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Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, and I’m giving you the Prince version:
“For our wrestling match is not against persons with bodies, but against rulerships and the realms of their authority, against the world dominators of the present darkness, against spiritual forces or hosts of wickedness in the heavenlies.”
That’s a description of the kingdom that is opposing us, the one that we have to overcome. And in 2 Corinthians 10 the apostle Paul tells us that God has given us the appropriate weapons: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are, by implication, spiritual and mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. And because of this conflict in which we find ourselves necessarily involved, the apostle Paul goes on to warn us that we are to take and to use the items of defensive equipment that God has provided us with.
And yesterday we saw six items listed in Ephesians 6:13–17. It says, beginning in verse 13, the first item of equipment is what? The girdle of truth. The second one is the breastplate of righteousness. The third one, the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace. The fourth one, the shield of faith. The fifth one, the helmet of salvation, which is hope. And the sixth one, the sword of the Spirit, which is the spoken Word of God.
All right. Now when we have all those six items properly in place we are completely protected from the crown of our head to the soles of our feet except for one vital area which is? The back. And I used to tell people, “Well, you can’t afford to turn your back to the devil.” However I think there is another aspect to that which is that, as soldiers, we’re required to take our place in ranks, one by another so that one can protect another’s back. And I really believe the lesson today is that we cannot afford to stand alone. We’ve got to find our place in a disciplined, ordered group where someone can protect another’s back.
All right. However, even with all that, basically all we’ve done is provide for our own defense. The only weapon of aggression there at all is the sword of the Spirit, and that only reaches as far as your arm can reach. I’ve often suggested that when you have six good things listed in the Scriptures, that’s not the end. If there’s six and they’re good, there’s going to be seven. And I believe that this is true in this case here and I believe the seventh, and the vital instrument of aggression is listed in the 18th verse.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints...” (KJV)
This is the weapon which Charles Wesley, in one of his hymns, called “the weapon of all prayer.” And I want to suggest to you that prayer is the greatest aggressive, spiritual weapon that God has committed to us and that we need to understand and learn how to use the weapon of all prayer.
I want you to notice that together with prayer in this 18th verse, Paul joins watching. That word doesn’t have very clear meaning for us in modern English, but to watch means “to stay awake when others are asleep.” You know that the night is divided into four watches, four periods during which guards on duty have to stay awake when others are asleep. And so when Paul speaks about watching, he’s talking not merely about praying in the daytime or during our waking hours, but he’s talking about denying ourselves sleep in order to continue praying. And I believe the Scripture lays emphasis on this. I’d like to show you just two passages of Scripture in Isaiah 62:6 where the Lord says:
“I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night...” (KJV)
So when you become one of God’s watchmen, you are required to continue that prayer watch not merely in the daytime, but also in the night. And as far as praying through God’s purposes for Jerusalem is concerned, I am sure that praying in the daytime alone will not be sufficient. The other passage is in Luke 18 where Jesus says, after telling the parable of the widow who came with importunity to the unjust judge who finally gave her her request, Jesus says in Luke 18:7:
“And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?” (KJV)
God is expecting us to cry out to Him day and night. And I find that God is leading Christians in many areas to establish prayer chains where there’s some member of the group responsible for praying every hour of every day and every night and every day of every week. I believe that this is going to be necessary in the type of prayer offensive which God wants us to launch.
The other great thing that strengthens and intensifies prayer is fasting. We find that when God’s people really had a desperate prayer need, they nearly always backed up their praying by fasting. So I want you to think of this aggressive weapon of prayer supplemented by watching, staying awake at night to pray, and by fasting, denying yourself food in order to give yourself more fully to prayer. In other words, there’s an element of self-denial. Two of our great basic physical needs are food and sleep. But if we’re really going to press the battle to the gates of Satan’s citadel, I think we’re going to, in a measure, going to have to deny ourselves both food and sleep.
I think this is the pattern of Scripture. I don’t believe any real victories are won in the kingdom of God without self-denial. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him—” What’s the first thing? “Deny himself.” I don’t believe there’s any progress in the Christian life, any real enduring fruitfulness, without self-denial. And in the matter of prayer I think denial centers in denying yourself food in the form of fasting, denying yourself sleep in the form of watching.
Now I want to present to you a kind of little image which has become very vivid in my mind just as an illustration of prayer as a weapon. I suppose probably the most powerful modern military weapon that we have available are what they call the ICBM, the intercontinental ballistic missile. It can be launched from one continent and directed with fearful accuracy to pinpoint its explosion on a city or an objective halfway around the earth. I suppose that’s possibly the most powerful military weapon that we can conceive of at this time. And I want you to think of prayer, aggressive prayer, as an intercontinental ballistic missile that you can launch and you can direct against the strongholds of Satan and it will go with unerring accuracy and destroy Satan’s strongholds in the spiritual realm.
Now I want to take this simple picture of an intercontinental ballistic missile and I want to use it to illustrate aggressive prayer warfare. First of all, one basic thing we have to understand in warfare is that on the cross, Jesus Christ finally and totally defeated Satan once and for all. Satan is not going to be defeated, he has already been defeated. Our real purpose is not to defeat him but to administer the defeat which Jesus has already given him. And unless we approach it from that point of view, I don’t believe we’re ever going to seriously trouble Satan and his kingdom.
