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Spiritual warfare pt2: authority in battle

Spiritual Warfare


Main Scriptures
Series: Spiritual Warfare
Scripture References



Since this is a spiritual battle and not a physical battle, it comes down, not to an issue of strength, or strategy, but authority – what Satan can do to and with me and what I can do to or with Satan.

1.     Kingdom Authority (Col 1:11-20)

2.     Jesus’ Authority (Matt 8:28ff)

3.     Apostolic Authority (Matt 10:1-4, 7-10; Acts 8:8-13)

4.     Misused Authority ( Lk 9:49-50; Acts 19:11-17)

5.     Believer’s Authority (Eph 6) – covered in pt 3.


Last week I gave a broad overview and introduction to this issue of spiritual warfare -  the origin and nature of spiritual warfare.

1: The reality of Satan (Gen 3)

·      The Bible wastes no time in introducing us to a great spiritual battle which is going on. It began in Gen 3 and will only be concluded in Rev 21. It’s a battle, not between God and Satan but between mankind and Satan. Because God’s sovereignty and power is absolute, Satan cannot do anything against God, so all he can do is attack those who have been created in His image and try to destroy our faith in and worship of God.

2: The sovereignty of God (Job)

·      Satan is very powerful, but he can only do what God allows him to do. Satan is always seeking to destroy our faith and God is seeking to strengthen our faith, and is even able to use the evil schemes of Satan to do so.

3: The Battle for truth (1 Kings 22)

·      This is not a battle of strength, we are no match for Satan. This is a battle for truth. To resist Satan we must stand fast in the truth and discern his lies and deceptions.

4: The Victory of Jesus (Lk 4)

·      Victory in the battle is comprehensively provided for us by Jesus and His death and resurrection.

As I mentioned last week, much of what is passed off as spiritual warfare in the name of Christ doesn’t actually come from the Bible.

·      Binding and rebuking Satan, coming against strongholds, breaking generational curses, anointing your possessions with holy oil, cleansing your house from satanic objects and symbols, elaborate deliverance rituals – this is the stuff of witchdoctors and horror movies. It has no place in the Christian life and Christian church. If someone comes to you suggesting one of those solutions to spiritual warfare, just ask them where they get that in the Bible….it’s not there.

·      Besides being unbiblical, what all these various deliverance techniques do, is they over-emphasize what we must do and undermine what Christ has done. They place too much faith in specific formula’s and mantra’s and procedures we must follow, and they place too little faith in Christ.

This morning then, I want to bring this down to the personal level, how I should respond to spiritual attack, by considering the issue of authority. Since this is a spiritual battle and not a physical battle, it comes down, not to an issue of strength, or strategy, but authority – what Satan can do to and with me and what I can do to or with Satan.

1.   Kingdom authority

2.   Jesus’ Authority

3.   Apostolic Authority

4.   Misused authority

5.   Believer’s authority.


1: KINGDOM AUTHORITY (Col 1:11-20)

The first things we must realize then is that there are two kingdoms….

·      The kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of truth and the kingdom of lies, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.

·      A kingdom consists of a king, or ruler and a realm over which that king rules. A king and the subjects over which he has authority and power.

Colossians is all about the pre-imminence of Christ, the unique glory, power and position of Christ.

Read Col 1:11-18

·      11-12: Paul is praying for believers to be strengthened with God’s power so that they might have endurance and victory and even joy in the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. We need God’s strength.

·      13-14: Believers have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the saints in light, the kingdom of God in Christ. So all people are born into the realm of sin and death and Satan. We do not have the power to deliver ourselves, we are captives to this realm which is characterized by rebellion against God.

·      We need to be redeemed, we need to be ransomed, we need to be delivered by a king, who is greater and stronger than the king who rules over the realm of darkness and sin and death. There is only one such king and His name is Jesus.

·      15-16: He is the image of God, He is the ruler over God’s creation, by him all things were created – heavenly and earthly, visible and invisible. He created not only creatures, but thrones and dominions and rulers and authorities. All other authority has been established by the one king who is king of kings. They have been created by him and for him.

