WE ARE NOT IN BONDAGE TO THE WORLD
As a believer, we do not have to be in bondage to the world system. Wherein in times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also you had your conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind: and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God (Eph 2:2-3,13,19).
Romans 12:1-3 teaches that we no longer need be conformed to the world. We can be transformed (changed). We are part of a new kingdom now. We are the residents of the Kingdom of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God (I Cor 2:12). We learn more about our liberty in Galatians 4:1-7. We are not to be overcome by the world. Do not let the cares of the world destroy the work of the Word in your life (Matt 13:22; Mark 4:19).
THE ENEMY AND UNBELIEVERS
The enemy has a very powerful strategy operating against unbelievers. He blinds their minds to the Gospel (II Cor 4:3-4) and snatches away the truth of the Gospel when they do hear it so that no response will occur (Luke 8:12). As a result, the Gospel sounds foolish and irrelevant to those who are lost in sin (I Cor 1:18). Satan also snares many unbelievers in false religions (I Tim 4:1-3) and leads them to walk according to the “course of the world” which is the philosophy of the age. That philosophy may vary from generation to generation and culture to culture, but it is always creature-centered and creature-promoting rather than God-centered. Satan is constantly sowing the seeds of rebellion (sin) in the minds of unbelievers by which he is able to keep them bound in his spiritual kingdom.
THE PURPOSE OF GOD
It is God’s purpose that… …in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth… (Ephesians 1:10).From the beginning of time, Satan has battled against the fulfillment of this purpose. Our own warfare in the spirit world is related to this purpose of God. Satan battles to bring our soul into allegiance to him instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God works in us to accomplish His purpose. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). God also works through our life to accomplish His purposes. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God (Romans 6:13). When we yield ourselves to become “an instrument of righteousness unto God,” it means we bring our life and ministry in harmony with His purpose and plans. By doing this, we become a target for God’s enemy, Satan.
TYPES OF WARFARE
There are two types of warfare in the natural world: Offensive and defensive. The Bible also teaches both defensive and offensive spiritual strategies. The only other option is desertion, which is unacceptable. There is one thing in common about offensive and defensive warfare. Both involve personal action by the believer. In natural warfare, unused weapons do not inflict causalities on the enemy nor win wars. The same is true in the spirit world. Our spiritual weapons are affected by our will to use them. It is true that God empowers for battle, but we have a personal responsibility in both defensive and offensive spiritual strategies. In Old Testament battles, the Lord fought for and with His people, Israel. But first, they had to position themselves on the battlefield. When God sees a spiritual weapon being used in His name and a man or woman on the battlefield daring to attempt the impossible, the Lord of Hosts is moved to action.
Defensive warfare is battle waged to defend territory. It is a warfare that waits for the enemy to strike, then pulls its forces together in defensive response. The defender must respond to his opponent and his decisions are forced on him by the attacker. This type of warfare does not advance into enemy territory. It defends territory already claimed. It is important, however, because the spiritual forces of evil are constantly attacking us as a believer. If we do not know how to defend ourselves, we will become a victim of these attacks.
Offensive warfare is aggressive warfare. It is not warfare of waiting and responding in defense. It is warfare which takes the initiative of attack. The enemy is identified, his strategies recognized, and offensive advances against him are made in the spirit world. In offensive warfare the attacker has the advantage of making decisions first. Offensive warfare gains territory rather than defends it. Offensive advances are the only type of spiritual warfare which will reach the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We cannot remain in our comfortable homes and churches and practice defensive strategies only. The army of God must advance into enemy territory. It must go to the strongholds of Satan with the power of the Gospel message. We must wage aggressive offensive spiritual battle.
WEAPONS OF WARFARE
Spiritual battles must be fought with spiritual weapons. Paul describes the armor to be used in spiritual warfare. Wherefore take unto you the whole Armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph 6:13-17).
The purpose of the armor is to be able to stand against the wiles (deceit, cunning, craftiness) of the enemy, Satan. It is our responsibility to put on the armor.But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof (Romans 13:14). The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the Armor of light (Romans 13:12).Our spiritual armor is not like an athletic uniform we put on at game time. We put on the armor once and for all and leave it on the rest of our life. Just as a soldier on the battlefield does not take his armor off and on, we will not lay down our armor until we go to be with the Lord. If we do not have our armor on at all times, we are vulnerable to the enemy. It is wise to check often that each piece of our spiritual armor is still in place.
“Having put” indicates something we have already done if we are a believer. Having our loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness (verse 14)and having our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace (verse 15). The second division includes things which are to be put on in the present. Taking the shield of faith (verse 16), taking the helmet of salvation and taking the sword of the Spirit (verse 17). In Ephesians 6:11 Paul emphasizes putting on the whole armor of God. Some of us are preoccupied with but one piece of God’s armor to the extent that others are neglected. We must have on the whole armor or we may find ourselves being an expert in the use of the “sword of the Spirit” and still defeated because we have forgotten the shield of faith.
The Belt:The first piece of armor to be buckled on is the girdle or belt of truth. In the natural world, a suit of armor was attached to the belt which held the other pieces of armor in place. The truth of God’s Word is the spiritual belt to which all other pieces of armor are attached. Satan’s first attack on man was on truth. And the woman said unto the serpent…God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. (Genesis 3:2-4).
The truth will protect us from lies and doctrinal errors of the enemy. Truth is the undergirding of our spiritual armor. We are to have our loins (our spiritual vital organs) girt (covered) with truth: Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth… (Eph 6:14). What is the truth? Jesus said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17). God is truth (Rom 3:4). God’s Word is truth (Psalms 119:151). The Gospel is truth (Col 1:5).
The Breastplate:In the natural world, the breastplate covered the upper body of the warrior to protect vital organs such as his heart, lungs, etc. The spiritual breastplate of righteousness does not refer to our righteousness, but to the covering of the righteousness of Christ. And be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Phil 3:9). We are not to stand on our own merits. We stand in Christ.
We can not face the enemy without the protection of the righteousness of Christ. By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the Armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. (II Cor 6:7). The righteousness of Christ protects our spiritual “vital organs” from attacks of Satan and from unrighteousness. The breastplate of righteousness must be buckled on to the belt of truth. Putting on the breastplate of faith and love (I Thess 5:8). He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler (Psalms 91:4).
The Shoes:There are many types of shoes for different purposes. Some are for walking, others for specific sports activities. A soldier’s shoes are another kind. They are shoes designed for warfare. A soldier who cannot advance on the battlefield is disabled in warfare. “Feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” indicate a readiness to advance in the spiritual realm. These spiritual shoes protect our will from the temptation of the enemy who would lead us in wrong paths. They indicate our willingness to do every good work and to spread the Gospel to all nations. These spiritual shoes will also enable us to stand against the enemy as Paul encourages us to do (Eph 6:15).
The Shield:In the natural world, the shield was used to provide protection to the warrior’s entire body. Our spiritual shield is called the “shield of faith”. There are several types of faith mentioned in the Bible. There is saving faith, the gift of faith, and the spiritual fruit of faith. But the word “faith” when used in relation to the “shield of faith” speaks of defensive faith. This faith is a firm trust and confidence in God which protects our whole being. It protects us from flaming missiles of doubt and unbelief sent by the enemy. This shield of faith is a calm and confident trust in God which deflects all the fiery arrows of the enemy from their target.