Now this could be the theme of a whole course of talks, but I just want to take one passage of Scripture to establish this fact. And this is in Colossians 2:13–15. This passage describes what God has done through Christ on the cross in relation to the devil. And it actually states three things which follow one another in a logical succession, building up to the third which is the climax. I’ll read the three verses and then comment briefly on them. Beginning in Colossians 2:13:
“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he [God] quickened [that’s made alive] together with him [Christ], having forgiven you all trespasses ...” (KJV)
Notice it’s God the Father who has done it through Christ.
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross. And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it [the cross].” (KJV)
The three successive things accomplished by the death of Christ are as follows. We have to see all of them and we have to get them in the right order because the third is dependent upon the first two. The first one is “having forgiven you all trespasses.” This deals with the past. Through our faith in Christ’s death we can have forgiven every wrong, sinful act we’ve ever committed. And we have to come to the place that we know that all of them have been forgiven, not just some of them, but all of them. As long as one remains unforgiven, there’s a measure of guilt. And as long as we have a measure of guilt, we are no match for Satan. Satan’s greatest weapon against us is guilt. And the whole battle is fought on the basis of righteousness or guilt. So in procuring righteousness for us, God’s first step is to make provision for the forgiving of every past sinful act we’ve ever committed. And you need to ask yourself, Do I know for sure that all my sins have been forgiven? Not 99.9 percent, but all. Because until you do, you really will not trouble the devil very much. I personally believe, as I stand here this afternoon, that all my sins have been forgiven.
The second thing is in verse 14, “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us [which was contrary to us], and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” This is not dealing with sin. We talk about “having our sins blotted out,” that’s fine. But what the Lord is talking about here is blotting out the law as a means of righteousness. God has terminated the law as a means of righteousness through the death of Christ on the cross. The law is no longer the standard of righteousness which God expects us to observe. If you want to look in Ephesians 2:15 for a moment, speaking again about what Christ has accomplished by His death on the cross it says:
“Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances ...” (KJV)
Christ has abolished, abrogated, terminated the law as a means to righteousness. It’s no longer the required means or the required standard of righteousness for the believer.
And in Romans 10:4 we have this statement.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (KJV)
If you are a believer in Christ, then for you, through His death, the law has ended as a means of righteousness. You are no longer required to observe the law in order to be found righteous with God. This is absolutely essential that you be delivered from the requirements of the law in order to receive the righteousness which is by the faith of Christ. My experience is that so many Christians are living in a kind of twilight. Halfway between the day of grace and the night of law. They don’t really know which area they belong in. And in many instances they still feel mildly guilty about some transgression or other of some imagined law which they’re supposed to observe.
Going back to Colossians 2, I want to point out to you in verse 16 the consequence which Paul draws from what God did through Christ on the cross.
“Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days...” (KJV)
Now that’s a commandment of the Word of God. If you believe in Christ you are not to let anyone judge you in respect of what you eat, what you drink, the feast or the fast days that you observe, or the keeping of the Sabbath. They are eliminated by the death of Christ on the cross. You notice the therefore at the beginning? Because of what God did through the cross, let no man therefore. The Seventh Day Adventist comes to me and talks to me about the Sabbath, I tell him, “The Bible does not permit me to let you judge me in respect to the Sabbath. And if I do it, I’m disobeying the Bible.” Here, I believe, is the greatest beneath-the-surface problem that Christians fight.
I always wondered in Romans why the last obstacle before Romans 8 was Romans 7, which deals with, what? The law. The whole chapter—and it’s quite a lengthy chapter—is devoted to the law. Paul has already dealt with sin, he’s already dealt with the old man in chapter 6. You’d think, “What more is there left to deal with?” But the answer is: The final hurdle to grace is the law. And Paul devotes the whole of Romans 7 to eliminate the law as a requirement or a means of righteousness. And then he begins chapter 8 with these significant words: “There is therefore.” What’s the therefore? Because of Romans 7, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. As long as we think we are expected in any way to observe the law, we will be in some measure under condemnation. And as long as you are in any measure under condemnation, you cannot live in Romans 8, because the door that leads to Romans 8, which is the Spirit-filled life of liberty, peace and joy, is the single statement “There is therefore now no condemnation.”
The problem is that most religious people feel most religious when they feel slightly guilty. And they really wouldn’t know what it is like not to feel guilty. They’d feel unsafe. And as a matter of fact, in the history of the church, I think the majority of the hymns we sing are sin-centered hymns. And you watch people walk out of the average church on Sunday morning. They look pious and guilty. And the devil wants to keep them so because the issue is righteousness or guilt.
