The Authority of the Believer
The Practical Exercise of Authority
The believer has now accepted the place of exaltation with his Lord. There has opened for him a life of holiness in the presence of God, and of watchfulness in the presence of the enemy, in a deeper sense than he has known before. His first lesson will be personal. He must learn the significance of the term "Satan" (the Adversary), and come to understand why one of his titles is "Accuser of the brethren." just as Joshua (Zech. 3:1), when he came to stand before the Angel of Jehovah, found "Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary," (ASV) so will the spiritually energetic child of God. He will encounter a constant stream of accusations in his own heart. These will trouble him, until he discovers that the purpose of the enemy is to turn him in upon himself, and, through the creating of a consciousness of personal unworthiness, draw him down from the place of perfect faith. He learns to "overcome him by the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 12:11). That is to say, he presents the Blood as his only answer to these accusations.
But he speedily learns a further use for this divine provision. The Blood represents, not only the cleansing from the guilt and power of sin, but it is also the witness of that overwhelming victory gained at Calvary, by virtue of which the Lord is now seated on high. Once this is grasped, the believer sees that he has not to fight against the foe, but simply to hold over him an already accomplished triumph, the authority of which he shares to the full. Not all at once the full vision comes, but, as he holds his plaains, and their nobles with fetters of iron," and, in that approaching day of full exaltation in the presence of the King, "to execute upon them the judgment written." Oh, that all God's people might come to the understanding of their high calling, for it is expressly stated: "This honor have all his sa; (Ps. 149:8, 9).
The Limitation of Authority
Let it ever be held in mind that the authority committed to the believer is over the powers of the air, and never over his fellow men or their wills. He is called to bind the unseen forces, but to deliver his brethren. Satan's constant aim is the subjugation of the human will to himself; God's' purpose is the full liberation of the will that the freed spirit, through glad acquiescense in the Divine Will, may glorify his Creator. Human control of the will of another, as manifested in hypnotism, etc., is obtained through the use of occult powers latent in the soul, and is as unlawful for the Christian as wizardry and necromancy, which are directly forbidden in the Word of God. Following are a few simple examples of authority in exercise.
Release from Oppression of Body
Just a year prior to this writing, contact was made in a country district with an earnest young pastor and his equally efficient wife equally efficient in spirit at least, but in body sorely hindered. For long she had suffered from what had been diagnosed as serious heart trouble, and for which medical treatment was being taken. One symptom was the frequent recurrence of severe pains, causing fainting spells. The husband stated that he had several times, on coming into the house, found her lying unconscious on the floor. While conversing with the wife, she mentioned that her father was a spiritist, and that she had been expert in former days with the planchette. The question was asked: "Is it not probable, sister, that your present physical trouble and your difficulty in receiving healing, is due to the past?" "No," was the serious reply, "for I was never a medium in the ordinary sense. I simply used the planchette," and many interesting and remarkable incidents of its use were narrated. "Nevertheless," the point was pressed, "in using the planchette, your body had to be surrendered to the evil spirit. There is little question in my mind that the difficulty lies there. Your connection with these powers should be acknowledged and confessed. Then a definite stand, in the authority of the Lord, should be taken, absolutely refusing the further working of evil spirits in your body, which has been purchased by the precious blood."
About three weeks after, a letter was received from the sister in question. After the visitor's departure, the light had come; confession had been made; and she and her husband had unitedly refused the further oppression of the enemy. She has never had another attack of heart trouble, and has been blessed in her service greatly.
Release from Oppression of Mind
Some months ago, after a service in one of our cities, two women came asking an interview. The appearance of one gave an immediate understanding of the situation, which was confirmed by conversation. There had been earnest seeking of deep spiritual experience, which was followed by a sudden attack of' intense despondency. The attacks persisted, until, after three years, the mind was in complete bondage. All joy had fled, and only a feeble hold of salvation was retained. Suggestions of suicide were frequent, pressing with an urgency that was hard to resist.
The following line of approach was taken, after definitely asserting in prayer the power of the Ascended Lord, and the believer's throne union with Him. "Sister, this trouble is clearly the oppression of evil spirits, which have obtained a hold over you in some manner. These thoughts of self-destruction are directly prompted by him who is a deceiver and a murderer. You are a Christian and united with Christ. This afternoon may be for you, if you will, the last occasion of the manifestation of satanic power." In a simple manner, her place of victory and authority in Christ was shown from the Word. She was urged to take it audibly before those who were witnesses (her sister, a friend, and the speaker). After full assertions of her faith and her acceptance of' what Christ had gained and the Father had bestowed, the party kneeled in victorious prayer. As the group arose, one of the friends remarked: "She looks different already." There was a life and animation, most noticeable after the deadness of her previous expression.
