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I’ve been thinking about spiritual warfare lately.

Doesn’t everybody?

Just kidding. But most Christians surely have this subject pass through their brains on a regular basis, I assume, because the devil and demons pop up in Scripture from time to time, especially in the New Testament. And when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He ended the prayer with this: “And deliver us from evil (or the evil one).”

So how are Christians supposed to deal with demonic powers? A multitude of books have been written on this topic, and now we’re learning that it’s pretty complicated, if you want to go into the realms of spiritual mapping, generational curses and the rest—which I do not encourage you to do—at all.

Well, how did Jesus deal with demonic powers? And,  how did the disciples and apostles deal with them? Looks pretty straightforward to me. Jesus cast them out with a word. There are lots of examples, so I won’t list them all. But here’s a good example:

“And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.’ But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent and come out of him!’ And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm” (Luke 4:33–35).

As far as I can tell, Jesus only talked to a demon once, at that was with the tormented man who lived among the tombs. Unfortunately, that one example has given Christians what has become carte blanche to have conversations with lying demons. It’s important to point out that it was Jesus who did this. His disciples didn’t. Demons lie and are very good at it. They know human nature and have known it for millennia. Why on earth would you want to talk to a demon?

We see this ministry happening less often in the Book of Acts. However, the disciples were doing this ministry (Acts 5:16 and 8:7). In fact, we’re told to do it (Matthew 10:8 and Mark 16:17). However,  we don’t have a lot of information about how they did it. I think it’s safe to assume they did it the same way Jesus did: with a word, a command. The example we do see is in the ministry of Paul, when he cast the spirit of divination out of the slave girl who had a spirit of divination. Paul simply said, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (Acts 16:18).

There are three more things to consider. In Jesus’ prayer, He told us to pray, “Deliver us from evil.” Concerning our own personal hassles with the devil, it’s really just that simple. I’ve found that when I pray that, the oppression ceases. However, that doesn’t make the attack go away forever. If you’re in a battle, you may have to camp out here for a while.

The other thing to consider is how Paul asked to be delivered from a “messenger from Satan.”  Here’s what He said he did: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me” (2 Corinthians 12:8). He asked the Lord for deliverance.

The third thing is a bit unclear to me, but it troubles me, nevertheless. It’s what Jude had to say about this. “Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’ But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively” (Jude 8–10).

I’m not entirely sure what this means, to be transparent. But it has made me more cautious about doing battle with demons. I find that “The Lord rebuke you” is becoming more and more a part of my prayer vocabulary.

Finally, there may be those who will ask, “What about binding and loosing demons?” I don’t think we’ve correctly understood these passages. One is in Matthew 12:29: “Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.” Jesus is the only One who can plunder Satan’s “goods” and render him powerless. I now think for us to go about “binding the devil” is a bit silly, although I once prayed this way myself. Jesus has already defeated him—at least as far as our souls are concerned:

“He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col 2:15).

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14–15).

As far as the other places where binding and loosing are found in the New Testament, it seems to me that Jesus is referring to the regulation of conduct, not dealing with spiritual powers. The only place where Jesus uses binding and loosing in the context of dealing with the devil is in the above mentioned Matthew 12 passage. However, I won’t get into an argument with my Christian brothers and sisters over this. Bind and loose away. I just don’t think it’s effective. We should be aware that we have zero New Testament evidence for the disciples praying to “bind Satan.”

Nevertheless, it’s entirely true that the devil is still active. He was active after Jesus’ ascension. However, whatever attacks come our way are somehow allowed by God, although in ways that we do not fully comprehend. Again, see Paul’s struggle in 2 Corinthians 12. The account of Job is an even more troubling example. I do not have easy answers for these things. However, I do want my belief system to be biblical, and that’s what I’ve tried to present here.

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