JOHN WESLEY, in dealing with overbalance and fanaticism, uses the word enthusiasm, and says: “Enthusiasm is undoubtedly a disorder of the mind; and such disorder as greatly hinders the exercise of reason. Nay, sometimes it wholly sets it aside: it not only dims but shuts the eyes of the understanding. It may, therefore, well be accounted a species of madness; of madness rather than folly: seeing a fool is properly one who draws wrong conclusions from right premises; whereas a madman draws right conclusions, but from wrong premises. And so does an enthusiast. Suppose his premises are true, and his conclusions would necessarily follow. But here lies his mistake: his Premises are false. He imagines himself to be what he is not, and therefore, setting out wrong, the farther he goes, the more he wanders out of the way.”
To come nearer to our own time! I have on my shelves a book - GROUP MOVEMENTS
OF THE PAST AND EXPFRIMENTS IN GUIDANCE, by Ray Strachey, which consists of extracts
from the papers of Hannah Whitall Smith, describing the times in which she lived,
and the curious religious sects which she investigated during the middle years
of the nineteenth century. In his
foreword to this book the late Dr. H.
Hensley Henson, Bishop of Durham, wrote: “Very early in the history of the
Christian Church the subtle temptation to a kind of inverted humility, which is
really the worst and most dangerous form of spiritual pride, disclosed itself
in portentous scandals. The adventists of Thessalonica, who
refused their normal obligations in the interest of a complete self-preparation
for the Lord’s Coming, have had their representatives in many strange sects in
An aftermath of the Welsh Revival at the dawn of the present century was the rise of a number of extreme cults, often stressing a return to “Pentecostal” practices. Mrs. Penn-Lewis, who had witnessed much of the Revival as the representative of THE LIFE OF FAITH, saw clearly the peril of these fanatical teachings, and in collaboration with Mr. Evan Roberts, who played so prominent a part in the Revival, wrote a book, WAR ON THE SAINTS. In this book these extreme and overbalanced beliefs and practices are categorically branded as the work of an invading host of evil spirits. The word “deception” might be said to be the key word of the book - a term which is in complete harmony with the findings both of John Wesley and Dr. Henson.
This present volume is an abridgement of the original book, which ran into seven editions. The Trustees of The Overcomer Literature Trust were concerned about certain aspects of WAR ON THE SAINTS as originally published. First and foremost they felt that they could not endorse the teaching that a born-again, Spirit-filled, Christian can at the same time demon possessed; and also found themselves unable to accept some of the teaching given concerning the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”, and the aggressive warfare against the powers of darkness, either as a means of promoting revival, or of hastening the coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Editor of THE OVERCOMER I was commissioned to undertake a revision of the book, with the object of eliminating these elements, and yet retaining the clear teaching and warning against the dangers underlying the extreme, unscriptural emphases of our modem array of “sects “, behind which is so often hidden the clever manipulation of deceiving spirits. This has not been an easy task, and the result certainly will not satisfy everyone; but it is sent out with the prayer that it may open the eyes of those who read it, to the grave dangers that beset the path of uninformed “enthusiasm”: and, above all, that it may give a new vision of the Mighty Saviour, Who in His Cross triumphed over all the powers of evil and deception, and lives for ever as the Strength and Refuge of His own.
J. C. METCALFE.
* * * * * * *
A BIBLICAL SURVEY OF
If all that the Bible contains on the subject of the supernatural powers of evil could be exhaustively dealt with in this book, we should find that more knowledge is given of the workings of Satan, and his principalities and powers, than many have realized. From Genesis to Revelation the work of Satan as deceiver of the whole inhabited earth can be traced, until the climax is reached, and the full results of the deception in the Garden of Eden are unveiled in the Apocalypse. In Genesis we have the simple story of the garden, with the guileless pair unaware of danger from evil beings in the unseen world. We find recorded there Satan’s first work as deceiver, and the subtle form of his method of deception. We see him working upon an innocent creature’s highest and purest desires, and cloaking his own purpose of ruin, under the guise of seeking to lead a human being nearer to God. We see him using the God-ward desires of Eve to bring about captivity, and bondage to himself. We see him using “good” to bring about evil; suggesting evil to bring about supposed good. Caught with the bait of being “wise”, and “like God”, Eve is blinded to the principle involved in obedience to God, and is DECEIVED (1 Tim. 2: 14, A.V.).
Goodness is, therefore, no guarantee of protection from deception. The keenest way in which the Devil deceives the world, and the Church, is when he comes in the guise of somebody, or something, which apparently causes them to go God-ward and good-ward. He said to Eve, “ye shall be as gods,” but he did not say, “and ye shall be like demons”. Angels and men only knew evil when they fell into a state of evil. Satan did not tell Eve this, when he added “knowing good and evil”. His true objective in deceiving Eve was to get her to disobey God, but his wile was, “ye shall be like God”. Had she reasoned, she would have seen that the deceiver’s suggestion exposed itself, for it crudely resolved itself into “disobey God” to be more like God!
THE CURSE OF GOD PRONOUNCED UPON THE DECEIVER
a highly organized monarchy of evil spirit-beings was in existence,
is not made known in the story of the garden.
Only a “serpent” is there; but the serpent is spoken to by God as an
intelligent being, carrying out a deliberate purpose in the deception of the
woman. The serpent-disguise of Satan is
swept aside by Jehovah, as He makes known the decision of the Triune God in
view of the catastrophe which had taken place.
A “Seed” of the deceived woman should eventually bruise the head of the
supernatural being, who had used the form of the
serpent to carry out his plan.
Thenceforward the name of serpent is attached to him, the very name
throughout the ages describing the climax action of his revolt against his
Creator, in beguiling and deceiving the woman in
Henceforth it is also war by Satan upon the womanhood of the world, in malignant revenge for the verdict of the garden. War by the trampling down of women in all lands where the deceiver reigns. War upon women in Christian lands, by the continuance of his Eden method of misinterpreting the Word of God; insinuating into men’s minds throughout all succeeding ages, that God pronounced a “curse” upon the woman, when in truth she was pardoned and blessed; and instigating men of the fallen race to carry out the supposed curse, which was in truth a CURSE UPON THE DECEIVER, and not the deceived one (Gen. 3: 14).
“I will put enmity between thee and the woman,” said God, as well as between “thy seed and her seed”, and this vindictive enmity of the hierarchy of evil to woman, and to believers, has not lessened in its intensity from that day.
SATAN AS DECEIVER IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
once we clearly apprehend the existence of an unseen host of evil
spirit-beings, all actively engaged in deceiving and misleading men, Old
Testament history will convey to us an open vision of their doings, hitherto
hidden from our knowledge. We can trace
their operations in relation to the servants of God throughout all history, and
discern the work of Satan as deceiver penetrating everywhere. We shall see that David was deceived by Satan into numbering
In the history of Israel during the time of Moses, the veil is lifted more clearly from the satanic powers, and we are shown the condition of the world as sunk in idolatry - which is said in the New Testament to be the direct work of Satan (1 Cor. 10: 20) - and actual dealing with evil spirits; the whole inhabited earth being thus in a state of deception, and held by the deceiver in his power. We also find numbers of the people of Israel, through contact with others under Satanic, power, deceived into communicating with “familiar spirits” and into the using of “divination” and other kindred arts, inculcated by the powers of darkness, even though they knew the laws of God, and had seen His manifested judgments among them (see Lev. 17: 7, R.V. margin “satyrs”; 19: 31; 20: 6, 27; Deut. 18: 10, 11).
In the book of Daniel we find a still further stage of revelation reached concerning the hierarchy of evil powers when in the tenth chapter we are shown the existence of the princes of Satan, actively opposing the messenger of God sent to Daniel to make His servant understand His counsels for His people. There are also other references to the workings of Satan, his princes, and the hosts of wicked spirits carrying out his will, scattered throughout the Old Testament, but on the whole the veil is kept upon their doings, until the great hour arrives when the “Seed” of the woman, Who was to bruise the head of the serpent, is manifested on earth in human form (Gal. 4: 4).
SATAN AS DECEIVER UNVEILED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
the advent of Christ, the veil which had hidden the active workings of the
supernatural powers of evil, for centuries since the garden catastrophe, is
still further removed, and their deception and power over man is clearly
revealed, and the arch-deceiver himself appears in the wilderness conflict of
the Lord, to challenge the “Seed of the woman”, as it is not recorded that he
appeared on earth since the time of the Fall.
The wilderness of
Traces of the characteristic work of Satan as deceiver can be discerned among the disciples of the Christ. He deceives Peter into speaking words of temptation to the Lord, suggesting His turning from the path of the Cross (Matt. 16: 22, 23), and later on takes hold of the same disciple in the judgment Hall (Luke 22: 31), prompting him to the lie, “I know not the Man,” with the very purpose of deception (Matt. 26: 74). Further traces of the work of the deceiver may be seen in the epistles of Paul, in his references to the “false apostles”, “deceitful workers”, and Satan’s workings as an “angel of light”, and “his ministers as ministers of righteousness” among the people of God (2 Cor. 11: 13-15). In the messages to the Churches also, given by the ascended Lord to His servant John, false apostles are spoken of, and false teachings of many kinds. A “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2: 9), consisting of deceived ones, is mentioned, and “deep things of Satan” are described as existing in the Church (Rev. 2: 24).
THE REVELATION OF THE DECEIVER IN THE APOCALYPSE
A startling revelation of the satanic confederacy against God and His Christ is given to the Apostle John. After the messages to the Churches, the world-wide work of the deceiver prince is fully disclosed to the Apostle, and he is bidden to “write all that he is shown, that the Church of Christ might know the full meaning of the war with Satan in which the redeemed would be engaged, right on to the time when the Lord Jesus would be revealed from heaven, in judgment upon these vast and terrible powers, full of cunning malignity and hatred to His people, and as truly at work behind the world of men, from the days of the garden story to the end.
As we read the Apocalypse, it is important to remember that the organized forces of Satan described therein, were in existence at the time of the Fall of Eden, and only partially revealed to the people of God until the advent of the promised “Seed of the woman” Who was to bruise the serpent’s head. When the fulness of time had come, God manifest in the flesh met the fallen archangel, and leader of the evil angelic host, in mortal combat at Calvary; and, putting them to open shame, shook off from Himself the vast masses of the hosts of darkness who gathered around the Cross, from the furthermost realms of the kingdom of Satan (Col. 2: 15).
