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The Restoration of the Doctrine of Binding and Loosing

Paul L. King

The concept of binding and loosing spiritual powers is considered by writers such as John MacArthur and Hank Hanegraaff as false doctrine promulgated by the charismatic and faith movements.1 They do expose misuse of binding and loosing by giving clear illustrations of abuse.2 We do want to make clear that we do not endorse teachings of some leaders of the modern faith movement that believers can control or command God, or that we can arbitrarily bind and loose anything, or that all problems can be dismissed by binding Satan.3 However, as demonstrated in this writer's article, “A.B. Simpson and the Modern Faith Movement,”4 just as with other classic teachings on faith which have been misused, we must be careful not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater,” that is, to regard as invalid any use of the binding and loosing concept in regard to controlling spiritual powers.

 Research demonstrates that it is not only an idea rooted in both the Old and New Testaments, but that binding and loosing in regard to the powers was practiced frequently in Jesus' day, and that it was taught by early church fathers as well.5 Further, it cannot simply be dismissed as false charismatic or faith teaching, for, as will be shown, many non-charismatic evangelicals also advocate binding and loosing. A forthcoming book by K. Neill Foster and this writer deals with various aspects of the binding and loosing doctrine.6 This study, which is partially included in the research done for that book, traces the loss and restoration of the doctrine of binding and loosing in the contemporary Church.

The usual argument against the application of binding and loosing to confronting supernatural powers, as advanced by Hanegraaff, is that the context of Matthew 18:18 is ecclesiastical discipline, not dealing with demons.7 However, many evangelical leaders and scholars recognize that while the primary application in Matthew 18 is discipline, the concept of binding and loosing, in the words of G. Campbell Morgan, “have much wider application than the application Jesus made of them at this point. We are perfectly justified in lifting them out of their setting and using them over a wider area of thought.”8 The many godly, evangelical leaders who through the centuries have taught and practiced binding and loosing with supernatural results should not be ignored or dismissed.

Binding and Loosing in the Church Fathers

For example, binding Satan was a part of the exorcistic process as early as the third century and was commonly carried out before a catechumen was baptized.9 The practice of deliverance by its very nature and etymology involves binding, as Anglican exorcist Elijah White explains:

The Greek root exorkidzo means “to bind or charge with an oath” with semantic overtones from the classical Greek exoridzo, “to banish, to send beyond the frontier.” The Church Fathers found these terms more authoritative and more descriptive of what actually happens during an exorcism. . . . In a properly conducted exorcism, the demon is first bound by the power of Christ, and then cast out under orders to harm no one present and to depart to the place appointed for it, there to remain forever. This thorough-going procedure suggests why the early church chose exorkidzo and its derivative words to describe this work.”10

 Though the terms “bind” and “loose” are not frequently used among the early church fathers, the concept is inherent in the use of the more frequent term “exorcism.” Rather than speaking of binding and loosing as separate acts, they viewed both as a part of the exorcistic process.

Nevertheless, several church fathers do make reference to binding and loosing as the believer's authority over supernatural forces. Origen, in his commentary on Matthew, asserted that the promise given to Peter “[is] not restricted to him, but applicable to all disciples like him.”11 He associates Matthew 16:18-19 with Ephesians 6:12 in the light of spiritual warfare:

You can say that each power and world-ruler of this darkness, and each one of the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” is a gate of Hades and a gate of death. Let, then, the principalities and powers with which our wrestling is, be called gates of Hades, but the “ministering spirits” gates of righ-teousness.12

Augustine equates the binding of Satan in Matthew 12:29 with Matthew 18:18 and affirms that the Church has the authority of binding and loosing through those who govern.13 Contrary to some of amillennial persuasion who would claim that Christ bound Satan once for all, Augustine uses the present tense in referring to Matthew 12:29, saying that “He who binds the strong man, taketh away his good, and maketh them His own goods,” indicating, along with another church father, Methodius, that Christ is still binding the strong man.14 So he views the binding of Satan by Christ as something which has been accomplished through Jesus' invasion of Satan's territory on earth, but that there are also continuing acts of binding by the Church.

Chrysostom, a contemporary of Augustine, considers it an authority that is exercised by priests, but he also presupposes the authority of the believer, because in his sermons he exhorts lay people to exercise their spiritual authority by binding and loosing:

Despise thine own concerns, and thou wilt receive those of God. This He Himself wills. Despise earth, and seize upon the kingdom of heaven. Dwell there, not here. Be formidable there, not here. If thou art formidable there, thou wilt be formidable not to men, but to demons, and even to the devil himself. . . . Such were the Apostles, despising a servile house and worldly wealth! And see how they commanded in the affairs of their Master. “Let one,” they said, “be delivered from disease, another from the possession of devils: bind this man, and loose that.” This was done by them on earth, but it was fulfilled as in Heaven.15