The shield of faith is the constant application of God’s Word to the issues of life which will enables us to overcome the evil forces of the world. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith (I John 5:4). Combined with love of God, faith is most effective: It is faith based on salvation. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great (Psalms 18:35). Without faith, we have no grasp of truth. Without faith we cannot receive salvation. Without faith we cannot go forth with the Gospel of peace. Without faith we cannot claim the righteousness of Christ and effectively use the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Faith is not an assumption or presumption. It is a fact based upon God’s Word. We can increase our faith by hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17), acting upon our present faith (Romans 1:17), and seeking God (Hebrews 12:2).
The Helmet:The helmet of salvation is not something we put on when we get saved. We are dealing with spiritual armor here, and it is assumed that we are a believer and a member of God’s army before we start putting on the armor. The helmet of salvation represents a regenerated soul. It represents a transformed and renewed spiritual life. An undisciplined Christian warrior is an easy prey to the deceptions of the enemy. Paul speaks of the helmet as the “hope of salvation” in I Thessalonians 5:8. Salvation embraces the past, present, and future. We have been saved from the guilt and penalty of past sin. We are being saved from the power of sin in the present. The “hope of salvation” refers to salvation in the future tense. We have a confident hope in the future because God is working out His purpose, according to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Himself; That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in Heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him. (Eph 1:9-10).
THE SWORD OF THE SPIRIT
The “sword of the Spirit,” which is the Word of God, is a weapon that can be used both defensively and offensively. The Word is a defensive weapon when we use it to defend against the attacks of Satan. Jesus used the Word in defense against the attacks of Satan. It is offensive when we use it to claim territory for the Lord by sharing the Gospel message and deliverance with others.
There are two different words used in Scripture for the “Word of God”. One word is “logos” which refers to the complete revelation of what God has said. The second word, “rhema,” refers to a specific saying of God that has special application to a specific situation. Jesus used specific (“rhema”) sayings of God, applicable to the immediate temptation. To be able to do this implies familiarity with the total Word of God. If we are to use specific Scriptures applicable to immediate battles, we must have knowledge of God’s total revelation.
In order to use the Word of God effectively in spiritual warfare, we must study, meditate upon, get the revelation from God and even memorize it. Many defeats in life come because we do not know God’s Word. Matt 22:29, Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.
GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are valuable weapons of offensive and defensive battle. The gifts of the word of knowledge and the word of wisdom provide supernatural revelation for spiritual warfare. The gift of discerning of spirits reveals the deception of the enemy.
DELEGATED POWER AND AUTHORITY
Authority and power are two different things. If we consider the example of a policeman, he has a badge and a uniform which are symbols of his authority. His authority comes because of the position he holds with the government. But because all people do not respect that authority, the policeman also carries a weapon. The weapon is his power. Our authority over the enemy comes through Jesus Christ and our position in Him as believers. Our power over the enemy comes through the Sword of the Holy Spirit which is the Word of God.
The power Jesus gave is directed power for specific purposes. These include power over the enemy: Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases (Luke 9:1). Power over sin: And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained (John 20:22-23). Power to extend the gospel: But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).
It is part of “Gods Battle Plan,” that prayer and its associated practice of fasting are also powerful spiritual weapons. These two weapons can be used both offensively and defensively.
BINDING AND LOOSING
We have the power to bind the forces of evil and loose the souls from the enemy. And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven (Matt 16:19). This weapon works together: It is binding and loosing. Whenever we bind something, we also loose something.
THE BLOOD OF JESUS
When Jesus died on the cross of Calvary, He loosed us from the dominion of sin and the power of the enemy. His blood secures our access to God and releases from the bondage of Satan. The Word of God indicates that “they (believers) overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ) (Rev 12:11)”. Salvation, healing, and deliverance are all available because of the blood of Jesus. His blood enables us to wage offensive warfare for the souls of men and women and bring deliverance and healing in the name of Jesus. Our power to “overcome” the enemy is because of the “blood of the lamb.”
Revelation 12:11 indicates the enemy is defeated by the “word of our testimony”. The word “testimony” means “evidence or record” like that used in a legal case in a court of law. As we “testify” or give evidence to the power of God in our life, we wage offensive spiritual warfare. To be effective, our testimony must be based upon the testimony of the Word of God, just as a lawyer in a court bases his arguments on the law of the land. Our own spiritual life also is a living testimony.
THE NAME OF JESUS
The name of Jesus is also a powerful offensive weapon. Jesus said that “in My name” you will cast out demons, heal the sick, and overcome all the power of the enemy (Mark 16:17). In the book of Acts we will note all the miracles done “in His name”. The name of Jesus is not some magical phrase with which we conclude our prayers. It is a symbol of the authority and power He has given us.
FACE THE ENEMY
When we are equipped with all these weapons we can’t sit back and relax or take refuge under the cover of someone else. When Nehemiah was offered refuge from the enemy, he refused. He said, “Should such a man as I flee? (Neh 6:11)”. Nehemiah faced the enemy in God’s power. When the enemy threatens us, we should not flee or take the easy way out. When internal dissension and discouragement arose and the enemy worked through weak believers, Nehemiah did not ignore the attacks. He confronted and conquered them. The greatest attack of the enemy came when the wall was half finished. When we start building in the spirit world, when we enter the arena of effective spiritual warfare, we will be the target for attacks of Satan.
Nehemiah’s response to direct criticism, mocking, scorn, false accusations, threats, and fear, was simply to continue building the wall. So we labored in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared (Neh 4:21). Nehemiah stayed with the task. He did not stop building: So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month of Elul, in fifty and two days (Neh 6:15). Nehemiah did in a short time what the enemy said could not be done. While we are building the walls of His Temple, the enemy may tell us the task is hopeless. But, with God’s help, we can rebuild His Kingdom. With His strength we do not have to take a long time to do so. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Phil 4:13).
ATTACK AND COUNTERATTACK
This spiritual warfare is like wrestling in the natural world. In natural wrestling, every move we make sets us up for a response from the opponent. The same is true in the spirit world. When we make a move for God, Satan will always counterattack with a move of his own.
In wrestling, a mobile opponent is considered dangerous. This is why we want to pin our opponent down. In the spiritual world, Satan is a mobile opponent. He goes “to and fro” as a lion seeking to devour. We must be on guard for his constant mobility. Satan also recognizes the effectiveness of our mobility. He wants to prevent us from being on the move for God. This is why he strives to throw us and pin us down spiritually.
Any error made in wrestling results in an action that can be taken advantage of by the opponent. How true spiritually! Any error we make in spiritual wrestling is quickly taken advantage of by the enemy. It is important in wrestling to learn how to recover from a fall. It is necessary to be able to convert the bottom position into an advantage. There are moves of escape and reversal which will enable this. In spiritual wrestling we may at times experience a fall and be temporarily pinned by the enemy. But we do not have to remain in this position. God has given strategies in His Word which, if followed, will convert our disadvantage into an advantage.
He has provided strategies for escape and reversal spiritually just as are used in natural wrestling. The life of Joseph is an excellent example of this. He had the disadvantages of being sold into slavery and put in prison. But he converted disadvantages to advantages. In the end, he triumphed over the enemy. There are other moves in wrestling which result in taking an opponent down from behind, dragging, pinning, throwing, and pulling him. The objective of wrestling in the natural world is to defeat the opponent by causing him to fall or pinning him to the ground. This results from a series of strategic moves and/or by wearing the opponent down.
