The Bible is the only authentic source of accurate information on spiritual warfare.
A lot of what is taught about spiritual warfare has no scriptural basis. We should be determined not to learn about spiritual warfare from extra-biblical sources.
“The slave girl in Philippi was possessed by a spirit of Python,” I said. I did not have to wait for long for a response. My Kenyan audience was shocked.
I could see the elders in the front rows frantically flipping the pages of their Bibles. They knew I was referring to an incident recorded in the sixteenth chapter of Acts. “Hold it right there, Reverend,” they seemed to say, “Me? I want to know where it is written that the girl had a spirit of Python.”
They were justified in exercising an abundance of caution. One of them had told me: “My neighbor is an Asian. He keeps a python in his house.” Kenyans, including those of Indian origin, practice witchcraft using pythons and leopards to get rich. There are Christians, too, who get mired in syncretic beliefs and practices. No wonder the congregation was taken aback when I mentioned “python.”
Before my audience could conclude that their Asian Pastor was taking them for a ride, I told them, “Unfortunately, you will not find the word ‘python’ in your English Bibles.” In the Greek NT, the phrase ‘spirit of divination’ is, in reality, ‘spirit of python.’ It pays to look beyond our favorite English translations. The expression in the Greek text helped my East African friends connect with the incident at Philippi, even though there was no mythological serpent called Python in African folklore. Due to syncretism, the thin line that separates Christian belief from animism is quite blurred. Syncretism is one of the biggest challenges faced by African, Asian, and Latin American churches.
I was glad to see my Kenyan brethren, like the Bereans, rush to the Bible to check whether their teacher was speaking the truth. I wish Christians everywhere would have the good sense to question everything they hear about spiritual warfare and demons.
The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit. Have you tested your beliefs about spiritual warfare on this touchstone of truth?
Sadly, some authors enjoy a superstar status among Christians. A few claim to have been witches or sorcerers before they became Christians. They claim to have insider information about satan’s kingdom. Their books and DVDs sell like hot cakes. If only the buyers of these “resources” knew that the Lord Jesus commended His faithful ones in Thyatira who refused to learn the so-called “deep secrets” of satan from a false teacher.1
Gullible Christians who lap up dark secrets of the nether world end up more devil-conscious than God-conscious. They are aware of the presence of demons everywhere to the extent that they begin to see evil spirits under every piece of furniture! There is a spirit, they say, behind everything: a spirit of poverty, of depression, of fear, of suicide—you name it. They live in fear, rebuking and “binding” one demon after another.
When these deliverance specialists are on a “binding and loosing” spree, we are tempted to ask, “Did you not bind that spirit just yesterday? Who released it?” If you dare to question them, they might bind your “spirit of curiosity.” Don’t they know that “binding and loosing” was a Jewish idiom that had nothing to do with tying up or releasing anyone?2
But did not Jesus “bind the strong man” to plunder his property? That phrase is from a parable Jesus said about his ministry. When the Jews accused Jesus of casting out demons with the help of Beelzebul, He told them that He was not on the devil’s team. He had bound the devil (“strong man”) before He set out to liberate the captives.3 That “strong man” remains bound. Jesus Christ dethroned the “prince of this world,”4 disarmed “principalities and powers,” and put them to open shame.5 All authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him.6 His government never appointed any “territorial spirits.”
I think I hit a hornet’s nest. You don’t need to be a cultural expert to discern the disagreement that was written large on the faces of fourteen hundred Kenyans. I could almost hear each one of them tell me:
“Now, hold it right there, Reverend. You say there are no ‘territorial spirits?’ Haven’t you read Ephesians 6:12? St. Paul says there are principalities, powers, rulers, and spiritual armies of wickedness in the heavenly place.”7
Of course, my brother from a different mother, I am aware of Ephesians 6:12. Most Christians lift up their eyes from earth and see these principalities, powers, and rulers in the heavenly realms. They are terrified by the very mention of those powerful-sounding words. This is what happens when you read Ephesians 6:12 without reading Ephesians 1:20-22.