Scriptures teach us that God’s unveilings of the truths concerning Himself, and all the things in the spiritual realm which we
need to know, are always timed by Him to the strength of His people. The full revelation of the satanic powers
disclosed in the Apocalypse was not given to the Church in its infancy, for
some forty years passed after the Lord’s ascension ere the Book of the
Revelation was written. Possibly it was
necessary that the
the Revelation given to John, the name and character of the deceiver is more
clearly made known, with the strength of his forces, and the extent of the war
and its final issues. It is shown that
in the invisible realm there is war between the forces of evil and the forces
of light. John says that “the dragon WARRED, and his angels ...”, the
dragon being explicitly described as the “serpent” - from his guise in
WORLD-WIDE DECEPTION DISCLOSED IN THE APOCALYPSE
War is the keyword of the Apocalypse; war on a scale undreamed of by mortal man; war between vast angelic powers of light and darkness; war by the dragon, and the deceived world-powers upon the saints; war by the same world-powers against the Lamb; war by the dragon upon the Church; war in many phases and forms, until the end when the Lamb overcomes, and they also overcome who are with Him, called and chosen and faithful (Rev. 17: 14).
The world is now drawing nearer to the “time of the end”, characterized by the deception depicted in the Apocalypse as being world-wide; when there will be deception Of NATIONS, and individuals, on such a vast scale that the deceiver will practically have the whole earth under his control. Ere this climax is reached there will be preliminary stages of the deceiver’s working, marked by the widespread deception of individuals, both within and without the professing Church, beyond the ordinary condition of deception in which the unregenerate world is lying.
To understand why the deceiver will be able to produce the world-wide deception depicted in the Apocalypse, which will permit the supernatural powers to carry out their will, and drive nations and men into active rebellion against God, we need clearly to grasp what the Scriptures say about unregenerate men in their normal condition, and the world in its fallen state.
If Satan is described in the Apocalypse as the deceiver of the whole earth, he has been so from the beginning. “The whole world lieth in the evil one” (1 John 5: 19) said the Apostle, to whom was given the Revelation, describing the world as already lying deep in darkness through the deception of the evil one, and blindly led by him through vast evil spirit hosts under his control.
THE WORD “DECEIVED”
THE DESCRIPTION OF EVERY UNREGENERATE MAN
The word “deceived” is, according to the Scripture, the description of every unregenerate human being, without distinction of persons, race, culture, or sex. “We also were … deceived” (Titus 3: 3), said Paul the Apostle, although in his “deceived” condition he was a religious man, walking according to the righteousness of the law, blameless (Phil. 3: 6).
Every unregenerate man first of all is deceived by his own deceitful heart (Jer. 17: 9; Isa. 44: 20), and by sin (Heb. 3: 13); the god of this world adding the “blinding of the mind” lest the light of the Gospel of [the glory of] Christ should dispel the darkness (2 Cor. 4: 4 [R,V.]). And the deception of the evil one does not end when the regenerating life of God reaches the man, for the blinding of the mind is only removed just so far as the deceptive lies of Satan are dislodged by the light of truth.
Even though the heart is renewed, and the will has turned to God, yet the deeply ingrained disposition to self-deception, and the presence, in some measure, of the blinding power of the deceiver on the mind, betrays itself in many forms, as the following statements from Scripture show:-
The man is deceived if he is a hearer, and not a DOER of the Word of God (Jas. 1: 22).
He is deceived if he says he has no sin (1 John 1: 8).
He is deceived when he thinks himself to be “something when he is nothing” (Gal. 6: 3).
He is deceived when he thinks himself to be wise with the wisdom of this world (1 Cor. 3: 18).
He is deceived by seeming to be religious, when an unbridled tongue reveals his true condition (Jas. 1: 26).
He is deceived, if he thinks he will sow, and not reap what he sows (Gal. 6: 7).
is deceived, if he thinks the unrighteous will inherit the
He is deceived, if he thinks that contact with sin will not have its effect (1 Cor. 15: 33) upon him.
DECEIVED! How the word repels, and how involuntarily every human being resents it as applied to himself, not knowing that the very repulsion is the work of the deceiver for the purpose of keeping the deceived ones from knowing the truth, and being set free from deception. If men can be so easily deceived by the deception arising from their own fallen nature, how eagerly will the forces of Satan seek to add to it and not diminish it by one iota. How keenly will they work to keep men in bondage to the old creation, out of which will spring multitudinous forms of self-deception, enabling them the more readily to carry on their deceiving work. Their methods of deception are old and new, adapted to suit the nature, state and circumstances of the victim. Instigated by hatred, malice, and bitter ill-will towards mankind and all goodness, the emissaries of Satan do not fail to execute their plans, with a perseverance worthy to be imitated by him who fain would reach his goal.
SATAN, THE DECEIVER ALSO OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD
The arch-deceiver is not only the deceiver of the whole unregenerate world, but of the children of God also; with this difference, that in the deception he seeks to practise upon the saints, he changes his tactics, and works with acutest strategy, in wiles of error, and deception concerning the things of God (Matt. 24: 24; 2 Cor. 11: 3, 13, 14, 15).
The chief weapon which the deceiver-prince of darkness relies upon to keep the world in his power is deception, and deception planned to beguile men at every stage of life; deception (1) of the unregenerate who are already deceived by sin; (2) deception suited to the carnal Christian; (3) and deception fitted to the spiritual believer, who has passed out of the preceding stages into a realm where he will be open to meet more subtle wiles. Let the deception be removed which holds the man in the earlier days of his unregenerate condition, and in the stage of the carnal Christian life; when he emerges into the heavenly places, described by Paul in the Epistle to the Ephesians, he will find himself in the very keenest workings of the wiles of the deceiver, where the deceiving spirits are actively at work attacking those who are united to the risen Lord.
The work of the deceiver among the saints of God is especially depicted in the Ephesian letter of the apostle Paul, where, in Ephesians 6: 10-18, we have the veil drawn aside from the satanic powers, showing their war upon the Church of God, and the individual believer’s armour and weapons for conquering the foe. From this passage we learn that in the plane of the believer’s highest experience of union with the Lord, and in the “high places” of the spiritual maturity of the Church, will the keenest and closest battle be fought with the deceiver and his hosts.
A glimpse into this onslaught of deceiving spirits upon the people of God in the close of the age, is given in the Gospel of Matthew, where the Lord uses the word deceived in describing some of the special marks of the latter days. He said: “Take heed that no man DECEIVE you. “For many shall come in My Name, saying, ‘I am Christ’: and shall lead many astray” (Matt. 24: 4, 5, A.V. and R.V.); “and many false prophets shall arise, and shall DECEIVE many” (Matt. 24: 11, A.V.). “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray [or ‘deceive’ A.V.] if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24: 24).
DECEPTION IN CONNECTION
WITH THE SUPERNATURAL REALM
The special form of deception is said also to be in connection with spiritual, and not worldly, things; incidentally showing that the people of God, at the time of the end, will be expecting the coming of the Lord, and therefore be keenly awake to all movements from the supernatural world, in such a measure that deceiving spirits will be able to take advantage of it, and anticipate the Lord’s appearing by “false Christs” and false signs and wonders; or mix their counterfeits with the true manifestations of the [Holy] Spirit of God. The Lord says that men will be deceived (1) CONCERNING CHRIST and His parousia - or coming; (2) CONCERNING PROPHECY - or teaching from the spiritual world through inspired messengers; and CONCERNING THE GIVING OF PROOFS of the “teachings” being truly of God, by “signs” and “wonders” so God-like, and therefore so exact a counterfeit of the working of God as to be indistinguishable from the true by those described as His “elect”; who will need to possess some other test than the judging by appearances of a “sign” being from God, if they are to be able to discern the false from the true.
Apostle Paul’s words to Timothy, containing the special prophecy given to him
by the Holy Spirit for the
two letters of Paul to Timothy are the last epistles that he wrote ere his
departure to be with Christ. Both were
written in prison, and Paul’s prison was to him what
The Apostle said: “The Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, scared in their own conscience as with a hot iron ...” (1 Tim. 4: 1, 2, R.V. m.).
PAUL’S STATEMENT IN 1 TIM. 4: 1, 2,
THE ONLY SPECIFIC ONE SHOWING THE CAUSE OF THE PERIL
Paul’s prophetic statement appears to be all that is foretold in specific words about the Church and its history at the close of the dispensation. The Lord spoke in general terms about the dangers which would encompass His people at the time of the end, and Paul wrote to the Thessalonians more fully about the apostasy, and the wicked deceptions of the lawless one in the last days, but the passage in Timothy is the only one which explicitly shows the special cause of the peril of the, Church in its closing days on earth, and how the wicked spirits of Satan would break in upon her members, and by deception beguile some away from their purity of faith in Christ.
The Holy Spirit, in the brief message given to Paul, describes the character and work of the evil spirits, recognizing their existence, (2) their efforts directed towards believers to deceive them, and by deception draw them away from the path simple faith in Christ, and all that is included in the “faith once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
That the character of the spirits is described in 1 Tim. 4: 1-3, and not the men they sometimes use in the work of deception, may be understood from the Greek original.*
[* Pember says that v. 2 refers to the character of the deceiving spirits should be read thus: “direct teaching of unclean spirits, who, though bearing a brand on their own conscience, as a criminal is disfigured - would pretend to sanctity (i.e. holiness) to gain credence for their lies …”]
The peril of the Church at the close of the age is therefore from supernatural beings who are “hypocrites” who pretend be what they are not, who give “teachings” which appear to make for greater holiness, by producing ascetic severity to the “flesh”, but who themselves are wicked and unclean, and bring those they deceive into contact with the foulness of their own presence.
THE PERIL OF DECEIVING SPIRITS
AFFECTS EVERY CHILD OF GOD
The peril concerns every professing Christian. The prophecy of the Holy Spirit declares that (1) “some” shall fall away from the faith; (2) the reason for the fall will be a giving heed to deceiving spirits, i.e., the nature of their working being not known evil, but deception, which is a covered working. Th essence of deception is that the operation is looked upon as sincere and pure. (3) The nature of the deception will be doctrines of demons, i.e., the deception will be in a doctrinal sphere. (4) The way of deception will be that the “doctrines” are delivered with “hypocrisy”, i.e., spoken as if true. (5) Two instances of the effect of these evil spirit doctrines are given: (a) the forbidding of marriage, and (b) abstaining from meats; both, said Paul, “created by God”. Therefore their teaching is marked by opposition to God, in His work as Creator.
