In some circles of the Church, it is taught that believers have supernatural authority given to them by the Lord.
This teaching can be taken to extremes when it is said that believers have ALL authority. This is based primarily on Matthew 28:18 and Ephesians 2:6.
Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Ephesians 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…
The reasoning is that since Christ has been given all authority in heaven and earth and we are seated with Christ in heavenly realms, therefore like Jesus we have all authority.
Based on this teaching, some have undoubtedly used their authority presumptuously to command all kinds of things for themselves (surely to include material blessings), and usually have ended up sorely disappointed.
Included in this presumption is the practice of Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare whereby believers directly address principalities (commonly referred to as territorial spirits), rebuking them and attempting to drive them out of a given territory in the name of Jesus for the purpose of more fruitful evangelism.
The fallacy is that while by faith we are indeed seated in heavenly realms in Christ “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21), we have not been commanded by our Supreme Commander to rebuke or to attack them. It is essential to follow the precise orders of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As a vivid illustration of this, I was once approached by a former military sharpshooter after teaching a group of disciples on a mission trip. He told me that what I had taught followed what he was trained to do as a sharpshooter. He gave me the following example of having in his sights the one he had been ordered to take out. But right next to him he saw someone with even greater value to the enemy than his intended target. Shouldn’t he take out that person instead? NO! He should do exactly what he was ordered to do. His commander would already have been aware of the situation, and plans would have already been set in place accordingly. If the sharpshooter had disobeyed the order and instead aimed for what he thought was the higher value target, he would have disrupted the plans that his superiors had made.
Our Lord Jesus did NOT order us to attack and attempt to drive out principalities and territorial spirits. Instead he commanded us to engage the enemy at ground level by authorizing us to heal the sick, to cast out demons, and to proclaim the kingdom of God. We must obey his orders precisely.
Therefore when we are engaged in ministry or what is called “prayer” (although strictly speaking it might not be prayer to God), we must be very aware of whom we are addressing.
If you are addressing God, you of course go to him in humility and in surrender, and He will receive you.
If you are not addressing God, then whom are you addressing? If you are addressing a demon or an infirmity in a person, then you are authorized to rebuke it harshly and command it to leave. If you are addressing something else—like a spirit in a Hindu or Buddhist temple, be careful. You are not authorized by the Lord to take such action. Moreover, the spirit has the legal right to be there since it was invited in by the Hindus or Buddhists who worship there legally. The spirit you try to drive out has the right to retaliate against you since you were NOT authorized to rebuke it. You essentially went rogue, and therefore no longer under the protection of the Lord.
So make absolutely sure that whatever spirit or entity you are addressing by rebuking or against whom you are issuing a command, the Lord has authorized you to take such action. Otherwise you will run the serious risk of retaliation and counterattack.
And the promise that “nothing by any means will harm you” (Luke 10:19) will be void.
I am of the opinion that generally lax teaching on authority has resulted in sincere believers taking action not authorized by the Lord, and afterwards suffering unnecessary trials when the enemy retaliates.
I personally have ministered in a dozen countries in Africa — the birthplace of black magic and voodoo. I have preached the gospel, healed the sick, cast out demons, and have challenged witchdoctors as Elijah did at Mt. Carmel in the Old Testament and as Jesus did with the Pharisees and the teachers in the law in the gospels (Matthew 12:9-13). In all, the Lord has taken us to fifty countries around the world. He has graciously made us fruitful for the gospel.
But in all of this the Lord has fulfilled to us his promise in Luke 10:19. Nothing by any means has harmed us. Instead, the Lord has graciously blessed us with “heaven on earth”. When I minister, I know the limits of my authority. I remain aware of whom of what I am addressing, and whether or not I am authorized to address that entity.
One primary reason for the confusion we see in the Church regarding this subject is the popular use of the word “prayer”. Whenever we engage in some spiritual exchange, whether healing the sick/casting out demons from someone or praying to the Lord, it is commonly called “prayer”. Thus we are not aware of the night and day difference between the two actions.
Then when we are taught strategic-level spiritual warfare, we also refer to it as “prayer”. And since all “prayer” is good (and we are taught to pray unceasingly), we fail to recognize the serious dangers of coming against and rebuking certain spiritual entities—actions which believers have undoubtedly performed—and for which they may have paid a price.
We must learn to use the word “prayer” to mean something we direct up to God in heaven—and nothing else.
When we take actions toward spiritual entities other than prayer up to our Father in Heaven, we must be aware of precisely what we are doing in order to remain safe—as of course the Lord desires.