© 2006 Ron Schwartz
Part 5. Power Over Serpents And Scorpions (Or Just A Broken Clock)
By Ron Schwartz
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Conventional teaching on spiritual authority holds that parents have authority (power) over their children, husbands over wives, pastors over their congregations, and Christians over the powers of darkness. Therefore, many Christians associate spiritual authority with scriptures like:
I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power
of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give
power over the nations:
And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they
be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
The popular notion is that Christians are empowered with authority and might over the forces of darkness. But consider this: today, more than at any other time in history, the influence of Christianity, the building of churches, and the freedom of evangelism has reached throughout the world. The influence of Christianity is everywhere. Yet even though churches number in the hundreds of thousands and Christians in the 100’s of millions it seems that contemporary Christianity is powerless the prevent the spread of sin and decadency of our societies that continues to spiral down to hell. If Christians truly have power over the powers of darkness, why does the corruption of sin and immorality that blankets this world continue to spread and flourish at an unimaginable pace? Why do Christians appear to be “powerless” to change this world?
The following scripture is perhaps the most over-used and least understood scripture that pertains to spiritual authority:
we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against
powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual
wickedness in high places.
If Christians have been given power over “serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy,” why then is there a need to “wrestle?”
This word “wrestle” (Greek: pale) describes a very popular sport of the ancient Greeks. It was not that dissimilar to today’s wrestling. It was contest in which one contestant attempted to force his opponent out of a circle or forces him to the ground. It was very physical, and it required discipline, extensive training, resolve, and tenacity. It was not something for the careless or faint at heart. The Greeks would train and condition young boys their entire life to prepare them for this sport. Preparation was considered lifelong.
When you put the scripture, “we wrestle,” together with the scripture, “power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy,” you begin to understand that the spiritual authority Christians can have “against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, [and] against spiritual wickedness in high places” is not given carte blanche to just any Bible-toting believer. Like the Greeks who trained their entire life for this contest, spiritual authority over “serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” is for them who have conditioned and trained their spiritual lives to be qualified for this fight. Believers do this through obeying the discipleship described by Jesus, and through “crucifying the flesh” as described by Paul. The measure of spiritual authority a believer has is directly proportional to the degree that they are submitted to the Lord. They must set aside sin and personal ambitions and become obedient to God’s Spirit. And like the Greek sport, this training and discipline must be considered lifelong and life changing.
If a Greek had not conditioned his body to wrestle he would not be qualified for his contest. In the same manner, most Christians are spiritually unconditioned because of their apathy, compromise, and the sin in their lives. They are simply unqualified to “wrestle” against “the power of the enemy.” This explains why the vast majority of Christians are “powerless” to change the world around them - they have never experience true spiritual authority, and they are therefore no match for the powers of darkness.
Spiritual authority as it pertains to spiritual warfare is almost completely superficial among Western Christians. They are almost all talk. Some Christians talk about being prayer warriors or participating in spiritual battles. Are these battles real? Let go back to Paul’s analogy of skilled and conditioned wrestlers. What chance would an under developed, weak, untrained, and apathetic person have in a wrestling match against a tested, conditioned, trained, and seasoned opponent who is full of resolve? None! The truth is that very few Christians know what it is to wrestle against spiritual darkness, and that is the reason for the pandemic of sin and corruption in our society. Contemporary Christianity’s idea of spiritual authority/ spiritual warfare is a joke among the true powers of spiritual darkness.
Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them
which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by
Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who
And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and
prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
In this scripture, we are told of Jews who tried to use the spiritual authority they saw demonstrated in Paul’s life. But they found out that the authority Paul used was not simply “in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost (1 Thessalonians 1:5).”
Christians who believe they have power over the forces of darkness and to rule nations but do not train and condition their spiritual lives will never actually experience that power. They will go through their lives talking about it, reading books about it, and hearing endless sermons about it, but it will remain nothing more than a fairytale.