In this sermon, Chrysostom relates binding and loosing to dealing with the powers and disease. To Chrysostom, the authority of binding and loosing is a real spiritual action, in which “this binding lays hold of the soul and penetrates the heavens.”16

Fourth-century leader Cyril, too, believed that binding and loosing dealt with spiritual warfare. Making reference to Matthew18:18-20, he speaks of launching “the weapon of their concord in prayer.”17 He evidently viewed this pericope of Scripture as relating to warfare prayer against demoniacal spirits. Cyril also refers to Peter bearing the keys of the kingdom of heaven when he healed Aeneas, raised Tabitha (Dorcas) from the dead and saw heaven opened in a trance.18

Loss of the Believer's Authority of Binding and Loosing

 By the time of Leo the Great (fifth century) and Gregory the Great (sixth century), Peter was viewed as the Rock and the power of binding and loosing was conveyed through the apostolic office of Peter.19 Leo still recognized that the exercise of the authority of binding and loosing is a faith that “conquers the devil, and breaks the bonds of his prisoners. It uproots us from this earth and plants us in heaven, and the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it.”20 However, he limits that power to the formal priesthood. Later documents purporting papal authority relegate binding and loosing to ecclesiastical discipline by bishops and popes.21 Thus, during the Middle Ages, binding and loosing became institutionalized and formalized in the Roman Catholic Church and relegated to the authority of priests or bishops in legislative and judicial decisions, retaining or remitting sins and in the ritual of exorcism. The authority of the believer had been lost to the Church as a whole.

Martin Luther and the Reformation brought a restoration of belief in the priesthood of the believer, but in discarding the structures and traditions of Roman Catholicism he did not recognize the authority of binding and loosing supernatural forces. He understood binding and loosing more narrowly in terms of retaining or forgiving sins, though he does declare it is the prerogative of the Church, not just priests and bishops.22 Luther believed in the reality of the powers, but unlike the early Church fathers mentioned earlier, he did not believe in direct exorcism or commanding of evil spirits.23 While he did believe satanic forces could be overcome by prayer, faith and the preached Word,24 his more passive understanding of the priesthood of all believers and indirect view of confronting spiritual forces weakened the full exercise of the believer's authority.25

Also in the Reformation period, Menno Simons and Huldrych Zwingli exhibited the beginnings of recovering the authority of binding and loosing when they questioned the application of Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 to bishops only; but they, too, failed to grasp the authority of binding and loosing in regard to supernatural forces.26 John Calvin also believed in the reality of the counter kingdom, but forbade the ancient practice of exorcism at baptism, emphasizing instead overcoming the powers by prayer, faith and putting on the full armor of God.27 Menno Simons also opposed exorcism prior to baptism, but for a different reason—its connection with infant baptism.28 After the Reformation some German Lutheran churches retained the exorcistic rite while others eliminated it, and still others, like Spener, made it optional.29 Koch comments, “Rationalism then did away with exorcism. From this time it disappeared from the liturgy.”30 The common practice and belief in Reformed churches up until the end of the nineteenth century appears to negate use of direct spiritual authority in exorcism.31

The failure by these reformers to recognize the authority of the believer was, in effect, the error of not seeing the baby in the bathwater. Professor Timothy Warner asserts, “The elimination of the renunciation of the devil by baptismal candidates is another reflection of the Western worldview with its lack of a functional view of demons.”32 Nevertheless, they did have some measure of success at curbing the power of satanic forces.33 Because they did exercise persevering prayer and faith, God honored their prayers in spite of their ignorance of the believer's authority.

Another reason for the passive view of the believer's authority of binding and loosing during the time of the Reformation was the amillenial interpretation of the binding of Satan in Revelation 20. Amillennialists believe this Scripture means that Satan, the strong man, was bound by Christ's life and death, and consequently, is bound in this present age. So while there may be some limited satanic activity, there is no great need for the exercise of binding and loosing since according to that theology he has already been bound.34

A third factor was that seventeenth-century scholarship, such as John Lightfoot and others, began to interpret binding and loosing in the later rabbinic terms as forbidding and allowing,35 further watering down the supernatural dimension of the doctrine. It was not until late in the nineteenth century that scholars began to acknowledge the parallels with supernatural binding and loosing in Jewish and pagan literature.36

Restoration of the Authority of Binding and Loosing

The foundation for this recovery was laid in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Notably, Jacob Spener and the German Lutheran Pietist movement emphasized the recovery of the priesthood of the believer.37 The seventeenth century Scottish mystic who impacted the Wesleys and Whitefield showed insight into the authority of the believer when he declared that we can take command over the unruly forces of our nature and “bind up our natural inclinations.”38 The Wesleyan Revival, influenced also by Pietism, and its descendants the Moravians,39 continued to bring about a greater awareness of the authority of the believer as Wesley himself engaged in exorcisms upon occasion when evil spirits manifested themselves.40

However, the authority of the believer was not fully understood until the nineteenth century through the ministry and teaching of Dorothea Trudel and Johann Christoph Blumhardt. Trudel taught the authority of believers as kings and priests of God.41 Blumhardt worked for nearly two years to free a woman from demonization, learning from practical experience how to exercise direct authority over the powers.42 Perhaps it took him so long because he was plowing new ground in discovering how to exercise faith and authority in performing exorcisms effectively and had not yet learned how to bind spirits.

