CONCERNING ‘GENERATIONAL CURSES’ (Download this article as a PDF file by clicking this link: ‘Generational Curses’)
In this article we want to look at this idea that “curses” from the past – whether from the person’s own life or from previous generations – can keep Christians in bondage and deprive them of the blessings of God and of their inheritance in Christ. From the start, let us make it clear that we are talking about someone who has been convicted of their sin, repented, turned from their sin and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation. They have been born again and filled with God’s Spirit. They have been brought into the New Covenant, in and through Jesus Christ. No more, no less. Christians – as described in the New Testament ( NT ) – such Christians as the apostles were writing to.
The New Testament Evidence
What then, do the apostles write to Christians in the NT? How do they deal with the various church and personal problems that arose among the Lord’s people? How do they diagnose such problems and what council and instruction do they give? For any modern teaching dealing with counsel and instruction to Christians must be based on, or find support from the apostolic writings or from the teachings of Jesus.
So, what do the apostles say and teach concerning this idea of past curses hindering the lives of Christians – or of churches or of countries? Well, they say nothing. Absolutely nothing. No. Not one verse about it. They don’t even mention it or touch on it. It doesn’t arise in their thinking! Where are their exhortations to Christians to investigate their lives and make sure there is no curse at work, if they find difficulties in their personal or spiritual walk? There aren’t any such exhortations! Yes, Paul speaks about “curse”, but in a completely different context – namely, about Christ having “delivered us from the curse of the law”. We will look at this a little later. But nowhere does the NT even mention that curses from the past can, or are hindering the spiritual or personal walk of Christians, or of churches or of countries.
But what reason can we give for this? This modern teaching is very specific, detailed and extensive, and would represent an essential and necessary part of our deliverance in Christ, if it were true. Books have been written about this and of course we should expect some apostolic foundation for this new teaching, some biblical basis. But why then, do none of the apostles even mention such a thing in their letters to the churches? Were they ignorant of such a vital truth? Are they responsible for leaving not only the Christians of their day but also of many succeeding generations in ignorance and therefore deprived of true liberty in Christ? Have they left multitudes in bondage and darkness down the centuries because of their failure to recognize and teach this doctrine? Certainly there was much idolatry and occult practice in NT times, so why don’t the apostles warn the Lord’s people that any problems they have may be due to some curse from the past? Why don’t they exhort them to investigate their lives to see if they or their ancestors have been involved in something evil – and many of them would have been – and to confess these things and repent, and then proclaim their freedom in Christ? Where do they suggest this is relevant either for individuals, churches or countries? If these things are true, it is a very serious matter. We cannot be left in ignorance; we cannot be left in bondage! But nowhere is such a thing mentioned, let alone taught. It is no part of the Apostolic or NT teaching to the churches. Nowhere in the NT do Jesus or the apostles apply the curses of the OT covenant between God and Israel to those who have been brought into the Kingdom of God through the new birth, as these modern teachers do.
Well, is it that Christians in NT days had a “cleaner” and more “thorough” conversion, and that once converted, the saints didn’t have any problems, and so didn’t need this kind of teaching? But of course this is not true, as the Scriptures themselves show us. People got saved or responded to the Gospel message as individuals or by the thousands at one time. Maybe the heart condition of some of them was not right or having started well, they didn’t continue to walk in the obedience of faith and love. As it was in those days, so it is today. People are basically the same and they respond in their various ways to this salvation that God offers them. And as it is today, so we read in the NT, namely, people and churches had all sorts of different problems – sin, carnal behaviour, wrong attitudes, bitterness, contentions, etc. Just read Corinthians or Galatians for example. Well, if God’s salvation is the same today as it was then, and if people, their responses and their problems are also the same today as they were in NT times, then why, oh why, did Jesus and the apostles not teach the saints or churches (or even unbelievers!) that curses from the past can keep the Lord’s people in bondage or darkness – like we are being told today? Why did they never indicate that our present problems as the Lord’s people are, or could be due to curses from the past? This dare not be a matter for human guesswork. It is so serious in its implications that we must be able to clearly identify this teaching from the scriptures, especially from the NT, as this is the full record of our redemption and salvation in Christ. But it is nowhere to be found there!
This should be enough to warn us that there is something very wrong with this teaching and that we should not receive it into our hearts! It is an addition to the Gospel. Even if people believe they can find verses in the Old Testament ( OT ) to support this idea, yet we must realize that everything that is needed for our salvation, deliverance and godly life is incorporated and revealed in the NT. The OT prefigures this salvation and deliverance in various ways and this helps to further illustrate and explain what is taught in the NT. But, if we teach something as vital for our salvation or deliverance as Christians, and we can only find some texts in the OT in our attempt to support it, without it being taught or mentioned at all in the NT, then our teaching is contrary to the Gospel of truth. It is wrong; it is a deception and we are deceiving others by teaching it. It opposes the preaching of Christ and Him crucified. It is an addition by man to the Gospel of God, like we find in the letter to the Galatians. Obviously, there is no contradiction between the OT and NT, but a progression and a fundamental change has taken place because of Calvary.
As with most errors, and particularly modern ones, this teaching is not derived from the Bible. Men start with their own an idea or system of thought, and then interpret the scriptures according to this system; and they will bend and change the meaning of any scripture they use until it does fit in with their system of thought! And this is what they do with this doctrine.
There is nothing they can use in the NT to support their doctrine, but let us look at how they would interpret the few NT scriptures that they quote. James 3:7-10 and Rev. 22:3 are frequently quoted to show that curses and cursing still exist today. So far there is no problem. But then they go on to say that because curses still exist, then Christians themselves must recognize that they might be, and probably are influenced and hindered in their lives by curses. But the scriptures make no such “jump” in thought. This is simply not taught by these two texts. These two texts tell us that curses still exist today and people are doing what they shouldn’t do, namely cursing others, and that in the new heaven and earth there will be no more curse, or we could say judgement for sin and rebellion. However, these verses make no connection between the problems in the lives of Christians, and curses that may have been put on them or their ancestors, as though these are, or could be the cause of their problems! Nowhere in the NT letters are curses considered or even remotely mentioned as the possible cause of any problem or spiritual bondage or affliction in a Christian’s life (or in the life of a city or nation). James does not say, “ Look. People are cursing, so you see, curses still exist and so your life might be hindered by a curse. And if you’ve got a continual problem in your life this might very well be the effect of some curse from the past. So you need to investigate your ancestry very closely to discover the probable root of such a curse in your life and seek deliverance from it.” It is nonsense to teach this from James. He is plainly telling us that our language should not be sweet and bitter, foul and pure, blessing and cursing. This is clear, healthy teaching, exhortation and rebuke concerning our conversation! But as I mentioned above, they will use any text they can, and then bend, change and stretch the meaning beyond what it really means.
Perhaps somewhere, one of these writers quotes Jesus where He says “…bless them that curse you…”, ( Luke 6:28 ), but in the material that I have read I haven’t discovered a single place where these writers refer to this verse when trying to support their ideas about curses. And perhaps it is not surprising. This teaching of Jesus doesn’t “bend” too easily to conform to their system of thought. James tells us that people are still cursing and that they shouldn’t. The modern teaching tells us that if people are still cursing, then lives of Christians could be harmed by this. But Jesus doesn’t say, “ If someone curses you, be very careful. It might have power over you. Are you sure you haven’t sinned? You might already be under the power of such a curse in your life and you must make sure you get free of it.” No. Even before Calvary Jesus tells people what it means to live according to God’s will and God’s nature. If someone curses you – bless them! Amen. That’s all. Just bless them! That’s His teaching. Christ doesn’t fill our minds with superstitious and false thoughts about what evil thing might befall us if people curse us. Nothing can harm us if we are followers of that which is good (1 Peter 3:13). This is a rare reference to curses in the NT given by Christ Himself. Surely, it has something significant to teach us. It is the only reference in the NT that tells us what to do and what our attitude should be if someone curses us! So, why do these modern teachers totally ignore what Jesus Himself says about what we should do if people curse us?! Why don’t they teach what He teaches?
So there it is. James 3: 7-10 and Rev. 22:3 – that is their “evidence” from the NT which they use to show that Christians today can be, and are in bondage, darkness or illness because of curses from the past, and how we need to “trace” or discover these curses from the past, which maybe go back hundreds of years!! Dear reader, what do you think? Do you believe that these verses teach us these things? Is this the teaching of Jesus and the apostles? Can you find this teaching in the NT anywhere at all? It is interesting that probably the most popular and influential book that propagates this error worldwide does not even try to give any NT evidence to support this teaching. Although he quotes the verses from James to show the power that words can have, the writer doesn’t quote anything from the NT to prove this idea that curses from the past can and do harm to the lives of the Lord’s people. Right from the beginning of this book and chapter after chapter he quotes from the OT when trying to prove his ideas. On the one hand, this is wisdom on his part since there is no such support in the NT, but on the other hand, it only highlights the fact that his teaching has nothing to do with the New Covenant, nothing to do with the Gospel of truth, which is the Gospel of our salvation. He uses OT scriptures and develops them in his own way to produce a most unhealthy and unbiblical teaching of superstition that can only oppose and undermine the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified.
This should settle the matter for us. We could and should now reject this teaching, since it finds no support in the NT, and Jesus Himself advises us quite differently to these modern teachers, as does Paul in Galatians 3. However, for the sake of those who have been influenced by the other arguments of these writers, I will proceed to look at those other arguments and the consequences of such teaching. But I also very much hope we will gain some helpful biblical instruction in the process.
Some Consequences of this Teaching
I know of Christian friends in Tanzania who are at times the subject of curses from the local witchdoctor and evil charms are placed in or at their homes. But this has absolutely no power over them. It cannot touch them or harm them, and they rejoice in Christ Jesus their Saviour and in the victory and peace that He has given them! Oh yes, of course there is a devil and there are evil spirits too, and they can influence and harm the lives of those who don’t believe. But for those who are in Christ, they have been delivered from all the power of darkness and the wicked one cannot touch them (Col. 1:12, 1 John 5:18). They have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. Praise God! What superstition and what a denial of the Gospel it is, to imply that those in Christ can be harmed by other peoples’ curses.
But now, more recently, I have heard from Christian friends in that same country that they have now been taught that if they are injured while working in the field, that this is / could be because of a curse! This teaching is just received without any searching of the scriptures, so that it is being accepted for the cause and explanation for all sorts of mishaps and troubles. Because the teaching comes from well-known authors from the West, it is simply accepted and applied to any and every situation in a way that is causing confusion, fear and heartache, and putting terrible burdens on people. And this is not just because people are misapplying the new teaching, for as we shall see shortly, the very way in which these ideas are taught in these books results in people feeling or believing there is a curse behind most things.
I know of another Christian person who got ill and the pastor told them that it’s because of a curse on them. How did the pastor know? Well, because he had been on one of the seminars that are so popular today and that are supposed to bring “good teaching” and “revelation” to African pastors from the West. That’s how he “knew”. And so this poor sick person, who had to live with this thought that she was under a curse, was prayed for over the course of a month to release her from this curse – but to no avail. In the end she started to get better when she went to the doctor and got some medicine. ( I’m not saying we shouldn’t pray to the Lord for healing, but this is just one of many cases that highlight what damage, physically, mentally and emotionally this teaching can cause.)
What a heart-break this is; to see saints who had been set free from the power of the devil and the influence of witchcraft, who rejoiced in the liberty and victory that they had in Christ, to now have doubt and fear sown into them again, to be baptised as it were back into their old ways of superstitious thinking that belonged to the witchcraft culture that they were in bondage to before they were saved – and all this in the name of new “Christian” revelation! Paul says with the same kind of amazement, “I marvel that you have so quickly departed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another Gospel – which is not another but there would be some that trouble you and would pervert the Gospel of Christ.” What a terrible state to bring the Lord’s people into, that when anything goes wrong in any way in their lives, they think that some dark mysterious force from the past is affecting them and has power over them. These teachings are causing trouble and are bringing people into bondage and they are not according the grace or Gospel of Christ or the wonderful redemption that is in Him.
I was preaching on one occasion and someone came up to me afterwards to say that the ministry had touched on a serious problem this person had in their Christian walk. But then the person said they didn’t know whether they could really do anything about it because some months earlier someone had told them that this problem might be due to a curse that went back 500 years! I knew this person and could see what serious confusion and delusion this modern teaching causes – and actually keeps people out of their wonderful inheritance in Christ, since it doesn’t really deal with the root of a person’s problem, and it keeps them in an unresolved and unliberated state because the person is forever searching and guessing as to how many curses are at work, what kind of curses they are and from what period in history they come from! Or whether their problem is because of a curse at all! This is not an exaggeration, as we shall shortly see. It is having this kind of effect on some people because the teaching itself promotes this kind of thinking.
I have a friend who received this teaching into her heart. She is a Christian who is very zealous to please the Lord and wants to live in a way that will commend Christ to others, so she is particularly grieved if she fails in any way to be as Christ unto others. She wants to be free of all carnal behaviour. But complete success evades her. ( Perhaps others can identify with her! ). Solution? To trace her genealogy to see if there might be some curse from the background. Why? Is it because the Bible tells her to do this somewhere? Anywhere? No. Well then, is it because the Holy Spirit convicted her or showed her there was something from the past hindering her? No. She was doing this because she had gone to hear one of these preachers who promote this teaching on curses. They quote from Exodus 20: 5, where it talks about God visiting the iniquities of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. This new teaching tells us that this involves a lot of people. Namely, your father and mother each had a set of parents, and each one of those had their own set of parents, and if you follow this through to the fourth generation, this results in a genealogy of 32 people from whom you descend. And you are asked in the most popular of these books, whether you can really be sure that none of them was involved in any form of idolatry or occult. Because if they were, then God’s judgement still rests on you and/or the devil has a right to afflict you! Do you see how these ideas sow doubt and fear into men and women’s hearts, contrary to the Gospel of peace? So my friend had drawn up her genealogy on paper, tracing her genealogy back to four generations in order to see if she could discover any occult connection in their lives. She was hoping to discover some curse from the past, to do with one of her forefathers, that was preventing her from entering into her inheritance in Christ! After going through the scripture with her, she was able to see that this teaching had no biblical foundation. Having read these teachings, I can see how someone might not only do what my friend did, but how these books actually lead you into this kind of thinking and action.
Now let us consider what these modern teachings say that lead people to think and act in these ways. Why all this searching, uncertainty and confusion that only generates fear and bondage.
Firstly, according to this teaching, what are the signs that a curse is at work in a person’s life?
Secondly, how can we definitely know if a curse is at work and identify what kind of curse it is.
Thirdly, how is it possible that curses can affect a Christian?
What do they say are the indications that a curse is at work in a person’s life?
Well, they cover nearly every problem that a person can have. Some of the major ones that they list are the following: Mental or emotional breakdown; break-down in marriage or other family problems; recurring or serious illness; financial needs. Now although it is said that one or two of these problems doesn’t necessarily mean a curse is at work, the more of these problems you have, then the more probable it is that a curse is at work. However, as one reads these books it soon becomes apparent that any kind of ailment or problem could be due to a curse – lack of success in business or any aspect of life could be due to a curse, as well as: poverty; barrenness; oppression; depression; a sense of failure; rebellious children; feeling up one day and down the next; never achieving real success; and a sense of frustration – you can never really achieve what you want! All these above “indications” of a curse they get from Deut. Chpt.28, and apply them to Christians today! Well, there is hardly anything that is not included! And they write in such a way, that it is easy to feel that whatever problem you might have, is due to a curse from the past. They admit that curses are not the cause of every problem, but it is difficult not to get this impression when you read their material. One writer states that although not every problem is caused by a curse, nevertheless, the “reality” is that Christians often need deliverance from curses – and this he says is even true of experienced and mature Christians! This is a terrible deception. In terms of what Jesus suffered and died for, this is a lie. There is a total lack of balance in these teachings that don’t even mention what other reasons there might be for these problems. And so it is in the most popular of these books. Not one indication, for example, as to what else might cause problems in a marriage, apart from a curse!
What scriptures from the NT do they give us then, to support this idea that curses could be the cause of any one of these problems that they list? They don’t give us any – because there aren’t any! They teach what the NT doesn’t even mention in any way, and what council and instruction the NT does give regarding problems that might arise in the Christian’s life, this they don’t even mention in the material that I have seen!
But how can we really “know” if it is a curse that is at work in our lives, according to this teaching?
What scriptures in the NT do they refer us to, in order to help us truly know if a curse is at work? Surely this cannot be a matter of guesswork or uncertainty. It is too important a matter to be left in the dark about. Our feet need to be on solid ground! We must be able to pray with confidence if we are to pray effectively.
Well, they don’t refer to any NT verse to help us identify if there is a curse at work in our lives! But how can I then know with biblical certainty if my problem is due to a curse? And if I can’t know it for certain, how can I pray with confidence and power against the curse? So why don’t they give us any NT examples of Christians who had problems because of curses. They don’t, because there are no such examples in the NT! Why don’t they refer to the scriptures in the NT that tell us how to identify if a curse is at work in our lives? They don’t do this because there are no such scriptures in the NT! Why don’t they give us examples from the writings of the apostles to the Lord’s people of how curses, that were causing problems in their lives, were broken. They don’t do this because no such verses exist! (Certainly, in places like Ephesus people were delivered from their involvement with the occult and witchcraft – Acts 19:10 and 8:9. But these are examples of people hearing the Gospel and being converted to the Lord. But what we are considering in this article is ministry to the Lord’s people.) When writing to the churches and addressing all the different kinds of problems in churches or in individual Christian lives, the apostles never mention or indicate, let alone teach, that a problem might be due to a curse from the past. It doesn’t come into their thinking! For them, as it should be for us as the saints of God, they see the problems as lying somewhere else.
Everything I have said here also applies to the idea of curses upon countries, which has really been dealt with in the first article. But let me state again, that there is not a single NT example, there is no scripture or teaching, not a single verse that indicates that any kind of curse is hindering the work of God in any town, region or country. Nor is any kind of regional or local problem said to be due to a curse! Nor does Jesus or the apostles pray, or teach us to pray, against any such curses over towns, regions or countries. It is simply not taught nor done. We are not exhorted to search out national or regional “curses” and to pray for “release” from them. (There were things that related to Israel from the OT, but that is quite different and belongs to the covenant that they had with God in the OT.)
How do these modern books then help us to establish with certainty if a curse is at work in our lives? They don’t. They can’t. Depending on the seriousness of the problem, they constantly use such language as, “ it is likely”, “it could be that…”, “perhaps”, “ if you believe that a curse is affecting you…”, “it is very likely that …”, “ most probably”, “ you need to seriously consider whether…”. And even more seriously, if not more threateningly, they tell us that God does not hold us guilty for the “fact” that our ancestors brought a curse on us, but that He will hold us guilty if we don’t use what He has provided to give us release from a curse! What legal bondage and deception is this to put on the people of God!
One of the scriptures they love to quote, is Proverbs 26:2, which tells us that a curse doesn’t happen without a reason. This is clear and simple. If there is a curse, of course there is a reason for it. But they use this verse to make us think that whenever there is a problem, then this “could” be a curse, and “if you decide” it is a curse, then you ought to “find out” where it came from, that is, what caused it. This teaching of theirs does nothing to help us to identify if a curse is at work in our lives; it only encourages people to think that there “might be” a curse behind every problem! Something goes wrong and they want you to think, “Oh, dear. What’s the cause? Nothing happens without a cause! Is the cause of my problem a curse?” And so they encourage unbelief and superstition in the hearts of the Lord’s people.
But again we ask, how can we clearly know if a curse is at work in our lives? Their answer is, that in the end, after all our considerations, only the Holy Spirit can give us a completely accurate diagnosis! The Spirit Himself must show us! This is their answer. This is how we are to know with certainty – the Holy Spirit must show us. But this can become a very subjective matter! All sorts of considerations and factors may influence my perception and conclusions. And if I have a serious personal problem, am I in a proper state to be able to receive such supernatural knowledge from the Spirit? Must I then find someone who has the “spiritual gifting” to discern curses?
This is truly amazing. Can it be possible that God’s Spirit will witness to something that is not taught in God’s word? But of course they are forced to tell us that the Holy Spirit must show us, because nothing is taught in the NT about this. So you, or someone else, must decide if the Holy Spirit is showing you in a definite way that a curse is at work in your life! And that’s not all. If you believe the Spirit is showing you that there is definitely a curse over your life, then you must also try and discover the cause and nature of that curse! Because when you discover the cause of the curse, then you will be able to take the right action against it!!! What a madhouse of error and confusion that can only lead people into deception. It seems that we cannot effectively deal with a curse without supernatural knowledge by the Spirit concerning the cause of the curse – where it came from and what kind of curse it is! Is this not a form of cruelty? To tell people their problem is due to a curse but it’s up to you or someone else then to discover by prayer and supernatural gifting where it’s come from and what it is? And, my dear reader, it is cruel bondage! No wonder the people I mentioned above, who were trying to deal with supposed curses, got into such heartache and confusion – ever seeking but never really coming into anything of God! Praying, searching, looking inwards, looking backwards to past generations, wondering, questioning, getting others to pray, asking others for their insights or to exercise their special spiritual gifts of discernment – feeling at times they might be getting somewhere, getting some relief but never into the true liberty of Christ. Now, these books do offer model prayers of release from curses, but they continually teach how you need to identify the curse and its source first.
