Spiritual Warfare (Binding and Loosing)
The book of Ephesians is looking first at our position in Christ, then our walk and finally our warfare. (Sit, Walk, Stand)
Let us first look at our position.
We are seated in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. How can this be? First, because God says it we believe it. We are there by faith. But not only that, we are there because Christ is there and we are in Christ. Our spirit is one with the Holy Spirit. We are joined to the Spirit of Christ and therefore where He is, we are, and where we are, He is.
Because we are in Christ we were crucified with Him. Romans 6 v 3-6 tells us that by baptism we are identified or united with Christ in His death and resurrection. That is, our “old man” has died and been buried with Him and we are raised up a new creation in Christ Jesus.
Because we were crucified with Christ we consider ourselves dead to sin.
Because we are united with Christ in resurrection we are also seated with Him in the heavenlies.
If by faith we accept this position then we will be at peace in our circumstances because everything is under us. Christ has overcome, we have overcome in Him. Our victory is maintained by faith.
When Jesus commenced His ministry His first major step was water baptism.
John the Baptist was baptising in the Jordan when Jesus came to be baptised. John said, “no, I have need to be baptised of you”, but Jesus said, “yes, it must be so for we must fulfil all righteousness”.
This reminds me of the consecration of the priest before they started their ministry. (Exodus 29 v 4, Leviticus 8 v 6.)
During the ministry of the priest they had to continually wash their hands and feet (Exodus 30 v 21) that they die not. This signifies being continually cleansed by the word of God (Ephesians 5 v 26, John 17 v 17). When Christians minister they need continually washing in the word of God. The enemy will attack and in order that we ‘die not’ we need to rightly use the word of God which is the sword of the Spirit. (“The soul that sinneth it shall die” [Ezekiel 18 v 4] , “the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6 v 23], “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee” [Psalm 119 v 11], “You are clean through the word which I have spoken to you” [John 15 v 3]).
However before the priest even started their ministry they had to be consecrated unto the Lord. This was done by someone else washing them with water (Exodus 29 v 4) clothing them and anointing them with oil.
When Jesus started His ministry He too had to be consecrated by the baptism of John. When he came out of the water the Holy Spirit came upon Him and a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I have found my delight.”
Jesus was led from Jordan into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil for 40 days after which he came in the power of the Spirit into Galilee.
Peter says that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him (Acts 10 v 38).
1 John 3 v 8 tells us that Jesus was manifested to destroy the works of the devil.
Ephesians 1 v 20-23 tells us that now Jesus is set down at God’s right hand in the heavenlies. Above every principality, and authority, and power, and dominion and every name named, not only in this age, but also in that to come. God has put all things under Christ’s feet and gave him to be head over all things to the assembly, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Philippians 2 v 6-11, Hebrews 1 v 3-4 say the same thing.
Ephesians 2 v 5-6 tells us that God has quickened us together with Christ, raised us up together, and has made us sit down together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus.
We are seated, in Christ, in the heavenlies above all principalities and powers.
However Paul also says in Ephesians 6 v 12 that our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against universal lords of this darkness against spiritual wickedness in high places. So although we are seated in the heavenlies we also have a warfare to fight here on earth.
There is a hierarchy of spiritual powers that include, principalities, dominions, dignities, authorities, powers, and lordships.
That is not to say that all principalities etc are evil, some are, some are not.
What then are the principalities, dominions, powers and dignities?
We are talking here about spiritual beings in the heavenlies. An angelic order; where the princes are first rulers. These can be holy angels who worship God, or fallen angels who follow Satan.
The arch angel Michael is a prince amongst the princes, a chief prince; he is the prince over Israel. The bible also mentions the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece. Satan is the prince of this world and the prince of the demons.
Dominions! What are dominions? According to W. E. Vine, where this word is used in Ephesians and Colossians it indicates a grade in the angelic orders, in which it stands second.
William Mounce and Kenneth Wuest see the “powers and authorities” in this passage as demons.
Demons are low ranking spirits and do the work of Satan. They desire to live in a body so they possess people when they can. Angels are spirits but can manifest themselves in a human form (they can still possess someone if required because they are spirit). The demons are also called unclean spirits or evil spirits. When confronted by Jesus they were afraid of being sent to the bottomless pit where other demons are locked up. Satan didn’t express this fear. Demons are the “power” or “works” of Satan that Jesus gave the disciples authority over. We see something of what they look like in Revelation 9 v 1-11, Revelation 16 v 13-14. Their job is to torment people.
Demons possess people and also oppress people. They are the powers of the air and can cause violent storms but also they work on the earth tormenting people. They harass Christians in order to cause stress, anxiety and depression, and they are often the instigators of disease. They work against the Church to cause division and bring into the Church their own doctrine to deceive the Church and cause apostasy.