With restoration of the understanding of the believer's authority through the movement of the Spirit in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries came a growing awareness of the nature and authority of binding and loosing. One of the earliest nineteenth-century teachings on binding and loosing as the authority of the believer came from the famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887), preaching on Matthew 16:19. He calls it “the opening and shutting power of the Christian life,” asserting:

Every praying man and every praying woman . . . has this power of the keys. . . . And every man that has that spirit has God's keys in his hands, and has authority to bind and loose—to bind lies and all iniquity, and to set loose all those that suffer oppression by reason of spiritual despotism.43

Andrew Murray was perhaps the next great preacher to affirm the concept of binding and loosing, influenced by Blumhardt.44 In his book With Christ in the School of Prayer, published in 1885, declaring that “God rules the world by the prayers of His saints,”45 he prays, “Grant especially, blessed Lord, that your Church may believe that it is by the power of united prayer that she can bind and loose in heaven, cast out Satan, save souls, remove mountains, and hasten the coming of the Kingdom.”46 Here he associates binding and loosing with the casting out of Satan by the Church.

Charles Spurgeon soon followed, endorsing the practice of binding and loosing. Speaking of the believer's privilege and authority in prayer, in 1888 Spurgeon makes reference to the concept, saying, “Thus are Elijahs trained to handle the keys of heaven, and lock or loose the clouds.”47 He may have been paraphrasing Chrysostom who preached centuries earlier, “If we pray, we shall be able even to open heaven. Elias both shut and opened heaven by prayer (James 5:17). There is a prison in heaven also. . . . Let us pray by night, and we shall loose these bonds.”48 This was a common evangelical teaching at that time; for evangelist D.L. Moody, noted prayer writer E.M. Bounds and Keswick leader Jessie Penn-Lewis also speak of Elijah's power to lock and loose the heavens.49

A Pivotal Year

1897 appears to be a pivotal year in the recovery of the doctrine of binding and loosing. Scholar F.B. Conybeare, in an article entitled “Christian Demonology,” demonstrated that Jesus' statements about binding and loosing were parallel to expressions and practices in Jewish and pagan religions relating to the occult and the deliverance ministry.50 However, this does not mean that he considered Christian binding and loosing as occultic, only that he rediscovered the ancient association between binding and loosing and dealing with the powers. He was followed by other scholars recognizing the link, such as Bousset in 1906,51 Dell in 191452 and Oesterreich in his monumental work on demonization in 1921,53 as well as others.54

Christoph Blumhardt, the son of Johann Christoph Blumhardt, followed in his father's footsteps, more as a theologian working out what his father had discovered and pioneered practically. In 1897 he preached on “The Church of Jesus Christ,” proclaiming:

It is a great mistake to think that every theologian, every pastor, can loose and bind. . . . Only one who receives God's revelation can be a man who looses or releases. Any farmer, any woman, can be a person who releases. . . . The Living Church of Christ may be made up of poor, simple, little people; it will yet be able to loose and set free.55

He is not denying the authority of the believer here; rather, he warns against arbitrary or indiscriminate binding and loosing. Also in 1897, at a China Inland Mission Conference, Jessie Penn-Lewis taught on the authority of the believer, providing the doctrinal foundation necessary from Ephesians 1 for the understanding of binding and loosing:

The Cross is the gate into this heavenly sphere, so that if the Holy Spirit reveals to us that when we are submerged into the death of Christ, we are loosed from the claims of sin, the flesh, and the devil, He will as certainly impart to us the life of the Risen Lord. He will lift us in real experience into our place in Him, seated with Him in the heavens far above all principalities and powers . . . far above the powers of darkness.56

Further she says, “The soul hidden with Christ in God has authority over all the power of the enemy, for he shares in the victory of Christ. In Him he has power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and power to deliver and loose others from the bonds of the evil one.”57 We see here a gradual but definite and fuller development in the Church's interpretation of the binding and loosing Scriptures.

