SPIRITUAL WARFARE 100-500 AD
I’ve written much about spiritual warfare in the life of Jesus and the book of Acts. I’ve also written about spiritual warfare today. But what about the 2,000 years in-between? What lessons can we learn from those who have gone before us? This is the first blog in a series about spiritual warfare in church history.
Spiritual warfare had a very important role in the lives of the early Christians in the first few centuries of the church. Writings that have been preserved from those times speak of believers and unbelievers being demonized (Ignatius, Barnabus, Hermas, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Minucius Felix, Hippolytus, Origen, etc.). Deliverance came in response to prayers in Jesus’ name. The power of casting out demons was long regarded in the early church as a direct gift still bestowed by the Holy Spirit, apart from any human ordinance. Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen and others speak of deliverance as being practiced by laymen, even by soldiers, and women, by means of prayer and invocation of the name of Jesus. Striving to live a life pleasing to God was important to grow in faith and remain free from demonic oppression.
Demonizing was common throughout the Roman Empire and, although many means were tried to bring freedom, few were successful. It soon became evident that Christians had power others did not. God used this to help them gain a hearing and spread their message through the known world.
Justin Martyr (AD 110-165) used this fact when he wrote a formal defense of Christianity to the Roman Senate in AD 150, defending the Christians and petitioning for the awful persecution to stop. He wrote “for numberless demoniacs throughout the whole world, and in your city, many of our Christian men exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of the men, though they could not be cured by all the other exorcists, and those who used incantations and drugs.” The only technique mentioned by him is the use of the invocation of the name of Jesus. For the next two centuries following Justin, every Christian writer wrote about the reality of demonizing and of the common practice of Christian deliverance (‘exorcism’ as they called it) in their days.
Victory over demonizing is not a complicated process of ritual, special words by ‘gifted’ persons, emotional church meetings, etc. It is the power of Jesus in each of His children that is greater than Satan’s power and which can bring freedom to the oppressed. Of course the access the demons claim must be broken and any open doors closed, but that, too, is done by Jesus’ power.
(For this whole series I am indebted to “Can A Christian Have An Unclean Spirit?” Copyright © 1999-2002 by Gary Hal Graff, Christian Services Publishers, for their excellent research into spiritual warfare in church history. This is an excellent, well-written book and worth reading.)
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