Confusion on Spiritual Warfare
by Link Hudson
One of the major problems with the 'spirit of' issue is that people mean different things when they say 'spirit of.' For many Charismatics, Pentecostals and Third Wavers a 'spirit of fear' is a demon with 'fear' written on his forehead or a demon that epitomizes fear. For others it is a demon that manifests itself as 'fear' in a particular instance. For others, the phrase refers to a spiritual condition of fear in a persons life.
We need to keep in mind what kind of terminology we use. If one believer says to another 'you have a spirit of fear.' The one speaking may mean 'You have a spiritual condition of fear.' or 'Your spirit is fearful.' The listener may think, "I am demon-possessed and have a spirit of fear! How could this happen to me?" Many Christians think that 'spirit of' refers to an actual demonic entity.
A man may have an inclination toward fits of wrath. From Galatians we know this is a 'work of the flesh.' Evil spirits may goad and tempt the man to sin in the area of wrath, but he is not 'demonized' like the Gergazene demoniac. If you pray with the man and then start rebuking the 'spirit of wrath,' he may think you are weird, or crazy. Or, he may believe you and think he is like someone in the movie 'The Exorcist.' Remember in I Corinthians 14, where we read that if all in a meeting speak in tongues, the unbelievers or unlearned will think we are mad. The same applies to rebuking spirits that aren't there, or spirits that aren't the root of the problem.
What Spirits Are There?
The scripture says that 'God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.' Does this really teach that there is such a thing as an actually entity called a spirit of fear? Or is the point, rather, that the Spirit God has given us is not a spirit of fear?
Be careful when reading scripture. Compare the 'spirit of fear' passage to other passage which mention spirits not given to us, such as the spirit of the world or the spirit of bondage.
Some people teach and warn against 'the Jezebel spirit.' If we think about it literally, what would 'the Jezebel spirit' be? In scripture, Jezebel is a person. So, someone who thinks about 'spirits' as always referring to actual spirit beings might conclude the spirit of Jezebel would be a dead woman's spirit. Of course, the people who use the term 'Jezebel spirit' don't mean it that way.
The Bible mentions Jezebel, but doesn't mention 'the Jezebel spirit' or 'the spirit of Jezebel.' Jezebel was a wicked Canaanite queen married to an Israeli king. She persecuted God's prophets and promoted Baal worship. In Revelation, Jesus warns about 'that woman Jezebel' who was deceiving people in one of the churches. She was promoting fornication and eating meet sacrificed to idols.
The term 'Jezebel spirit' is used by some to refer to a spiritual condition of opposing authority, and various other things. It is a convenient buzz phrase for making others afraid of those in prophetic ministry, especially women. Some throw this accusation around against believers whose ministries do not promote idolatry or fornication. Pentecostals used to use 'Jezebel' as a term for women painting their fingernails.
Is there a 'spirit of intellectualism?' If you listen during 'ministry time' at enough Third Wave churches, you'll hear about this spirit. If the 'spirit of intellectualism' were an actual demon that manifests as intellectualism, what did it do for all those centuries before higher education was developed? Or does a 'spirit of intellectualism' change hats and act as a 'spirit of pride' or a 'spirit of alcoholism' when afflicting other subjects. The intellectual you are ministering to may think about things like this, after all, if he is an intellectual.
The idea that one demon specializes in one type of sin is actually quite common. Some people who read a lot of Kansas City prophets literature have read Howard Pittman's _Placebo_ which recounts a near-death-experience in which Pittman saw the different ranks of demons. Other authors believe this as well.
Many lay people in the pews repeatedly hear, 'I come against the spirit of XYZ" in prayers. They pick up this type of prayer as a learned behavior. However, this precise type of prayer is not something we see in the scriptures. If someone gets a revelation from the word about a 'spirit of fear' for example, he may wish to pray about it. But it may be wise to carefully weigh how he prays.
Many believers pray against 'spirits' of this that and the other without revelation. For some, praying against spirits is like lottery prayer. If you guess the write spirit and rebuke it, you solve the problem. Others may just see a problem, pride, for example, and rebuke the 'spirit of pride.'
Church leaders should consider discouraging praying against spirits as a technique, method or learned behavior. It causes confusion, because people have different ideas of what 'spirit' means. It can cause fear if the person being prayed for thinks "Oh, no! I have a demon!" If there is no revelation from the Spirit of God that a spirit is involved, and no obvious manifestation, why bother rebuking spirits anyway?
