Yes, We Really Do Have Authority in Jesus Christ

In May I recorded the audiobook for the second Untwisting Scriptures book, focusing on Patriarchy and Authority.

I’m happy to say that the producer is a professional sound engineer who has done audio work for Julie Roys, Dr. Diane Langberg, and other advocates.

It should be available within a few days, I hope!

I’ve mentioned before that most of the chapters of this book were blog posts before they were edited into chapters, going all the way back to 2013. But a few of them were written brand new for the book.

One of those new ones was chapter 18, “The Authority We Have in Jesus Christ.” A day or two ago as I was listening to the optimized version of this chapter, I thought, “Hmmm, this information is so important, I should probably make it available free of charge to those who for one reason or another won’t or can’t buy the book.”

So here it is, my friends. I feel a compulsion to apologize for its length, but I won’t. I’ll just say, read it in small chunks if you need to.

I pray you’ll find something in it that will encourage you on your path. And God bless you.

*****

The Authority We Have in Jesus Christ

The subject of our authority in Jesus Christ is a big one. Entire books have been written about it. But in a book that addresses false authority, I feel compelled to at least give a brief introduction to the true authority the Lord Jesus has given those who trust in Him.

This flows out of the teaching in the previous chapter.

Before Jesus left this earth in victory to be seated at the right hand of the Father, He said some important words to His disciples in Matthew 28:18.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Ten days later, His followers received the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ.

Where is our authority?

We who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ serve under Him, who has all authority. And He has delegated certain authority to each of us who trust in Him. But it’s not over other people.

In this world, there is a realm of the seen (the physical realm) and the realm of the unseen (the spiritual realm). Ephesians 2:6 tells us that God the Father

Raised us up with him [Jesus] and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

This seating of authority has already happened, but it can’t mean we’re in heaven now (because we’re not). The authority we have is in the spirit realm, over spiritual entities. That is, because we are in Jesus Christ, we have authority over evil spirits.

This authority we have is not about asking God for something. Asking is a legitimate aspect of true prayer, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

This authority is about declaring something, or making a command. That’s what authority is. And not declaring or commanding in this physical realm for our own benefit. But declaring and commanding in the spiritual realm for the Kingdom of God.

While acknowledging the sin we all fall prey to, the power of “the world” and “the flesh,” I want to focus here on the work of “the devil.” As representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, his realm is one over which we have authority.

I have a theory. This theory is born out of years of listening to abuse survivors’ stories.

Those cultic religious leaders I’ve been talking about in the rest of the book? I believe that keeping us confused and under their thumb is one way Satan keeps us from recognizing our true authority.

The devil fears Christians who understand their identity in Jesus Christ and their true place in the Kingdom of God and the authority we thus have in Jesus Christ, in the spirit realm.

Satan does not want us to know who we really are.

What Jesus has given

In the previous chapter I noted that Jesus said in Luke 12:32,

“Fear not, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.”

We are heirs of the Kingdom, heirs of the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As heirs, every one of us who trusts in Jesus Christ has authority in Him over the forces of evil.

All of us, from the “lowest” to the “highest.” All those who trust in Jesus. He has delegated authority to us to command the enemy out and away, in the Name and by the authority of the true Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

For me, it was a long time before I personally learned this in my experience. When the Holy Spirit led me to listen to the painful stories of those who have been abused and oppressed by religious leaders, that’s when I became aware of evil on a greater scale. This led to the opening of my eyes to the constant warfare going on in the spirit realm, as demonic forces battle against the Kingdom of God.

As I’ve continued in this work, I’ve realized at a deeper and deeper level that there is much spiritual warfare to be done.

After all, a primary way the devil accomplishes his evil work is when humans believe his lies and act on them.

If you are a child of God, the devil knows you have great authority. And he doesn’t want you to know it.

Do you know it?

My book Prayer Armor for Defense against the Enemy’s Flaming Darts goes more deeply into this concept of spiritual warfare and the authority we have over the enemy in our personal lives. But what a shame that many churches—especially many coming from a more fundamentalist, Reformed, or conservative evangelical perspective—don’t teach this authority at all.

