User-Friendly Deliverance - Part I
A. Six reasons why Christians avoid deliverance ministry
1. Christians avoid deliverance ministry because they have been offended by those who have taken it to unbiblical and damaging extremes.
2. Christians avoid deliverance ministry because they wrongly believe that deliverance is a special ministry for special people with special spiritual gifts.
Whereas all Christians may be involved in deliverance ministry, it is both wise and helpful (although not essential) if someone with the gift of discerning spirits (1 Cor. 12:10) is present. Deliverance is best done with a team of like-minded believers.
3. Christians avoid deliverance ministry because of a wrong interpretation of 2 Peter 2:10-11 and Jude 8-9.
These texts do not mean that we, as Christians, are forbidden to rebuke or verbally resist or pronounce judgment against demonic beings. Neither unbelievers (the "false teachers") nor even the holy angels have the authority which we have received by virtue of our being in Christ. In Christ, with his authority, we both can and must resist and rebuke the Enemy. See Luke 10:1-20; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:16-18; 19:12. Jude makes no attempt to extend to Christians the restriction placed on Michael.
4. Christians avoid deliverance ministry because they wrongly assume that Christians cannot be demonized.
Every case of demonization involves someone under the influence or control, in varying degrees, of an indwelling evil spirit. The word "demonization" is never used in the NT to describe someone who is merely oppressed or harrassed or attacked or tempted by a demon. In every case, reference is made to a demon either entering, dwelling in, or being cast out of the person. Matthew 4:24 and 15:22 at first appear to be exceptions to this rule, but the parallel passages in Mark 1:32ff. and 7:24-30 indicate otherwise. Hence, to be "demonized", in the strict sense of that term, is to be inhabited by a demon with varying degrees of influence or control.
5. Christians avoid deliverance ministry because they are afraid of encountering the demonic.
6. Christians avoid deliverance ministry because they are ignorant of their identity and authority in Christ.
B. Our Identity and Authority in Christ
v. 1 - "Others" = other than the 12, i.e., non-apostolic disciples or followers of Jesus (contrast this with 9:1-5). They are sent out "two by two": 1) to provide mutual protection, encouragement, and support; and 2) to provide legal attestation to what happens; to provide for binding testimony (Dt. 17:6; 19:15).
PT: the commissioning, authorizing, empowering of the 70 is a prelude to the ministry of the larger body of Christ universal. As Susan Garrett explains, "Luke may have conceived of the mission by 'seventy (-two) others' as foreshadowing the period of the church, when not only the twelve but many sons and daughters would receive the Spirit of the Lord and prophesy, and would thereby be enabled to carry out Jesus' work" (The Demise of the Devil, 48).
v. 17 - "Even the demons!" In other words, "Wow!" Note that the 70 do not say they are "subject to us" but rather "subject to us in your name." Christ's authority had been invested in them.
v. 18 - It is unlikely that the "fall" of Satan referred to here is a reference to his original fall into sin, since Jesus' comment was in response to their report concerning the success they had experienced in casting out demons. As Page points out, "the context demands a reference to a fall that is the result of being defeated, not a fall that is the result of sinning" (109).
What does Jesus mean when he says he was "watching"? The verb used here (theoreo) is not used elsewhere for visions Jesus had (although it is used to describe the visions that others experienced: see Acts 7:56; 9:7; 10:11). Whether or not Jesus experienced a "vision" or simply is using figurative language is unimportant. Of more significance is the nature and time of this "fall" of the enemy.
· This could be a visionary experience in which Jesus "saw" the impending fall or demise of the devil, an event yet to be fulfilled (cf. Dan. 7:2,4,6,7,9,11,13). Perhaps Jesus was looking forward to the judgment Satan would incur at the cross/resurrection (hence the same event as Rev. 12).
· Others see here a reference to Satan's "fall" that occurred because of his defeat in the wilderness when he failed in the tempting of Jesus.
· Still another possibility is that this "fall" is a reference to his defeat each time his house his plundered (Mt. 12) as a result of successful deliverance ministry.
Whichever view is correct, Jesus does not intend to suggest that because of this "fall" from heaven Satan is no longer active or a threat. In v. 19 he issues a promise that makes sense only if there are real dangers from which his disciples need to be protected.
v. 19 - The key is the statement: "I have given you authority." Authority = delegated power, i.e., not only the responsibility, not only the prerogative, but also the spiritual power to enforce compliance. Authority = the right and power to act and speak as if Jesus himself were present (v. 16).
Authority over what or whom? What are the "serpents" and "scorpions" mentioned in v. 19? They are not to be taken literally. They are, in all likelihood, a vivid way of describing demonic beings.
