Presenting Our Case
[Reading time: 12 minutes] As we saw in a previous article, “Satan” literally means “accuser” and he brings formal legal charges against us. We silence him with a three-step response: humble ourselves, confess we’re guilty as charged, and conform what we think and believe to what God says. Then, having addressed our accuser’s charges, we can present our case before the Judge.
Thinking about standing before God in his role as Judge can be intimidating or even make us feel hopeless because we’re very aware of our failures, but Jesus gives us some helpful insight. When he taught his disciples how to pray, he taught them to address God as “Father” (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2). As the epitome of fatherhood, God gives us good things when we ask and he’s always benevolent toward us. Prayer is communication with God, and our prayer as believers is a natural expression of our Father-child relationship with him.
Jesus also taught about prayer in a parable with a legal scenario, showing that we should “always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1, NIV). “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary’” (Luke 18:2-3). Jesus didn’t present this as a legal scenario arbitrarily, because when we pray we’re entering the judicial system in heaven. Our adversary or accuser, the prosecutor, is there. He presents our personal sin and evidence we’re not worthy to approach God or receive anything from him.
Satan, our accuser may even present sin of our bloodline — our ancestors and extended family — as evidence against us. In the Old Testament, people repented for the sins of their ancestors, because what their ancestors did in the past created current spiritual problems. In the New Testament, there’s no clear parallel, but it’s not just about us. When we discover sin in our bloodline, we should address it as our own.
Jesus presented the parable in Luke 18 to show we should be persistent when we pray. Persistence in prayer has the same value as repeated authoritative declarations, such as a scriptural confession or a specific statement from God. In both cases, we’re presenting our case before God’s court in the spiritual realm. In both cases, persistence may be necessary for overcoming repeated accusations or resistance from the devil. In both cases, persistence develops character in us, making us mature and complete (James 1:4).
The woman in the parable kept pleading her case with the indifferent judge until he gave her what she wanted. Jesus emphasized how much more our Father — the Lord of heaven and earth, who sent his Son to die for our sin — how much more he will decide in our favor! There’s no delay getting into the courtroom; we have free access, can confidently approach the throne of grace and we don’t need an appointment.
Perseverance isn’t about applying more pressure. Rather, it’s important because it overcomes spiritual resistance and develops us.
Notice the widow in the parable doesn’t address her adversary, but spoke only to the judge. When we present our case to Father for a verdict, we recognize he is the judge who rules against the adversary. Our adversary must submit to the judge’s verdict because he has no alternative. However, when we already have a verdict — we know what God said to us personally or in scripture — we can address our accuser directly and remind him of the verdict.
Pleading Our Case
The Old Testament uses a Hebrew verb that’s primarily a legal term and refers to contending legally — asserting, defending or arguing for a side in a legal proceeding. It’s also used in a more general, non-legal sense.
Consider just a few uses of this verb in the following verses. “May the Lord be our judge and decide between us. May he consider my cause and uphold it; may he vindicate me by delivering me from your hand” (1 Sam. 24:15). “Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked” (Ps. 43:1). “Defend my cause and redeem me; preserve my life according to your promise” (Ps. 119:154). “You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life” (Lam. 3:58). Notice these verses portray the Lord as pleading our case, where “pleading” means to make or answer an allegation in a legal proceeding.
The New Testament doesn’t use “pleading” terminology, but makes it very clear we have authority to speak in our own behalf. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). 1 John 5:14 refers to “the confidence we have in approaching God.” Also, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). So we not only have the Holy Spirit and Jesus interceding for us — serving as our defense counsel, as we saw in a previous article — we have authority to petition God and plead our own case before him.
Early Pentecostals said, and some today still say, “I plead the blood.” We’ve seen that “plead” is a legal term, which means to present your case or answer a charge made against you. In a legal context, it doesn’t mean “to beg.” Let’s consider the legal aspect of Jesus’ blood.
Jesus’ death was a legal transaction because he met the legal requirement for sin’s punishment. We’ve been “justified by his blood,” which means there are no legal charges against us (Rom. 5:9). Therefore, we’re legally saved from God’s wrath, which we rightfully deserved — past tense — because of our sin. We have “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins,” which means we have a legal verdict dismissing the charges against us (Eph. 1:7).
There’s an even more significant application of Jesus’ blood. At what we call the Last Supper, he described the symbolic significance of the cup of wine they were about to share. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28). We normally focus on the phrase, “forgiveness of sins,” which simply means we’re no longer guilty.
But Jesus prefaced that by referring to the wine as “my blood of the covenant.” In covenant ceremonies, in which two individuals enter covenant relationship, they typically drink wine from a single cup to symbolize their unity. Jesus clearly connected forgiveness of our sins with a covenant relationship with him and, therefore, with God. When we accept Jesus’ death as payment for our sin, we immediately enter covenant relationship with God; an intimate, Father-child relationship which also makes us heirs of his kingdom.
I don’t think human language can adequately describe that. Ponder this for a moment: Through Jesus’ blood, the charges against us are dismissed, we enter covenant relationship with God and become legal heirs of his kingdom.
Pleading the blood of Jesus is a legal presentation of evidence in our favor. His blood brought us into covenant relationship with God, making all the covenant blessings and provisions available, including the forgiveness of sin. That’s relevant to any demonic, physical or personal attack, any temptation to sin, and any charges against us by the accuser, Satan.