Yes, there are some churches, some who call themselves Christians, who go to extremes with seeing the devil and his minions everywhere. Yes, there are some who even use this truth about spiritual authority as one more way to abuse innocent people.

But as we humbly examine the Word of God and listen to His Holy Spirit, we will be able to embrace what God has said is true. Many passages in the New Testament refer to spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:10-13 is perhaps the best known one.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Defensive and offensive

In Prayer Armor for Defense against the Enemy’s Flaming Darts, I walk the reader through a defensive prayer, with its Scriptural foundation. That is, a prayer of authority against the enemy to protect us from his attacks in the life of our thoughts and emotions.

But Christians can engage in warfare offensively as well, to help rescue souls who are under the enemy’s control. You might even say this is when our authority can become more obvious.

Who is affected by evil spirits?

Though many Christians would like to live as if there is no battle going on in the unseen realm and there are no evil spirits and there is no work of the devil (only “the world” and “the flesh”), the battle is real.

I believe the New Testament clearly shows two types of people in Jesus’ time who were demonized, that is, afflicted by demons. (I use the term “demonized” rather than “demon possessed” because it is more accurate to the original Greek and it allows for different degrees or types of demonic activity in a person’s life in addition to complete control.)

One group is the obvious: those who were afflicted against their wills. Whether or not they understood what was happening to them, they were tormented and did not want to do the will of the devil.

And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”  And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. (Mark 1:23-26)

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” (Matthew 15:22)

The other group is perhaps not quite as obvious. It is those to whom Jesus was speaking in John 8:44.

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.

Who was this group?

It was the religious leaders.

Jesus said they wanted to do the devil’s work.

Not every religious leader, of course. The Scriptures show that there were some, such as Nicodemus, who wanted to know Jesus and bow before Him.

But this, as well as several other Scriptures, indicate that there were—and are—respected religious leaders who have given themselves over to the devil.

They are in the churches, even today. Men (and women) who actually want to do the devil’s work are leading churches.

So what are we as Jesus-lovers and Jesus-followers to do?

The forces of evil are all around us, but as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God we do not need to fear. The power and authority of our Lord Jesus Christ are far greater.

An example of spiritual authority

A friend who was raised in a Reformed church told me she learned about her authority in Jesus Christ when she went to Bible school and studied spiritual warfare. Then she went on a mission trip to China. She wrote me this story:

The atmosphere in that part of China was the darkest place I have been in my life. A missionary who had previously been deep in Mongolia for ten years and had gone through indescribable hardships told me that she had never faced darkness like what dominated this Chinese city. In the four months leading to my hospitalization, I had been experiencing heavy emotional struggles, physical exhaustion, and spiritual warfare. Every day was an intense battle. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually, everything seemed to climax when I got appendicitis.  

When I was suffering agonizing pain the night before my emergency surgery, I had a demonic dream/vision of a serpent-being who was tormenting me. It was not just what looked like a snake; it was a real presence of a demonic being in my room. I commanded it away in the name of Jesus even though I had very little strength, and the infinite power of Jesus drove it away, immediately giving me peace.  

If I had not learned at Bible school that I have that authority, I do not know what I would have done. Though I was going through intense physical suffering, my soul was fully at peace.  

There is nothing like walking through a dark valley with Jesus to reveal the priceless beauty of His Light.[1]  

This friend experienced a demon tormenting her, attacking her. This was not because of her sin, and she felt no shame about it.

She also didn’t need to feel fear, because she knew what to do. She knew her authority in the Lord Jesus Christ and needed to command it away.

Knowing our delegated authority in Jesus Christ makes the difference, in a situation like that one, between asking God for help and issuing a command. This friend knew she could issue the command.

There are times when asking God for help isn’t the best course of action. Sometimes the help is already there—and we just need to make use of it.

Because this problem isn’t just in China. Demonic forces are at work all over the world, and in Western countries too.

What we need for this battle

We need freedom from abusive systems

Even if we’re physically free, it might take a while to complete the getting free.” Those old voices can still be in our heads and hearts.

But if you want to walk in victory and authority, it’s essential to keep working at separating the toxic from the true.