All right. Going back to Colossians 2, we’ve dealt with verse 13, “having forgiven us all trespasses.” We’ve dealt with verse 14, “having abrogated the law as a means to righteousness.” Now as a result of those two things we come to verse 15. “God has spoiled principalities and powers.” Those are the things we’ve been talking about, Satan’s kingdom in the heavenlies—principalities and powers. God has defeated them and stripped them of all their weapons. Every Christian needs to know that Satan has been stripped of his weapons. We’ve been given the weapons; Satan has been deprived of them. We are dealing with a foe who has only one weapon left. You know what that is? Bluff. And he’s a master of using it. How has God stripped Satan of his weapons? By taking from him the right to make us feel guilty. As long as he makes us feel guilty, he has power over us. We’ll see at the close of this lesson that he’s the accuser of the brethren. His supreme objective in relationship to believers is to accuse them and thus keep them feeling guilty. The whole battle centers around righteousness or guilt. Our guilt has been dealt with, our righteousness has been assured through the death of Christ on the cross. Therefore, we can now go with absolute confidence into the battle against the enemy.
All right. Having said that, I now want to return to the picture of the intercontinental missile very briefly and I want to suggest to you that there are three main weapons made available to us in this warfare as Christians. I’m not suggesting for a moment these are the only weapons, but I think they are primary and I would suggest they are these. You may want to jot them down. Number one, the Word of God. Number two, the name of Jesus. And number three, the blood of Jesus. I’ll just say them once more. Number one, the Word of God. Number two, the name of Jesus. And number three, the blood of Jesus.
Now, the next thing we need to know is how these weapons are launched. How do we send them forth out of our intercontinental ballistic missile launcher? And the answer is there is only one channel for launching all spiritual weapons. And that channel is the mouth. That’s right. All spiritual weapons go through the mouth. Turn to Psalm 8:2. We’ll look at verse 1 first.
“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.” (KJV)
You’ll notice the confirmation of what I was saying? There’s a place above the heavens. What’s the weapon that’s spoken of there? Verse 1. The name of the Lord. How is it to be used? Verse 2 tells us.
“Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.” (KJV)
Let’s start at the end of the verse. Who is “the enemy and the avenger”? Satan, that’s right. God has provided us a way to still the enemy and the avenger. What is still in modern English? To silence, or more vividly, to shut him up. Isn’t it good news that we have a way to shut the devil up! We need to see what it is. It also speaks there that “because of thine enemies.” Plural. I think the enemy and the avenger is Satan, the enemies are the other spiritual forces that are under Satan’s control directed against us. So because we have these forces directed against us, God has given us ordained strength. And it comes where, out of? “The mouth of babes and sucklings.” Innocent people like you and me who couldn’t say “boo” to a lion can challenge the devil when we know the weapons God has given us.
All right. Now I want you to keep your finger in Psalm 8 and turn to Matthew 21:16. At this point Jesus is in the temple and the small Jewish children are running to and fro in the temple with joy and excitement crying, “Hosanna to the Son of David.” And the Pharisees and the temple leaders come to Jesus and complain about the noise and ask Him to silence the children. And in answer Jesus quotes Psalm 8:2. This is what He says.
“And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” (KJV)
There we have a divine comment on Psalm 8:2. David said, “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou has ordained strength.” Jesus said, “out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise.” What does that tell us? That the ordained strength of God’s people is what? Perfected praise. In other words, if we can come to the place where we praise God perfectly out of our mouths, what’s the result? We silence the devil, we shut him up. No wonder the devil fights the truths of praise. No wonder the devil says, “Just praise Him in your heart. Don’t be demonstrative. Don’t get overemotional. Just keep quiet.” Just like the Pharisees did in the temple. They said, “We don’t like this noise.” Jesus said, “That’s what silences the devil.” It’s a brilliant answer when you think about it. But the point I’m making at the moment is the weapons that silence the devil come out of our mouths.
Now I want you to turn to Revelation 16:13. I want you to see that not only do the weapons of righteousness come out of mouths, but the weapons of sin come out of mouths, too. Revelation 16:13. This is part of the vision that John the revelator had on the Isle of Patmos. We don’t need to go into the background but he says:
“And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.” (KJV)
Where did they come from? The mouths of Satan’s servants. So the weapons of righteousness come out of the mouths of God’s children. The weapons of wickedness come out of the mouths of Satan’s servants. The conclusion is the side will win that uses its mouth aright. We will win or lose according to what we do with our mouths. I’m always rather impressed by the picture of unclean spirits like frogs. I don’t know whether you have frogs in this state of Kentucky very much, but I’ve lived in various places where frogs are common. Israel is one place, and Florida is another. I’ve noticed certain things about frogs, they always keep silent in the daytime. You never hear frogs croaking in the daytime. But in the dark, and especially when it’s rained, they’ll come out and they’ll start croaking and they’ll go on croaking for hours. The same ceaseless repetitive croaking. And this is compared to the activity of evil spirits. To me, this is a beautiful picture of political propaganda. Continually saying the same lies again and again and again. And taking a nation or whatever group of people you’re dealing with, excluding them from other forms of communication and bombarding them ceaselessly with the croaking of the frogs until their minds are benumbed and taken over. And I would suggest to you that every major dictatorship that’s been established this century, whether you talk of Fascism, Communism, or whatever it may be, has in essence been established by the same means. The croaking of frogs. The spirits of political propaganda, that in the hours of darkness, send forth this ceaseless stream of repeated but very cleverly chosen lies. And so we really get a very up-to-date view of the political scene when we see the spiritual forces behind. On one hand the frogs croaking through mouths. On the other hand, the children of God offering God the sacrifice of perfect praise. And if we do it well enough and long enough we can silence the frogs. That’s the lesson.