Now in what I am saying, I am not exaggerating. Indeed, a real-life example from one of the most popular books on curses supplies one of the best illustrations of this, and this illustration also provides one of the best examples of why this article has been written. Let me mention, if I may, the testimony of a person mature in years and also regarded as mature in the Lord and involved in ministry. Over 20 years ago, she says she had pains in a part of her body. Her husband, who has been involved in international ministry for many years and who is the author of that best-selling book on curses, immediately believed this was due to a curse. He prayed and the pain subsided and his wife thought that would be the end of the matter. But several years later she had a far more serious problem in the same area and needed medical attention. She writes that it appeared that there were still curses on her body and maybe on her life. She tells us that for the next few years – until the writing of the book – she was still struggling with her health. We are told that during this time the Spirit “revealed” many different kinds of curses, from her own life and from her ancestors. She and her husband also got thousands of Christians to pray for her and also they have had supernatural direction through words of knowledge about these curses. Even so, she confesses that renouncing all those curses has been a long process; and later in the book we are told the battle against these curses is still going on, as she seeks complete deliverance, with her and her husband using the scriptures several times a day to declare their freedom from curses! We should not be surprised if some of our African brethren along with us think that they are being returned to some kind of witchcraft culture of fear, uncertainties and charms and spells against curses! What a tragedy all this is. That mature people could be so deceived by the devil and brought into bondage to such superstitious thinking and useless praying! Here we also see that even their own teachings fail to bring them into true blessing and liberty. While a problem still exists, they automatically believe a curse is still at work and they are left with this unedifying and unbiblical thought that a curse is hanging over them for years!
These things sadden and grieve me deeply. How can anyone believe such things? I am not writing these things just to run down others or because I have a cold concern for “correct” doctrine. No. It is because people I know and love have been affected by these ideas and it has caused confusion, deception and heartache. People, the Lord’s people, are being brought into an endless labyrinth of confusion and deception like we have just read about in the story above, and some have asked me to put into writing those things that I had ministered to them. Of course it is very grieving to see people robbed of the truth as it is in Christ; to see the Gospel so attacked and corrupted. Christ has done much more, and brought us into much more than these modern teachings recognise. Worse than that, these modern teachers bring us into a darkness and bondage that was never designed by God for us!
So this story highlights all the main points of error that this teaching brings people into.
Firstly, we see that any problem, whether serious or not, is quickly and easily interpreted as being due to a curse. In other words, people who receive this teaching into their hearts are ready to see a curse behind any event in their lives, as does the author himself in the book when considering his wife’s problem. Certainly the more serious events can be taken to be due to, not one, but many – almost endless – curses. As people go down this road of thinking, little or no room is given to any other possible cause of the difficulty. And if a difficulty lasts for years, then they believe this is because they haven’t discovered all the curses that are at work in their lives, so they go on digging around in the past for possible causes! This allows a fearful and superstitious mentality to develop in the heart of the person, which is quite different to the hope, peace and joy that are our inheritance in Christ, who has redeemed us from all the power of the devil and from the spirit of bondage which produces fear. What a terrible way to live – that every time there is a mishap or problem you think that some dark force or judgement from the past is striking your life!
Secondly, because biblical truth, instruction and guidelines are ignored, the soul is inevitably thrown into a state of guesswork and ( endless? ) speculation as it tries to discover the nature and source of the curse. As there are no scriptural examples or teaching for this kind of process, the person is again inevitably left to personal “impressions” and “revelations” of the Spirit, whether their own or someone else’s. The great danger now is, that because they ignore God’s own Word on these matters, and because they choose to believe ideas that are not according to the Gospel, they make themselves susceptible to deceiving spirits as they search and wait for answers through impressions and gifts of the Spirit. Not being grounded on the word of God but believing a lie, they now fall prey to a deceiving spirit. This spirit then only strengthens and confirms them in their delusion and deception – giving them all sorts of feelings, impressions and “revelations” and bodily sensations. Then one is caught in this terrible cycle of “blessings and curses”, just like in the tragic story above. Indeed, in this story we are told that over this long period of time, the Holy Spirit with great patience and thoroughness revealed to her the sources of these curses, step by step, and it seems this process was still going on!
Yes, these matters are very serious and I don’t say these things lightly. What is happening here is what we find in 2 Cor.11. It is the devil’s deception. The Lord’s people leave that wonderful, powerful simplicity that is in Christ; they leave His word and follow after other things, which results in them falling victim to another Jesus, another Gospel and another spirit. And it is happening today among God’s people as it did even in NT days. Yes, they are the Lord’s people, but serious deception has got in.
Thirdly, this story makes it very clear that this teaching is not just meant for the unconverted or those who want to respond to the Lord’s offer of salvation, or for those who have never really understood the implications of the Gospel, or for Christians who are living carelessly and who perhaps get involved in wrong things. No, it is by no means limited to such people. On the contrary, this story makes it abundantly clear that what they actually teach is this – namely, that any Christian can be, and probably is affected by some curse from the past. You can be mature in years; you can be a mature experienced Christian – even with a world-wide ministry; you can be serving the Lord and zealous to live a holy life; and yet for all this, curses from the past can bring bodily affliction on you, can cause problems and bondage in your spiritual life and difficulties in your circumstances. What superstition is this! What a denial of the power of the Gospel in the lives of the saints. What a return to a witchcraft mentality. To believe this teaching, is more of a “curse” than anything else, in the sense that it plagues the soul and brings it into darkness and bondage.
This now brings us to our third consideration:
Can the sins or curses from ancestors affect the Lord’s people – i.e. those in Christ?
These modern writers certainly think so. One recent book states that Satan uses the sins of previous generations nearly more than anything else to afflict both Christians and churches, as well as cities and countries – although there is not one verse in the NT to support this! This teaching is a monumental deception. Such a statement is geared to make a person see a curse behind nearly every problem or difficulty in their life.
How can this be so? Well, this book says that the “unforgiven” sins of our ancestors still have a legal right to affect and afflict the Christian – we still reap the consequences of their unforgiven sin! They quote only from the OT to try and support this anti-Gospel idea, mostly from Exodus 20:5 and parallel passages, which we will look at later. It further says that there is a difference between forgiveness and pardon, so that when God forgives us He cleanses us from the guilt of sin, but the “unforgiven” sins of our ancestors which have not been cleansed in the blood, are not “pardoned”, which means the punishment for those sins is still in force and can still affect us and damage us – even to the fourth generation! Dear reader, it grieves me to even mention such terrible inventions and injurious deceptions which have no effect except to destroy the truth of the Gospel.
But we are now in the New Covenant; born again of God’s Spirit and washed in the blood of the Lamb. So how can this be? How can the sins of past generations affect a Christian? The book just referred to actually asks this question. And what answer do they give. Well, they say it is “ a mystery”!!! They say they cannot explain why Christians today – even holy and dedicated people – can still suffer the punishment or consequences due to an ancestor’s sin! They actually say that they cannot explain why the cross of Christ does not cut off the effects of a curse when a person repents and is born again. That’s it! This awful teaching is based on a “mystery”; in other words, on something that God hasn’t revealed and on something that cannot be explained! They say, “it seems” that because of God’s laws, some ancestral sins still can damage the lives of Christians – however holy you may be living – until these sins or curses are “discovered” and prayed over specifically. And how are these curses diagnosed? How do you know if it is a curse at work and then where it comes from? Well, by the Spirit, they say. As I have said before, this has much more to do with superstition and occult practices than with our redemption in Christ. It is destroying the knowledge of God in people, which Jesus died to give ( 2 Cor: 4:6 ).
Although fearfully wrong and deceived, at least the writers of this recent book are more honest than other books that try and pretend that there is some biblical basis for this erroneous teaching.
Galatians Chapter 3
We come now to the crucial Chapter 3 of the Galatian letter, which teaches us that we have been delivered from the curse of the law (verse 13). How do these modern teachers interpret this passage? Well, they acknowledge in clear terms that Christ’s work on Calvary is complete. He has provided the forgiveness of all our sins and He has delivered us from all the power of Satan. It is a full redemption and we can be free of the guilt and power of sin, including curses. This is wonderful. But, then they go on to explain that this doesn’t all happen at conversion when you are saved. Yes, God forgives you your sins and delivers you from the power of the devil when you’re saved by His grace, but the curses that are the result of your ancestors’ unforgiven sins continue to affect, hinder or damage your life. They can cause marriage break-ups, accidents and death in your life! Your salvation in Christ is not complete at conversion – when you repented of all your sins and turned to God – because this does not stop the consequences of the sins of your ancestors damaging you! Christ’s death at Calvary cannot affect your deliverance from the punishment or consequences of their sins when you are converted and born again! That’s what they teach. And of course it’s what they have to teach if they want to justify their inventions. How then do we get deliverance from these curses? Well, they say that after our conversion, as problems arise and difficulties occur (over years?), we have to discern if a curse is at work, and then we have to identify what kind of curse it is so that we can then deal with it by the cross.
So, the message of “Christ and Him crucified” is not enough to deal with sin and judgement when we repent and turn to God with faith in His finished work on Calvary! They say that the new way to complete freedom is Christ plus discernment and diagnosis of past curses through spiritual gifting! This is exactly the kind of error Paul was fighting against among the Galatian churches. To be fully saved, Christ and Him crucified is not enough – you need something extra, and that something extra is based on OT texts! In Galatia some taught circumcision as a necessary addition to believing in Christ as a means of salvation. These modern writers teach that the need to discern and diagnose past curses through spiritual gifts and discernment, is a necessary addition to believing in Christ, if you want to start entering into your liberty as a son of God. And they teach that you are not to blame for your ancestors’ sins, but that you are to blame if you fail to discern and deal with the curses that are the result of their sins! This is a cruel deception and they seek to justify this gross error by using Ex. 20:5; 34:7 and Deut. 28:45. So we are supposed to believe and receive this new teaching which has no mention in the NT, but is based mainly on two passages from the OT which relate to God’s judgements under the Old covenant.
Let me again say here that if anyone involves themselves in the occult, witchcraft or in anything evil, of course they are both sinning and giving the devil power over their lives – whether they be unbelievers or Christians. We are to have nothing to do with these things. God has called us to leave such things and to be holy. Also, if someone has responded in some way to Christ but doesn’t see anything wrong with these things and has been involved or still is involved in them, then of course they need further instruction and council. They have obviously never really heard the Gospel or understood it, and therefore would not be able to benefit from its power in their lives. All such people will need council and ministry, and deliverance from any evil involvement. But in all these cases, the way to liberation is through true repentance and true faith in Christ’s work on Calvary – this will break the power of any and every curse! Hallelujah!
But what we are considering in this article is the council and teaching that should be given to those who understand these things and want to live by them, having been born again not of corruptible, but incorruptible seed. But these writers make these teachings apply to all Christians, however mature or holy. It is one thing to say that some people need deliverance from the influence of curses when they turn to the Lord – which I accept – but it is quite something different to teach that those who are now in Christ are affected and hindered in their lives by curses from hundreds of years ago!
And one of their chief errors is that they make curses the cause of spiritual and other problems, or see them as the barrier to our obtaining our inheritance in Christ, keeping us out of the liberty and full salvation that is in Him. Whereas the NT identifies the causes as lying elsewhere – for example in carnal or sinful behaviour, in a lack of repentance or a lack of faith in Christ and His work on Calvary.
One of the most popular writers actually states this, and more – namely, that we normally come into the provisions of our salvation in stages. For example he says that some people never go beyond receiving the forgiveness of sins. ( But this does nothing to prove his point, it just raises further questions! ) He further states that someone might be wanting God to bless them with prosperity but that God is withholding that, because God’s first concern is righteousness. What does this mean? That prosperity is one of the provisions of salvation just like forgiveness and righteousness are? Then he tells us that the way, and stages that we come into the provisions of our salvation is a matter of God’s sovereignty! What? The fact that someone never knows anything more than sins forgiven – this is due to God’s sovereignty? All this is an invented doctrine to justify adding their teaching of curses to the message of the cross. There are just so many things wrong with this teaching at every step, that it is simply not practical nor profitable to investigate every point in detail.
So he has now invented salvation “in stages”. We don’t come into all our inheritance in Christ when we’ve repented and been born again and received God’s Spirit. No. We “progress” into the salvation that God has provided, as we identify the curses from the past that are acting as a barrier to our full salvation! And this comes from the pen of an international bible teacher of many years. It is very sad and it is very wrong. Let me say, that because of half-truths that people hear, or because of ignorance for any reason, or because of unbelief, certainly people will have different experiences, and certainly they might not know all the fullness that God offers in Christ. But this is not because God isn’t offering this full salvation to people, it is because they have not heard the fullness of the Gospel or they have not believed it and obeyed it. The message of the cross is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, and he who has believed has been translated from the power of darkness into the Kingdom of God’s beloved Son. Amen! God’s eternal and sovereign will is that we know all the salvation that is in Christ – today, through believing the message of the cross, by which we are made dead to the law, dead to sin, dead to this world and delivered from the devil’s power.
It is God’s curse.
Let us consider what curse is talked about in Gal. 3. It is clear that it is the curse that God imposed through the law, and this fact is acknowledged by these writers. It is not the curse of the devil or of man. They also acknowledge that because of Calvary, God forgives us all our sin when we repent and believe, and that through Calvary we are delivered from the power of sin, the power of the devil and freed from condemnation. But although God cleanses us from our sin and the judgement it deserved, they teach that when we are converted Calvary does not deal with the judgement due to the unforgiven, unconfessed sins of our ancestors, as we saw above. The judgement due to us for our sin is removed when we believe in Christ. However, the judgement due to our ancestors’ sin carries on even after our conversion and Calvary cannot or does not deal with it until you recognize a problem in your life and decide that it is due to a curse, whereupon you must identify the curse that is both the consequence of your ancestor’s sin, and the cause of your problem. Then you can apply the benefits of the cross. They teach that these curses pursue us beyond our conversion because Jesus death wasn’t sufficient to deal with “ancestral” sins when we repent and turn to the Lord, and because of this nor was it sufficient to deal with the judgement due to those sins – not until you have identified them in your life and confessed them and specifically applied the cross to them! Those ancestral sins and their consequences are only and finally dealt with (and atoned for?) by your ability to discover and identify them in your life! This is what they are saying and what a terrible error and delusion it is! Though it is God’s own curse through the law, and though God sent His Son to die in order to deliver us from the law and its curse, these writers maintain that His Son’s death only allows God to forgive you your sin, but He allows the consequence of your ancestors sin to plague you because it hasn’t been confessed or forgiven. They teach, in effect, that God’s own curse through the law was not lifted by Him at Calvary! In other words, God will forgive us our own sin, but God’s curse is still on you because of the unconfessed sins of your ancestors! But why did Jesus die on the cross? It was to bear the sin of the world and the consequences of those sins. This teaching makes us bear the consequences of our ancestors’ sins. This teaching is contrary to God’s own words in Ezekiel 18:20 and Jeremiah 31:29,30. It is also contrary to the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. God said that He would make a new covenant, and under that new covenant God declares that our sins and iniquities He would remember no more! ( Jer.31:34; Heb.8:12; 10:17 ). But these modern writers change God’s own covenant by saying that, “…oh yes, God does not remember your sins anymore when you repent and turn to Him, but He certainly remembers the sins of your idolatrous and sinful ancestors, and not only that, but He will still plague and curse you because of their sins ( because of Ex.20:5 and Deut.28:45! ) until you realize that any problems you have could be due to their sins, which you will need to confess before true deliverance can come! Of course they do not write in exactly this way but this is the true substance of their teaching. But what they teach wasn’t even true in the OT, as we shall see, for they misinterpret and misapply the whole idea of “the curse of the law”.
As we have said, this is God’s curse which He proclaimed and established through the law. This curse is not some dark mysterious power out of God’s control. God’s curse is nothing other than God’s judgement against sin and disobedience. It is what He instituted according to His own purposes through the law, and it is by His own wisdom, grace, righteousness and sacrifice, through the death of His Son, that He Himself has found a way to deliver us from the curse of the law and its judgement! Praise His Holy name! God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him ( 2 Cor.5:21 )! There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ ( Rom.8:1 )! How can we be condemned or cursed because of the sins of our ancestors? Jesus Christ, the Son of God was made a curse…..for us ( Gal.3:13 )! Jesus Christ was not made a curse for us in vain. He did not suffer all that sin upon Himself that we should continue to bear the judgement of our ancestors’ sins. He overcame it all – the sin, the darkness and the devil’s power; and I am blessed with all the benefits of His death and resurrection when I repent and turn to the Lord, believe the Gospel and receive His Spirit. I am now blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ! It is finished and it is done. And it does not depend on my psychic ability to “discern” ancestral sins from way back in history! How should we now bear curses after we have been justified, cleansed and sanctified, and been made sons of God! “If God be for us, who can be against us?…Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies …Who is he that condemns? It is Christ who died…who intercedes for us.” ( Rom.8:31,33,34 ). God is for us. He has justified us through the blood of His Son and His Son is not condemning us but praying for us, having redeemed us from the curse of the law. In view of all this, how should God now allow or put His curse on us because of the sins of our ancestors?! Do not these modern writers blaspheme with their teachings?
As we have seen, it is true that these writers also acknowledge that these things are true – namely, that the cross of Christ has dealt both with sin and its consequences, which includes curses. They do teach this. But what is at issue here, is that they say that you do not benefit from Jesus’ death with regard to curses when you repent and turn to the Lord at your conversion. It is only as problems occur in your life and you identify them as coming from a curse (how?!) that you can apply the benefits of Jesus’ death. But the problem with this teaching is that it is not taught in the NT, and as we shall see, it does not really represent the teaching of the OT. Secondly, how can you identify if something is due to a curse. And thirdly, as we have seen in the case above, even when someone “identifies” curses in their life, it took them years of praying and she still didn’t get total relief from these “curses”! But why should it take years to get release from a curse after you have repented and prayed the prayers of release from curses that these modern books teach you? Why should you continue to suffer because of ancestral sins even after you have “identified” these curses and renounced them? These curses are the curses of the law which were imposed by God, so how is it that God chooses to leave you with these curses for years after you have repented for them and after Christ died to redeem you from the curse of the law? We have to say this teaching makes no sense. It has no biblical or theological foundation.
That same death on Calvary which grants us the forgiveness of our sins, that makes us free from sin, that frees us from the devil’s power and that makes us free from condemnation, this death – His death – also delivers us from the curse of the law, when we believe the Gospel of our salvation with all our heart! The sins of our ancestors have no power or jurisdiction over us ( 2 Cor.5:17-19; 1Peter1:18 ).
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away and behold all things have become new! And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ…”
How can these modern teachers make past sins and the law with its curse, part of this new creation in Christ? The law has no power or jurisdiction over us – unless we ourselves choose to go back and live under the law, as they were being taught to do by false teachers in the Galatian churches and as these modern writers want us to do! But dear reader, don’t be entangled in the yoke of bondage again. Stand firm in the liberty with which Christ has made you free!
All this is clearly illustrated in the OT. If we look at Joshua chapter 3, we see how God brought them into the Promised land – into their inheritance. The priests were to carry the Ark of God into the midst of the river Jordan. As soon as their feet touched the edge of the river, by God’s power and ordination the waters that flowed from above stood still! (verse16). They stopped and stood up as a wall. And where did these waters flow down from? They flowed down from the city of Adam, which we are told was very far away! And they flowed down to the Salt Sea. (This is also known as the Sea of Arabah, which means Sea of the Plain, which refers to the plain of Jordan. It was the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were cities of the plain of Jordan that God destroyed by fire, brimstone and salt. It is said that the salt minerals of this judgement were washed down into the sea making it so full of salt that nothing could live in it. Today it is also known as the Dead Sea because of the salt.) The waters on the other side of the priests “failed” and were “cut off”, and the river became dry ground (verse17). The priests that carried the Ark then stood in the middle of the river on the dry ground until all the people had passed clean over on dry ground. They didn’t get wet at all with anything that flowed down from (the city of) Adam. Not a drop of water touched them as the Ark of God stopped the tide for them! And Israel had to build a memorial for ever ( Josh.4:7 ) of 12 stones where the priests had stood in the midst of the river, bearing the Ark. This was to remind them of what the Lord had done in cutting off the waters of Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord had spoken, Josh.4:10.