Our adversary, Satan who is the devil and the prince of this world, goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He is also the slanderer of God’s people, tempting them and accusing them day and night. We must also be aware that he also acts like an angel of light seeking if possible to deceive the very elect.
Satan is the prince of the power of the air and as such reigns over the lower atmosphere. He is the god of this world who has a throne and demands worship from the people in bondage to him.
Although Satan is free to roam the earth at the present time, one day soon he will be chained in the bottomless pit for a thousand years. It is during this time when the strong man is chained that we are able to spoil his goods. We will then loose those who have been bound with sickness and disease by Satan. Although Satan is very active today he is restricted to what he can do because of the death of Christ on the cross. His problem is those people who put their confidence in Christ. His aim is to deceive them, condemn them and undermine their faith in the finished work of Christ and all it means.
Not all fallen angels have freedom to roam about, some are chained in Tartarus, at least one is in the bottomless pit with the demons.
Now remember, to be involved in spiritual warfare, we must learn to sit then walk and then stand against the wiles of the devil. Appropriating all that this means.
We have been looking at the angel structure of rank. Basically it is princes followed by lower angels and then demons. Demons are unclean evil spirits (Rev chapter 9, Rev 16 v 13-14). Each country will have a ruling prince with angels and demons to do his work. Different places may manifest different aspects of their abilities. (Egypt with magical arts, Babylon with enchantments and Pytho, an ancient place in Greece, with divination (Acts 16 v 16), America displays licentiousness, other countries manifest religious bondage.
Spiritual warfare in the heavenlies is by God working through His angels. The heavens are the sphere of angelic warfare.
In spiritual warfare on the earth, where people are bound by demons, God works through His people. We are all called to warfare before we can inherit our inheritance (Numbers 32 v 32).
Man’s domain is the earth. The bible say’s that the heavens are the Lords but the earth He has given to man (Psalm 115 v 16).
Satan is the prince of the power of the air, which is the lower atmosphere, the air that we breath; the first heaven.
God sits in the third heaven.
The mid heaven is where the angels hold dominance.
Now our problem is that Adam submitted himself to Satan, so that now Satan rules this earth through man. This does not mean that he possesses everyone who is not saved but that they are under his control to do his works (Ephesians 2 v 2).
However all through history God has kept a remnant of people for Himself, Seth, Noah, Abraham, The children of Israel, and of course Christians, those who are in Christ. These are God’s people who Satan hates. He cannot touch them unless he can temp them to sin in disobedience to God, which is what Balaam caused the Israelites to do in order to get them destroyed (Numbers 31 v 16), or can temp them to start fighting him in his territory which is the lower heaven. God has given us the earth, when demons possess or oppress people, then that is our territory. We do not go around casting demons out at random because all they do is eventually come back and repossess with more demons, unless of course the person becomes a Christian and has the Holy Spirit living in them.
In the book of Jude and 2 Peter, it mentions dignities, meaning the glorious ones, this relates to the glory, honour and splendour of the angelic beings which commands respect.
Now how do we deal with this aspect of our walk?
Ephesians 2 v 6 says that we are seated with Christ in the heavenlies above all principalities (including Satan and the princes of the power of the air etc). Does this mean then that we have power to bind them and rebuke them?
The bible says that one day future we shall judge them (rule them) which implies that we do not rule over them now (1 Corinthians 6 v 3).
The disciples recognised that Satan was not bound but rather the very opposite being active in opposing them.
Paul recognised that it was possible that the saints by their actions could give Satan an advantage over them (2 Corinthians 2 v 11).
He also recognised Satan’s hand in hindering them (1 Thessalonians 2 v 18).
At other times Paul handed over to Satan backslidden Christians in order to bring them to their senses (1 Corinthians 5 v 5, 1 Tim 1 v 20).
However throughout the Acts and epistles it doesn’t mention binding and rebuking Satan. Nor does it mention binding the princes of the air. They did acknowledge Satan as being very active on the earth.
Jude and Peter warn against false teachers who overstep their power (Jude v 8–10, 2 Peter 2 v 10-12). These false teachers lived in luxury at the expense of those they lead astray with their doctrine. A. T. Robertson says that these false teachers are ‘loud ignoramuses posing as professional experts who shall in their destroying surely be destroyed’. The problem with these men wasn’t that they went around binding Satan but that they felt they had the liberty to say and do what they wanted even against dignities, however the reference in Jude to the arch angel Michael and Satan shows that we must be very careful in how we respond to Satan, don’t jump in where angels fear to tread. We do not bind and rebuke the princes of the power of the air, that is not our territory if we do we give room for the enemy to attack us. We do have a biblical illustration of how Paul dealt with an angel of Satan that was sent to buffet him. We are not told that he confronted the angel and bound or rebuked it but rather three times he besought the Lord to remove it, but God said “my grace is sufficient for thee”. This would seem to be the way we come against the powers of the air by asking God to rebuke them.
