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Misinterpreted Scripture: The Source of False Teachings
Misinterpreted scriptures are the source of false teachings and doctrines. When scripture is taken out of its context its original meaning changes. Its meaning and purpose ends up being inaccurate or being in err. Once this takes place those who are taught the inaccurate or erroneous interpretation are said to be receiving false teachings and doctrines.
Misinterpreted scriptures which result in false teachings do not arise because God’s servants deliberately want to twist the scriptures or feel like deceiving people. They arise because we are human and limited in our understanding. We are liable to err as Chapter 1: Fallibility of the Church explains.
At the root of most scriptural misinterpretation is Satan trying to take advantage of our fallibility (being liable to err). While we have the Holy Spirit in us who guides us “into all truth,” (John 16:13) God does sometimes allow us to fall under certain errors for a season before revealing the truth to us. How else can we explain the extreme blunders throughout church history done in God’s name by sincere Christians?
The way this deception works is by Satan planting thoughts in our minds rather than appearing physically. We have more than enough experiences throughout history where God’s people have fallen to lies through misinterpreted scripture. Satan used scripture to justify ungodly acts such as gender abuses, slavery, colonialism, persecution of non-Christians and so on.
Our recent accounts include the erroneous spiritual warfare and deliverance teachings. None of the people that fell to the lies throughout history had any outward conversation or physical encounter with Satan quoting scripture.
Misinterpreted Scripture on Spiritual Warfare and Deliverance Principles
The following are among misinterpreted scripture that have been used to justify direct confrontation with evil spirits in territories and the spirit world. Some have already been covered in the book and thus did not merit being repeated.
1. “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death,” Rev. 12:11
The above scripture has been presumed, among those advocating for the erroneous spiritual warfare and deliverance teachings, to refer to believers going to Satan and confronting him with or invoking the blood of Jesus. However, the preceding verse (v.10) talks about “the Accuser,” who is Satan, going before God and making accusations against us. The scripture says he does this “day and night” (v.10) trying to gain legal ground to attack us spiritually, physically, socially, materially and so on.
It doesn’t say he goes to believers. Since he approaches God it is God himself who looks into the accusations made against us. And he, being the ultimate Judge, God considers our side of the case that we have presented before him. The blood of Jesus that covers our sins and our testimony which is God’s word and our conduct of living upright lives disqualify the accusations Satan has made against us.
The blood of the Lamb and our testimony overcomes him in the court of heaven. We have access to heaven, God’s kingdom, so we can always plead our side of the case against Satan, our Accuser.
The scripture therefore does not imply direct confrontation with our Accuser. We cannot afford putting it out of context to justify direct confrontation. After all, in every court of law, each side presents its case before a judge. They do not directly argue against each other to win a case.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says, “The conquered enemy hates the presence of God, yet he is willing to appear there, to accuse the people of God. Let us take heed that we give him no cause to accuse us; and that, when we have sinned, we go before the Lord, condemn ourselves, and commit our cause to Christ as our Advocate.”
We would have had more victories in the body of Christ if we knew true spiritual warfare to be from the indirect perspective. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says, “If Christians had continued to fight with these weapons (the blood of Jesus and the word of their testimony), and such as these, their victories would have been more numerous and glorious, and the effects more lasting.”
This is not going after the enemy but by ensuring that, “we give him no cause to accuse us; and that, when we have sinned, we go before the Lord, condemn ourselves (through repentance to God), and commit our cause to Christ as our Advocate.”
2. “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” Ephesians 6:11-12.
The above scripture has been presumed, among those advocating for the erroneous spiritual warfare and deliverance teachings, to imply that since we do not fight against our fellow flesh and blood we’re to directly confront our real enemies who are the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
The scripture is talking about persecution from people. Instead of trying to overcome their persecution of us with worldly methods like arguments, law suits, physical confrontation, and so on, we’re to primarily ignore their attacks. We focus on overcoming the one using them. It’s the enemy fighting us through them. With our spiritual weapons we overcome his works against us and against them.