Can you see, dear reader, how that a river of sin flowed from Adam down through the generations, bringing death and judgement on all. Can you see, that Christ, on the cross stopped the whole river of sin that Adam had introduced into the whole world right at the beginning, which lead to death and judgement, (Rom.5:12). Jesus stepped into that terrible river of death for us (Hebrews 2:9,14) and hung there for three terrible hours while He bore our sin clean away – until it was finished. Jesus was “cut off” from God that He should cut off that tide and flow of sin, death and judgement that has been flowing down the generations from the time of Adam. In Adam all die. In Christ shall all be made alive! He cut it all off and brought us clean over at the cross, with Himself (Rom.6:3-5; 2 Cor.5:14,17,18; Eph.1:3; 2:5,6). We have been crucified with Christ, buried with Him, made alive together with Him, raised with Him and are made to sit with Him in heavenly places, where God has brought us into our inheritance and blessed us with all spiritual blessings. Praise His holy name! There’s nothing about curses here!
Let us be clear that Jesus hasn’t just dealt with the individual sins of individual people, but He has dealt with the whole power and law of sin that caused everyone to sin. Jesus has dealt with it all, root and branch. He hasn’t just forgiven us our sins, He has set us free from the law of sin and death which made us captive to sin, Rom.8:2; “for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
But the writer of the most popular books on “curses”, teaches you can be more easily delivered from curses that result from sins in your own life, than from the curses that result from the sins of past, idolatrous generations! He says that the curses that result from your own sins can be represented by the side or lateral roots of a thick, deep, main root, which goes deep into the earth. But this strong, main root, which is much more difficult to get out, represents the generational curse with all its sins, that goes back hundreds of years! He would be right if he agreed with scripture that the root of sin goes back, not just many generations, but right back to Adam and what Adam did. What Adam did, infected the whole human race with the very power or law of sin that made them subject to death. This is the root and the power of sin that had made everyone a slave to sin, Rom.6:17. And it is this root that Jesus dealt with on the cross, which had infected the whole human race since Adam, and had made everyone a sinner, Rom.5:12; 6:6; 8:2. If you read Romans chapter 5 from verse 12, you will see that it was Adam who brought sin, death and judgement upon all mankind. But it is Jesus who has not only forgiven us our sins, but who has freed us from the power of sin and saved us from its judgement! The scriptures teach that people commit sins and that because of the cross we have forgiveness of those sins. But more than this, the scriptures teach that Christ has delivered us from the dominion of sin, which was the thing that made everyone sin! This is the comprehensive and complete salvation that Christ has purchased for us. But it is under attack from these new teachings!
This author has invented a “new category” of sin – not the sins you had committed in your life, for which Christ has obtained free forgiveness; nor the dominion and law of sin and death brought in through the disobedience of Adam, that has enslaved all mankind, including you, before God saved you, and from which Christ has delivered us. No, now there is what they call the “generational curse” and comes from the sins of your ancestors! And we are told, as Christians, we need deliverance from these generational curses. But unlike the forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from the dominion of sin, which we obtain when we turn to the Lord in faith and repentance and are born again, this “deliverance” from ancestral curses can happen at any time in your Christian life – as problems appear! He teaches that this “generational curse”, gets past the cross of Christ at our conversion and pursues us in our lives until we discover its effects in our lives! They say there is no immediate and complete forgiveness for ancestral sins when we turn to the Lord. Those curses still work to plague our lives until they are discovered and confessed! Surely, this is another kind of Gospel! This is darkness. This is bondage. This is superstition.
( In the case of this author’s wife, she got serious trouble in her legs and health some years after having no real trouble at all, and after having been prayed for to be released from a curse in her legs. She writes that when she got trouble the second time, that she then needed release from many curses, including “generational curses”. Now, if these curses are based on God’s law in Deut.28, then it must be God’s curse. And if it is God’s curse, then why was she not troubled with it continuously from the start of her conversion? Or from the start of her life? Why did God not make it clear to her, or to us in our lives, that there is a curse at work? If God has done everything to redeem us from sin and its judgement, then why has He left this matter of curses so in the dark, with things appearing or striking us at any time? Why was there a gap of some years before she had the serious problems? Do curses (or God) choose when to plague people? Do they play games with people? “Now you see me, now you don’t!” Do they just come and go, not according to any law, but just as they please? If it is God’s curse, why was it being applied as an illness at one time and not at another? Surely a curse is a curse, and its affect would be continuous and apparent from the start! And if it is God’s curse, surely He would want us to be free of it, especially since the curse is not because of our sins but our ancestors’ sins; and particularly since Christ, His Son, had died to redeem me from the curse of the law? Why all this mystery and guesswork? This seems like a terrible and cruel game that is being played here. But the author of this game is not God! This has nothing to do with the Gospel and its teaching, and much to do with the culture of witchcraft and its teaching! And of course nothing like this is taught in the Bible at all.)
To read Romans chapters 5 to 8 is to discover that Jesus has dealt with sin at its very root, the very tide and flow of sin has been dealt with at the cross, not just from many generations, but right back to Adam who started it all and introduced it all. Our old man has been crucified with Christ (Rom.6:6) and we are no longer “in Adam” but “in Christ”. That tide and flow of sin, death and judgement exists in Adam, not in Christ, who has cut us off from Adam and that river of sin. Jesus has brought us not just forgiveness of sins but also freedom from sin and its dominion; but this modern teaching has now invented a new category of sin, called generational sin, from which they say we need “deliverance” as Christians. This is a most serious error and deception.
As we saw in the book of Joshua, so in Exodus we read of Pharaoh together with his army pursuing after Israel who were crossing the Red Sea. They had been saved from judgement by putting the blood of a lamb on their doorposts, as God had told them to. Now, Pharaoh represents the devil and his power, but he couldn’t pursue God’s people through the Sea, which God had opened up when Moses lifted up his rod. Israel passed clean over but it was right in the midst of that same sea that Pharaoh and his army were destroyed! Heb.2:14; Acts 26:17,18, Col.1:13; 1 John 3:8. This event shows us how God has delivered His people from the devil’s power and from his bondage and slavery. “We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father!” Rom.8:15. But this teaching is bringing people back into bondage and fear! Pharaoh’s power could not pursue Israel through the sea to capture them and bring them into bondage again. Pharaoh couldn’t even hold onto a hoof, Ex.10:26! On the contrary, the Lord so favoured His people that they were able to spoil the Egyptians by getting their silver and gold, Ex.12:35,36. But by their teachings, these modern teachers want to make us a spoil for the devil’s power and interference and for generational curses, and to rob us of our inheritance in Christ. Having started by saying that these curses are God’s curses through the law, nevertheless these writers then forget this fact, and say that not only do curses have dominion in our lives because of ancestral sins, but the devil also now has “a right” to trouble us in our lives because of those ancestral sins! Is this not blasphemy against the work of Christ on the cross? No such thing is taught or mentioned in the NT, and properly speaking it is not taught in the OT.
Please let me illustrate how far into deception this teaching brings people. In one modern book that promotes this teaching, the writer tells this story: there was a church in the United States that had had several pastors, all of whom had been married. But the wives of four successive pastors had died of an illness that had weakened their bodies, or they had been killed in an accident. This writer and his wife were counselling in this church and discovered that about five pastorships back, the wife of the then pastor had jealousy and rivalry in her heart, and so the writer decided that the four subsequent pastor’s wives had all died because of the sin of that earlier pastor’s wife! And the writer also points out to his readers, that those other four pastor’s wives were quite innocent, but they had nevertheless suffered and died because of the sin of that first pastor’s wife! He concludes by saying that those other four wives had reaped the generational sins of the first woman! Of course he prayed to “cut off” any further effect of that generational curse. They say they did this by repenting and praying for forgiveness!
Such is the depth of deception that this false teaching is bringing people into. It is the teaching of occultism and witchcraft, not of the Gospel.
The scriptures do not teach that “generational sin”, or its “curses”, or the power of the devil can overcome – legally or spiritually – what Jesus did at Calvary. It shows and teaches the opposite. They cannot “get past” the cross of Christ and pursue, plague or have dominion over those who are in Christ and are living in the benefit and blessing of being one with Christ in His death and resurrection! Towards the end of this article we shall look at the reasons why Christians have difficulties in their lives and again we shall see that curses are never even mentioned as the cause of a problem.
It is the curse of the law.
So we have seen that it is God’s curse. Secondly, it is God’s curse through the law. It is the curse of the law. The law was given to Israel through Moses as an essential part of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. The law applied to that covenant. While that covenant lasted, God’s people were to live by it, to live by its standards and to be a holy people. The person who didn’t continue to keep the whole law would be under God’s curse, or we could say, subject to God’s judgement, Deut.27:26. We know that the law could tell us what we needed to do and how we needed to be, but it could not empower us to do or to be these things ( Rom.8:3,4; Heb. 7:18,19; 10:1 ). We could not really live according to God’s righteousness in our own strength. The efforts of our flesh were futile in fulfilling His righteousness because of the law of sin and death in us. To live under the law is to discover that you fall short of the glory of God, far short, and that you cannot fulfil the righteousness of God ( Rom.3:10,23 ). To live under the law is to discover how strong the law of sin and death is in your life. And of course, this is one of the main purposes for which the law was given – to convict men of their sin and to reveal to them that they are guilty before God ( Rom.3:19,20 ). And they needed to know this if they were to be led to true repentance and to be saved from their terrible condition ( Gal.3:22-2). For this sin in us, which the law convicts us of, is the thing that separates us from God and keeps us in spiritual death. God illustrated this to us clearly by not allowing anyone into His presence in the Holy of Holies upon pain of death – except the high priest once a year, where he prefigured Christ. And because of this sin, the judgement of God rests on every soul of man – “…cursed is everyone that doesn’t continue in all the things that are written in the book of the law to do them”. Paul quotes this verse from Deut.27:26 in Gal.3:10. You will notice that in verse 26, the curse that God pronounces is not for a specific sin ( as is the case in the preceding verses ), nor does this verse mention a specific kind of curse or punishment, such as illness or disaster, as in following chapter. No, this is a fundamental truth that God is expressing here, namely, to show that men are sinners and under God’s judgement for sin if they do not keep his righteous commands continually. As James tells us ( James 2:10 ), if someone keeps the whole law, yet transgresses in just one point, then he is guilty of breaking the whole law! God’s standard of righteousness is complete and total and there is none that can live up to it by trying to keep the law! So that verse is true of every one that has ever lived – no one has ever truly fulfilled the righteousness of God in their lives, outside of Christ, whether they were living by the law or not ( Rom.2:12 ). This is the great and fundamental meaning of this verse in Deut.27:26. Not only will it reveal men to be sinners, as the verses in Romans above show, but it also declares God’s judgement on that sin. Now, we have stated that God gave the law to Israel, which is quite true. But in terms of keeping God’s righteousness and being righteous, verse 26 in Deut.27 exposes all men to be sinners and under God’s judgement. As we have said, the law only reveals man’s inability to keep God’s righteousness in his own strength. The “law” cannot gives us righteousness nor make us righteous ( Gal.3:21,22 ). But God, in His great mercy and grace has found a way to justify us and to make us righteous and partakers of His holiness, Gal.3:24; 2Cor.5:21; Heb.12:10. Praise His Name! He has given us His Spirit and made us His sons so that we can now boldly come into His presence ( Gal.4:6 ). But how is this done and fulfilled? It is by a new and living way. It is through Christ because of His death on Calvary, and it is of faith that it might be by grace ( Rom.4:16 ). The law, as a means of making us righteous was ineffective, so God has given His own Son to provide a better way and a better covenant. And it is in this New Covenant that we receive abundance of grace and salvation ( Eph.2:7,8 ). But the Old and the New cannot operate together, side by side ( Rom.7:1-4 ). We cannot follow and believe in Christ, and follow the law of the Old Covenant ( Gal.3:3 ). This is confusion. This is to make Christ of none effect in our lives and to deny the faith ( Gal.2:21; 3:4; 4:11,20; 5:2-4! ). Now through the New Covenant in Christ we are made dead to the law as a means of attaining righteousness. Since the law could only convince us of our sin and strengthen sin in us as we tried to overcome it, Christ has delivered us from the law ( Rom.7:4-6; Gal.2:19 ) that we might receive His Spirit by faith and be set free from the law of sin and death ( Rom.8:2-4; Gal.3:14 ). Nowhere do Christ or the apostles commend the law as a means of receiving forgiveness, being set free from sin and its judgement or attaining righteousness before God. On the contrary, the use of the OT law in this way only results in failure, sin and condemnation ( Gal.5:16-18; Rom.3:19 ). So in Christ, God has done away with the old, and established the new. Paul challenges those who want to be “under the law” ( Gal.4:21 ) and shows them from the events in the OT itself, that God has done away with the law as a means of blessing us and that it can only bring us into bondage. Faith in Christ is the only way and the only means of receiving forgiveness and freedom from sin and its condemnation – no application of the law can do this. Therefore, we are no longer under the law. Christ has redeemed them who were under the law to make them God’s sons ( Gal.3:25; 4:5 ). Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law – that is, we have been redeemed from the judgement of God that was due to us because of our failure to keep God’s righteousness. The law could only expose us as sinners and condemn us as such. Christ has borne our sin on Calvary and delivered us from condemnation. Hallelujah!
This is what the letter to the Galatians teaches us. Indeed, according to Paul’s teaching, who is under the curse of the law? Galatians 3 tells us clearly – it is those who are of the works of the law, Gal.3:10 ! Those who live under the law and want to follow the law and seek righteousness and deliverance through the law – they depart from faith and the power of God’s salvation; they end up in sin and failure; they end up under God’s condemnation, that is, under His curse! Therefore Paul warns them in the strongest terms and urges them not to return to the law nor to put themselves under it. To return to the law is to put oneself under God’s judgement! It only brings you into bondage and condemnation, Gal.4:21-31.
So the only thing that brings God’s curse ( judgement ) on us, is not the sin of our ancestors, but living under the Law of the Old Covenant!
Can you see how these modern writers stand everything on its head and actually teach the opposite of the scriptures? For this is exactly what these modern writers and teachers are doing. They are bringing people back under the tenets and condemnation of the law! Because of verses like Ex.20:5 and Deut.28:45, they teach that the curse of the law still applies to those in Christ today because of ancestral sins. Paul says, “No. The curse of the law only applies to those who want to live by the law instead of through faith in Christ. Those who live by faith in Christ are redeemed from the curse of the law.” No part of the law nor any ancestral sin can afflict them if they are in Christ! But these teachers say, “No. Curses still apply to Christians, even mature ones, and we are delivered from the curse of the law only, and not until we identify the ancestral sins which act as a curse in our lives and which are the cause of our problems, and then apply the cross to them! And this process could last years, if not all of our lifetime!” This teaching is in contention with the Gospel!
This teaching does not deliver us from curses – it would bring a curse on us by opposing the truth and Gospel of God! They directly contradict the clear teaching of Galatians. The very verses that declare us free from the curse of the law, they misuse to support their own ideas – and without knowing it, bring the curse of the law down upon us as a consequence! Furthermore, this teaching wants to turn us into some kind of psychic or occult mediums where we have to develop the ability, “in the spirit”, to discover what sins occurred perhaps hundreds of years ago by one of our ancestors! God’s answer is to believe in the full salvation that He offers us in Christ!
Now, as I have said, these writers freely confess that we are justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, but their whole teaching then goes on to declare that the law and its curse still applies today to Christians after they have truly repented and been converted. Because of what the law says in Ex.20:5, Deut.28:45 and Lev.26:40, they teach that it is only as we discover the effects of ancestral sins in our lives that we can begin the process of deliverance through “spiritual gifting and discernment” and repentance for ancestral sins. In other words, they proclaim Christ plus the law. Paul says this is a denial of the faith and a departure from Christ!
Let me say here, that insofar as the law was a reflection of God’s own righteousness, goodness and holiness, there is an enduring quality about the law. Not in the ceremonial, outward aspect, but in terms of the righteous nature of God, which God wants to fulfil in us and for us to be partakers of – not through the keeping of the law but through faith in Christ, Rom.3:31; 8:3,4; 2Peter1:4. That’s why Paul says in Romans 3:31, through faith in Christ we establish the law. He is not here talking about the outward or ceremonial things of the law, like circumcision (which he warns them against); he is here talking about that righteousness which the law was supposed to bring us into but couldn’t (Gal. 3:21). In these chapters in Romans as well as in the Galatian letter Paul is expounding how we are justified and how the righteousness which is required by the law is fulfilled in us – and it is through faith as we walk and live in the Spirit. It is not through any application of the law!
These modern writers apply the law in a way that has no NT or even OT validity, as we shall see. We have already seen that Paul quotes Deut.27:26 in Gal.3:10. We have also already noted that this is a fundamental verse relating to God’s absolute righteousness and His judgement on even one failure to keep His commandments. There is no reference to a specific sin here as in preceding verses nor is any particular curse or judgement mentioned for this failure as there is in chapter 28. This verse is a reference to the fact that God’s judgement is on any who sin; and it is because of this that Jesus came – to deal with the power of sin in peoples’ lives and its judgement over them. When these modern writers refer to Gal. 3:10, they miss the point of what Paul is teaching. He is quoting from Deut.27:26, but they say this verse includes the curses of Deut.28:45 and this is what they then concentrate on – all the different types of curses in chpt.28, and tell us this is what Paul is referring to in Gal.3:10! They tell us that a Christian can be afflicted with any of these curses in Deut.28 because of the sins of their ancestors! All types of illnesses, calamities, disasters, defeat, failure in business, family and marriage breakdown and insanity can plague and afflict you because of ancestral sins! That’s what they teach from Gal.3:10! My dear reader, is that what the apostle Paul is teaching the Galatian churches? Is he writing about outward plagues and judgements that can come upon Christians because of ancestral sins; how you must be careful to identify these plagues and curses in your life, repent for those ancestral sins and then apply the benefits of the cross of Christ??? Does Paul use Deut.27:26 in this way or to teach these things? No. Not at all! As we have abundantly seen, Galatians chpt.3 as well as the whole letter, is teaching us about faith, justification, righteousness and living in the Spirit and in the liberty of the sons of God, as opposed to the works of the flesh and living under the law, which brings judgement and failure. These are the great fundamental issues of the Gospel. But as we saw in the previous article on repenting for national sins, these modern writers misinterpret the Gospel and do not really understand the New Covenant and what it is all about. They love to concentrate on outward, carnal things. Even so their interpretation of the Bible is carnal and focuses on outward things. But the Kingdom of God is not in food and drink (outward things), but in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom.14:17). Jesus came to bring about a fundamental spiritual change in us whereby we are born into God’s Kingdom, justified, cleansed and set free from sin and its judgement; but these teachers concentrate on the outward things of the law, thinking that this will set us free and bring us into the righteousness of God and into the Spirit of God. Even as the false teachers in the Galatian churches were wrong (Gal.3:1-3), so these modern teachers are sadly and dangerously mistaken.
What a terrible falsehood and deception this is, as though God is allowing or sending these plagues or afflictions on His people today like some kind of “mysterious, unknown curse” from the past, which we have to discover and identify and then repent of and apply the cross to. This false teaching is in serious danger of corrupting the true image and nature of God. They almost represent him in the style of some kind of witchdoctor, who mysteriously allows curses to plague us because of hidden ancestral sins, and this then leads us into fear as to whether any difficulty or problem that may occur in my life might be due to some curse for which atonement must be made. But this is what my African brothers and sisters have been redeemed out of. This is exactly the atmosphere and culture that put them in fear and made their lives a misery before they heard and believed the Gospel of their salvation. This is cruel superstition! And now these modern teachers want to baptize them again into this atmosphere and culture of fear and superstition – all in the name of Christian revelation!
Let us now consider what the curse of the law is, as portrayed in the OT, and we shall see how they misrepresent even the Law of the OT.
The Curse of the Law in the Old Testament
These modern writers try to support their ideas concerning curses mainly from two passages of scripture. Perhaps the most significant of these is Exodus 20:3-5 (and its parallel passages in Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; and Deut.5:9). From this passage they want to tell us that the judgement or consequences of the sin of one parent (which they call a curse) is carried over to succeeding generations (up to four) with the result that those generations are plagued or afflicted with this curse – this includes people today who are converted and living as Christians in Christ! ( Please refer to the first article for further exposition of this passage.) They invent the term “generational curse” from this passage.
Firstly, in this verse from Exodus 20:5, God says that the fathers’ sins are visited upon them that hate Him. So it seems that those in Christ today are counted among those that hate God, according to the interpretation of these modern writers! Since the scripture says that God visits the sins of the fathers on the children of them that hate Him, and these modern writers teach that Christians suffer because of, and are visited by, the parents’ sins – even if they are living holy lives! But such Christians are not those that hate God, so these writers need to explain how they can apply this verse to Christians for whom Christ has also now died!
