Spiritual warfare in Nigeria
Fetish priests in the town of Egbe, Nigeria, recently announced their plan to perform a live human sacrifice to their deity in the town centre. Further, they dared the church to try to stop them.
Local Christians responded with a summons to community prayer. The gathered believers soon overflowed the prayer venue and moved to an open field to worship and pray. A leader read from James 4:7: ‘Resist the devil, and he will flee from you’.
Midway through the meeting, the Elegbe, the traditional ruler of Egbe, came with his chiefs to join the 400 believers already gathered for prayer. As the prayer meeting was coming to an end, SIM medical doctor, Kelvin Chen of Singapore, felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak to the crowd. The pastors in charge readily granted permission.
Dr Chen called attention to the beginning of James 4:7, which describes the essential condition for resisting the devil – ‘Submit yourselves to the Lord’. He challenged the crowd to search their hearts and submit to God in repentance in order to confront the evil one.
Suddenly the people sank to their knees and grew quiet. His Royal Highness, the Elegbe, had knelt; he began weeping loudly, leading the gathered believers in a prayer of repentance.
Over the next few days, the churches of Egbe continued to gather for meetings of repentance, revival and prayer. By God’s grace, the plans of the animists never materialised. Equally wonderful was the transformation the Christians experienced as they gained a truer understanding of their faith through this communal repentance.
For two millennia God has transformed people and their cultures through sacred communities called ‘church’. Many missionary churches, including the ones in Egbe, exist in contexts saturated with animism, witchcraft, voodoo, shamanism, or neo-paganism.
Some superstitious beliefs and practices are simply nonsense; others reveal real demonic forces. The Bible repeatedly attests to the existence of a fallen angel, known as Satan or the devil, and his demonic legions who oppose the purposes of Jesus Christ on earth (Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 3:8). But through the power of the blood of Jesus Christ and the testimony of believers, Satan is defeated (Revelation 12:11).
The historic church – including the early Church Fathers and creeds – all confess the reality of unseen spiritual forces in conflict with Christ’s kingdom. For African perspectives on these issues, read the Africa Bible Commentary (Zondervan).
Buildings and Bible studies are not enough. We must remember that those in bondage to ignorant superstition or direct demonic oppression need to be rescued from ‘the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son’ (Colossians 1:13). Ephesians 3:10 describes the church’s purpose: ‘His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms’.
The author is a staff writer for SIM International