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5-18 The Power Of Satan

Acts 26: 18: “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”.

Popular Interpretation

This is used to “prove” that a being called “Satan” keeps the whole world in ignorance of the Gospel.


1. Verse 17 shows that the “they” and “them” referred to are the Gentiles. Are we to think that the Jews were not under the “power of Satan”? At the time Paul was writing there were very many sinful Jews, consciously persecuting the Christians. So this verse cannot be referring to the entire human race.

2. There is no specific indication here that “Satan” is a personal being.

Suggested Explanations

1. There are some clear contrasts drawn here:-

To open their eyes

(They were blind).

To turn them from darkness

to light.

From the power of Satan (sin)

unto God (cp. 1 Jn. 1: 5).


receive forgiveness of sins.

(Gentiles without inheritance by faith among “the hope of Israel”)

them (the Jews) that had access to sanctification by faith .

The Word of God is a light (Ps.119:105) and is associated with open eyes (Ps.119:18). We are sanctified by the Word (Jn.17:17). We have seen in our exposition of John 8: 44 that it is by the Word that the power of Satan is overcome; i.e. Satan in the sense of the power our evil desires have over our unregenerated heart. ‘Satan’ is therefore the antithesis to the light of God’s word- it refers to the flesh, which is the opposition of the Spirit word.

2. Ephesians 4:17-20, almost seems to directly allude back to this passage in Acts 26:18; Ephesians 4:17-20; “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ...”.

Being under the power of Satan is therefore a result of having an empty, vain, fleshly mind (i.e. Satan - as evil desires in our mind -having full power) and being ignorant, without understanding. Matthew 13:19 says that Satan (cp. Mk 4:15) has power over a person because of their lack of understanding of the Word. Ephesians 4:17-20, is saying the same thing as “the power of Satan” defined in Acts 26:18. “To open their eyes” implies to have the eyes of understanding opened (cp. Eph. 1:18).

3. Acts 26:18 implies that it was “the power of Satan” that stopped the Gentiles from sharing the inheritance of the Gospel which was preached to the Jews in the promises (Gal. 3:8; Jn. 4:22). We have shown (in section 2-4 “The Jewish Satan”) that “Satan” is often connected with the Law and the Jewish system. Maybe this is another example. Note too the allusions in this verse to Isaiah 42: 6-7: “I...will...keep thee, and give thee for a...light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house”. This equates the power of Satan with a prison house, and the Law is likened to a prison in Galatians 3: 23 and 4: 3.

There are allusions in Acts 26:18 to the Jews’ crucifixion of Jesus - “this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Lk. 22:53); “Satan” (the Jews) hath desired to have you” (Lk. 22:31), Jesus warned the disciples at the last supper.

The previous verse (Acts 26:17) shows Jesus strengthening Paul to be brave in his mission to the Gentiles - “delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles”. Jesus Himself, was “delivered to the Gentiles” (see Lk. 18:32-33) for crucifixion by the Jews, and Mark 15:15 implies Jesus was delivered to “the people”, too. The phrase “the people’ frequently occurs in the crucifixion records. It is as if Jesus is saying, “I was delivered to the Gentiles and (Jewish) people because of My preaching; I am now commissioning you to preach, facing the same battle against (the Jewish) Satan and man’s blindness to the Word of God, due to his love of the flesh, as I did, but I will deliver you from the Gentiles and Jewish people, rather than deliver you to them, as I was. You are going to spend your life going through the same experiences as I faced in My last hours”. Thus, in yet another way, we can understand how Paul could say, “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2: 20). This interpretation is confirmed by our “Suggested Explanation” No. 3 of 2 Corinthians 12: 7.