Secondly, as we have already noted, this passage doesn’t say that God will punish the 3rd or 4th following generations, but that He will visit them with their parent’s sin. Ezekiel 18 supports this meaning by clearly stating that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, but he shall be judged for his own sin; though the implication is also there that the son can be ensnared by the father’s sins and follow in his fathers evil ways – and so the fathers sins are visited upon the children. But if the son turns to the Lord in repentance, then the son will not suffer because of his father’s sins. His repentance clears and justifies him completely before God without him needing to repent for his father’s sins – this was simply not required and indeed it could not be! This is the clear teaching of Ezekiel and it goes hand in hand with the passage in Ex.20. In fact, through Ezekiel, God was rebuking the Israelites for complaining and maintaining that the children suffer because of their parent’s sins. Those Jews who were in the Exile were saying that they were suffering for their fathers’ sins, but God said, “No. Each one will suffer for his own sins!” ( In Isaiah 65:7, God makes it clear that His judgement came upon them because they had sinned, together with their fathers. They had not turned away from their fathers’ sins and so they reaped God’s judgement, which of course is the meaning in Ex.20:5). But these modern writers oppose God even more in these days of New Covenant grace by saying, “Yes, the children do suffer and bear the iniquities of their fathers – even after the children themselves have repented and turned to the Lord!” Thus their teaching is based on two fundamental errors.
It is contrary to both New and Old Testament teaching. In the OT, children who do not turn away from the evil ways of their fathers can be ensnared by and suffer the consequences of their fathers’ sins. However, the whole of the Bible shows and teaches us that upon repentance, a person (or the people of Israel in the OT) is cleared of guilt, is pardoned, is freed from his parent’s sins, is cleansed and is justified by God. In one’s own relationship with God, one is not hindered by, or suffers from, the sin or guilt of parents or ancestors. This is consistently shown in the Bible both in teaching and by examples. The idea that past curses can afflict a person in their walk with God after they have truly repented is not found in the Bible. Or can you find one such example?
Of course in another sense, certain actions have their inevitable consequences. For example, if parents neglect to look after their child or feed him properly, then that child could fall into serious ill-health or the child may fall into bad company. And as we saw, the parents own evil ways can ensnare the child in the same sins. Evil in society also can act as a snare to the people who live in it. Also, if a person divorces and marries again and then is converted to the Lord, that person cannot always undo all the practical consequences of their previous actions. Though these things are so, yet if any person in any of these or other situations turns to the Lord in true repentance, then they are completely cleansed and set free before God who will not hold their past against them nor the past sins of their ancestors – they are justified and completely cleared by God in their relationship to Him. Whatever inevitable practical consequences they still may have to bear from their past actions, in their spiritual walk with God they are not hindered or plagued with curses from the past after they have truly repented. In their walk with God, curses cannot pursue them beyond true repentance. Praise the name of the Lord!
This is the teaching of the Bible and there is no exception in the whole of Scripture to this fundamental truth! True repentance restores or brings a person into a clear relationship with God where their sins are remembered no more and where the past has no power over them while they walk with the Lord.
Perhaps it is worth mentioning what some Bible commentators point out, namely, that in ancient cultures such as Israel, as with certain cultures today, it is not unusual for families to hold together and live together, either in the same dwelling or nearby. So it would not be unusual to have three or even four generations of a family living together or very close to one another. This might explain the significance of God counting up to four generations for the evil of the father. The father might very well be alive and have an influence over all the children right down to their great grandchildren. Consider the case of Korah who opposed the Lord and stood at his tent door with all his family, ( Numbers 16 ). Surely, those that we have known in our own childhood and lifetime are the ones who have influenced us the most, and perhaps this helps us to understand the meaning of Ex.20:5.
The only apparent exceptions to what I have written above has to do with God’s dealing with His chosen people in the OT. Israel were His chosen people and they were represented by one physical nation. As well as consisting of individuals, God also dealt with them as one people who were corporately responsible for their actions in history. This is quite different to the church today, which is comprised of people out of every tribe and nation. Please refer back to the article on Repenting for the Sins of the Nation, where this point is further illustrated, where I refer to the sins of Achan and Saul. We could also mention the rebellion of Korah, or the wanderings of Israel in the desert, where the children had to wait to enter the Promised Land because of the unbelief of their parents. But all these examples have to do with God’s unique dealings and judgements on Israel as a nation, even though some of these sins were committed by individuals. But none of these examples change what we have been saying or what is taught in the whole Bible. Namely, that when someone truly repents then they are completely pardoned and set free so that the past has no hold on them as they walk with the Lord. And this is also clearly illustrated in the history of Israel. We also see that Daniel too was carried away captive because of Israel’s rebellion against the Lord, although he himself was guiltless. But the sin and rebellion of his generation and of previous generations did not in any way hinder, obstruct, damage or afflict his personal relationship with the Lord, or his spiritual walk with God. On the contrary, he is an example of someone who is blessed, righteous and loved of God.
If you want to use the Law in this way, surely what applies to Christians is what we find written in Ex.20:6, where God promises His mercy unto thousands of them that love Him. Here we have a contrast between God visiting the sins of those that hate Him, to up to four generations, and God extending His mercy to a thousand generations of them that love Him! Truly, His mercy rejoices over His judgement. This figure of a thousand indicates that it is His eternal blessing that is on them that love Him – nothing of curses! But these modern teachers put the “curses” that belong to unrepentant people who hate the Lord, onto Christians today! This wasn’t even true in the OT, where those who repented and love the Lord are blessed with God’s eternal mercies, even as these verses in Ex. 20 show us!
But what do the scriptures say? Paul tells us that we have been blessed (not cursed) with all spiritual blessings (not curses) in Christ, Eph.1: 3. If God be for us, who can be against us? And who is he who condemns us now? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s chosen ones? (Rom.8:31-34). Perhaps this modern teaching is in danger of doing this very thing! But God is for us, and it is Christ who has justified us and intercedes for us. How should the Father and the Son bring the judgements due to dead people on us, when we are in Christ?
We need to distinguish the two covenants and we need to know which people the scriptures refer to. Because these modern teachers fail to recognise not only how the law and its curses apply, that is, under what circumstances, but also to whom they apply. These teachers apply the law and its curses to all people – Jew or Gentile, saint or sinner – over all time! Before we go any further, let us now look at this.
God’s Covenant with Israel.
God’s warning in the first commandment in Ex: 20:3-5 is against those that commit idolatry. These modern teachers say that it is therefore particularly because of this sin that curses come upon succeeding generations, whoever these people are – Jew or Gentile, saint or sinner. Not content with this, they go on to teach that almost any sin that a person commits can bring curses on succeeding generations!
But let us look at what God says in verse 5. He says to the Israelites, “…the Lord your God…” God is emphasising the fact that He is their God and they are His people – through His choice of grace and love as He told them in Deut.7:6-8; 10:15, and by the fact that He redeemed them out of Egypt by the blood of a lamb. And this is how God introduces the giving of the Ten Commandments in verse 2. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me…” God is here giving the basis and reason for the commandments that shall follow. He is their God by virtue of His choice of them and by virtue of having saved and redeemed them! He has made them His people; bought them, revealed Himself to them, saved them and blessed them with His presence and with His word. He tells them that they are a special people over all the people of the earth. Because of these things He expects them to be faithful to Him, for He tells them that, “…the Lord your God is a jealous God”. They are His and He is jealous for them, for His own. They are His and therefore they need to behave like His, that His name should be sanctified and glorified and not profaned among the other nations. God is jealous that His own Name should be honoured. He will not allow influences among His people that will turn an individual or the community of Israel away from Him. ( This may help to explain some of the unique judgements that came upon Israel, such as with Korah’s rebellion, where all of his household perished, Deut.16 ). In view of what He had done for them to make them His holy people, which He hadn’t done for any other nation, they would also be subject to His unique corrections and judgements, which wouldn’t apply in the same way to other nations. In other words, both these blessings and the judgements of God were unique to Israel, and God established His Covenant with them and gave them the Law at Sinai which confirmed these blessings and the curses or judgements as part of His Covenant with them. God Himself makes this point clear in Amos 3:1,2 :
“Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, you only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”
We know that God never changes. But some things do change. Very much and quite significantly. There is a difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant there was a difference between Israel and the other nations. But the mistake that these writers make, is to take (or corrupt!) verses from the OT that related specifically to Israel and the unique covenant between God and them, and apply them to all people for all time. Has God then promised all other nations the land of Canaan as an inheritance as He did to Israel? Did he redeem other nations out of a land of bondage, save them by His mighty power and reveal His glory and word to them? Does everyone then need to be circumcised in order to be saved today? If not, why not? Well, for the same reason that we should reject this modern teaching, which cannot distinguish between the Old and New Covenant, between Israel and the nations, between flesh and Spirit and between the world and the church!
To other nations God had not revealed Himself as He did unto Israel, and to whom much is given, much is required. Whereas we have seen that Paul could say that God could wink at the time of ignorance among the nations, from Israel He expected much, much more, insofar that Jesus wept over Jerusalem – He came to His own and His own received Him not. God had greater expectations from them as His own people, and insofar as they refused Him, greater would be their judgement. Even as their privileges were unique and belonged to no other nation (except that others could join themselves to them), so His judgements and punishments would be unique because of the covenant He had established with them.
The principle of genuine ignorance in scripture.
We have seen how God chose and spoke to His people Israel in Ex.20. But how can Gentile nations be expected to worship the Lord “their” God and not turn unto idols, when they were already worshipping idols in their ignorance, and generally didn’t know God or His commandments; they hadn’t had His law revealed unto them nor had they entered into a covenant with Him! How could they break a covenant that they had not been brought into and about which they were ignorant? They were not partakers of the unique blessings, how should they be subject to the unique judgements that were meant for Israel?
The truth of this is brought out by Paul in his letter to the Romans; Rom.3:20; 4:15; 5:13; 7:7. Here we see that sin is not imputed where there is no law. Although he knew the law as a Pharisee, yet it was on this principle of genuine ignorance of God’s will that Paul received mercy and forgiveness so freely. He states this in 1Tim.1:13,
“…who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” He hadn’t been deliberately or consciously rebelling against the Lord. He wasn’t aware that he was opposing the Lord, Acts 9:5, and the revelation to his heart that it actually was so, must have come as a terrible shock to him. And because of this, he freely received God’s mercy and pardon and was not treated as someone who had deliberately violated God’s will.
Jesus also makes this point, in Luke 12:47,48. “…unto whom much is given, of him shall much be required.” Those who know God’s will and don’t do it shall suffer a severer judgement than those who broke God’s command in ignorance.
This truth is also made clear when Paul is preaching to the Gentiles in Acts 14:15-17, where he says about God,
“…who in time past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways…”
In verse 17 he doesn’t say that they are being plagued with God’s curses because of their ancestral idolatry. On the contrary, he makes it clear to them that God has actually blessed them with natural things, giving them rain and food. In Acts 17:30, where he warns them against idolatry, he could have told them about God’s curses coming upon people who practice this and how they needed to repent and be freed of generational curses, but he doesn’t take the opportunity to do this. Instead he says,
“And the times of their ignorance God winked at, but now commands all men to repent.”
Paul does not apply the curses of the Law of Moses to these situations. It is not part of the Gospel message to the nations! Not here, not in the Acts, and not when writing to the saints in his letters. He does not warn them or teach them that the curses of the OT apply to them. How different is NT teaching to these modern errors!
So we see from all these scriptures, that where people don’t have the law or know the law, when they act in genuine ignorance of God’s will, then God does not impute to them those sins that they commit in ignorance of His law, Rom.4:15; 5:13. (Though actual sins need to be atoned for, but this was provided by God through the death of His Son, to everyone who believes.) Nor do they suffer God’s (providential) judgement in the same way as people who knew God’s will and were in a covenantal relationship with Him, as was the case with Israel. Let us remember, that it was Israel’s repeated rejection of God’s special or unique offer to them that resulted in free salvation and the blessings of God coming to the Gentiles, Rom.11:11,12,15. So, Israel’s judgement for rejecting God’s special covenant with them resulted in our blessing. Dear reader, can you see how different the relationship between God and the Gentiles ( who were not in covenant with God ) was, compared to Israel, who were privileged to have received a unique covenant with God?
So it is no surprise when Paul says, “whatsoever things the law says, it says to them who are under the law.”
In other words, the law only applies to those who are under the law – or to those who put themselves under the law, as some of them were doing in the Galatian churches, and as these modern teachers want us to do! We have seen that the Gentile nations were not “under the law” because they were not in covenant with God nor, generally speaking, did they know His law; and we have seen that Christians are not “under the law”, since the law can only condemn us and Jesus died to redeem us from the curse of the law.
[Although the Gentiles were not under the law and therefore didn’t have that knowledge of sin that the law gives (Rom:3:20; 7:7), this did not mean that they were without excuse or without sin. The scriptures teach that all men have sinned and are guilty and in need of salvation, Rom.3:19; 5:12. It also teaches that men are without excuse because they have been created by God to know Him and to recognise His power and Godhead through created things, Rom.1:18-25. Having been created by God and to know God, it is not surprising that the Gentiles have hearts and consciences that witness to them if their actions are right or wrong. So Paul says that when the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, this shows the work of the law written in their hearts, Rom.2:14-16. But here Paul is obviously speaking about our consciences which convict us about basic righteousness and which every person has been born with. He is not talking about the Mosaic law with all its rules and ceremonies. So all men shall be judged according to their works (Rom.2:6-9), whether Jew or Gentile, and all that have sinned shall be judged. And to rescue and save both Jew and Gentile from sin and its condemnation, whether under the law or not, Jesus came! The law is holy, good and just (Rom.7:12), but its application to our lives could not make us holy, justified or good! The only way anyone can fulfil the righteousness required by the law – whether it is the righteousness that your conscience witnesses to, or whether it is the righteousness demanded by the Mosaic Law of the OT – is by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ!]
The other passage that these modern writers use, as we have already seen, and which is a foundation stone to their teaching, is Deut. 28:45. From this passage in the OT they want to tell us that we as Christians can be afflicted and plagued with any of these curses, which are contained in this chapter, because of the sins of our ancestors. They further teach that not only can we be afflicted with the sins of our fathers up to four generations back, but even much, much further back – up to hundreds or even thousands of years back. This is completely their own invention. Even according to the scripture they use in Ex. 20:5, God mentions up to four generations. But they think nothing of corrupting the word of God and apply their own reasonings. They say that if each generation doesn’t repent and many generations continue in idolatry against the Lord, then this number of “four” multiplies itself many times, so that you could be affected by sins that go back even a thousand years! Superstition so takes hold of them, that they ignore God’s word and create their own system of teaching! They also magnify the law against grace, and God’s judgement against His mercy. This is not surprising since, as we have seen, this teaching wants to bring us under the law, and to be brought under the law, is to be brought under judgement. But what does even the Law say? Apart from limiting it to four generations, the next verse, Ex.20:6, tells us that it is His mercy and goodness that extend to thousands of them that love Him! His mercy rejoices over judgement (James 2:13) and His blessings are poured out far more abundantly than His curses! This is the revelation both of the OT and the NT.
Now, if we look at Deut.28 we see that the curses relate to the law and covenant established between God and His people Israel. So these teachers now take this unique law which was based on the unique covenant between God and His unique people Israel and apply it to all nations for all time, and to believers as well as unbelievers. But in Acts chapters 14 and 17, as we have seen, Paul makes no such mention, application or use of the Law and its curses when preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles! On the contrary, as we have already pointed out, Paul declares that God had winked at their time of ignorance and had blessed them (and not judged them according to what their sins deserved at that time) because He knew they were unaware of His Law and nature, unlike Israel, to whom God had revealed Himself by word and various revelations and manifestations.
Ex. 20:5 tells us that an unrepentant, wicked person (those that hate the Lord) will reap or be visited with the sins of their rebellious ancestors up to four generations. But verse 6 tells us that if a person has turned to God and loves Him, then God shows His mercy in overwhelming abundance! There is no hint of being pursued by curses once the person has turned to the Lord with all their heart. For as we have said, mercy rejoices over judgement and indeed, this is the unique revelation that Moses received of the nature of God at Sinai and that is also revealed in the NT, namely, that God is “merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth”, Ex.34:6,7. And it would not be difficult to quote many verses in the NT that declare the same truth and message, such as, John 1:17; Rom.2:4; 15:5; 2 Cor.1:3; Eph.1:6,7; 2:4,7.
Just as horrendously and erroneously these modern writers apply these curses or judgements in Deut.28 to all Christians. But they are those who have repented, turned to the Lord and who love Christ! In Deut.28 these curses apply to unrepentant Israel, that is, when one generation continues in rebellion and refuses to acknowledge their sin and to return to the Lord in repentance. And these judgements or curses accumulate as one generation continues in the sins and rebellion of previous generations. In verses 20, 45 and 62, for example, we are told that these curses will come upon Israel if they do wickedly and if they don’t keep His commandments but turn away from Him. These curses will come upon Israel for their continued disobedience. The curses do not apply when Israel are walking in obedience to God! That is what we find in Deut. chapter 28. We find a parallel passage to Deut.28 in Leviticus 26, which helps to make this even clearer. ( Please see the first article, where this point is fully illustrated.) God’s judgements (curses) are not plagues let loose without purpose as an endless punishment on subsequent generations for the sake of the disobedience of one generation. No! Read Lev.26 and you will see that as one generation of Israel rebelled against the Lord and against His word, God said He would send judgement upon Israel in order that Israel might realize its foolishness and repent and return to the Lord. If they continued to rebel He would send further judgements in order to bring them to their senses and to repentance. His judgements were simply a form of His mercy, in that, since Israel wouldn’t listen to His word, God sent outward judgements to bring them back to Him. And if they did return to Him then they would be pardoned, cleansed and brought back into a clear relationship with God, without the need to seek deliverance from ancestral curses. This point has already been fully made in the first article, where we mentioned the cases of King Hezekiah and Josiah, who when they turned away from continuing in their fathers’ sins and turned to God, did not need to be released from any curse. Repenting from sins deals with the judgement of those sins, whether they began with you or your fathers. No curse remains to hang over you after true repentance. In the covenant that God had established with Israel, curses came upon the unrepentant children or nation, who continued in the evil ways of their fathers. But curses did not pursue or plague them after they had acknowledged their sins and repented!
What is stated in Deut. chapter 28 is very clear; for repeated and continued disobedience against God, God would send specific, severe judgements – but with the aim of bringing Israel back to Himself in repentance.
When Israel sinned, God sent them prophets, rising early, to declare their sins to them and to warn them of judgements that would follow if they didn’t repent; the prophets urged the people therefore to turn to the Lord, who would abundantly pardon them, ( Isaiah 1:18,19 )! Israel was left in no doubt as to what their sins were, and why God was sending such judgements on them. Nor were they left in any doubt about what they had to do to be fully pardoned and to walk again in God’s blessing and favour. They were told all these things by the prophets, continually. How different is this to these modern teachings, that say that curses can mysteriously appear out of the distant past and plague us, after we have repented and turned to the Lord. They further teach us that we have to look back into our past, perhaps hundreds of years, for the cause of the curse, and even then it could take years of “discernment” and prayer before one gets release! What a corruption of God’s word!
The people of Israel truly had it better under the Old Covenant than the condition these modern teachers want to bring us under. At least in the Old Covenant the reasons for judgement or curses were clear. And for the people who truly wanted to repent and turn to the Lord, there was no guesswork involved in knowing why these curses had come upon them. They knew exactly what they had to repent of. Both the Law and the prophets made that very clear! The remedy was also clear and immediate. Upon repentance, they received pardon and were returned to God’s favour as His own precious people! This is our God, who dwells in light and deals righteously with us! Praise His wonderful Name! But what have these modern teachers created?
It would be bad enough if these modern teachers wanted to bring us back under the Old Covenant. But what they want to bring us under is far worse than what even Israel knew! Namely, curses still plaguing you even after you had repented, then having to discover the mysterious sources of such curses, and then maybe having to pray for years to be set free! But dear reader, don’t be entangled in such a yoke of bondage and deception! Christ has secured your liberty!
So again we see that these modern writers make two fundamental and serious errors. Firstly, they do not recognise that curses or judgements are cut off or come to an end upon repentance, that is, when a person repents. Nor do they recognise that the curses of Deut. 28 apply to the covenant that God made with Israel and that these curses are unique to Israel, even as the blessings and promises were unique to them. You cannot start applying them at random to all peoples for all time. And you certainly cannot apply them to Christians who have repented from their hearts and found salvation in Jesus Christ.
Let me finally say, that because God is Creator of all mankind, of course He can speak to peoples and nations and judge them, even as we find in the Old Testament accounts. But He spoke to them and judged them, not according to the Covenant that He had established with Israel, but when iniquity increased to such an extent among a people or nation, then God found it necessary to judge it and bring its influence to an end on earth. We have examples such as, Sodom, Nineveh and Babylon. But there are no examples of these kinds of dealings with nations in the New Testament. Of course the accounts of the book of the Revelation are an exception but these relate to the final judgements of God on the world. Obviously, as God and Lord of all, who had created us to know Him, (Rom.1:18-21), God could both judge and pardon the peoples of this earth according to His own righteousness and mercy and according to the dispensation of the time.