Most Christians breeze over the words of Jesus that pertain to discipleship, laying down their lives, and being crucified with Him, but lay hold of His words that pertain to moving mountains, commanding demons, and works of miracles. You cannot disconnect Jesus’ teaching on discipleship from His promise of power. They are inseparable.
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a thing was revealed unto Daniel,
whose name was called Belteshazzar; and the thing was true, but the time
appointed was long: and he understood the thing, and had understanding of the
In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.
I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I
anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.
Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no
strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I
retained no strength.
Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words,
then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground.
And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms
of my hands.
And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that
I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he
had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.
Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou
didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God,
thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words.
But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days:
but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained
there with the kings of Persia.
Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter
days: for yet the vision is for many days.
We find here an example of the “wrestling” about which Paul wrote. Daniel continued in prayer for three full weeks. How many Christians have conditioned their faith like Daniels, disciplined their bodies to be able to fast for weeks, and develop the spiritual tenacity necessary to continue in prayer (for weeks if necessary) simply to understand a dream? Contrast this example of three weeks of fasting and prayer to the “name it and claim it” advocates who suggest that spiritual authority is simply commanding spirits. These advocates often make statements like, “The enemy is already defeated.” To this we say, “Look around at the prevailing victory of sin in this world, the compromise in your church, and the spiritual attacks in your own life. If Satan, our great enemy, is defeated, he sure does not know it or think so.”
12:12-13, 17 KJV
Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters
of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great
wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.
And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman
which brought forth the man child.
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the
remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony
of Jesus Christ.
If Satan is defeated, as many claim, then why is he able to “make war” with the saints? This scripture does not describe a beaten enemy but one that is bent on winning – one who believes that he can win! Does Satan believe that he will lose? No! He knows that Jesus will come again for His own – for a Church that is without “spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; [and] holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27).” So if Satan can rid the world of every true Christian, and corrupt those that remain there will be no one for whom to return. He believes that he can destroy Christians by convincing them that the false Christianity they embrace is real, by sweeping them away in the torrents of sin of this current age, by convincing them that compromise is Christianity, and through the deception that apostasy is Christianity adapted to modern culture. We believe that one of Satan’s greatest deceptions has been to convince Christians that he is already defeated and there is therefore nothing left for them to do but to enjoy their religion.
Christians often point to the story of David and Goliath and the little stone that brought down the giant. We must remember that the little stone was propelled by a young man who was fully submitted to God. The power of God in the lives of His people is fully proportional to the degree that their lives are submitted to Him. You cannot assume that a man is submitted to God just because he is involved in ministry. Often, just the opposite is true. Contemporary Christian leaders have made careers out of ministry. They have conditioned subordinate Christians into supporting them, and they use their positions of authority in order to bully their objectives into reality. These are not men submitted to God. They are slaves to their ministry/empires. They do they have God’s authority as evidenced by the lack of power in their lives.
David was not a leader, a king, or Captain of the army when He brought down the giant, yet many great men, including the king, were present when he did. He was just a young man who had no ambition other than to love God. Of all the great men who were with Him, it was he alone who was fully submitted to God, and consequently it was he who demonstrated the power of God. The great men and their leaders could only stand by and watch. They had the power of men and power over men, but they had not the authority of God’s Spirit. Today is no different. Great Christian leaders surround us. They are everywhere. But where are those who have the spiritual authority of the Lord? There are many who pretend to be apostles and prophets but what have they to offer other than hype? Only people who submitted their lives to the Lordship of the Holy Spirit are trained, conditioned, and qualified to wrestle with the powers of darkness. These are they who have crucified their lives with Christ and demonstrate His authority.
It has been said that a broken clock is accurate twice a day. The rest of the time it is… well, wrong. What if I had a broken clock but I believed that it was functioning properly simply because I could point to the fact that it was correct twice daily? That would be ridiculous, would it not?