THE SATANIC FORCES DESCRIBED IN EPH. 6
Demoniacal “doctrines” have been generally tabulated as either belonging to the Church of Rome, because of the two marked results of demon teaching mentioned by Paul, which characterize that Church; or later “cults” of the twentieth century, with their omission of the fact of sin, and the need of the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and a Divine Saviour. But there is a vast realm of doctrinal deception by deceiving spirits, penetrating and interpenetrating Evangelical Christendom, by which evil spirits, in more or less degree, influence the lives even of Christian men, and bring them under their power; even spiritual Christians being thus affected on the plane described by the Apostle, where believers united to the Risen Christ meet “spiritual wickedness” in “heavenly places”. For the satanic forces described in Eph. 6: 12 are shown to be divided into (1) “Principalities” - force and dominion dealing with nations and governments; (2) “Powers” - having authority and power of action in all the spheres open to them; (3) “World-rulers” - governing the darkness and blindness of the world at large; (4) “Wicked spirits” in the heavenly places - their forces being directed in and upon the Church of Jesus Christ, in “wiles”, “fiery darts”, onslaughts, and every conceivable deception over “doctrines” which they are capable of planning.
The peril assails the Church from the supernatural world, and comes from supernatural spirit-beings who are persons (Mark 1: 25) with intelligent power of planning (Matt. 12: 44, 45), with strategy (Eph. 6: 11), the deception of those who “give heed” to them.
HOW THE EVIL SPIRITS DECEIVE BY “DOCTRINES”
How the evil spirits as teachers get men to receive their teachings, may be summed up in three specific ways: (1) By giving their doctrines, or teachings, as spiritual revelations to those who accept everything supernatural as Divine because supernatural - a certain class unaccustomed to the spiritual realm, accepting all that is “supernatural” as from God. This form of “teaching” is direct to the person; in “flashes” of light on a text, “revelations” by visions of Christ, or streams of texts apparently from the Holy Spirit. (2) By mixing their “teachings” with the man’s own reasonings, so that he thinks he has come to his own conclusions. The teachings of the deceiving spirits in this form are so natural in appearance, that they seem to come from the man himself as the fruit of his own mind and reasoning. They counterfeit the working of the human brain, and inject thoughts and suggestions into the human mind; for they can directly communicate with the mind, quite apart from gaining possession in any degree) of mind or body.
Those who are thus deceived believe that they have come to their own conclusions by their own reasonings, ignorant that the deceiving spirits have incited them to “reason” without sufficient data, or on a wrong premise, and thus come to false conclusions. The teaching spirit has achieved his own end by putting a lie in the man’s mind, through the instrumentality of a false reasoning.
(3) By the indirect means of deceived human teachers, supposed to be conveying undiluted Divine “truth”, and implicitly believed because of a godly life and character, believers saying, “He is a good man, and a holy man, and I believe him”. The life of the man is taken as a sufficient guarantee for his teaching, instead of judging the “teaching” by the Scriptures, apart from his personal character. This has its foundation in the prevalent idea that everything that Satan and his evil spirits do is manifestly evil, the truth not being realized that they work under cover of light (2 Cor. 11: 4), i.e., if they can get a “good man” to accept some idea from them, and pass it on as “truth”, he is a better instrument for deceptive purposes than a bad man who would not be believed.
FAME AND DECEIVED TEACHERS
There is a difference between “false” teachers, and deceived ones. There are many deceived ones amongst the most able teachers to-day, because they do not recognize that an army of teaching spirits have come forth to deceive the people of God, and that the special peril of the earnest section of the professing Church lies in the supernatural realm, from whence the deceiving spirits with “teachings” are whispering their lies to all who are “spiritual”, i.e., open to spiritual things. The “teaching spirits” with “doctrines” will make special effort to deceive those who have to transmit “doctrine”, and seek to mingle their “teachings” with truth, so as to get them accepted. Every believer must test all teachers to-day for himself, by the Word of God and their attitude to the atoning Cross of Christ, and other fundamental truths of the Gospel, and not be misled into testing “teaching” by the character of the teacher. Good men can be deceived, and Satan needs good men to float his lies under the guise of truth.
THE EFFECT ON THE CONSCIENCE
OF THE TEACHINGS BY EVIL SPIRITS
How teaching spirits teach we find described by Paul, for he says they speak lies in hypocrisy, that is, speak lies as if they were truth. And the effect of their working is said to “cauterize” (Gr.) the conscience, i.e., if a man accepts the teachings of evil spirits as Divine, because they come to him “supernaturally”, and he obeys, and follows those “teachings”, “conscience” is unused, so that it practically becomes dulled and passive - or scared - and a man does things under the influence of supernatural “revelation” which an actively awakened “conscience” would keenly rebuke and condemn. Such “give heed” to these spirits, by (1) listening to them, and then by (2) obeying them; for they are deceived by accepting wrong thoughts about God’s presence, and about Divine love and unknowingly give themselves up to the power of lying spirits. Working in the line of “teaching”, deceiving spirits will insert their “lies” spoken in hypocrisy, into “holiness” teaching, and deceive “believers” about sin, themselves, and all other truths connected with the spiritual life.
Scripture is generally used as the basis of these teachings, and is skilfully woven together like a spider’s web, so that they are caught in the snare. Single texts are wrenched from their context, and their place in the perspective of truth; sentences are taken from their correlative sentences, or texts are aptly picked out from over a wide field, and so netted together as to appear to give a full revelation of the mind of God; but the intervening passages, giving historical setting, actions and circumstances connected with the speaking of the words, and other elements which give light on each separate text, are skilfully dropped out.
A wide net is thus made for the unwary or the untaught in the principles of Scripture exegesis, and many a life is side-tracked and troubled by this false using of the Word of God. Because the experience of most professing Christians in regard the Devil is limited to knowing him as a tempter, or as an accuser, they have no conception of the depths of his wickedness, and of the wickedness of evil spirits, and are under the impression that they will not quote Scripture, whereas they will quote the whole Book if they can but deceive one soul.
SOME WAYS OF “TEACHING” BY DECEIVING SPIRITS
The “teachings” of deceiving spirits now being promulgated by them are too many in number to enumerate in a
small compass. They are generally recognized only in “false religions”, but the teaching spirits with their “doctrines” or religious ideas suggested to the minds of men, are ceaselessly at work in every clime, seeking to play upon the religious instinct in men, and give a substitute for truth.
Therefore, truth alone dispels the deceptive doctrines of the teaching spirits of Satan: the truth of God, not merely “views of truth”. Truth concerning all the principles and laws of the God of Truth. “Doctrines of demons” simply consist of that which a man “thinks” and “believes” as the outcome of suggestions made to his mind by deceiving spirits. All “thought” and “belief” belongs to one of two realms - the realm of truth, or the realm of falsehood - each having its source in God or Satan. All truth comes from God, and all that is contrary to truth from Satan. Even the “thoughts” that apparently originate in a man’s own mind come from one of these two sources, for the mind itself is either darkened by Satan (2 Cor. 4: 4), and therefore fertile soil for his “teachings”, or renewed by God (Ephes. 4: 23), and clarified from the veil of Satan, and made open to the reception and transmission of truth.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLE
FOR TESTING TEACHINGS BY TEACHING SPIRITS
Since thought, or “belief”, originates either from the God of Truth or the father of lies (John 8: 44), there is but one basic principle for testing the source of all doctrines, or “thoughts” and “beliefs”, held by believers or unbelievers, i.e., the test of the revealed Word of God.
All “truth” is in harmony with the only channel of revealed truth in the world - the written Word of God. All “teachings” originating from deceiving spirits:
(1) Weaken the authority of the Scriptures;
(2) Distort the teaching in the Scriptures;
(3) Add to the Scriptures the thoughts of men; or
(4) Put the Scriptures entirely aside.
The ultimate object being to hide, distort, misuse or put aside the revelation of God concerning the Cross of Calvary, where Satan was overthrown by the God-Man, and where freedom was obtained for all his captives.
The test of all “thought” and “belief” therefore is its
(1) Harmony with the written Scriptures in its full body of truth.
(2) The attitude to the Cross, and sin.
In the Christianised world, some doctrines of demons tested by these two primary principles may be mentioned as
Christian Science: no sin, no Saviour, no Cross.
Theosophy: no sin, no Saviour, no Cross.
Spiritism: no sin, no Saviour, no Cross.
New Theology: no sin, no Saviour, no Cross.
In the heathen world [we have]:-
1. Mahommedanism Confucianism Buddhism, etc. = No Saviour, no Cross, a “moral” religion, with man his own saviour.
Idolatry as the worship of demons = No knowledge of a Saviour, or of His Calvary sacrifice, but true knowledge of the evil powers, which they endeavour to propitiate, because they have proved them to be existent.
In the professing Christian Church [we have]:- Countless “thoughts” and “beliefs”, which are opposed to the truth of God, are injected into the minds of “Christians” by teaching spirits, rendering them ineffective in the warfare with sin and Satan, and subject to the power of evil spirits. All “thoughts” and “beliefs” should therefore be tested by the truth of God revealed in the Scripture, not merely by “texts” or portions of the Word, but by the principles of truth revealed in the Word.
Since Satan will endorse his teachings by “signs and wonders” (Matt. 24: 24; 2 Thess. 2: 9; Rev. 13: 13), “fire from heaven,” “power” and “signs”, are no proof of “teaching” being of God; nor is a “beautiful life” to be the infallible test, for Satan’s “ministers” can be “ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11: 13-15).
THE CULMINATION OF THE FLOOD TIDE
OF DECEIVING SPIRITS SHOWN IN 2 THESS. 2
The culmination of the flood tide of these deceiving spirits sweeping upon the Church, is described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians, where he speaks of the manifestation of one who will, eventually, have so deceived Christendom as to have gained an entrance into the very sanctuary of God; so that “he sitteth in the sanctuary of God, setting himself forth as God...” The “presence” of this one being a “presence” like God, and yet “according to the working of Satan, with all power, and signs, and wonders of falsehood, and with all deceit (See margin R.V.).
Confirmation of the Lord’s words recorded by Matthew is found in the revelation given by Him to John, on Patmos, that at the close of the age, the main weapon used by the deceiver for obtaining power over the people of the earth will be supernatural signs from heaven, when a counterfeit “lamb” will do “great signs”, and even “make fire come down out of heaven” to deceive the dwellers on the earth, and thereby exercise such control over the whole world, that “no man shall be able to buy or sell, save he that hath the mark of the beast” (Rev. 13: 11‑17). Through this supernatural deception, the full purpose of the deceiving hierarchy of Satan thus reaches its consummation in the foretold world-wide authority.
Deception of the world with deepening darkness; deception of the Church through “teachings” and “manifestations” will reach the highest flood tide climax at the close of the age. It is striking to note that the Apostle who was chosen to transmit the Apocalypse to the Church, in preparation for the last days of the Church militant, should be the one to write to the Christians of his day: “Believe not every spirit” (1 John 4: 1 - 6), and earnestly warn his “children” that the “spirit of anti-Christ”, and the “spirit of error” (deception) was already actively at work among them. Their attitude was to “believe not” - i.e., to doubt every supernatural “teaching” and “teacher”, until proved to be of God. They were to prove the “teachings”, lest they came from a “spirit of error”, and be part of the deceiver’s campaign as “anti-Christ”, i.e., against Christ.
