Encountering Territorial Spirits - part 5

A careful study of Scripture makes clear 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. This requires them to keep their focus on the clearly stated content of the Commission. It also involves close adherence to the nature of the authority Jesus gave His followers to carry it out.

Finally, obeying the Great Commission to evangelize the world requires a practice in ministry that follows what the Bible says about the character of spiritual gifts.

Several passages in the Word refer to them, including Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 12:1-11, 28-30; and Eph. 4:7-11. There is reason to conclude that they include both gifts of the Spirit and ministry gifts of Christ. Two of these passages make that distinction while the third provides an overlapping among them.

As listed in 1 Cor. 12:1-11, the gifts of the Spirit include a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. Before even enumerating them, however, Paul discusses their nature.

Indeed, it was ignorance concerning their nature that called for the apostle's corrective instructions on the gifts of the Spirit. Some Christians apparently stood in the services at Corinth and declared, "Jesus is accursed!" (3). Paul begins his teaching by saying that such an utterance was not of the Spirit. It is contrary to His very nature. He is not the kind of Person who would say such a thing. Of the Spirit's coming into the world, Jesus said, "He shall glorify me" (John 16:14). Thus, misunderstandings of the character of spiritual gifts demonstrate a lack of understanding of the Person of the Spirit Himself.

From that foundation, the apostle proceeds to explain the nature of spiritual gifts.

He calls them "gifts" (1 Cor. 12:4), "ministries" (5), "activities" (6), and "manifestations" (7). He refers to them as "demonstrations" earlier in the letter (2:4). To focus only on the designation "gifts" can lead to faulty conclusions. To many, the term suggests that the Spirit presents a believer with a specific gift which is in that person's possession ever afterwards, as if it were something tangible. According to that interpretation, it is that believer's property to use when and where he or she chooses.

On the contrary, Paul shows that these are "manifestations" of the Spirit in the sense that it is He who "demonstrates" various divine attributes through different believers on diverse occasions. He grants no "gift of knowledge," for example, that dramatically raises the level of a believer's IQ. Instead, the Spirit operates through the faculties of a Spirit-filled believer to manifest a word of knowledge sufficient to meet an emergency situation or sustain the Lord's people in some time of dire need. These divine attributes remain in the possession of the Holy Spirit, and it is He Who distributes them "to each one individually as he wills" (1 Cor. 12:11).
Paul discusses something different when he speaks of "gifts" in writing to the church at Ephesus (Eph. 4:7-11). Here he speaks of the ministry gifts of Christ. They include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (11).

The source of these gifts is Christ. Yet Paul speaks of each as a measure of "grace" which He distributes to different ones (7). Obviously, He does not give or measure out more or less grace as "unmerited favor" to various believers. Here John Stott writes: "'Saving grace,' the grace which saves sinners, is given to all who believe; but what might be termed ‘service grace,' the grace which equips God's people to serve, is given in differing degrees according to the measure of Christ's gift."[1]

Jesus dispenses grace as a supernaturally imparted ability to perform that service in the church to which one is called.

Paul quotes Ps. 68:18 in this passage (Eph. 4:8). The Psalm pictures Jehovah returning from battle victorious over His enemies. Like great generals of the day, He has with Him the spoils of battle, which He shares with the citizens back home. The spoils include prisoners of war He has taken. Many are talented and educated persons. He presents them to friends. They will serve as slaves in managing estates, teaching children, and tending the sick as doctors, according to their previous training and experience. In like manner, the "service grace" or "ministry gifts" to believers enable them to do the work God has required of them.

Thus, there are significant differences between the gifts of the Spirit and the ministry gifts of Christ. The first come from the Holy Spirit, and the second from Jesus. While the term gifts appears in both 1 Cor. 12:1-11 and Eph. 4:7-11, the contrast seems clear; the term gift is used in the first passage, but grace is used in the second. The gifts of the Spirit in the earlier letter (1 Cor. 12) concern a momentary manifestation or utterance, while the ministry gifts of Christ in the second (Eph. 4) concern the impartation of an abiding ability. In the first, the Spirit selects one as a temporary channel of blessing, but in the second, Christ calls and equips one for a continuing ministry.

In relation to Paul's instructions on the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor. 12, if one were to say, "Discover your gift and use it," that would erroneously imply that individuals are in permanent possession of spiritual gifts. While many hold that view, few are consistent in applying it to such things as wisdom or knowledge. Concerning the apostle's teachings in Eph. 4:7-11, it seems wiser to say, "Determine your call and respond to it."

Combining the two "gift" categories to produce one list causes problems in the Church. For one thing, the view that all spiritual gifts are the personal and permanent possessions of individual believers can easily lead to the development of a spiritually elite group in the Church. Peter Wagner proposes that some have special gifts which impart to them the ability to detect the presence of evil spirits, rather like a Geiger counter.[2] To consider, for example, that the gift of discerning of spirits works like a mechanical device is not only fallacious, but could promote pride in the heart of the possessor.