In the model prayer given by the Lord we are told to pray, “deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6 v 13). Most commentators see this as ‘the evil one’, however it could also mean ‘evil thing’. The point is that Christ taught us to ask the Father to deliver us from evil rather than telling us to sort the devil out ourselves by binding him.
Now, although the evil angels are greater in might and power than us, they are not allowed to touch us except by permission from God. However they are continually tempting us and harassing us in order to cause us to fall and bring us under their influence that they might oppress us and keep us in bondage to them, making us ineffectual in our walk. We will look later at what our response should be to them.
Jesus said we must first bind the strong man if we want to spoil his goods. What did he mean? How did the disciples deal with the strong man?
First let us recognise that the devil is not bound at the present even though he is restricted in whom he can touch because of Christ’ death on the cross. He is still going round like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5 v 8), he also goes round like an angel of light seeing whom he can deceive, especially in these last days when he is trying, if possible, to deceive the very elect. He will one day be bound for a thousand years when we will spoil his goods.
When Jesus said “whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. What did he mean?
Some say it relates to binding and loosing spirits while others say it is nothing to do with that but rather it is to do with church discipline, such as a brother or sister acting wrongly and being corrected by the church. Some say it is establishing church doctrine such as at the council of Jerusalem. Others say it is preaching the gospel, or not preaching, meaning that we open up the kingdom of heaven as we preach the gospel, still others say it means that Jesus Christ gave to Peter and the church His authority.
The meaning of the Greek word which is translated “whatsoever” shows that it isn’t something definite but covers a wide indefinite area, it is not limited but rather it is limitless. However we still need to be guided by the word of God and we do not read in the bible of the disciples or Jesus binding the bad spirits and loosing good spirits. That does not mean they didn’t do it but we have no example in the bible and no specific teaching to bind bad spirits and loose good spirits.
Perhaps we need to look at more of the statement that Jesus made to Peter when He said that He would build His church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
J. N. Darby says that these words are relating to the character of the power rather than a particular object. Kenneth Wuest says it is the legal authority of a place, a council, which in this case constitute Satan and his demons that desire to bring about the destruction of the church.
It is not talking about gates as objects but the power of the gates. The word ‘hell’ is actually Hades’. Hades’ is a place where the souls of the dead go to, it is equivalent to Sheol in the Old Testament. Before Christ ascension all the dead went to Hades’ where there was a great gulf, on one side was Paradise where the saints were and on the other side were the lost souls (Luke 16 v 23). After Christ death He first descended into the lower parts of the earth (Acts 2 v 27,31) where Hades’ was, went into Paradise and brought out the saints, He then ascended on high and brought captivity captive, in other words all the righteous came out of Hades’ and ascended with Him into heaven (Ephesians 4 v 8-10). Paradise also was relocated in the third heaven. Since that time when the righteous die they go to Him in heaven. The unrighteous still go to Hades to await judgment. Now, the bible says that when death goes round claiming who it can, Hades follows it (Rev 6 v 8). This is, it would seem, in order to take the souls of the dead down into its depths. The good news is that it cannot now claim the church because Christ has the keys of death and Hades’ so Hades’ has no right over the church who now go to heaven when they die. Death and Hades’ will one day be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20 v 14-14) along with all those whose names are not found written in the book of life. So it is not saying we should be assaulting the gates of hell in order to break in and bind all the fallen angels up, but rather that the powers of Hades’ shall not overcome the church.
Let us now go back to see how Jesus dealt with Satan’s works.
Luke 13 v 11-17 tells us that there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together and could in no wise lift up herself. When Jesus saw her He called her to him, and said unto her, “woman you are loosed from your infirmity”. He laid His hands on her and immediately she was made straight and glorified God. The ruler of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath but Jesus said, “ought not this woman being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan have bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
Jesus came to destroy the ‘works’ of Satan, that is, not destroy Satan but his works. 1 John 3 v 8 says that Jesus was manifested that He might destroy the works of the devil. The Greek word that is here translated “destroy” would be better translated “undo”. It is the same word that is translated “loose” in other passages (whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven). Jesus Christ came to loose men and women from the bondage of Satan and that is also what we should be doing (“as the Father has sent me so send I you”). However to do this Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power (Acts 10 v 38).
So Jesus came to loose people and set them free from the works of Satan. It is the demons that perform Satan’s works.
Jesus said to His disciples, “I give you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and nothing shall by any means hurt you”. These spiritual powers are the demons that Satan sends to perform his works.
