While the Bible gives us no basis to believe there are demons under “every rock” making every bad situation happen, it also gives us every reason to realize that demons (like angels) are real and active in our lives and the lives of people around us. Consider: Jesus’s encounters with demons were frequent and real. The angel responding to Daniel’s prayer makes it clear he was delayed in answering because he was caught up in spiritual warfare with a demonic principality for 21 days (Daniel 10:10-14). The pagan gods which people worshipped were (and are, today) true demonic entities—for example, see verses like Psalm 106:36–37 which says: They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, and 1 Corinthians 10:20 which says: No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. . . Additionally, it is clear Pharoah’s magicians had true power to some degree that came from a source not of God, as did Simon in Acts. Or, simply talk to missionaries today who have encountered witch doctors with true power over a village and the villager’s health and welfare, or to people in the United States who have encountered the demonic through occultic or “ghostly” encounters.
Yes, the Bible makes it clear the spiritual world is real and that we are not to engage in the occult or contacting it. So, with it being true, and likely, that we will encounter the demonic world at work against us or those around us, what should our stand be as Christians? In a nutshell, we should be aware but not afraid, dealing with it in simple authority and not giving it more attention than we give God. As Christians we have authority against the demonic realm when we encounter it, and interestingly that authority comes from submission. One would think authority would come from being the biggest and most powerful we can make ourselves, but the contrary is true. Our authority comes from our submission to Christ.
The Centurion recognized that structure of authority when he asked Jesus to heal his servant and Jesus said He would come and do it. Matthew 8:8-9 tells us: But the centurion replied, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." The Centurion recognized, as seen when he said “I too”, that Jesus was under God’s authority, and he understood the authority that gave Jesus because he, himself, was also a man OF authority because he was a man UNDER authority.
When I was in Panama in the military I visited many amazing villages deep in the interior that I fell in love with, so to speak. I visited them in a place of authority, as a platoon leader with a heavily armed platoon, under the authority, and with the backing, of the United States army. But, as a civilian, as much as I would like to take my family to visit them I wouldn’t because I would not be sure of our safety since I would not be in a position of authority. Back then I carried authority in the village because I was, myself, under authority I was submitted to.
As Christians we have authority in the spiritual realm because we, ourselves, are under authority. The seven sons of the priest Sceva found out what it is like to confront demons when they themselves were not under God’s authority. Acts 19:15-16 tells us what happened when they tried to command a demon to leave a man simply using Jesus’ name, but not being under Jesus’ authority. It says: But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?" And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. On the other hand, Paul, who the seven men were trying to imitate, simply commanded demons to leave and they did, and there is no indication it was a big, showy, screaming, drawn out exorcism process. Paul was a man of authority, because he was a man under authority. On his own he was nothing, but in Christ he carried Christ’s authority. This is a Kingdom of God principle we must understand.
Two of the best known New Testament passages about the devil are 1 Peter 5:6-9 and James 4:7. Do you see a common theme in each of them?
1 Peter 5:6-9 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God . . . Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him . . .
James 4:7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Do you notice that both talk about resisting the devil, and both begin with humbling and submitting ourselves to God? By placing ourselves under God’s authority and reign, we walk in God’s authority. This makes sense. If we humble and submit ourselves before and to God we will walk in His plans and ways, and that means we will be right where He calls us to be, doing His will, and with His full backing. But when we resist God and go on our own paths, we find ourselves outside of God’s plan, and therefore under our authority and not His (this is not a salvation issue, but a daily issue). May this amazing reality give us a place for thought this week as we reflect on the authority we gain by submitting to authority.
Thanks for sharing in my life. God bless you. —Erick