Kjell Sjoberg demonstrates more dramatically how misconceptions concerning the nature of the gifts can promote the development of a spiritual elite in the Church. He declares persons can possess the "gift of spiritual mapping," though such a gift cannot be located in Scripture by either statement of fact or implication.[3]

Yet Sjoberg describes one individual having such a gift as being a bold master spy on his team. In his view this person is one of the few who has such a gift. The individual attended and registered as a delegate at a spiritists' congress to act as an intelligence agent for a prayer group. Sjoberg concludes, "I would not recommend that everyone do what he did."[4] Obviously, he thinks that only a person belonging to the spiritually elite qualifies for such assignments. They constitute such a select group that Sjoberg declares, "God shows us many things about warfare prayer that we would not be wise to discuss in a larger prayer gathering."[5]

Wagner concurs with Sjoberg's conclusions. He writes, "Not all prayers are called to pray for evangelizing the lost as a primary focus of their prayer activity."[6] He speaks of "intercessors especially gifted and called to strategic-level spiritual warfare."[7] Catching the spirit of what these writers are trying to say, David Greenlee asks, "Must we develop a special type of intercession to break the power of territorial spirits?"[8]

Even John Robb, whom Robert Priest and his associates place among today's demonologists,[9] warns about the pride that may develop when believers consider themselves to be part of such an elite group. He writes: "And the danger of spiritual pride, the very sin of which Lucifer was guilty, is always present. For example, some American intercessors have declared that they bound territorial spirits over Russia during special prayer meetings at Red Square and, by implication, made possible glasnost, peristroika, and . . . the great Russian revival. Glamorous stories of this kind often appear in glossy newsletters usually sent out to raise funds for the activities they describe."[10]

Robb goes on to explain: "The downfall of Communism in the former Soviet Union and the amazing spiritual openness involving missions is, I am convinced, God's sovereign answer to the prayers of tens of thousands of Russian Christians who suffered and prayed for decades while imprisoned in Stalin's gulags."[11]

In fact, the demonology specialists of today suggest that some work in the Church is so reserved for the especially gifted that others dare not try it.

For example, Wagner writes, "There is no doubt about it. Engaging the enemy on any level is risky business."[12] He goes on to say that "when it involves dealing with territorial spirits such as are described in this book, only those so gifted and called would be advised to attempt it."[13] Neil Anderson joins in with the warning that in this "dirty, hellish, and painful war . . . [t]here have been and will continue to be many Christian casualties."[14] To all of this, Johnstone replies, "My safety is not in knowledge of the enemy's stratagems and the precautions I take, but in the efficacy of the blood of the Lamb."[15]

Indeed, Wagner says that in some cases maybe no one should attack the enemy. He writes that "certain spiritual powers could be too mighty for us to handle at a certain time and in a certain place."[16] Concerning what he considers to be Paul's "failure" in the most important city in Greece, he declares, "My hypothesis is that the territorial spirits assigned to the city of Athens were so powerful and so deeply entrenched that Paul was not able to overcome them."[17] How much further away can a Christian teacher get from the true picture of a victorious Christ and a victorious Church in the New Testament?

Current demonologists make little effort to conceal their feelings of belonging to a spiritually elite group. For example, Charles Kraft places himself and his colleagues a cut above those theologians who disagree with them when he writes that "new understandings may be threatening, especially to the more conservative and less experienced."[18] He continues, "But we work from farther along the scale because we have been able to add the practice dimension to the perspective from which we interpret . . ."[19] He concludes that those who disagree "have, apparently, had little or no experience with what the Holy Spirit is doing even in our society and, therefore, no basis for interpreting His activities either in Scripture or in other cultural contexts."[20]

Stanley Horton offers a word of counsel for those who delve into such "deeper truths." Concerning those who had followed the false prophetess Jezebel to know "the depths of Satan" in Rev. 2:18-29, he writes: "[S]he may have said they must enter Satan's territory in order to defeat him. She may have said that she had deeper teaching about Satan beyond what Jesus and the apostles taught. She may have even claimed to have heard Satan or demons speak, not realizing that Satan is a liar. In this way, she led some astray. This could be relevant for people today who develop a preoccupation with rebuking Satan, naming and casting out demons, and so forth."[21]

In conclusion, believers should observe again that, quite contrary to the questionable practices of today's demonologists, Scripture makes clear that Christians can obey the Great Commission to evangelize the world by taking the Bible as their sole and sufficient guide for faith and practice. This requires them to keep their focus on the clearly-stated content of the Commission. It also involves careful adherence to the nature of the authority Jesus gave His followers to carry it out. It further includes a practice in ministry that follows what Scripture says about the character of spiritual gifts. The urgency of the last days in evangelism makes it unthinkable that believers do otherwise.

