Pentecostal Sermons & Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

Rebuking Demons | “I Rebuke You, Satan!”: Biblical? Or Not?

     Summary:  “I rebuke you, devil, in the name of Jesus!” is an expression many Christians use in resisting Satan and his demons. I’m convinced that they’re saying those words with all sincerity. I’m pretty sure I’ve used those words myself in time past. But as I’ve recently been researching this topic in the Bible, I’ve come to realize that neither Jesus nor His disciples is ever recorded in Scripture as saying, “I rebuke you” in the context of the battle against Satan and his demons. Rather, the rebukes referred to in the Bible’s spiritual warfare situations were spoken commands to Satan or demons, commands such as “Be quiet!” or “Come out!” or some others we’ll see in the Scriptures.

     My hope in this message is to help you move beyond just scolding the devil (as in “I rebuke you”) and into speaking commands to demons — verbal commands that actually change their conduct. And our commands to demons, of course, to be effective are to be spoken in the all-powerful name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s take a biblical look first at the “how not to” and then at the “how to” of victoriously rebuking demons.

1.  How NOT To Rebuke Satan & His Demons (a Common Practice)

Many Christians use this or a similar expression in warring against Satan and his demons: “Satan [or devil], I rebuke you,” usually (and properly) adding “in Jesus’ name.” It is absolutely and biblically correct to use Jesus’ name in healing, deliverances, and other ministries. The Scripture says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:17). Our Savior's all-powerful name should be central to all that we do as His people on this earth. And that includes our dealings with evil spirits.

But it’s the popularly used “I rebuke you” phrase that we need to discuss here. First let’s look at a New Testament verse that is very relevant to our inquiry today. It’s Jude 9.

Jude 9, NASB  But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” [see also the similar Zechariah 3:2]

God’s holy angels are very powerful. In 2 Kings 19:35 we read: “And that night the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians.” One single angel of the Lord killed 185,000 enemy soldiers in one night! That’s how powerful God’s angels are. Yet in Jude 9 we read that even the mighty warrior archangel Michael, in a dispute with the devil, “did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Not “I rebuke you,” but “the Lord.” The point is that, in any spiritual warfare, it must be the Lord Jesus Christ whose name is called upon for victory.

The phrase “I rebuke you” does not occur anywhere in the Bible spoken by a human being dealing with Satan or his demons. Jesus Himself is never quoted as saying it. I examined 11 respected Bible translations on this. (I encourage you to verify this with your own research. The free Biblegateway.com is an excellent Bible search engine). Not once in the 11 translations I checked did Jesus or His disciples say the words “I rebuke you” to Satan or to demons. Not even one time.

As we will see in section 2 below, the Bible shows Jesus “rebuking” demons by the commands He spoke to them — for example, “Come out!” or “Be quiet!” — never by the phrase “I rebuke you.” Jesus and His disciples were not interested in scolding demons, but in commanding them to submit — for example, “Be quiet!” (Mark 1:25) … “Come out!” (Mark 9:25) … “Go!” (Matthew 8:31f) … “Away from me, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10).

2.  How TO Rebuke Satan & His Demons (the Way Jesus Did It)

Matthew 17:18  Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.

Luke 9:42b  Jesus rebuked the impure spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father.

Mark 9:25  [parallel to Matt. 17:18 & Luke 9:42] When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he [Jesus] rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

All three Scripture portions describe the same event recorded in 3 different Gospels. Mark’s account gives us the fullest insight of the three. The rebuke was not “I rebuke you!” Think about it: that would simply be just a scolding. No, Jesus’ “rebuke” to the demon was: “I command you, come out of him…” If you say, “I rebuke you, devil” — even when correctly invoking Jesus’ name — you’ve really done nothing more than tell the devil what you are doing. On the other hand, rebuking demons by commanding them (again, in Jesus’ name) to “be quiet!” or to “Go!” or to “come out!” is telling them what they must do. And the demons’ submission to commands in Jesus’ name is what we are aiming for. Don’t just scold demons; that accomplishes nothing. Command them!

Let’s see another instance of Jesus rebuking a demon. Both Mark and Luke record this. Jesus came upon a man in the synagogue who was being thrown into convulsions by a demon that possessed him.

Mark 1:25-26, NASB  And Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him.

Luke 4:35, NASB  Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm.

Vs. 41, NASB  Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak. (Jesus had accomplished the same in vs. 35 by saying: “Be quiet and come out!” The rebuke from Jesus was not “I rebuke you!” Rather, it was His command to the evil spirit to “be quiet and come out!”)

Consider two scenarios. In one, you sense a demonic presence and attack against you, or against someone else, so you respond, “Devil, I rebuke you in the name of Jesus.” What exactly have you accomplished? Really nothing more than issuing a scolding to the demon(s). Now consider a different response to that demonic attack: “Away from me, devil, in the name of Jesus!” Now that will get results, as it did when Jesus said it to Satan — “Away from me, Satan! … Then the devil left him…” (Matthew 4:10f).

Like Jesus, the Lord’s followers were never recorded in Scripture addressing demons with “I rebuke you!” Rather, following their Lord's example, they commanded the demons to obey, and they spoke those commands in the authority of the name of Jesus. For example, when the apostle Paul dealt with the demon in a fortune-telling girl, he spoke this command: “…[Paul] turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!’” (Acts 16:16-18, NASB)

Paul’s actions were consistent with Jesus’ Great Commission charge to His followers throughout the Church Age: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation… [17] And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they [i.e., believers] will drive out demons…” (Mark 16:15-17). What are we to do with demons? Drive them out, run them off. Don’t just scold or admonish them. Paul drove out the demon, and he did it with a command, not just with words of reprimand.

