Enforcing the Verdict
(Reading time: 8.2 minutes)
Our spiritual conflict with Satan is legal in nature, not combative. Jesus defeated the devil on the cross, so although our conflict is still very real, we don’t have to fight the devil as in warfare. Instead, we fight him by using our God-given spiritual authority.
So, is it wrong to talk about engaging in spiritual warfare? No, I understand the reason for that perspective, based on New Testament statements. Like many good writers, the apostle Paul used lots of metaphors and I suggest he wrote about weapons and warfare because the church of that time lived under Rome’s military occupation. They probably saw Roman soldiers in armor daily. But as we’ve seen in this series, I believe the Bible’s original language presents the legal perspective much more strongly and consistently. Specifically, God is the Judge, the devil is the Satan — literally “accuser,” what we’d call the prosecutor — and Holy Spirit and Jesus intercede for us, serving as our defense counsel. We saw that even the words “counselor” and “intercede” are primarily legal terms.
I did a simple word count of the New Testament, excluding parables, and discovered that legal terms – judge, judgment, intercede, intercession, counselor, Satan, accuser – occur in 183 verses. In comparison, warfare terms – sword, shield, armor, war, weapon, fight – occur in only 58 verses. Plus, most of the warfare references are metaphors, as opposed to the legal references which are quite literal. Conclusion: The legal perspective is much stronger in the New Testament than the warfare perspective.
We silence the accuser by humbling ourselves, confessing we’re guilty as charged and repenting; that is, conforming what we think and believe to what God says.
We confidently present our case before God by declaring that Jesus’ blood is legal evidence he paid the penalty for our sin. As a result, God cleansed our conscience, forgave our sin and purged the record of it, so it’s as if we’d never sinned.
Then we anticipate God’s verdict.
The Bible provides many examples in both the Old and New Testaments of God issuing verdicts or judgments. “He will judge [rule against] the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth” (Ps. 110:6, NIV). “For the Lord will vindicate [rule in favor of] his people and have compassion on his servants” (Ps. 135:14). “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” [not guilty] (Col. 1:22). “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth” (Rom. 2:2). These are just a few such examples of verdicts involving nations and individuals.
Just as Satan (the accuser) plants condemning thoughts in our minds or causes us to feel overwhelmingly guilty when he brings charges against us, God plants merciful thoughts in our minds and assures us he doesn’t condemn us when he issues his verdict. After we receive the verdict, we’re free to act with authority backed by that verdict.
It’s important to realize that a legal verdict is distinct from its execution. God’s verdict in our case expresses his decision and will, but it’s our responsibility to enforce the verdict.
This process we’ve considered isn’t limited to God’s courtroom environment. In fact, most of us won’t consciously be aware of such a setting, but the process is relevant to everyday situations.
God’s legal system defines how he resolves matters in his kingdom. Everything he does is legal and ethical, and he’ll never violate his nature. We need to operate within that legal system at all times. Especially when we know we’re guilty of sin, we violate God’s protocols or way of doing things, or we miss his intent. Also when we have condemning thoughts about ourselves, the devil resists us or invades our domain — that realm over which we have authority and responsibility.
We must discover God’s will, then enforce it. That’s how we legally and appropriately respond to each of these experiences. We can discover God’s will from scripture and his personal word to us. Once we know God’s will, it’s our responsibility to enforce it in our domain; we have authority in our domain and God won’t usurp it. He gave us free will and authority, and he honors both.
A word of caution: If we exercise our authority inappropriately or without a legal basis for what we’re doing, we’re inviting problems. We do that by acting outside our domain, acting arrogantly, being presumptuous or not clearly knowing God’s will. If so, we’ll probably experience defeat, chaos, backlash from satanic forces, or even destruction in our domain.
Once we know God’s will, we can and must enforce it using our spiritual authority. Pay attention to the legal actions in this passage:
“May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them — this is the glory of all his faithful people. Praise the Lord” (Ps. 149:6-9).
This, of course, is under the old covenant, a national covenant that involved physical occupation of the Promised Land and warfare to defeat physical enemies. Those aspects don’t apply to us under the new covenant, but the universal principle here is that it’s the glory of God’s saints to carry out his sentences and judgments. We must enforce God’s will within our domains. We have the authority and legal responsibility to do so.
Romans 8 gives us another perspective. “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:19-21).
All creation is waiting, longing for us to reach maturity and enforce God’s will in our domains. We’re to rule over creation and it benefits when we use our authority properly. We’re to reign in life by exercising our God-given authority to enforce his will in our domain (Rom. 5:17). It’s acceptable and necessary for us to rule over that portion of creation that’s our domain, and creation eagerly waits for us to be revealed as God’s children. What we say and do reveals our royalty, and our faithfulness in using our authority effectively helps determine our eternal role.
We’re to act in faith by speaking authoritatively and moving forward, fully expecting God to produce the results. Our words are powerful. They have the power of life and death (Prov. 18:21). They can destroy and corrupt (James 3:6). We use our mouths to confess and be saved (Rom. 10:10). We’re to say what builds people up and meets their needs (Eph. 4:29). We can heal someone simply by speaking (Matt. 8:8). This is all true because what we say expresses our spiritual authority, and the spiritual realm governs the physical.
Our words produce results due to God’s power and authority, which support the authority he gave us. I suggest it’s not our words that produce the results. Rather, if our words agree with God’s will, they authorize him to intervene in our domain and produce the desired results. Our authority is delegated by God and must reflect his will; then he backs what we say and do.
Perseverance will be necessary if Satan resists or we haven’t properly dealt with everything that authorized him to accuse or afflict us. If that’s the case, we need to go back to the beginning and do everything correctly. He won’t stop if we haven’t corrected the original problem or addressed the issue.
Perseverance will be necessary if we don’t believe everything we know. You may have a long history of failure against the devil and as a result, you don’t have hope — confident expectation of the desired results. For many of us, our memories cause us to anticipate failure, not success, so we must repent — conform what we think and believe to what God says. It’s helpful to repeat God’s relevant word out loud to affect our thinking, because our mind hears and processes what we say. It’s also very helpful to visualize God working through us to produce the results we need. We basically need to reprogram our minds.
Perseverance will be necessary if we haven’t sufficiently developed godly character. “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). Our character and spiritual authority are functions of our spirits, so as we strengthen and mature our spirits, our character and authority work more effectively. As we become increasingly like Jesus, the devil is less able to oppose us.
Yes, we must act in authority, but God produces the results. We’re incapable of producing the needed results; if we could, we wouldn’t need God.
We can even work with all his energy, as Paul wrote about himself (Col. 1:29). God’s energy works powerfully in us to produce desired results, but he won’t do that unless we act authoritatively in our domain and rely on him.
Perseverance will be necessary because the devil is lawless and resists authority. We almost certainly will have to remind him repeatedly of God’s verdict, so we must persevere.
Spiritual warfare is not about fighting the devil, but using spiritual authority to enforce God’s will and Jesus’ victory in our domain.
To prevail in our spiritual conflict with the devil, we must first discover God’s will for our situation, speak what God says with authority, then persevere.
Discover. Declare. Repeat as needed.