Our attitude is very important in wrestling. In a study on the subject, the following attitudes were said to be necessary for championship wrestling in the natural world. These attitudes also are true in the spiritual realm: Desire:To wish and want to win is not enough. The champion wrestler must have a will to win. Desire is an emotion which transcends all else in life. Persistence:Sustained effort is required for championship wrestling. A champion wrestler will not accept defeat. Purpose:Winning is the goal and purpose of wrestling. To achieve this goal he must not only know he is master of the situation, but he must also let his opponent know about it.
The goal of offensive warfare is to pull and cast down the strongholds of the enemy: Forthe weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds; 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 (II Cor 10:4-5).To “pull down” means to take down by effort or force. To “cast” means to throw or
hurl. We are told to cast off the works of darkness (Romans 13:12) and cast out demon powers (Matthew 10:8). When we pull and cast down strongholds of Satan we are waging offensive warfare. We are not waiting to defend against an attack of Satan but we are attacking strongholds of the enemy’s power.
DECEIVED DUE TO IGNORANCE
In the Christian Church, countless “thoughts” and “beliefs,” which are opposed to the truth of God, are injected into the minds of Christians by teaching spirits, rendering them ineffective in the warfare with sin and Satan, and subject them to the power of evil spirits, although they are saved for eternity through their faith in Christ, and accept the authority of the Scriptures, and know the power of the Cross. All “thoughts” and “beliefs” should therefore be tested by the truth of God revealed in the Scripture, not merely by “texts” or portions of the Word, but by the principles of truth revealed in the Word. Since Satan will endorse his teachings by “signs and wonders” (Matt. 24: 24; 2 Thess. 2: 9; Rev. 13: 13), “fire from heaven”, “power” and “signs,” are no proof of “teaching” being of God; nor is a “beautiful life” to be the infallible test, for Satan’s “ministers” can be “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11: 13- 15).
The culmination of the flood tide of these deceiving spirits sweeping upon the Church, is described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians, where he speaks of the manifestation of one, who will, eventually, have so deceived Christendom as to have gained an entrance into the very sanctuary of God; so that “he sitteth in the sanctuary of God, setting himself forth as God…” (2 Th. 2:4). The “presence” of this one being a “Presence” like God, and yet “according to the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and wonders, of falsehood, and with all deceit…” (2 Th. 2: 9, 10).
Confirmation of the Lord’s words recorded by Matthew (24:24) and Mark (13:22), is found in the revelation given by Him to John, at Patmos, that at the close of the age, the main weapon used by the deceiver for obtaining power over the people of the earth, will be supernatural signs from heaven, when a counterfeit “lamb” will do “great signs,” and even “make fire come down out of heaven” to deceive the dwellers on the earth, and thereby exercise such control over the whole world, that “no man shall be able to buy or sell, save he that hath the mark of the beast” (Rev. 13:11-17).
Through this supernatural deception, the full purpose of the deceiving hierarchy of Satan, thus reaches its consummation, in the foretold world-wide authority. Deception of the world with deepening darkness; deception of the Church through “teachings,” and “manifestations,” will reach the highest flood-tide climax at the close of the age.
WARNING TO THE CHURCH
It is striking to note that the Apostle who was chosen to transmit the Apocalypse to the Church, in preparation for the last days of the Church militant, should be the one to write to the Christians of his day: “Believe not every spirit” (1 John 4: 1-6), and earnestly warn his “children” that the “spirit of anti-Christ,” and the “spirit of error” (deception) was already actively at work among them. Their attitude was to be “believe not”–i.e., to doubt every supernatural “teaching” and “teacher,” until proved to be of God. They were to prove the “teachings,” lest they came from a “spirit of error,” and be part of the deceiver’s campaign as “anti- Christ,” i.e., against Christ.
If this attitude of neutrality and doubt toward supernatural teachings was needed in the days of the Apostle John–some fifty-seven years after Pentecost– how much more is it needed in the “later times” foretold by the Lord, and by the apostle Paul. Times which were to be characterised by a clamour of voices of “prophets,” that is–in the language of the twentieth century–“speakers” and “teachers” using the sacred Name of the Lord; and when “teachings” received supernaturally from the spiritual realm, would abound. “Teachings” accompanied with such wonderful proofs of their “divine” origin, as to perplex even the most faithful of the Lord’s people, and even, for a time, to deceive some of them.
CRITERION FOR JUDGMENT
The enemy is a deceiver, and as a deceiver he will work and prevail in the later times. “Success” or “defeat” is no criterion of a work being of God or Satan. Calvary stands for ever as the revelation of God’s way in working out His redemption purposes. Satan works for time, for he knows his time is short, but God works for eternity. Through death to life, through defeat to triumph, through suffering to joy, is God’s way.
Knowledge of truth is the primary safeguard against deception. The “elect” must know, and they must learn to “prove” the “spirits” until they do know what is of God, and what is of Satan. The words of the Master, “Take heed, I have told you, ” plainly implies that personal knowledge of danger is part of the Lord’s way of guarding His own, and believers who blindly rely upon “the keeping power of God,” without seeking to understand how to escape deception, when forewarned to “take heed” by the Lord, will surely find themselves entrapped by the subtle foe.
GOD LEGISLATING FOR DANGERS FROM EVIL SPIRITS
A perspective view of the ages covered by the history in Bible records, shows that the rise and fall in spiritual power of the people of God, was marked by the recognition of the existence of the demoniacal hosts of evil. When the Church of God in the old and new dispensations was at the highest point of spiritual power, the leaders recognized, and drastically dealt with, the invisible forces of Satan; and when at the lowest they were ignored, or allowed to have free course among the people.
The reality of the existence of wicked spirits by whom Satan, their prince, carried out his work in the fallen world of men, cannot be more strongly proved, than by the fact that the statutes given by Jehovah to Moses in the fiery mount, embodied stringent measures for dealing with the attempts of evil spirit beings to find entry to the people of God. Moses was instructed by Jehovah to keep the camp of Israel free from their inroads, by the drastic penalty of death for all who had dealings with them.
The very fact of Jehovah thus giving statutes in connection with such a subject, and the extreme penalty enforced for disobedience to His law, shows in itself (1) the existence of evil spirits, (2) their wickedness, (3) their ability to communicate with, and influence human beings, and (4) the necessity for uncompromising hostility to them, and their works. God would not legislate for dangers which had no real existence, nor would He command the extreme penalty of death, if the contact of the people with evil spirit beings of the unseen world, did not necessitate such drastic dealing.
The severity of the penalty obviously implies, also, that the leaders of Israel must have been given acute “discerning of spirits,” so sure and so clear, that they could have no doubt in deciding cases brought before them.
Whilst Moses and Joshua lived, and enforced the strong measures decreed by God to keep His people free from the inroads of Satanic power, Israel remained in allegiance to God, at the highest point of its history; but when these leaders died, the nation sank into darkness, brought about by evil spirit powers, drawing the people into idolatry and sin; the condition of the nation in after years, rising and falling (Judges 2: 19, 1 Kings 14: 22-24; 2 Chron. 33: 2-5, 34: 2-7) into (1) allegiance to God, or (2) idolatrous worship of idols, and all the sins resulting from the substitution of the worship of Satan–which idolatry really meant–in the place of Jehovah.