But before Jesus could undo the works of Satan He must “first bind the strong man”.
Let us look at how Jesus did it.
Remember when He came out of the Jordan after being baptised, the Holy Spirit came upon Him after which He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
When we are baptised in the Spirit it is so wonderful that we are on cloud nine for a time. However it is not too long before the enemy comes with powerful temptations in order for us to fall and become powerless in our witnessing.
Jesus however was victorious and overcame Satan at every temptation. He was without sin. He later was able to say that the ruler of this world cometh and has nothing in Him.
Does this mean to say that we have got to be sinless now or we will be ineffective in our work?
No, but what it does mean is that we have to walk in the light as He is in the light and be kept clean by the blood of Jesus. The minute we fall we must confess it to God and He will forgive us and cleanse us (I John 1 v 7-9). This has to be our walk for us to stay clean. This does not mean to say we shouldn’t resist and overcome temptation; we should, until the temptation is no longer a temptation. We need to remember that although the enemy might flee for now he will come back and stir it all up again, so we must stand firm always.
Before Jesus started His ministry He had to first bind the strong man, it was only then that He could spoil his goods.
The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for the great confrontation with Satan. It was here, in the wilderness, that Jesus bound Satan by resisting his temptations. Because Jesus did not submit to Satan then Satan had no control over Him, Satan was bound.
Matthew 12 v 29 says, “How can anyone enter into the house of the strong man and spoil his goods, unless he first bind the strong man? And then he will plunder his house”.
Quoting the same incident, Luke says, “When the strong man armed keeps his own house his goods are in peace; but when the stronger than he coming upon him overcomes him, he takes away his armour in which he trusted, and he will divide the spoil he has taken from him” (Luke 11 v 21-22). Luke replaced the word ‘bind’ with ‘overcome’.
So we can see that in spiritual warfare binding is overcoming, and loosing is undoing those who are bound by the enemy.
We bind the strong man by overcoming him when he temps us, then we can heal the sick and cast out demons.
We overcome by resisting him with the word of God, or pleading the blood when we fall (we plead the blood against the accusations of the devil, we may have sinned but Christ is the propitiation for our sins and His blood cleanses us from all sin).
When Jesus healed the sick He was destroying or undoing Satan’s works.
When Jesus came out of the wilderness He came to Galilee, coming to Nazareth He entered the synagogue and read from the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord”. (Luke 4 v 18-19).
Now nowhere in the epistles do we read about binding and loosing, neither do we see the disciples in the book of Acts commanding Satan or his princes to be bound. Why is this?
It is because they interpreted Christ words in a different sense. The words they use are overcoming and resisting.
The Apostle John wrote to the young men because they had overcome the wicked one (1 John 2 v 13-14). He says that they have overcome the wicked one and the word of God abides in them. This is how Jesus overcame by the word of God, which is the sword of the Spirit.
We use the word of God in order that we sin not. Sin leads to death.
James, Peter, and Paul use a different word than overcome, ‘resist’.
James 4 v 7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you”.
1 Peter 5 v 6-9 says, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care on Him for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour: whom resist steadfast in the faith”.
Paul says in Ephesians 6 v 12-13, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand”.
We fight our warfare by resisting.
The word ‘withstand’, used by Paul in Ephesians 6 v 13, is a translation of the same Greek word which is translated in James and Peter as ‘resist’.
J. N. Darby makes a very interesting comment concerning 1 Peter 5 v 6-9, he says, “to be humble, vigilant, watch and resist, refer to characters to be won. They are to have this character by doing it. It is not simply an exhortation to do it, but to acquire that character by doing it”.
We will never have an overcoming character unless we acquire it by putting it in practise.
When we face temptation and fall we confess it to God and the blood of Jesus cleanses us, however we will have to face that same temptation over and over again until finally we overcome, even if it takes years. Romans 8 v 13 says, “If you live after the flesh you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body you shall live”.
Galatians 5 v 16 says, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh”.
Our warfare is not waged according to the flesh but it is spiritual in that it is by the Spirit that we resist the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil.
The mind is the battlefield and we must take every thought captive before it sends down its roots and produces its fruits. If we entertain thoughts of temptation, then the ground is already lost. If we recognise thoughts of temptation and stop them (resist them) the minute they present themselves to us (this is what is meant by binding them) we are then ready for stage two, setting the captives free.
Basically our warfare is defence which is why Paul explains what our armour is, including the sword of the Spirit, however we do have one major offensive weapon, that is the Name of Jesus.
The name of Jesus is not a magic formulae but must be uttered in faith by someone walking in the light, cleansed by the power of the blood, and anointed with the Holy Spirit.
It is by the name of Jesus we set people free, heal the sick and cast out demons, Mark 16 v 17-18.
By Mark Greenwood