About the same time, A.B. Simpson, founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, also began teaching the believer's position in Christ according to Ephesians 1:

He “raised us up with Christ and seated us” (Ephesians 2:6) with Him in the heavenlies. This is much more than resurrection. It is ascension. It is taking the place of accomplished victory and conceded right, and sitting down in an attitude of completed repose, from henceforth expecting with Him until all our enemies be made our footstool. . . . It is throne life. It is dwelling with Christ on high, your head in the heaven even while your feet still walk the paths of the lower world of sense and time. This is our high privilege.58

Whether he was influenced by Penn-Lewis or Blumhardt, or vice versa, we cannot be sure, but apparently they all came to the same basic insight, either through the Holy Spirit independent of one another or perhaps through interchange of ideas. At any rate, by 1903 Simpson was also recognizing that a broad principle of binding and loosing was given to the Church:

He has given authority to His servants to remove from this fellowship everything in opposition with its holy character. He has invested this discipline with the most sacred and binding authority, and he tells us in this passage that what we bind on earth, He will bind in heaven, and what we loose on earth He will loose in heaven.59

In Simpson's view, binding is not mere discipline or excommunication, for “such an act on the part of the Church of God will be followed by the Lord's effectual dealing in all such cases. . . . God's hand will deal with the offender through temporal judgment.”60

He likens this power of binding to Paul's handing over to Satan the incestuous man from the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 5:5). He also understood the authority of loosing to include loosing or freeing ourselves from fear, the power of evil habits and sickness.61

Also commenting on Matthew 16:18-19 around the turn of the century, popular British Baptist preacher F.B. Meyer, a Keswick leader and friend of both D.L. Moody and A.B. Simpson, wrote, “The Church is the special object of hatred to the dark underworld of fallen spirits, which our Lord refers to as `the gates of hell.' ”62 Speaking of Jesus' eternal relationship to the Father as the only foundation rock, Meyers says, “Against this foundation, the waves of demonic and human hatred will break in vain.”63 He then quoted Matthew 16:19, commenting on the believer's authority of binding and loosing, “This is the secret of the blessed life. Go through the world opening prison-doors, lifting heavy burdens, and giving light, joy, and peace to the oppressed.”64 He identified this Scripture as Christ giving the believer authority to wage war against demonic powers.

Revival Breakthrough

It would appear that as a result of the 1904-1906 revival in Wales, America and around the world, there emerged a fuller understanding of the implications of binding and loosing in the evangelical world. Evan Roberts spoke of binding during the Welsh Revival.65 In their 1912 book, War on the Saints, which was based on things learned about spiritual warfare from the Welsh Revival, Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts wrote:

The awakened part of the Church today has now no doubt of the real existence of the spirit beings of evil, and that there is an organized monarchy of supernatural powers, set up in opposition to Christ and His kingdom, bent upon the eternal ruin of every member of the human race and these believers know that God is calling them to seek the fullest equipment attainable for withstanding and resisting these enemies of Christ and His Church.66

They recognized the commanding authority of the believer on a higher plane and the power of binding and loosing as a part of “the fullest equipment”: “The Church of Christ will reach its high water mark, when it is able to deal with demon possession; when it knows how to `bind the strong man' by prayer; `command' the spirits of evil in the name of Christ, and deliver men and women from their power.”67 Here is a decided shift in spiritual warfare strategy from just praying for God to intervene in dealing with evil spirits to authoritatively binding and commanding the evil spirits. Penn-Lewis also wrote an article entitled “How to Pray for Missionaries,” containing more extensive teaching on binding the strong man, which was later reprinted in the Alliance Weekly in 1937.68

In 1914 E.W. Kenyon, whose later teachings would make him known as the founder of the modern faith movement, wrote an article for Carrie Judd-Montgomery's Triumphs of Faith magazine on the believer's authority and binding and loosing.69 Before he began to err grievously, he had contacts with the Keswick movement, so it is likely he was drawing upon the principles Roberts and Penn-Lewis had mentioned two years prior, as well as Meyer's earlier teaching. In her 1921 book The Secrets of Victory Carrie Judd-Montgomery devoted an entire chapter to binding and loosing, admitting it was a recent perception that had transformed her ministry.70 Dr. Robert Jaffray, pioneer Alliance missionary to China and Indonesia in the early part of the twentieth century, put into action in his meetings the practice of binding demonic forces.71 Likewise, famed biblical expositor G. Campbell Morgan also taught a wider application of the principle of binding and loosing in 1929.72

Christian and Missionary Alliance missionary John A. MacMillan really wrote the seminal book on the believer's authority with his series of articles based on Ephesian 1 in 1932.73 In effect, he developed the theology at that time for the recovered understanding of binding and loosing. The seventh edition of the unabridged version of Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts' book War on the Saints (published in 1933) makes reference to MacMillan's articles in the Alliance Weekly.74 No doubt MacMillan was influenced by his mentor Robert Jaffray and the teaching of Penn-Lewis. His material is referred to by a wide variety of contemporary Christian leaders, including dispensationalists like Merrill Unger, evangelical publishers like Moody Press, evangelical scholars like Professor Timothy M. Warner and charismatic faith leaders like Kenneth Hagin.75 Chinese spiritual leader Watchman Nee, who was influenced by Penn-Lewis, Simpson and Andrew Murray, also taught authoritative “commanding” prayer and the power of binding and loosing in 1934.76 So we see that by the early twentieth century the teaching on binding and loosing as the believer's authority had proliferated among evangelical leaders.