The further we can get from the lies of the abusers and their abusive systems—not just physically, but in our souls—the better we’ll be able to see who we really are in Christ. And the more we’ll be able to walk in victory over the powers of darkness.

We need to draw near to God

This doesn’t mean we need to be flawless or sinless. It means our hearts are truly His. It means our hearts do not purposely harbor secret wickedness but are moving toward our Lord in faith, being drawn by His love.

This also means listening to the Holy Spirit, which is more than I can discuss here. But it is so important for those of us who love Jesus to learn to do, in order to grow in the Christian life to which He has called us.

We need to know the truth

This is not a physical battle to be waged in the power of the flesh.

We are in a spiritual battle, to be waged in the power of the Spirit.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

When we understand who Jesus really is and who we really are, then we can begin to grasp the spiritual authority that we truly have been given in Him.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:3-4)

That grounding in who Jesus Christ really is and who you really are in Him, and how He works in and through you—there is no substitute for that when it comes to spiritual warfare.

For in [Christ] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

We need to learn the truth, deeply

You can read books on the topic, and you can listen to speakers. But humans, all of us, are fallible and can go astray.

The most reliable way to absorb the truth of God about these topics is to read the Bible for yourself, especially the New Testament, since you are a New Covenant believer. Read it with a humble, searching heart, asking the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to more and more truth—about Him, about yourself, about the world, and about the spirit realm. Continue to seek Him and know Him through His Word and His Spirit. Reading Scripture for yourself is paramount.

Know Jesus. He teaches you who He is through the Scriptures and through His Spirit.[2]

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:6-7)

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

Know yourself. You can learn who you are in Jesus Christ through the Scriptures. But sometimes you may need some help fully understanding what happened to you in your past and how that has affected you, including your view of yourself and God and your understanding of truth. Sometimes you may need help understanding things such as brain science and history (your own, your family, and more). Sometimes you may need help grasping these truths not only in your intellect, but in your experience.[3]

Understand the spiritual battle. We are at war, as the Scriptures tell us and as experience shows. The adversary is doomed, but he wants to deceive, rob, destroy, confuse, oppress, and take down as many people as possible. He’ll use a variety of tactics to do it.[4]

Jesus said in John 10:10,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

The answer to the denial and deception of the enemy comes in untwisting the lies and knowing the truth. Truth leads to understanding. Greater understanding leads to deeper awareness of truth. Greater awareness of truth exposes error and helps others out of their ignorance and confusion.

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.  And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” (Revelation 12:10-11)

We need to distinguish spiritual authority in Jesus Christ from magic

Some Christians who lack understanding may want to use Christian words, phrases, symbols, activities, or items to affect the spirit realm in a “magical” way, but this idea comes from paganism. The Adversary can use this ignorance to draw people into confusion, including Christ-followers.

For example, some Christians have believed that practicing “grave soaking” would give them the authority of the dead person whose grave they lie on. Some have thought that making the sign of the cross would give them authority against demons.

But spiritual warfare isn’t about some physical action we take in this physical realm. It is about spiritual action in the spirit realm. Spiritual warfare is a holy undertaking.

Acts 19:13-16 tells the story of seven young men who thought they could cast out demons by copying Paul. After all, they had heard his words. But the demons responded, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?”

Obviously, it was the personal relationship with Jesus Christ that mattered, and truly acting as His representative. Not simply a set of “magic words.”

We have authority available to us always when we come against the enemy through the Lord Jesus Christ. This means not just by saying His Name, but by being one of His sheep and a child of His Kingdom, as the previous chapter describes.

We need to know what our spiritual authority is for and what it’s not for

Sadly, because of the times—or maybe better, because of human nature—I have to make this part crystal clear.

Your authority is not about power or pleasure in this physical realm. (That is one of the devil’s chief deceptions.)

It is about the Kingdom of God.

Your authority is not to claim something you want for your own comfort.

It is authority against the realm of evil.

Your authority is not about accomplishing your own will.

It is authority to accomplish God’s will that He has stated in Scripture.           

Your authority is not to declare particular events that should take place here on earth.

