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. To bind or not to bind


Can Christians bind the devil?

We can go into this in much detail, but actually the answers are quite easy.

Over the years we were either all involved or have been in audiences where the devil and other stuff are bound. A few years ago a church in Polokwane bound Satan so that he no longer would have any power over marriages. That was to end the still continuing divorce rate. So, the logical conclusion is that somebody must have unbound or loosened him again. I have heard believers bind Satan, bind sickness, bind poverty, bind one another, bind their till that was not calculating right, when they were punching wrong numbers in etc. In actual fact you can let your imagination run as far as the things you can bind. Just think if we can do what the inserted graphic claims. We simply bind the devil and loosen all the blessings. Sounds ‘lekker’, doesn’t it? Wish it was true?

This kind of statement has become ammunition for atheists. They will often make the following remark: “you Christians are crazy, you bind the devil over and over again, and keep on blaming him for everything over and over again, so which one is it at work?”

In some churches Satan is addressed even during the time of worship, through prayer in which the person praying will say: “Satan we bind you……” Such a person will be perceived as very spiritual and brave. Others will follow suit so that they can also then be perceived as spiritual. The problem is that we do not think through the issues. What does a statement like that mean, does it have an effect, and if it does have an effect is it lasting?

Is Satan even present to hear such an instruction as we know he is not omnipresent, but he is an individual fallen angel? The ridiculousness of the binding of the devil at any time is that we all know that he was bound somewhere yesterday, the day before, the day before and so we can go on, and yet we bind him again and again. It does not make logical sense, it does not make spiritual sense, and it does not make theological sense.  Surely based on the Word of God, if the binding of Satan is implied, he should by now be continually bound. So, simply the present binding of the devil is already an acknowledgement that all the other bindings did not work. And then, the lives of those who bind the devil does not necessarily look better or work out better than those who never bind the devil.

Even in some Baptist circles which I was part of there was a song, sung during the time of worship. The song was written by Alvin Slaughter and is entitled ‘Give God the Glory’. It became so popular that it was even sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. Its words are as follows. I am simply going to give you the repetitive refrain and the section about Satan. You can google for the rest.

Give God the glory (3 times)
And He will give you, (3 times), the victory (repeat)

Satan the blood of Jesus is against you (3 times)
So let us give God (so let us give God)
So let us give God (I'm gonna give God)
So let us give God (I'm gonna give Him) all of the praise

Oh, this is what we're singin'

Satan the blood of Jesus (is against you) is against you (you're not welcome here, no no)
Satan the blood of Jesus (the blood of Jesus) is against you (oh, we lift our voice and sing)
Satan the blood of (the blood of Jesus) Jesus is against you (Oh yes)
So let us give God, (so let us give God)
So let us give God, (we're gonna give God)
So let us give God, (I wanna give the Lord) all of the praise

(We're gonna give Him)
Give God, (we're gonna my Savior) the glory
(Lift Him up and sing it)
Give God (we're gonna give God) the glory (oh, give Him the glory)
Give God, (we're gonna give God) the glory (give Him the glory)
And He will give you, (said He will give you)
And He will give you (said He would give you)
And He will give you (I know He'll give you) the victory

Now, personally I have a theological problem with this song. I do not want to be petty, but do we really want to address Satan in our time of worship, even if it is speaking against him? I will much rather address God or one another in a time of worship. Biblically speaking we can address one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. There is no evidence that the early church or the apostles ever spoke to Satan.

I actually have nothing to say to the devil. He knows he is a defeated foe. But, again, do we imply that Satan is in the service and hearing the words? Just think about it. If you had an enemy or arch enemy on earth in the form of some human. Do you want to sing your admonition to him? Now, I know that I don’t make the rules, and some might feel that is okay. I just have major problems singing to Satan in a church service. It is a different matter to sing about him, than to sing to him.

There are other songs that have a similar ring, like the one most of us grew up with in our Sunday School and Youth Groups, in which we ‘lift Jesus higher and we stomp Satan lower.” Is this possible, can we really stomp Satan lower than what Christ did on the cross, or are we slaves to feel good songs without any actual substance?

1. So, where do Christians get this binding thing from?

The first verse that is commonly used is Matthew 16:19.

Matthew 16:17-19 (ESV) 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

The tense actually says: “shall have been loosed”, or “shall have been bound”.

One of the first mistakes many Christians make is to think that anything said in the Old Testament is said to us, and that anything said to the disciples is said to us. If that were true and everything that Christ says to Peter as an example is applicable to us, then what do we do with the words of Christ to the very same Peter in John 21:18-24 (ESV) “18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” 20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

Now, why do we not apply Christ’s sayings to Peter here to our own lives? We have to be consistent in our exegesis, and if we were to acknowledge in some cases that certain things are not said to us, then we need to apply that same rule wider. Even Jesus here is blatantly telling Peter that what He had just said to Peter does not even include John.

So, the first hurdle to cross is whether Matthew 16 includes us or not.