In the first chapter of Ephesians, the apostle Paul had already introduced these terms. He states that Christ is exalted “far above all principality (ἀρχῆς) and power (ἐξουσίας) and might (δυνάμεως) and dominion (κυριότητος), and every name (παντὸς ὀνόματος) that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” This exalted Christ was given to the Church to be her head. If Christ is seated far above all demons whatsoever, the Church too is seated far above every demon. When you are far above something, you get to see it in perspective.
The whole congregation burst forth with praise and worship! I will never forget that moment when the Parklands congregation in Nairobi felt relieved of the tension they experienced. It was as if scales had fallen off of their eyes. They saw spiritual warfare in a new light. Ordinary mortals look upwards from earth; they consider demons to be too powerful and exalted. Christians who are seated in heavenly places in Christ look down at demons who are far below them. They can hardly see them. Those demons try every evil scheme to make Christians commit sins. Christians defeat those schemes through virtuous living. That’s why their “armour” is composed of nothing more than virtues: honesty, righteousness, faith, hope, peace, prayer, intercession, and the Word of God.8
Please bear in mind that an entire army becomes powerless when their leader or king is defeated. Jesus defeated and dethroned “prince of this world,” Jesus said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the prince of this world will be cast out.”9 Did Jesus lie? No way! He did cast out the devil from his throne. As a result, after the defeat of their leader, every demon that once held some power or authority became powerless. No demon holds any power over any territory. Jesus is Lord over all of heaven and earth.
This is why I firmly believe that a lot of what is taught today about spiritual warfare – including ‘strategic warfare’ – has no scriptural basis. We should be determined not to learn about spiritual warfare from extra-biblical sources. Ask yourself. How much of your knowledge of demons and spiritual warfare is rooted in the Bible?
“But I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned the so-called deep things of Satan: I will place no further burden upon you.” Revelation 2:24.↩︎
‘Bind’ and ‘loose’ – as seen in Matthew 16:19 – are judicial terms used in Jewish rabbinic tradition. “The power to bind and loose derives from rabbinic usage. It meant to allow or disallow conduct, based on interpreting the torah. … They [The apostles] are to be the authorized interpreters of Jesus to succeeding generations. Hence the normative nature of their teaching for future generations of the church.” Michael Green, The Message of Matthew in John Stott (ed), The Bible Speaks Today. Downer’s Grove, IL: 2000.
R. T. France points out that future perfect tense used in Matt 16:19 — ‘will have been bound’, ‘will have been loosed’ — indicate that ‘the heavenly decision preceded Peter’s declaration of it on earth.’ R. T. France, Matthew. in D. A. Carson, R. T. France, Alec Motyer, and G. J. Wenham (eds.). New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition. IVP. pp. 904–945.
In Matthew 18:16, however, the terms refer to the reinstating or excommunication of a church member based on their response to church discipline.↩︎
“Now judgment is upon this world; now the prince of this world will be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw everyone to Myself.” – John 12:31-32.↩︎
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities (ἀρχάς), against powers (ἐξουσίας), against the rulers of the darkness of this age (κοσμοκράτορας), against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12 NKJV↩︎
The helmet of salvation is described in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 as helmet of the hope of salvation. The “footwear” represents the “readiness” that comes from the Gospel of peace. The emphasis is on peace—reconciliation with God and man. Although prayer and intercession are not included in the metaphor of an armor, the context tells us that these are vital components of a Christian’s toolkit against the wiles of the enemy.↩︎
Philip Eapen, an environmental scientist by training, devoted his life to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever since he realized that the world needs Jesus Christ more than anyone or anything else. Apart from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Philip teaches Christians in order to equip them for service. He is supported by donations from readers; he also runs a small ‘tent-making’ business. Philip is married to Dr. Jessimol and they are blessed with three sons and a daughter.
Date: May 23, 2023