It is the authority to stand against demonic spirits as we do our work for the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ in His spiritual Kingdom (not a physical one).

You have been given no authority over God. You haven’t even been given spiritual authority over other people.

The power and strength God wants us to have is in the spiritual realm. Against the spiritual forces of evil.

Your authority means you can stand against evil spirits that come against you personally, for example, in your thought life. This video series from Deeper Walk International “Understanding the Wounded Heart” explains more about this.

It also means you can stand in authority against evil spirits that are binding another person who needs to be freed.

Some time ago, a woman I was working with in my prayer ministry was unquestionably demonized. That is, she saw the demons, she heard the demons, and sometimes the demons wrote messages to me through her.

Her situation was a complicated one that wasn’t a once-and-done affair, but every time the demons manifested, I quietly responded with a command to leave. (Except sometimes I answered their emails.)

There came a point in her healing process when—though it was a while before they completely left her alone—they stopped using her to try to threaten me. Our progress was step by step until she came to Jesus and learned to exercise her authority in Jesus herself. Eventually she was completely freed.

Step by step

Approach mysteries humbly

Sometimes when people command evil spirits out and away for an afflicted person, but nothing changes, they blame the afflicted one for lack of faith. But they have no authority to do that. This is how spiritual warfare can become spiritual abuse. 

Also, if you seek to stand in your authority in regard to an issue in your own life, but you haven’t experienced breakthrough, you don’t want to shame yourself. (Abuse survivors can often be harder on themselves than anyone else.)

In either case, you do have recourse. You can come boldly before the throne of God to humbly ask Him what is standing in the way of freedom and victory. 

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  (Hebrews 4:14-16)

There may be some very complicated situations or issues you don’t yet see. As a couple of examples, when a person has suffered lifelong abuse there can be much shame as well as much confusion, both of which are powerful tools of the devil. In the life of a satanic ritual abuse survivor, there may be spiritual binding that is not the person’s fault at all, but it may take some time and much spiritual discernment to untangle.

We continue to seek our Lord through His Spirit. We hope and expect His good answers. Because we know we’re on the winning side. We humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. And we stand confident in Him.

God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  (James 4:6b-7)

The ability to resist the devil is preceded by submitting to God. When we have come to Him in humility and asked Him to take charge in our lives, confessing our sins and asking for His infilling, then we will be able to stand against the devil and his minions and know they will flee. 

Practice your authority

If we don’t recognize and stand on our faith-filled authority in the spiritual realm—the realm of the Kingdom Jesus talked about in Luke 12:32—then we’ll suffer from the “flaming darts” of the enemy without even understanding what’s going on.

In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)

I once fought a very personal spiritual battle, in which I became entangled and enveloped in demonic darkness. It was weeks before I finally recognized it as a demonic attack. For over a year I sought God through the Scriptures, and the Word came alive to me even as I was still in the darkness, still feeling like I was being held underwater. I began to see Jesus more fully for who He really is. Though I didn’t understand yet about making commands, finally one day I made a declaration. I cried out loud from the depths of my being, “Jesus, You are all my righteousness! You are my complete salvation! You are my only Hope!”

I knew, deep down, He was my only hope. And indeed, He did deliver me and prepare me to wage warfare not just for myself, but for others as well.

Once you’re willing to face and fight the battles in your own life, once you come out on the other side of those battles victorious, the Lord will bring you to others who need help. They in turn can then be brought to a place of freedom and understanding. Then they too will be able to exercise their spiritual authority in Jesus Christ.

In my personal ministry work with individuals, we address all the expected topics of truth, lies, sin, shame, trauma, and so forth (and yes, we address forgiveness). But in some cases the person I’m working with clearly is or might be hindered by evil spirits and want to be free. Sometimes in this work I may discern possible hindrances in the spirit realm. In cases like these, there is no need to be afraid, because Jesus is far greater than any evil spirits. There is no reason to respond by raising my voice, because demons aren’t hard of hearing.

Instead, I give a quiet command such as this one, just as I would pray a quiet prayer. It is done recognizing that our Lord Jesus is the ultimate authority over the evil and knows exactly what to do.

