Do Christians have authority over Satan? Let’s see what the Bible has to say in answer to this question.
In his letter to fellow Christians, Jude, the half-brother of Jesus, warns us that we don’t have authority over Satan:
“These ungodly dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and slander celestial beings. Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil … did not dare to pronounce upon him a railing judgment. But he said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:8-9).
Proper Authority Over Satan Belongs to God
Jude uses Michael the Archangel as our example. The title ‘Archangel’ means that Michael is the highest-ranking holy angel. Satan is also an angel but an evil angel who opposes God. Satan is the highest-ranking evil angel, and he outranks Michael in this current age. And, also in this present age, angels, and demons as ‘celestial beings,’ outrank humans—even Christians:
“Whereas angels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring slanderous accusations against them (other angels) before the Lord” (2 Peter 2:11).
So, Jude tells us that Michael fittingly used the Lord’s authority to oppose Satan.
Proper Humility Gives the Glory to Jesus
Unfortunately, there are Christian leaders (some of these are ‘so-called’ Christian leaders) who boldly and publicly rebuke Satan. Some of them without invoking the Name of Jesus, and some who do. Those who rebuke Satan in their own authority are always wrong and in spiritual danger. To some, they appear to be showing off and claiming spiritual power for themselves.
The seven sons of Sceva learned this lesson the hard way. They were itinerant Jewish exorcists who invoked the Name of ‘Jesus whom Paul preaches’ over evil spirits (Acts 19:13). When they did:
“The evil spirit answered, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man in whom the evil spirit was jumped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled from that house naked and wounded” (Acts 19:15-16).
Caution is advised! Even those who rebuke evil spirits in Jesus’ Name must pray first and exercise wisdom and discretion–and not do it to show off. Also, don’t use Jesus’ Name as part of an incantation formula. It can’t be done in our authority or power apart from understanding Jesus’ mission and our call.
Derived Power Over Satan Comes from Jesus
Jesus gave His disciples the power to cast out demons:
“He ordained twelve to be with Him, and to be sent out to preach, and to have authority to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons” (Mark 3:14-15).
When they returned from their mission, they rejoiced in their success:
“The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us through Your name” (Luke 10:17).
But Jesus told them not to rejoice in this as much as in something more important:
“Nevertheless do not rejoice that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
Proper Dependence on Jesus
But even the disciples failed to cast out demons apart from total dependence on Jesus:
One in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit (and) it dashes him to the ground. And he foams at the mouth and gnashes with his teeth and becomes rigid” (Mark 9:17). And Your disciples could not cast him out (Mark 9:18).
“(So Jesus) rebuked the foul spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and enter him no more. The spirit cried out and convulsed him greatly. But it came out of him, and he was as dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose” (Mark 9:25-27).
The disciples asked Jesus why they couldn’t cast the demon out (Mark 9:28). They thought Jesus had given them absolute power to cast out demons. But they couldn’t without depending on Jesus in each encounter. They weren’t given carte blanche. In this case, Jesus said they should have prayed and fasted (Mark 9:29).
But a mature, trained Christian may encounter a person oppressed by a demon who must be cast out. Jesus has defeated Satan, but Satan still has authority in this age:
“So then, as the children share in flesh and blood, He (Jesus) likewise took part in these, so that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were throughout their lives subject to bondage (including demon oppression)” (Hebrews 2:14-15).
And God tells us to respect lines of authority–even Satan’s–whose rank is higher than ours.
The Bible gives cautionary guidelines for opposing Satan:
- Proper Authority: We must respect Satan’s higher rank.
- Proper Humility: We’re in a dangerous position; demons will overpower us apart from Christ.
- Proper Caution: We must use respect, wisdom, and discernment before voicing opposition.
- Derived Power: We can’t depend on any past success apart from Christ.
- Proper Dependence: We must rely on Jesus through prayer in each encounter.
- Proper Situation: When we encounter demons, we can’t show off. We must respect the line of authority.
We invite you to watch the Great News video on this page to learn more about receiving Jesus Christ into your life as your savior. God will bring beauty to your brokenness and mine. God loves you and we care.