I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 1 Corinthians 4:6
The apostle Paul’s emphasized words above are perhaps the greatest Biblical source of direction for the life of a believer. The Holy Spirit- authored Scripture provides us the guardrails we need to keep us on the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14) of obedience towards holiness (1 Peter 1:16) and conformity to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29). It’s when we step beyond the written Word that we not only fall into temptation and sin but also enter into dangerous doctrinal error.
Paul’s words, then, are particularly insightful when considering what so much of the modern church regards as valid maneuvers of spiritual warfare. From believing spiritual warfare is a battle over gaining or regaining territory lost to Satan, from the belief that generational curses and hexes must be mystically banished from control over us, or the ludicrous notion that otherworldly hedge-building can insulate one from the devil’s doing, to the notion that believers can, by the power of their prayers, bind Satan – all these false teachings are evidential tocsins revealing just how far believers have gone “beyond what is written.”
“The approach to spiritual warfare so uncritically embraced by the bulk of modern evangelicalism has more in common with pagan mysticism than anything remotely biblical.” Jim Osman
On the Justin Peters Program, pastor Jim Osman, author of Truth Or Territory: A Biblical Approach To Spiritual Warfare, discussed with Peters yet another highly prevalent – though utterly fallacious – notion proffered by the false teachers of spiritual warfare – rebuking Satan.
“It is believed by many modern spiritual warfare teachers that the believer’s authority in Christ provides us with power over Satan and demons. This power can be used to force demonic powers to obey our commands, just as they obeyed those of Jesus and the apostles,” writes Osman.
Most believers in the church today have heard rebuking prayers. Entire books on spiritual warfare have been written teaching the power of the believer to control Satan or demons by speaking to them “in the name of Jesus and the power of His blood.” As Osman writes, “false teachers among the Word Faith movement are well-known for rebuking Satan and his demons and presuming their authority in Christ to command demons to heed their will.”
But the practice of rebuking Satan and demons is “not something that you’re just going to find in Word faith circles, in charismatic circles,” says Osman. It has also crept into to conservative churches.
The proponents of this false form of spiritual warfare methodology include the likes of Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, and Rod Parsley. Tony Evans, whose book Prayers For Victory In Spiritual Warfare (See our review HERE) is another high-profile voice of this false teaching. In his book, Osman cites a number of others teaching this flavor of spiritual warfare including Neil T. Anderson, Benny Hinn, Britt Merrick, and Mark Bubeck.
The consistent teaching of this unbiblical maneuver includes a number of elements that are unsupported by the clear teaching of Scripture, but that are presumably based on Scripture.
First, the premise for the teaching of rebuking Satan or demons is built on narrative accounts from Scripture in which Jesus or the apostles are engaged in commanding evil spirits. “The assumption is,” says Osman, “that if Jesus did something here on earth, we too, have authority to do the same.” Because Jesus commanded demons, we too should command demons. But inferring this from Scripture is to “wrongly” handle the Word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Peters previously emphasized this point.
“This is where so many people go off into the weeds because they read the entire Bible as if it’s prescriptive. Obviously, there are prescriptive parts of the Bible, but there are also descriptive parts that are describing real events in history, but that are not to be assumed as repeated, or to be normative for the Christian life.” Justin Peters
The second, biblically unthinkable component that rebuking Satan proponents teach is that the believer must vocally address Satan. Osman cites Britt Merrick, a proponent of this false form of spiritual warfare, who taught: “There is nothing in Scripture that indicates that demons can hear our thoughts, read our minds, or be conscious of our inner dialogue. We must rebuke them by speaking out loud.”
This sort of spiritual swashbuckling with demons isn’t on the extreme fringes of Christianity, though. It’s regularly being hurled at believers as though it were a constituent, legitimate endeavor of spiritual warfare.
If you’ve seen the 2015 “Christian” movie War Room, you might recall the house-cleansing, devil-rebuking clip in which the character portrayed by Priscilla Shirer indignantly and self-righteously addresses Satan directly. “No more, you are done! Jesus is Lord of this house and there is no room for you anymore! Go back to Hell where you belong and leave my family alone!” she screams.