Our spiritual weapons, as covered in this book, have nothing to do with directly confronting Satan. Please read Chapter 4. True Biblical Spiritual Warfare = Indirect Confrontation. Our spiritual weapons are “weapons of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 6:7) that the Lord uses to confront the enemy and set captives free.
This may come as a surprise since we expect weapons of war to be used directly against enemy forces and territory. There is no scriptural example of Jesus or any members of the early church directly confronting evil spirits by making proclamations against them in thin air nor in territories in order to overcome their influence.
What has made us assume we can do otherwise is quite a puzzle. And the consequences among many applying the erroneous spiritual warfare and deliverance teachings are unfortunate.
3. “(Verse 4) The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (v.5) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (v.6) And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete,” 2 Cori. 10:4-6
In the New International Version (NIV) bible this verse is in a chapter titled “Paul’s Defense of His Ministry.” Paul maintains that we’re not to live by the standards of this world. He said we should not be like “some people who think that we live by the standards of this world (v.2).” These were among believers. Some were stirring up believers against him.
Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible notes that, “There was no place in which the apostle Paul met with more opposition from false apostles than at Corinth; he had many enemies there…Though he was so blameless and inoffensive in all his carriage.”
Paul was therefore referring to punishing “every act of disobedience” among believers who were not walking right with God. It does not imply punishing the disobedience of Satan by directly confronting him. It meant confronting the disobedience among believers. This disobedience would be punished not by weapons of this world (e.g. arguments, law suits, physical confrontation and so on) but by our spiritual weapons that “have divine power to demolish strongholds” (v.4).
Spiritual strongholds are strongly established sinful ways and false beliefs that have gained a strong influence over a person to the extent that each stronghold “sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (v.5). The individual is unable to accept or follow God’s word because these spiritual strongholds have an excessive influence on him.
Strongholds are high levels of demonic influence (not possession) in the mental faculties of an individual. Think of individuals caught up in some sinful behavior such as alcohol addiction, drugs, sexual sins, pornography, uncontrollable anger (temper tantrums), compulsive gambling, etc. They easily feel pulled to whatever sin they’ve found themselves caught up in.
Believers can also be under some of these forms of demonic influence, such as alcohol addiction, sexual sins, and pornography. However, alcohol addiction is not the same thing as a believer who consents to taking some wine or alcohol at a special occasion. The addict is controlled by the bottle while a believer that opts to have some does it out of practical reasons suitable for that occasion –e.g. to loosen up. One side is bondage, unhealthy, and sinful while the other side scripture does not condemn.
Strongholds are nonetheless demolishable with our indirect weapons of spiritual warfare and deliverance. They are not demolished by going into geographical territories and directly confronting certain spirits that seem to be influencing people into sinful ways. Some of us were once very militant in applying erroneous teachings in binding and loosing territorial spirits, familiar spirits, generational spirits, Jezebel spirits, spirits of division, spirits of unforgiveness, spirits of this and that.
About this passage, G. Richard Fisher says, “Biblically taking cities for God by crippling and disarming the demons of the city is nowhere taught in Scripture. Paul preached the Gospel in each city without dramatics or evasive claims. We do not find Paul doing "prayer walks" and spiritual stakeouts. Logic tells us that for all the time the “demon busters” have been at it, they should have had these cities all under control by now and demon free.
“In the new theatrics of demon busting, one word, "stronghold," has been taken out of 2 Corinthians 10 and used to create an entire theology. The context of chapter 10 is confronting false belief. If anyone is tearing down strongholds, it is the counter cult and apologetic movement (the counter cult and apologetic movement are the people that expose false teachings in and outside the body of Christ). Dualistic demonism is in itself a stronghold of error and false teaching,” (G. Richard Fisher, Walking in the Shadow of The Walk).
Paul says, with our spiritual weapons we’re able to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (v.5). He then says our obedience to God enables us to “punish every act of disobedience, once your (our) obedience (to God) is complete” (v.6).
One way that our obedience to God has punishing effects on the works of Satan is through prayer. Our obedient lives are weapons of righteousness that enable our prayers not to be hindered. This is indirect spiritual warfare. No direct confrontation with Satan or his evil spirits is required.