By 1960 modern fundamental evangelicals like Dick Hillis writing for Moody Press recognized that “prayer was not enough,” admitting: “We learned further that it is not enough to pray or sing, though I believe Satan hates both prayer and song. We must resist the Devil and command that he depart.”77 In 1965 Theodore Epp, founder of Back to the Bible Broadcast, wrote a book entitled Praying with Authority, in which he wrote, “If Satan has blinded and bound men and women, how can we ever see souls saved? This is where you and I enter the picture. Spoiling the goods of the strong man has to do with liberating those whom Satan has blinded and is keeping bound.”78

Binding and loosing became standard teaching among charismatics in the 1970s, picked up from early Pentecostal practices, which, in turn, came out of the holiness teaching on the believer's authority.79 But contrary to the claims of some contemporary leaders like Hanegraaff,80 the concept of binding and loosing is not exclusively the interpretation of modern faith and charismatic teaching. Dutch scholar H. Van der Loos, for example, in his 1965 book The Miracles of Jesus asks, “Why should not men in their turn be able to bind or release a demon?”81 Among contemporary evangelical leaders, Kurt Koch advocated the practice in 1973,82 soon followed by Merrill Unger, speaking of the pre-exorcism preparation of renunciation and of the power of loosing believers from demonic forces.83 Alliance evangelist K. Neill Foster continued promulgating the concept which had been a part of Alliance teaching from its early days.84 Popular writer and speaker on prayer Rosalind Rinker taught binding and loosing by 1981 as well.85 Also in 1981 New Testament scholar and Gordon-Conwell Seminary professor J. Ramsay Michaels asserted, “The work of binding and loosing—binding the strong man and loosing his captives—the work that dominated Jesus' ministry and filled his vision, will be the work of his disciples during the period of his absence.”86

Popular seminar teacher Bill Gothard does not advocate rebuking Satan directly, but taught, nevertheless, in 1982 that we can and should bind Satan: “Before we attempt to reclaim a loved one who has come under Satan's power, we must first bind Satan. Otherwise, he works through that loved one to create a reaction toward every attempt of restoration.”87 Writing for Moody Press in the 1980s, Mark Bubeck refers to Matthew 12:29, saying:

As believers, united with Christ in His authority, we are able to so war against Satan that we can bind him, tie him up, and rob or take away what he wants to claim as his own. . . . We are to see ourselves as invincible soldiers of Christ who can advance against this “strong man,” Satan, invade his domain, and take away from him those people and spiritual fortifications he claims.88

Toccoa Falls College professor Dr. Gerald McGraw makes regular practice of binding spirits before casting them out in his ministry of deliverance.89 More recently, Quaker scholar and devotional writer Richard Foster has referred to Matthew 18:18, advocating binding and loosing: “We bind bitterness and hardheartedness. We loose forgiveness and tenderheartedness.”90 He also recognizes it as authoritative prayer against the powers:

We stand against evil thoughts and suspicions and distortions of every sort. We bind the spirit of anger and jealousy and gossip and release the spirit of love and faith. How do we do it? We do it by demon expulsion. Wherever we find evil forces at work, we firmly demand that they leave.91

Among the most recent non-charismatic leaders to advocate binding and loosing are Neil Anderson and Larry Crabb. Former Talbot School of Theology professor Neil Anderson frequently commends the practice of binding and loosing, saying, “We bind by renouncing and loose by announcing. . . . We renounce the efforts of the `Gates of Hades' to hold people captive and hinder the building of Christ's Church. Then we announce our resources in Christ by which our Lord builds His Church.”92 He makes reference to Penn-Lewis in his book The Bondage Breaker, showing support for her teaching.93 In biblical psychologists Larry Crabb and Dan Allender's newest book, Hope When You're Hurting, they advocate “binding evil through spiritual discipline”:

The spiritual binding of evil involves sensing temptation, rebuking the devil, and then resisting evil's pull, while putting on all the protection and carrying the armaments that we are given to biblically defend ourselves. It may include confessing our sins to our friends, our spiritual director, or our deliverance therapist. It may be necessary under intense, direct assault to be anointed with oil and to have a group of spiritual men and women pray and lay on hands for deliverance.94

They suggest that the process of binding may need to be repeated again and again “until greater freedom and strength is gained to fully bind evil.”95

 We have demonstrated that belief in the believer's authority of binding and loosing is a valid and vital doctrine, and certainly not limited to charismatic and modern faith teaching. Rather, it was birthed out of New Testament church doctrine, promulgated by early Church fathers, lost as a result of Middle Age Church formalism and Reformation reaction. It was recovered through the rediscovery of the believer's authority during the holiness revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by non-charismatic evangelicals. Restoration of this biblical truth is a part of what God is reviving in the Church today to enable the Church to overcome spiritual forces of wickedness in these last days. Binding and loosing are indispensable weapons of spiritual warfare for every believer.