If this attitude of neutrality and doubt toward supernatural teachings was needed in the days of the Apostle John - some fifty-seven years after Pentecost - how much more is it needed in the “later times” foretold by the Lord, and by the apostle Paul. Times which were to be characterised by a clamour of voices of “prophets”, that is - in the language of the twentieth century – “speakers” and “teachers” using the sacred Name of the Lord; and when “teachings” received supernaturally from the spiritual realm would abound. “Teachings” accompanied with such wonderful proofs of their “divine” origin, as to perplex even the most faithful of the Lord’s people, and even, for a time, to DECEIVE some of them.
OUTWARD SUCCESS OR DEFEAT
NO TRUE CRITERION FOR JUDGMENT
enemy is a deceiver, and as a deceiver he will work and prevail in the later
times. “Success” or “defeat” is no
criterion of a work being of God or Satan.
Knowledge of truth is the primary safeguard against deception. The “elect” must know, and they must learn to “prove” the “spirits” until they do know what is of God and what is of Satan. The words of the Master, “Take heed, I have told you,” plainly implies that personal knowledge of danger is part of the Lord’s way of guarding His own, and those who blindly rely upon “the keeping power of God”, without seeking to understand how to escape deception, when forewarned to “take heed” by the Lord, will surely find themselves entrapped by the subtle foe.
* * * * * * *
THE SATANIC CONFEDERACY
OF WICKED SPIRITS
A PERSPECTIVE view of the ages covered by the history
in Bible records, shows that the rise and fall in spiritual power of the people
of God was marked by the recognition of the existence of the demoniacal hosts
of evil. When the
GOD LEGISLATING FOR DANGERS
FROM EVIL SPIRITS
reality of the existence of wicked spirits by whom Satan, their prince, carries
out his work in the fallen world of men, cannot be more strongly proved than by
the fact that the statutes given by Jehovah to Moses in the fiery mount,
embodied stringent measures for dealing with the attempts of evil spirit beings
to gain power over the people of God.
Moses was instructed by Jehovah to keep the camp of
The severity of the penalty obviously implies, also, that the leaders of Israel must have been given acute “discerning of spirits”, so sure and so clear, that they could have no doubt in deciding cases brought before them.
Whilst Moses and Joshua lived, and enforced the strong measures decreed by God to keep His people free from the inroads of satanic power, Israel remained in allegiance to God, at the highest point of its history; but when these leaders died, the nation sank into darkness, brought about by evil spirit powers, drawing the people into idolatry and sin; the condition of the nation in after years, rising and falling (see Judges 2: 19, 1 Kings 14: 22-24; compare 2 Chron. 33: 2-5, 34: 2-7) into (1) allegiance to God, or (2) idolatrous worship of idols, and all the sins resulting from the substitution of the worship of demons - which idolatry really meant - in the place of Jehovah (1 Corinthians 10: 20).
When the new dispensation opens with the advent of Christ, we find Him - the God-Man - recognizing the existence of the satanic powers of evil, and manifesting uncompromising hostility toward them and their works - Moses in the Old Testament, Christ in the New. Moses, the man who knew God face to face, Christ. the Only Begotten Son of the Father, sent from God to the world of men. Each recognizing the existence of Satan and the evil spirit beings; each drastically dealing with them as entering and possessing men, and each waging war against them, as actively opposed to God.
Taking a perspective view, from the time of Christ on throughout the early history of the Church, up to the giving of the Apocalypse, and the death of the Apostle John, the manifested power of God wrought (in varying degrees) among His people, and the leaders recognized and dealt with the spirits of evil - a period corresponding to the Mosaic period in the old dispensation.
CHRISTENDOM IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Then the forces of darkness gained, and, with intermittent intervals and exceptions, the professing Church sank down under their power, until, in the darkest hour, which we call the Middle Ages, all the sins having their rise through the deceptive workings of the evil spirits of Satan, were as rife as in the time of Moses, when he wrote by the command of God, “There shall not be found with thee ... one that useth divination, or that practiseth augury, or an enchanter, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a consulter with a familiar spirit, or a wizard, or a necromancer” (Deut. 18: 10-11).
CHRISTENDOM IN THE PRESENT CENTURY
Why Christendom in the present century has not recognized the existence and workings of evil supernatural forces, can only be attributed to its low condition of spiritual life and power. Even at the present time, when the existence of evil spirits is recognized by the heathen, it is generally looked upon by the missionary as “superstition” and ignorance; whereas the ignorance is often on the part of the missionary, who is blinded by the prince of the power of the air to the revelation given in the Scriptures, concerning the satanic powers.
The “ignorance” on the part of the heathen is in their propitiatory attitude to evil spirits, because of their ignorance of the Gospel message of a Deliverer and a Saviour sent to “proclaim release to the captives” (Luke 4: 18), and Who, when He was on earth, went about healing all who were “oppressed by the Devil” (Acts 10: 38), and sent His messengers to open the eyes of the bound ones, that they might “turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God” (Acts 26: 18).
If missionaries to the heathen recognized the existence of evil spirits, and that the darkness in heathen lands was caused by the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2: 2; 4: 18; 1 John 5: 19; 2 Cor. 4: 4), and proclaimed to the heathen the message of deliverance from the evil hosts they know so well to be real and malignant foes, as well as remission of sins, and victory over sin through the atoning sacrifice of Calvary, a vast change would come over the mission field in a few brief years.
BELIEVERS MAY RECEIVE EQUIPMENT
TO DEAL WITH SATANIC POWERS
hour of need always brings the corresponding measure of power from God to meet
that need. The
[* See Appendix.]
The awakened part of the Church of to-day has now no doubt of the real existence of the spirit beings of evil, and that there is an organised monarchy of supernatural powers, set up in opposition to Christ and His kingdom, bent upon the eternal ruin of every member of the human race; and these believers know that God is calling them to seek the fullest equipment obtainable for withstanding and resisting these enemies of Christ and His Church.
In order to understand the working of the deceiver-prince of this power of the air, and become acute to discern his tactics and his methods of deceiving men, we should search the Scriptures thoroughly, to obtain a knowledge of his character, and how spirits of evil are able to possess and use the bodies of men.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN SATAN AND EVIL SPIRITS
The distinction between the workings of Satan as prince of demons, and his evil spirits, should specially be noted, so as to understand their methods at the present day; for to many, the adversary is merely a tempter, whilst they little dream of his power as a deceiver (Rev. 12: 9), hinderer (1 Thess. 2: 18), murderer (John 8: 44), liar (John 8: 44), accuser (Rev. 12: 10), and a false angel of light; and still less of the hosts of spirits under his command, constantly besetting their path, bent upon deceiving, hindering, and prompting to sin. A vast host wholly given up to wickedness (Matt. 12: 43-45), delighting to do evil, to slay (Mark 5: 2-5), to deceive, to destroy (Mark 9: 20); and having access to men of every grade, prompting them to all kinds of wickedness, and satisfied only when success accompanies their wicked plans to ruin the children of men (Matt. 27: 3-5).
SATAN’S CHALLENGE OF CHRIST IN THE WILDERNESS
This distinction between Satan, the prince of the demons (Matt. 9: 34), and his legion of wicked spirits, is clearly recognized by Christ, and may be noted in many parts of the Gospels (Matt. 25: 41). We find Satan in person challenging the Lord in the wilderness temptation, and Christ answering him as a person, word for word, and thought for thought, until he retires, foiled by the keen recognition of his tactics, by the Son of God (Luke 4: 1- 13).
We read of the Lord describing him as the “prince of the world” (John 14: 30); recognizing him as ruling over a kingdom (Matt. 12: 26); using imperative language to him as a person, saying, “Get thee hence”; while to the Jews He describes his character as “sinning from the beginning”, and being a “murderer”, and a “liar”, the “father of lies”, who “abode not in the truth” (John 8: 44) which once he held as a great archangel of God. He is called, also, “that wicked one” (1 John 3: 12, A.V.), the “Adversary” and that “old serpent” (Rev. 12: 9).
In respect of his method of working, the Lord speaks of him as sowing “tares”, which are “sons of the evil one” among the wheat - the “sons” of God (Matt. 13: 38, 39); thus revealing the Adversary as possessing the skill of a master mind, directing, with executive ability, his work as “prince of the world” in the whole inhabited earth, and with power to place the men who are called his “sons” wherever he wills.
We read, also, of Satan watching to snatch away the seed of the Word of God from all who hear it, this again indicating his executive power in the world-wide direction of his agents, whom the Lord describes as “fowls of the air”; in His own interpretation of the parable (Matt. 13: 3, 4, 13, 19; Mark 4: 3, 14, 15; Luke 8: 5, 11, 12); plainly saying that He meant by these “fowls” the “evil one” (Gr. Poniros, Matt. 13: 19); “Satan” (Gr. Satanas, Mark 4: 15); or “Devil” (Gr. Diabolus, Luke 8: 12); whom we know, from the general teaching of other parts of the Scriptures, does his work through the wicked spirits he has at his command; Satan himself not being omnipresent, although able to transpose himself with lightning velocity to any part of his world-wide dominions.
THE LORD’S ATTITUDE TO
AND RECOGNITION OF SATAN
The Lord was always ready to meet the antagonist whom He had foiled in the wilderness, but who had only left Him “for a season” (Luke 4: 13). In Peter He quickly discerned Satan at work, and exposed him by one swift sentence, mentioning his name (Matt. 16: 23). In the Jews He stripped aside the mask of the hidden foe, and said, “Ye are of your father, the Devil” (John 8: 44), and with keen-edged words spoke of him as the “murderer” and the “liar”, prompting them to kill Him, and lying to them about Himself and His Father in heaven (John 8: 40 41).
On the lake in a storm, fast asleep, and awakened suddenly, He is alert to meet the foe, and stands with calm majesty to “rebuke” the storm, which the prince of the power of the air had roused against Him (Mark 4: 38, 39).
In brief, we find the Lord, right on from the wilderness victory, unveiling the powers of darkness, as He went forward in steady mastery over them. Behind what appeared “natural” He sometimes discerned a supernatural power which demanded His rebuke. He “rebuked” the fever in Peter’s wife’s mother (Luke 4: 39), just as He “rebuked” the evil spirits in other and more manifest forms, whilst in other instances He simply healed the sufferer by a word.