The devil’s curse?
Let us now consider what the Bible has to say about the devil and his work in this matter of curses.
Firstly, it is clear that the Bible doesn’t mention curses in relationship to the devil at all. It does not show him personally putting a curse on anyone. It does not use the expression the “curse of the devil”.
You may like to think of Job as an exception to this, but in the case of Job, we see that what happened to him was not an ancestral curse coming upon him. No. It was God allowing or even using the devil to test His people, to bring forth their faith as gold. God allowed His people to be tested in the wilderness for this purpose, Deut.8:2,3, and Jesus was led by the Spirit of God into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And we read that Jesus went into the wilderness full of the Holy Spirit, and that He came out in the power of the Spirit, Luke 4 : 1,14. The testing had only strengthened Him, and that is what trials are meant to do for us – that we should grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord and in faith. As Job said at the end of his trial, “ I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes have seen you…”. Job grew in the knowledge of the Lord through this difficult trial. Notice also in this story that the devil needs God’s permission before he can touch Job or anything he possesses. In all this it is God who is in control and His purpose is also to bless Job with more than he had at the beginning – not just in outward things but also in his relationship with God. The difficulty for Job, and perhaps for many of us, is that we don’t always know the reasons why we suffer at times. There may be a difficulty or we may suffer, but we don’t know the reason; we don’t know and we can’t see the spiritual background to the events that may have brought suffering. This is the test of faith, which is more precious to God than gold! 1 Peter 1:5-9. To suffer without knowing the reason why and yet to trust and love God in the midst of it all; this is what glorifies God and what will bless us abundantly if we let patience have its perfect work in us, ( James 1:2-4 ). I’m not saying that we never understand or know why certain things happen to us, but we all pass through trials like this where we don’t know why things happen. It’s part of God’s way for us. If Job had known the spiritual background or context for his suffering, namely, that God was for Job but He was allowing the devil to test Job’s integrity and that this had nothing to do with punishment for sin, he certainly may not have suffered unnecessary thoughts concerning God and his own suffering. But no one knew the spiritual background to Job’s suffering, and this is what the test is for us all. Even as it was, not just for Job, but also for his friends, who thought they knew exactly why Job was suffering. His friends came with their theology and told him he was suffering because of his sins! And these modern teachers of “curses” think that they have eyes to see into the spiritual background as to why people are suffering certain things. And if they had been there with Job, no doubt they would have burdened and afflicted Job’s heart and mind with the thought that ancestral curses were causing all his suffering. Looking at Deut. chapter 28, they would have convinced themselves, and they would have tried to convince Job, that here was clear evidence that he was under a curse – his financial ruin! A clear sign of a curse, Deut.28:16,17; also loss of livestock, 28:18,31; and family problems and distress is another clear sign of a curse, 28:18, 32,41; and how can we doubt that he is under a curse when he is suffering illnesses described in chapter 28 of Deuteronomy, verses 22, 35?! Had they been there and had they had the book of Deuteronomy then, as they have it today, no doubt these would have been their arguments. And how terribly wrong they would have been! They would have only added to Job’s suffering by leaving him with the thought that a curse was hanging over him, and perhaps spent years trying to discover through prayer and “words of knowledge”, which ancestral curses were to blame! All in vain. Because this was not the cause of his suffering. They would have tried to bewitch Job with their delusions, Galatians 3:1. And so these modern teachers and false comforters would have also been rebuked by God because they had misrepresented God and so had sinned against Him, just as Job’s friends had done, Job 42:7,8. Likewise, these modern teachers today misrepresent God; they portray Him in a way that is not consistent with His nature nor with the revelation of truth in the Bible. They mislead and bewitch God’s people and bring them into further suffering and bondage.
The case of Job, together with Deut.8:2,3, Rom.5:3-5, James 1:2-4, and 1 Peter 1:5-9, also shows us how important it is not to think automatically that any problem or difficulty is the result of sin, or a curse, or just the devil having his way in our lives. Here we encounter an important truth in the scriptures and concerning God’s dealing with His saints. Difficulties do come and sometimes we do suffer, but God allows such things at times to prove us, to strengthen our faith in Him and that we should grow in grace and the true knowledge of God. What this modern teaching can do is to confuse and darken people’s minds concerning God and the way He deals with us, since it certainly encourages people to see a curse behind every problem or difficulty.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that everything that happens is sent of God. For example, sin is never God’s will and He will never do anything that will cause us to sin, James 1:13. Trials allowed by God are meant to take us deeper into the knowledge of God and of His grace and love; they are not meant to make us fall. If we have thoughts or feelings against other people, like bitterness or unforgiveness, this is because of our own selfishness, carnal behaviour or sin – we are ignoring or disobeying what God has clearly taught us in His word. And if a marriage breaks up, it breaks up, not because it is God’s will, or because God has sent a curse on us because of ancestral sins, but because at least one person in the marriage is behaving in a selfish, carnal or sinful manner. The answer here is repenting of one’s own carnal behaviour, not looking for a curse as the cause of your own selfishness, as this modern teaching would have us believe.
To return to the original subject. I said that the scriptures do not speak of the “curse of the devil”. The devil is not portrayed as cursing anyone. However, what we can see in the Bible, is that there are men who certainly want to influence other people and even put curses on them. And to do this they use occult powers. They get involved in things that are forbidden by God and enter into the realm of spirits which are demonic. They then become agents or servants of the devil. In Acts13:6-12, when Paul arrives at Paphos there is a sorcerer by the name of Elymas who resists Paul’s preaching and who tries to prevent the Deputy of Paphos from believing. Paul rebukes him and calls him, “…you child of the devil”. By this, Paul is indicating that this man is an instrument of the devil in this situation. In Acts 8:9, we read about Simon who “used sorcery and bewitched the people of Samaria”.
So there are examples of men who used occult powers to influence people and make themselves important. And these occult powers make them agents of the devil. But the people they influenced were all unbelievers! However, in the Bible there is one example, and only one example, of someone trying to use occult powers to put a curse on God’s people. This is also a very detailed account, so we should look very carefully at it to see what the Bible has to teach us in this unique account.
Balaam and Numbers chapters 22-24
Here we find a man famous for his use of occult powers, which he uses to curse people. There was no one like him in all the region and he got paid vast sums of money to perform his work. And this is what we find in this story. Balak, king of the Moabites sends men with money to Balaam so that he should curse Israel. Balaam, if he were a true prophet, should have realized what God had done for Israel and that they were His own special people and he should not have got involved in this matter. But it should be clear to us that Balaam was an evil man who loved money. He could make contact with the spiritual world but he was not a spiritual man! He used his powers for his own gain and the scriptures highlight him as a symbol of unrighteousness (Josh.13:22; 2 Peter 2:15; Rev. 2:14). That he is a totally foolish man is indicated by God opening the donkey’s mouth to rebuke Balaam. That he opposes God’s will is indicated by the fact that God sent an angel to kill him. But in the end God uses this man for His own purposes – to show the world and occult powers that God’s people are special. They are His own people who He had redeemed out of the house of bondage by the blood of a lamb. God would glorify His own grace towards Israel and His divine favour and protection over them!
So what happens when Balaam wants to curse Israel? He can’t do it! Not all the occult powers that he could gather together in and through his being could touch God’s people! Not only did he totally fail, but God turned his curse into blessing, Num. 23:16-20. And Balaam declared God’s word in verse 23, which is wonderfully amazing and highly instructive for us!
“ Surely, there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel.”
Isn’t this amazing! And remember that this is what God said about His people, and this is what God did for His people in the Old Covenant – before Christ had died on Calvary! How much more is this true in the New Covenant that has been purchased for us with the blood of Christ! There is only this one example in the whole of the Bible of a man trying to curse God’s people, and God uses it to show us that it didn’t work and He uses it to teach us that, “ there is no enchantment against Jacob and there is no divination against Israel.”
As I said, God had redeemed Israel out of Egypt by the blood of the lamb. He had bought them. They were His. If they did wrong, He would judge them as He saw fit. No one else had the right to steal from God the judgement of His own people! And this is infinitely more true for those who have now been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. The curse of no man or woman, however much demonic power they have, can touch or harm you if you are God’s – if you are in Christ. They have no power or authority over you.
( God does allow the devil to tempt us. This is taught throughout scriptures, such as with Adam and Eve in the garden or with Jesus in the wilderness. But God allows this not that we should sin, but on the contrary, that we should grow stronger in faith and in our spiritual walk with the Lord. Such trials are meant for our growth and maturing in the Lord, and that is why James says that we should count it all joy when we fall into different kinds of trial and he also makes it clear that God never tempts or wants us to sin, James1:2-4, 13.)
Later, Balaam advised Balak to let their women mix with the Israelites in order to turn them away from Lord to idolatry, Num. 25:1-3; 31:16. But this was not a curse. It was a strategy to turn Israel away from God by tempting them in the flesh. But notice that even then it was God Himself that judged His people and decided what that judgement should be. And He judged them for what they had chosen to do – no one had forced them to sin. Balaam didn’t get in with a curse after this idolatry of Israel’s either! Soon after this he was killed by the Israelites.
So this confirms what I have been saying in this article. Namely, that neither the devil nor any man can lay a curse on those that are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and born of God’s Spirit. This is clearly shown and taught in the scriptures.
Let us also notice that even at this time, it was not as though Israel was always behaving in a holy manner pleasing to God. In Num.21 they had complained against God again and He sent fiery snakes among them, and in Num. 25 they sinned again, as we have seen. So even in the middle of stumbling and falling, God still protects His people from this curse, because although disobedient at times, they are still His (disobedient) people, and therefore He will be the one to judge them – and if the devil has a role in this, it is only because God allows him to, for God’s own purposes. Obviously, I am not saying you will be all right if you sin! And I’m certainly not saying that we will be safe from harm if we choose to get involved in witchcraft or occult things. We shall reap what we sow. God’s people are to have nothing to do with these things. The example above is of a people who are still following God, even though they fail at times. But what we see here, as in the whole of the Bible, is that God is the judge of His people and it is He who determines how they will be judged.
So here we have a unique passage concerning this very matter of curses and how occult powers cannot touch or harm God’s people. Of course this doesn’t fit in too well with the modern teaching on curses. So what do these modern teachers say about this passage? Well, the most popular writer on “curses” says something like this:
“You see, even God took Balaam’s power to curse seriously, because He had to supernaturally intervene to stop him. So we as Christians must take other people’s power to curse us seriously! If we don’t watch out, we could be cursed!”
That’s what he says. So what message or truth does this writer get out of this passage? Well, the opposite to what the passage is actually teaching or showing us. God didn’t warn Israel that Balaam was coming or that they had to be careful of the danger of the curses of wicked men. Nowhere in the OT or the NT are God’s people taught by God that the curse of wicked men, or of any men, could harm them. God told them that He would judge them if they disobeyed Him. Israel wasn’t even aware that Balaam was trying to curse them – so why should we be made afraid of the curses of men?! The great truth that these writers again ignore, is that God has already supernaturally intervened on our behalf at Calvary! Praise His Name! No curse of wicked men, whether witchdoctors or those involved in the occult in any way, can harm God’s people. This was true in the OT and it is far truer in the NT! But the above writer says that this passage shows us that evil men can put a curse on us if were not careful!!! But Jesus says that if someone curses you, you bless them! Jesus didn’t ascribe any power to the curses of men. He didn’t warn us concerning the curses of men, that they could harm us! Can you see how these teachings are not according to the word of God? So here we have a passage that is a tremendous encouragement concerning our salvation as God’s people and of His care and protection of us, but the above writer uses it to encourage doubt, fear and utter superstition in the hearts of the Lord’s people!
Of course, we do have another example of someone cursing one of the Lord’s people. Goliath cursed David by his gods, but again without any success, 1 Samuel 17:43. Within a few moments, Goliath himself was slain by David!
Here in England, there are churches that are having particular problems. And because some of these churches are near where witches meet, some Christians wonder if the churches’ problems are caused by those witches or people involved in the occult putting curses on the church! This is a delusion. The problems in a church are due to the carnal behaviour of the Christians in them. If you are God’s, you cannot put the blame for your carnal behaviour on the devil or on a curse of some evil persons! We can only tempt God with such delusions. Nothing like this is shown or taught in the Bible.
Nowhere in their writings, do the apostles suggest that any church problems are, or even might be, due to some curse! They always pinpoint the carnal behaviour of Christians themselves as the cause of any problem, for example, 1 Cor.3:3. And if the devil has an opportunity to deceive or influence them, it is only because Christians themselves give him the opportunity through their carnal behaviour. 2 Cor.11:3 illustrates this point clearly. Paul doesn’t tell the Corinthians that the devil is attacking their close walk with the Lord and that they need to rebuke his influence. No. He is telling them that it is because of their own carnal behaviour – they judge things outwardly, 2 Cor.10:7 – that they are giving the devil the opportunity to deceive them, 2 Cor.11:4,13-15,19,20! They loved to see power and signs and loved men who exalted themselves, to such an extent that some of them didn’t want to hear Paul’s preaching – he was too gentle and meek, 2 Cor.10:1. And some of them didn’t even recognise him as an apostle, 2 Cor.10:10; 11:5-7,16,23; 12:11,12. Because of this carnal attitude, they were ready to receive men who were deceivers and false teachers. He is not instructing them to bind and rebuke the devil in this situation; he is instructing their hearts with the truth so that they should turn away from their carnal behaviour and thinking. Many different modern teachings today want to make us the “innocent victim” of our past or of some other power. They have borrowed this idea from the world, because it is these very ideas that have had such an influence in western society today. Some Christians are just taking these ideas and corrupting the Gospel with them. On the cross, Jesus has dealt with our past and its influence, and with all the power of the devil, and we have already looked at the relevant passages that show us this. He has done everything for our salvation so that we cannot blame anyone else for our own carnal behaviour. Generally speaking, if we are God’s child, then the answer is repentance of our own selfishness and sin. If other influences have got into our lives because of our own sin and disobedience, then the root cause of everything is still our own selfishness and sin, and that is what we need to repent of. Then those other influences will also be dealt with. Again, here I am only talking about those who are already the Lord’s people. Unbelievers who turn to the Lord in repentance may certainly need deliverance from the devil’s power and bondage, and there is authority in the name of Jesus to set a person free and to keep him free!
This does not mean it is not a very serious matter if we sin. It is always a serious matter. But what we see here is that although Israel had been disobedient, God would not acknowledge Balaam’s right to curse them. God alone can decide the judgement of His people and He does this in the context of the covenant that had been entered into. Again let me say that this was true under the Old Covenant. How much more is it true in the New Covenant!
I make this point because these modern writers want to tell us that as soon as you are disobedient or sin as a Christian, the devil can put a curse on you. Now, it is clear that we don’t want to give anyone any reason not to obey God or to make them think it is not so serious if we sin. As I said, it is always serious and has serious consequences. We are to be holy people who pursue righteousness, meekness and love, and the NT clearly teaches that we will reap what we sow. But instead of quoting and applying the warnings and exhortations that are written in the NT, and some of which are very serious indeed, (Rom.8:13; 1 Cor.4:5; 2 Cor.5:10,11; Gal.6:7,8; 1Tim.6:9,10; 2 Tim.4:1; Heb.2:3; 10:26-31), these teachers ignore these verses and abandon the language and teaching of the NT. Instead, they want to fill our minds with the idea that we could be cursed at any moment if we don’t watch out! The result is that they fill peoples’ hearts with superstitious attitudes and fearful thoughts. Again, this kind of thinking has more to do with the culture of village witchcraft than with healthy, serious biblical exhortations and warnings.
Do Paul or Peter or John warn us like this? “Beloved if you sin then the devil can put a curse on you or perhaps you will reap one of the curses of Deut.” Is that their teaching or language? We have already mentioned the serious warnings contained in the NT, but the NT is also full of assurance and comfort. John says, “Beloved I write these things that you don’t sin, but if anyone sins we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” The NT emphasises and proclaims the abundant sufficiency of Christ’s salvation and redemption, including continued forgiveness of sins when we confess them. These teachers magnify curses and the law above the provision of Christ.
If you read the NT, you will see that the New Covenant established by God through Jesus Christ does not include or continue the OT application of curses. Please read it for yourself. Neither Jesus nor the apostles use this kind of language anywhere; they do not issue warnings of curses at all! No mention is made of any system of curses for sins. If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father. If anyone curses you, Jesus says, then you bless them!
Obviously, God in His righteousness and wisdom can intervene with temporal judgements into situations, particularly when gross sin or direct rebellion against Him occurs and especially when this has an effect or influence on others (Acts5:1-11; 1 Cor.11:30; Rev.2:20-23). But these are His sovereign judgements in specific situations and not the result of some stated or revealed system of curses in the NT or OT.
The death of Christ has changed things, including how God deals with us here on earth. In the NT there is more of an emphasis on God’s longsuffering and patience in these days of grace, which is to lead men to repentance, rather than intervening with judgements. Men are given time and are expected to respond to God’s declaration of love and salvation at Calvary (Rom.2:4; 2 Peter3:9; James5:6). “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” But it is also abundantly clear that for all the sin and disobedience that men perpetrate and don’t repent of, their judgement does not sleep, (2 Peter 2:3). Whether God intervenes with temporal judgements in our lives or not, we will all stand before the judgement seat of Christ on that day and be judged according to what we have done. This is the emphasis in the NT. It warns us of the consequences of sinful behaviour and of the eventual, unavoidable judgement of such behaviour on the day of judgement. Whether God intervenes providentially in our lives with certain judgements before that day, is a matter of His wisdom, righteousness and mercy. But sin will have its own damaging consequences in our lives if we choose to sin and not repent.
Perhaps one of the remarkable things to us, humanly speaking, is how God seems often not to intervene with judgements when people wilfully continue in sin and harm others. In James there is an instructive verse (James 5:6) where we are told how God doesn’t (always) resist evil-doers. These unrighteous people seem to get away with their evil deeds and God doesn’t seem to be stopping them, let alone punishing them. Indeed, this is something that has perplexed other people in the Bible, such as King David. Why is it that God doesn’t intervene and bring judgement on unrighteous people (and even on some Christians) who continually commit evil and exploit or abuse others, or are a stumbling-block to others? This is the kind of question David was asking himself in Psalm 73:1-17. David wrestles with this problem until he goes into God’s sanctuary where the Lord makes him understand their end, verse 17. In other words, he sees that they have no security and shall not escape judgement.
And I believe this is very much the tenor or position of the NT, where, especially now because of Calvary, God patiently waits for people to respond to what He has done for them at the Cross and gives them fullness of opportunity to repent (Rom.2:4; 2 Peter3:9; James5:6). God also acts consistent with what He declared in 2 Cor.5:19, namely, “ …God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their sins unto them.”
Rom.5:6-10 and Acts 17:30,31, tell us much the same thing. At this time He is extending His grace and mercy and restraining His judgements. This is the main emphasis of the NT; God dying for sinners while they were still His enemies, not imputing their sins unto them, but bidding them repent – for everyone will face His day of judgement.
I have only touched upon these things and more could be said and explained. But I trust that this has been sufficient to show, not only how wrong and unbiblical these modern teachings are, but how they wrongly concentrate and exalt only one thing, namely the threat of curses in our lives, and ignore the truth and council that is revealed in the Bible.
A brief summary
I mentioned in my first article that we should not receive any teaching unless we can find it taught in the scriptures – even if the person who teaches it is internationally well-known and has written many books or even if it is an angel from heaven. We cannot add anything to the scriptures nor to the Gospel and neither should we receive such additions, no matter who teaches or brings it. The writer of the book about blessings and curses mentioned in this article is an illustration of this. He has an international ministry. He, along with other American leaders developed a doctrine concerning church government and discipline. They did this in response to the problems which were caused by individuals in churches. Some others who read about this new doctrine knew it had no basis in the NT. They knew it was an error which could only cause damage and bondage in the Body of Christ. But what could they do? These American men were well-known and respected by many around the world. Church leaders and pastors received the teaching without any discrimination and again it was so, that even the Lord’s people will receive almost anything if it is presented by well-known preachers or authors, whether it is found in the Bible or not. They simply follow on without searching the scriptures to see if these things are true. And so this teaching spread around the world and caused heart-ache, bondage, abuse of power, divisions and untold damage to both individuals and to churches. This is not just my opinion. The author of the book on blessings and curses in the end recognized these things and publicly repented of this doctrine, which he himself acknowledged was a human invention. What am I saying? That because he made one serious mistake, therefore this new teaching of his must also be error? No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying this to prove the point that we cannot rely on a man, any man, or even an angel. What we choose to believe must be found in the Bible.
