Dr. C. T. Luiskutty, Author, Bible teacher, former professor at Oral Roberts University and
currently General Secretary of Inter Collegiate Prayer Fellowship
The existence of demons and how they affect the lives of people, especially the present day believers, is a difficult subject to deal with and there is no consensus among believers. Some see a demon behind every bush whereas others deny the existence of such entities. Both the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 21:1; Job 1: ; 2:1; Zechariah 3:1,2)and the New Testament (Matthew 4:1–11; Luke 4:1- ;John 8:44;13:2,27; Acts 5:3; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 11:14; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation20:2) make numerous references to Satan, the devil and demons. Jesus Himself dealt with this subject on many occasions. He clearly states that the church has power over the schemes and works of the devil (Matthew 16:18).
As a young boy, I had many opportunities of witnessing the local church exercising its authority over demons. Often people who were suspected to be demon-possessed were brought to the church and some of the senior members with the gift of the Spirit would pray for the afflicted. In many cases, the exorcism lasted for days before the demons would leave the person with some manifestations. Some were set free for ever; others got only temporary deliverance but were brought back with the same affliction. The problem persisted if those who got deliverance from the evil spirits continued in their life of sin and did not allow Jesus to abide in them and grow in the Word of God. As Jesus illustrated in Matthew 12:43-45, lives vacated by the demonic spirits should be filled with the Holy Spirit; otherwise the evil spirits could return in greater strength and the person’s latter condition would be worse than the former.
People in the church are still afflicted by evil spirits. The demons do three things: (1) The devil influences most believers to follow the pattern of the world and become lovers of themselves (2 Timothy 3:2) and he has succeeded in this pretty well. Even the believers who profess their loyalty to God are influenced by the devil and many fall prey to his allurement. (2) Many believers are oppressed by the devil and they live in constant fear. As a result they do not experience the abundant life promised by Jesus Christ (John 10:10)and liberty of being in Christ. (3) Even though the demonstrations of demonic possession are less frequent in the churches these days, they are seen occasionally. Demonic demonstrations are seen more often in rural churches and in evangelistic meetings. It is to be noted that the Holy Spirit dwells in the believer and as long as he or she continues in this state, the person cannot be possessed by the devil.
There are many reasons for the church’s inability to exercise its God-given power over demons. Even though there is a clear warning against the devil in the Bible (e.g., 1 Peter 5:8; John 10:10), many deny his existence today. Others may not be able to recognize him because he appears as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) differently from their expectation and they are unaware of his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). As we read in 2 Timothy 2:24-26, some in the church are so unconcerned about their position in Christ and somehow yield to the devil’s schemes and do his will. It is to be noted that the enemy is powerful, clever and vile. Many consider it easier to stay out of his way and not provoke him. Spiritual infants are not strong and as a result cannot overcome the evil one (1 John 2:13,14). They do not have the boldness to face the enemy and their common prayer is, “Do not let the evil one see us.”
Evil power and demonic spirits were real to Jesus. He encountered them on many occasions, rebuking the tormenting spirits and casting them out of the afflicted ones. When He sent out the twelve disciples and then the seventy for ministry, He gave them power over demons. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one.” This shows that Jesus knew that His followers needed the help from God to overcome the evil one and his demons in their life and ministry.
Before His ascension Jesus states that He has been sent by the Father with all authority in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18). This means that he had authority and power over the evil spirits in the heavenly realms while He was on the earth. We should see this preamble to the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) coupled with the charge given by the risen Lord, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). In other words, Jesus authorized and empowered His followers to continue His ministry on earth. This includes exercising our authority over demons. Therefore, the church
should realize its responsibility and authority in this matter.
Should recognize the barriers
Must develop an action plan and implement it.
Spiritual warfare is not an easy matter. Firstly, we must know who our enemy is. Apostle Paul says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 ESV). He is a murder, liar and the father of lies (John 8:44), a thief (John 10:10),the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is active in the children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2) and the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Secondly, we must be equipped and strengthened to successfully engage in spiritual warfare. Apostle Paul instructs, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10,11). Then he gives a list of the armor: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the readiness given by the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Our right standing with God, spiritual preparedness and moral integrity are essential tools to fight the demonic powers. Otherwise we may be in the plight of the seven sons of Sceva who attempted to cast out a demon from a man in Ephesus in the name of Jesus whom Paul preached. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” and the demon possessed man leaped on the impotent exorcists (Acts 19:13-16). Any haphazard attempt to fight against demons will end in disaster.
A person engaged in spiritual warfare should remain humble. There is the possibility that some success in this area may create pride in the humans that they have authority over demons. Apostle James says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6). We cannot go against the devil and his forces if God is opposing us rather than being on our side. Therefore James continues, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
According to C. Peter Wagner, there are three levels of spiritual warfare: ground-level spiritual warfare, concerned with the casting out of demons; occult-level spiritual warfare, which deals with opposition to occult practices; and strategic-level spiritual warfare, which addresses territorial spirits. If this is true, it should be admitted that most of the churches are engaged in ground level spiritual warfare. It should also be borne in mind that there could be abuse of the occult level spiritual warfare. Stories abound of certain charlatans scaring naïve people with fake evidences of occultism and preying on them for financial gains.
Spiritual warfare is conducted primarily in prayer, not as a duel. A team of prayer warriors should fight in unison against the devil and his band. Everyone on the team may not be at the same level of their understanding of this exercise, spiritual maturity or experience in spiritual warfare. They all must have a clean and humble heart before God and faith in Him. Whether we are praying for an oppressed and fearful family, a possessed person or for a region which is adamantly resistant to the Gospel, spiritual warfare prayer should be embarked on with faith in God, unity among the team members, humility in heart, perseverance in the effort, and love and compassion for the afflicted.
For the church to effectively exercise its power over demons, it should be aware of certain realities:
The demons are real. We are not fighting against imaginary figures, but real entities with power (though limited).
The demons are the agents of Satan who is God’s arch enemy.
Satan is the god of this world and the ruler of the wicked world. But his power over the children of God is in check (Job 1:12; 2:6).
If you resist the devil, he will flee.
To be successful in this, the believers should cleanse themselves, be humble and maintain a constant relationship with God.
Engaging in spiritual warfare against the devil and demons is a team activity that requires mutual encouragement and support as well as perseverance at the individual level.
The victory over the devil is by the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11)
As with all other prayers, the warfare prayer must be
In the Spirit, i.e., under the direction and with the power of the Holy Spirit
In the name of Jesus, which means, under the authority given by Jesus Christ, in accordance with His will and in agreement with His character.
As the devil masquerades as the angel of light, the spirits of the Antichrist are working hard to deceive the world, even the elect. They may perform spectacular miracles and reveal past histories and foretell the future. The devil is happy in doing such supernatural things in order to keep people away from Christ who gives them salvation and challenges them to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him daily. In this age, the church needs to be discerning as to what spirit is operating among its people.
Jesus is stronger, though He calls the devil the strong man. We can agree with Apostle John who said, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Now let us appropriate the prayer of Apostle Paul to the Ephesian church that they may have the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God that they may know “what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ…” (Ephesians 1:19,20). The church has been given authority and power over demons. Let us exercise that authority and power!