions, powers and authorities, rulers and authorities, He created them for Him.” For Christ.

Why doesn’t God just get rid of Satan?

So sin, in Satan and from Satan is under God’s, Christ’s sway and it is for His glory. So the Son of God, Jesus Christ, will be more highly honored if Satan exists than if he doesn’t. Have you ever asked this… I asked this repeatedly and  have tried to reestablish my answer. Why doesn’t He (God) just get rid of Him?  Because He’s gonna do it in the last day. Isn’t He? He’s gonna take him and first throw him in the pit and then later, throw him in the lake of fire. And he’s over. He’s history. He’s never gonna torment or tempt anybody ever again in the new heavens and the new earth. So, why not NOW?  It would just spare us so much trouble. Wouldn’t it?

So, „Jesus, you have authority, you have power, you have rights, you’re going to do it; just do it now!”  Why doesn’t He? He’s not protecting Satan’s free will because He’s gonna throw him in the lake of fire, against his will. So, that’s no answer. Here’s my answer, „Christ would get glory if he strong armed Satan now and just threw him in the lake of fire. We’d just praise Him. But, if He dies to disarm the principalities and powers and forgive us our sins and then patiently, mercifully win for Himself a following because of His superior beauty, over time, if He saves us from Satan, that way He will get more glory than if He only manifested power.

If you, tonight conquer Satan by a superior admiration for the glories of Christ, crucified and risen, you are glorifying more of Christ then if you only glorified Him for His raw power in dispensing Satan into hell. Jesus said, „Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him,” meaning, now at the cross, the glory of God’s grace reaches / reached its apex at the cross. Paul said, „We preach Christ crucified, the power of God and the wisdom of God. So, that wisdom and that power would not have been seen, had Christ not defeated Satan by this way, rather than raw power. But, here’s one more text that gets at the essence of what’s going on in your life.

You are involved in the triumph over the devil.

Listen to this, do you remember 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul sees wonders in heaven that he’s not allowed to say anything about and to check his own pride, God ordains that He have a thorn and the thorn is called a messenger of what ? Satan. So, God is using Satan for sanctification here. Right? The thorn is designed for humility. And Satan hates humility and so, God is making Satan, against his will, to serve Paul’s sanctification. Why? Listen to these words. When Paul says (repeats), „Please take it away”, Jesus says this, „My power is made perfect in weakness”. Satan is being defeated by the revelation of the superior power of Christ in Paul’s gladly embracing insults, hardships, tribulations, persecutions and calamities. „For when I am weak, then am I strong.”

In other words, there is a way for Christ to be magnified and triumphant and glorified that doesn’t just involve raw power to dispense Satan into hell. It’s a lifelong kind of warfare that you’re involved in making Him look great, by gladly embracing the thorns that He gives you , so that His power can be made perfect in your weakness. This is very strange and very glorious. You are involved in the triumph over the devil. By how you admire Christ, to the point that your soul is so satisfied that you can actually use with Paul the word „gladly”. „I will all the more „gladly” boast in  my insults, calamities, hardships, persecutions. So, I don’t think that God is making any mistake in leaving Satan in the world, for now, if His aim is to magnify the beauty and the triumph of His Son.

The fall of man

Just a few closing minutes on the fall of man. We spent all of our time so far in saying that God is sovereign over the origin of Satan, out of  a good angel, through means that nobody understands, except God. I have „zero” explanation for how a good angel chose to sin. If you’re wondering, „You got any mysteries in your life?”  That’s the biggest. The first sin in the universe is the biggest sin to me. I know of no explanation for it that satisfies. What I do know is, God was sovereign over it and he’s absolutely holy and never sins. So, I have a category in my  head for God ordaining that sin be, without sinning. Do you have that category? If you don’t have that category in your brain, you’re gonna stumble over a lot of parts of the Bible. Let me say it again. The category says: God ordains that sin be, without Himself sinning, when he ordains that sin be. So, I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know how to explain what went on inside a holy angel’s head that would make him sin. That is the ultimate mystery. But I do know God governs that and never sins.

Now, with regard to Adam, we’ve already seen that God had a book before the creation of the world, named The Book of Life of the Lamb That Was Slain. And we all know that the reason that the Lamb was slain is so that we would not perish, but have everlasting life. And we know that we are perishing because we are sinners. And we know that we are sinners because we were in Adam and when he sinned, we sinned and everybody has been sining since Adam. Therefore, God in planning the cross, planned the fall.

Let’s go to Romans 5 and I want to show you just a few things. Romans 5, one of the weightiest, most amazing passages in vests 12-19, about the comparison between Jesus and Adam. First Adam, second Adam. What is going on here? What is the ultimate thing that this passage is saying?

Romans 5:12-19 

Death in Adam, Life in Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, andso death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam,who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’sdisobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Verse 12 – that’s the fall. Adam and Eve sinned. Death through sin, that is why we all die and death spread to all men because In verse 14 b he adds (in this particular point) and this is his main assertion „who was a type of the one who was to come”. Now get this. At the very point where he said „death reigned, from Adam to Moses, even over those whose transgression wasn’t like Adam,” in other words he’s saying they’re dying in their sins (it wasn’t like his (Adam’s) and so their death is owing and their sin is owing and somehow being connected with him. That is the type of the one who is to come. Right here he says it. That’s a type. You know what a type is. A foreshadowing, a glimpse. In other words God is pointing to Christ . He knows there’s going to be a Lamb who’s going to be slain and in preparation for Him, He creates a type of Him, so that when He comes, explanations could be given about His achievements, that could not be given had not Adam been a type. That’s the main point. God is orchestrating Adam and what happened in and after the fall, so that He could say something about the superiority of Christ. And then He runs forward with it and then He shows all these „much more Christ” „much more Christ” and I would just love to take you verse by verse through this. But, I think, instead of that, I will just close with verses 20 and 21.

The law came in to increase the trespass. Now just stop there. Well then, why did you give the law?!! I said why I gave the law. To increase the trespass. But, where sin abounded, grace much more abounded. So, what’s He doing?  He’s calculating everything to magnify grace. But, he’s not done yet. So that, now we’re in verse 21, so that as sin reigned in death, grace might reign through righteousness, unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Now we know what He is after.  Now we know why He gave the law. Now we know why He wanted sin to explode on the earth. Now we know why He’s sovereign over sin. Now we know why He ordains the fall, of man, as well as Lucifer, in order that grace might abound. Not just any old, general grace. The grace that comes through righteousness. This IS the imputed righteousness of the one who perfectly obeyed in verse 19 . And, through that perfect righteousness, imputed to us, grace is abounding over all of our multiplied sins, through whom? Jesus Christ, our Lord!  This universe is all about Jesus. This universe is all about the cross. It’s all about the apex of the glory of grace, including the fall of Satan and the fall of man.

So, I close by saying: This vision of Christ, is relevant for camp counselors this summer. This vision of Christ, is relevant for your mom who’s got ovarian cancer.And this vision of Christ, is relevant for you, perhaps yourself, or your uncle or dad who was abandoned by a spouse two months ago. And, this is relevant for you.

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