2. A foundational problem.
An examination of how the Bible connects the terms "binding" and "loosing" to the apostle's unique role in founding the church will help you determine if believers can or should bind Satan.

Jesus gave Peter the sole authority to bind and loose things on earth which we saw in Matthew 16:18-19. Later Jesus said essentially the same thing to the rest of the apostles in Matthew 18:18 (ESV) 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” The "binding and loosing" mentioned in the context of Matthew 18:18 refers to the agreement in prayer of believers in line with the promises of God revealed in his Word.

In Ephesians 2:20 Paul tells us that the church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone." The apostles' ministry was foundational -- they constituted the authority and formation of ministry within the early church as directed by the Holy Spirit. There's an example of that in Acts 15, where the apostles and elders of the church are working through perhaps the most significant issue they had dealt with thus far. Some people associated with the church claimed circumcision was a requirement for salvation. The apostles' decision against that position became binding on all the churches (Acts 15:22-31). The Holy Spirit orchestrated their decision according to God's will (v. 28). Nowhere do we have any evidence of the Apostles using the binding and loosing as a magic wand. Think for example how great this world would have been if they just bound the devil right back there in 64 AD and he was fully bound in heaven. No devil to deal with all these years would have been a blast for the whole world. Instead he is going around like a roaring lion.

After Jesus commanded His disciples to receive the Holy Spirit in John 20:22, He told them, "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained" (v. 23). He was not giving them the power to forgive sins -- only our Lord Jesus Christ can do that (Mark 2:7-10; Acts 4:12). Rather, He gave them the authority to declare what God has already done in heaven (cf. Matthew 6:10).

Jesus gave the apostles the authority to bind and loose -- speak and act under God's authority -- as the foundational representatives for the church. They did not act arbitrarily, nor did they operate apart from the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:42-47; 4:28-33).

So, in the end some misapply that teaching to include binding Satan. There is no scriptural command to bind Satan, nor is there any biblical example of the practice even by the Apostles. Satan remains at large as the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) until he is chained or bound (by an angel, not a human being) during the millennial reign of Christ (Revelation 20:1-3).

3. The binding of the strong man.

There is no biblical support for Christians binding Satan but – the really great news is that Satan has already been bound as far as the extent of his power is concerned.

Another verse that is used by some Christians as a claim that we can bind Satan is Matthew 12:29 (ESV) 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Jesus presents us with a picture of Satan being like a strong man who must be bound in order that his house can be plundered. This was the result of the authority granted to Jesus at the cross.

Jesus was as good as His word and Satan was restricted so that the preaching of the Gospel could be effective! Compare Matthew 12:28-29 with Luke 10:17-20. In Luke's account of the strong man being bound, the strong man is represented as armed and guarding his palace or residence. But once disarmed by a stronger opponent, he is deprived of his spoils (Luke 11: 21-22). Christ's claim, then, is crystal clear. He has 'bound' Satan and can plunder his house at will. Satan cannot successfully resist Christ.

Satan is bound by the cross of Christ. There the serpent's head was crushed and the forces of evil routed. So certain was Christ of victory as He went to His cross that He could say emphatically, John 12:31 (ESV)31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.”

Please notice that the authority granted to Jesus necessarily resulted in the restriction on Satan. Read Matthew 28:18-20. Also, please notice that this happened at the cross!

Of course, Satan still has certain power but he is restricted. A vicious dog on a leash can be distinctly dangerous if one foolishly gets too close, but he is nevertheless restricted in scope. But the devil cannot prevent the people whom God is calling from being added to the Church during this age of the Church due to this restriction which has been placed upon him, yet he remains vicious. Yet the message of this is that Christians cannot bind Satan because Christ has already bound him as far as the extent of his free agency is concerned.

So the direct influence of Satan on those who come to Christ can be just about ruled out; only lukewarm 'stragglers in the pack' who foolishly wander into the path of this 'dog on a leash' are at risk (Ephesians 6:10-11; 1 Peter 5:8-9). Yes, Satan loves to roam and prowl for the weaker members of the flock - but only within his restricted parameter.

So, in closing.

The disciples cast out demons, but they never bound them or Satan. The Word of God gives no justification for this practice. None of the apostles utilized this approach and no Scripture commands Christians to practice it. It is an extra-biblical performance, arising from the desire of the flesh to look committed and powerful in the service of God.

We are called to be aware of the devil and his scheming, we are called to resist the devil, but nowhere are we told that we can ‘bind’ him. Resisting the devil is done by putting on the whole armour of God. If that were true, based on the words in Matthew 16, then we must imply that Satan ‘has been bound’ in heaven. The question then remains: ‘who loosens him time and again?’

The "binding and loosing" mentioned in Matthew 18:18 as mentioned before refers to the agreement in prayer of believers in line with the promises of God revealed in his Word, as they deal with brothers in sin.

So, rather just keep on resisting the devil and drawing near to God and you are okay. Any claim that anybody has ever bound Satan is entirely unverified, illogical and based on bad theology.