However, I do believe he has fallen into error again. His new teaching is the result of his lack of success in dealing with problems, not in churches, but in people. He states this openly in his book. His new teaching on curses is not the result of carefully studying the Bible first and then finding this teaching there, but of a lack of success in counselling people followed by “leadings”, “promptings” and “revelations” of the Spirit after which he did go to the scriptures, but only to prove what he already believed. The result is another human invention, another human addition to the Gospel, and it is causing confusion, bondage, superstitious unbelief and havoc in people’s lives all around the world – despite all the testimonies in his book. Nearly every book which is bringing some new teaching ( mainly from the USA ) is full of testimonies from people which would seem to validate the new doctrine. I shall say more about this shortly.
Let me state clearly here what the issue is. When people hear the Gospel and turn to the Lord, of course it may well be that they need deliverance from evil spirits if they have been in bondage to sinful habits or involved in anything of an occult nature, or oaths and curses. This is part of our salvation in Christ, namely, deliverance from all the power of the devil, and the Gospels and Acts makes it very clear that evil spirits do exist, and that they keep people in darkness and bondage and that it is part of the ministry of the Church to cast out such spirits and to deliver people from the bondage of Satan and all his power. None of this is at issue for me. But the ground for such deliverance is repentance and faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ. One must acknowledge and confess one’s sin and one’s need of salvation and turn with one’s whole heart to the Lord. What is at issue is that they apply their teachings to those who have already been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and have been born again. They counsel believers that their problems are, or could be due to curses from the past, although no such counsel is found in the apostles’ writings to believers.
Now, nearly every modern book that promotes some new teaching has many examples of people who seemed to have been helped by the application of the new teaching. And the author uses these examples to try and show that his teaching works and that it is biblical. But this is where we come up against a difficulty. Namely, that particularly in some cultures, it seems it is easy to be counted as a Christian or to count oneself a Christian, whereas the person has never really been convicted of sin, and their lifestyle is such that it is questionable whether they understand what it means to be a Christian. They are involved in habits, activities and attitudes that should have no place in a Christian’s life and more significantly, they don’t seem to see that there is anything particularly wrong in what they are doing. And if this is their background, it is no wonder that they need some very basic help and counsel, and this would mainly involve helping the person understand what the Gospel is, as well as the nature of sin and the need for repentance. And it is only on the basis of true repentance from sin that any deliverance and freedom can come. So, if there has been a lack of true repentance in a person’s life, of course there will be all sorts of difficulties and problems, including spiritual bondage. However, even in such cases as these, the real problem is not the past with all its influences, but a lack of understanding of the Gospel and a lack of true repentance – for these latter things clear the way for deliverance from all spiritual bondage. And even these authors admit this, namely, the need to lead someone to repentance first, before there can be any liberation. So the kind of counsel we would give to people with the above kind of background would in certain basic ways differ from the council we would give to those that have been converted and understand these things, though the truths concerning faith and repentance are always foundational when dealing with any person’s problems.
What I am saying here is that we can only judge a teaching by the scriptures, not by the accounts of some people’s experiences which we read in a book. We don’t know these people, their background or their true heart condition. People’s experiences may confirm a teaching as true, but they can never by themselves prove a teaching to be true and biblical. Only the Bible can do this!
So what we are considering is not ministry to the unconverted, nor ministry to those who have not really understood the Gospel or who, for whatever reason, have not understood the nature and reality of sin and the need repentance. What am I saying then? That if someone has problems he isn’t really converted or that true Christians can’t get themselves into serious problems? No! Not at all! For it is abundantly clear both from the teaching and example of scripture that the people of God, his saints, can get themselves into the most terrible mess.
That is what we are considering in this article, namely, the counsel and ministry to be given to the saints when they behave wrongly, have wrong attitudes, sin or find themselves in some kind of bondage. We are considering the nature of the teaching and exhortation the apostles give in their letters to saints.
What then are the basic scriptures that these modern writers use to try and prove their idea that past sins, our own or those of our ancestors – going back even thousands of years – can act as curses in the lives of Christians?
From the New testament, they are: James 3:9,10 and Revelation 22:3. (As we have seen, they do not normally quote the words of Jesus, Lk.6:28.)
From the Old testament they use: Exodus 20:3-5, Dt. 28:45 and Proverbs 26:2.
These are the main scriptures they use which make a direct reference to curses. The scriptures in Galatians chapter 3 and Numbers 23 actually prove the opposite of their teachings!
So these verses are the foundation stones on which they build their system of ideas. Can anyone safely build on such a foundation? Would it not be better building on sand? But let us rather build on the foundation of Christ and Him crucified!
We now come onto another vital issue where these modern teachings attack the truth of the Gospel.
Words as Curses ?
According to this modern teaching nearly everything is turned into a possible curse on your life. Any negative thought or any negative or critical word spoken can act as a curse on your life. A harsh word from a husband to a wife; a critical word from a father to a child; a negative thought about yourself – all these can constitute a curse from which a person will need deliverance. This is what they teach. And indeed, nobody would deny the effect that words can have, nor the pain and damage that they can inflict on people. But can we so easily classify the angry or negative utterances that people make, as curses? This is a vital question, since the way in which we diagnose a problem will also determine the remedy we apply.
So where does the NT support this teaching? Where does the NT reveal to us, or teach us, or even suggest that words uttered in the past by others or by ourselves, can act as a curse on us who have believed the Gospel and are now God’s children? Where does the NT tell us that although we are walking in the light, nevertheless the critical words of others, including Christians, can act as a curse on our lives? Where does the NT indicate that any of our present problems as Christians is due to words uttered in the past, acting as a curse now? Where does the NT tell us how to get free of such curses?
The answer to all of these questions is, “Nowhere!” This idea is neither mentioned nor recognised in the NT.
If Christians have problems in their lives, the NT never puts this down to any kind of curse from any source! The NT sees things differently to these modern teachers and writers. When the apostles write to the churches, they have to deal with all sorts of problems – just like the ones these modern writers are trying to deal with – but they see the cause of these problems as lying somewhere else, never in curses of any kind! There is no mention that words uttered in the past by others, or by ourselves, can bring a curse upon us as the Lord’s people. As Christians, if we utter negative or critical things, then indeed the Bible has things to say about this by way of instruction, correction and warning. But it sees such problems as resulting from our unbelief, selfishness or carnal behaviour. The NT makes it clear that what we reap, we sow, and that of course things go wrong when our own heart state is wrong, but the NT does not turn everything into some kind of curse based on some OT text or other! Our own selfish behaviour, hardness of heart or unbelief are sins which of course will cause problems in our spiritual life, and the answer is repentance towards God and faith in His word. Now although these modern writers acknowledge that repentance is the way to cleansing and freedom, they say this only after having filled people’s minds with unscriptural and superstitious ideas concerning curses, which obscure the real nature of our problem and the remedy that the cross represents. In fact the author of the most popular book on curses, together with his wife, quote certain scriptures daily to keep themselves free from the effect of curses. But this does not represent walking by faith. This is not glorifying God. It grieves me to say that this actually represents a mind or thinking that is obsessed with the idea or fear of curses. This superstitious attitude results in the author and his wife using the scriptures as some sort of superstitious charm to keep curses away. Of course we are to meditate on scripture for many reasons, including the building up of our faith. But to quote certain scriptures daily just for the sake of keeping yourself free of “curses” is unbelief in Christ’s work at Calvary and in God’s promised loving protection of us. It simply focuses the mind on the devil’s work and glorifies him. It is a grief to think that anyone should feel the necessity of doing such a thing. However much of a blessing the above author and his wife may have been and however dear to many of us, I’m writing in this way only because of the grave seriousness of this error and for the sake of needed clarity.
Neither Jesus nor the apostles use this language of curses. They do not keep warning us about the various kinds of curses that can afflict us. The only exception to this is where Paul warns the Galatians that it is those who are under the works of the law that are under God’s curse ( Gal.3:10 ) – or we could say under God’s judgement. It is those who leave the truth of the Gospel and return to living under OT laws that bring themselves under God’s judgement. And the thing today that would tempt God’s people to do this, is the very teaching of these modern writers! They are forever quoting the OT scriptures to bring us under the “curse” of their teaching, to bring us under their gospel, which is not preached or revealed in the NT.
Now, concerning words that people speak against us, Jesus Himself brings up this subject of what to do when people curse you. And what is His teaching on the matter? Well, He says that if someone curses you, then you are to bless them, ( Mtt. 5:44 ). That’s all He says about it. Please notice what Jesus is saying here. He is instructing us in the way of Life. He is also giving us sufficient instruction to do this! Now Jesus had opportunity here to tell us about the dangers of curses and their effects. He could have told us about the damage they can cause and how we need to be freed from them. But He doesn’t! He shows no regard for this at all! He doesn’t tell us that those who follow His teaching can be harmed by words – whether from the present or the past! It doesn’t come into His teaching at all. No wonder these modern writers don’t like to quote Jesus! He is concerned that we love and obey Him and manifest His nature on earth. This is true liberty. Nothing can harm us if we live like this.
And those who may have previously been under the influence of a real curse, from their involvement with the occult or witchcraft, they are able to be delivered from these things when they repent and believe the Gospel. The cross of Christ deals with all these things. Nothing has power, dominion or authority over us once we have repented, believed this Gospel and been born again! The death of Christ on the cross has gone to the very heart of the problem and dealt with it all – sin and its dominion over us, guilt and condemnation, and the power of darkness in our lives, whether occult powers or curses or whatever. This is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God! The power of all of those things have been cancelled, annulled or destroyed at Calvary. ( I’m not saying that sin and the devil have been destroyed absolutely, or out of this earth. Of course they still exist and will operate wherever a person gives them opportunity, but in Christ we have been cleansed and are delivered from their power.) Christ has effectively dealt with it all, He and the Father paying a great price to do so. God now bids men and women repent and believe the Gospel!
The main problem that remains is the condition or disposition of the human heart. God Himself has dealt with everything else that stood in the way, and now it is up to our hearts to respond to God’s truth, and our hearts cannot be changed without true repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But when a person turns to the Lord in repentance and faith and is born again, then our salvation and redemption in Christ delivers us from all those evil powers and influences that bound the heart. The problem with these modern teachings is that they see the main problem as coming from outside of ourselves – it’s the devil, or it’s a curse, or its how my father treated me; these are the things that are hindering my Christian life. That’s the kind of thinking that these teachings encourage. And of course these things can and do have a devastating effect on lives, but God has provided a remedy that is deep and spiritual and because of Calvary these other things are not the main problem now. The Bible sees our main problem as within our own hearts. The main problem now is, whether a man or woman will repent of the old way of living and believe and obey the Gospel!
Simon the Sorcerer
The case of Simon the sorcerer in Acts chapter 8 shows us this truth clearly. Simon obviously still wanted power and prestige, not now through his occult abilities, but through being able to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit. He offers Peter money if he can bestow this power on him. But what does the apostle Peter say to him? He doesn’t tell him of any need to be freed from past occult forces or curses that were binding him and blinding him. No! He tells him that his heart was not right! It was not the devil and his power, or curses that were hindering Simon knowing God and His fullness. No! It was the condition of his own heart! That is what was hindering him knowing God’s salvation! He hadn’t truly repented at all! He was still proud and wanted glory for himself. He obviously hadn’t understood his own need or the nature of God’s grace. Peter tells him that he needs to repent – not that he needs deliverance from devils or curses. Simon could not partake of the benefits of salvation and he was still in bitterness and the bond of iniquity because he hadn’t truly repented; his heart was still hard – not because the devil was hindering him or because of a curse, Acts 8:18-24. This is the revelation and teaching of the NT. These modern teachings want to make other things the main problem in our spiritual walk. They are not the main problem, terrible though they can be. Christ has dealt with them already on the cross, and waits for men and women to humble themselves, repent and believe the Gospel and then they shall know the liberty that He has purchased for them.
This truth is further underlined by the account in Mark 5:1-20. Here we meet a man who couldn’t be more demon possessed, so to speak. In verse 6 we read that he ran to Jesus and worshipped Him. If we read the accounts carefully in the Gospels, the man sees Jesus afar off and decides to run to Him and worship Him. It wasn’t the demons who drove him to Jesus! The demons cried out after Jesus had commanded them to leave the man. This man wasn’t delivered against his will! The demons didn’t drag him to Jesus so that they could be expelled! No. This man was in terrible spiritual bondage. He recognised this and as soon as he saw Jesus he ran to Him and worshipped Him. Like many others in the Gospels, this man recognised Jesus as Saviour and wanted Him to save him from this terrible bondage, and Jesus did so and the man was restored wonderfully to his right mind. So we can see from this story that if a person truly humbles themselves before God, recognises their need and seeks salvation from the Lord, then nothing can stop them – no devil, no curse, no bondage – Jesus delivers us from all evil when we repent and believe Him and are made God’s children.
In neither of the above stories, are demons or curses viewed as the main problem or the main obstacle to coming to the Lord and finding salvation in Him. All these things are under the Lord’s authority and power. In both accounts, coming into and enjoying the benefits of the Lord’s salvation depend on the condition and disposition of person’s heart! That is the central truth of all scripture that these modern teachings obscure and in effect oppose. The main question is whether the heart is right before God in repentance and faith. This is true both in the NT and the OT. If we are God’s, then the whole Bible consistently shows that God’s people cannot be harmed by curses pronounced by people with evil intent. The angry words or criticisms of others cannot bring you into bondage or cause physical illness. It is amazing that such things are being preached today. I heard one international speaker say that she believed that a severe illness that she had suffered from was brought on by the criticisms of other Christians. She had been told by someone she called a prophet of God that she had been a “victim of witchcraft”. This “prophet” had told her that it was the criticisms of other Christians that had acted as a witchcraft curse on her and it was this that was responsible for her painful illness! And she believed him and was now communicating these errors to her hearers! This is dangerous and superstitious delusion. These teachers, preachers and prophets are turning all problems into matters of witchcraft and curses. There is no such teaching in the whole of the Bible! Those who have evil done to them but abide in Christ cannot be harmed by the evil words of others! Neither Joseph, Moses, David nor the apostle Paul suffered spiritually or with some illness because of the criticisms of others – whoever they might have been! Why do these modern teachers turn the truth on its head?!
As God’s people, we are, of course, not to curse others, since this would be quite inconsistent with the nature and life of Christ in us, Rom.12:14; James 3:10. And of course, saying negative and critical things can cause harm and damage, as James clearly tells us in this third chapter. Now although the scriptures clearly teach that words can have a harmful effect, and we know this very well from life as well, nevertheless, neither of these passages supports the teaching that we are under a curse because of what people have said in the past. Nor do they intimate that deliverance is needed from such a curse. These passages are simply telling us that our language should honour the name and nature of the God we believe in, and that we should avoid any kind of talk that might cause harm or that does not minister grace to the hearer, Eph.4:29. ( In the world, among unbelievers and those who involve themselves in the forbidden things of the occult and witchcraft, of course the devil uses such things to destroy people’s lives. But God’s people are not harmed by such things. Obviously, if Christians themselves deliberately and repeatedly go into sin, then they shall reap what they sow and who can give assurances for Christians who turn again to evil ways? And therefore the scripture gives us strong warnings not to be involved, or to turn back to evil ways.)
The author of the most popular book on curses, picks up the point in verse15 of James chapter 3, where we are told that the wisdom ( or words ) that comes from bitter envying and strife, is earthly, natural and devilish. Now although the author admits that these words are not usually called curses, he makes the point that evil talk can be devilish and therefore can act as a curse and can have the same effect on people as a curse. This is his reasoning and his language. But let us be honest and accurate about this. Now, although the scripture tells us we mustn’t curse anyone, it does not call any of our selfish and evil remarks “curses” – it does not do this anywhere; it never calls them curses. Certainly not in the NT and this is also basically true in the OT. Nor are we told anywhere that our critical talk can act as a curse on anyone. This is the invention of the author and the language he uses is here confusing and unbiblical. What does he now mean by “curse”? He admits that the Bible does not call these words curses – so why does he? Basically, it is to introduce a teaching of superstition. James clearly tells us that the wisdom that comes from bitter envying and strife ( verse14 ), is earthly, natural or soulish and devilish. In other words, if the state of your heart is quite wrong – involved in envy and strife – then the wisdom of your words cannot come from above, but is earthly, natural or devilish. This is a comment on the state of the heart of the speaker! James nowhere goes on to say that because someone’s heart-state is wicked, their words therefore have power to curse you! This is the teaching of witchcraft, not of James! But this is what the above author teaches.
Now I could agree, loosely speaking, that critical talk can act as a curse, in the sense that it can bring much damage or create the opportunity for the devil to cause much damage. But the damage is caused, because critical talk can provoke others into wrong reactions or give occasion for others to react wrongly. Critical talk might result in others becoming critical themselves, taking sides in an issue, becoming hard and unforgiving, or feeling unwanted and unloved – it can become a stumbling block to others. And the scriptures clearly teach that it is the one who puts a stumbling block in the way of others that carries the responsibility for all the trouble that follows, Rom.14:13; 1 Cor.8:9-12 and James chapter 3. Now perhaps many of us have all seen this kind of thing in church life. And I have seen how some people have become badly affected or have reacted badly themselves to the unedifying talk of others. On the other hand, I have also seen that others, who although grieved by talk that causes division and damage, kept themselves in the grace and love of God and were not personally harmed at all by the critical talk. Someone else’s talk cannot force you to do evil nor can it have an evil effect on you if you follow the teaching of Christ. This is the truth that is under attack by these modern teachings.
The author mentioned above, uses the word “curse” differently. He ascribes to the critical or evil words of others a kind of black magic power that is beyond our control – as though these words have a right or authority to harm us, whatever our own heart state is and despite what God has done for us at Calvary. He implies that the “devilish” words of others can effect and harm us even if our own heart state is, and remains right before God. This is contrary to the Gospel, indeed, it is contrary to the whole teaching of the Bible, and we have already seen how the Lord Jesus Christ makes nonsense of this teaching, Luke 6:28, where He doesn’t ascribe any such power to the curses of others!
Let us return to how these modern writers seek to justify this teaching, that words spoken against us in the past or the present can harm us now as God’s children.
Curses of Men in the OT
Unable to find any support from the NT for his teaching, the author of the most popular book on curses refers, of course, back to the OT – right back to Genesis. He looks for support for his teaching from the words uttered by Isaac, Rebecca and Jacob, (Genesis 27:4,13; 31:32 ). The words spoken by Isaac and Jacob were able to impart blessing or bring judgement. From their utterances this author tries to convince us that any negative or critical word spoken today by one member of a family to another can bring a curse on that person – from which they will need to be freed. The writer makes no distinction between what the patriarchs said in those days and the angry words spoken between family members today. What these patriarchs uttered were not some kind of occult or devilish curse spoken in anger from which the other person had to be freed; nor are they examples of repeated critical and personal attacks spoken during family arguments. No! The words of Isaac and Jacob spoken here are authoritative pronouncements by those who represented God’s authority on earth and with whom He had entered into covenant. God used their pronouncements to extend His own blessing on others or to bring judgement on those who commit evil – Gen.31:32. They are not examples of the selfish and cruel utterances quoted by this author, which are made by people who obviously don’t know God or who are very obviously living contrary to what He requires of us.
For example, this author says that if a husband repeatedly says to his wife that he hates her cooking, then this can act as a curse on her so that later in life she won’t be able to cook properly! Or if a father continually tells his son that he is useless, then this can act as a curse and the son will never succeed at anything! Now although it is clear that cruel words spoken among unbelievers, or even among Christians, does and can have its terrible consequences, you cannot compare the utterances of Isaac or Jacob or any other OT person with the critical and evil words spoken by ungodly people today! What Isaac, Jacob or others uttered in the OT does not represent some kind of black magic from which the people needed deliverance! Nor are they examples of the kind of psychological damage that family members can inflict on one another. There are scriptures that tells us of the damage and hurt that evil words can cause, but there are no examples, even in the OT, of just the angry, personal words between family members bringing a curse on one another. But this is exactly what the above author maintains. The above writer takes certain examples from the OT, which had their own particular application under that dispensation, and applies them to Christians today in a totally different way! He is not comparing like with like! And more than this, Christ has now died for us that we should be born again and brought into the New Covenant, where we are blessed in Christ and delivered from the curse of the law. Neither Jesus nor the apostles use the OT to teach these things. This teaching is not only contrary to scripture, it is also clearly contrary to the normal reasoning God has given us to be able to distinguish one thing from another.
Let us be clear what is happening here. This author is taking the utterances of men chosen by God who represented or extended His blessing or judgement on earth, and comparing them to the evil utterances of ungodly men today, and giving the same kind of authority to their words as to the words of these OT men! More than that, the judgement pronounced by the OT men were for deceit, theft and idolatry which dishonoured God ( as in the scriptures above ), but the words spoken by these ungodly people today arise out of their own selfish and hard hearts. And finally, if we have been subject to cruel and unkind words in the past, the author seems to think that our conversion to the Lord has altered nothing, but that we are still subject to the curse caused by evil, ungodly words spoken to us in the past! Most of us have been subject to cruel words in the past but we can still say both from scripture and from our experience that this teaching is delusion and error. Words spoken against me before I was converted lose their power and influence when I turn to, receive the truth of the Gospel and live in it.