The book of Revelation refers to believers in Jesus, “our brothers and sisters” (Rev. 12:10), and says they overcame the accuser “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:11). The blood of the Lamb overcomes the accuser; the evidence overcomes the accusation. Jesus’ blood is legal evidence of our innocence, that our guilt is forgiven and the record of our sin is expunged, totally purged as if we’d never sinned! There’s no record of any condemnation or judgment against us! (Rom. 8:1). Assuming, of course, we confess our sin (1 John 1:9). This represents an understanding that the power of Jesus’ blood is greater than any problem.
“I plead the blood” isn’t a magical phrase. I suggest there’s danger in saying something we don’t understand. Acts records seven brothers using Jesus’ name as a formula for exorcism without understanding its significant and without the authority associated with it (Acts 19:13-16). How did that turn out? They received a severe beating by the demon they were trying to drive out. They didn’t know what they were doing and the demon counter-attacked. As God’s children, we have authority, but simply repeating a phrase may not produce the results we expect and may even result in a counterattack.
We have to understand and be confident in what we’re doing and the best way is to start small — small problems, small needs. Especially in the beginning, I suggest we avoid the phrase, “I plead the blood,” and say exactly what we mean in our own words; otherwise the phrase becomes trite and even meaningless.
Jesus presents his own blood as payment — satisfaction of judgment — for the charges against us. His blood resolved every legal issue that separated us from God. Each person must legally claim the forgiveness of their sin and receive the benefits of Jesus’ blood for themselves. This is a legal presentation of evidence that we’re not guilty, even though we sinned, because Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, and we humbled ourselves, confessed and repented. This is a legal defense against any legal charges the accuser-prosecutor brings against us.
Our spiritual authority clearly can become ineffective if we violate God’s laws or principles, but also if we violate his protocols, which are codes of acceptable conduct. God loves us as his children and we’re always welcome in his presence, but we must conduct ourselves in his presence in a manner that honors him and what he’s doing.
Our adversary, the devil, is constantly looking for grounds for accusations against us, including charges we’re not properly honoring God or legal protocol. He’ll use anything to bring charges against us, even the tiniest infraction. For us, God-honoring protocol includes a proper attitude and behavior toward Satan, our accuser. God never treats Satan abusively and neither should we.
Scripture gives us insight to how we should act toward the accuser. The apostle Peter wrote about people who follow their sinful desires and despise authority: “Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from the Lord” (2 Pet. 2:10-11).
Most references I checked state the phrase, “celestial beings,” refers to holy beings, not fallen ones. Yet Jude applies the phrase to the devil. “In the very same way, on the strength of their dreams these ungodly people pollute their own bodies, reject authority and heap abuse on celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 8-9). Both Peter and Jude refer to heaping abuse, which describes a defaming or denigrating judgment or evaluation.
Another key word in this passage is “rebuke.” The word in the original language describes actions that are only proper for someone in authority over the person receiving the rebuke — reprimanding, denouncing, giving a corrective rebuke, or warning with an implied threat. The devil is under God’s authority, not ours, so it’s inappropriate — a violation of protocol — for us to rebuke him.
God created a hierarchy of spiritual beings and Satan originally was at the top. God ordained him as a guardian cherub stationed on the holy mount of God (Ezek. 28:14). So Satan was a high-ranking being stationed at God’s throne in heaven; a cherub and probably an archangel.
God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable according to Romans 11:29. The scriptural context of this verse applies this statement to Israel, but it’s a universal principle. What God declares or ordains remains and we’re accountable for what we do with it. There’s no evidence God stripped Satan of his keen intellect, abilities or authority; he limited Satan’s authority, but didn’t strip it from him. Before his crucifixion, Jesus called Satan the “prince of this world” (John 12:31); that is, he was the ruler of the cosmos. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Satan is god of this age and ruler of the kingdom of the air (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:2). So Satan now has only limited, temporary authority on earth.
Because he’s a high ranking spiritual being, we should treat Satan with respect; not honor, but respect as a dangerous being. Jude 9 shows that even the archangel Michael didn’t dishonor Satan, so it’s foolish for us to do so. Whenever we speak abusively or dishonorably to Satan, we violate God’s created order, take on our enemy’s nature instead of God’s, and invite counterattack. We don’t counter Satan by acting like him or by speaking disrespectfully to him or of him. God’s kingdom mandates respect for authority.
Satan’s desire to usurp God’s authority got him kicked out of God’s presence. Now Satan’s kingdom is characterized by disrespect, rudeness, brazenness and impropriety. We should never call the devil or a demon a derogatory name. In fact, I’m trying to eliminate “I rebuke you” from my vocabulary.
It’s essential we view Satan as a powerful, evil ruler, yet treat him with respect; again, not honor, but respect, as we would any dangerous creature. This honors God’s divine structure and hierarchy. We can call on God to rebuke Satan or other authorities over us, because that rebuke must come from a higher authority than us.
We have authority to protect our domains from demons and other evil spiritual beings that interfere, but we’re not to rebuke them.
A word of caution: We can become so preoccupied with spiritual warfare that we focus on Satan more than God. Satan would willingly lose every conflict with us, if it causes us to give him the attention that belongs to God. He’ll do whatever’s necessary to distract us from God.
When we need a verdict from God, we should follow legal protocols, including treating our accuser with respect. To silence our accuser, we humble ourselves, confess we’re guilty as charged, then conform what we think and believe to what God says. Next, we confidently declare Jesus’ blood satisfied the penalty for our sin and erased it from the record. Then we can receive God’s verdict and enforce it.
Find other articles about the legal nature of our spiritual conflict