·      17 They continue to exists only because he holds them together and gives them life and existence.

·      18 This king of all is also the king of the church, the head of the body. He is the ruler of all those who have been or ever will be delivered from death.

Summary – jesus the only way

Outside of Jesus, all people belong to the realm of Satan, Sin and death. Their lives are ruled by Satan, characterized by sin and result in death. There is no way to be delivered from this realm by any other means, than faith in Christ.


Those who have entrusted themselves to Jesus belong to the realm of God and light and life. Our bodies are indwelt by God’s Spirit, characterized by greater likeness to him and produce glory to God. Satan has no control and authority over God’s subjects.


All people are either of the one realm or the other, they belong to one king or the other, they follow the marching order of the one ruler, or the other. There is no neutral ground or non-citizens

satanic influence and control

So if we think of Satan’s influence on a spectrum – with subtle temptations on the bottom end of the scale and demon possession on the upper end of the scale. Demon possession would imply complete control over a person’s thoughts, emotions and actions. Satan can exercise the complete range of authority and control over his subjects. He might choose to leave them largely alone because they are doing a good enough job of destroying their lives on their own – but at any time, for any reason he can exert his influence at every level.


Believers belong to Jesus but live in the fallen world, which is the realm of Satan. We are citizens of heaven, but we are living behind enemy lines, in enemy territory. So until we are taken to heaven, Satan and his other subjects have a measure of influence over our lives.

·      He can bring sinful people across our path to do us harm. He can influence and control our circumstances, he can whisper in our ears or entice us through other people – to join them in their rebellion. He can befriend us on facebook and he can even get out a loudspeaker and shout orders to us at maximum volume, telling us to get in line – but he has no authority or power over us to make us do anything.

·      We can certainly not be demon-possessed because we are already indwelt by God’s Spirit. God himself has taken up residence in our lives and as Galatians 5 says, we are being led by the Spirit.

·      Col 2:8-10: Our job is not to allow ourselves to be deceived. We have all power and fullness in Christ, who is the head of all rule and authority, we need to stand fast in Christ. The only real threat is being lead astray from pure and undivided devotion to Christ. Look at Col 2:13-15 – we were dead, we were guilty, we were enslaved – we have been made alive, forgiven and set free.

Therefore if we want to talk about a deliverance ministry – there is only one person who has a deliverance ministry and that is Jesus. He alone can deliver people from the realm and power of Satan. What we can do is point people to Jesus and their need of Him through the gospel.

2: jesus’authority (Matt 8)

What the gospels are doing is showing us the authority and power of Jesus.  Authority is the right to do something, and power is the ability to do something and Jesus has both all authority and all power.

Matt 8:5-10. The Centurion

·      Matt 8:5-10: What is highlighted in this narrative? Jesus has authority to merely give the word. He doesn’t have to be there, he doesn’t have to do anything or follow any ritual, or make any diagnosis. His authority is so absolute over sickness, that He merely needs to speak the word, like a centurion who has the authority to command his soldiers as he wills.

·      Matt 8:16: Jesus has authority over sickness and fever and demons. He merely needs to speak and they obey.

·      Matt 8:18-22: He has the authority to command unilaterial obedience from people. Come follow me, not at your convenience…

·      Matt 8:23-27: “What sort of man is this, that even the wind and waves obey Him?” That is the issue here, he is no ordinary man because men do not have this kind of authority to speak and command obedience from sickness, demons, people, wind and waves.

·      Matt 8:28- : Then he comes to two men who are demon-possessed. The Greek says literally “demonized.”

o  It is clear that these men’s whole life, personality and behaviour were under the control of these demons. 29 “What have you to do with us?” So they don’t even draw a distinction between themselves and the men they are inhabiting, the two have become almost synonymous.

o  They cannot control their fear in the presence of Jesus. They know who this is, that He is God the Son. They know His authority and power and what He is able to do to them.

o  It would seem from this that Satan and certain demons have been given a measure of freedom to roam the earth, to lie, to deceive, to tempt and destroy as God permits. But their ultimate destination is a place of eternal torment as Rev 20:10 indicates. They are literally terrified of stepping out of line and being sent to that place before the appointed time.

o  30-32 When Jesus casts them out of the men, they enter the pigs and destroy them. Demon possession may give someone enhanced power as we see here, but its ultimately going to destroy them and those around them.

o  Again we see that this is an issue of authority. Jesus has authority over Satan and demons. He merely needs to speak and they must obey. Jesus doesn’t wrestle the man down and force some strange concoction down his throat – He merely commands and they must obey. This authority is because of who He is as God the Son.