If you go to many Charismatic prayer-meetings and listen to people pray, some people spend over half their time, not praying to God, but rebuking evil spirits. If we compare this type of 'prayer' to the examples of prayer we see in the New Testament, we can see that many Charismatics have drifted far from the examples we have in the Scriptures. Doctrines and interpretations are formed, some of them based on proof-texts- scriptures taken out of context or interpreted allegorically. The interpretation gets taught as doctrine, and a few years later, a new doctrine is added on top of the previous doctrine. This phenomenon is very noticeable when we consider some of the teachings about finances that are being spread these days, but it is also somewhat true about Charismatic ideas of demonology and spiritual warfare.
Spiritual Warfare is a very important aspect of the Christian life. The Bible makes that clear. But many teachings on spiritual warfare being circulated these days is not rooted and grounded in the teaching of scripture.
For example, some people believe that the way to win a city for God is to find out the types of spirits over the city, and then rebuke these spirits in Jesus name. This is supposedly based on Ephesians 6:12, which says,
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
But notice that this passage of scripture says nothing about struggling by means of casting out spirits. Verses 13 and following encourage believers to put on the whole armor of God, to take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and to pray with all manner of prayer and supplication, and to supplicate for the saints.
There is no mention of doing the warfare by yelling at spirits up in the air. There is no mention of trying to guess the type of spirit to rebuke by looking at the problems in a city. There is no teaching in this passage which implies that if we rebuke the right spirit over a city, that the way will be cleared for us.
If this type of 'spiritual warfare' were so wonderful, why didn't Jesus do it, or teach us to do it? Why didn't the apostles practice it? Why don't the scriptures mention anything about it?
Consider the spiritual warfare passage in Ephesians 6. Paul told the brethren what they were fighting, and then told them to put on the whole armor of God. Look at the components: salvation, righteousness, truth, the preparation of the Gospel of peace, faith, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
The weapon Paul mentioned was the word of God. Think about how Paul waged warfare, praying to God, preaching the Gospel. After mentioning the sword of the spirit, Paul urged his readers to pray.
What damage can doing spiritual warfare wrongly cause? It can cause unbelievers to think we are crazy. It can cause other believers to think that we are crazy. There is also another serious problem that some people in the prophetic movement have begun to point out.
Look at Jude 8-10, which talks about the problem of false teachers:
Jude 1:8-10 8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. 9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee. 10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
Why would Michael not bring a railing accusation against Satan before the Lord. God is sovereign over all. God uses Satan, and many Christians believe that Satan has been given a certain realm of authority and power from the Lord. Though Satan will be punished in the future, we still need to realize that a certain sphere is given to him.
Spiritual warfare must be done according to the rules of combat of our Commander. Some call Satan stupid, or make insulting comments about him. Others make brash statements of rebuke against demon spirits over cities. We need to realize that when battling against the enemy, we must stay under the protection of Christ. We have no authority against them in ourselves. The authority we use is Christ's.
These early false teachers would brag and boast, and didn't even know when to keep their mouths shut in speaking against 'dignitaries.' We should know better than to follow their example. What if Satan could get Christians spending their time rebuking spirits instead of praying to God, and could actually tempt some of them to become boastful against spiritual entities? Think of what a distraction that could cause?
The Word of God as a Weapon Another verse people use to support the idea that rebuking spirits over cities is the way to win a city for Christ is:
2 Corinthians 10:3-6 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: 4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds 5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; 6 And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
Consider the context of this passage. Paul is answering his critics, and dealing with the issue of false apostles who considered themselves to be the apostles of Christ.
Paul's warfare involved 'casting down imaginations.' Paul was a preacher and a teacher. He evangelized and the discipled believers. remember that in Ephesians, Paul taught about the 'sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.' Paul wrote in II Corinthians 4:3-4 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Satan blinded men's eyes. Paul preached the gospel to open men's eyes to the truth.
The II Corinthians 10 passage mentions casting down imaginations and bringing thoughts captive, not with yelling at demon spirits that are not confronting us.
Consider another passage which refers to 'principalities and powers.'
Ephesians 3:8-11 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.
The passage goes on to mention 'the eternal purpose.' God is demonstrating something through the church. Principalities and powers were learning something through Paul's preaching. The redemption of mankind and the forming of the bride is a great mystery. When all this is finished, we will know that all things are summed up in Christ Jesus. Principalities and powers will learn and know.