When the new dispensation opens with the advent of Christ, we find Him–the God-Man–recognizing the existence of the Satanic powers of evil, and manifesting uncompromising hostility toward them, and their works–Moses in the Old Testament, Christ in the New. Moses, the man who knew God face to face. Christ, the Only Begotten Son of the Father, sent from God to the world of men. Each recognizing the existence of Satan and the evil spirit beings; each drastically dealing with them as entering and possessing men, and each waging war against them, as actively opposed to God.
THE CHURCH IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Taking a perspective view, from the time of Christ on throughout the early history of the Church, up to the giving of the Apocalypse, and the death of the Apostle John, the manifested power of God wrought (in varying degrees) among His people, and the leaders recognized and dealt with the spirits of evil–a period corresponding to the Mosaic period in the old dispensation.
Then the forces of darkness gained, and, with intermittent intervals and exceptions, the Church of Christ sank down under their power, until, in the darkest hour, which we call the Middle Ages, all the sins having their rise through the deceptive workings of the evil spirits of Satan, were as rife as in the time of Moses, when he wrote by the command of God, “There shall not be found with thee . . one that useth divination, or that practiseth augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a wizard, or a necromancer” (Deut. 18: 10-11).
Now, at the close of the dispensation, and on the eve of the millennial age, the true Church of Christ will again arise, and reach God’s purposed power, only when the bleivers recognize, as Moses did in the Old Testament Church, and Christ and His apostles did in the New, the existence of evil spirit powers of darkness, and take towards them and their works, the same uncompromising attitude of hostility, and aggressive warfare.
BELIEVERS EQUIPMENT TO DEAL WITH SATANIC POWERS
Why the Church in the twentieth century has not recognized the existence, and workings, of evil supernatural forces, can only be attributed to its low condition of spiritual life and power. The Church is blinded by the prince of the power of the air to the revelation given in the Scriptures, concerning the Satanic powers.
If Christians recognized the existence of evil spirits, and that the darkness in heathen lands was caused by the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2: 2; 4: 18 ; 1 John 5: 19; 2 Cor. 4: 4), and proclaimed to the heathen the message of deliverance from the evil hosts, they know so well to be real, and malignant, foes; as well as remission of sin, and victory over sin through the atoning sacrifice of Calvary; a vast change would come over the mission field in a few brief years.
The Holy Spirit is already at work, opening the eyes of the people of God, and many of them are beginning to recognize the real existence of Satanic powers, and are seeking to know how to discern their workings, and how to deal with them in the power of God.
The hour of need always brings the corresponding measure of power from God to meet that need. The Christians during the time of Apostles (1) recognized the existence of evil spirits, (2) that they influenced, deceived and possessed men, and (3) that Christ gave His followers authority over them through His Name and it is available for the servants of God at the close of the age as well.
God gives an object lesson, through the Scripture records, showing that the highest points of God’s manifested power among men, is invariably the occasion for concurrent manifestations of the working of Satan. It was so when the Son of God came forth from the wilderness conflict with the prince of darkness, and found the hidden demons in many lives aroused to malignant activity, so that from all parts of Palestine crowds of victims came to the Man, before whom the possessing spirits trembled in impotent rage.
In order to understand the working of the deceiver-prince of this power of the air, and become acute to discern his tactics, and his methods of deceiving men, believers should search the Scriptures thoroughly, to obtain knowledge of his character, and how spirits of evil are able to possess, and use the bodies of men.
THE WORKING OF SATAN AND EVIL SPIRITS
The workings of Satan as prince of demons, and his evil spirits, should specially be noted, so as to understand their methods at the present day; for to many the adversary is merely a tempter, whilst they little dream of his power as a deceiver (Rev. 12: 9), hinderer (1 Thess. 2: 18), murderer (John 8: 44), liar (John 8: 44), accuser (Rev. 12: 10), and a false angel of light; and still less of the hosts of spirits under his command, constantly besetting their path, bent upon deceiving, hindering, and prompting to sin. A vast host wholly given up to wickedness (Matt. 12: 43-45), delighting to do evil, to slay (Mark 5: 2-5), to deceive, to destroy (Mark 9: 20); and having access to men of every grade, prompting them to all kinds of wickedness, and satisfied only when success accompanies their wicked plans to ruin the children of men (Matt. 27: 3-5).
We read of the Lord describing him as the “prince of the world” (John 14: 30); recognizing him as ruling over a kingdom (Matt. 12: 26); using imperative language to him as a person, saying; “Get thee hence”; while to the Jews He describes his character as “sinning from the beginning,” and being a “murderer,” and a “liar,” the “father of lies,” who “abode not in the truth” (John 8: 44) which once he held as a great archangel of God. He is called, also, “that wicked one” (1 John 3: 12, A.V.), the “Adversary,” and that “old serpent” (Rev. 12: 9).
In respect of his method of working, the Lord speaks of him as sowing “tares,” which are “sons of the evil one,” among the wheat–the “sons” of God (Matt. 13: 38, 39); thus revealing the Adversary as possessing the skill of a master mind, directing, with executive ability, his work as “prince of the world,” in the whole inhabited earth, and with power to place the men, who are called his “sons,” wherever he wills.
We read also, of Satan watching to snatch away the seed of the Word of God from all who hear it, this again indicating his executive power in the world- wide direction of his agents, whom the Lord describes as “fowls of the air”; in His own interpretation of the parable (Matt. 13: 3, 4, 13, 19; Mark 4: 3, 4, 14, 15; Luke 8: 5, 11, 12); plainly saying that He meant by these “fowls” the “evil one” (Matt. 13: 19); “Satan” (Mark 4: 15); or “Devil” (Luke 8: 12); whom we know, from the general teaching of other parts of the Scriptures, does his work through the wicked spirits he has at his command; Satan himself not being omnipresent, although able to transpose himself with lightning velocity to any part of his world-wide dominions.
RECOGNITION OF SATAN AT WORK
The Lord was always ready to meet the antagonist whom He had foiled in the wilderness, but who had only left Him “for a season” (Luke 4: 13). In Peter He quickly discerned Satan at work, and exposed him by one swift sentence, mentioning his name (Matt. 16: 23). In the Jews He stripped aside the mask of the hidden foe, and said, “Ye are of your father, the devil” (John 8: 44), and with keen-edged words spoke of him as the “murderer” and the “liar,” prompting them to kill Him, and lying to them about Himself and His Father in heaven (John 8: 40-41).
On the lake in a storm, fast asleep, and awakened suddenly, He is alert to meet the foe, and stands with calm majesty to “rebuke” the storm, which the prince of the power of the air had roused against Him (Mark 4: 38, 39).
In brief, we find the Lord, right on from the wilderness victory, unveiling the powers of darkness, as He went forward in steady aggressive mastery over them. Behind what appeared “natural,” He sometimes discerned a supernatural power which demands His rebuke. He “rebuked” the fever in Peter’s wife’s mother (Luke 4: 39), just as He “rebuked” the evil spirits in other, and more manifest forms, whilst in other instances He simply healed the sufferer by a word.