We all acknowledge that malicious and critical words can do untold damage to people. There is no doubt about it and the scripture makes this clear. However, there is a difference between the kind of damage that words can do to a person, and a person having a curse put on them. And because there is a difference between these two, there is also a difference in both the counsel or instruction that you give people, and the remedy that applies in each case. This distinction is of vital importance, and we will look at this most important point shortly.
Having quoted the blessings and curses of people like Isaac, Jacob and Rebecca, to establish “the principle” of how family members can put a “curse” on one another, the writer then goes on to give what he considers are “modern-day examples” of these kind of utterances, such as we mentioned above. For example, the father always saying to a child, “ You’ll never be any good”; “ You’ll always be a failure.” Or the husband always saying to the wife, “You’re cooking is terrible! You’ll never be able to cook a decent meal! You’re useless!” Such statements said over years, we are told, can lead to the marriage breaking up, and results in the wife never having the confidence to cook properly again and the child always failing at things because of the father’s “curse”. And because of Rebecca’s words in Genesis 27:13, the author tells us that there are also “self-imposed” curses! The kind of examples he gives of “self-imposed curses” are when people say, “ I am no good”; “I’m useless!”; “I can’t go on!”; “Things always go wrong with me!”; “I hate myself!”; “Nobody loves me!”; “Life is not worth living!”, etc., etc. Now, dear reader, do any of these statements resemble in any way the kind of things said by Isaac, Jacob or Rebecca in Genesis? Are these the kind of things said by Jacob or Rebecca in Genesis? No, they are quite different and bare no comparison! Now, of course negative and critical words can have terrible a effect and long-lasting consequences in people’s lives, but there is no biblical basis for turning all such expressions of hate, anger and unbelief in the family into something that resembles the curses of witchcraft.
This is quite remarkable, and I have to admit that I am not sure who the author thinks he is quoting with all the above statements! Are all these above statements supposed to be made by Christians? If so, is there not something seriously wrong with their lives and behaviour, apart from any supposed curses? But whether they are supposed to be Christians or not, such people as these need some serious counsel concerning Christian living and the Christian faith. They are certainly not living in Gospel faith and Gospel truth. They would need to be led to a true understanding of the Gospel and then to repentance concerning their behaviour and reactions, and to a true faith in a loving Saviour and God. The problems indicated by those statements above have to do with carnal and selfish behaviour on the one hand, and serious unbelief on the other. Those who make such destructive remarks to others certainly need to be led to repentance concerning their attitude and behaviour. Those who have suffered because of those remarks would need to be brought to a faith and trust in God, who loves and receives them in Christ Jesus, who also died for them. They will be blessed with a sense of His divine favour and love, which shall also lead them to forgive the wrong-doers. This faith and repentance from dead works, is what deals with the all these other problems! The real problem in all of these cases is not a curse, but either utterly selfish and cruel behaviour on the one hand, or deep-seated unbelief in the truth of the Gospel on the other – whatever may have caused it. As we shall see, the main problem for Christians entering into their inheritance has nothing to do with curses, and everything to do with carnal behaviour and unbelief. All the instruction and correction in the apostolic writings concerning the failings of Christians, centres on carnal and selfish behaviour or unbelief, as the root of their problems! And if we have such problems and failings, then these are the things that we as the Lord’s people need to repent of, and then we shall find that those other things have no hold over us, neither shall they dominate our lives!
Let me say here, that I know that some of us have experienced very damaging things. And some folk in particular may need the love and encouragement of the saints to keep free of past things. I don’t want to give the impression that conversion brings you into a state where you are carried along on clouds without needing any co-operation on your part afterwards, in terms of faith, love and obedience. No. And the church should be there to encourage and help people in their faith; people who may still be tempted to return to old ways of thinking or reacting. But the scripture clearly teaches us that if we walk in the faith and love of the Lord Jesus Christ then past things will not have a hold on us, nor power over us. We are made new creations in Christ Jesus.
A scripture the above author uses to try and justify this idea that we can impose curses on ourselves, is where Jesus says that we will give account of every idle word that we speak, Mtt.12:36,37. But again it is plain that Jesus is not talking about curses at all, or the need to be free of them. He is simply saying here that people speak out of the abundance of their heart and that if they say things without proper consideration, then they will be judged for the things they have wrongly spoken. I suppose this is just another example of how desperate these modern teachers are to find any support in the NT for their doctrines!
So, having satisfied himself that his doctrine is correct, this author gives examples in his book of these “self-imposed” curses. For example, a teenage girl does not like the shape of her legs and makes the remark that she hates her legs. Years later, as an adult Christian, she got some bad pains in her legs and the author believed this was due to a curse. He believed the pain was the result of what she had said as a teenager! ( But later on she had even more serious problems with her legs and so they decided this was due to a whole range of further curses from which she needed deliverance! ). His biblical “basis” for this belief is Genesis 27:13 and Mtt.12:36! Others might regard this as the exaggerated teaching of witchcraft! As it indeed seems to be! Now, if such a teenager is a Christian and loves Christ more than anything else, then of course she shouldn’t be hating the shape of her legs. And if this matter is a worry to her then repentance from vanity and ungratefulness to God would be the answer; or perhaps if she is really over-weight she could go on a diet. She doesn’t need deliverance from a curse! And if the girl was not converted at the time she said those things, then later when she did turn to the Lord in repentance and faith, she would have been cleansed from all her sins and those words could not have plagued her as some kind of curse. This teaching makes no biblical sense but rather turns our past failings, problems and sins into some form of occult curse almost beyond God’s control, or turns God into a mysterious figure who keeps punishing us until we find some further way to appease Him beyond what He has already done at Calvary.
Now I completely agree that as Christians, we should avoid negative and critical remarks and all language that is not edifying. And if we realise from scripture and through conviction of the Spirit that we have spoken things that we shouldn’t have, then we need to repent. I also believe the scripture when it says, that as a man thinks in his heart, so he is, ( Proverbs 23:7 ). So that if we have allowed a negative or unbelieving attitude to develop in our hearts, this will definitely affect our lives for the worse. Indeed, how we think and what we believe is crucial to our spiritual walk, as the NT clearly reveals, and as we shall shortly see. But the idea that every negative or critical comment that someone makes about themselves, acts as a curse from which they need deliverance, is the invention of this author and not the teaching of the Bible. Many people have made many such remarks before they were Christians and such statements have never affected their lives after they have turned to the Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation! And if Christians make such remarks, then repentance from unbelief or vanity is the answer, and not deliverance from a curse. I have already remarked that unbelievers do untold damage to one another continually through the things they say – and Christians can do the same if they don’t live according to the Gospel – and unbelieving attitudes in the heart of a Christian can hinder if not ruin his life spiritually, but in all these cases it is a matter of repentance from wrong actions and attitudes that leads us to life and liberty.
However, this modern teaching turns everything into a curse in a way that is simply not found in the NT nor in the Bible as a whole. This teaching simply encourages a superstitious attitude, as in the example above of the woman who had problems with her legs. According to this teaching, anything negative that you said before your conversion can now pop up at any time as a curse in your Christian life. This teaching comes dangerously close to creating a god who comes out of a witchcraft culture and mentality, rather than revealing the God of the Bible, who, out of the great love He has for us, gave His Son to deliver us from all evil.
There is an unpleasant expression that people use to say how much they hate someone. They basically say that they hate someone’s “guts”. We are told in this book that a husband might say this to his wife, and this can then result in a curse on his wife’s stomach and she might suffer physically later on in that part of her body! Now the author doesn’t tell us if they are supposed to be Christians or not. Nor does he tell us if this “curse” still has effect after a person’s conversion. But what he is making plain is that he believes that any angry word can act like a curse and effect Christians just like a witchdoctor’s curse effects unbelievers.
He makes this clear through a personal story. He tells us that he was in Europe and about to preach at a meeting, when suddenly he got terrible pains in his stomach. He prayed to the Lord and says that he then had a vision of two friends of his in the United States, who were speaking against him. He says he realised that the pain in his stomach was due to the two brothers speaking against him! So, there and then, he forgave them both and then bound the devil’s power which was working through his friends’ words and then freed himself from those critical words that had brought a curse upon him!
I am relating his story here because it is very serious in its implications. The author is now telling us clearly what he really believes. Namely, that any critical words spoken against Christians can act as a curse on their lives, affecting them spiritually and physically! In fact, he suggests in this story that those critical words give the devil the right to plague him, although he is walking in the light as far as he knows and is not doing anything wrong! Let me say with all my heart, that neither the way he interprets his experience, nor the teachings he wants to support by using this experience, are of God. It is all deception. This is terrible superstition! You cannot forgive someone because of a vision! God is a God of righteousness and of Light and Truth. How can a person definitely know that such a vision is true? How can he accept conclusively that his brothers have sinned against him on the basis of a vision? Is he not in danger of sinning against his brothers by believing these things as a fact and trying to forgive them before knowing the truth of the situation and speaking to his brethren? If we believe this, shall it not expose God’s people to all sorts of delusions and errors? In fact, this author tells us that before he left the United States, he already knew that these brothers were in disagreement with him about a certain matter! Perhaps it is no surprise to us now that he had such a “vision”. And now he wants to tell us the vision is of God – and its interpretation! But he is deceiving himself and now wants to bring many others into the same deception. I have already mentioned elsewhere that many of these writers and teachers base their ideas not on clear biblical texts, but on experiences they have which they believe to be of God.
The idea that the devil has a right to afflict you or has legitimate access to you, as a child of God, because of the words of someone else, is the teaching of witchcraft; it is not the teaching of the Bible and certainly not the teaching of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus, with whom our life is hid in God, Col.3:3, and where the wicked one cannot touch us, 1John 5:18. The idea that word’s themselves, spoken by a person, can harm you and bring a curse on you if you are Christ’s, is a myth! There is no such teaching or example in the Bible.
As I have already said, if we are walking in fellowship with God, the devil can only do what God Himself allows – which will always be for our growth and benefit. Read again the story of Balaam and what he says in Numbers 23:19-24. God has redeemed His people and He shall protect them and bless them. The devil with his curses has no access! And this is the Old Covenant! How much more are these things now true for us who have been washed in the blood of Jesus and have been accounted righteous in and through Him?! This teaching has no basis in the Bible and the only scriptures the above author can use to try and support his ideas are a few utterances in Genesis that have nothing to do with the kind of modern-day examples he gives us.
There is not one example in the Bible of someone forgiving another person because of information received from a vision! Yes, people had visions in the Bible and knew things by the Spirit of God. But not for exercising forgiveness, without knowing the truth of the situation! There is also not one example in the whole of the Bible that shows us or teaches us that the words of others can harm God’s people if they are walking in fellowship with Him. It is simply untrue! It is against the teaching of scripture ( and against all righteousness ), which tells us that nothing can harm us if we follow that which is good, 1 Peter 3:13. In this third chapter, verses 8 – 17, Peter follows the teaching of Jesus and exhorts the saints to love and compassion, and only to return blessing to people who speak against them. As in the whole of the NT, as well as in the scriptures generally, Peter also tells us that our conversation should be godly and peaceable, as is fitting for the people of God. He makes no reference to the idea that other people’s evil language could in any way harm us: not here nor anywhere – and neither does the rest of the Bible either! It is simply not taught! On the contrary, Peter declares to us how blessed we are when people speak evil of us and we submit to God and His nature and only react by blessing people, verses 9 and14! We reflect the nature of Christ when we suffer injustices but don’t react or fight for our rights. Jesus doesn’t tell us that the words of others can hurt us. If someone curses you, then bless them and pray for them. There is no fear or superstition in His teaching! The apostle Paul had many evil things spoken against him, but nowhere does he even intimate that he had suffered physically or spiritually because of the words of others! I have been a co-pastor in a church and have had terrible things said to my face and behind my back, and I can only testify that I have never suffered physically nor spiritually because of any words – however terrible they were. ( Not because words can’t affect a person; not because I am not tempted, not because I have the skin of a rhinoceros, but because if we keep ourselves in the grace and love of Christ as the scriptures exhort us, then truly nothing can harm us. And the Lord is faithful to His word. ) The idea that the devil has access to harm you because of the evil words of others is a deception. No such thing is taught in the Bible concerning God’s people who are in fellowship with Him. The idea that words themselves can harm or damage you, is the teaching of superstition and not of the Gospel or of the Bible.
Even the Old Testament is full of promises which assure us that we are safe from harm if we follow the Lord’s commandments and put our trust in him. In Isaiah 54:17, we are told that no weapon that is formed against those whom the Lord has established in righteousness, can prosper. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, whose righteousness is of Him! And who then shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies them and makes all things work together for good! And did not Joseph prove this to be abundantly true. Whatever people, or his own brothers did or said against him, none of those things could bring some sort of illness or spiritual affliction upon him. He suffered many extreme injustices but he didn’t answer evil with evil; unforgiveness and bitterness did not reign in his heart. Nor was any curse brought upon him. The things that were meant for evil, turned out to be for his good; and not for his good only, but for many others as well, Genesis 50:20. This is the heritage of the Lord’s people, for whom God makes all things work together for good for them that love Him, Rom.8:28. In the midst of injustice and wrong, in the midst of being severely tested over an extended period, Joseph didn’t react with bitterness and anger, but put his trust in God and submitted to God whom he regarded as sovereign over all his circumstances. Consequently, the very things that were meant to harm Joseph turned out to be for his good and blessing. And so it is for us, who have put our trust in Christ. It is not what happens to us that really harms us, it is how we react to those outward things which decides if they will be a blessing to us, or whether we will soured and hurt by letting bitterness, resentment, hardness or unforgiveness arise in our hearts. People in the world suffer all their life-times because these evil things are allowed to reign in their lives. But if we go through the trials trusting and submitting to God, then we will come through having our spiritual character strengthened in grace and love, Rom.5:3-5.
We see this truth clearly declared by David in his Psalms and also portrayed in his life. In Psalm 119 David tells us that Princes spoke against him ( verse 23,24 ); that the proud have forged a lie against him ( v.69 ); that the wicked have waited to destroy him ( v.95 ), and that princes have persecuted him without a cause ( v.161 ). But none of these words or actions brought a curse upon him. No. They only led him to God. When he was spoken and plotted against, he didn’t consider the injustices nor himself. He didn’t let himself get all hurt and vengeful. No. He knew God’s word and what God required, so in the midst of being tempted and tried, how did he react? Well, he meditated in the statutes of the Lord; he kept God’s precepts with his whole heart, he considered God’s testimonies, and he stood in awe of God’s word. When these things happened to him, when the temptation or trial ( not a curse! ) came, he had a choice to make, and he chose to consider and follow God and His word. As a result, his heart was blessed and filled with the grace and goodness of God and the assurance of His blessing and protection! Thus in Psalm 31:18-20, he describes the blessing and safety of those that put their trust in God, in the face of lies and slander:
“ Oh, how great is Thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee………Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man; thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues”
What wonderful assurance! What wonderful blessing and safety! No words of men can harm him or bring a curse on him. Did he not prove this when Goliath cursed him, 1 Samuel 17:43? It had no effect on him whatsoever! It was Goliath who quickly met his end! And when Shimei came out and cursed King David it brought him no harm whatever. David submitted to what he knew was God’s own judgement, despite the words of one of his men who wanted to slay Shimei. But the words of Shimei could not bring any evil on David whatsoever! David trusted God and in the end it was Shimei who was in danger of losing his life and who had to repent! ( 2 Samuel 16:5-10; 19:16-23 ). Where do these modern writers get their teaching from? Not from the Bible which contradicts their very teaching!
Moreover, it doesn’t matter if David hears the malicious words or not! They cannot bind his soul nor afflict his body when he puts his trust in God and abides in His grace and love. Let us remember that this is the Old Covenant. It seems that it would be better to be in the Old Covenant than to be brought under this modern teaching! But Christ has died and risen again to secure for us a far greater salvation through the blood of the New Covenant! And what a different picture the NT gives of our salvation in Christ compared to this modern teaching. The NT reveals that we are risen with Christ far above all principality and power and seated together with Him. God makes all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, so that nothing can harm them or separate them from His love. Because of Calvary and Jesus bearing our sin there, and granting us life and righteousness, no one can lay anything to the charge of God’s elect! We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. If we are sorely tempted by the words of others, we shall find grace sufficient if we humble ourselves before God. We are to consider Christ and His word and not ourselves. The devil goes around as a roaring lion indeed, but we are to resist his temptations and lies and to take the shield of faith, which is able to quench all his fiery darts. Christ has already won the victory for us and on this ground we are to stand. It is sure ground. It is safe ground. It is the ground of truth where we walk in the light of His word. We cannot excuse our own hard-heartedness, selfishness or unbelief by blaming a curse. Our great need is to repent where necessary and to believe and walk in this glorious Gospel!
What a different picture this is to the one painted by this modern teaching, where curses from hundreds of years ago can suddenly appear to afflict us and bring us into bondage, or words spoken to us or about us behind our backs have power to harm us! It is like being in a jungle of shadows, darkness and sudden quagmires to sink into; a jungle of half-truths, where there are things that do not operate according to spiritual laws of truth and righteousness. It is like being plunged into a world of spirit-beings who can strike you at any time from any direction and without warning, for reasons you aren’t sure about – except that these modern-day writers, who have invented this world of arbitrary and dark forces where we have become the victims of evil spirits, offer their remedies for the problems that their own imagination have created!
Paul conveys the glorious truth to us that we have been “blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ”, Eph.1:3. If you read one of these modern books on curses, you can come away feeling that you have been “cursed with every spiritual curse from your background, according to all the unconfessed and unforgiven sins of your ancestors – until they afflict you and you discover their source!” One American writer is telling people they ought to destroy the citizenship papers of their deceased parents if they have them, because otherwise they can be cursed by the sins of their parents through such documents! This is the extent of the madness and superstition that this teaching is bringing people into.
Heart States and Reactions
Even the world has more sense and wisdom than this modern teaching. Here in England there is an old saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me.” When people use this proverb, concerning themselves or to instruct others, they are saying that the words themselves that people use against us cannot harm us. It is only your reaction to those words that can harm you. And of course there is an important truth in this. But the problem with people who are “in the world” and not “in Christ”, is that they are captive to sin and so their reactions are often wrong and consequently they do get offended and bitter, and want to take revenge on the other person, or end up feeling unloved, rejected and useless.
Now I have to make it clear that of course words have the potential to cause unimaginable damage and division. Both scripture and life itself illustrate this clearly. Proverbs 18:21, for example, tells us that, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” And there are many other scriptures that tell us of the damage words can cause, such as James chapter 3. But if we are guided by the wisdom that is from above, we shall not only be unharmed by what people say but we will also be an instrument of God’s grace unto others, ( Eph.4:29; James 3:18 ). A soft answer turns away anger and a wholesome tongue is a tree of life, ( Prov.15:4 ). This is how we will be if we follow Christ, and nothing shall by any means harm us!
As a Christian, the words of others in themselves cannot harm me if I follow Christ. This is not to say that we shall not be tempted and tried, for indeed we shall be. Life is such that at times people do say things that are unjust, malicious and destructive, and we may both recognise and feel this. We may indeed be grieved and saddened at the damage, division and loss of fellowship that such destructive words can have. But we ourselves then have a choice to make: whether to honour and follow God and to keep ourselves in His love and grace, or to react selfishly and carnally. If I consider myself, instead of considering Him ( Hebrews 12:3 ); if I consider and dwell upon the injustice done to me, instead of considering the injustice done to the Lamb of God because of my sin; if I consider the wrong done to me by the other person, instead of considering all the wrong that God has forgiven me; if I give more importance to the words spoken against me by man, instead of giving importance to God’s declaration of love to me in word and deed, then indeed words shall harm me – and they shall harm me greatly. Not because I am an innocent victim! Not because they act as a curse beyond my control! Not because it has to be so! It does not have to be so, but it is my own selfishness, self-love or unbelief that makes it so! It is my own hardness of heart, in view of all God’s goodness and grace. That is the teaching of the Bible.
I let words harm me if I do not forgive; I let words eat into my soul, if I do not bless in return. If I consider myself and the wrong done to me, then I am the one who allows myself to get bitter or resentful. If I do not forgive from my heart the wrong done to me, then it is because of the hardness of my own heart, nothing else, since Christ has dealt with everything else that could have hindered or bound me from doing His will. This is the fundamental truth and teaching of the New Testament and of the whole Bible. If you are Christ’s, then you are not the innocent victim of your past, held captive by some dark mysterious powers that can stop you believing and obeying God. It is the hardness and unbelief of our own hearts that causes so much pain and suffering in our lives. But if it is like this, then praise God, you don’t need to go hunting and searching into your past for possible causes; repent of the hardness that is clearly manifest in your own heart; consider Christ and what He has done, and forgive with all your heart and bless and pray for those that have spoken evil of you and despitefully used you. Then Christ shall bless you and free you from whatever may have been wanting to bring your soul into bondage and sin. This is the Gospel, and what a wonderful Gospel it is. God works in the Light, according to righteousness, and He is for us, and He has shown us the way to walk in! We are not left subject to, or victims of arbitrary powers and evil spirits in a shadowy land of guesswork! We know where we’ve come from and where we’re going – we are born of God, and Christ is the Way, and our citizenship is in Heaven!