Most Christian leaders lack God’s power and His spiritual authority in their lives. They are powerless to combat the assault of spiritual darkness all around them. They are leaders but not of God’s army. They are leaders of their own making, rulers of their own ministry-kingdom, and pretenders who claim to be authorities of the Spirit but are, instead, inflated by their own egos. Most Christian leaders are little more than broken clocks. There are accidentally right once in awhile.
Some of these leaders claim to be prophets, warriors of the Spirit, yet as prophets what have they really changed? If the church is maturing as a result of their ministry, how do they explain the growing compromise, apathy, and spiritual apostasy among God’s people? How do they explain a church that reflects more and more of this world’s values? They prophesy about God raising up an army of overcomers, yet their neighborhoods, cities, and countries are being overcome by more and more gross sin. They’re all talk. The truth be known, they are prophets/pretenders of their own making. They are broken clocks that think they are functioning properly. They are not authorities of the spirit and have no real spiritual authority. Oh yes, they sound great, and they fill the pages of the Internet with their prophecies. But they are nothing more than a clock that is right once in a while.
Most of the men who claim to be spiritual leaders lack the spiritual authority necessary to combat the forces of darkness and effect change because they lack submission to the Spirit of God. They are too self-consumed with their own ministries to notice what God is really doing. If they are ever to know true spiritual authority and become effective weapons for God, they will need to sacrifice what they value the most: their ministry-kingdoms. With most Christian leaders, their ministries have become their idols. It is their ministries that they cherish, protect, and serve. It is their god. Most Christian leaders want to take credit for any good that happens but place the blame for sin and apostasy on others.
Weapons Of Our Warfare
Corinthians 10:3-5 KJV
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling
down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the
knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of
Paul writes, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh.” In other words, even though we live in this world, our warfare is not of this world. Our weapons are not the same as worldly weapons. The way we wage war should not use the same tactics the world uses.
Most Christian leaders lack the spiritual submission to the Holy Spirit in their own lives that is necessary in order to experience true spiritual authority over the powers of darkness. So rather than use the true weapons of the spirit to battle our spiritual enemy, they have embraced the weapons of this world to battle their physical enemies.
The weapons we choose to use (whether physical or spiritual) are determined by the values we embrace. Our values determine our objectives, which in turn determine our actions and the weapons we choose. Think of it like this:
If I value morality, then seeing morality in my culture will become my objective. To achieve this objective, I will choose the weapons of politics to try to change society. I will use every natural means at my disposal to boycott businesses and oppose politicians that do not support my objective. I will join or start political action groups like the Moral Majority. Therefore, when morality is the value then politics is the answer, and my weapons of choice will tend to be physical weapons of this world.
If my value is to grow the size of my church, then making my church more appealing to other Christians becomes my objective. Therefore, I’ll look to marketing for my answers. The value of church growth (in terms of size) is the objective of every church I know. It is nothing short of lust. To achieve this goal, churches have learned to embrace capitalism and marketing. The rules of marketing teach us to determine what the public wants and fashion the product to meet the demands of the public. So this is exactly what churches do. Just like the housing market, churches remodel their buildings to make them more marketable. They create fast- paced, entertaining services in aesthetically appealing auditoriums. They have great music from (semi-) professional musicians and singers. Everything about marketing has to do with the building and entertainment. In marketing, it is the physical - not the spiritual - that is important. Therefore, when numbers or church size is the value, then marketing is the solution, and once again the weapons I choose are physical.
If I value recognition, then status becomes my objective. To achieve this objective, I will pursue credentials. This may include a degree from Bible College or seminary. It will cause me to pursue a title like Doctor or Reverend. It will cause me to market myself in the broadest possible sense, to pursue speaking engagements, etc. The more recognition I get, the more I will pursue it. Once again, we find that that not only do our values determine our actions but also what weapons – whether physical or spiritual – we will use.
Consequently, we find that values drive our objectives and determine our actions. Many Christian leaders lack the weapons of the Spirit because they have taken up the weapons of this world. Consider the following example:
John 9 KJV
wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among
them, receiveth us not.