The difference between Satan’s attitude to the Lord, and that of the spirits of evil, should also be noted. Satan, the prince, tempts Him, seeks to hinder Him, prompts the Pharisees to oppose Him, hides behind a disciple to divert Him, and finally takes hold of a disciple to betray Him, and then sways the multitude to put Him to death; but the spirits of evil bowed down before Him, beseeching Him to “let them alone,” and not to command them to go into the abyss (Luke 8: 31).
The realm of this deceiver-prince is specifically mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his description of him as “prince of the power of the air” (Ephes. 2: 2), the aerial, or “heavenly places,” being the special sphere of the activity of Satan, and his hierarchy of powers. The name Beelzebub, the prince of the demons, meaning the “god of flies,” suggestively speaks of the aerial character of the powers of the air, as well as the word “darkness,” describing their character, and their doings. The Lord’s description of Satan’s working through “fowls of the air” strikingly corresponds to these other statements, together with John’s language about the “whole world lying in the evil one” (1 John 5: 19); the “air” being the place of the workings of these aerial spirits, the very atmosphere in which the whole human race moves, said to be “in the evil one.”
EVIL SPIRITS IN THE GOSPEL RECORDS
The gospel record shows that wherever the Lord moved, the emissaries of Satan sprang into active manifestation in the bodies, and minds, of those they indwelt; and that the ministry of Christ and His apostles was directed actively against them, so that again and again the record reads, “He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons” (Mark 1: 39); He “cast out many demons, and He suffered not the demons to speak, because they knew Him” (Mark 1: 34); “Unclean spirits, whensoever they beheld Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God” (Mark 3: 11). Then came the sending out of the twelve chosen disciples, when the spirits of evil again are taken into account, for “He gave them authority over unclean spirits” (Mark 6: 7). Later He appointed seventy other messengers, and as they went forward in their work, they, too, found the demons subject to them through His Name (Luke 10: 17).
Were Jerusalem, Capernaum, Galilee, and all Syria, then filled with people who were “insane” and “epileptic”? Or was the truth of evil spirit possession of people a common fact? In any case it is evident from the gospel records, that the Son of God dealt with the powers of darkness as the active, primary cause of the sin, and suffering of this world, and that the aggressive part of His, and His disciples’ ministry, was directed persistently against them.
We find, too, that the Lord clearly recognized the devil behind the opposition of the Pharisees (John 8: 44), and the “hour and power of darkness” (Luke 22: 53) behind His persecutors at Calvary. He said that His mission was to “proclaim liberty to the captives” (Luke 4: 18), and who the captor was He revealed on the eve of Calvary, when He said, “Now is the judgment of this world, now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12: 31); and later on that this “prince” would once more come to Him, but would find nothing in Him as ground for his power (John 14: 30).
CHRIST ALWAYS DEALING WITH THE INVISIBLE ENEMIES
It is striking to find that the Lord did not attempt to convince the Pharisees of His claims as the Messiah, nor take the opportunity of winning the Jews, by yielding to their desires for an earthly king. His one work in this world was manifestly to conquer the Satanic prince of the world by the death of the Cross (Heb. 2: 14); to deliver his captives from his control, and to deal with the invisible hosts of the prince of darkness working at the back of mankind (See 1 John 3: 8).
On the one hand Jesus Christ dealt with the deceiver of the world, and bound the “strong man,” whilst on the other He taught the truth about God to the people, to destroy the lies which the prince of darkness had placed in their minds (2 Cor. 4: 4) about His Father and Himself.
The commission He gave to the twelve, and to the seventy, was exactly in line with His own. He sent them forth, and “gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to preach the gospel” (Matt. 10: 1); to “first bind the strong man” (Mark 3: 27), and then to take his goods; to deal with the invisible hosts of Satan first, and then “preach the gospel.”
They know that things were done to them by spirit beings, and that those things were evil; therefore they recognize that there are spirit beings who do evil, and know that the symptoms, effects and manifestations of demoniacal possession have active, personal agencies behind them. From experience they know that they are hindered by spirit beings, and therefore know that these things are done by evil spirits who are hinderers. Therefore, reasoning from experimental facts, as well as the testimony of Scripture, they know that these evil spirits are murderers, tempters, liars, accusers, counterfeiters, enemies, haters, and wicked beyond all the power of man to know.
The names of these evil spirits describe their characters, for they are called “foul,” “lying,” “unclean,” “evil,” and “deceiving” spirits, as they are wholly given up to every manner of wickedness, and deception, and lying works.
CHARACTESTICS OF EVIL SPIRITS
What the characteristics of these wicked spirits are, and how they are able to dwell in the bodies and minds of human beings, will be seen by a careful examination of the specific cases mentioned in the Gospels; as well as their power to interfere with, mislead, and deceive, even servants of God, from references to them in other portions of the Word of God.
Evil spirits are generally looked upon as “influences,” and not as intelligent beings, but their personality and entity, and difference in character as distinct intelligences, will be seen in the Lord’s direct commands to them (Mark 1: 25; 5: 8; 3: 11, 12; 9: 25); their power of speech (Mark 3: 11); their replies to Him, couched in intelligent language (Matt. 8: 29); their sensibilities of fear (Luke 8: 31); their definite expression of desire (Matt. 8: 31); their need of a dwelling place of rest (Matt. 12: 43); their intelligent power of decision (Matt. 12: 44); their power of agreement with other spirits; their degrees of wickedness (Matt. 12: 45); their power of rage (Matt. 8: 28); their strength (Mark 5: 4); their ability to possess a human being, either as one (Mark 1: 26) or in a thousand (Mark 5: 9); their use of a human being as their medium for “divining,” or foretelling the future (Acts 16: 16); or as a great miracle worker by their power (Acts 8: 11).
THE RAGE AND WICKEDNESS OF EVIL SPIRITS
When evil spirits act in a rage, they act as a combination of the maddest and most wicked persons in existence, but all their evil is done with fullest intelligence, and purpose. They know what they do, they know it is evil, terribly evil, and they will to do it. They do it with rage, and with the full swing of malice, enmity and hatred. They act with fury and bestiality, like an enraged bull, as if they had no intelligence, and yet with fun intelligence they carry on their work, showing the wickedness of their wickedness. They act from an absolutely depraved nature, with diabolical fury, and with an undeviating perseverance. They act with determination, persistency, and with skilful methods, forcing themselves upon mankind, upon the Church, and still more upon the spiritual man.
MANIFESTATION OF EVIL SPIRITS THROUGH PERSONS
Their manifestations through the persons in whom they obtain footing, are varied in character, according to the degree and kind of ground they secure for possession. In one Biblical case the only manifestation of the evil spirit’s presence was dumbness (Matt. 9: 32); the spirit possibly locating in the vocal organs; in another, the person held by the spirit was “deaf and dumb” (Mark 9: 25), and the symptoms included foaming at the mouth, grinding the teeth–all connected with the head–but the hold of the spirit was of such long standing (v. 21) that he could throw his victim down, and convulse the whole body (Mark 9: 20-22).
In other cases we find merely an “unclean spirit” in a man in a “synagogue,” probably so hidden that none would know the man was thus possessed, until the spirit cried out with fear when he saw Christ, saying, “Art Thou come to destroy us?” (Mark 1: 24); or a “spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13: 11) in a woman of whom it might be said that she simply required “healing” of some disease, or that she was always tired, and only needed “rest,” as some would say in the language of the twentieth century.
