Satan, God's Agent of discipline
byHere is an amazingly revealing passage of scripture:
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31,32
For those who believe that Satan is the evil equivalent of God it is a foreign idea that Satan is actually an agent of God's discipline. In the life of the unbeliever Satan is an agent of wrath but God holds no wrath for his own, rather, the Lord disciplines those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:3-11).
If there is only ONE authority in heaven and earth then it should come as no surprise that God has full and absolute authority over Satan and his hosts. Luke 22 contains a remarkable picture of how the Lord uses the fractured purpose and evil intent of the Devil. The words of Jesus tells us that Satan has requested, DEMANDED even, for the opportunity to 'sift the apostles like wheat'. Sifting wheat is a GOOD thing and the Holy Spirit's role in sifting us is to point out weakness and give us the power to strengthen that which is weak.
Satan, an expert in human dynamics, knows that there must be a tearing down process as well - a deconstruction. In his lust for power (he has very little since Christ 'plundered his house') he requests of God to play in the 'tearing down' part. We would expect God to say "No!" but He doesn't. Instead, Jesus prays to the Father and insures that the faith of the apostles will be made strong. Jesus will USE the fallen 'ape' to continue the process of transformation. As we see so many times in the history of redemption, in the struggle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, what Satan has purposed for evil the Lord has purposed for good.
The difference between the craven apostles on the night that Jesus was betrayed and those same men who stood boldly and preached before strangers and enemies on Pentecost was the 'sifting like wheat'. Satan had to ask permission and he was never outside of God's good purpose to establish the pillars of the church. Could God have transformed the apostles without Satan? Of course he could... but he didn't. It pleased the Lord to use the rebellious angel and therefore showed the world that God is glorified in all things. The apostles did not need to know of any schemes or methods to combat demonic attack, they only needed to trust the sovereignty of the Father and the authority of Jesus Christ.