The difference between Satan’s attitude to the Lord, and that of the spirits of evil, should also be noted. Satan, the prince, tempts Him, seeks to hinder Him, prompts the Pharisees to oppose Him, hides behind a disciple to divert Him, and finally takes hold of a disciple to betray Him, and then sways the multitude to put Him to death; but the spirits of evil bowed down before Him, beseeching Him to “let them alone”, and not to command them to go into the abyss (Luke 8: 31).
The realm of this deceiver-prince is specifically mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his description of him as “prince of the power of the air” (Ephes. 2: 2), the aerial, or “heavenly places”, being the special sphere of the activity of Satan and his hierarchy of powers. The name Beelzebub, the prince of the demons, meaning the “god of flies”, suggestively speaks of the aerial character of the powers of the air, as well as the word “darkness”, describing their character and their doings. The Lord’s description of Satan’s working through “fowls of the air” strikingly corresponds to these other statements, together with John’s language about the “whole world lying in the evil one” (1 John 5: 19); the “air” being the place of the workings of these aerial spirits, the very atmosphere in which the whole human race moves, said to be “in the evil one”.
EVIL SPIRITS IN THE GOSPEL RECORDS
The gospel records are full of reference to the workings of evil spirits, and show that wherever the Lord moved, the emissaries of Satan sprang into active manifestation in the bodies and minds of those they indwelt; and that the ministry of Christ and His apostles was directed actively against them, so that again and again the records read, “He went into their synagogues through all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons” (Mark 1: 39); He “cast out many demons, and He suffered not the demons to speak, because they knew Him” (Mark 1: 34); " Unclean spirits, whensoever they beheld Him, fell down before Him, and cried, saying, “Thou art the Son of God” (Mark 3: 11). Then came the sending out of the twelve chosen disciples, when the spirits of evil again are taken into account, for “He gave them authority over unclean spirits” (Mark 6: 7). Later He appointed seventy other messengers, and as they went forward in their work, they, too, found the demons subject to them through His Name (Luke 10: 17).
find, too, that the Lord clearly recognized the Devil behind the opposition of
the Pharisees (John 8: 44), and the “hour
and power of darkness” (Luke 22: 53) behind
His persecutors at
CHRIST ALWAYS DEALING WITH
THE INVISIBLE ENEMIES
It is striking to find that the Lord did not attempt to convince the Pharisees of His claims as the Messiah, nor take the opportunity of winning the Jews by yielding to their desires for an earthly king. His one work in this world was manifestly to conquer the satanic prince of the world by the death of the Cross (Heb. 2: 14); to deliver his captives from his control, and to deal with the invisible hosts of the prince of darkness working at the back of mankind (see 1 John 3: 8).
The commission He gave to the twelve, and to the seventy, was exactly in line with His own. He sent them forth, and “gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to preach the Gospel” (Matt. 10: 1); to “first bind the strong man” (Mark 3: 27), and then to take his goods; to deal with the invisible hosts of Satan first, and then “preach the Gospel”.
From all this we learn that there is one Satan, one Devil, one prince of the demons, directing all the opposition to Christ and His people; but myriads of wicked spirits called “demons”, lying spirits, deceiving spirits, foul spirits, unclean spirits, subjectively at work in men. Who they are, and whence their origin, none can positively say. That they are spirit beings who are evil is alone beyond all doubt; and all who are undeceived and dispossessed from satanic deception, become witnesses, from their own experience, to their existence and power. They know that things were done to them by spirit beings, and that those things were evil; therefore they recognize that there are spirit beings who do evil, and know that the symptoms, effects and manifestations of demoniacal possession have active, personal agencies behind them. From experience they know that they are hindered by spirit beings, and therefore know that these things are done by evil spirits who are hinderers. Therefore, reasoning from experimental facts, as well as the testimony of Scripture, they know that these evil spirits are murderers, tempters, liars, accusers, counterfeiters, enemies, haters, and wicked beyond all the power of man to know.
The names of these evil spirits describe their characters, for they are called “foul”, “lying,” “unclean,” “evil,” and “deceiving” spirits, as they are wholly given up to every manner of wickedness, and deception, and lying works.
CHARACTERISTICS OF EVIL SPIRITS
What the characteristics of these wicked spirits are, and how they are able to dwell in the bodies and minds of human beings, will be seen by a careful examination of the specific cases mentioned in the gospels; as well as their power to interfere with, mislead, and deceive, even servants of God from references to them in other portions of the Word of God.
Evil spirits are generally looked upon as “influences” and not as intelligent beings, but their personality and entity and difference in character as distinct intelligences, will be seen in the Lord’s direct commands to them (Mark 1: 25; 5: 8; 3: 11, 12; 11: 25); their power of speech (Mark 3: 11); their replies to Him, couched in intelligent language (Matt. 8: 29); their sensibilities of fear (Luke 8: 31); their definite expression of desire (Matt. 8: 31); their need of a dwelling place of rest (Matt. 12: 43); their intelligent power of decision (Matt. 12: 44); their power of agreement with other spirits; their degrees of wickedness (Matt. 12: 45); their power of rage (Matt. 8: 28); their strength (Mark 5: 4); their ability to possess a human being, either as one (Mark 1: 26) or in a thousand (Mark 5: 9); their use of a human being as their medium for “divining”, or foretelling the future (Acts 16: 16); or as a great miracle worker by their power (Acts 8: 11).
THE RAGE AND WICKEDNESS OF EVIL SPIRITS
When evil spirits act in a rage, they act as a combination of the maddest and most wicked persons in existence, but all their evil is done with fullest intelligence and purpose. They know what they do, they know it is evil, terribly evil, and they will to do it. They do it with rage, and with the full swing of malice, enmity and hatred. They act with fury and bestiality, like an enraged bull, as if they had no intelligence, and yet with full intelligence they carry on their work, showing the wickedness of their wickedness. They act from an absolutely depraved nature, with diabolical fury, and with an undeviating perseverance. They act with determination, persistency, and with skilful methods, forcing themselves upon mankind, upon the Church, and still more upon the spiritual man.
VARIED MANIFESTATIONS OF EVIL SPIRITS
Their manifestations through the persons in whom they obtain footing are varied in character, according to the degree and kind of ground they secure for possession. In one Biblical case the only manifestation of the evil spirit’s presence was dumbness (Matt. 9: 32); the spirit possibly locating in the vocal organs; in another, the person held by the spirit was “deaf and dumb” (Mark 9: 25), and the symptoms included foaming at the mouth, grinding the teeth - all connected with the head - but the hold of the spirit was of such long standing (v. 21) that he could throw his victim down, and convulse the whole body (Mark 9: 20-22).
In other cases we find merely an “unclean spirit” in a man in a “synagogue”, probably so hidden that none would know the man was thus possessed, until the spirit cried out with fear when he saw Christ, saying, “Art Thou come to destroy us?” (Mark 1: 24); or a “spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:,11) in a woman of whom it might be said that she simply required “healing” of some disease, or that she was always tired, and only needed “rest” as some would say in the language of the twentieth century.
Again, we find a very advanced case in the man with the “legion”, showing that the evil spirits’ possession reached such a climax as to make the person appear insane; for his own personality was so mastered by the malignant spirits in possession, as to cause him to lose all sense of decency and self-control in the presence of others (Luke 8: 27). The unity of purpose in the spirits of evil to carry out the will of their prince, is especially shown in this case, as with one accord they besought to be allowed to enter the swine, and with one accord they rushed the whole herd into the sea.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF EVIL SPIRITS
That there are different kinds of spirits is evident from all the instances given in the gospel records. Their manifestation outside the gospel cases may be seen in the story of the girl at Philippi, possessed by a “spirit of divination”, and again in Simon the Sorcerer, who was so energized by satanic power for the working of miracles, that he was considered to be “a great power of God” by the deceived people (Acts 8: 10).
Spiritists, to-day, are deceived, in so far as they really believe they are communicating with the spirits of the dead; for it is easy for spirits of evil to impersonate any of the dead, even the most devoted and saintly Christians. They have watched them (Acts 19: 15) all their lives, and can easily counterfeit their voices, or say anything about them and their actions when on earth.
EVIL SPIRITS FORETELLING THROUGH MEDIUMS
In like manner as a “spirit of divination”, deceiving spirits can use “palmists” and “fortune tellers” to deceive; for in their work of watching human beings, they inspire the mediums to foretell, not what they know about the future - for God alone has this knowledge - but things which they themselves intend to do; and if they can get the person to whom these things are told to co-operate with them, by excepting or believing their “fore-telling” they try eventually to bring them about; e.g., the medium says such and such a thing will happen, the person believes it, and by believing opens himself or herself, to the evil spirit, to bring that thing to pass; or else admits the spirit, or gives free opportunity to one already in possession, to bring about the thing foretold. They cannot always succeed, and this is the reason why there is so much uncertainty about the response through mediums, because many things may hinder the workings of the evil spirit beings, particularly the prayers of friends or intercessors in the Christian Church.
These are some of the “deep things of Satan” (Rev. 2: 24) mentioned by the Lord in His message to Thyatira, manifestly referring to far more subtle workings among the Christians of that time, than all that the Apostles had seen in the cases recorded in the gospels. “The mystery of lawlessness doth already work,” wrote the Apostle Paul (2 Thess. 2: 7) showing that the deep laid schemes of deception through “doctrines” (1 Tim. 4: 1), foretold as reaching their full culmination in the last days, were already at work in the Church of God. Evil spirits are at work to-day, inside as well as outside the professing Church, and “spiritualism”, in its meaning of dealing with evil spirits, may be found inside Christendom, and among the most earnest people, apart from its true name. Men think they are free from spiritism because they have never been to a scance, not knowing that evil spirits attack and deceive every human being, and they do not confine their working to the professing Church, or the world, but operate wherever they can find conditions fulfilled to enable them to manifest their power.
THE POWER OF EVIL SPIRITS OVER HUMAN BODIES
The control of the spirits over the bodies of those they possess is seen in the gospel cases. The man with the legion was not master over his own body or mind. The spirits would “seize him”, “drive him” (Luke 8: 29), compel him to cut himself with stones (Mark 5: 5), strengthen him to burst every fetter and chain (v. 4), “cry out” aloud (v. 5), and fiercely attack others (Matt. 8: 28). The boy with the dumb spirit would be dashed to the ground (Luke 9: 42), and convulsed; the spirit forced him to cry out, and tore him, so that the body became bruised and sore (v. 39). Teeth, tongue, vocal organs, ears, eyes, nerves, muscles and breath, are seen to be affected and interfered with by evil spirits in possession. Weakness and strength are both produced by their working, and men (Mark 1: 23), women (Luke 8: 2), boys (Mark 9: 17), and girls (Mark 7: 25), are equally open to their power.