Again, we find a very advanced case in the man with the “legion,” showing that the evil spirits’ possession reached such a climax, as to make the person appear insane; for his own personality was so mastered by the malignant spirits in possession, as to cause him to lose all sense of decency, and self-control in the presence of others (Luke 8: 27). The unity of purpose in the spirits of evil to carry out the will of their prince is especially shown in this case, as with one accord they besought to be allowed to enter the swine, and with one accord they rushed the whole herd into the sea.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF EVIL SPIRITS
From all this we learn that there is one Satan, one devil, one prince of the demons, directing all the opposition to Christ and His people; but myriads of wicked spirits called “demons,” lying spirits, deceiving spirits, foul spirits, unclean spirits, subjectively at work in men. Spiritists, to-day, are deceived, in so far as they really believe they are communicating with the spirits of the dead; for it is easy for spirits of evil to impersonate any of the dead, even the most devoted and saintly Christians. They have watched them (Acts 19: 15) all their lives, and can easily counterfeit their voices, or say anything about them, and their actions when on earth.
A “spirit of divination,” deceiving spirits can use “palmists,” and “fortune tellers,” to deceive; for in their work of watching human beings, they inspire the mediums to foretell, not what they know about the future–for God alone has this knowledge–but things which they themselves intend to do; and if they can get the person, to whom these things are told, to co-operate with them, by accepting, or believing, their “fore-telling,” they try eventually to bring them about; e.g., the medium says such and such a thing will happen, the person believes it, and by believing, opens himself, or herself, to the evil spirit, to bring that thing to pass; or else admits the spirit, or gives free opportunity to one already in possession, to bring about the thing foretold. They cannot always succeed, and this is the reason why there is so much uncertainty about the response through mediums, because many things may hinder the workings of the evil spirit beings, particularly the prayers of friends, or intercessors in the Christian Church.
These are some of the “deep things of Satan” (Rev. 2: 24) mentioned by the Lord in His message to Thyatira, manifestly referring to far more subtle workings among the Christians of that time, than all that the Apostles had seen in the cases recorded in the gospels. “The mystery of lawlessness doth already work,” wrote the Apostle Paul (2 Thess. 2: 7), showing that the deep laid schemes of deception through “doctrines” (1 Tim. 4: 1), foretold as reaching their full culmination in the last days, were already at work in the Church of God. Evil spirits are at work to-day, inside as well as outside the Church, and “spiritualism,” in its meaning of dealing with evil spirits, may be found inside the Church, and among the most spiritual believers, apart from its true name. Christian men think they are free from spiritism because they have never been to a seance, not knowing that evil spirits attack, and deceive every human being, and they do not confine their working to the Church, or the world, but wherever they can find conditions fulfilled to enable them to manifest their power.
THE POWER OF EVIL SPIRITS OVER HUMAN BODIES
The control of the spirits over the bodies of those they possess is seen in the gospel cases. The man with the legion was not master over his own body or mind. The spirits would “seize him,” “drive him” (Luke 8: 29), compel him to cut himself with stones (Mark 5: 5), strengthen him to burst every fetter and chain (v. 4), “cry out” aloud (v. 5), and fiercely attack others (Matt. 8: 28). The boy with the dumb spirit would be dashed to the ground (Luke 9: 42), and convulsed; the spirit forced him to cry out, and tore him, so that the body became bruised and sore (v. 39). Teeth, tongue, vocal organs, ears, eyes, nerves, muscles and breath, are seen to be affected and interfered with, by evil spirits in possession. Weakness and strength are both produced by their working, and men (Mark 1: 23), women (Luke 8: 2), boys (Mark 9: 17), and girls (Mark 7: 25), are equally open to their power.
THE EXORCISM OF EVIL SPIRITS CONTRASTED WITH CHRIST’S POWER OF WORD
How striking to contrast all this with the calm authority of Christ, who needed no adjuration, or methods of exorcism, and no prolonged preparation of Himself prior to dealing with a spirit-possessed man. “He cast out the spirits by a word,” “With authority and power He commandeth, and they obey Him,” was the wondering testimony of the awe-struck people; and the testimony, too, of the seventy sent forth by Him to use the authority of His Name, as they found the spirits subject to them, even as they were to their Lord (Luke 10: 17-20).
“‘They’ obey Him,” said the people. “They”–the evil spirits whom the people knew to be real identities governed by Beelzebub, their prince (Matt. 12: 24- 27). The complete mastery of the Lord over the demons, compelled the leaders to find some way of explaining His authority over them, and so by that subtle influence of Satan–with which all who have had insight into his devices are familiar–they suddenly charge the Lord with having Satanic power Himself, by saying “He casteth out demons through Beelzebub, the prince of the demons,” suggesting that Christ’s authority over evil spirits was derived from their chief and prince.
The reference to the kingdom of Satan, and his kingship was left uncontradicted by the Lord, who simply declared the truth in the face of Satan’s lie, that He cast out demons “by the finger of God,” and that Satan’s kingdom would soon fall were he to act against himself, and dislodge his emissaries from their place of retreat in human bodies, where alone they can achieve their greatest power, and do the greatest harm among men. That Satan does apparently fight against himself is true, but when he does so, it is with the purpose of covering some scheme for greater advantage to his kingdom.
THE AUTHORITY OVER EVIL SPIRITS BY THE APOSTLES AFTER PENTECOST
That the Apostles after Pentecost recognized and dealt with the denizens of the invisible world, is evident from the records of the Acts of the Apostles, and other references in the Epistles. The disciples were prepared for Pentecost, and the opening of the supernatural world through the coming of the Holy Spirit, by their three years’ training by the Lord. They had watched Him deal with the wicked spirits of Satan, and had themselves learned to deal with them, too, so that the power of the Holy Spirit could safely be given at Pentecost to men who already knew the workings of the foe. We see how quickly Peter recognized Satan’s work in Ananias (Acts 5: 3), and how “unclean spirits” came out at his presence, as they did with his Lord (Acts 5: 16). Philip, too, found the evil hosts subservient (Acts 8: 7) to the word of his testimony, as he proclaimed Christ to the people, and Paul knew, also, the power of the Name of the Risen Lord (Acts 19: 11) in dealing with the powers of evil.
It is therefore clear in Bible history that the manifestation of the power of God invariably meant aggressive dealing with the Satanic hosts; that the manifestation of the power of God at Pentecost, and through the Apostles, meant again an aggressive attitude to the powers of darkness; and, therefore, that the growth and maturity of the Church of Christ at the end of the dispensation, will mean the same recognition, and the same attitude toward the Satanic hosts of the prince of the power of the air; with the same co-witness of the Holy Spirit to the authority of the Name of Jesus, as in the early Church. In brief, that the Church of Christ will reach its high water mark, when it is able to recognize and deal with demon-possession; when it knows how to “bind the strong man” by prayer; “command” the spirits of evil in the Name of Christ, and deliver men and women from their power.
BELIEVERS MUST RECOGNIZE THE POWERS OF DARKNESS
For this the Christian Church must recognize that the existence of deceiving, lying spirits, is as real in the twentieth century as in the time of Christ, and their attitude to the human race unchanged. That their only ceaseless aim is to deceive every human being. That they are given up to wickedness all day long, and night long, and that they are ceaselessly, and actively pouring a stream of wickedness into the world, and are satisfied only when they succeed in their wicked plans to deceive, and ruin men.