The Greek word for “preeminence” here simply means, “to strive to be first.” It carries with it the sense of “loving it (the position of being first).” Here John describes a Christian leader who desired and enjoyed attention and status so much that he prevented other Christian leaders from coming to his church, even the apostles. This man was not a sinner, but a church leader who became misguided. He valued status. He valued recognition. Therefore, his objective was to gain more. Other Christian leaders, even the apostles, eventually became his enemies.
Many pastors preach on this verse to their members but fail to see how they are guilty of preeminence. It is important to remember that, like “Diotrephes,” most Christian leaders are men of sacrifice. They usually have good intentions and a heart that desires to please God. But their love for self, for attention, for status, and for credentials is greater. It makes them unsatisfied with the size of their church – no matter how big it is – because once they embrace “preeminence,” greatness is never enough. Because their values are non-spiritual values (i.e., church size and recognition), they turn to non-spiritual weapons. The actions they take are not based on spiritual objectives but their own carnal nature. This is important because most Christians assume that their pastor’s good intentions means that they hear from God and are following His will. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most pastors are driven by worldly values and use the weapons of this world to achieve them.
Now here’s the twist:
Preeminence drives men to eliminate competition, or those who could become competition. You find a clear example of this in contemporary Christianity. It’s the old twisted concept of spiritual authority touted by Christian leaders everywhere. It sets forth that parents have spiritual preeminence over children, men have spiritual preeminence over their wives, and pastors have spiritual preeminence over their congregations. In this model, Christian leaders use what they call spiritual authority to eliminate everyone other than themselves as important. Therefore, only their values and objectives are important. The real value (treasure) they embrace is preeminence. Preeminence is just one example of Christians using spiritual weapons to destroy one another.
Danger Of Spiritual Warfare
If Satan’s kingdom in this earth is such a threat, why make spiritual authority so difficult to achieve? Why not simply give Christians the ability to command spirits? Why make it a wrestling match? Here’s why: God once gave a being the greatest spiritual authority possible without cost. That being was Satan. God made him with beauty, power, and authority. That authority was not earned. It cost him nothing.
Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering,
the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the
sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy
tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast
upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the
stones of fire.
Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity
was found in thee.
By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with
violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the
mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of
the stones of fire.
Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom
by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee
before kings, that they may behold thee.
From this we know what happened to Satan. Satan did not value God or his relationship with God. Like many Christian leaders, he valued power and influence. He used his power and influence to draw to himself “the third part of the stars of heaven (Revelation 12:4),” and, in effect, divide heaven. As a result, “there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that 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 (Revelation 12:7-9).”
Satan used spiritual weapons to battle God’s spiritual army for his own end. Does anyone really believe that God will allow this to happen again? Therefore, in order for Christians to exercise spiritual authority over the powers of darkness, God requires that they be fully submitted to Him. In effect they have crucified their “self” on their cross and therefore have no personal ambitious that would lead to them using the weapons of this world.
It is ambition that disqualifies most Christian leaders. Like Satan, most Christian leaders are bent on self-promotion. They draw attention to their “self” by naming their ministry to make it distinct and unique, because they are nothing without a following. They resort to marketing to openly promote their ministries, and to grow their influence. They create titles to identify their credentials. Remember, Satan was a good servant of God right up until the time he fell. If he could be tempted by misplaced values, what chance do Christian leaders have who toy with the values of this world? What we find is that the vast majority of Christian leaders have little to NO spiritual authority over the powers of darkness.
If we are to know true spiritual authority, we must lay down the things of this life we value (i.e., greatness, power, influence, credentials). Otherwise, like Satan, they will continue to use their spiritual weapons on each other.
Finally, should we as Christians fear the powers of darkness? Should we fear the war that Satan wages against us? Satan’s warfare is directed at “self.” If we conquer “self” first, then there will be nothing left for him to battle.
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