In the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at the simplicity of the deliverance ministry that Jesus and the apostles modeled.
The devil would love to make something simple appear complicated because if it seems complicated we will be double-minded and waver in our faith. What we have noticed is that things are as complicated as we make them. In other words, if we believe we have to do something to heal someone or cast out a demon, we’re probably not going to have any success unless we do everything believed necessary. However, if we believe it can be so much simpler, our experience follows.
Today we’ll examine the question of if demons ever have a “legal right” to wreak havoc and destruction.
Colossians 2:13-15 (NIV) When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
There’s a big problem with playing by legalities. Scripture says that everybody who relies on the works of the law is under a curse. If our approach is based on legalities, we are just where Satan would like us to be. Witchcraft uses the law against us, because that’s the ground Satan has an advantage on.
So many of the teachings about spiritual warfare that I absorbed as a young person emphasized the blessings and curses of the law. They failed to mention that nobody was able to obtain the blessing based on that law, and everybody who relies on it is under a curse.
Galatians 5:4 (NIV) You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
You can choose. Do you want to live by legalities or by gospel rules? You can’t do both. If you’re under the jurisdiction of the gospel court, don’t appeal to the court that works by legalities operating according to the basic principles of this world.
I had already questioned the idea that Satan has “legal rights” for several reasons, including the simplicity of Jesus’ deliverance ministry. If any of the demons Jesus cast out had a “legal right,” then casting them out was an act of lawlessness. And Jesus is not lawless. If the Python spirit that Paul cast out had a “legal right,” what Paul did was also unlawful.
Then I came across a Facebook note written by my friend Cheryl Fritz. Cheryl’s thoughts really brought clarity to the subject. She distinguished between an “opportunity” or “foothold,” and a “legal right.”
Scripture says that Satan is a thief, a liar, and a murderer. By definition, Satan is lawless.
As Cheryl pointed out, what judge would rule that a burglar had a “legal right” to steal because the homeowner was away on vacation and left every door of the house open with valuables sitting in plain view?
What cop would fail to arrest that burglar on the grounds that he had a “legal right” to burglarize such an easy target?
What judge would rule that a rapist had a “legal right” to assault a woman because she was dressed provocatively and hanging out with the wrong crowd?
If those scenarios sound preposterous, then why do we apply that kind of logic to dealing with Satan? When does Satan have a “legal right” to oppose God’s purposes? When does he have a “legal right” to lie and blind people to God’s glory revealed through Christ? When does he have a “legal right” to rob and murder people?
Never. If he was acting lawfully, he would tell people the truth and teach them to turn to Christ!
Satan is an opportunist when it comes to oppressing people. He has no “rights” to his rebellion against God, but he looks for vulnerabilities. Yet he would love to convince us that he has a “legal right” to wreak havoc, and thus it is unlawful for us to expel him.
You know, I’ve had some experience talking to criminals. Hardened criminals love to justify themselves. Not only do they deny the wrongfulness of what they’ve done or shift the blame, but they make themselves out to be the victims! Why do we fall for it?
Scripture says not to give the devil a “foothold.” If you get robbed, the cops may recommend closing and locking your doors, or installing an alarm system. Nothing’s wrong with identifying and remedying vulnerabilities that a criminal may try to take advantage of. But let’s stop calling those vulnerabilities “legal rights.”
You are the one who has a “legal right”—to kick Satan out, trample him underfoot, and plunder him!
The “legal approach” to dealing with demons is one of the ways that people needlessly get hurt in spiritual warfare. I call it “playing by the devil’s rules and not by gospel rules.” For more on the topic, check out my book What Really Causes Needless Casualties Of War?
Sorry if you’ve covered this elsewhere but how does Luke 22:31 ff fit in here?
Good question Richard. Peter’s “sifting” didn’t imply Satan having a legal right to do wrong. Jesus was also tempted by Satan. This has a lot to do with understanding Paul’s thorn in the flesh. I have two parts on it, here is part two which is most relevant to your question.
I Am Persuaded