As Justin Peters points out in his recommended review of the movie, the first erroneous implication is that Satan is in hell. He is not. The apostle Peter points out that he is “prowling about, looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) But the greater concern from Shirer’s lines is the presumption that believers should be speaking to Satan. “More significantly,” Peters states, “we as believers are not to be addressing Satan. Ever!”
We previously noted Alex Himaya, a Southern Baptist pastor who led his congregation in a full-blown, thoroughly unbiblical “revoking generational curses” prayer in which he, too, emphasized the importance of speaking directly to Satan and demons. But there is simply no Scriptural teaching in which the believer is to ever speak directly to Satan or to demons.
“I remember being at a Pastors’ Conference one time and a prominent wonderful church and the pastor got up to begin the pastor’s conference with several thousand men and he said, “Let’s pray,” and the first words out of his mouth were, “Satan, we bind you.” And I almost fell over. What? “Let us pray,” and the first word is “Satan” and he’s talking to the devil, telling the devil what he can or cannot do? Maybe he thinks that spiritual war, and maybe he thinks he has the power to do that. That’s a delusion.” John MacArthur (Source)
A third danger in the teaching about rebuking Satan is that it leads to a presumption that, not only do believers have the authority to command supernatural entities, we also have the ability to command inanimate objects. Osman states, “It is also assumed that this authority gives believers the power to command and control demons during battle, to verbally rebuke the devil, to exorcise demons, and even to command the obedience of irrational and inanimate objects.”
In his book, and the broadcast with Peters, (Audio Provided Below) Osman cites Richard Wurmbrand, founder of The Voice of The Martyrs, who retells the story of his friend Dick Eastman and the Berlin Wall. It’s a story that has become a sort of legend of prayer in charismatic quarters, often pointed to as proof of “the power of prophetic action and declaration,” as Dutch Sheets calls it in his (thoroughly avoidable) book Intercessory Prayer.
Eastman, who was a speaker at the 2016 Together event where he promoted salvation by simply tweeting a profession of Christ, gives his own brief account of his prayer to bring down the Berlin Wall.
Peters responds to this glaring error. ”This is classic word of faith doctrine of positive confession. Speaking to inanimate objects, and just the supposed creative power that we have in our words, that through our words –in and of themselves – we can create our own reality … that we can affect the material world around us … this theology is foreign to the Word of God … but it is very much at home in the metaphysical cults.”
the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 2 Peter 2:9-13
Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Jude 8-10
The problems with rebuking the devil are many, not merely the misunderstanding and misuse of Scripture to presumably validate such a teaching, nor the ludicrous and dangerous necessity to dialogue with the devil or demons, nor even the logical, cultic excess of illicitly presuming authority over inanimate objects. The real problem is what Scripture actually teaches about this practice … it is a mark of a false teacher.
“Peter gives one of the characteristics of a false teacher as a man who does not respect angelic authorities,” points out Osman, citing 2 Peter 2:9-13. “Even the holy angels do not stand around in the heavenlies rebuking and reviling and speaking evil against the demons. They are at war with one another. There is a battle going on in the heavenly realm, but it’s not a verbal battle of rebuking. Even the holy angels do not bring reviling accusations against the demons that these unreasoning false teachers do. They [the false teachers] will rebuke and revile and speak evil and mock.”
Peters adds, “This is a sobering passage of Scripture. Peter, under the inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit, refers to them as unreasoning animals. Quite clearly, people who engage in this kind of behavior – now we’re not talking about somebody who is a brand new Christian, who doesn’t have a great deal of Bible knowledge, but somebody who has read Scripture, somebody who has studied and somebody who knowingly and willingly engages in this kind of behavior – this would really call into question their salvation. This is pretty clear. They will be destroyed.”
