God’s Word for You
Acts 10:34-38 The tyranny of the devil
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, March 10, 2020
34 Then Peter began to speak: “Truly I realize that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation whoever fears him and does what is right.
This verse and Romans 2:11 are the classic proof passages for the statement, “God does not show favoritism.” Something like this occurs in other places in the New Testament: Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; James 2:1 (see also 1 Timothy 5:21) and also in the Old (Job 34:19). There are two warnings in the Law of Moses, one against showing favoritism toward a poor man (Exodus 23:3) and one against showing favoritism toward a rich man (Leviticus 19:15), two statements which together seem to be a caution to our American two-party political system. Do not always assume a man is right or innocent simply because (1) he is poor, or (2) he is rich. Peter correctly applies God’s command to every nation; to everyone who fears (believes in) God. There is still the barrier of man’s sin, but anyone who puts their faith in Christ is covered by the righteousness of Jesus. The apostles and disciples of Jesus must not hold any other barrier up to those who would seek to know him. As Paul explained, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28).
36 The message that he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all—37 you know that message, about what has happened throughout the whole of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached.
There are many translations that have made smoother work of verses 36 and 37. I present what I have above so that the reader will see something closer to what the Greek literally says. This is not always the goal of a translation, but in this case, I felt it was wise. First of all, notice that “the message” (logos) is first in the sentence, and it is the message, not the one who hears it, that is of primary importance. The message was sent to Israel first, and the message was about the gospel of peace through Jesus Christ. Peter identifies Jesus as “Lord of all,” the supreme God who created all things. He goes on to show how the acts of Jesus began in Galilee with Jesus’ baptism. This is an important point for those who believe that Mark wrote down what Peter preached as the gospel. In the third surviving fragment of Papias, John the Apostle is quoted (or paraphrased) as saying: “Mark, the interpreter of Peter, wrote down carefully everything he remembered of the sayings and the deeds of Christ, but not in chronological order. For he [Mark] did not hear the Lord or follow him, but as I said, later he accompanied Peter, who adapted his instructions to the needs of his hearers, but he did not intend to make a connected account of the Lord’s discourses. So then Mark made no mistake in writing the individual discourses in the order he remembered them. His one concern was not to omit anything that he heard or to record any false statements in this account” (Papias, fragment 3:12-15). Notice that just as Peter begins here with Jesus’ baptism without any comment about the Lord’s birth, so does the Gospel of Mark.
38 God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were tyrannized by the devil, because God was with him.
Peter summarizes the ministry of Jesus here with simple words: “doing good and healing.” Of course, we think of Jesus’ ministry as having much more to do with his preaching than his miracles. Here the preaching of Jesus would be included under “doing good” (euergeteo), in addition to many acts of compassion that did not involve his divine power, such as the forgiveness of the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11, also Papias’ fragment 4:1-11), calling Levi the tax collector into his fellowship (Mark 2:13-17), and warning his followers not to lead little children into sin (Mark 9:42-48).
The phrase “healing all who were tyrannized by the devil” will lead to the question, does he mean demon possession, or also sinfulness? Are not temptations the oppression of the devil? The question may stand without insisting one way or another. The word for “tyrannize” is katadynasteuo “oppress, tyrannize.” In Habakkuk 1:4, the phrase “The wicked ‘hem in’ (NIV) the righteous” is translated with this word, “tyrannize,” in the Greek. We also see this in “Do no… ‘violence’ to the alien” (Jeremiah 22:3), “do not oppress the widow” (Zechariah 7:10), and “(you who) ‘do away’ with the poor of the land” (Amos 8:4). The tyranny of the devil is found behind every single sin of mankind. Although man is guilty of each of his sins, it is the tyranny of the devil that sin exists at all. The final punishment of the devil will doubtless be the most horrific torment among all of the burning fires of hell. The lengths to which the devil has gone to oppress God’s children into falling away from God is the agony from which we seek respite and rescue. This rescue is ours through the grace of Jesus. He heals all who are tyrannized by the devil, and in the next verses, Peter will explain exactly how that healing took place one day on a hill outside the city of God.
Pastor Timothy Smith