Bibliography for the Series

Anderson, Neil T. The Bondage Breaker. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1990.

Anderson, Ray S., ed. Theological Foundations for Ministry. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979.

Beckett, Bob. "Practical Steps Toward Community Deliverance." In Breaking Strong­holds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Targeted, ed. Peter Wagner. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993.

Caballeros, Harold. "Defeating the Enemy with the Help of Spiritual Mapping." In Breaking Strong­holds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Targeted, ed. Peter Wagner. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993.

Dawson, John. "Seventh Time Around: Breaking through a City's Invisible Barriers to the Gospel." In Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits, ed. Peter Wagner. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1991.

Gailey, Charles R. "Book Reviews." Missiology. 12 (1994): 250.
 
Greenlee, David. "Territorial Spirits Reconsidered." Missi­ology. 12 (1994): 507-514.

Horton, Stanley M. Ultimate Victory: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation. Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1991.

Johnstone, Patrick. "Biblical Intercession: Spiritual Power to Change Our World." In Spiritual Power and Missions: Raising the Issues, ed. Edward Rommen. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1995.

Kraft, Charles H. "‘Christian Animism' or God-Given Authority?" In Spiritual Power and Missions: Raising the Issues, ed. Edward Rommen. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1995.

Lorenzo, Victor. "Evangelizing a City Dedicated to Darkness." In Breaking Strong­holds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Tar­geted, ed. Peter Wagner. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993.

Lund, Eric. Hermeneutics: The Science and Art of Interpreting the Bible, 3d and rev. ed. Translated by P. C. Nelson. Enid, Okla.: The Southwestern Press, 1941.

Murphy, Edward J. Handbook for Spiritual Warfare. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992.

Otis, George, Jr. "An Overview of Spiritual Mapping." In Breaking Strong­holds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Targeted, ed. Peter Wagner. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993.

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, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1995.

Robb, John. "Satan's Tactics in Building and Maintaining His Kingdom of Darkness." International Journal of Frontier Missions 10 (1993): 173-184.

Rommen, Edward, ed. Spiritual Power and Missions: Raising the Issues. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1995.

Sjobert, Kjell. "Spiritual Mapping for Prophetic Prayer Actions." In Breaking Strongholds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Targeted, ed. Peter Wagner. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993.

Sterk, Vernon F. "Territorial Spirits and Evangelization in Hostile Environments." In Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits, ed. Peter Wagner. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1991.

Stott, John W. R. God's New Society. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVars­ity Press, 1979.
 
Wagner, Peter. Confronting the Powers. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1996.

, ed. Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1991.

. "Introduction." In Breaking Strong­holds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Tar­geted. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993.
. "The Visible and the Invisible." In Breaking Strong­holds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Targeted. Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993.


[1] John W. R. Stott, God's New Society (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVars­ity Press, 1979), 155.

[2] Peter Wagner, Confronting the Powers (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1996), 68.

[3] Kjell Sjobert, "Spiritual Mapping for Prophetic Prayer Actions," in Breaking Strongholds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Targeted, ed. Peter Wagner (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993), 99.

[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 107.
[6] Wagner, Confronting the Powers, 23.

[7] Peter Wagner, ed., Breaking Strong­holds in Your City: How to Use Spiritual Mapping to Make Your Prayers More Strategic, Effective and Targeted, (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1993), 231.

[8] David Greenlee, "Territorial Spirits Reconsidered," Missi­ology 12 (1994): 512.

[9] 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, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1995), 16.

[10] John Robb, "Satan's Tactics in Building and Maintaining His Kingdom of Darkness," International Journal of Frontier Missions 10 (1993): 181.

[11] Ibid., 181.

[12] Peter Wagner, ed., Engaging the Enemy: How to Fight and Defeat Territorial Spirits (Ventura, Calif.: Regal Books, 1991), 21.

[13] Ibid., 25.

[14] Neil T. Anderson, The Bondage Breaker (Eugene: Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1990), 301.

[15] Patrick Johnstone, "Biblical Intercession: Spiritual Power to Change Our World," in Spiritual Power and Missions: Raising the Issues, ed. Edward Rommen (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1995), 157.

[16] Wagner, Confronting the Powers, 156.
[17] Ibid., 204.

[18] Charles H. Kraft, "‘Christian Animism' or God-Given Authority?" in Spiritual Power and Missions: Raising the Issues, ed. Edward Rommen (Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library, 1995), 91.

[19] Ibid., 95.
[20] Ibid., 107.

[21] Stanley M. Horton, Ultimate Victory: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1991), 54.