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Is Rebuking and Binding the Devil Scriptural?
Rebuking Satan while praying to God is not Scriptural
If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times, in the middle of a prayer at church, Bible study, or a prayer meeting, someone will insert a rebuke to the devil to keep him from harassing and/or deceiving anyone. It usually sounds something like this:
"Father, we come to you to pray for this sister who is suffering with cancer (or insert other issue). And Satan, we bind (or rebuke or both) you now, in Jesus name. We take authority over you and command you now to take your hands off sister (insert name), she is not your's, she is the Lord's. We command you to leave now, in Jesus name. Lord, we ask now that you heal our sister and we claim it now and thank you in Jesus name."
At his Strange Fire conference, John MacArthur related a story about just such a practices:
I remember being at a pastor's conference years ago - I mean there were like 2,000 pastors there - it was in a great church, great pastor as well, who was leading the conference, and he stood up and called all the men to stand and he said, 'Let us pray." And the first word out of his mouth was 'Satan!' I almost fell out of the balcony. Satan? "— John McArthur
Learn the Scriptures, don't take people's word for it
For years I assumed this was one type of correct practice of spiritual warfare, mostly because I was not as good of a Berean as I should have been. Plus, I looked up to many older Christians and assumed they must know the Bible better than I. I would hear them quote a passage and interpret it and just accept it. In recent years, my spirit recoils every time I hear this. We will not see in the Bible where saints are praying and suddenly interrupt the prayer to rebuke Satan. Nor do we see them rebuke or bind Satan when they are going through trials and temptations that the enemy may have thrown them.
The Scriptures are very clear about how to engage in Spiritual warfare. The Scriptures do not teach the practice of rebuking and binding the enemy as the means of spiritual warfare.
* I want to make it clear that I am not in full agreement with John MacArthur's teachings on the Holy Spirit. But in some instances like this, I do.
All authority has been given to us
In Matthew 10:1 we read: "And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease."
Mark 3:14-15 says, "Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.
The Luke 9:1-2 says, "Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick."
This is pretty straightforward. Jesus gave them power and authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. No argument there. Later, He sends out seventy to do likewise (Luke10:1-12). In verses 17-20 we see the seventy return jubilant, "Lord, even the demons are subject in Your name." Jesus tells them He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven, then gave them authority to trample serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will hurt them.
What we read here is that Christians are given authority and power to cast out demons from unbelievers who are possessed (they must be unbelievers because Christians cannot be possessed, only oppressed).
Casting out demons is not the focus of this article. To clarify, I am speaking of rebuking the devil as a means of spiritual warfare in the life of the Christian during trial, oppression, temptation, or as a preemptive warning not to mess with God's people. While we retain that authority, we do not anywhere in Scripture find Christian's rebuking and binding the devil during these kinds of trials. The Apostle Paul certainly didn't. Peter certainly didn't. We don't see it anywhere. Only when coming in contact with a demon possessed person who is a nonbeliever.
For spiritual warfare, the Scriptures instruct the Christian to exercise His authority differently.
Some of our armor of God
Submit, resist, draw near
James gave us good instruction about how to fight the devil. "Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you" (4:7).
Prior to these instructions, James is speaking about pride in the life of believers which cause sinful behaviors, indicating friendship with the world. James then quotes Proverbs 3:34 - "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble" - as a way to call us to lay down our pride and become humble. This is when he says "Submit to God." Step one in spiritual warfare is to submit to God. This is humility. If we are full of pride, we are unable to resist the devil because pride is from him, it is sinful.
Humbling ourselves and submitting to God is the way we resist the devil, and he will flee from us. The word resist means to stand against. We will refer to Ephesians 6 to further explain this. But after we have resisted, James also tells us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. In other words, don't wander away after you've resisted, or withstood the devil. Stay close to the Lord. The devil knows your weakness. It's easy after overcoming someone or something, for pride to enter once again. So we must draw near to God. He will meet us and guide us.