All right. The next thing we need to know about these weapons and their launching is how they are empowered. What is the power that propels them to the place where they are to be used? And I suggest to you there’s just one form of power, which is—the Holy Spirit. That’s my belief. Let’s look in Ephesians 3:20 for a moment.
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us...” (KJV)
Notice in the context it’s clear the reference is primarily to prayer: What we ask and think. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above. Paul runs out of words to describe the power of prayer but it’s above all that we can ask or think according to what? The power that works in us. In other words, the effectiveness of our prayers is determined by the measure of the power that works through us. Look in 1 Corinthians 4:20 for a moment.
“For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” (KJV)
It isn’t the words we say, it’s the power that’s in the words that matter. You could hear two people say exactly the same words: “I rebuke you Satan.” When one says them nothing happens. When the other says them everything happens. What’s the difference? Not in the words but in the power. It’s the measure of the Holy Spirit in the words that we pray that makes them effective. And if the Holy Spirit is given free reign in our prayer, through that power God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.
Now, going back to the picture of the intercontinental ballistic missile yet once more. Those missiles are directed by computers that are set. And I believe, in the same sense, we need a computer setting on our prayers to direct them to the right objective. And I believe the computer setting is provided by the Holy Spirit. Turn to Romans 8:26–27.
“Likewise the Spirit [capital S] also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (KJV)
Paul says we all have a certain infirmity. It’s not a physical sickness, but in a sense it’s an infirmity of the mind and the understanding. And it takes these two forms, we don’t know what to pray for, we don’t know how to pray.
Now I questioned Christians in many different parts of the world. I’ve never had one that would deny he had that infirmity. That at times he did not know what to pray for and at times even when he did know what to pray for, he didn’t know how to pray for it.
All right. God has given us a power and a wisdom to help us. That is the Holy Spirit. He knows what to pray for; He knows how to pray. In the measure that we yield to and allow ourselves to be directed by the Holy Spirit, our prayers become effective. The secret of praying is cooperating with the Holy Spirit. Praying without the Holy Spirit is just a religious activity or mere words. The only power that makes our prayers effective is the power of the Holy Spirit.
All right. Now let’s go over what we’ve said and then go on. We’ve said that there are three main spiritual weapons. The Word of God, the name of Jesus, the blood of Jesus. We’ve said that all spiritual weapons, whether good or evil, are launched through mouths. And God has chosen the mouths of babes and sucklings for His weapons. We’ve said that in order for the missile to go forth, it must be empowered and the power is the Holy Spirit. It also must be computerized to go to the right objective. The one who sets the computer is likewise the Holy Spirit. In other words, we are really totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit for effective praying. And going back to Ephesians 6:18 Paul says “praying with all prayer and supplication.” How? In the Spirit, capital S.
Okay. Now I want to break that down a little bit and suggest there are four main kinds of activity that send forth these weapons through our mouths. And without mystifying you, I’ll try to explain them briefly. There are four main things we do with out mouths that send forth these spiritual weapons.
Number one, prayer. Number two, praise. Number three, testimony. And number four, preaching. I put preaching last because we could argue that not all God’s people are called to preach. But in regards to the other three, I believe all God’s people are called to pray, to praise and to testify. So those are the four main ways of launching: Prayer, praise, testimony and preaching.
Now I want to take examples of each, just one for each, from the book of Acts. Let’s start with an example of prayer in Acts 4. We find that the leaders of the early church were confronted with their first serious opposition because the religious and civic leaders of their people had forbidden them to preach any more in the name of Jesus. And you understand that every provision of the gospel is released only by the name of Jesus. In other words, without the name of Jesus the gospel is ineffective. Whether it’s forgiveness of sins or healing of the body or baptism in the Holy Spirit or deliverance from an evil power, it’s always in the name of Jesus. So if we were forbidden to use the name of Jesus, that would render our preaching ineffective. So this is what the leaders of the opposition determined to require. In Acts 4:17 they said:
“But that it spread no further among the people, let us straightly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.” (KJV)
And so they then called the apostles and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. You understand? This was a major crisis, because it completely stopped the progress of the gospel. So the apostles went back to their own company, their fellow believers and they betook themselves to prayer. They set into operation the weapon of prayer. And this is how it’s recorded here in verse 23 and following:
“And being let go, they went to their own company and reported to them all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. And when they heard that they lifted up their voice to God in one accord and said, Lord, thou art God...” (KJV)
That was concerted, focused, united prayer. When it says “they lifted up their voice to God with one accord” and it quotes the prayer, how do you think that happened? And your opinion is just as legitimate as mine, but I would suggest that one person was inspired by the Holy Spirit to pray the appropriate prayer and all the rest supported him in the Spirit and said Amen at the end. But one person was the mouthpiece of the Spirit-given prayer that was needed for that occasion. And I want you to notice two things about the prayer. They filled it with quotations from the Word of God. They said this in verse 24– 25:
“Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: who by the mouth of thy servant David has said, Why did the heathen rage...” (KJV)
They quoted God’s own Word to God. They based their praying on the Word of God. And then at the end, verse 29 and 30, they said:
“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.” (KJV)
What’s the weapon there? The name of Jesus, that’s right. They used the Word of God and the name of Jesus. Their prayers were the vehicle for those weapons. And I’d like you to notice their prayers were very specific. They said “Grant unto thy servants that with all boldness we may speak thy word by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Jesus.” You see, many of our prayers are so vague we wouldn’t really know if God answered or not. It takes courage to pray a prayer like that. They said, “Lord, we need miracles.” And you know what? “We need them today.”