Yet the servants of God have been concerned only to destroy their works; and to deal with sin; not recognizing the need of using the power given by Christ, to resist by faith and prayer, and prayer and faith, this ever- flowing flood of Satanic power pouring in among men; so that men and women, young and old, and even Christian and non-Christian, become deceived and possessed through their guile, and because of ignorance about them, and their wiles.
These supernatural forces of Satan are the true hindrance to revival. The power of God which breaks out in different occasions, with all the marks of the days of Pentecost, are checked and hindered from going on to its fullest purpose, by the same influx of evil spirits as met the Lord Christ on earth, and the Apostles of the early Church; with the difference that the inroad of the powers of darkness found the Christians of the twentieth century, with few exceptions, unable to recognize, and deal with them. Evil spirit possession has followed, and checked every single revival throughout the centuries since Pentecost, and these things must now be understood, and dealt with, if the Church is to advance to maturity. Understood, not only in the degree of possession recorded in the gospels, but in the special forms of manifestations suited to the close of the dispensation, under the guise of the Holy Spirit, yet having some of the very characteristic marks in bodily symptoms, seen in the gospel records, when all who saw the manifestation knew that it was the work of the spirits of Satan.
DECEPTION BY EVIL SPIRITS IN MODERN TIMES
In the special onslaught of the deceiver, which will come upon the whole of the true Church of Christ at the close of the age, through the army of deceiving spirits, there are some more than others who are specially attacked by the powers of darkness, who need light upon his deceptive workings, so that they may pass through the trial of the Last Hour, and be counted worthy to escape that hour of greater trial, which is coming upon the earth (Luke 21: 34-36; Rev. 3: 10).
For among those who are members of the Body of Christ, there are degrees of growth, and therefore degrees of testing, permitted by God, Who provides a way of escape for him who knows his need, and, by watching unto prayer, takes heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10: 12, 13). He is the Sovereign Lord of the Universe and has set a limit for Satan with every redeemed believer (see Job 1: 12; 2: 6; Luke 22: 31). Some of the members of Christ are yet in the stage of babyhood, and others do not even know the initial reception of the Holy Spirit. To such this article has not much to say, as they are among the weaker ones who need the “milk of the Word.”
But there are others, who may be described as the advance guard of the Church of Christ, who have been baptized with the Holy Ghost, or who are seeking that Baptism; honest and earnest believers, who sigh and cry over the powerlessness of the true Church of Christ, and who grieve that her witness is so ineffective; that Spiritism, Christian Science and New Age, and other “isms,” are sweeping thousands into their deceptive errors, little thinking, that, as they themselves go forward into the spiritual realm, the deceiver, who has misled others, has special wiles prepared for them, so that he might render ineffective their aggressive power against him. These are the ones who are in danger of the special deception of the counterfeit “Christs,” and false prophets, and the dazzling lure of “signs and wonders,” and “fire out of heaven,” planned to meet their longing for the mighty interposition of God in the darkness settling upon the earth, but who do not recognize that such workings of the spirits of evil are possible, and so are unprepared to meet them.
These are the ones, also, who are recklessly ready to follow the Lord at any cost, and yet do not realize their unpreparedness for contest with the spiritual powers of the unseen world, as they press on into fuller spiritual things. Believers who are full of mental conceptions wrought into them in earlier years, which hinder the Spirit of God from preparing them for all they will meet as they press on to their coveted goal; conceptions which also hinder others from giving them, out of the Scriptures, much that they need to know of the spiritual world into which they are so blindly advancing. Conceptions which lull them into a false security, and give ground for, and even bring about, that very deception which enables the deceiver to find them an easy prey.
CAN “HONEST SOULS” BE DECEIVED?
One prevailing idea, which such believers have deeply embedded in their minds, is that “honest seekers after God” will not be allowed to be deceived. That this is one of Satan’s lies, to lure such seekers into a false position of safety, is proved by the history of the Church during the past two thousand years, for every “wile of error” which has borne sad fruit throughout this period, first laid hold of devoted believers who were “honest souls.” The errors among groups of such believers, some well known to the present generation, all began among “honest” children of God, baptized with the Holy Ghost; and all so sure that, knowing the side-tracking of others before them, they would never be caught by the wiles of Satan. Yet they, too, have been deceived by lying spirits, counterfeiting the workings of God in the higher ranges of the spiritual life.
Among such devoted believers, lying spirits have worked on their determination literally to obey the Scriptures, and by misuse of the letter of the written Word, have pushed them into phases of unbalanced truth, with resulting erroneous practices. Many who have suffered for their adherence to these “Biblical commands,” firmly believe that they are martyrs suffering for Christ. The world calls these devoted ones “cranks,” and “fanatics,” yet they give evidence of highest devotion and love to the Person of the Lord, and could be delivered, if they but understood why the powers of darkness deceived them, and the way of freedom from their power.
The aftermath of many Revivals, which was a true work of God, revealed numbers of “honest souls” swept off their feet by evil supernatural powers, which they were not able to discern from the true working of God. And there have been other “movements,” with large numbers of earnest servants of God swept into deception, through the wiles of deceiving spirits counterfeiting the workings of God; all “honest souls,” deceived by the subtle foe, and certain to be led on into still deeper deception, notwithstanding their honesty and earnestness, if they are not awakened to “return to soberness” and recovery out of the snare of the devil into which they have fallen (2 Tim. 2: 26).
FAITHFULNESS TO LIGHT NOT SUFFICIENT SAFEGUARD AGAINST DECEPTION
The children of God need to know that to be true in motive, and faithful up to light, is not sufficient safeguard against deception; and that it is not safe for them to rely upon their “honesty of purpose” as guaranteeing protection from the enemy’s wiles, instead of taking heed to the warnings of God’s Word, and watching unto prayer. If not they can be deceived by Satan, and his deceiving spirits, for the following reasons:–
(a) When a man becomes a child of God, by the regenerating power of the Spirit, giving him new life as he trusts in the atoning work of Christ, he does not at the same time receive fullness of knowledge, either of God, himself, or the devil.
(b) The mind which by nature is darkened (Eph. 4: 18), and under a veil created by Satan (2 Cor. 4: 4) is only renewed, and the veil destroyed, up to the extent that the light of truth penetrates it, and according to the measure in which the man is able to apprehend it.
(c) “Deception” has to do with the mind, and it means a wrong thought admitted to the mind, under the deception that it is truth. Since “deception” is based on ignorance, and not on the moral character; a Christian who is “true” and “faithful” up to the knowledge he has, must be open to deception in the sphere where he is ignorant of the “devices” of the devil (2 Cor. 2: 11), and what he is able to do. A “true” and “faithful” Christian is liable to be “deceived” by the devil because of his ignorance.
(d) The thought that God will protect a believer from being deceived if he is true and faithful, is in itself a “deception,” because it throws a man off guard, and ignores the fact that there are conditions on the part of the believer which have to be fulfilled for God’s working. God does not do anything instead of a man, but by the man’s co-operation with Him; neither does He undertake to make up for a man’s ignorance, when He has provided knowledge for him which will prevent him being deceived.