Whether we are believers or those who don’t know Christ and His salvation, the remedy in all these cases is the same – it is the message of the Cross. The message of the Cross is God’s power unto salvation to everyone who believes. The Cross of Christ has dealt with all the things that had bound us in the past, and also provides us with the salvation that keeps us free now, 1 Peter 1:5.
Before we knew Christ, it is very possible that what people had said and done to us in the past may have damaged us greatly. We may feel rejected, unloved and useless. We may also have allowed resentment, bitterness, envy and hatred to harden our hearts. Now, the Lord is merciful and gracious, full of compassion and longsuffering. He knows what we’ve been through and He knows us through and through. There is that wonderful scripture that tells us that, “A bruised reed shall he not break and a smoking flax shall he not quench”, Isaiah 42:3. He’s not out to harm or destroy us. He’s out to save us. But He knows our real problem and He calls sinners to repentance. Whatever has happened to me, the real problem that separates me from God is the sin of my own heart. Gospel truth teaches us that my real problem is not what others have said or done to me – and at times that can be unimaginably terrible – but what is in my own heart, namely, the sin that I have allowed and enjoyed. My own heart condition is the real problem.
And how does the Gospel deal with this problem and the others we have mentioned? Firstly, if we recognize and confess that we have sinned, and that chiefly against God Himself, then His forgiveness is freely bestowed upon us. We are washed clean of all our sin and filth and accepted as righteous in Christ. Through Christ we have the right to become God’s sons, whereby we are born into His kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. We are freed from the dominion of sin and the bondage of the devil and any real curses that may have been operating in our lives. This belongs to the salvation and redemption that Christ has purchased for us at the cross. He brings us into His Life which not only sets us free but empowers us by His Spirit to do His will. So not only does He free me from what bound me and would have destroyed me, but His life in me will lead me to forgive, love and pray for those who had wronged me. Indeed, especially because of His life in me, He now requires me to walk according to His love and grace. And I am to forgive freely and fully from the heart all those who have wronged me in the past – even as Christ has forgiven me. Then I shall know true blessing and liberty. Words from the past will have no power over me at all! They cannot! Unless I refuse to forgive and love. But please don’t blame a curse for your problems then. Don’t blame other people. Don’t blame their words. The problem is the hardness of your own heart.
Christ brings me into His life that both frees me and empowers me to walk in his will. We are a new creation in Christ and old things have passed away and all things have become new and all things are of God; and we are to live according to this new creation, according to this “new man”. That is the teaching of the NT. No ground remains for things of the past to plague you or act as a curse in your life. Such things have no right or jurisdiction over our life anymore. Christ is your life!
Again, let me say, I am not denying that demonic forces and evil words cannot create terrible trouble and bondage in a life. But I am saying that at the cross, Jesus has already dealt with all evil powers and curses. The ground of our deliverance now is our repentance from our own sins and the hardness of our own heart, and faith in what God has done in Christ for us – then God will set us free from all the things that plagued and bound us. And He has also given ministry and gifting in the church that such as need deliverance can be prayed for and be set free. But the idea that past words and curses can plague us after we have repented and believed God is not taught anywhere in the Bible.
Believing God and the trial of our faith
And of course it is not just repentance from carnal and sinful behaviour, but faith in God that is of vital importance. Without faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6. Faith in what God has done and in the love that He has shown us. This is what deals with, and washes away our sense of being unloved, rejected and useless – even our faith. Faith is actively believing the revelation and account that God has given us of Himself through His Son Jesus Christ. It is actively believing the declaration that God has made of His love towards us, in the midst of difficulties and in the face of trials and temptations. Faith is honouring and acknowledging the integrity of God’s character and being, no matter what happens. For he who doesn’t believe God, has made Him a liar, 1 John 5:10. The faith that is more precious than gold, though it be tried in the fire, is not so much that faith that believes God to do things – the faith that believes and receives miracles; but much more the faith that loves, honours and worships God when nothing happens, when God, in the midst of trials, needs and crises, seems to do nothing – to ascribe to God all goodness, love and kindness in the midst of such things, is faith that shines forth as gold unto eternity!
It is by faith also that we have access into this grace wherein we stand. The apostle John says in 1 John 4:16, “we have known and believed the love that God has for us.” His great declaration of love towards us at the cross, where He gave His only-begotten Son for us, is also a seal to all His other countless acts and declarations of love towards us. While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. God has made us His own through Him. We are accounted precious in His sight, Deut.7:6-8. Though a mother forget her child, it is impossible for God to forget us – our names are written in His hands, Isaiah 49:15,16. At Calvary Jesus didn’t just die for everyone en masse – it was not just a “bulk purchase”. He died for you; He died for me personally, as though I was that one lost sheep – He came looking for me, came looking for you! Your name, my name written in His hands there on the cross, obtaining forgiveness and salvation for those who had been chosen in Christ by name before the foundation of the world, even according to His eternal purpose of love and grace for each one of us! We are not lost in the crowd to God. How could He forget us? How could He neglect us? How could He be against us? It’s simply not possible! What more could He have done for us? What more could He have given for us? There was nothing more precious to God the Father than His own dear Son! And as if that weren’t enough, with Christ, God has also given us all things freely to enjoy in this salvation that He has obtained for us. We are accepted in Christ. We are precious to God through Christ. We are favoured and blessed in Christ. We are privileged above all people in and through Christ! This is the Gospel! This is what God has done for us! This is what He expects us to believe with all our hearts and to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory! Who can declare the depth, extent and wonder of this love of God? The apostle John bids us consider the Father’s love for us in 1 John 3:1, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!” The apostle Paul prays for the Ephesian saints that they might know the height and depth, the length and breadth of the love of Christ that passes all understanding! Our lives on earth, if not in eternity, are meant to be a continual and deepening discovery of the glory of the great love and grace of God! And often we don’t understand that it is the very trials of life that are the means whereby we discover and come into a greater depth and knowledge of His love!
When we turn to God and are baptised in His Spirit, then we are born again into a knowledge and awareness of this love of God, the Holy Spirit Himself bearing witness in our hearts that these things are true ( Rom.5:5; 8:15,16 ). But of course, the testing of our faith is something that is part of growing in God and in the knowledge of Him. And our faith shall be tested, ( 1 Peter 1:7; James 1:2-4 ). Things will happen that will tempt us to doubt God and His love for us. That devil will use certain circumstances to sow seeds of doubt in our minds concerning God’s love and care of us. This, and not curses, is one of the main weapons or strategies that the devil employs, namely, to misrepresent God and to foster unbelief in our hearts. And that is why we are exhorted to gird up the loins of our minds ( 1 Peter 1:13 ) and to put on the whole armour of God ( Eph.6:11 ) that we may be able to stand against the strategies of the devil. And after all that God has done for us and shown us of His love and grace, He expects and exhorts us to live holding fast to our confidence in Him, Hebrews 3:6,14; 10:35. In the past we have listened to others; we have believed others; we have given much importance and taken much notice of what others say. Now, particularly when we are faced with difficulties or trials, God expects us to listen to Him; to believe Him; to take notice and give paramount importance to what he has said and done for us in Christ! Without this faith we cannot stand. Without this faith we lose the battle to old ways of thinking and to old habits. It is only by this faith that God imparts that daily grace that makes us more than conquerors through Christ. Without this faith it is impossible to please God, Hebrews 11:6. To listen to the lies of the devil, is to make God a liar, 1 John 5:10. To believe the truth, is to honour God and to glorify His name, and it is this faith that is our victory and salvation in all things. This faith is not just a matter of accepting something as true, but of actively rejecting all the lies of the devil, which would make us feel unloved and unwanted, and rejecting all ungodly feelings that would stir themselves in us, and actively accepting, believing and applying God’s truth to our hearts in those very difficulties that tempt and try us. This faith brings assurance, peace, strength, comfort and joy when we let patience have its perfect work in us. It is this faith that gives no room to thoughts and feelings of being unloved, uncared for, rejected and useless. This faith banishes such lies of the devil which foster unbelief and self-pity. Though temptations will come, feelings of being rejected, unloved and useless cannot abide when you consider God’s truth concerning you and put your trust and faith in Him. It is impossible. These two things cannot exist together! You cannot believe the Truth and believe a lie at the same time! One of them will always prevail in your heart. And of course the devil is there to persuade you to believe a lie. To believe a lie, is to give certain power to that lie in your life. Just as believing the Truth is God’s power unto salvation in our lives, 1 Cor:1:18; 1Peter1:5. If the devil can get us not to believe God then this is a major victory because it is only through faith that we have access into this free grace wherein we stand. It is by faith that we have access to all the provision of God’s salvation for us. Our unwillingness or failure to believe God – to believe the integrity of His word and of His nature – when we are under trials and temptations, is one of the most common reasons why God’s people have problems in their lives and do not enter into the joy and rest of their inheritance and salvation! And this is the reason we experience failure, condemnation, a sense of being rejected, unloved and useless. All these things are the consequence of unbelief in our hearts. You cannot blame a “curse” from the past! Now that you are God’s, you cannot blame your mother or your father or anyone else for the unbelief that is hardening your heart against God’s Truth – Hebrews 3:12 – 19.
As I said, without faith we lose access to that grace and power of God in our lives that secures our liberty and victory. Also, we cannot walk in the Spirit if we are believing lies. The consequence of all this, is that the flesh shall prevail in our lives and we shall not be able to do the things that we know to be right. Our old habits of doing and thinking will start to gain control again in our lives. That which is just human and natural about us; that which belongs to our “old man” as we were before we were saved, will again assert itself – because we are not walking in faith nor in the Spirit of God; Galatians 3:2-4; 5:1,6,7,16,17. In these chapters of Galatians, Paul is telling them that by trying to live by the law, they have ceased to live by faith and that consequently they cannot partake of Christ and His grace, and they cannot walk in the Spirit – which means that the flesh shall prevail and defeat them. Unbelief has the same consequences in our lives, as Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 make abundantly clear. That’s why the warnings and exhortations are so serious and urgent in the Hebrews letter, even as they are in the Galatian letter. This unbelief exposes us to all the weaknesses and old influences of our past life that used to be such a problem to us, including the old feelings of being unloved, useless and rejected. But these things are not a curse. They are not due to a curse! These are a consequence of our own unbelief ( and self-pity is one of the most serious forms of unbelief ) which the devil uses to deceive us and to totally misrepresent God to our minds. This represents part of the devil’s major strategy against our souls – to get us to sin and then to fill our minds with the thought that He can’t or won’t forgive us, that He has let us down or that He is against us, that He is unkind and uncaring; these are the blasphemies that the devil wants to sow in our minds. This is what the scriptures call an evil heart of unbelief that departs from the living God, and the deceitfulness of sin that hardens our hearts, Hebrews 3:12,13. If we start receiving this kind of poison, then we cut ourselves off from the vast supply of the riches of His grace. We are out of fellowship with God. We are not walking in the light and truth. We are not walking in the Spirit by faith, and so all sorts of things may dominate our thinking and have influence over us. We cannot know that rest and victory that is our inheritance in Christ. The answer and remedy here is not some sort of deliverance from a curse, but repentance from our own unbelief – which has given both our flesh and the devil opportunity to prevail over us – and an embracing of God’s Truth into our hearts! And He will abundantly pardon and restore us! Praise His name! Yes, of course at times feelings come and go. And though we may be tempted to feel unloved and useless, if we fix our gaze and our minds on Christ and his truth, we shall soon be comforted and brought into a knowledge of the love and liberty that Christ has purchased for us. Books and sermons written by preachers and revivalists down the centuries bare witness to the fact that many of the Lord’s people have difficulties in this area of believing God. Being prone to doubt God, His people end up with feelings of rejection and condemnation and much more beside. These preachers and revivalists all bear record to this being a common problem among believers, and identify the cause as unbelief, as do the scriptures.
Allow me to give some of my testimony which highlights and confirms the testimony of scriptures given above.
I didn’t have a Christian upbringing and we never went to church. From a very young age, I was brought up by my father, my parents having divorced. I am thankful for some of the things my father taught me in terms of respect and obedience and how he looked after me. But what almost destroyed me was the constant destructive criticism. I was never good enough. Nor would I be! This is what I was told. For the slightest thing sometimes I would be hit and punished, let alone for more serious things. This criticism never really stopped. By the time I was a teenager I felt like someone who was being crushed; I certainly felt unloved and much that my father did and said left me feeling useless and very hurt and depressed, if not despairing. I am sad to say that resentment and hatred welled up in my heart because of these things. Because of circumstances and schooling, I moved away from home when I was 17. But even then I remember dreading my father’s letters because they were normally full of nothing but criticisms about me and what I did. I had also considered taking my own life. But God! He knew all things. His hand was upon me for my good before I ever realised it! At that time I had been reading the Gospels because I had been seeking for the truth – for God. Eventually, I turned to the Lord for salvation. As I did so, there was no thought in my mind about anyone else – what had been done or said to me or the “injustices” that I had suffered. It didn’t even enter my mind. It was me who needed saving – from myself; from my own sin and heart condition. Having read the Gospels I needed no convincing that I was a sinner and that it was I that had to get right with God. I approached God on the basis that I was a sinner who needed saving, not on the basis of seeking help for the things I had suffered. God heard my prayer! He forgave me freely and received me! Not only did a peace come into my life that I had never known before, but when I received God’s Spirit, the sense of God’s love and grace was overwhelming. I was washed clean and was aware that all bitterness and hatred concerning my father had gone – completely. It wasn’t there anymore. I actually felt love for him and desired good for him. Even though I now felt nothing against my father, I wanted to respond to God’s goodness and grace to me, so, before God, I deliberately forgave my father all the wrong that I felt he had done to me.
So contrary to what these modern writers say, none of those critical things my father said to me acted as a curse on my life. I did not need special prayer of deliverance from curses when I turned to Christ, nor did my father’s words act as a curse afterwards. Any bitterness or hatred in my heart that resulted from his words, was dealt with by me repenting of the evil and wickedness of my own heart. Any feelings of rejection and condemnation resulting from his words, was dealt with by me believing the Gospel of God’s grace and love to me. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, repentance from my own sins and faith in God’s grace and love dealt with all those other things – the Lord cleansed me and set me free. The only way my father’s words could affect me now, was if I didn’t forgive him and if I harboured resentment against him. But this is not a curse. This is the hardness of my own heart, which brings darkness into my life. From my own life as well as from scripture, I know these other teachings to be false. It seems to me that these modern teachings are putting the blame for our problems on something or someone else, instead of recognising that it is unforgiveness, unbelief and hardness of heart that is often the real problem in the lives of Christians.
Let me add that later on, when my faith was tested in a certain way, I started to doubt God’s love for me. At that time, the old feelings of rejection came back, but not because of a curse from the past! As I said above, we allow these things back into our life and give them validity and power because we doubt God and we start believing lies. Not walking by faith and in the Spirit allowed the old nature with all its weaknesses – in other words, the “old man” – to start dominating my life again, so that I felt rejected and unloved again. And these feelings can be as terrible as any physical pain. Now it’s no good saying, “You see, the words of your father have power over you and are acting as a curse to keep you out of God’s fullness.” That would have been nonsense and would not have helped me. My problem was the unbelief that I had allowed to enter my heart. That is what had opened the door to these other things and given them validity in my life. But the scripture says that as we have received Christ Jesus so we are to walk in Him, rooted and grounded in the faith, Col.2:6,7. We are to take heed that there isn’t an evil heart of unbelief in us, which would cause us to depart from the living God. We are to listen to His voice lest we are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, Hebrews 3:12,13. We have put off “the old man” and we are not to put him on again, but to live according to the “new man”, Col.3:8,9. When I realised these things, especially that my thoughts were actually blasphemy against God, I repented of my own hardness of heart and unbelief, and turned to God believing in His integrity and goodness again. And how good and gracious God is, and how longsuffering! He forgave and restored me immediately. And of course, those old feelings of rejection soon evaporated and did not dominate my life anymore. There was no curse! It was the unbelief of my own heart that was the problem.
Let me give a very simple illustration. A son is in his father’s house, where he is safe and protected. The father says to his son, “Don’t go out while it’s raining or you’ll get terribly wet.” But in the end the child doesn’t take his father’s words seriously and wanting to see what it’s like outside, he leaves his father’s house. He goes out into the rain and of course gets terribly wet, whereupon he sits down in the rain and laments the fact that he is getting so wet! Along comes one of these modern teachers and tells him that his problem comes from the clouds. They are responsible for all this rain that is making him so miserable and wet, this teacher says. So he needs to pray against these clouds and bind their power from sending this rain which is making him wet! What nonsense. What a deception. And yet it is true, isn’t it? The clouds are responsible for making him wet. They are to blame for his miserable condition. No! That is not the Truth! In view of all that his father had done and said, the son himself is to blame; he is responsible for his miserable state. He placed himself in a situation where he could be affected by these outside elements, by not believing and disobeying his father’s words. The answer and remedy here is not to talk about the cloud and rain or to pray for deliverance from it, but to arise and to return to the father and to ask his forgiveness and to return into the safety and shelter of his house!
In view of all that God has done at Calvary, you cannot blame others for your problems if you are God’s child. He offers safety, protection and abundant blessing in Himself, and we are to abide in Him; we are to abide in the “new man”. The “old man” is, of course, subject to all the weaknesses of the flesh and to all the old influences that shaped him before he knew Christ, Ephesians 4:22. If we don’t live in that position where God has placed us, in the “new man”, but put on the “old man” again, then we are subject to all those weaknesses and influences that belong to him. The answer then is not to start analysing why the “old man” is so terrible and what past influences makes him so miserable – which is basically what these modern teachings are doing – but to take the remedy that God has provided for us in Christ. We are to return to Him in repentance and faith and to then put on the “new man”, who is created by God in righteousness and true holiness, Ephesians 4:24. You cannot improve or perfect the “old man”. You cannot deliver the “old man” from old influences and curses. There was only one answer, and that was to crucify him and do away with him and his dominion in our lives, Rom.6:6. And the only remedy is a new creation in Christ, where the old things have passed away and all things are new and of God, 2 Cor.5:17,18. If you go out in the rain you will get wet. If you do not live according to God’s salvation in Christ, then you will be subject to the old ways of thinking and to the old influences that had previously shaped your life. But then don’t blame the cloud and rain. Don’t blame the old influences on your life – whatever they were! Acknowledge that you have strayed from believing and obeying the Father’s love and the Father’s words. He will abundantly pardon us according to the riches of His grace in Christ!
These modern writers diagnose our problems wrongly, and then they supply us with the wrong answers and the wrong remedy. They have borrowed their ideas from the world and the spirit of this age. These ideas are popular in secular psychology and society, and these teachers have brought them into the church. These worldly ideas basically take the line that our present problems stem from our past, from how our parents or others treated us and we can’t really help how we are until all this past is investigated and dealt with. I would agree to the first part of this to some extent – humanly speaking. But this teaching ignores or misrepresents Calvary and what Christ has done there. It ignores the language, diagnosis and remedy that the NT gives us, and presents us with the language and teaching of superstition and modern humanism. It seems to me that what these modern writers are also doing in many cases, is looking at the lives of Christians who are not living by faith in God nor according to His grace, and consequently of course they are influenced by the old ways of thinking and feeling. And instead of presenting the Lord’s people with the truth as it is in Christ, according to this Gospel that challenges our own heart, they are putting the blame for problems that any of us as Christians may have, on our parents or ancestors – just like the world is doing! They might say, “You see, you’re feeling this way because your father said this to you or because you were treated in such a bad way. And this is acting like a curse in your life and so you need to be freed from this curse.” Now indeed, humanly speaking, of course our old problems have their old causes. But the remedy for Christians in this case is not to blame the old cause ( my father’s critical words, for example ) and to try and deal with that, but to lead a person into an understanding of the Gospel; to faith in God’s great love for us in Christ, and to repentance from unbelief, hardness of heart, unforgiveness or bitterness. And with regard to those who do not know this salvation in Christ, the message is still the same. It is their repentance and faith in Christ that secures their salvation – and deliverance from all the power of the evil one.
Again, in this article we have touched on many great issues because of the nature of the subject. I have sought to give the basic outlines to some of these deep subjects, but have pursued this only to the extent that would provide an adequate response the these new teachings. I have also limited the amount written because I wanted to avoid too bulky an article, but perhaps I have already failed in this respect! So although this article may not be totally comprehensive enough in every respect, and the reader may not agree with me in all things, yet I trust it will provide a sufficient biblical basis for highlighting the errors of this modern teaching.
Copyright D. Stamen 2001