1 John MacArthur, Jr., Our Sufficiency in Christ (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1991), 213-237; Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), 257-258.

2 Ibid. Also see MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 360-361.

3 See forthcoming book by K. Neill Foster with Paul L. King, Binding and Loosing (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1998).

4 Paul L. King, “A.B. Simpson and the Modern Faith Movement,” Alliance Academic Review (May 1996): 1-22.

 5 See Foster and King, chapter on “Where We Differ.”

 6 Ibid., chapters on “Binding and Loosing in the Church Fathers,” “Jewish Concepts of Binding and Loosing,” “Binding and Loosing in the Old Testament” and “Binding and Loosing in the New Testament.”

 7 Hanegraaff, 257, 405.

 8 G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to Matthew (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Publishing Co., 1929), 233.

9 Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., Ante Nicene Fathers (ANF) (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1885, reprint 1979), 7:484.

10 Elijah White, Exorcism as a Christian Ministry (New York: Morehouse-Barlow Co., 1975), 70-71.

11 ANF, 10:456.

 12 Ibid., 10:458.

 13 City of God, 20:9, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (NPNF), 1:2:430.

14 Augustine, “On the Psalms - Psalm 48,” Section 4, NPNF, 1:8:165; see also Methodius, “Oration on the Palms,” ANF, 6:395, 397.

 15 NPNF, 1:13:516; see also NPNF, 1:13:91-92.

 16 NPNF, 1:9:47. Chrysostom points out the paradox of binding and loosing in Paul and Silas's imprisonment in the Philippian jail and their release through earthquake as a result of praise: “Do you mark what happened? . . . There a girl was released from a spirit, and they cast them into prison, because they had liberated her from the spirit. . . . What is equal to this? He is put in bonds, and looses, being bound: looses a twofold bond: him that bound him, he looses by being bound. These are indeed works of (supernatural) grace ” (NPNF, 1:11:225). He relates this physical loosing to a heavenly loosing, referring to Matthew 16:19: “Let us think over that night, the stocks, and the hymns of praise. This let us do, and we shall open for ourselves—not a prison, but—heaven. If we pray, we shall be able even to open heaven. Elias both shut and opened heaven by prayer (James 5:17). There is a prison in heaven also. . . . Let us pray by night, and we shall loose these bonds” (NPNF, 1:11:226).

17 NPNF, 2:7:38.

18 NPNF, 2:7:130.

 19 Gregory—NPNF, 2:12:228-229; Leo—NPNF, 2:12:117.

 20 NPNF, 2:12:117.

21 Among some documents which purport to be from Roman bishops in the second and third centuries (but have been demonstrated to be from about the ninth century) are several references to ecclesiastical binding and loosing. The Epistles of Zephyrinus claim that the binding and loosing authority of Matthew 16:19, which is a judicial decision regarding those accused of transgression, belongs to “the seat of the apostles” (ANF, 8:609). The Second Epistle of Pope Callistus referring to Matthew 16:18, speaks of “the power of the keys committed to the Church,” regarding authority to restore a repentant priest after a lapse (ANF, 8:617). Epistle of Pope Urban I cites Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23 regarding the bishops' authority, saying, “The power of inspection and of judging, and the authority to loose and bind, are given to them by the Lord” (ANF, 8:620). These documents view binding and loosing ecclesiastically as exercising judgment and discipline, and were a forged attempt to read back into the third century the belief in the superiority of the bishop of Rome.

22 Luther says, “I believe that in this congregation, and nowhere else, there is forgiveness of sins. . . . To this congregation Christ gives the keys, and says in Matthew 18, `Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.' ” Works of Martin Luther (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1982), 2:373. He recognizes a connection between faith and the exercise of the keys: “The power of the keys extends only as far as your faith extends; not as far as the pope and his followers choose” (Ibid., 3:51).

23 Luther says: “We cannot expel demons with certain ceremonies and words, as Jesus Christ, the prophets, and the apostles did. All we can do is in the name of Jesus Christ pray the Lord God, of His infinite mercy, to deliver the possessed persons. And if our prayer is offered up in full faith, we are assured by Christ Himself (John 16:23), that it will be efficacious, and overcome all the Devil's resistance. I might mention many instances of this. But we cannot of ourselves expel the evil spirits, nor must we even attempt it.” Frederick S. Leahy, Satan Cast Out (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1975), 113.

24 Ibid., 112.

 25 Luther seemed to be undecided about the role of exorcism, at one point eliminating the rite from his handbook of baptism (1523), but including it in his second edition (1526). Kurt Koch, Christian Counseling and Occultism (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1965), 277.

