"Spiritual Warfare," one of the hottest topics at the 1989 Manila Conference (Lausanne II) attended by 4,000 evangelical leaders, is the new rallying cry in the church today. We are being told that taking the offensive against Satan (one of seven principles which Joy Dawson says God revealed to her) and "binding" the various "evil spirits" that dominate this earth is the secret to world evangelization and personal victory and prosperity. Even the demon posing as "Our Lady of Medjugorje" exhorts, "Christians have forgotten that they can stop war and even natural calamities by prayer and fasting." What an awesome power we wield! How appealing it is!
Yes, Paul declared that we wrestle "against principalities [archons in Greek], against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world" (Eph:6:12). But what did Paul mean? He urged us to "stand against the wiles of [not attack] the devil" and promised that with the "shield of faith" we could quench Satan's fiery darts [not shoot darts at him]. Paul said nothing about "binding" Satan or demons. Much less did he suggest that once the "territorial spirit" controlling a city was "bound," it could be "taken for God" and its inhabitants all converted.
Yet a Charisma magazine cover pictures Youth With A Mission's John Dawson (Joy's son) declaring, "Battles against evil spiritual forces controlling our cities can be waged and won." Dawson's book, Taking Our Cities for God: How to Break Spiritual Strongholds, is, according to Fuller Theological Seminary professor C. Peter Wagner, "the most important book on the subject ever written." In the foreword, pastor Jack Hayford writes, "This is a book of Holy Spirit insight ... [into] the toughest problems we face on this planet today...." Sadly, the insight is not biblical. Dawson's book and the Charisma article give some impressive experiences, which then become the basis for interpreting Scripture to mean what it clearly doesn't.
The major verse to justify the "territorial spirit" theory is Daniel:10:13. There it says that "the prince of the kingdom of Persia" withstood the angel Gabriel, preventing him for 21 days from reaching Daniel. However, Daniel was not praying for the conversion of Persia, but for prophetic insight concerning the last days. That insight (being brought by Gabriel) was what this "prince" opposed. Neither Daniel nor Gabriel "bound" this demon (if that's what this prince was); nor is there any hint that to do so would have resulted in some spiritual breakthrough for Persia. Yet this delusion is rampant today––and leading many astray.
Consider, for example, a Charisma feature promoting a Larry Lea "explosive three-day 'Prayer Breakthrough' to be held in the Anaheim Convention Center." It promised that attendees would "take captive demonic strongholds over L. A. and the nation...and make her one nation under God once more." Similarly inspired, 1,300 pastors have been meeting in prayer to wage "spiritual warfare" for the "deliverance" of Los Angeles. Similar "prayer warfare" is being conducted in many cities. Such zeal for souls is admirable, but any Berean would know that the method and goal are unbiblical.
A full-page ad in Charisma pictured Larry Lea, the "Apostle of Prayer," in combat fatigues calling for 300,000 "prayer warriors" to join him in taking America for God. This false hope contradicts the Bible and undermines the gospel. Salvation requires an individual response by sinners, not mass denunciation of demons by Christians. Three years ago Lea announced, "[Through] militant warfare in the spirit realm...demonic strongholds keeping the greater Los Angeles area and our country in bondage will be...pulled down." Instead, America continues its accelerating slide into moral and spiritual chaos as foretold for the last days.
The Miami Arena rang with the songs, prayers, and victory shouts of 10,000 enthusiastic Christians. They'd been promised a spiritual breakthrough by Larry Lea, who conducts "Prayer Breakthroughs" across the country. The crusade was backed by 430 well-meaning local pastors. Identifying specific spirits––of violence, drugs, witchcraft, greed etc.—that ruled Miami, Lea declared, "these spirits will not dominate this area." Lea said God had shown him "The strongman of greed" holding back the wealth of the wicked that belonged to Christians. "If we bind the strongman of greed, the wealth of the nations will be given to the church!" Anticipating financial reward, the excited audience joined Lea in wielding an "imaginary sword" and hacking this demon to pieces.
In the ensuing two and one-half years there has been neither a reduction in violence, drugs, etc. in the Miami area, nor a transfer of the "wealth of the wicked" to Christians. Nor has there been any dramatic drop in homosexuality in San Francisco since Lea led Christians there to bind that demon. Nor have any cities anywhere been "taken for God," in spite of the many seminars, such as those held at Jack Hayford's Church on the Way in Southern California, teaching a "takeover" that Scripture doesn't promise.