You see, there’s a real deep psychology in this. Miracles give the church the initiative. You don’t have to go and beg people to listen to you when God does visible miracles. People come to you and say, “How did it happen?” That gives you boldness. And that’s the principle on which the early church acted. We need more visible miracles today. And I suppose if we met God’s conditions and prayed for them, we’d have them. But some of us are so spiritual that we don’t need miracles any longer. I don’t believe that. I think we do. At least, Lord, I want you to know I need them. If others don’t, please don’t leave me out. I need them.
All right. What happened when they prayed that way? Well, the result was exciting. Verse 31:
“When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.” (KJV)
The initiative passed back to the people of God. Have you ever been in a place which was shaken physically by the power of God? I have. I was praying with three people in a car once in Egypt. The car was stationary, the engine was switched off, and when God moved into that car, that whole car rattled and vibrated as if it had been traveling at 50 miles an hour along an uneven road. And I knew God was speaking to me. And I can tell you He had my attention!
All right. The next means of launching we’ll speak about is praise. We’ll turn to Acts 16:25–26. All right. The background to this is rather unexpected. Paul and Silas have been supernaturally directed by a vision and other evidence to come to Philippi. And they started preaching the gospel in Philippi, everything was going fine. They have a nice home to live in, a dear sister named Lydia to care for them and do all their laundry and cook their food, and then Paul blew it. What did he do? Well, as Don Basham said, as they sat there in the jail a little while later, Silas would have said to Paul: “Paul, everything was going all right until you got into the ministry of deliverance. And when you cast that demon out of that girl, the whole city turned into an uproar.” Now that’s not to be explained on a natural basis. Satan’s kingdom was disturbed because you remember what Jesus said: “If I, by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.” So Satan reacted in fear and I suppose he turned loose an extra cohort of satanic angels and had stirred up trouble in Philippi. “Stop this thing; it’s getting out of hand.” So they were caught away to the magistrates, clothes stripped off them, beaten and cast into prison, put into the inner prison with their feet in the stocks. Now what would you do if you were there? Well let’s read what they did. Acts 16:25–26.
“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. [They’d never heard anybody like that in their prison before.] And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” (KJV)
Once again the power of these spiritual weapons of prayer and praise liberate God’s supernatural power in such a way that it produces visible effects in the physical world.
In Acts 4, the house was shaken. In Acts 16 the prison was shaken to its foundation, the doors were opened and every one’s bands were loosed. That’s releasing spiritual power for miraculous purposes that are demonstrable in the physical realm. And again, the initiative passed back to the people of God. They didn’t have to go tell the jailer he was a sinner. He sprang in and said to his prisoners, “Help me! How can I get saved?” See, when we win the battle in the spiritual realm, we recapture the initiative. The way to get the initiative is to win it in the spiritual realm.
All right. Let’s take the next example which is preaching. And I’m taking preaching before testimony because I have a reason to keep testimony till the end. For preaching we’ll turn to Acts 19:8–10. This describes the ministry of Paul in the city of Ephesus. And it says:
“He went into the synagogue and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. [That’s a school of a certain philosopher who opened up his school just like Moorhead State University has opened up this particular classroom for us.] And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (KJV)
This is probably the longest period of consecutive preaching we find recorded in the ministry of Paul. He spent two years in one place preaching in one meeting room every day for two years. What happened? The Word of God went forth from that central place, the main city, to the entire province of Asia of which Ephesus was the capital city. And when God gets us to preach the right message, He delights to confirm it supernaturally. And so we read in the next two verses God confirmed the message supernaturally. It says:
“And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul.” (KJV)
I never read that verse without delighting over the word special because of its implication. It implies that miracles were normal. But sometimes God did special miracles. Well I’m grateful for normal miracles myself, but I’m particularly grateful for special ones. What were the special miracles?
“So that from his [Paul] body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” (KJV)
Let me just testify from personal experience. I know cases in which the same results have followed.
