But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out the demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you [before you expected it].
Or how can a person go into a strong man’s house and carry off his goods (the entire equipment of his house) without first binding the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
This particular Scripture is Jesus's answer to the Pharisees, who accused him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, or Satan. Here, Jesus is making it very clear that it is the Spirit of God who does the work of defeating the devil and his kingdom. And he also makes it clear that the demon from Satan must first be bound before being cast out. Which brings me to a matter of discussion among my fellow Christians.
As you know, I am a firm believer that we are engaged in End Times spiritual warfare, and I assert that we have been given the authority of Christ to employ the power of the Holy Spirit to bind and cast out the demonic oppression that enslaves so many of us Christians in bondage -- the same power of the Holy Spirit that Christ used in this instance, and which He authorized His disciples and all His followers to use.
This topic has caused disagreement among the Body of Christ, and while I do not wish to add to this difference of opinion, I would like to state my position as clearly as possible for your consideration.
There are some well-respected evangelical Christian pastors, such as the late Ray Stedman, who unquestionably believed that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. Yet he advocated that the New Testament offered no justification for direct attacks by Satan, or his demons, upon human beings, and saw no evidence that Christians should "bind" the powers of darkness. In answer, I give you today's verses, Matthew 12:28-29, in the words of Jesus, Himself.
Furthermore, Stedman and others allege that after our Lord physically left the world there seemed to be a reduction in the evidence of direct demonic activity against humans. Let me be perfectly clear, Stedman believed wholeheartedly in indirect attacks by Satan through our "flesh" (the self-centeredness of our sinful nature that makes us want to be our own god), and "the world" (that human society which insists on satanic value judgments and is guided by satanic pride and philosophy). He just did not see the Biblical instruction to "bind" such demons, nor the need to, due to what he saw as a lack of evidence of direct attacks. I want to be clear that this difference of opinion in no way minimizes my respect and overall agreement with Ray Stedman on the subject of spiritual warfare.
Perhaps, when he wrote his excellent book, Spiritual Warfare: How to Stand Firm in the Faith, in 1975, the evidence among society of demonic attacks was less noticeable, or people were less inclined to share their experiences. But I can tell you that I know of at least a dozen close personal friends of mine -- all devout Christians, and among whom my husband is one -- that can attest to direct, physical attacks by demonic spirits. And as a follower of Christ, I adhere to His admonition in Matthew 12 to "first, bind the strong man" before "plundering" his house.
This term "plundering" is probably a stumbling block for a lot of Christians in understanding this verse and the need to bind the demonic oppressors in our lives. The word "plunder" is rendered "spoil" in the King James Version of the Bible, and Strong's Concordance refers us to the Greek word Harpazo, which means to "pluck" or "to snatch or catch away" as in the act of the Spirit of the Lord snatching Philip away from the sight of the eunuch in Acts 8:39; or the experience of Paul being caught up to paradise in 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. Strong's Concordance emphasizes that this verb Harpazo conveys the idea of force suddenly exercised.
So, in the course of our spiritual warfare, when we first bind the demonic spirits oppressing us, we are then enabling the force of the Spirit of God to "plunder" or "spoil" the parts of us that previously were influenced by the spirits. Just as Jesus says in Matthew 12, "it is by the Spirit of God that I [we] drive out the demons...". It is certainly not by our power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. And we have been given the authority of Christ to call upon that power to defeat the inculcations of the Enemy; those attitudes, ideas, or habits, that by the persistent whispers and temptations of the devil have taken up residence in our fleshly houses.
This subject of "binding" is further confused by how we interpret Jesus's words to the disciples in Matthew 16:19: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven”. There are some who, I surmise, incorrectly use this verse to say that Jesus was not talking about demons but about discipline, or prayer, or the influence of the Church, or any number of doctrinal philosophies.
Furthermore, there are those who say that humans are not authorized anywhere in Scripture to “bind or loose” Satan. They go on to say that even the archangel Michael did not tackle Satan on his own, and despite his wisdom and power, he called on God to rebuke Satan. They state that Christians should never suppose that they are smart enough to engage Satan on their own. Rather they, like Michael, should pray, “The Lord rebuke you” (Jude 9).
But that's just my point! First of all, I do not believe it is humans who have the power to bind Satan; it is the power of the Holy Spirit to do the work by means of the authority of Christ! And secondly, I think Jesus is referring to two distinctly different things in Matthew 16:19. I believe He is saying if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you have His authority and the power of the Holy Spirit to bind evil and loose God's plans in any situation. See the difference? That's what he instructed His disciples to do, and what our Great Commission is!
Sadly, I see how ineffective the Church is in the lives of faithful Christians when it does not embrace the truth of spiritual warfare and the powers of darkness in this world. I do not think it benefits the Body of Christ when religion and doctrine get in the way of understanding God's Word and the context in which Christ was teaching. Let's pray for unification among the faithful and a removal of the dirty veil that the Enemy places over our eyes, ears, and hearts. Let us follow in Christ's footsteps and be victorious in the Power of the Holy Spirit!