· Serpents and scorpions were familiar sources of evil and pain in Palestinian life and thus served to symbolize all kinds of adversity and affliction. See Num. 21:6-9; Deut. 8:15; Pss. 58:4; 140:3.
· The scorpion was a means of divine chastisement in 1 Kings 12:11,14; see also Luke 11:11-12.
· Satan is often portrayed as a serpent (Gen. 3; 2 Cor. 11; Rev. 12,20). Hence, his domain is that of snakes and scorpions. In this regard, see esp. Ps. 91:12-13.
· In v. 19, Jesus explains the meaning of what the 70 reported in v. 17. Thus the "serpents and scorpions" of v. 19 = the "demons" of v. 17.
· Also, within v. 19 itself, "serpents and scorpions" are parallel to "all the power of the enemy," i.e., Satan and his hosts.
· V. 20 also indicates clearly that "serpents and scorpions" are a reference to "spirits".
· Finally, Rev. 9:3,5,10 lend support to this interpretation.
v. 20 - It isn't wrong or sinful to rejoice in this authority over the demonic. If it were, Jesus would never have given such authority to his disciples! The point, rather, is that in comparison with being saved such power is far less significant. Authority over the demonic spirits is great! But being saved, forgiven, and having one's name recorded in the book of life is greater!!
This leads to a critical question: "Do we, the church, have this same authority? Or was this a temporary endowment?" My answer is: "We have even greater authority!"
(1) First of all, remember that this commission and the authority and power it entailed was given to the 70, not simply to the 12. It isn't possible to restrict this authority to a select few. Jesus' selection of 70 is surely in anticipation of the world-wide mission of the entire body of Christ. The 70 were not uniquely gifted or uniquely called people with high office or position in the body of Christ. They were ordinary followers of Jesus, just like you and me!
(2) We live and operate on this side of the cross, subsequent to the defeat of Satan. In other words, their authority and power, prior to the cross, can hardly be regarded as equivalent to ours, subsequent to the cross.
(3) We live and operate on this side of Pentecost. In other words, we operate with the fulness of the indwelling power and presence of the Holy Spirit. They did not.
(4) We have received the fulness of divine authorization as stated in the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-19).
(5) We have been raised up and seated with the exalted Lord, under whose feet all principalities and powers have been subjected (Eph. 1:19-2:7; Col. 2:9-10).
(6) Finally, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In other words, the evidence of authority is the exercise of authority - Acts 5:16; 8:7; 16:18; 19:12-16; 2 Cor. 10:3-4; Eph. 6:10-13; James 4:7; 1 Pt. 5:8; 1 John 2:13-14.
Note: This authority over the demonic was not restricted even to the 70. See Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50. See also Mt. 7:21-23.
C. The Exercise of Authority: Binding, Resisting, Rebuking
Is the verbal "rebuking" and "binding" of demonic spirits a legitimate biblical expression of our authority over the enemy? Those who answer "no" are often heard to say: "Why not just pray, 'O God, please resist, rebuke, and bind this evil spirit for me'?" In other words, they insist that we should always defer to God. But:
· Consider Eph. 6:10ff. where we are called on to take an active role in "standing firm" and "struggling" against the enemy. We must be responsible to avail ourselves of the power and weaponry secured for us by Christ's victory.
· Let us not forget that God has delegated His authority to us (Lk. 10). It is not God's desire to settle all our spiritual disputes. He desires for us to utilize the authority he has invested in us.
· God wants us to share in and to enjoy the thrill of victory (He is pleased with the response of the 70 in Luke 10).
· God is pleased to utilize means, i.e., us, in the pursuit of his ends. In other words, God wants to involve us in the work of the kingdom. We are his representatives, spokesmen, ambassadors in evangelism, ministry, and so too in spiritual warfare. No one would ever think of saying: "O God, preach the gospel to the lost," or "O God, teach the truth to your people." Rather, God desires to use us in proclaiming the gospel and in teaching the principles of Scripture. We have been entrusted with His authority, His power, His gifts to minister to His people and to participate in expanding His kingdom.
(1) Is it biblical to bind the enemy?
The only texts in which the terminology of "binding" is used are as follows:
Matthew 12:29 - Here it is Jesus who "bound" the devil, most likely a reference to his victory over him in the wilderness. Whereas Jesus is nowhere recorded as saying, "I bind you", he did, in point of fact, "bind" or restrict or inhibit the ability of the enemy to keep people in bondage. Does this text give us grounds for verbally "binding" Satan or demons?