Now, when things start happening for God, the devil gets disturbed. And one way or another he always tries to counterattack. So in this case a group of Jewish exorcists who were not believers in Jesus saw that Paul’s exorcism was working and they thought, “We’ll try the same thing.” So they went to deal with a man who was violent and demonized and they said to him:
“We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.” (KJV)
And the answer of the demon is really classical. It doesn’t come out in the King James because two different words are used in the Greek. The demon said, “Well, Jesus I know, and Paul I’m acquainted with.” Or “Jesus I acknowledge and Paul I know about. I heard about Paul, he’s created a lot of problems for us in this area at the moment.” But “I acknowledge Jesus; I know about Paul.” And then the man sprung on the exorcists, beat them up, stripped them of their clothes and drove them out into the streets. And the whole of Ephesus heard about it. It hit the headlines of the newspapers. And I’ll tell you, when demons come into open operation, it tends to make the headlines. I have a friend who pastors a church in a certain city and about four years ago he announced to his congregation that he was going to give a series of talks every Wednesday night on exorcism of demons. And he said, “It could happen that the devil will seek to interrupt.” So the third Wednesday he was in the middle of his talk and the door opens at the back of the church and in comes a man roaring like a beast and carrying a loaded revolver. And he sticks his revolver in the back of one of the deacons and drives him up at the point of a gun to the front of the pulpit. And then he threatens to kill the deacon in front of the preacher. Well, I don’t know the exact sequence of events, but eight shots were fired and by the grace of God, not one of them struck the deacon or the preacher. Then, with an emptied gun, the man turned to run out of the church and seated in one of the seats in the aisle was a man who was a proficient football player and a skillful tackler and he tackled the man in the aisle and brought him down. Of course, the police came along, dug eight bullets out of the woodwork in the pulpit and round about and the next day the headlines hit the front page of the paper. Well, that’s somewhat like what happened in Ephesus. See, Satan counterattacks.
Incidentally, I went to preach in that church about a year later and just as I was getting into the pulpit for the first night the pastor said, “I think I ought to tell you that the man has just been released.” I tell you, that stirred up a little extra prayer in me that night! All right. Well, here we had the opposition. Now look what happens. We’re going on in Acts 19:17:
“And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.” (KJV)
Notice, they were believers but they were like a lot of believers today. They had one foot in Satan’s kingdom and one foot in God’s kingdom. They were still fooling around with the occult and forbidden things. But at this point they became clearly convinced that Satan was a loser. So they decided to sever the connection with him and come out on the side of the Lord Jesus Christ. So they came and confessed their deeds. Also the city of Ephesus was a center of occult power and practices and this rocked the whole occult realm in Ephesus. So it says in verse 19:
“Many of them also which used curious arts [that’s magic, necromancy, fortune telling, astrology, the whole realm of the occult] brought their books together and burned them before all men; and they counted the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.” (KJV)
I suppose that you could easily give “one piece of silver” to two dollars, which would mean at least a hundred thousand dollars worth of books were publicly burned to break contact with Satan and the occult realm.
I was with a fairly wealthy lady recently, a well-known society lady in her particular area, who had been deeply in the occult, but came in a very beautiful and childlike way to the Lord Jesus Christ. And I hesitate to tell you the value of the books that she burned, but she had several first editions of books on Buddhism. And I have an idea it was in the region of a hundred thousand dollars worth of books that she burned. So this is not out of date.
But now let’s look at verse 20 and see the summation of it in the Word of God. What was the explanation for all that happened so dramatically in the city of Ephesus? It said in verse 20:
“So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.” (KJV)
What was the power behind it all? The Word of God. Paul had preached the Word for two years. It had gone out to all Asia. God confirmed it supernaturally, Satan resisted it, God overruled and the whole city was swept by a demonstration of the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ.
All right. Now let’s look in closing at the fourth means of launching these weapons, that is testimony.
Let’s go back to Acts 1:8. These are the last words Jesus spoke on earth.
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (KJV)
What is the primary purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit? It’s to provide power for what? You said, some of you, to witness. I accept it, but it’s not exactly what Jesus said. He didn’t say, “ye shall witness,” he said, “ye shall be witnesses.” There’s a difference. A lot of people who “witness” are not witnesses. Jesus didn’t speak about first witnessing with the mouth, but about being a witness—living such a life that it compelled people to think about Jesus. Legitimately, speaking is part of witnessing but it’s not the whole. And often we confuse the world, as Larry Tomczak said in the first message, by saying one thing with our mouths and another thing with our lives. Jesus put the emphasis in the right place when he said, “Ye shall be witnesses.”
Also, He did not say that you would be witnesses to an experience, but to Me. See, I’ve been in the Pentecostal movement for over thirty years. One of our mistakes has often been that we witness to the baptism in the Holy Spirit, or to tongues, or to healing. And we often turn people off. One of the things I noticed about the Jesus people when they emerged in the last decade was this: Though nearly all of them were baptized in the Spirit, they did not talk primarily about the baptism in the Spirit. They talked about Jesus. And that was God’s wisdom. If you talk about Jesus, people will soon want to know what you’ve got. Then you can explain it to them. But don’t force it on them, let the request come from them.
All right. Going on now in the book of Acts, a brief outline. Acts 4:33.