That the Jews were familiar with the fact of evil spirit possession is clear from their words when they saw the Lord Christ cast out the blind and dumb spirit from a man (Matt. 12: 24). Also that there were men among them who knew some method of dealing with such cases (v. 27). “By whom do your sons cast them out?” said the Lord. That such dealing with evil spirits was not effective, may be gathered from instances given, where it appears that alleviation of the sufferings from evil spirit possession was the most that could be done; e.g. (1) the case of King Saul, who was soothed by the harp playing of David; (2) the sons of Sceva, who were professional exorcists, yet who recognized a power in the Name of Jesus which their exorcism did not possess. In both these cases the danger of attempted alleviation and exorcism, and the power of the evil spirits, is strikingly shown in contrast to the complete command manifested by Christ and His Apostles. David playing to Saul is suddenly aware of the javelin flung by the hand of the man he was seeking to soothe; and the sons of Sceva found the evil spirits upon them, and mastering them as they used the Name of Jesus, without the Divine co-working given to all who exercise personal faith in Him. Among the heathen, also, who know the venom of these wicked spirits, propitiation and soothing of their hate by obedience to them is the most that they know.
THE EXORCISM OF EVIL SPIRITS
CONTRASTED WITH CHRIST'S POWER OF WORD
How striking to contrast all this with the calm authority of Christ. Who needed no adjuration or methods of exorcism, and no prolonged preparation of Himself ere dealing with a spirit-possessed man. “He cast out the spirits by a word,” “With authority and power He commandeth ... and they “obey Him” was the wondering testimony of the awe-struck people; and the testimony, too, of the seventy sent forth by Him to use the authority of His Name, as they found the spirits subject to them, even as they were to the Lord (Luke 10: 17 - 20).
“ ‘They’ obey Him,” said the people. “They” - the spirits whom the people knew to be real identities - governed by BeeIzebub, their prince (Matt. 12: 24-27). The complete mastery of the Lord over the demons, compelled the leaders to find some way of explaining His authority over them, and so by that subtle influence of Satan - with which all who have had insight into his devices are familiar - they suddenly charge the Lord with having satanic power Himself, by saying, “He casteth out demons through Beelzebub, the prince of the demons,” suggesting that Christ’s authority over evil spirits was derived from their chief and prince.
The reference to the kingdom of Satan, and his kingship, was left un-contradicted by the Lord, Who simply declared the truth in the face of Satan’s lie, that He cast out demons “by the finger of God”, and that Satan’s kingdom would soon fall, were he to act against himself, and dislodge his emissaries from their place of retreat in human bodies, where alone they can achieve their greatest power, and do the greatest harm among men. That Satan does apparently fight against himself is true, but when he does so, it is with the purpose of covering some scheme for greater advantage to his kingdom.
THE AUTHORITY OVER EVIL SPIRITS
BY THE APOSTLES AFTER PENTECOST
That the Apostles after Pentecost recognized and dealt with the denizens of the invisible world, is evident from the records of the Acts of the Apostles, and other references in the Epistles. The disciples were prepared for Pentecost, and the opening of the supernatural world through the coming of the Holy Spirit, by their three years’ training by the Lord. They had watched Him deal with the wicked spirits of Satan, and had themselves learned to deal with them, too, so that the power of the Holy Spirit could be safely given at Pentecost to men who already knew the workings of the foe. We see how quickly Peter recognized Satan’s work in Ananias (Acts 5: 3), and how “unclean spirits” came out at his presence, as they did with his Lord (Acts 5: 16). Philip, too, found the evil hosts subservient (Acts 8: 7) to the word of his testimony, as he proclaimed Christ to the people, and Paul knew, also, the power of the Name of the Risen Lord (Acts 19: 11) in dealing with the powers of evil.
It is therefore clear in Bible history that the manifestation of the power of God invariably meant active dealing with the satanic hosts; that the manifestation of the power of God at Pentecost, and through the Apostles, meant again an aggressive attitude to the powers of darkness; and, ergo, that the growth and maturity of the Church of Christ at the end of the dispensation, will mean the same recognition, and the same attitude toward the satanic hosts of the prince of the power of the air; with the same co-witness of the Holy Spirit to the authority of the Name of Jesus, as in the early Church. In brief, that the Church of Christ will reach its high water mark, when it is able to recognize and deal with demon-possession; when it knows how to “bind the strong man” by prayer; “command” the spirits of evil in the Name of Christ, and deliver men and women from their power.
THE CHURCH IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
MUST RECOGNIZE THE POWERS OF DARKNESS
For this the Christian Church must recognize that the existence of deceiving, lying spirits, is as real in the twentieth century as in the time of Christ, and their attitude to the human race unchanged. That their one ceaseless aim is to deceive every human being. That they are given up to wickedness all day long, and all night long, and that they are ceaselessly and actively pouring a stream of wickedness into the world, and are satisfied only when they succeed in their wicked plans to deceive and ruin men.
Yet the servants of God have been concerned only to destroy their works, and to deal with sin; not recognizing the need of using the power given by Christ, to resist by faith and prayer this ever-flowing flood of satanic power pouring in among men; so that men and women, young and old, and even “Christian” and “non-Christian”, become deceived through guile, and because of ignorance about them, and their wiles.
These supernatural forces of Satan are the true hindrance to revival. The power of God which broke forth in Wales, with all the marks of the days of Pentecost, was checked and hindered from going on to its fullest purpose by the same influx of evil spirits as met the Lord Christ on earth, and the Apostles of the early Church; with the difference that the inroad of the powers of darkness found the Christians of the twentieth century, with few exceptions, unable to recognize and deal with them. Evil spirit possession has followed, and checked every similar revival throughout the centuries since Pentecost, and these things must now be understood, and dealt with, if the Church is to advance to maturity. Understood, not only in the degree of possession recorded in the gospels, but in the special forms of manifestations suited to the close of the dispensation, under the guise of the Holy Spirit, yet having some of the very characteristic marks in bodily symptoms, seen in the gospel records, when all who saw the manifestation knew that it was the work of the spirits of Satan.
* * * * * * *
DECEPTION BY EVIL SPIRITS
IN MODERN TIMES
IN the special onslaught of the deceiver which will come upon the whole of Christendom at the close of the age, through the army of deceiving spirits, there are some, more than others, who will be specially attacked by the powers of darkness, who need light upon his deceptive workings, so that they may pass through the trial of the Last Hour, and be counted worthy to escape that hour of greater trial which is coming upon the earth (Luke 21: 34-36; Rev. 3: 10).
These are the ones who are recklessly ready to follow the Lord at any cost, and yet do not realize their un-preparedness for contest with the spiritual powers of the unseen world, as they press on into fuller spiritual things. Believers who are full of mental conceptions wrought into them in earlier years, which hinder the [Holy] Spirit of God from preparing them for all they will meet as they press on to their coveted goal; conceptions which also hinder others from giving them, out of the Scriptures, much that they need to know of the spiritual world into which they are so blindly advancing. Conceptions which lull them into a false security, and give ground for, and even bring about, that very deception which enables the deceiver to find them an easy prey.
CAN “HONEST SOULS” BE DECEIVED?
One prevailing idea which such believers have deeply embedded in their minds, is that “honest seekers after God” will not be allowed to be deceived. That this is one of Satan’s lies to lure such seekers into a false position of safety, is proved by the history of the Church during the past two thousand years, for every “wile of error” which has borne sad fruit throughout this period, first laid hold of devoted believers who were “honest souls” . The errors among groups of such believers, some well known to the present generation, all began among “honest” people; and all so sure that, knowing the side-tracking of others before them, they would never be caught by the wiles of Satan. Yet they, too, have been deceived by lying spirits, counterfeiting the workings of God.
Among such, lying spirits have worked on their determination literally to obey the Scriptures, and by misuse of the letter of the written Word, have pushed them into phases of unbalanced truth, with resulting erroneous practices. Many who have suffered for their adherence to these “Biblical commands”, firmly believe that they are martyrs suffering for Christ.
The aftermath of the Revival in
FAITHFULNESS TO LIGHT
NOT SUFFICIENT SAFEGUARD AGAINST DECEPTION
We need to know that to be true in motive, and faithful up to light, is not sufficient safeguard against deception; and that it is not safe to rely upon “honesty of purpose” as guaranteeing protection from the enemy’s wiles, instead of taking heed to the warnings of God’s Word, and watching unto prayer.
Christians who are true and faithful and honest, can be deceived by Satan and his deceiving spirits, for the following reasons:
(a) When a man becomes a child of God, by the regenerating power of the Spirit, giving him new life as he trusts in the atoning work of Christ, he does not at the same time receive fulness of knowledge, either of God, himself, or the Devil.
(b) The mind which by nature is darkened (Eph. 4: 18), and under a veil created by Satan (2 Cor. 4: 4) is only renewed, and the veil destroyed, up to the extent that the light of truth penetrates it, and according to the measure in which the man is able to apprehend it.
(c) “Deception” has to do with the mind, and it means a wrong thought admitted to the mind, under the deception that it is truth. Since “deception” is based on ignorance, and not on the moral character, a Christian who is “true” and “faithful” up to the knowledge he has, must be open to deception in the sphere where he is ignorant of the “devices” of the Devil (2 Cor. 2: 11), and what he is able to do. We are liable to be “deceived” by the Devil because of ignorance.
(d) The thought that God will protect a believer from being deceived if he is true and faithful, is in itself a “deception”, because it throws a man off guard, and ignores the fact that there are conditions on the part of the believer which have to be fulfilled for God’s working. God does not do anything instead of a man, but by the man’s co-operation with Him; neither does He undertake to make up for a man’s ignorance, when He has provided knowledge for him which will prevent him being deceived.
(e) Christ would not have warned His disciples, “Take heed ... be not deceived,” if there had been no danger of deception, or if God had undertaken to keep them from deception apart from their “taking heed”, and their knowledge of such danger.
The knowledge that it is possible to be deceived, keeps the mind open to truth and light from God, and is one of the primary conditions for the keeping power of God; whereas a closed mind to light and truth is a certain guarantee of deception by Satan at his earliest opportunity.
As we glance back over the history of the Church, and watch the rise of various “heresies” or delusions - as they have sometimes been called - we can trace the period of deception as beginning with some great crisis, a crisis in which the man is brought to give himself up in full abandonment to the Holy Spirit, and in so doing thus open himself to the supernatural powers of the invisible world.