Matthew 16:19 - The "keys" (Lk. 11:52) are a reference to the power to know, understand, and proclaim the terms on the basis of which entrance into or exclusion from the kingdom of God is granted. Whatever we "bind" (prohibit) or "loose" (allow) through the proclamation of the gospel will prove to be an earthly application or confirmation of what heaven has already decreed. We have been given authority to pronounce forgiveness or judgment depending on a person's response to the truth (cf. John 20:23).
Matthew 18:18 - The context is church discipline and the decision of the church in adjudicating a dispute between two people. To "bind" = to declare someone guilty; to "loose" = to declare them innocent. The decision of the church on earth reflects the decision already made in heaven. I.e., when we conform to biblical guidelines and accurately declare the terms on which membership and fellowship in the church are possible, our decisions will be an earthly expression of heaven's prior decree.
It would appear that nothing in these three texts gives explicit endorsement to the practice of saying, "Satan, I bind you in Jesus' name." However, before we dismiss this as unbiblical, we need to observe other explicit commands.
(2) Is it biblical to resist the enemy?
See Eph. 6; 1 Pt. 5; Js. 4. To "resist" = lit., to stand against (anti + histami ["antihistamine"] = to oppose, to set oneself against someone or something.
To resist Satan or his demons thus means to employ the authority and power given us by God to restrict his/their activities, to restrain his/their efforts, to thwart his/their plans. What does this mean, if not to "bind"? To "bind" = to inhibit, to restrain someone from an action or activity, to repress.
Therefore, on the one hand, it is true that neither Jesus nor anyone else in the NT ever says: "Satan (demon), I bind you." On the other hand, both Jesus and Christians do, in terms of practical and experiential impact, "bind" him/them. This is done primarily by the truth of God's word spoken (Mt. 4) and moral resistance (Eph. 6). Thus, I conclude that whereas we should not appeal to any of the three texts cited above in Matthew's gospel to support our practice, it is theologically permissible to use the terminology of "binding" when we "resist" the enemy. Remember, too, that no "binding" is absolute except for the last one (Rev. 20:10; contrast with 20:2-3,7).
(3) Is it biblical to rebuke the enemy?
The term "rebuke" (epitimao) is used frequently by Jesus in his encounters with demonic spirits (Mt. 17:18; Mk. 1:25; 3:12; 9:25; Lk. 4:35,41; 9:42). The term functions as a word of command by which evil forces are brought into submission. Thus "it combines the idea of moral censure expressed by the word rebuke with the notion of the subjugation of demonic powers. Thus, epitimao shows that Jesus has authority over the evil spirits and that they are powerless to resist his control" (Page, 143).
In summary, observe Acts 16:18. Paul didn't say, "Evil spirit, I bind you," or "I rebuke you." But he did, in effect, both bind and rebuke the spirit when he said, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" Paul's words were a rebuke which, in experiential fact, bound (restricted or restrained) the evil spirit's activity as it pertained to the slave-girl.
D. Jesus' Approach to Deliverance
Upon a careful examination of the incident in Mark 5, together with other instances of his encounter with the demonic, we discover that there were at least 7 elements in our Lord's approach to deliverance. Not all are employed in every instance, but each is important.
1. He secures the name of the demon, or seeks to identify the spirit. "And he [Jesus] was asking him, 'What is your name?' And he [the demon] said to him, 'My name is Legion, for we are many'" (Mark 5:9).
Why did Jesus do this? (a) Perhaps to gain control over it? (b) Perhaps to let all know the full extent of demonic power he was confronting? (c) Perhaps to reveal to the man himself how serious his condition was?
One particular opponent of deliverance ministry makes this observation: "Notice that the demon was not named lust, gossip, adultery, hate, or any of the other names often given by demons to those involved in contemporary deliverance attempts. Instead of the current popular belief that names of demons are related to the sin or habit which they inflict upon their subject, the Bible reveals something quite different" (Ice and Dean, 106-07). What, may I ask, does it reveal that is "different"? No answer is given. On the one hand, we have no way of knowing with absolute certainty whether or not demons are named according to their activity or the sin(s) on which they focus their energies. But the above argument borders on being ludicrous. The authors appear to be saying that since the demon in Mark 5 is named Legion, no other demon can have another name! That is like saying, "Because I am a human and my name is Sam, no other human can be named John or Fred or Mary."
2. He binds the spirit, i.e., he prohibits it from some activity and thus curbs or breaks its power. See Mt. 12:29.
3. He rebukes the spirit, i.e., he censures or warns or denounces the demon. See Mark 1:25 ("and Jesus rebuked him [the demon], saying, 'Be quiet and come out of him'"). See also Mt. 17:18; Mark 9:25; Luke 9:42. This sort of rebuke is not just a verbal reproof but a technical term for subjugation of the evil power.