No scripture even advocates direct confrontation with Satan as a way of punishing his acts of disobedience to God among people or matters in our lives. Yet there are plenty of scriptures showing that our prayers to God combined with our obedience to him accomplish the impossible. The following are some examples:
- “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops,” James 5:16-18
- “Submit to God and be at peace with him… You will pray to him, and he will hear you… He will deliver even the one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands,” Job 22: 21,27,30.
- “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples,” John 15:7-8
- “The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous,” Proverbs 15:29
- “When men are brought low and you say, `Lift them up!' then he will save the downcast. He will deliver even one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands,” Job 22:29-30.
4. “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils,” Luke 11:21-22.
“How can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house,” Matthew 12:29 (NIV)
This passage is used, among those advocating for the erroneous spiritual warfare and deliverance teachings, to justify that we have the authority to bind or tie up evil spirits in people, geographic territories or even spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Unless we bind him we would not be able to overcome him, as it is advocated among those advocating for direct confrontation against Satan, the strong man.
However, the one with the binding or arresting assignment is Jesus, not us, his disciples. He is the one that is stronger than the strong man. Unless we begin to assume that we’re stronger than him. That’s not what the bible says. “Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand,” 2 Peter 2:10-12.
About the “strong man” passage Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible says, “The world, that sat in darkness, and lay in wickedness, was in Satan’s possession, and under his power, as a house in the possession and under the power of a strong man; so is every unregenerate soul; there Satan resides, there he rules.
“Now, (1.) The design of Christ’s gospel was to spoil the devil’s house, which, as a strong man, he kept in the world; to turn the people from darkness to light, from sin to holiness, from this world to a better, from the power of Satan unto God (Acts 26:18); to alter the property of souls.
“(2.) Pursuant to this design, he bound the strong man, when he cast out unclean spirits by his word: thus he wrested the sword out of the devil’s hand, that he might wrest the sceptre out of it. The doctrine of Christ teaches us how to construe his miracles, and when he showed how easily and effectually he could cast the devil out of people’s bodies, he encouraged all believers to hope that, whatever power Satan might usurp and exercise in the souls of men, Christ by his grace would break it: he will spoil him, for it appears that he can bind him.
“When nations were turned from the service of idols to serve the living God, when some of the worst of sinners were sanctified and justified, and became the best of saints, then Christ spoiled the devil’s house, and will spoil it more and more.”
John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible also say, “How can one enter into the strong one's house, unless he first bind the strong one - So Christ coming into the world, which was then eminently the strong one’s, Satan's house, first bound him, and then took his spoils.”
The one who does the binding is therefore Jesus. His work on the cross did the binding by taking away Satan’s authority over the earth, which became his house after Adam fell. He destroyed the legal grounds that Satan gained authority over us who had become his goods in his house. The legal claim came through sin.
5. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus,” Ephesians 2:6-7.
The above scripture is obvious to many. Only a few have assumed it refers to our authority over principalities in the heavenly realms. Being seated with Christ in the heavenly realms has made some to assume that we can now rule over evil spirits that were cast down to the lower heavenly realms and to earth.
Although the passage shows us our present standing with Christ in the heavenly realms it says nothing about our authority over principalities. However it does show what we will have “in the coming ages,” that is, in eternity. Christ will “show the incomparable riches of his grace.” Scripture says in the coming ages, “we will judge angels,” 1 Corinthians 6:3.
Not only will we have authority over principalities, but we “will judge the world,” (v.2). In this present age we remain in our realm of authority -over the earth. Assuming the passage is giving us a license to judge fallen angels is merely taking it out of its context.
It is a great privilege to be “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” We can be at peace that we have the entire heavenly government on our side on matters that God has ordained to fulfill in and through us.
As we approach God in prayer we are entering these heavenly realms of God’s kingdom. We are appealing for his grace, anointing, protection, provision and all that will enable us to overcome the works of the devil in our lives and those we’re commissioned to serve.
Spiritual Warfare book 1: Major Spiritual Warfare Principles: Biblical Do’s and Don’ts of Warfare © 2008 Eric Gondwe, BMC, MBA, DD