The reason for the peril of such a crisis is, that up to this time, the believer used his reasoning faculties in judging right and wrong, and obeyed what he believed to be the will of God, from principle; but now, in his abandonment to the Holy Spirit, he begins to obey an unseen Person, and to submit his faculties and his reasoning powers in blind obedience to that which he believes is of God. The will is surrendered to carry out the Will of God at all costs, and the whole being is made subject to the powers of the unseen world; the believer, of course, purposing that it shall only be to the power of God, not taking into account that there are other powers in the spiritual realm, and that all that is “supernatural” is not all of God; and not realizing that this absolute surrender of the whole being to invisible forces, without knowing how to discern between the contrary powers of God and Satan, must be of the gravest risk to the inexperienced believer.
The question whether this surrender to “obey the Spirit” is one that is in accord with Scripture, should be examined in view of the way in which so many wholehearted believers have been misled, for it is strange that an attitude which is Scriptural should be so grievously the cause of danger, and often of complete wreckage.
IS THE PHRASE OBEYING “THE SPIRIT” SCRIPTURAL?
“The Holy Ghost, Whom God hath given to them that
obey Him,” is the principal phrase giving rise to the expression, “obey the
Spirit”. It was used by Peter before the
THE TRUE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
IN THE BELIEVER
Spirit should never become the centre and object of thought and worship, a
place which He Himself does not desire, and which it is not the purpose of the
Father in heaven that He should have or occupy. “He shall not speak from Himself” (John 16: 13), said the Lord before
If a man who is untaught in the Scriptural statements of the work of the Triune God, makes to “obey the Spirit” his supreme purpose, the deceiver will aim to counterfeit the guidance of the [Holy] Spirit, and even the presence of the [Holy] Spirit Himself.
It is just here that the ignorance of the seeker about (1) the spiritual world now opened to him, (2) the working of evil powers in that realm, and (3) the conditions upon which God works in and through him, gives the enemy his opportunity. It is the time of greatest peril for anyone, unless he is instructed and prepared, as the disciples were for three whole years by the Lord. The danger lies along the line of supernatural “guidance”, through not knowing the condition of co-operation with the Holy Spirit, and how to discern the will of God and counterfeit manifestations, through not knowing the “discerning of spirits " necessary to detect the workings of the false angel of light, who is able to bring about counterfeit gifts of prophecy, tongues, healings, and other spiritual experiences connected with the work of the Holy Ghost.
Those who have their eyes opened to the opposing forces of the spiritual realm, understand that very few believers can guarantee that they are obeying God, and God only, in directly supernatural guidance, because there are so many factors liable to intervene, such as the believer’s own mind, spirit, or will, and the deceptive intrusion of the powers of darkness.
There is a “discernment” which is a spiritual gift, enabling the believer to discern “spirits”, but this also requires knowledge of [scriptural] “doctrine” (1 John 4: 1), so as to discern between doctrine which is of God, and doctrines, or teachings, of teaching spirits.
There is a detecting, by the gift of discerning of spirits, which spirit is at work, and a test of spirits, which is doctrinal. In the former, a believer can tell by a spirit of discernment that the lying spirits are at work in a meeting, or in a person, but he may not have the understanding needed for testing the “doctrines” set forth by a teacher. He needs knowledge in both cases, knowledge to read his spirit with assurance in the face of all contrary appearances, that the supernatural workings are “of God”, and knowledge to detect the subtlety of “teachings” bearing certain infallible indications that they emanate from the pit, while appearing to be from God.
In personal obedience to God, the believer can detect whether he is obeying God in some “command”, by judging its fruits, and by knowledge of the character of God, such as the truth that (1) God has always a purpose in His commands, and (2) He will give no command out of harmony with His character and Word. Other factors needed for clear knowledge are dealt with later on.
THE NEED FOR EXAMINATION OF THEORIES
In the light of the working of deceiving spirits, and their methods of deception, it is also becoming clear that close examination is needed of the modem theories, conceptions, and expressions, concerning things in connection with God, and His way of working in man; for only the truth of God, apart from “views” of truth, will avail for protection, or warfare, in the conflict with wicked spirits in the heavenly sphere.
All that is in any degree the outcome of the mind of the “natural man” (1 Cor. 2: 14) will prove to be but weapons of straw in this great battle, and if we rely upon others’ “views of truth”, or upon our own human conceptions of truth, Satan will use these very things to deceive us, even building us up in these theories and views, so that under cover of them he may accomplish his purposes.
We cannot, therefore, at this time, over-estimate the importance of believers having open minds to “examine all things” they have thought, and taught, in connection with the things of God and the spiritual realm. All the “truths” they have held; all the phrases and expressions they have used in “holiness teachings”; and all the “teachings” they have absorbed through others. For any wrong interpretation of truth, any theories and phrases which are man-conceived, and which we may build upon wrongly, will have perilous consequences to ourselves, and to others, in the conflict which the Church, and the individual believer, is now passing through. Since in the “later times” evil spirits will come to them with deceptions in DOCTRINAL form, believers must examine carefully what they accept as “doctrine” lest it should be from the emissaries of the deceiver.
THE SPIRITUAL BELIEVER
EXHORTED TO “JUDGE ALL THINGS”
The duty of this examination of spiritual things is strongly urged by the Apostle Paul, again and again. “He that is spiritual judgeth (margin, examineth, or, as in the Greek, investigates and decides), all things” (1 Cor. 2: 15). The “spiritual” believer is to use his “judgment”, which is a renewed faculty if he is a “spiritual man”, and this spiritual examination, or judging, is mentioned as operative in connection with “things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2: 14), showing how God Himself honours the intelligent personality of the man He re-creates in Christ, by inviting the “judging” and “examining” of His own workings by His Spirit; so that even the things of the [Holy] Spirit “are not to be received as of Him, without being examined and “spiritually discerned” as of God. When, therefore, it is said in connection with the supernatural and abnormal manifestations of the present time, that it is not necessary, nor even according to the will of God, for believers to understand or explain all the workings of God, it is out of accord with the Apostle’s statement that, “he that is spiritual, judgeth all things,” and consequently should reject all things which his spiritual judgment is unable to accept, until such a time as he is able to discern with clearness what are the things of God.
And not only is the believer to discern or judge the things of the spirit - i.e., all things in the spiritual realm - but he is also to judge himself. For “if we discriminated ourselves” - the Greek word means a thorough investigation - we should not need the dealing of the Lord to bring to light the things in ourselves which we have failed to discern by discrimination 1 Cor. 11: 31, m.).
“Brethren, be not children in mind, howbeit in malice be ye babes, but in MIND BE MEN” (Gr., of full, or mature age, 1 Cor. 1: 20), wrote the Apostle again to the Corinthians, as he explained to them the way of the working of the [Holy] Spirit among them. The believer is in “mind” to be of “full age”; that is, able to examine, “bring to the proof” (Gr., to prove, demonstrate, examine, 2 Tim. 4: 2, R.V.m.), and “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5: 21). He is to abound in knowledge, and “all discernment”, so as to “prove the things that differ”, that he may be “sincere and void of offence” until the day of Christ (Phil. 1: 10, m.).
EXPRESSIONS, “VIEWS,” DOCTRINES,
NEED TO BE EXAMINED
In accordance with these directions of the Word of God, and in view of the critical time through which the Church of Christ is passing, every expression, “view,” or theory, which we hold concerning things, should now be examined carefully, and brought to the proof, with open and honest desire to know the pure truth of God, as well as every statement that comes to our knowledge of the experience of others, which may throw light upon our own pathway. Every criticism - just or unjust - should be humbly received and examined to discover its ground, apparent or real; and facts concerning spiritual verities from every section of the Church of God, should be analysed, independent of their pleasure, or pain, to us personally, either for our own enlightenment, or for our equipment in the service of God. For the knowledge of truth is the first essential for warfare with the lying spirits of Satan, and truth must be eagerly sought for, and faced with earnest and sincere desire to know it and obey it in the light of God; truth concerning ourselves, discerned by unbiased discrimination; truth from the Scriptures, uncoloured, unstrained, um-mutilated, undiluted; truth in facing facts of experience in all members of the Body of Christ, and not one section alone.
THE PLACE OF TRUTH IN DELIVERANCE
There is a fundamental principle involved in the freeing power of truth from the deceptions of the Devil. DELIVERANCE FROM BELIEVING LIES MUST BE BY BELIEVING TRUTH. Nothing can remove a lie but truth. “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8: 32) is applicable to every aspect of truth, as well as the special truth referred to by the Lord when He spoke the pregnant words.
In the very first stage of the Christian life the sinner must know the truth of the Gospel, if he is to be [eternally] saved. Christ is the [only] Saviour, but He saves through, and not apart from instruments or means. If the believer needs freedom, he must ask the Son of God for it. How does the Son set free? By the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit does it by the instrumentality of truth; or we may say, in brief, freedom is the gift of the Son, by the Holy Spirit working through truth.
There are three stages of apprehending truth:
(1) Perception of truth by the understanding.
(2) Perception of truth for use, and personal application.
(3) Perception of truth for teaching, and passing onto others.
Truth apparently not grasped may lie in the mind, and in the hour of need suddenly emerge into experience, and thus by experience become clear to the mind in which it has been lying dormant. It is only by continual application, and assimilation of truth in experience, that it becomes clarified in the mind in order to teach others.
The great need of all believers is that they should eagerly seek truth for their progressive liberation from all Satan’s lies; for knowledge and truth alone can give victory over Satan as deceiver and liar. If the hearers of truth should resist it, or rebel against it, truth can well be left to the care of the Holy Spirit of Truth. Even in the case of resistance to truth it has at least reached the mind, and at any time may fructify into experience.
There are three attitudes of mind in regard to knowledge i.e.,
(1) Assumption of knowing a certain thing.
(2) Neutrality toward it, i.e., “I do not know”.
(3) Certainty of real knowledge.
This is instanced in the life of Christ. Some said of Him,
“He is a false prophet,” with an assumption of knowledge; others said, “We do not know” - taking a position of neutrality until they did know; but Peter said, “We know…” and he had true knowledge.
THE SAFETY OF A NEUTRAL ATTITUDE
TO ALL SUPERNATURAL MANIFESTATIONS
When believers first hear of the possibility of counterfeits of God and Divine things, they almost invariably ask, “How are we to know which is which?” It is enough, first of all, for them to know that such counterfeits are possible; and then, as they mature, or seek light from God, they learn to know for themselves, as no human being can explain to them.
But they cry, “We do not know, and how can we know?” They should remain neutral to all supernatural workings until they do know. There is among many a wrong anxiety to know, as if knowledge alone would save them. They think that they must be either for or against certain things, which they cannot decide are either from God or from the devil; and want to know infallibly which is which, that they may declare their position: but believers can take the attitude of “for” or “against” without knowing whether the things they are in doubt about are Divine or satanic; and maintain the wisdom and safety of the neutral position to the things themselves, until, by a means which cannot be fully described, they know what they have wanted to understand.