Does it bother none of the thousands of evangelical pastors involved that such "spiritual warfare" was never waged by Paul? Why did this greatest evangelist of all time, who "turned the world upside down," never get the believers together to bind the evil spirits dominating Corinth, Ephesus, etc?
Think of what it could have meant to the church for the last 1,900 years if Paul had only realized that a "spirit of greed" was keeping the wealth of the wicked from needy Christians and had given instruction in his epistles on "binding" this demon! But he didn't—and a Berean, searching the Scriptures, would conclude that this kind of "spiritual warfare" wastes valuable time and energy, no matter how well intentioned.
C. Peter Wagner and fellow Fuller Seminary professor Charles Kraft advocate "authoritative prayer." Instead of asking, "According to thy will," this kind of prayer commands God to do certain things. Satan and his minions are also commanded— to relinquish their hold upon a city, church, person or situation. Satan laughs. He's been "rebuked" and "bound" thousands of times, yet he carries on. Satan will not be bound until Christ's millennial reign (Rev:20:1-9).
To pretend to bind Satan or demons before that time is folly. Satan is defeated in our lives through our commitment to Christ, our love for God and obedience to His Word. Yes, demons are to be cast out of non-Christians when the situation requires it––but neither Christ nor His apostles went on the offensive looking for demons to cast out. (See Acts:16:16-18, for example.) What about the "strongholds" that we are to pull down through spiritual warfare? These are not demon fortresses, but rebellious imaginations that exalt self above God and which are overcome by "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor:10:3-5).
Scripture declares, "resist the devil, and he will flee from you." How? Through drawing close to and obeying God (James:4:7-8). Yes, Satan "as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour," but we resist him by being humble and "stedfast in the faith" (1 Pt 5:8-9). Job overcame Satan by submitting to God's will: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Jb 13:15). We are to overcome Satan "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of [our] testimony [i.e., faithfulness to Christ]" and being willing to die for Him (Rev:12:11). Jude 9 tells us that Michael, the mightiest of angels, dares not rebuke Satan, but says "the Lord rebuke thee." We, too, in standing against Satan, take refuge in God's strength, wisdom and love.
Consider Benny Hinn's exhortation: "If you want a healing tonight for your finances you get to that phone now and say I want to make a pledge and I want Benny Hinn to pray that God will break the 'devil of poverty' over my life...get to the phones now...the quicker you do it the quicker your miracle comes....In the mighty name of Jesus we come against the 'devil of poverty' in your life...!" A lesser-known TV evangelist promises, "the power of the 'spirit of debt' will be broken in your life...a supernatural power to get wealth will be loosed into your hands." Neither diligence, prudence, a new job nor any other practical solution is needed. One needs simply to rebuke and bind the right demon and money will flow into one's pockets. Sadly, only the TV preachers get richer, while their followers are spiritually impoverished.
A recent letter laments, "Dave, I have backslidden....I told God to put up or shut up. If He was really who these men said He was, then why hasn't He blessed me with an overabundance in my bank accounts?...I railed and cursed God....My magical words and fetishes from ministries [didn't work]. Then it dawned on me. I had been raped! Spiritually raped by name-it-and-claim-it in Jesus' name. Now, I pray for discernment...."
How devastating it is to the faith of those in a church where week after week the pastor and elders, in the name of Jesus, command healings that don't occur! I watched Richard Roberts and his wife last week command the Word of God to go out and heal all illness and financial lack in their audience. No one seriously thought it would happen, nor did it. Such empty bravado pleases Satan and makes a mockery of God's Word! Yes, God still heals in answer to prayer, as He wills, but what audacity to command Him to do so!
It is equally harmful to attempt to overcome sin with unbiblical "spiritual warfare" techniques. Of course, it's easier on the flesh, and the "in" thing, to blame a demon rather than oneself. What the Bible calls the "works of the flesh" are being blamed on demons. The "demon of lust" or the "demon of sex" or the "demon of pride" has been cast out literally thousands of times from thousands of Christians. This grievous error denies Christ's indwelling, relieves the Christian of his own responsibility—and robs him of God's remedy! Yes, impressive experiences seem to support the belief that Christians can be demonized and that victory over sin requires exorcism—but Scripture denies it.