Rather put on the whole armor of God
The whole armor of God
Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us how to withstand the devil:
Paul says, "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." Then he tells us how to do that. "Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles (schemes) of the devil." He goes on to remind us that our battle is not against human enemy, but of principalities of evil. Then he goes on, "Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints— " The way to resist, or withstand the devil, and to be strong in the Lord is to put on the armor - all of it. To summarize the armor -
- Belt of Truth
- Breast plate of Righteousness
- Shoes of Peace
- Shield of Faith (which quenches the fiery darts of the evil one)
- Helmet of Salvation
- Sword of the Spirit, he Word of God (our offensive weapon)
- Praying always
God calls these armor. They protect from and deflect an assault. We often hear people say, "Every morning I put my armor on." I'm not sure what that looks like for them, but to put on the whole armor of God does not mean the exercise of imagining putting on armor, but simply applying these things to our lives daily. The main vehicle is through the Sword (Bible) and prayer - " praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints." We are to get on our knees if we recognize Satan or his cohorts are tempting, harassing, or oppressing us, cling to and stand for God's truth; remember we have Christ's imputed righteousness (His righteousness has been put on your account); we have the peace of God which passes all understanding; exercise our faith to deflect those darts. If we stand firm in our faith, and stay close to God and His word, the devil's darts will deflect off of it. We need to remember our salvation and continue to work it out with fear and trembling. Be in the Word of God, have it in our minds and hearts. The devil's lies and temptations are rendered ineffective if we have the word of God in our hearts and our knees are calloused from prayer. The psalmist said "Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You." And "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word." Read it, meditate on it, and obey it. And finally, pray always in the Spirit (not in our own flesh).
Watch and pray
Jesus told Peter, James and John to watch and pray so they would not fall into temptation. But they went to sleep and did end up falling into and submitting to temptation. Here in Ephesians we are told to "pray always,...being watchful, with all perseverance and supplication for the saints. Perseverance is important. The devil is patient. He wants to wear us down. Keep your armor on and persevere.
What does the Bible say about Binding and losing?
I began my research by finding Bible passages that spoke about binding, losing and rebuking. Here I will start with binding and losing.
In Matthew 16:13-20 we read about a discussion between Jesus and his disciples in Caesarea Philippi.
Jesus: "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
Various disciples: "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
Jesus: "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter: "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus: "Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
The passage ends with "Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ" (vs. 20).
In the next chapter we hear Jesus use this same phrasing in verse 18. For context we'll start at verse 15, Jesus is speaking:
"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
In this passage, Jesus is speaking about church discipline of an erring saint, not binding or losing the evil one. If the erring saint does not repent he is bound (forbidden) according to God's already settled mandate to be in the fellowship. If they do repent, they are loosed (permitting) to return. There is no mention of demons or Satan.
God delivers us from the evil one
When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, Jesus offered a model prayer, known as The Lord's Prayer," although it should be more aptly called "The disciples prayer." It's a prayer that Christian's are to pray for themselves, not non-believers. At one place in that prayer, Christ told the disciples to pray "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (some versions say evil)." This is asking God the Father to deliver us from the enemy. Jesus did not tell the disciples to rebuke or bind the devil when praying, or any other time. The ending of that prayer which immediately follows is "For Thine is the kingdom the power and the glory forever, amen." It's not man's kingdom, power and glory that keeps the devil away, it's God's.
Jesus told Peter that the devil was seeking to sift him as wheat. But Jesus promised He would pray for him. He did not tell Peter to rebuke or bind the enemy.
Binding and loosing means forbidding and permitting.
The Lord rebuke you
In Jude 9 we read about the archangel Michael's battle with the devil over the body of Moses:
"But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”
Note Michael did not himself, condemn the devil but cried out "The LORD rebuke you." He did not say, "I rebuke you, I bind you Satan." He knew he was no match for the evil one. It was the Lord's power he called on.
Call on God
Call on God when the evil one comes calling. Exercise your faith, stand on and live grounded in the truth of God's word, and be diligent and watchful in prayer. God is fighting for you.
Related hubs by Lambservant
- Know Your Enemy and How to Fight the Spiritual Battle Against Him
Satan is not only the enemy of the Christian, but of everyone, though they may not realize it. Find out through God's word who the devil is, how he operates and how to overcome him.
- Bible Illiteracy in the Church in America
Bible illiteracy among the Body of Christ today is alarming. How can we know God and His will for us if we never read the Book He wrote to us? God's Word is God breathed. Read it and know and grow.
- Where are the Praying People?
The Church is ailing because she is prayer-less. Corporate prayer has become seen as expendable rather than a divine calling and privilege. We are called to be intercessors. God asks, Where are they?
© 2014 Lori Colbo