A few weeks ago, a letter came: "I feel as if I were saved all over again." joy and peace had returned; the Holy Spirit had come; and soulsaving work had been granted to her.
Authority over Excessive Anger
"Be ye angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath," the apostle charges the readers of the epistle we have been studying; "neither give place to the devil." There is an intimate connection between sinful anger and the prince of evil, and sustained wrath will surely open the door to his entrance. In a certain city two Christian workers, husband and wife, had fallen into the enemy's snare of wrath. One day their quarreling had reached a shameful height, and was attracting attention, as it had done before. The writer and his wife were within hearing, and at prayer. Quietly and definitely they took authority over the spirits of evil who were behind the ostensible cause, and commanded their withdrawal. Almost immediately, the quarreling stopped. As the authority was day by day held and renewed, the spirits were kept in check. Eventually however, the two separated, for they did not seek victory for themselves.
One of the Filipino workers, when a student in the Bible school, was of a very quick and ungovernable temper. This having been stirred up by a trivial matter, he utterly lost control of himself, and speedily became almost insane with rage. The principal and writer stepped into the next apartment, and kneeling down, took the authority of the Lord over the spirits that were working upon him. In a few minutes he was quiet, and it was possible to deal with him.
Similar cases occurred in the Girls' School. On one occasion, after a fight among them, the ringleader was isolated in the office, where she continued shrieking wildly. The writer stepped into the, office, sat down, and quietly, and inaudibly exercised the authority of the Lord, commanding the evil spirits to leave the place. The girl instantly ceased, so suddenly that the lady principal asked what had been done to her.
Authority Over Fear
In traveling among the islands off the coast of Mindanao, in a native boat, a considerable swell was encountered. The son of the writer began to show fear, which became almost uncontrollable. This was most unusual as he was normally fond of the water, and was an excellent sailor, having frequently traveled up and down the entire China coast, where storms are severe. He begged to be taken ashore; and as the whole affair seemed to be directed against the progress of the evangelistic trip, the writer quietly took the authority of Christ over the spirits of fear and rebuked them, though saying nothing openly. In a very few minutes the lad seemed to change completely, and for the remainder of the journey, lasting several days, there was no further difficulty. The second night after, while in the center of a wide bay, and about twelve miles from shore, a heavy squall was encountered, and an outrigger broke. The danger was imminent, but, though the lad was fully aware of it, and though the waves were washing quite over the boat, he manifested not the slightest shrinking. Other instances of fear, involving older and experienced missionaries, are personally known.
Coming down the West River, in the south of China, in 1926, there was a man on board being taken to Hong Kong for mental treatment. He was a foreigner and a member of the customs staff in Wuchow. Early in the morning, he leaped overhoard, but was rescued and placed in a cabin on board. A little later he cut his throat from ear to ear. The boat dropped anchor, and native doctors came, sewed, and dressed his wounds. After they had left him, the writer was asked to talk with him. He was lying on the cabin bunk, with his hands secured by a rope. As soon as the cabin was entered, and before any question was asked, he said: "They told me to do it." "Who told you?" "The voices; they are talking to me all the time. They told me to throw myself overboard; and when I was taken from the water, they said there was no hope for me, as I had tried to take my life, and said I must cut my throat." Then, growing excited, he cried, "They are talking to me now; they say I must send you away. Go! Go!" He was quite beside himself. The answer was mwer was made: "These are demon voices that speak with you. I am not afraid of them. I have come in here to help you." After prayer, he quieted, and no recurrence of the trouble occurred up to the time he was taken from the boat to the hospital at Hong Kong. He was not delivered, but the trouble was under control while the worker was near. Here it may be said that demons recognize at once anyone who can exercise the authority of the Lord, and they are afraid of him. But full deliverance in such a case as this cannot take place without the consent of the one attacked. Other examples could be given.
Authority Over Opposers of the Truth
Previous illustrations are from the personal experience of the writer. The following is by a lady now deceased. In a town in the north of England, great opposition was being manifested to some religious meetings by a group of the rougher sort, stirred by certain communistic leaders. After a short time, the pastor called some of his people together, and asked them to stand with him against the power of the enemy. About a hundred gathered, and after prayer, they definitely repeated with him: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by His authority we bind the strong man from stirring up these peopl against the power of the enemy. About a hundred gathered, and after prayer, they definitely repeated with him: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by His authority we bind the strong man from stirring up these people, and from attacking God's work." A hymn of praise was sung, and the members dispersed. The very next day trouble rose among the leaders of the opposition, some of them left town, and no further hindrance to work was encountered.