To those who "believed on him," Jesus said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (Jn:8:31-32). Instead, they resisted the truth and tried to stone Him! They "believed" that Jesus was the Messiah––but they had an unbiblical concept of a Messiah who would conquer the Romans and let them live in peace and prosperity. They would not accept Him as their deliverer from the real enemy––self and sin within. Exorcising demons from Christians offers a false solution and leaves self untouched! A. W. Pink wrote:
By nature our hearts are so filled with self-love and self-pity that there is no room for Christ. Many are willing to receive Him for His benefits who have no love for His person and no resolution to bow to His Lordship....
God's truth alone sets free. What we believe determines how we live. God's Word gives light and life. Last month we noted how Roman Catholicism adds to the gospel and thus destroys it. Its salvation comes through rituals and sacraments. Modern "spiritual warfare" and "deliverance" ministries (like "Christian psychology") are also sacramental rituals that add to the gospel, undermine God's Word and rob us of His real remedy. Spurgeon declared,
Truly forgiven sinners dread the appearance of evil as burnt children dread the fire. Superficial repentance always leads to careless living.
Pray earnestly for a broken heart.
John Wimber's "Power Evangelism" requires "signs and wonders" for sinners to believe the gospel. Yet Romans:1:16 assures us that "the gospel [itself] is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth [it]." Paul declared, "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Cor:1:21). Ah, but the gospel has lost its power to convert modern man and needs help not only from "signs and wonders," but demons must be bound as well. John Dawson writes, "We need to overcome the enemy [Satan] before we employ other methods of ministry. . ."
One of the most tragic examples of how this teaching corrupts the gospel is exemplified in Jack Deere, for 12 years on the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary and now the leading theologian in Wimber's Vineyard movement. He was interviewed by Graham Banister in Sydney, Australia, at a Spiritual Warfare Conference taught by Wimber and his team to 5,500 church leaders who each paid $150 to attend. Banister asked Deere how he would define the gospel, and was told, "I'm not sure." Banister goes on to relate,
Somewhat stunned, I said, "I find that quite surprising––that you're not sure what the gospel is." He replied, "I used to be just like you...thinking the gospel was simply justification by faith." I responded, "Are you saying it's more than that?...What would you add to it?"
"Deliverance," he said, "...things like demons and healing."
I said, "You would add as an essential part of the gospel...the exorcising of demons and healing?" He nodded. I continued, "...like what John Wimber was saying last night...?"
"Yes," he said.
"But you're not sure exactly what should be included?" I asked.
"No," he said, "not—yet."
"Would it be fair to say" l asked, "that you're in a state of flux since you joined the Wimber thing?"
He responded, "We're always in a state of flux...."
“But on the gospel message?” I asked. “...you couldn‘t go back into that pavilion and tell those people the gospel?”
He replied, “No—not yet.”
I responded, “When do you think you could do it?”
And he said, “Maybe five years, maybe ten....”
I remained stunned that one of the leading minds, if not the leading theological mind in the Signs and Wonders Movement,
did not know what the gospel was!
Yet the gospel is the key to new life and victory! Believing the gospel, that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead (1 Cor:15:1-4), sets us free from all that once bound us. That problems in a Christian’s life are due to inherited influence from ancestors who were involved in the occult or otherwise bound by Satan is not biblical. When we receive Christ we are made new creatures in Him, and all the sins of the past are forgiven.
Yes, we still face the three enemies the Bible warns us about: the world, the flesh and the devil. Worldly-mindedness and fleshly lusts are mentioned far more often than the devil or demons. “Deliverance ministries” and “spiritual warfare” put far too much emphasis upon Satan and substitute experience for truth.
We are to “stand” (in Christ’s victory) and to resist,” not attack, rebuke or bind Satan. We have no fear of him. Greater is He (the Lord) who is in us than he (Satan) who is in the world (1 Jn:4:4). Because we are “crucified with Christ,” (and only because of that) Satan and his demons have no power over us. Christ has become our life. Stop struggling to live the Christian life, and trust Him to live His life through you in obedience to His Word!
Christ neither “rebuked” nor “bound” Satan when tempted by him. He resisted him with the sword of the Spirit—“it is written.” We must do the same. The Word of God doesn't become effective in our lives by merely speaking it forth as a “positive confession.” It must be understood, believed and obeyed in the power of the Spirit. It is the truth (“Thy Word is truth”) that sets us free and keeps us free from the world, the flesh and the devil. And whom the Son sets free is “free indeed” (Jn:8:36)! TBC