Spiritual Warfare and Discipleship (Comprehensive)
by Andy Stumpf, Augustine Suh, Joshua Hong, Stephen Yang
Authority to Drive out Demons
Andy Stumpf, Augustine Suh, Joshua Hong, Stephen Yang
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12)
Background & Introduction
Acts 19:13-16 tells us of some Jews, specifically seven sons of Sceva the Jewish chief priest, who were into driving out evil spirits. They “tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’... One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” Why didn’t their efforts work? What were the sons of Sceva missing? According to Mark 3:14,15, Jesus wanted to send out the twelve to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. As we are sent and participate in Jesus’ ministry, we sometimes meet people (Christians or non-Christians) who seem to be possessed, or at least seriously afflicted by demons. They are spiritually sick and burdened with heavy emotional darkness and baggage. We often feel that we have no idea how to really help them or care for them. What are we supposed to do? How can we “drive out demons”?
The Reality of the Spiritual World
Contemporary Western culture is marked by its adherence to naturalism, the view that nothing exists outside or in addition to the natural world, that is, the observed and observable world and its constituents as these are identified by our best empirical science. According to the teaching of Scripture, however, in addition to things that are visible (naturally observable), there are also things that are not observable by our natural senses or instruments of empirical observation, narrowly conceived (2Co 4:18).
God. Scripture (Jn 4:24; 1Co 15:45) describes God as Spirit (pneuma), which means something like an immaterial (non-physical) person. God, in His Triune being (as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) is an eternal, everlasting, unchanging and holy Spirit. He transcends the created universe, in both its physical and spiritual aspects.
Heavenly Realms. In addition to the earth, there is a “heaven” (Ge 1:1; Eph 1:10), identified as the dwelling place of God (Ecc 5:2; Rev 4:1-2). There are “heavenly realms” (Eph 1:3,20; 2:6; 3:10). Once Paul (either in the body or out of the body) was caught up to the third heaven, which he also identifies as paradise (2Co 12:2,4). Paul said our citizenship is in heaven (Php 3:20), and that we have been seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6). There is also a “kingdom of the air,” and a ruler of that kingdom whom Scripture identifies as “the spirit at work in those who are disobedient” (Eph 2:2). In the heavenly realms, there are rulers and authorities (Eph 3:10), and there are powers of this dark world and spiritual forces of evil (Eph 6:12).
Angels. In Scripture, there are both good angels (those loyal to God) and bad angels (those aligned with the devil and in rebellion against God). Speaking of the good angels, Hebrews 1:14 asks, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” Accounts of the activities of angels are scattered all through Scripture: The LORD appears to Abraham along with two angels, who go on to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge 18,19). The angel of God helps Hagar in the desert (Ge 21:17-19), and the angel of the LORD tells Abraham not to kill Isaac (Ge 22:11). Jacob sees angels going up and down a ladder between heaven and earth (28:12), and wrestles with an angel who represents God (32:24-30). The angel of the LORD stops Balaam’s donkey (Num 22:22-35). Joshua sees the commander of the army of the LORD (Jos 5:13-15). Ezekiel sees four living creatures within the fiery cloud of God’s glory, guiding some sort of chariot of God (Ezek 1). Isaiah sees the Lord surrounded by Seraphim (Isa 6:2), which appear again as “living creatures” around the throne of God in Revelation 4:6-9. Two angels (Michael the archangel and prince who protects Israel [Da 10:13,21, 12:1; Jude 9] and Gabriel [Da 8:16; 9:21; Lk 1:19,26]) are mentioned by name. There is a relationship between what these angels do and what happens in the natural sphere.
Perceiving Spiritual Reality. The spiritual realm and what it contains are not naturally accessible to us. We need to have the eyes of our hearts opened by the Spirit of God in order to perceive them. So Paul speaks of the “spiritual man” who has the Spirit of God and is therefore able to discern the spiritual things that come from the Spirit of God and give insight into the mind and thoughts of God (1Co 2:10-16). Elisha prays to the LORD in 2 Kings 6:16-17 to open his servant's eyes so that he might see the horses and chariots of fire filling the hills around Elisha. To grasp the things of God and His kingdom, we need the Spirit's revelation.
We can’t accept many of the statements made all throughout the Bible unless we accept that there is a spiritual world alongside and intersecting with the physical world. We can’t adopt the Bible’s view of God or of the created universe without accepting that these spiritual realms are real, just as real as the physical world with its empirically observable entities. Since naturalism does not allow for many of the realities posited by the Bible, if we are taking Scripture seriously as our standard of truth, we cannot accept naturalism, even if we acknowledge that naturalism is helpful as a working assumption within narrowly empirical investigations of physical reality.
The Nature of Spiritual Warfare
The term “spiritual warfare” does not appear in Scripture. But the idea represented by this term is clearly present in Ephesians 6:12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” This verse follows Paul's exhortation to “put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes” (6:11). Paul also mentions “the day of evil” (13), urging us to stand our ground and to stand firm. Christian life in this age takes place in a war zone. (See also 2Co 10:3-5, where Paul speaks of waging war with weapons that are not of this world).
There is an enemy army led by a fearsome general (the devil / the evil one) bent on the destruction of the saints of God. This enemy leader is described as prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1Pe 5:8). For this reason, Peter urges believers to “be self-controlled and alert” and to “resist him, standing firm in your faith” (9; see also Jas 4:7). Elsewhere he is called “the great dragon… that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Rev 12:7-9). The name “Satan” is mentioned in OT and NT (e.g. Job 1:6; Mt 4:10; Lk 10:18). He is also called the devil (Mt 4:1), the prince of demons (Mt 9:34), Beelzebul (Mt 10:25), the prince of this world (Jn 12:31; 16:11), the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2). In the context of the war in heaven described here, Michael is depicted as leader of God’s army fighting together with his angels against the dragon and his angels and hurling the dragon down to earth along with his angels. Demons are originally angels created good by God, but they rebelled against God and became opponents to God. Their sin was in pride, refusing to accept their assigned place (2Pe 2:4; Jude 6; cf. Isa 14:12-15; Eze 28:11-19). The Bible refers to Satan’s kingdom as the “dominion” or “reign of darkness” (Col 1:13; Lk 22:53), and to those allied with him as “principalities and powers” (Eph 6:12; Col 2:15).
We have already seen angelic beings depicted in the language of warfare (e.g. Jos 5 and 2Ki 6). In the book of Daniel, there is an interesting description of spiritual powers engaged in conflict. Gabriel tells Daniel that he came right away in response to Daniel’s prayer, but was detained by the prince of Persia for 21 days until Michael (one of the chief princes) came to help him. Only then was Gabriel able to overcome the resistance and to reach Daniel, in order to explain to him what would happen to his people in the future (Da 10:12-14). From this account, we can learn a few things about spiritual warfare. First, human beings can wage spiritual warfare in prayer (even when they do not know what specific conflicts are taking place as a result). Good angelic powers are sent and move as the prayers of the saints are heard. Secondly, unlike God, angelic powers are limited in place and time and strength. Some of these spiritual powers are stronger than those lower in the divine hierarchy. Thirdly, battles are being fought in the spiritual or heavenly realms, and at least some of these battles have to do with the release of revelation of God’s word or messages to His people. Fourthly, Satan appoints demons to oversee his interests among nations (Da 11-12).
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