(e) Christ would not have warned His disciples “Take heed… be not deceived” if there had been no danger of deception, or if God had undertaken to keep them from deception apart from their “taking heed,” and their knowledge of such danger.
The knowledge that it is possible to be deceived, keeps the mind open to truth, and light from God; and is one of the primary conditions for the keeping power of God; whereas a closed mind to light and truth, is a certain guarantee of deception by Satan at his earliest opportunity.
MISTAKEN CONCEPTIONS CONCERNING “WAITING FOR THE SPIRIT”
The Scriptural truth concerning waiting for the Spirit” may be summed up as follows: The disciples waited ten days, in simple prayer, and supplication, until the fullness of time had come for the fulfillment of the promise of the Father. The command to wait, given by the Lord (Acts 1: 4) was not carried forward into the Christian dispensation after the Holy Ghost had come, for in no single instance, either in the Acts or in the Epistles, do the Apostles bid the disciples “tarry” for the gift of the Holy Spirit, but they use the word “receive” in every instance (Acts 19: 2).
But we find expressions and theories misleading, and opening the door to Satanic deceptions. “If we want a Pentecostal manifestation of the Spirit, we must ‘tarry’ as did the disciples before Pentecost” (Luke 24: 49, and Acts 1: 4). We have had to search the Scriptures once more, to discover that the Old Testament word of “wait on the Lord” so often used in the Psalms, has been strained beyond the New Testament proportion of truth, and exaggerated into a “waiting on God” for the outpouring of the Spirit, which has even gone beyond the “ten days” which preceded Pentecost, into four months, and even four years, and which, has ended in an influx of deceiving spirits which has rudely awakened some of the waiting souls.
The Risen Lord poured forth the Spirit again and again after the day of Pentecost, but in each instance it was without “tarrying” as the disciples did at the first (Acts. 4: 31). The Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father through the Son to His people, is now among them, waiting to give Himself unceasingly to all who will appropriate, and receive Him (John 15: 26 ; Acts 2: 33, 38, 39). So “waiting for the Spirit” therefore is not in accord with the general tenor of the truth given in the Acts and the Epistles, which show rather the imperative call to the believer to put in his claim, not only to his identification with the Lord Jesus in His death, and union in life with Him in His resurrection, but also to the enduement for witnessing, which came to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost.
WHY WAITING MEETINGS ARE PROFITABLE TO EVIL SPIRITS
Why “waiting meetings”–that is, “waiting for the Spirit” until He descends in some manifested way–have been so profitable to deceiving spirits, is because they are not in accord with the written Word, where it is set forth that (1) The Holy Spirit is not to be prayed to, or asked to come, as He is the Gift of Another (Luke 11: 13; John 14: 16). (2) The Holy Spirit is not to be “waited for”, but to be taken, or received from the hand of the Risen Lord (John 20: 22; Eph. 5: 18); of whom it is written, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Matt. 3: 11). Hence waiting meetings are out of line with the truth of the Scriptures, therefore prayer to the Spirit, “trust in the Spirit,” “obeying the Spirit,” “expecting the Spirit” to descend, may all become prayer, trust, and obedience to evil spirits, as they counterfeit the working of God.
THE BAPTISM OF THE HOLY GHOST
As we glance back over the history of the Church, and watch the rise of various “heresies” or delusions, we can trace the period of deception as beginning with some great spiritual crisis, such as that which, in later years, we have termed “the Baptism of the Holy Ghost”; a crisis in which the man is brought to give himself up, in full abandonment to the Holy Spirit, and in so doing thus opens himself to the supernatural powers of the invisible world.
The reason for the peril of this crisis, is, that up to this time, the believer used his reasoning faculties in judging right and wrong, and obeyed, what he believed to be the will of God from principle; but now, in his abandonment to the Holy Spirit, he begins to obey an unseen Person, and to submit his faculties, and his reasoning powers in blind obedience to that which he believes is of God. It is a crisis in the life of a Christian, which none but those who have gone through it in experience can fully under stand. It means that the Spirit of God becomes so real to the man, that his supreme object in life is henceforth implicit “obedience to the Holy Ghost.”
The will is surrendered to carry out the Will of God at all costs, and the whole being is made subject to the powers of the unseen world; the believer, of course, purposing that it shall only be to the power of God, not taking into account that there are other powers in the spiritual realm, and that all that is “supernatural” is not all of God; and not realizing that this absolute surrender of the whole being to invisible forces, without knowing how to discern between the contrary powers of God and Satan, must be of the gravest risk to the believer.
The Baptism of the Spirit, however, so brings the Holy Spirit as a Person into the range of the believer’s consciousness, that for the time being, the other Persons of the Trinity, in heaven, may be eclipsed. The Holy Spirit becomes the centre and object of thought and worship, and is given a place which He Himself does not desire, and which it is not the purpose of the Father in heaven, that He should have, or occupy.
The question whether this surrender to “obey the Spirit, ” is one that is in accord with Scripture, should be examined in view of the way in which so many wholehearted believers have been misled, for it is strange that an attitude which is Scriptural should be so grievously the cause of danger, and often complete wreckage, to many devoted children of God.
IS THE PHRASE OBEYING “THE SPIRIT” SCRIPTURAL?
“The Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that obey Him,” is the principal phrase giving rise to the expression, “obey the Spirit.” It was used by Peter before the Council at Jerusalem, but nowhere else in the Scriptures is the same thought given. The whole passage needs reading carefully to reach a clear conclusion. “We must obey God” (Acts 5: 29), Peter said to the Sanhedrin, for “we are witnesses… and so is the Holy Ghost Whom God hath given to them that obey Him” (v. 32). Does the Apostle mean “obey the Spirit,” or “obey God,” according to the first words of the passage?
The distinction is important, and the setting of the words can only be rightly understood by the teaching of other parts of Scripture, that the Triune God in Heaven is to be obeyed, through the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. For to place the Holy Ghost as the object of obedience, rather than God the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit, creates the danger of leading the believer to rely upon, or obey, a “Spirit” in, or around him, rather than God on the throne in heaven, Who is to be obeyed by the child of God united to His Son; the Holy Spirit being the media, or means, through Whom God is worshipped, and obeyed.
THE TRUE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE BELIEVER
“He shall not speak from Himself” (John 16: 13), said the Lord before Calvary, as He told of His coming at Pentecost. He should act as Teacher (John 14: 26), but teaching the words of Another, not His own; He should bear witness to Another, not to Himself (John 15: 26); He should glorify Another, not Himself (John 16: 14); He should only speak what was given Him to speak by Another (John 16: 13); in brief, His entire work would be to lead souls into union with the Son, and knowledge of the Father in heaven whilst He Himself directed, and worked in the background.
But the opening of the spiritual world, which takes place through the filling of the Spirit; and the work of the Spirit, which now occupies the attention of the believer, is just the opportunity for the arch-deceiver to commence his wiles under a new form. If the man is untaught in the Scriptural statements of the work of the Triune God, to “obey the Spirit” is now his supreme purpose; and to counterfeit the guidance of the Spirit, and the Spirit Himself, is now the deceiver’s scheme; for he must somehow regain power over this servant of God, so as to render him useless for aggressive warfare against the forces of darkness, drive him back into the world, or in some way side-track him from active service for God.