·      Do people have authority over Satan and his demons? Clearly not, or they could have done something about these two men.

·      Has Jesus delegated such authority to ordinary believers?

3: apostolic authority (Matt 10:1-4)

·      Jesus had a number of disciples who believed in him and accompanied him during his earthly ministry. From among those disciples he chose 12 Apostles who were His special representatives for the founding of the church.

·      In case you we are unsure about who is an Apostle and who is not, their names are given here. It is these 12 and none other.

·      Clearly believers in general don’t have authority over sickness and disease and demons because here Christ gives these 12 such authority. If they had it before, then they wouldn’t have to be given it now. If all believers had this, then what would distinguish the authority of the 12 from the authority of other believers?

·      This is an issue of delegated authority. You authorize someone, or give them the right to do something on your behalf, in your name.

·      So the apostles go out and exercise their authority and to their amazement, they are able to command the demons and they obey, to command the lame to walk…to command the dead and they come alive!

·      7-10: heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers. If someone claims to have a deliverance ministry from Jesus, then let them go to the cemetery down the road and start by telling some of the dead people there to come alive….By our own authority we have no more authority to cast demons out, then we have to raise the dead or command missing legs to grow.

·      I can’t help but notice how many, who claim to have deliverance ministries claim vs 8 and ignore vs 9….

·      Such authority was given to the 12 and later to the 70 as an evidence  of Christ’s authority, and a demonstration that they were representing Him.


Paul’s apostleship was questioned because his name wasn’t on this original list. But Jesus personally and specifically added him to the list in Acts 9, as the last of the Apostles and gave him Apostolic authority. So Paul could point to these self-same signs in 2 Cor 12:12 as evidences that he was a true Apostle. This is what the book of Acts is at pains to do – to show that the authority and power of Jesus was exercised in the ministry or Peter and in similar ways, in the ministry of Paul.

Demonic power (Acts 8)

It’s possible to get a measure of power from demons or from trickery – enough to amaze people – but it falls short of the power and authority demonstrated by Jesus in the gospels – a single word and they flee.

·      8:8-13 This man amazed people with a measure of magical power. They said, this is the power of God the most high. Yet when he sees the true power of God, he himself is amazed – because its order of magnitutude different.

·      8:14-19 Though Philip could himself perform miracles, He didn’t have the authority to impart these gifts to other believers. So Peter and John are sent to Samaria in order to lay hands on them that they might receive the Spirit.

·      As I mentioned when we looked at this passage – God did this by designed to ensure the unity of the church. Both Jew, Samaritan and Gentile received the same Spirit, by the same gospel, by the same Apostolic witness.

·      Only the Apostles have the authority to bestow the Spirit and Simon wants that power. He doesn’t only want the power to perform miracles, he wants the power to be able to impart that gift to others. But this authority was reserved for the Apostles.

·      Not even Philip the miracle-worker had this Apostolic authority


The Apostles had a unique authority and power, given directly to them by Christ for the founding of the church. There is no biblical evidence that this authority was given to ordinary believers as an abiding possession or right which accompanies salvation. There is no spiritual gift relating to demon-possession, even though there is one relating to performing miracles and healing.

Of course, in saying that I have to deal with 2 passages which seem to say otherwise and I think both are cases of misused authority and are the exceptions that prove the rule.

4: misused authority (Lk9)

Luke 9:49-50

·      Note the issue here – He is casting out demons in Jesus name, but He is not one of Jesus’ followers.

·      Jesus has authority and his name has authority. My children can ask their sibling to do something for them, but if they want a better response then they need to say, “Dad says….” They can use my name to lend authority and influence to their appeal. That’s not the same as if I had actually sent them on an errand in my name. They can use my name to lend authority to their appeal, but that’s not exactly as being sanctioned or sent by my authority, in my name.

