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!”—Jude 1:9
Years ago, while I was in the thick of a trial that didn’t seem to go away, a friend gave what she felt was helpful advice. “Rebuke the devil!” she cheerfully offered.
Sigh. That tip immediately made it to my Top 10 list of worst advice ever. Why? Because it’s unbiblical.
However, preachers continue to shout the same advice from the pulpit, and Sunday school teachers weave it into their lessons. Yet nowhere in Scripture are people commanded to rebuke the devil. That privilege only belongs to God.
The Source of the Confusion
I know what you’re thinking: “But the Bible does tell us to rebuke the devil!” But you’re mixing up your r-words. The verse you’re likely thinking of goes like this:
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.—James 4:7b
There’s a difference resisting—or between standing firm against the devil—and rebuking. The Lord actually equates confronting the devil with rejecting authority and reviling angelic majesties (Jude 1:8). Before pride brought about his downfall, Satan—a created being—was high up in heaven’s pecking order. It’s ironic how even now he must seek God’s permission to do harm.
The Sovereignty of Our God
The Book of Job gives us an insider’s look into Satan’s ploys.
One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?” Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.—Job 1:6-12
Satan came before God to “seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and God actually suggested Job. God is sovereign; He shares His power and glory with no one. Satan is powerless without God’s permission. So if evil comes your way, it is not by God’s hand, but it is with His permission. The principles of Romans 8:28 were equally true then as now: God allows things for our good and for His glory.
When we take it upon ourselves to rebuke the enemy, we are thumbing our noses at the very authority that Satan himself must acknowledge. We are dismissing God’s sovereignty— effectively elevating ourselves to His level, the sin that got Satan thrown out of heaven. This, my friends, is dangerous territory. And it’s not the only dangerous territory in this whole issue.
The Object of Our Prayers
Consider the nature of prayer, a communion with God. When we pray, we voice our petitions to Him. So how is voicing a petition to the enemy of our souls not a form of prayer? Regardless of your intent, it’s just that. And I’d give that a 10 on the creepy scale.
Only God commands authority over Satan, so we—like the archangel Michael—must submit to His authority. When you’re under attack, ask God to rebuke the devil. You focus on resisting him. Consider this your rebuke.