26 Clyde E. Fant, Jr. and William M. Pinson, Jr., 20 Centuries of Great Preaching (Waco, TX: Word, 1971), 2:119; The Complete Writings of Menno Simons (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1956), 989.

27 Leahy, Satan Cast Out, 114.

28 The Complete Writings of Menno Simons, 252.

29 Koch, Christian Counseling and Occultism, 277.

30 Ibid.

 31 On page v. of the introduction to nineteenth century Presbyterian missionary John Nevius' book Demon Possession and Allied Themes (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, n.d.), this observation was made: “Missionaries in China have all proceeded with great caution in this matter. Dr. Nevius and others have avoided any measures which might lead the people to suppose that they claim the power to cast out devils even in Jesus' name. Nor does it appear that any native minister has claimed any such power. The most that has been done has been to kneel down and pray to Jesus to relieve the sufferer, at the same time inviting all present to unite in the prayer; and it seems a well established fact that in nearly or quite every instance, the person afflicted, speaking apparently in a different personality and with a different voice has confessed the power of Jesus and has departed.”

32 Timothy M. Warner, Spiritual Warfare: Victory Over the Powers of This Dark World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 120-121.

33 In 1535 Luther comments, “About ten years ago we had an experience of a very wicked demon, but we succeeded in subduing him by perseverance and by unceasing prayer and unquestioning faith. . . . By this means I have restrained many other similar spirits in different places, for the prayer of the Church prevails at last” (Ibid., 112). In spite of this prevailing belief, Luther did upon occasion go against his general counsel by advising the addressing of such forces directly. To one pastor who was experiencing supernatural disturbances with poltergeists actually hurling pots and pans, he counseled, “Let Satan play with the pots. Meanwhile, pray to God with your wife and children and say, `Be off, Satan! I'm lord in this house, not you. By divine authority I'm head of this household, and I have a call from heaven to be pastor of this church' ” (Ibid., 111). Nevius recognized the power of the Word of God in deliverance and many times saw demons leave through the reading of the Bible: “A prayer offered by a Christian, foreign or native, or even proximity to a Christian place of worship, has driven away the demon, and restored the demoniac to a sound mind, praising God” (Nevius, 71, see also p. 76).

34 Leahy, 27-28.

 35 Joseph A. Burgess, A History of the Exegesis of Matthew 16:17-19 from 1781 to 1965 (Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1976), 62.

36 Ibid., 105.

 37 Cited in “From the Archives” and in C. John Weborg, “Reborn in Order to Renew,” Christian History 5, 2 (1986):29, 35 respectively.

38 Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1946, 1976 reprint), 76.

39 Robert G. Tuttle, Jr., John Wesley: His Life and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1978), 220-221.

40 The Journal of John Wesley (Chicago: Moody Press, n.d.), 81-83.

41 A.J. Gordon, The Ministry of Healing, quoting Trudel in Healing: The Three Great Classics on Divine Healing (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1992), 215.

42 Ibid., 221-223; R. Lejuene, <MI>Christoph Blumhardt and His Message<M> (Woodcrest, Rifton, NY: The Plough Publishing House, 1938, 1963), 20; Koch, Christian Counseling and Occultism, 281. Pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor also recognized the authority of the believer and at times was involved in exorcism. Nevius, 85. Keswick and Welsh Revival leaders Evan Roberts and Jessie Penn-Lewis give this assessment of church history: “When the Church of God in the old and new dispensations was at the highest point of spiritual power, the leaders recognized, and drastically dealt with, the invisible forces of Satan; and when at the lowest they were ignored, or allowed to have free course among the people.” Jessie Penn-Lewis with Evan Roberts, <MI>War on the Saints,<M> abridged version (Ft. Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1977), 19.

43 Joseph S. Exell, ed., The Biblical Illustrator: St. Matthew (New York: Randolph & Co., n.d.), 345-346.

44 William Lindner, Jr., Andrew Murray (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), 28.

45 Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1981), 115.

46 Ibid., 117.

 47 Charles Spurgeon, Faith's Checkbook (Chicago: Moody Press, n.d.), 28.

48 NPNF, 1:11:226.

49 Mrs. Charles Cowman, Springs in the Valley (Minneapolis: Worldwide Publications, 1939, 1968), 63; E.M. Bounds, The Preacher and Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1950), 100; Jessie Penn-Lewis, Prayer and Evangelism (Dorset, England: Overcomer Literature Trust, n.d.), 5-6.

50 Burgess, 105.

 51 Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich, Possession, Demonical and Other (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1966), 170.