4. He silences the demon. In Mark 1:34 we read that "he healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who he was."
Why would he not permit them to speak? Peter Davids (More Hard Sayings of the NT, 27) cites three possible reasons:
a. "First, 'the teachers of the law' associated him with Beelzebub, 'the prince of demons' (3:22). Any tendency to show that he accepted the demonic would have given extra evidence to these opponents."
b. "Second, to accept the testimony of demons about himself would give a precedent to his followers to accept (or even seek) testimony of demons about other things. This would threaten to make Jesus' movement an occult movement."
c. "Third, and most important, Jesus' whole mission was a call to faith based on evidence, not on authoritative testimony. . . . Therefore the demons were short-circuiting Jesus' whole methodology. His command to them was a sharp 'Shut up!' His invitation to the crowd at their expulsion was, 'See and believe that the Kingdom of God has come."
5. He would cast them out. Mk. 1:25; 7:29; Mt. 8:16.
6. He refused to let the spirit return.
"And when Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'You deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again'" (Mk. 9:25).
7. He would on occasion send them into the abyss.
"And they [the demonic spirits] were entreating him [Jesus] not to command them to depart into the abyss" (Luke 8:31).
Where/what is the abyss? Is it the place from which demons originate? If so, why would they fear returning there? Is it a place of imprisonment where they would be temporarily consigned, awaiting the final judgment? Or is it the place where they will finally be punished? Aside from its appearance here and in Rom. 10:7, the word abyssos is found only in Rev. 9:1-2,11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1,3.
Additional observations on Jesus' approach:
First, it is important to note that Jesus did not always consign exorcised demons to the abyss or in some place of permanent detention. As seen above in the account of the demonized young boy in Mark 9, Jesus simply said, "I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again" (v. 25). This implies that the recurrence of demonization after deliverance was a possibility and steps had to be taken to prevent such from happening. Evidently, often after being cast out from a person, a demon was free to return to the person or to enter someone else.
Second, Jesus criticizes the disciples for their lack of faith in dealing with the boy of Mark 9 (vv. 19,28-29). Evidently, due to their previous success in deliverance ministry, they had come to believe that divine power was at their disposal to use as they saw fit, apart from constant reliance on God. But this kind of demon, says Jesus (v. 29), can come out only by prayer. This is intriguing, insofar as there is not a single instance of deliverance by prayer in the NT. Deliverance elsewhere always occurs by the word of command. [It is also interesting to note that deliverance from an indwelling spirit is never granted in response to the faith of the one who is demonized, although it is sometimes related to the faith of others.] One can only conclude that in particular cases where an especially powerful demon is involved, prayer may be needed. "Mark focuses on the need for prayer because it clearly demonstrates that divine power is not under human control; it must always be asked for. Manifestations of the power of God, such as are needed when dealing with the forces of evil, come only in response to the attitude of trust and reliance upon God that is expressed in humble prayer" (Page, 164).
Would this, then, be prayer to the Father that He cast out the demon, or prayer to the Father that He impart to us the power so that we might cast out the demon?
Third, even for Jesus, the deliverance was not always instantaneous or without considerable resistance. See Mark 1:26; 5:8 (Lk. 8:29); 9:26.
Mark 5:8 is an explanatory statement to make clear why the demon was so agitated: Jesus had ordered him repeatedly to come out of the man.
Consider the analogy of a parent and his/her child. When I exercise parental authority and tell my two daughters to do something, or to cease from some activity, it is not unusual for them to delay their obedience. They will resist complying with my command, using any number of tactics. They begin to obey, then hesitate. They stall, they make excuses, they insist on arguing about whether or not it is right or necessary for them to obey me. They may try to distract me from the issue at hand by diverting my attention to something of equal or greater urgency. They move slowly, hoping I'll forget. They may even play me off against Ann, telling me that she said it was o.k. However, if I persist in the exercise of my authority as their parent, they will eventually do as I say, or suffer the consequences! The point for spiritual warfare is this. Our approach should not be, "Speak the word of command in Jesus' name and it is done," which usually leads to frustration and disillusionment. Our approach should be, "Speak the word of command in Jesus' name UNTIL it is done."
Fourth, Jesus' approach was never ritualistic or mechanical or magical. He employed no elaborate religious formula nor did he engage in any physical confrontations with the demonized. Indeed, the people of his day were amazed by how Jesus dealt with deliverance (see Mk. 1:27; Mt. 9:32-33).
According to Mt. 8:16, Jesus "cast out the spirits with a word". Jesus never appealed to a higher authority when expelling demons, unlike Paul, for example, who cast out a demon from the slave girl in Acts 16 by appealing to "the name of Jesus Christ" (v. 18).