Osman agrees. “You could have Christians who ignorantly think that they have been given this power, that this is the way they deal with temptation, this is the way they deal with demonic attack, or demonic resistance, or a bad day. They’re just gonna rebuke the devil and he’s supposed to run fleeing because we’ve rebuked him. But they’re not doing it because they themselves are daring, and self-willed, and trying to indulge their corrupt desires [as noted in 2 Peter 2:9-13]. That’s the false teacher.”
But, Osman points out, “here is the warning – that this is the mark of men who, like dumb dogs, are just fit to be destroyed. They’re just like animals that should be led to the slaughter. They are unreasoning. Peter says they are daring and self-willed and they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties.” The authentic believer, seeking to be obedient to Scripture, must understand that those who promote this as a valid maneuver of spiritual warfare are, according to Scripture, false teachers. They are to be avoided, and their practices shunned as Biblically-illicit for the believer.
Jude, of course, gives us further Biblical substantiation of Peter’s instructions, providing an example not found anywhere else in Scripture. In “contending with the devil” over the body of Moses, “the archangel Michael,” Jude notes, did not himself dare to utter a rebuke to Satan. The presumption, then, that so many believers have as to their own authority to rebuke Satan and demons is staggeringly self-righteous. As Peters said, if “Michael the archangel would not do this … Who do we think we are?”
“One of the marks of a genuine believer is that when they are in doctrinal error and then are confronted with the truth from God’s Word, they bend a knee to it.” Justin Peters
As Osman details in his book, the teaching of rebuking Satan reflects three main errors.
First, Scripture gives us no positive examples of this practice in the early church. Even the example recorded in Acts 9:11-20 is a negative example that “Luke records so that none would arrogantly assume that the extraordinary miracles performed by Paul were the norm for every believer.” It’s equally advisable to note that we don’t see even the apostle Paul rebuking the demon of his “thorn in the flesh,” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) being exhorted instead by God that His sovereign grace was sufficient.
Second, the practice wrongly redirects our focus away from Christ and to Satan and his demons. “In all the recorded prayers of the apostles and the early Christians, we do not find a single example of rebuking Satan or demons,” notes Osman. And, of course, the Lord, in teaching the disciples to pray, never mentioned this procedure that has become such a reflex maneuver with modern spiritual warfare false teachers. If it had been valid, we can be sure Christ would have taught it.
Third, it overemphasizes Satan’s power. Scripture such as Hebrews 2:14-15 and Colossians 2:15 make clear the defeated status of Satan.
The problem with so much of what is taught on spiritual warfare in the contemporary church is that it directly contradicts what Paul warned the Corinthians … “do not go beyond what is written.” The popular notions of spiritual warfare are distinctly drawn from beyond the boundaries of Scripture.
Though we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6),” says Osman, “that positional privilege does not give us miracle-working power equivalent to Jesus and the apostles.” The signs and miracles performed by Jesus and His apostles were intended to validate His claims as the Messiah and the apostles as being duly authorized agents sent by Him. As Osman says, those miracles, signs, and apostolically-gifted abilities “were never intended to be the norm for believers of every age.”
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:8-9
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
“Like the practices of binding Satan, praying hedges, or renouncing curses, rebuking demons is a tool that God has not put in our arsenal. It is a completely man-made tactic that appeals to the pride of our flesh,” says Osman. The Lord has given us clear instructions on how to obediently respond to Satan in such clear exhortations as 1 Peter 5:8-9 and James 4:7.
“Satan does not fear our useless incantations. Let’s abandon them and exchange them for the proclamation of the truth!” Jim Osman
Given what Scripture proclaims, and in light of Osman’s and Peters’ sound teaching from it, the believer seeking to be obedient to Christ in His Word can disregard the notion of rebuking Satan and his demons. The only proper rebuke a believer ought offer is one to the false teachers who promote this nonsense … for it clearly “goes beyond what is written.”
Listen below to Justin Peters & Jim Osman from The Justin Peters Program.
Spiritual Warfare: Rebuking Satan
See More From This Series With Justin Peters and Jim Osman:
For Jim Osman’s book, please go to TruthorTerritory.com
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]