52 Burgess, 105.

 53 Oesterreich, 170.

 54 Burgess, 105.

 55 Lejuene, 165.

 56 Jessie Penn-Lewis, The Warfare with Satan (Dorset, England: Overcomer Literature Trust, 1963), 63.

57 Ibid., 65.

 58 A.B. Simpson, Christ in the Bible (CITB) (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1992), 5:413-414.

59 Simpson, CITB, 4:96.

 60 Ibid.

 61 Ibid., 3:491.

 62 F.B. Meyer, Changed by the Master's Touch (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1985, 134-135).

63 Ibid., 135.

 64 Ibid., 135-136.

 65 James A. Stewart, Invasion of Wales by the Spirit Through Evan Roberts (Asheville, NC: Revival Literature, 1963), 47, 66.

66 Penn-Lewis, War on the Saints, 22.

67 Ibid., 33, see also p. 26.

 68 Jessie Penn-Lewis, “How to Pray for Missionaries, Alliance Weekly (June 12, 1937): 373-375; June 26, 1937: 406-407. Reprinted from Penn-Lewis' booklet Prayer and Evangelism, 53-62. Throughout this booklet, Penn-Lewis makes reference to binding and loosing, advocating “binding the evil and loosing the good”; Penn-Lewis, War on the Saints, 7.

69 E.W. Kenyon, “Legal Authority,” Triumphs of Faith (December 1914): 283-284.

70 Carrie Judd-Montgomery, The Secrets of Victory (Oakland, CA: Triumphs of Faith, 1921), 67-74.

71 John A. MacMillan, Encounter with Darkness (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1980), 56-57.

72 Morgan, 233.

 73 John A. MacMillan, The Authority of the Believer (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1980).

74 Penn-Lewis, War on the Saints, i.

75 Merrill Unger, Demons in the World Today (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971), 193ff., 203; What Demons Can Do to Saints (Chicago: Moody Press, 1977), 94-97, 178; Demon Experiences in Many Lands (Chicago: Moody Press, 1960), 122-126; Timothy M. Warner, Spiritual Warfare: Victory Over the Powers of This Dark World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991), 74; Kenneth Hagin, Authority of the Believer (Tulsa, OK: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1967).

76 Watchman Nee, God's Plan and the Overcomers (New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1977), 72-77.

77 Dick Hillis, “Prayer Was Not Enough: China,” Demon Experiences in Many Lands (Chicago: Moody Press, 1960), 39.

78 Quoted by Neil Anderson in The Bondage Breaker (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1990, 1993), 87.

79 Kenyon and Hagin as mentioned above, among others.

 80 Hanegraaff, 257-258; MacArthur, Our Sufficiency in Christ, 213ff.

81 Richard H. Hiers, “ `Binding' and `Loosing': The Matthean Authorizations,” Journal of Biblical Literature 104, 2 (1985): 238.

82 Kurt Koch, Demonology, Past and Present (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1973), 154.

83 Merrill Unger, What Demons Can Do to Saints, 179-180.

84 K. Neill Foster, Alliance Witness, January 16, 1977, 3-5.

85 Rosalind Rinker, How to Get the Most Out of Your Prayer Life (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1981), 135-138.

86 J. Ramsay Michaels, Servant and Son: Jesus in Parable and Gospel (Atlanta, GA: John Knox Press, 1981), 301.

87 Bill Gothard, Rebuilder's Guide (Oak Brook, IL: Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1982), 119; see also pp. 114-121.

88 Mark I. Bubeck, Overcoming the Adversary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 113; see also pp. 20, 37.

89 Gerald E. McGraw, “An Effective Deliverance Methodology: Then and Now,” Alliance Academic Review (May 1996): 163, 165, 166.

90 Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home (San Franciso: Harper, 1992), 44.

91 Ibid., 241.

 92 Neil T. Anderson, Setting Your Church Free (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1994), 271-272.

93 Neil T. Anderson, The Bondage Breaker (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1990, 1993), 78.

94 Larry Crabb and Dan B. Allender, Hope When You're Hurting (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 128.

95 Ibid., 129.

Editorial: The Anatomy of Compromise


The Social Gospel vs Personal Salvation: A Late Nineteenth-Centuray Case Study- Walter Rauschenbusch and A.B. Simpson, Daniel J. Evearitt

The Seal of the Holy Spirit and the Eternal Security of the Believer, Eldon Woodcock

The Restoration of the Doctrine of Binding and Loosing, Paul L. King

Why Youth Groups Matter: A Social Science Research Perspective, Leonard Kageler

Reaching the World through the City, George Reitz

The Religious Celebrity Syndrome: A Contemporary Application of First Corinthians 3:1-9, Richard Brown

Christ and the Spirit: Fleshing Out the Vision of A.B. Simpson's Imitation of Christ, Craig J. Slane

Glossolalia and the Ruark Procedure: Distinguishing between True and False Utterances, K. Neill Foster

About the Authors

Elio Cuccaro, Ph. D., Editor

©2006, 2024 by K. Neill Foster