The preceding articles in this series have considered the encouraging fact that believers can obey the Great Commission to evangelize the world by taking the Bible as their sole and sufficient guide for faith and practice. Further, Scripture makes clear that they can obey the Great Commission by keeping their focus on the clearly-stated content of the Commission. Naturally, Jesus did not leave His followers without adequate instructions on carrying through with their assignment. In fact, the matter was so urgent that He not only addressed it during His more than three years of earthly teaching, but He also spoke of it several times during His post-resurrection ministry.
Following at least a year and a half of concentrated teaching, our Lord selected twelve of his students for ministry assignment. When Jesus called them, Scripture clearly declares His purpose was to "send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out demons" (Mark 3:14-15). Just before sending them on their first "solo mission," He gave them instructions not unlike a military briefing from a commander on the eve of battle. Mark relates that, after the instructions, "[T]hey went out and preached that people should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them" (Mark 6:12-13).
In both instances the mission was clear.
It was three-fold in extent. The Twelve were to preach, heal the sick, and cast out demons. Mark joins James in recording that early ministers anointed an ill person with oil as a part of praying for the sick (Mark 6:13). James says, "[L]et them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (5:l4).
Jesus gave similar instructions to the Seventy whom He selected and sent forth to minister. Luke records, "After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go" (10:1). When sending them forth, He told them that they should heal the sick and preach the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God (10:9).
Luke reports on the results of that first experience on their own. "Then the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name" (10:17). They, like the Twelve Apostles, had obviously preached, prayed for the sick, and cast out demons. Significantly, Jesus sought to temper their excitement over the subject of demonology. He responded to their enthusiasm by saying, "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:19-20).
The Great Commission in the Gospel of Mark contains the same three elements as the assignment the Lord had given to His workers before the crucifixion (16:15-18). They were to "preach the gospel to every creature," "cast out demons," and "lay hands on the sick." The "sign" of speaking with new tongues implies that they were to do all this only after receiving the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.
The other signs promised to accompany their preaching were related to the apostles' ministry to the sick (Mark 16:17-18). The Teacher offered a general promise that if His followers would lay hands on the sick, they would recover. Then He gave specific encouragement to believe for healing in the case of someone who accidentally swallows a poisonous drink. That is the implication of the Lord's reference to "if they drink any deadly thing." His words in no way give believers reason to drink poison in order to display their faith, an erroneous practice followed by some Pentecostal fringe groups.
The Great Commission in Matthew differs much from that in Mark primarily because the two Gospels record different settings and occasions for Jesus' assignment to His followers. Undoubtedly, He spoke of their mission on many occasions during His post-resurrection ministry, but only a few of them are recorded in Scripture. In Mark the audience was the "eleven" (16:14). They were together eating a meal in a house, probably somewhere in the vicinity of Jerusalem. Mark records (14:28; 16:7) that Jesus had ordered them to move north into Galilee, and that is where we find them in the Book of Matthew. They met on a mountainside there (Matt. 28:16).
In Matthew the Commission has only one basic command (28:18-20).
The Book of Acts tells of the last time Jesus spoke with His followers concerning their mission on earth. This exchange occurred just before His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:4-8). As in Matthew, Jesus' emphasis was on the single activity of sharing with the nations of the world the good news about His coming to earth. The disciples were to witness of Him to all, beginning at Jerusalem, then in Judea, then Samaria, then "to the end of the earth."
Even Peter Wagner declares, "We need to understand up front that prayer and spiritual warfare do not in themselves save the lost. No one was ever saved through pulling down strongholds or binding the strongman." Later he correctly declares, "Lost souls are saved only through preaching the gospel of the cross of Christ and His resurrection, followed by repentance and allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior." Neil Anderson joins Wagner in declaring that the work of evangelism involves more of a truth encounter than a power encounter.
The Church in the Book of Acts understood that its main assignment was the preaching of the Gospel.