One effect of over-eagerness in desiring knowledge, is a feverish anxiety, and a restless impatience, worry and trouble, which causes a loss of moral poise and power. It is important in seeking one “blessing” not to destroy another. In seeking knowledge of spiritual things let not the believer lose patience, and calm, quiet restfulness and faith; let him watch himself, lest the enemy gain advantage, and rob him of moral power, whilst he is keen to get light and truth upon the way of victory over him.
MISTAKEN CONCEPTION ABOUT
THE SHELTER OF THE BLOOD
Ere we pass on, some misinterpretations of truth which are giving ground to the powers of darkness at this time, and which need examination to discover how far they are in accordance with Scripture, may briefly be referred to. (1) A mistaken conception concerning the “shelter of the blood”, claimed upon an assembly as a guarantee of absolute protection from the working of the powers of darkness.
The New Testament “proportion of truth” concerning the application of the blood, by the Holy Spirit, may briefly be said to be as follows: (1) The blood of Jesus cleanses from sin (a) “if we walk in the light”, and (b) “if we confess our sins” (1 John 1: 7, 9). (2) The blood of Jesus gives access to the Holiest of all; because of the cleansing power from sin (Hebrews 10: 19). (3) The blood of Jesus is the ground of victory over Satan, because of its cleansing from every confessed [and abandoned] sin, and because at Calvary Satan was conquered (Rev. 12: 11), but we do not read that any can be put “under the blood” apart from their own volition and individual condition before God; e.g., if the “shelter of the blood” is claimed over an assembly of people, and one present is giving ground for Satan [through wilfully sinning and disobeying God] , the “claiming of the blood” does not avail to prevent Satan working on the ground which he has a right to in that person.
A misconception, therefore, about the protecting power of the blood, is serious; for those who are present in a meeting where Satan is working as well as God, may believe they are personally safe from Satan’s workings, apart from their individual condition and dealing with God; whilst through the ground they have given - even unknowingly - to the adversary, they are open to his power.
CONCERNING “WAITING FOR THE SPIRIT”
(2) Mistaken conceptions concerning “waiting for the Spirit” to descend. Here again we find expressions and theories misleading, and opening the door to satanic deceptions. “If we want a Pentecostal manifestation of the Spirit, we must ‘tarry’, as did the disciples before Pentecost,” we have said the one to the other, and we have seized upon the text in Luke 24: 49, and Acts 1: 4, and passed the word along. “Yes, we must ‘tarry’,” until, compelled by the inroads of the adversary in “waiting meetings”, we have had to search the Scriptures once more, to discover that the Old Testament word of “wait on the Lord” so often used in the Psalms, has been strained beyond the New Testament proportion of truth, and exaggerated into a “waiting on God” for the out-pouring of the Spirit, which has even gone beyond the “ten days” which preceded Pentecost, into four months, and even four years, and which, to our knowledge, has ended in an influx of deceiving spirits which has rudely awakened some of the waiting souls. The Scriptural truth concerning “waiting for the Spirit” may be summed up as follows:
(1) The disciples waited ten days, but we have no indication that they “waited” in any passive state, but rather in simple prayer and supplication, until the fulness of time had come for the fulfilment of the promise of the Father.
(2) The command to wait, given by the Lord (Acts 1: 4) was not carried forward into the Christian dispensation after the Holy Ghost had come, for in no single instance, either in the Acts or in the Epistles, do the Apostles bid the disciples “tarry” for the gift of the Holy Spirit, but they use the word “receive” in every instance (Acts 19: 2). *
[* The Greek word used for receiving the Holy Spirit carries the force of “grasping” - just the opposite condition to passivity.]
It is true that at this time Christendom is, as a whole, living experimentally on the wrong side of Pentecost, but in dealing with God individually for the reception of the Holy Spirit, this does not put the seekers back to the position of the disciples before the Holy Ghost had been given by the Ascended Lord. The Risen Lord poured forth the stream of the [Holy] Spirit again and again after the day of Pentecost, but in each instance it was without “tarrying”, as the disciples did at the first (see Acts 4: 31). The Holy Spirit, Who proceeds from the Father through the Son to His people, is now among them, waiting to give Himself unceasingly to all who will appropriate and receive Him (John 15: 26; Acts 2: 33, 38, 39). A “waiting for the Spirit”, therefore, is not in accord with the general tenor of the truth given in the Acts and the Epistles, which show rather the imperative call to the believer to put in his claim, not only to his identification with the Lord Jesus in His death, and union in life with Him in His resurrection, but also to the enduement for witnessing, which came to the disciples on the Day of Pentecost.
On the believer’s side, we may say, however, that there is a waiting FOR God, whilst the Holy Spirit deals with, and prepares, the one who has put in his claim, until he is in the right attitude for the influx of the Holy Spirit into his spirit, but this is different from the “waiting for Him to come”, which has opened the door so frequently to satanic manifestations from the unseen world. The Lord does take the believer at his word when he puts in his claim for his share of the Pentecostal gift, but the “manifestation of the Spirit” - the evidence of His indwelling and outworking - may not be according to any pre-conceptions of the seeker.
WHY WAITING MEETINGS
ARE PROFITABLE TO EVIL SPIRITS
Why “waiting meetings” - that is, “waiting for the Spirit until He descends in some manifested way - have been so profitable to deceiving spirits, is because they are not in accord with the written Word, where it is set forth that (1) The Holy Spirit is not to be prayed to, or asked to come, as He is the Gift of Another (see Luke 11: 13; John 14: 16). (2) The Holy Spirit is not to be “waited for”, but to be taken, or RECEIVED from the hand of the Risen Lord (John 20: 22; Eph. 5: 18); of Whom it is written, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Matt. 3: 11). Because out of line with the truth of the Scriptures, therefore prayer to the Spirit, “trust in the Spirit,” “obeying the Spirit,” “expecting the Spirit” to descend, may all become prayer, trust, and obedience to evil spirits, when they counterfeit the working of God.
Other mistaken conceptions of spiritual truth centre around phrases such as these: “God can do everything. If I trust Him He must keep me”; not understanding that God works according to laws and conditions, and that those who trust Him, should seek to know the conditions upon which He can work in response to their trust. “If I were wrong, God would not use me”; not understanding that if a man is right in his will, God will use him to the fullest extent possible, but this being “used” of God is no guarantee that any man is absolutely right in all that he says and does.
“I have no sin,” or “sin has been entirely removed”; not knowing how deeply the sinful life of Adam is ingrained in the fallen creation, and how the assumption that “sin” has been eliminated from the whole being, enables the enemy to keep the life of nature from being dealt with by the continual power of the Cross. “God, Who is Love, will not allow me to be deceived” is of itself a deception, based on ignorance of the depths of the Fall, and the misconception that God works irrespective of spiritual laws. “I do not believe it possible for a Christian to be deceived,” is a shutting of the eyes to facts around us on every hand. “I have had too long an experience to need teaching”; “I must be taught of God direct, because it is written, ‘Ye need not that any man teach you’” is another misused passage of Scripture, which some believers interpret as meaning that they are to refuse all spiritual teaching through others. But that the Apostle’s words, “Ye need not that any man teach you,” did not preclude God teaching through anointed teachers, is shown in the inclusion of “teachers” in the list of gifted believers to the Church, for the “building up of the Body of Christ” through “that which every joint supplieth” (Eph. 4: 11 - 16). For God is sometimes able to teach His children more quickly by indirect means - that is, through others - than directly, because men are so slow in understanding the way of direct teaching by the [Holy] Spirit of God.
Many other similar misconceptions of spiritual things by Christians of to-day, give opportunity to the deception of the enemy, because they cause believers to close their minds to (1) the statements of God’s Word; (2) the facts of life; (3) and the help of others who could throw light upon the way (1 Peter 1: 12).
THE DANGERS OF COINED PHRASES
TO EXPRESS SPIRITUAL TRUTHS
Other dangers centre around the coining of phrases to describe some special experience, and words in familiar use amongst earnest children of God who attend Conventions; such as “possess”, “control,” “surrender,” “let go,” all containing truth in relation to God, but in the interpretation of them in the minds of many believers, liable to bring about conditions for the evil spirits of Satan to “possess” and “control” those who “surrender”, and “let go” to the powers of the spiritual world, not knowing how to discern between the working of God and Satan.
Various preconceptions of the way God works also give evil spirits their opportunity; such as, that when a believer is supernaturally compelled to act, it is a special evidence that God is guiding him, or that if God brings all things to our “remembrance” we need not use our memories at all.
Other thoughts which are liable to bring about the passive conditions which evil spirits need for their deceptive workings, may also be through the following misconceptions of truth:
(1) “Christ lives in me” i.e., I do not live now at all.
(2) “Christ lives in me, i.e., I have lost my personality, because Christ is now personally in me, based on Gal. 2: 20.
(3) “God worketh in me,” i.e,, I need not work, only surrender and obey, based on Phil. 2: 13.
(4) “God wills instead of me,” i.e., I must not use my will at all.
(5) “God is the only one to judge,” i.e., I must not use my judgment.
(6) “I have the mind of Christ,” 1 must not have any mind of my own, based on 1 Cor. 2: 16.
(7) “God speaks to me,” so I must not “think” or “reason,” only “obey” what He tells me to do.
(8) “I wait on God,” and “I must not act until He moves me”.
(9) “God reveals His will to me by visions,” so I do not need to decide, and use my reason and conscience.
(10) “I am crucified with Christ,” therefore “I am dead”, and must “practise” death, which I conceive to be passivity of feeling, thinking, etc.
To carry out in practice these various conceptions of truth, the believer quenches all personal action of mind, judgment, reason, will and activity, for the “Divine life to flow” through him, whereas God needs the fullest liberation of the faculties of the man, and his active and intelligent co-operation in will, for the working out of all these spiritual truths in experience.
The following table will show some other misinterpretations of truth, which need clarifying in the minds of many children of God:
*These two wrongly interpreted passages offer a basis for passivity.
+ Leads to haphazard and unintelligent praying, without seeking to know the will of God.
++ By these attitudes, the “adding to faith”, knowledge is greatly hindered, and those who assume these
attitudes take an evil, infallible position, and their advancement in the spiritual life is impeded.
What, then, is the condition of safety from the deception of evil spirits? (1) Knowledge that they exist; (2) that they can deceive the most honest believers (Gal. 2: 11- 16); (3) an understanding of the conditions and around necessary for their working, so as to give them no place, and no opportunity of working; and, lastly (4) intelligent knowledge of God, and how to co-operate with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit. To make these points clear will be our purpose in succeeding pages.
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To be continued (D.V.)