I hope this article doesn’t offend anyone, although I do hope it sheds some light on a practice that is often done by Christians… and that isn’t altogether Scriptural.
Have you ever been in a prayer time with other Christians and someone will pray something like, “Satan, we bind you in the name of Jesus!”? I have. I’ve even heard some pray, “And I loose the spirit of _____________ (love, joy, whatever might be needed in place of the yucky thing that was just bound up)”. This always seemed weird to me. More than once, I’ve left a prayer meeting and gone to my Bible to find out exactly what these people were doing. This often left me a bit discouraged, because I couldn’t find anyone in Scriptures praying this way.
A quick search on the internet will provide multiple blogs, articles, and books that have been written concerning ‘binding’ Satan. This is often described as doing ‘spiritual warfare’. But… why can’t I find anyone in the entire Bible doing this?
The Scripture that is often used to indorse this practice is Matthew 16:19,“And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (NKJV).
The Hebrew verbs אָסַר (asar, bind) and הִתִּיר (hitir, loose) each appear with more than one meaning in the Hebrew Bible. The verb אָסַר (asar) can mean “tie” as in Judges 15:12 and 16:11; “imprison” as in 2 Kings 17:4; “hitch” (a cart, wagon or chariot) as in Genesis 46:29; and “tether” as in Genesis 49:11; while the verb הִתִּיר (hitir) can be the exact opposite of asar in each of its senses.
I found that by the time of Jesus, asar had acquired the additional meaning “forbid,” and its antonym, hitir, had acquired the meaning “permit.” These are the meanings most often found in rabbinic literature.
What does all this mean? Jewish sages were called upon constantly by their community to interpret Scriptural commands. The Torah forbids working on the Sabbath, for instance, but it does not define what constitutes work. As a result, the sages were required to rule on which activities were permitted on the Sabbath. They “bound,” or prohibited, certain activities, and “loosed” or allowed, others.
We see a perfect example of this happening in Acts 15:1-30. In this passage there was arguing between Paul and some of the apostles and some others who were teaching that stuff like circumcision was required for salvation. They all gathered together to discuss exactly which laws were supposed to be obeyed, and where exactly ‘grace’ fit in to this whole salvation thing. They then decided that the only ‘rules’ they should impose upon the Gentiles were the following: they should “abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, and from things strangled, and from blood” (vs 20 & 29).
How could these mere men decide on such important things? Because of what Jesus had said in Matthew 16:19! He had given them the authority to make these kinds of decisions! Jesus knew that His followers would be given the Holy Spirit, Who would be a ‘Guide’ (John 16:13) to them. As a matter of fact, in Acts 15:28 they give the reason for which they made their decision: “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:”.
I know that it is strange to think that Jesus has given that kind of radical authority to His disciples… His Church… to you and I… but He has.
In the Christian walk there are many ‘grey’ areas, aren’t there? I mean, some things are ‘black & white’ in the Bible; ‘Don’t steal’, ‘Don’t commit adultery’, ‘Pray without ceasing’, ‘Honor your father and mother’, ‘Love your neighbor’, ‘If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet’…etc. But what about other things that we face, things that aren’t so cut & dry, like; Watching ‘R rated’ movies, getting tattoos, knowing what church to attend, or whether or not to listen to country music? If there is a Bible verse I can turn to in order to know what I’m supposed to do, then great! However, what about the times I can’t find a Bible verse to answer my questions? It’s in these grey areas that you and I are to be those who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit of God, so that we might be guided by Him into making the right choice. (Although, country music is pretty much always evil)
God’s second greatest gift to you and I has got to be His Spirit. His first and greatest gift was the life of His only Son, which paid the debt we owed. But the second greatest gift, I believe, is the gift of His Spirit. We are not called to live this life on our own, but have been empowered and filled with God’s very own Spirit! Truly, we are able to declare Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might nor by power, but by [His] Spirit,’!
Could this be what Jesus was really speaking about when He spoke to Peter about how He would build His Church, and how the gates of Hades would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:13-19)? And if it is, then how did we get so far off and start tying the Devil up ‘with chains that can’t be broken’ in our prayer times?
It turns out there is another passage of Scripture that folks will use when trying to defend why they feel binding Satan up with unseen, spiritual ropes or chains is something that we should be doing… or even can do. That passage is in the Gospel of Mark 3.
Mark 3:22-27 “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one 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.”
It’s always important to look at the ‘context’ of a verse, before taking it and standing it all by itself to form a doctrine or belief. In other words, verse 27 must be taken with the verses that surround it and not left to be deciphered on its own.
Jesus, we are told in verse 23, is talking in ‘parables’. A parable was a story that was used to drive home a point. What’s Jesus’ point in this story? His point is simply that He and Satan are not on the same team. Jesus was fighting Satan. Satan is called ‘the ruler of this world’ (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11), he’s the strong man whose house is this world. Jesus had entered into the world, Satan’s house, and was in the process of plundering it! How? Well, by His public ministry, His declaration of the Word of God, His miracles, His setting people free from the bondage of sin… all of this was Jesus entering into Satan’s territory, tying him up, rendering him ineffective, and ultimately defeating him on the Cross! Jesus is making the emphatic point that He is in the process of defeating Satan, that they are NOT on the same team… and no one should suggest that they are.
Read this passage for yourself. Is this not the point of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:22-30 or Mark 3:22-27? Why then, do some Christians take one verse out of context and use it as the basis for the way they engage in spiritual warfare?
I would suggest that when we pray, we do so with the knowledge that “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). We don’t need to ‘bind Satan’ with some type of invisible rope, because he has already been bound, plundered, and defeated by the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ. We need to stand in the authority that has been given to us; Ephesians 1:19-23 “and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
May you and I be those who walk in THAT kind of power and authority, in Jesus’ name. Truly, we are ‘loosed’ to do so.