Wagner and several others spend much of their energy in delving into demonology, with a tendency to go dangerously far beyond what Scripture says on the subject. While confessing that the Bible offers little information on the organization of demons in the spirit world, and that theologians through the centuries have concluded virtually nothing on the matter, Wagner and the others expound at length on the subject.
Focusing too much on any single teaching of Scripture, often makes people end up saying things which have very little biblical basis. They should, rather, learn to be content to take the plain teachings of the Bible and act upon them
Such experts in prophecy are not unlike the followers of Christ in the first century.
They were so taken up with that subject that they could think of nothing else, even in their last moments with their Teacher before His ascension back to heaven. They enquired, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). The reply of Jesus made clear that He did not want His followers to get sidetracked with peripheral issues. He said simply, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in his own authority" (7). Then the Lord of the Harvest made clear that they should focus on their assignment to witness for Him worldwide. He declared, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
An overemphasis on the work of demons leaves too little emphasis on the work of God. What Jesus has already done, what the Father does, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and even the work of angels get virtually no attention in the literature of Wagner and his associates.
Then, speaking obviously about Himself, our Lord declared, "No man can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house" (Mark 3:27). Thus, Satan had already been bound by Jesus and was already under His authority! Jesus could do as He pleased with anything in the devil's house or kingdom. Paul declared about Jesus at Calvary, that, "having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15). In doing so, Jesus was like a military commander of the day who returned home after victory in battle. In his grand march into his home city, he led behind him the defeated and helpless enemy commander along with other prisoners of war. This analogy makes it clear that it is Jesus Who has already bound Satan.
Further, an overemphasis on the work of demons in the universe demeans the work of God the Father.
Concluding as Scripture warrants, however, that demons are a part of idol worship, one must not forget that in the Bible, Jehovah repeatedly shows Himself much greater than all the gods of this world. As the Almighty, He even sarcastically pokes fun at their powerlessness (Isa. 41:21-24; 44:9-20). Thus, dualism--the idea that the power of God and the power of the devil are both eternal and of roughly equal strength--is a completely erroneous concept with no backing in Scripture.
The demonology specialists contend that the power of territorial spirits must be broken in every area of the world before evangelism is possible. Satan, the god of this world, has so blinded the eyes of sinners that such is necessary. Surely Jesus, however, through the power of the Spirit, is in the business of opening the eyes of those who have been blinded spiritually. It was basically the witnessing ministry of Paul that the Lord used "to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins . . ." (Acts 26:18). The Spirit worked mightily to make all that possible.
Finally, we should not neglect the work of angels.
Angels will do battle with demons yet again before this age comes to a close (Rev. 12:7-9). Will the specialists in demonology now divulge to us the elaborate schemes that the angels use to combat Satan and his hordes? It actually seems more reasonable to learn all the details on how to work with angels than to know how to work against demons in the cause of evangelism.
In the handling of Scripture, one does well to follow a rule of interpretation offered many years ago by Eric Lund: "It is necessary, so far as possible, to take the words in their usual and ordinary sense." From this, one may deduce the rule: "If the first sense makes good sense, seek no other sense at all." Using common sense might save people from the extremes in both doctrine and practice that current demonologists promote. Priest, Campbell, and Mullen draw attention to one of the dangers of going with these extremes. They write that "those who embrace and propagate the tantalizing falsehood would divert valuable energies and resources from productive reality-based understandings and methods." It is much better to follow the plain teachings of Scripture in the Great Commission.
Anderson, Neil T. The Bondage Breaker. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1990.
Priest, Robert J., Thomas Campbell, and Bradford A. Mullen. "Missiological Syncretism: The New Animistic Paradigm." In Spiritual Power and Missions: Raising the Issues, ed. Edward Rommen. Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1995.
, ed. Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1991.
 Robert J. Priest, Thomas Campbell, and Bradford A. Mullen, "Missiological Syncretism: The New Animistic Paradigm," in Spiritual Power and Missions: Raising the Issues, ed. Edward Rommen (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1995), 73.