Note well: I do not believe in demon possession of born-again Christians. But demons do tempt Christians and try in a variety of ways to impair or to stop our walk with the Lord. So we must be consistently diligent, as the apostles James said, to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Let’s look at one more instance of demons submitting to believers in Jesus’ name. Philip was seeing a great revival in the city of Samaria. Here is part of the great results: “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them… [7] unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them…” (Acts 8:5-7, KJV). As in all cases of dealing successfully with Satan or his demon spirits, the victory is in and through Jesus Christ. Philip “preached Christ” to the hearers. Devils are routed when Jesus Christ is the central focus of our lives and ministries.

Let me close this section with a personal account of a major demonic encounter I had many years ago. It was the very first night in 1989 that my family and I had occupied our rental housing in Medford, Oregon. We had arrived there with a team of fellow believers, sent from our Alaskan parent church (Abbott Loop Christian Center) to plant a new church in that city. In the middle of the night I awoke to find a very real and very powerful demon literally upon my face. (This was not a dream or my imagination; it was a very real demonic encounter.) Knowing the importance of resisting the devil in Jesus’ name, I began to do that. But I could not get my mouth open! By the Holy Spirit’s enablement, I was able to see that demon’s face pressed onto mine. I struggled to speak and was just barely able to get out a whispered, “Jesus!” I sensed the demon back off very slightly. But I still could not speak freely. So a second time, out of the corner of my mouth, again I struggled and succeeded in getting out, in a near-whisper, the name “Jesus!” This time I saw that demon back off significantly from me. Finally released to speak loudly, I bellowed out the words, “In the name of JESUS!...” And I clearly saw, like a flash of lightning, that evil spirit flee from me. To this day, 30 years later, I remain deeply impressed by the irresistible power of the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

3.  Some More Spiritual Weapons to Defeat the Devil

The name of our Lord Jesus Christ, spoken in faith to command the devil to submit and obey, is at the very heart of victory in spiritual warfare — and of all that we do (Colossians 3:17). The Bible tells us that God “gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Where is our victory found? It is always "through our Lord Jesus Christ." There are also other strong weapons in our spiritual arsenal to combat Satan and his evil legions.

The Word of God — Matthew 4:1-11 describes an encounter between Jesus and Satan in the wilderness. Verse 1 (Amplified, Classic translation) tells us that “Jesus was led (guided) by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted (tested and tried) by the devil.” Satan set three temptations before the Lord, who in each case successfully overcame them by quoting Scripture to the devil: “It is written (vs. 4) … it is also written (7) … Away from me, Satan! For it is written (10)…” The Word of God, stored up in our hearts and spoken aloud into various situations, is a very powerful weapon against demonic attack.

The armor of God — Ephesians 6:11-20 tells us of the powerful spiritual armor God provides to us. The apostle Paul exhorts us to “put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (vs. 11). That armor includes “the belt of truth … the breastplate of righteousness … the gospel of peace … the shield of faith … the helmet of salvation … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God … [and] all kinds of prayers and requests” (13-20). With this spiritual armament we can successfully take our stand against the devil’s strategies and schemes.

Submission to God, Drawing Near to God, & Renouncing Sin

James 4:7-8  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

I picture this as a devil-resisting sandwich. The command-with-promise to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you” is sandwiched between, and is empowered by, some very important actions on our part: (1) being submitted to God, (2) drawing near to God, and (3) walking in victory over sin. If we do those things — walking close to God and in submission to Him, while also walking in holiness — then we will consistently see demons flee from us as we resist them with those things and with God’s Word, Jesus' name, and the spiritual armor (above) that He provides us.

God gives us such a wonderful variety of weaponry and armor for our ongoing spiritual warfare against Satan and his evil spirits. We see more of it in Revelation 12:9-11. There we see Satan, the “accuser of our brothers and sisters” defeated by (1) the blood of the Lamb [Jesus], (2) by the word of the believers’ testimony, and (3) by their not loving their lives even to the point of martyrdom.

The Lord's Prayer — Let me share one final thought on God’s provisions to us for victorious spiritual warfare, and that is the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”), listed in Matthew 6:9-13, NIV. I believe this is a very, very powerful weapon in our resistance to Satan and his demons, specifically this part: “Our Father in heaven … [13] deliver us from the evil one.” We are not always aware of all the devil’s strategies against us. But God is fully aware of them! Call on God the Father daily to “deliver [you] from the evil one.” Remember, it is Jesus Himself who taught us to pray this very thing. I encourage you to make this prayer a regular part of your spiritual battle against the devil.

4.  To Summarize:

“I rebuke you, devil, in the name of Jesus” is an expression often used by many truly sincere, born-again Christians. I’ve used it myself, sincerely and hopefully. But recently, in digging deeply into the Scriptures, I’ve discovered that neither Jesus nor His followers ever used the expression “I rebuke you” in their combat with Satan and his demons.

By contrast, when the Bible speaks of Jesus or His disciples “rebuking” Satan or demons, the rebuke took the form of spoken commands that the demons were obligated to obey — such commands as these which we’ve looked at: “Be quiet!” (Mark 1:25) … “Come out!” (Mark 9:25) … “Go!” (Matthew 8:31f) … “Away from me, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10), and the like.

I encourage you from my heart to move up to the level of victory the Lord has for you in spiritual warfare. Don’t be content merely to scold, to reprimand, demons. Instead, speak to them, in Jesus’ name, and command them to submit to the will of God in the situations you encounter. Your victory over your enemy the devil will take a quantum leap forward in effectiveness. May God bless you with ever-increasing victory in your spiritual warfare against Satan and his malevolent demons.

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©2019, James H. Feeney.
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Pentecostal Sermons &
Bible Studies by
Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.