Such instances as the foregoing might be multiplied, but these have been selected as illustrating different phases of the question. They are sufficient to show that there are many situations where the direct working of spirits of evil may be inferred. In all such situations, the authority of the Lord is available for the instructed believer. And, where in faith the obedient saint claims his throne rights in Christ, and boldly exerts his authority, the powers of the air will recognize and obey. There may be unwillingness and delay on their part, and time may be required. But, once the word of authority is spoken, it is not necessary to repeat it. The believer must "stand" (6:13), and strengthen himself in God as he waits. He will learn with joy, as did the disciples of old, that "even the demons are Subject unto us through thy name."
Apply now these lessons to the great problems of the extension of the Kingdom that face us. Here is the shortage of funds. We speak of the financial distress, but is any work of the devil today distressed for funds? A walk on the streets of New York after working hours will speedily give the answer. Satan is choking the channels of Christian benevolence in many and shrewd ways, but he leaves free those which minister to pleasure and sensuality. The writer knows intimately of several cases in widely separated parts of the land where funds are tied up, which, if released, would be instrumental in the advancement of the Gospel, Here are closed lands. Human governmental authority seems responsible for these. But in the background, there stand the shadowy forms of the great princes (Dan. 10), whose dicta rule the minds and wills of the men whom we see. Afghanistan, Arabia, Tibet, and other lesser areas are thus garrisoned against the entry of the truth, They will thus remain until there rises in the Church believing groups, who shall "agree" that this state of affairs shall no longer continue. And, as such bands, with one accord, exercise a spiritual will of freedom for these lands, saying in the name of the Lord, "This shall not be!" the unseen dominant forces shall be dominant no longer, but shall yield ground, and the barriers shall fall.
Here are hindrances to advance in the field work. Mohammedanism meets us with bigotry and jealousy; paganism with fear and haired; ignorance binds the heathen mind in darkness that seems impenetrable. Fierce attacks, such as recently occurred in French West Africa, fall upon the workers, and some are cut off. Dissension-, rise in the ranks of brethren, and the Spirit of peace withdraws. Behind every such situation the presence of the same malign powers can be assumed The solution is in their displacement we alone are to blame that they continue in power.
The same principle is often applicable in personal evangelism. A soul under conviction has great difficulty in grasping the truth, or in yielding to it. His mind is blinded and bound. A quiet attitude of victory over the opposing spirits has often brought swift release. A Filipino student was suspected of lying, but was resolutely standing by his falsehood. Quietly the position was taken: "In the name of the Lord, I rebuke these lying spirits." Suddenly the student broke down, confessed, and wept his way through to victory.
Will it not be worthwhile for the believer to meet in the coming age men and women who have been delivered "out of the snare of the devil," and loosed from varying forms of bondage, because he has stedfastly stood for their deliverance for long periods against the fierce and incessant assaults of these deadly foes?
The Final Outcome of Authority
The question is often asked: Why does God permit this or that condition? Does not the answer lie here? God has planned that man shall, through the out-working of Redemption, regain the place of authority in creation that he has lost. To this end, Christ, having conquered for man, sits as his Representative in the seat destined for him when redemption is fully manifested. In the interim, the wonderful provision exists that man shall be reckoned in Christ, and shall, to the limit of his spiritual understanding and obedience, be endowed with the authority of His name.
Accordingly, God throws upon man the responsibility for the continuance of the conditions which we question. We feel they ought not to be. We realize that they are the working of the enemy. We cry to God to rebuke the enemy, and to alter things. Through the teaching of the Word, He replies: "My children, rebuke the enemy yourselves. The authority over him is yours. Its responsibility I have committed to you. I desire you to learn in these things to prevail. I have purposed a high and holy ministry for you in the coming age. This is for you the time of testing and preparation. Be strong and of a good courage, and none shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life."
Slowly, believers are awaking to their high place of privilege in Christ, and are assuming the responsibilities which it involves. The body of the man-child, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, is nearing completion. Born of the Church, but not itself the Church, the body consists of many members with widely differing offices. These members are out of every age and people. On its ascension to the Throne of God, which now potentially it shares, the rebellious powers of the air, which have so long resisted Divine authority, shall be fully and forever dispossessed of their seats to make room for the new incumbents.
Before that event, it is recorded that "the powers of the heavens shall be shaken." The initial tremors of that shaking are now taking place. Every fully yielded heart that crowns Jesus King increases the consternation of the panic-striken hosts. Conscious of their impending overthrow, they are seeking by fierce attacks on every front to hold back the final issue. Now is no time for the Church of Christ to hold back. Let us meet attack by counterattack. Faith is needed, courage, determination, sacrifice. We have these-and more, we have Calvary, with all that it means. Men and women are needed who will meet God in all that He offers, who will take up the cause of the closed lands and reply to the challenge of the great heathen religions by an aggressive warfare in the heavenlies.
"Who is on the Lord's side? Who will face the foe?"