In September of 2015, I did a blog post called Warfare, Without Presumption that launched a nasty exchange regarding how much “authority” present-day Christians have over demons. I’d based the article on reviews of the movie War Room, which equated spiritual warfare with rebuking Satan and his demons. This view of spiritual warfare is, I admit, exciting. As a young Christian caught up in Charismatic circles, I certainly fell prey to teachings about “deliverance,” and I often “commanded” Satan to flee “in the Name of Jesus.”
The person challenging points I made in that essay asked some difficult questions, not so much from a genuine desire to understand the perspective I hold as from a determination to win an argument. Perhaps one day I’ll write a post addressing his challenges, though the links I provided more than adequately answer his objections to the position I took.
As I reflect on the conversation, as well as on the topic of spiritual warfare in general, however, I become more and more convinced that evangelicals tend toward a limited (if not distorted) view of spiritual warfare. Yes, Ephesians 6:12 flat-out says that we battle spiritual forces rather than people, but that passage in no way instructs us to fight the enemy by rebuking him or ordering him back to hell.
I first wrote about the context of Ephesians 6:12 back in April of this year (click here for that article), but I’d like to revisit the point I made by again quoting the passage and then commenting on it briefly.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. ~~Ephesians 6:10-20
Do you see anything in this passage about rebuking Satan or taking authority over demons? It seems to me that, if spiritual warfare consisted of that sort of activity, this would have been the logical place for Paul to explain how to engage in such warfare.
Actually, ladies, he does offer explicit instructions on how to conduct spiritual warfare in this very passage. We must stand against the demonic realm through faithful commitment to the Lord, ultimately trusting in His strength. In other words, we fight the enemy by everyday Christian living as we believe God’s Word, depend on the righteousness Christ gives us and intercede for our brothers and sisters. We don’t need to say a word to Satan or his minions; we simply need to stand firm in Christ.
It occurs to me that Satan enjoys enticing Christians to rebuke him, break “generational curses,” pray “hedges of protection” and all the other silliness that Charismatics do in the name of spiritual warfare because those activities distract us from the Lord Jesus Christ. They inflate our ego as we become proficient in various techniques, none of which are taught without a “special knowledge” of key Bible verses taken out of context (of course).
I have a great deal more to say on true spiritual warfare, which we successfully fight by keeping Jesus as our center of attention. Today, I merely wanted to train our minds away from popularized notions of spiritual warfare so that we can conduct the real battles in a Biblical that honors Christ.