Truth, Understanding, Insight

N.T. Satan

27th March 2011, hej


7) Paul: from the power of satan, Acts 26

11. Paul to king Agrippa quoting Y'shua in a vision. Background: Paul had been persecuting those at that time called 'the way', later called Christians and had seen a vision. When Paul is arrested himself many years later for being a christian who converted gentiles, this is his defence,

At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecute thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And I said, Who art thou, Lord?
And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecute. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Act 26:13-20)

The incident is recorded in the early part of Acts which appears to be abbreviated,

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecute thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord?
And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecute: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:3-6)

Saul heard the Lord speaking in Hebrew using the term satan. He did not say turn from 'satan to God' but from 'the power of satan to God'. Which is a peculiar distinction not often appreciated by Christians.

It makes sense if it is written “turn from the power of the enemy/adversary to God”

12. Paul greeting to the Christian Jews and Gentiles at Rome in his letter to them,

the God of peace shall bruise (rub/crush completely) Satan under your feet shortly (brief space of time). (Romans 16:20)

Background: The letter is thought most likely to have been written somewhere between late 55CE and early 58CE with some debate supporting 51/52, 54/55 and 56/57 being accepted as likely. Very shortly after that time satan was to be rubbed out completely under their feet. Roman Jews were expelled by Claudius in the year 49 or at the latest January 50CE,

Orosius, who quotes from Suetonius' text, states the expulsion took place in Claudius' ninth regnal year (Jan. 25, 49 to Jan 24, 50) (Hist. adv. pag. 7.6.15-16). (Orosius claims Josephus as his source, but Josephus nowhere mentions the expulsion.) What is interesting is the reason that Suetonius provides for this extreme official action. He writes, "He expelled the Jews at Rome because they caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestos (impulsore Chresto)" (Claudius, 25.4). (This expulsion of the Jews from Rome is referred to in Acts 18:1-3.)

Claudius, it appears, felt he could control the state religion. He died October 54 allegedly poisoned. If the letter was written in 54 then very 'shortly' the man who expelled the Christian Jews from Rome was 'rubbed out'. It is possible he was the satan as he had prevented preaching. If it was written late 55-58 the satan may have been Nero, in which case the 'shortly' was at least 10 years until 68CE. It may have been a group of people hostile to the Congregation, or the term may have applied to false Christians, and their power may have been crushed in Nero's persecution from 64-68, though it also crushed this congregation. In any case that satan was crushed completely long ago.

13. Paul's advice to the Corinthians is estimated as likely to have been written between 53 and 57CE, to mostly non-Jews. Paul speaks of delivering people to satan for fornication,

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that has done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that has so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (1Corinthians 5:1-5)

Meaning: Delivering to satan is equated to having those who do the deed 'taken away'. This was in Corinth and at that time there were a raft of Roman marriage laws dealing with adultery... delivering them to the authority might have resulted in banishment or death (destruction of flesh), but Paul says it would save their soul (in repentance?). It seems likely, based on Roman law, see that they were to be handed over to secular judgement. If this is the case satan is Roman authority.

Paul's advice to the Corinthians to mostly non-Jews continues,

Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife has not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband has not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt (test, try, examine) you not for your incontinency (lack of self restraint). But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment. (1Corithians 7:2-6)

Meaning: Paul wasn't married. It appears advice he had based on Roman law. In view of the Roman marriage rules, and their crackdown in this era on adultery (presumably excepting pagan religious rites) it was good advice, as Christians, so that they are not caught by Roman authorities at it – where they would be put on a very public trial by Roman authority, which seems to be an adversary who sends trial, which indicates 'satan' is used in its O.T. Hebrew sense in this context.

14. Paul still on the subject of the man accused of fornication. It appears he is punished by harsh treatment of the group, and Paul in his second letter backpedals and now is worried about the influence of the thinking of the satan the fornicator was to be handed over to.

For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. But if any have caused grief, he has not grieved me, but in part: that I may not overcharge you all. Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him. For to this end also did I write, that I might know the proof of you, whether ye be obedient in all things. To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgave any thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the person of Christ; Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his mind/thought. (2Corinthians 2:4-11)

15. In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians there was clearly an issue between Paul and some others claiming glory,

As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia. Wherefore? because I love you not? God knows. But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel (messenger) of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. I say again, Let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little. That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting. Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also. For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the congregations. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. (2Corinthians 11:10-30)

Meaning: Paul is moved greatly, and upset. Here Paul is not making a doctrinal statement but an emotional point. Paul's satan is made to seem as the messenger of light. As light is used for 'enlightenment' satan might also in that context be poetic language. Paul says that there are false teachers appearing as true. He does not call them satan – but he extends his poetic language and calls the false teachers the 'ministers of satan'. We know who they are at least- they are Hebrews and they are followers of Christ, who Paul thinks are no longer teaching the gospel, or rather are doing so to glorify themselves.

This was and is rather a serious issue and the multitude of Christian sects, most of whom are ready to hate each other, testify to the mess that many teachers in raising up themselves in glory have made of the original gospel. Even Paul at the start could not stop it.

Paul goes on to say in the same context

For though I would desire to glory, I shall not be a fool; for I will say the truth: but now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he sees me to be, or that he hears of me. And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn (disability) in the flesh, the angel (messenger) of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities (feebleness), that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2Corithians 12:1-9)

There is much speculation that Paul had a physical weakness. As before this time he had been stoned and left for dead, it may relate to an injury. In this instance satan means 'barrier/ obstacle /disability'. We see satan as an obstacle transformed into messenger of light used in the same way but in a different context with Paul being given a 'messenger of satan' or an obstacle/ disability to buffet him. The problem then that most affected Paul were false teachers carrying an aura of authority. But also he had, added to that, physical obstacles.

16. Paul in greeting in a letter to those at Thessalonica,

Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us. (1Thessalonians 2:18)


Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures, Opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ. And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; Whom Jason has received: and these all do contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus. And they troubled the people and the rulers of the city, when they heard these things.
And when they had taken security of Jason, and of the other, they let them go. And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. (Acts 17:1-10)

Meaning of satan: Paul could never go back to Thessalonica as Jason and another were taken as security that Paul would not again enter the city. Satan was this obstacle of law that, at that time, Paul could not overcome without harming Jason and the unnamed “other” of the “certain brethren”.

17. Paul in a letter warning of false doctrine,

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know what withholds that he might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now hinders will hinder, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: (2Thessalonians 2:3-11)

Meaning: Most protestants recognise the man of sin as the pope. Or they used to. It does not say he is satan but has 'the working of satan' having power. The point to note is that it was prophesied and “sent by God”.

18. Paul at the end of a letter to Timothy (who had a Jewish mother and a Greek father) and became like a son to Paul

This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them might war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1Timothy 1:18-20)

We don't know how Paul did this, but delivering them to satan didn't end their influence as more is said of them,

Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he has greatly withstood our words. (2Timothy 4:14-15)
But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. (2Timothy 2:16-18)

Meaning: Presumably removing the two men out of the congregation, to Paul's mind equalled “delivering them to satan”. Paul must have removed them despite the influence they had.

To the same Timothy, those who Paul delivers to Satan – by removing them from the congregation, are added those who voluntarily leave, also described as tuning aside after satan

And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. For some are already turned aside after Satan. (1Timothy 5:13-15)