by Roby Ellis
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world (1 Peter 5:8-9).
This is a question that raises concern for a lot of people, especially for those who do not understand the role Satan has played in God’s plan. As hard as it is to imagine, even Satan serves a purpose. We don’t know very much about the origin of Satan—or of angels for that matter. When were these beings created? We know that they were created (John 1:3). We also know that there were “angels who sinned” (2 Peter 2:4), which were consequently cast out of God’s presence. These are probably the same angels who “did not keep their proper domain” (Jude 6). There appears to be some connection between these angels and the devil himself (Jude 9). Since we know there are angels in association with the devil (Matthew 25:41), it seems reasonable to propose that Satan may have been a leader of these rebellious angels. Nothing is said of what their act of rebellion was. Perhaps it had something to do with the temptation of Adam and Eve. The Scriptures’ silence on such matters indicates that these details are not relevant to us. What is relevant is the fact that God did not spare rebellious angels even though they were a part of His creation. Peter and Jude both use this information to teach us that God will destroy even His own children if they are not faithful to Him.
Something else that we know is that the devil has a part in God’s plan—a fact of which Satan himself is well aware. We can also be sure of the fact that the devil was not created as an evil being; this was a lot that he chose for himself. God did not create evil; all that God made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). This includes the tree of knowledge that God put in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:9). It also includes the man that He put in the garden with the charge to care for it (Genesis 1:27). Furthermore, God was the author of the law that forbade man from eating of the fruit of that tree (Genesis 2:17). This commandment was also a good thing (Romans 7:12), even though this commandment offered man an opportunity to rebel against God himself and fall out of God’s favor. Prior to sin, all that was in this world was good. It was only after sin that the world had knowledge of good and evil. (This may explain the name God had given the forbidden tree.)
When Satan came along, he used the tree, the man, and God’s commandment (all good things) to bring sin and death into the world, and suddenly the long shadow of evil made everything look different than it had looked before. When Paul acknowledged that the commandments of God are inherently good, he said, “Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure” (Rom. 7:13, ESV). Satan was able to take three good things and use them to accomplish evil. This should help us to see just how vile Satan really is!
Why did God create Satan? Was He not aware of what this creature would do? Certainly He was aware. We can only conclude that God created Satan for the same reason that He planted the tree of knowledge in the garden and for the same reason that He commanded man to abstain from the fruit of that tree. God wasn’t hoping to destroy man. God wanted to give man an opportunity to show his love for Him in a way that would never be possible without the ability to exercise free will. In short, man needed an alternative object for his affection. And what better alternative could God have offered? If God had offered us an alternative that had some shred of goodness, it might have been more difficult for us to make the right choice. Some colors are so close to one another that they can be difficult for the average person to differentiate (e.g., black and navy blue), but the difference between black and white is apparent to anyone. Instead of offering us a different shade of goodness, the alternative that God offered is one that has been shown to be the most cruel and sinister being of all—the exact opposite of God’s goodness. God did not give Israel a choice between life on the mountain and life in the valley; He gave them a choice between life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19). God will not force us to serve Him. He gives us the opportunity to serve Him out of love. Would you rather serve God or the devil? Thanks to God, that choice should be obvious!