So we see spiritual warfare being done with the Word of God, accompanied with prayer. It involves casting down imaginations and bringing thoughts captive to the knowledge of Christ. Christians should wear their armor for protection during the battle.
There is a time to rebuke demons. We see Jesus and the apostles doing this. Christ cast out a lot of demons. In many passages, we read that demonized people would scream out when they saw him. These demons manifested themselves. It is conceivable that Jesus identified some of the spirits causing ailments by means of discernment. Satan came to Jesus on one occasion. Jesus rebuked Him using scripture, and Satan left him.
Paul cast a spirit of divination out of a slave girl in Philippi. Paul seemed a lot more reluctant to do this than a lot of preachers seem to be today for some reason. After he did this, persecution was released against him. He may have had some idea that there would be consequences. We do not see Paul spending three days to rebuke all the spirits out of Philippi before going in.
Jesus said that when an unclean spirit is cast out of man, it walks through dry places, seeking rest and finding none. He ends up coming back to the man, whom he finds 'empty, swept, and garnished,' with seven more wicked spirits and dwelling there. This was a parable about that generation, but let's focus on the literal meaning.
The Bible doesn't tell us to cast spirits out of the air. We see plenty of examples of evil spirits being cast out of people in the New Testament. If a spirit could be cast out of a city, even if it is not dwelling in a person there, could it return with seven worse spirits?
Collecting detailed information and praying about the problems in a city has some obvious benefits, considering Jesus great promises concerning prayer made in faith. Let us focus on God, and praying to him, rather than focusing on all the demons floating around.
Binding and Loosing
Many Charismatics will rebuke spirits (whether present or not) with "I bind you in Jesus' name." This may lead people to think that there are two options when dealing with evil spirits. One, binding evil spirits, and Two, casting out evil spirits.
The concept of 'binding' spirits seems to be based on two passages of scripture. One passage often used to support this idea is:
Matthew 18:18. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
This verse in context does not refer specifically to binding demons. Yet it is used as a proof-text to say that we can 'bind' demons by saying 'I bind you.'
Actually, many Bible scholars say this passage really means that whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall have already been bound in heaven, and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall have already been loosed in heaven. They say that the Sanhedrin used the terminology 'binding' and 'loosing' to their legal decisions, and that they believed that the decisions they made had already been made in heaven.
In context, Jesus is talking about the authority in the church. He teaches the disciples if a brother sins and will not repent after going through the proper steps, bring him before the church. If he will not hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Then he tells them the famous instructions about binding and loosing, and where two or three gather together in His name, He is there in the midst of them. This passage is about the authority of the church, not about casting out demons per se.
Another passage used to justify 'I bind you' is Matthew 12. In this passage, Jesus answers the Pharisees who accuse Him of casting out demons by Beelzebub. Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit of God. Look at the passage:
Matthew 12:27-29 27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
Notice that Jesus is making an analogy. He doesn't say that He would 'bind' evil spirits instead of casting them out. This passage does not teach that someone who is demonized will have one head demon that is the 'strongman' either. Many teachings have evolved using a scripture here or there as a proof-text , but a lot of modern demonology has little to do with the teaching of the scriptures in context.
Let Us Examine How We Pray
We should carefully study how Jesus prayed and taught His disciples to pray. We don't see Jesus spending valuable prayer time yelling at all the demons in the world in the scriptures. Demons are limited in power. Even if a demon is taken out of a wicked-hearted, the man still has a wicked heart, and needs to repent. Sin has to be dealt with, not just demons. Christ preached the Gospel. He told people to repent.
We should consider how we pray. Do we spend time rebuking demons because that is how we were 'socialized' in our church setting? Is this profitable? Are we speaking by revelation, or just guessing what spirits may be out there and trying to cast them out of the air? Is our 'praying' the type of praying we see in the scriptures?
If the Holy Spirit removes you to rebuke an evil spirit, rebuke it.
Of course, a lot of people claim to have revelations about evil spirits. Remember that we are to 'prove all things.' We should not consider every supposed revelation to be true, and treat them with the authority of the teachings of the apostles that we have in the scriptures.
Rebuking evil spirits should not be a catch-all technique for solving problems. Demons are not all-powerful. Even if you could cast a demon out of a city, a situation, or a can of spam, you still have problems to deal with. People don't get saved just by having demons cast out of them. They need to hear the word of God and repent.
God bless you all,
Article on spiritual warfare by Link Hudson