·      Here the disciples are objecting because this man is using Jesus name, appealing to Jesus’ authority, but he wasn’t one of the 12 who had specifically been commissioned and given authority.

·      In this instance Jesus tells them to leave the man because he sees that they are more worried about protecting their own position and reputation than anything else. That’s the content of this section. 9:46 who is the greatest among them? 9:54, “Lord do you want us to call down fire upon these wicked Samaritans.” Both the paragraph before and after have to do with a misuse of Apostolic authority and power.

·      Here they are worried because this man is cutting into their unique, privileged position as Apostles. They think this man is abusing Jesus authority and power, but Jesus is trying to help them see how pridefully and selfishly they are using it.

So far from being support for every believer having authority over demons, I think it’s the exception that proves the rule. Jesus’ name has such authority that even those who use it unsanctioned, will use it with some effectiveness.


This point is clarified by the other exception: Acts 19

·      19:1-6: vs 6Paul had the same authority as the other Apostles to lay his hands on people and bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit. That’s what Luke is trying to show.

·      19:11-12 Notice how this description parallels the description of the ministry of the 12 Apostles. Luke is trying to show that God was at work in this Apostle just as He was at work through the ministry of the others.

·      19:13: All the religons have a version of demon possession and a ministry of exhorcism which is carried out with some success. What separated Jesus from Jews of his day and exhocists of other religions is that he merely spoke and the demons immediately left. He had an unparalleled authority to command. These Jewish exorcists were aware of this authority that resided in Jesus name, but they were not sanctioned to use it.

·      They were doing like my kids when they say, “Dad said.” When in fact dad hadn’t sent them and dad hadn’t said.

·      So because Jesus name has such authority and power they experience a measure of success. But because they hadn’t been personally and specifically commissioned to use that authority – they come across an evil spirit who points that out to them.

·      14-16 “Jesus I know…” Paul was recognised as having the same authority as Jesus, he was a sanctioned apostle. But these men were not.

·      Notice the power of this demon possessed man, to overpower and overcome 7 men.

·      17- It became known that Jesus had all authority over demonic powers and Paul was his rightful representative.

Again, I think this is the exception which proves the rule. Jesus authority and power was conferred on the 12 Apostles as eye-witnesses to His resurrection and the ones who were sanctioned to found the church in Jesus name. They exercised a unique authority and power during this foundational ministry, but this authority was not conferred on every believer.

If it were, then…

1.   Why was this apostolic authority highlighted as exceptional?

2.   Where are the N.T examples of believers exercising this authority?

3.   Where are the instructions given to the church for when and how to do this?


The deliverance ministries that I have been exposed to are not “with a single word” and Satan and his demons are gone. They involve elaborate rituals and long prayer meetings and mantra’s an sacred objects and a bunch of things that are not found anywhere in the Bible and not seen in the ministry of Christ and the Apostles. They have limited effectiveness because they are abusing an authority that is not theirs, using Jesus’ name in a way that is not sanctioned. They place to much faith in what we must do and too little faith in what Christ has done.

·      You can’t deliver someone who still belongs to Satan’s realm and kingdom.

·      If Jesus has delivered someone from the kingdom of darkness and transferred them to His own glorious kingdom – then Satan has no ultimate hold or authority over him.

·      Jesus is the only deliverer and the gospel is the power of God for the deliverance of everyone who believes (Rom 1:16)

·      How do stand fast against the schemes of the devil?  - next week = believers authority, what we must do from Eph 6 = the longest and most comprehensive treatment of the subject of spiritual warfare in the Bible – and it says nothing about rebuking Satan...


·      Until next week - The power of Jesus and the victory of Jesus in the gospel is more than enough for us


·      “Doubt your own strength, but never doubt Christ’s. In your gravest conflicts with Satan, trust Him to bring you out of the devil’s dominion with a high hand, in spite of all the force and fury of hell.

·      – William Gurnall –
from The Christian in Complete Armour