In the Name and by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, as His daughter and representative, I command any evil spirits that may be hindering this work today to be gone from here and go to the feet of Jesus, for Him to do with as He will.

Often, then, the person I’m working with and I will find that the confusion or fog or darkness has lifted, and we can move forward.

Align our desires and will with God’s desire and will

In the first Untwisting Scriptures book, in the chapters about “yielding rights,” I wrote about the importance of our desires aligning with the will of God. I said that though genuine rights cannot ever be yielded, our desires must always be yielded to the Lord, aligned with His will.

I want to say the same thing here, but with a different emphasis. Some Christians, when they learn about the authority we have in the spirit realm, believe that God will yield to their desires. Nothing could be further from the truth, and a path such as this one will lead to evil.

Rather than assuming that God’s will is going to align with our desires, we look to Him, attuning our hearts to Him, to align our desires, our wills, with the will of God.

How we can know we’re on the right track

Spiritual authority that is aligned with the will and desires of God . . .

  • shows love for others and helps them find healing.
  • exposes evil.
  • leads those who are in spiritual bondage into freedom from sin and shame.
  • leads to wholeness and strength for the spiritually wounded and oppressed.
  • brings souls into God’s Kingdom.
  • helps strengthen those souls for spiritual battle.
  • glorifies God by showing His majesty and His heart of love.

Spiritual authority from God begins and ends with His love, the love that Jesus held up as paramount in Matthew 22:35-40.

And one of [the Pharisees, a student of the Mosaic law], asked [Jesus] a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

In John 13:34 Jesus made it even more clear:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Spiritual authority from Jesus Christ is never simply a display of power. It is filled with and fueled by love, love for God and love for others. Always.

If it is not, then it will become simply one more tool for the devil.

 If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 3:2)

But when love is the core and the goal, we will see our Holy Lord Jesus Christ, the God of glory, lifted up and exalted. We will see souls joyfully brought into His Kingdom, into close relationship with Him, which He delights to give to His flock.

This is the aim and joy of the Christian life.

Always.

*****

[1] Personal correspondence, January 2021, used by permission.

[2] A wise friend said, “When the Spirit and the Word seem to contradict each other, we do need to face into that, to find out where truth lies. Often the truth is that we have misunderstood the Word, or how it applies. Nathanael and Peter were two who had to decide whether to believe the Spirit of God, when what he said to them seemed to contradict the Word of God. The issue is not which is more to be trusted, the Spirit or the Word. The issue goes back to this: Are our hearts truly His? And are our hearts open to the truth he wants to reveal to us? The extent to which our heart is open is the extent to which God can show us where we’ve misunderstood the Word, or missed the Spirit, or both – and can show us his Word by his Spirit, and reveal his Spirit in his Word.”

[3] Though this may be going a bit far afield from the discussion of our authority in Jesus Christ, I believe it’s an important point: Becoming more and more free from the effects of trauma, especially childhood trauma, can help enable us to come into the fullness of who we are in Christ, which is important for us to be able to fully embrace the authority He has given us.

[4] The variety of tactics the enemy uses is the subject of many books, but a few are denial, deception, doubt, confusion, fear, and promises of power, pleasure, or fame.

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Lila
Lila
6 months ago

This is really important. I started out going to Reformed Church. A lot of churches don’t teach spiritual warfare, and looking back, I realize that so much of what I was going through really was spiritual warfare. Wish I had known.

Petra Plucenik
Petra Plucenik
6 months ago

I’m so glad you didn’t apologize for the length of this article. It’s so thorough and every point made was necessary as you point the reader back to the sacred process of not just reading scripture but studying it as Jesus is that precious cornerstone that is SAFE to build on. Thank you so much for this great article… there really are no shortcuts but the journey is SO worth it.

Quietrunner
Quietrunner
6 months ago

So glad this positive chapter made it into the book. Sometimes discussions about spiritual warfare feel like walking a balance beam ~ fall to one side its ” oh i dont worry about SATAN, he can’t touch me… im a child of God” and to the other side people give Satan more power and credit Than he ever deserves. Thank you for this well balanced teaching❤️