“And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus...” (KJV)
We notice the continuing extension and unfolding of the witness. We need to know one thing. That is the difference between preaching and witnessing. Preaching is essentially unfolding the truth out of Scripture. But witnessing is telling what God has done for you. Some people who are not called to preach are very effective witnesses. This was brought home to me by a businessman who was a friend of mine some years ago. He had been an alcoholic and had been wonderfully saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. One day in the course of his business he was in some restaurant or place where there was a bar. And there was a man sitting at the bar whom he did not know. The Lord spoke to him and said, “Witness to that man.” And he said, “Well, Lord, I don’t know what to say. I can’t.” So the Lord said again to witness to that man. He said, “Lord, I just don’t know what to say.” So the third time the Lord said, “Witness to that man.” He said, “Lord, I can’t.” The Lord said, “I didn’t tell you to preach to him; I told you to witness to him. Tell him what I’ve done for you.” And he did. See, witnessing is not preaching. It’s telling what God has done for you.
Now every Christian should be able to witness. Because if God has not done anything for you, you are not a Christian. And Jesus’ purpose was that the testimony of His resurrection should spread to the whole earth. Notice “with great power did the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” The most important fact we need to emphasize is this. That Jesus Christ is alive. If that fact is true, then it commands the attention of the unbeliever. Because Jesus died, was buried nearly two thousand years ago. If that man is alive today, then that’s the most important fact in history. And we need to let everybody know that Jesus is alive. On the basis of personal experience.
Notice now what the critics of the preachers said in Acts 5:28. The opposition said:
“Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? And, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine...” (KJV)
Praise God! They brought the message to everybody in Jerusalem. That was not done merely by a small group of preachers. That was done by every Christian carrying his testimony.
Now, in closing, I want to turn to Revelation 12:7–11. Now I need to say something briefly about understanding the book of Revelation. Not that I claim to understand the whole of Revelation, but basically there are two main ways of interpreting Revelation. One is called the “historicist,” which essentially says that since John saw these visions on the Isle of Patmos, they have in time gradually been worked out in subsequent history. So that they are a kind of preview of the history mainly of Europe from then until sometime round about now. The history of pagan Rome and Papal Rome and the rise of Islam and the decline of the Ottoman Empire and a whole lot of other things.
Now I have studied those theories, not in great detail, and I just have to say personally I have two objections. Number one, they do not agree with the facts of history. Number two, they do not agree with the statements of Scripture. So on that basis I am unable to accept that way of interpreting the book of Revelation. For example, I read one book in which the drying up of the great river Euphrates was the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Well, who knows about the Ottoman Empire today? Not most of you I imagine. And yet this is said to be the day of the wrath of Almighty God. Well if that’s all the day of Almighty God’s wrath is going to be, why worry? You understand? It’s totally unbalanced. I cannot make it relate.
So I am reduced to accepting basically the alternative method of Revelation which is that John saw these visions unfolded before his eyes, he wrote down in the past tense what he saw, but in most cases, not all, the fulfillment is still in the future. So that, though they are written in the past in the book, they’re actually going to happen in what is still for us the future.
Now if you are prepared to go along with that method of interpretation, then I have absolute scriptural endorsement that my teaching which I have given you about the location of Satan’s kingdom and the activity of Satan’s angels is a hundred percent scriptural. I think you’ll see it now as we read these words. Bear in mind that we’re reading in the past but the fulfillment is in the future. All right. Verse 7 of Revelation 12:
“And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon [who is the dragon? Satan.]; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. [Whose place? The place of Satan and his angels.]” (KJV)
Now if that is still in the future, what does it tell us? Where is their place now? In heaven, all right, that’s just logic. Verse 9:
“The great dragon was cast out [Out of where? Heaven.], the old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power [authority] of his Christ.” (KJV)
Where was that voice speaking from? Heaven, that’s right. That’s not true of earth at that point but it’s true of heaven. The authority of Christ was finally established in heaven. How? Because through His authority, Satan’s kingdom was dislodged from the heavenlies. Up till that time the final establishing of Christ’s authority in heaven had not taken place.
Now notice what it says next:
“... for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.” (KJV)
Past in the English, future in fulfillment. So what does that tell us about Satan? What is his main activity now? He’s accusing us. Why? Because he wants to keep us feeling what? Guilty. The whole thing centers around righteousness or guilt.
Looking again at verse 10, when the angel speaks from heaven and says “our brethren,” whom does he mean? Well, I believe he means the believers on earth. All right? Okay.
Now speaking about believers on earth it says “they overcame him.” It’s very personal. We are pitted in direct conflict with him, Satan. And if this be true, it confirms what I’ve said, it’s our business to administer Christ’s defeat to Satan. And I believe logically it must be us because we’ve got the weapons.
All right. No wonder Satan doesn’t want this message preached. His great weapon apart from guilt is ignorance. As long as he can keep us ignorant his kingdom is secure.
Now we find out how they overcame him.
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” (KJV)
First of all, let’s speak about what kind of people overcomes Satan. It’s not just anybody. It says “they loved not their lives unto the death.” What does that mean? I understand it to mean this. It wasn’t very important for them whether they lived or died. Keeping alive was not priority number one. Priority number one was doing the will of God whether they lived or died. In other words, they were committed persons. And I want to suggest to you the only kind of Christians who scare Satan are committed Christians. I also want to suggest to you that we—let me put it this way. Let me use an illustration. I don’t often quote from Lenin, but I quote one sentence. He said once, “Communists are dead men on furlough.” What does he mean by that? I think he meant this: That when you become a Communist you’re signing your own death warrant. You must expect to die. Either in a jail or before a firing squad or on the barricades in the revolution or in some swampy jungle. But to become a Communist means to settle your own death. He said until you actually die, you’re a dead man on furlough. You know what I call that? I call that commitment. And I would suggest to you that’s the primary reason why in this century Communism has made such tremendous advances. Because of commitment.
