Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.Matthew 12:22-32
Commentaries could be written around the topics in this short passage from Matthew. There are lots of hot topics here. Things like, “a house divided against itself cannot stand,” which is probably more attributed to Abraham Lincoln than to Jesus. The topic of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit; always a head-turner, the unpardonable sin. Too many are afraid they have committed this sin when they don’t even qualify to be able to commit it. The whole topic of casting out demons is something that many modern western church leaders would just as soon brush under the rug as if demons will leave us alone if we don’t acknowledge them.
I want to address the binding of the strongman. In the immediate context, Jesus is telling us that some people are held captive by demons and cannot find freedom unless someone “binds the strongman” first. That is how Jesus healed this blind mute man. Jesus also referred to the “binding of the strongman” as casting out a demon.
There is a greater context. Jesus routed Satan through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Revelation refers to this as Satan being bound for a thousand years. The thousand years here is symbolic of a significant length of time and refers to the time between Jesus’ resurrection/ascension and just before his second coming when Satan will be loosed for “a little while.” (Revelation 20:3) While Satan is bound, he can no longer deceive the nations and keep from them the good news. Right now, we can take the gospel to every tongue, tribe, and nation. Before Satan was bound, essentially only the Jews we able to hear and understand God’s Word. Now, everyone, that is, all people groups, are capable of hearing and obeying Jesus.
But, do we need to concern ourselves with binding the strongman now? (The strongman being Satan and his demon hordes if that wasn’t already clear.) Are people held captive by Satan today?
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his2 Timothy 2:24-26
opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
Paul here speaks of certain people who need to “escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” Paul’s primary remedy from this captivity is the Word of God presented with gentleness and patience.
But, are some people blinded by Satan so they cannot see the Word of God?
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. 2 But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. 3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.2 Corinthians 4:1-4
Satan, the god of this world, has blinded the minds of unbelievers. They are held captive by him to do his will. These folks are “following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2)
Some people are set free from Satan’s bondage through the simple presentation of the Word of God, and that is enough. There are other occasions where prayer is required to help someone find the fulness of freedom in Christ. The degree to which people are held captive can vary substantially from one person to another. One example is the story in which Jesus had granted authority to his apprentice apostles to cast out demons and heal the sick. While they were genuinely thrilled at the exercise of such power and ability to help bring their fellow countrymen freedom, they did run into an obstinate case1 in which they were not able to cast out a demon. Jesus came to the rescue and freed the man from the strongman and then answered the disciples’ question as to why they could not cast him out. Jesus said, “This kind comes out only with prayer (and fasting).2”
I know that this might read to some as an attack on the total sufficiency of Scripture to meet all of our needs. It is not. In fact, what I am advocating is the application of Scripture to real people’s life situations by obeying Jesus when he says that some of these demons only give up with significant prayer (and fasting). We do, on occasion, have to, in prayer, “bind the strongman.” Some people have become so thoroughly bound by lies of the enemy to addictions or “alternative lifestyles” that are demonically driven that they need the aid of our prayers to find the complete freedom for which Jesus died.
If you have friends or relatives who are so bound, I encourage you to consider that someone needs to apply Jesus’ binding of the strongman through his cross-work to the life of your loved one. It should probably be you.
I am not teaching how to go about the process of leading someone to complete freedom in Christ. I want to raise your awareness that, in too many cases, this kind of ministry is necessary. Please don’t ignore the powerful authority Jesus has vested in us, his ambassadors of his Kingdom.