I want to suggest to you without parallel commitment from the Christian, we have no hope of winning. I believe, personally, that’s why North Vietnam defeated South Vietnam. It was committed against uncommitted. And in any struggle which would otherwise be equal, the committed will always defeat the uncommitted. And that’s true in the spiritual realm. Committed Communists will defeat uncommitted Christians. Always. So the first requirement is not what we do, it’s who we are.
I think commitment was well summed up in the words of Queen Esther when she went into the presence of King Ahasuerus. She said you know, normally it’s the death penalty to go in unless I’m summoned. But I haven’t been summoned. And Mordecai said in effect, “So what?” And she said, “All right, I’ll go. And if I perish, I’ll perish.” That’s commitment. And there’s no way around it. That’s absolutely what is needed. Staying alive is not priority number one for a Christian.
All right. Talking then about these kind of people, now we ask ourselves, How did they overcome? And the answer is they overcame Satan by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony. Two weapons. The blood of Jesus. The Word of God. And they made them effective by their testimony. I want to suggest to you that we can interpret it this way: We overcome Satan when we testify personally to what the Word of God says the blood of Jesus does for us. I’m going to say that again. We overcome Satan when we testify personally to what the Word of God says the blood of Jesus does for us.
And I want to take a pattern from the Old Testament for a moment. In the Old Testament, God delivered his people Israel from judgment and the oppression of the enemy through the blood of the Passover lamb. And the ordinance of God was that on a certain day at a certain time of the day, the father of each house would take a lamb that met certain requirements and would sacrificially kill that lamb. And killing the lamb he was obligated to catch every drop of the lamb’s blood in a basin. The blood was so precious not one drop was to be lost.
Now once the lamb’s blood was poured in the basin, protection was available to every Israelite. But it was not there. In order to achieve protection, every Israelite had to transfer the blood from the basin to the place where he lived. And there was only one God appointed way to do it. That was with a little herb called hyssop. He had to take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood and then sprinkle the blood over and on either side of the door of his house. And once the blood was transferred from the basin to the house, the house was protected.
Now in 1 Corinthians 5:7 Paul says Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us. In other words, he compares the death of Christ on the cross to the Passover lamb. We may say therefore that the lamb has been killed, his blood has been made available. But the mere fact that Christ has shed His blood provides no protection for any of us. In order to have protection we must transfer the blood to the place where we live. Under the Old Covenant the only means permitted was the hyssop. Under the New Covenant, God does not require us to use hyssop, but there is only one appointed way to do it. And that is what? By our testimony. It’s our testimony that takes the blood from the basin and places it where we live. And so we overcome Satan when we testify to what the Word of God says the blood of Jesus does for us. No testimony, no protection. No wonder the devil will fight your testimony. He’d rather see the blood stay in the basin. Then he can attack your home.
Now I’m going to close by going through a brief pattern of testimony which I have recorded on tape, and also available in print. I’m just going to do it quickly and we’re going to close here this afternoon. I’m going to give you the Scripture references and make the confession without quoting the Scripture. I want you to listen once and the second time I want you to do it with me. I’ll give you the Scripture.
Ephesians 1:7, Psalm 107:2. Through the blood of Jesus I am redeemed out of the hand of the devil. Through the blood of Jesus all my sins are forgiven.
1 John 1:7. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, is cleansing me now, and continually, from all sin.
Romans 5:9. Through the blood of Jesus I am justified, made righteous, just-as-if-I’d never sinned.
Hebrews 13:12. Through the blood of Jesus I am sanctified, made holy, set apart to God.
1 Corinthians 6:19–20. My body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, redeemed, cleansed, sanctified by the blood of Jesus. Therefore as a result of all that I’ve said, the devil has no more place in me and no more power over me through the blood of Jesus.
Revelation 12:11. I overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of my testimony.
Now stand to your feet and I’ll lead you in saying that once because I don’t want to deprive you of the privilege of taking the blood from the basin and sprinkling it on yourself. Okay? don’t say it with me, but say it together after me.
Ephesians 1:7. Psalm 107:2. Through the blood of Jesus I am redeemed out of the hands of the devil.
Through the blood of Jesus all my sins are forgiven.
1 John 1:7. The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s son, is cleansing me now, and continually, from all sin.
Romans 5:9. Through the blood of Jesus I am justified, made righteous, just-as-if-I’d never sinned.
Hebrews 13:12. Through the blood of Jesus I am sanctified, made holy, set apart to God.
1 Corinthians 6:19–20. My body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, redeemed, cleansed, sanctified by the blood of Jesus. Therefore the devil has no more place in me and no more power over me, through the blood of Jesus.
Revelation 12:11. I overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb, and the word of my testimony. Now if you believe it, praise the Lord for it.