by Paul L. King, D.Min., Th.D., Oral Roberts University.

SPS History Interest Group. Presenter: Paul L. King, D.Min., Oral Roberts University. Presented at the 30th Annual Meeting of the Society for Pentecostal Studies

Most people associate teaching on the authority of the believer from a charismatic source, usually Kenneth Hagin or Kenneth Copeland. Some evangelicals, such as Hank Hanegraaff and John MacArthur tend to regard exercise of the believer’s authority, especially binding and loosing, as an excessive teaching of the charismatic movement.(1)  However, the original source of teaching on this vital doctrine comes not from the charismatic or Pentecostal movements, but from John A. MacMillan, a former Presbyterian layman who became a missionary, writer, editor, and professor, and from and his classic holiness roots in the Higher Life and Keswick movements. My doctoral dissertation presented a case study of the life, ministry, and impact of John MacMillan, particularly as it relates to the authority of the believer and spiritual warfare.(2) This paper is a distillation of that dissertation.

Introducing John A. MacMillan

John MacMillan (1873-1956) was a Canadian Presbyterian businessman who became actively involved with ministry to Chinese and Jewish people in Toronto.(3)  At the age of 41 he married Isabel Robson, who had been a missionary to China with China Inland Mission from 1895 to1906 and a personal nurse to J. Hudson Taylor. Ordained in 1923 at the age of 49, MacMillan and his wife went to China as missionaries with The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA). He then became field director of the floundering C&MA mission work in the Philippines. Following the death of his first wife in 1928, he returned to North America to do pastoral and itinerant ministry. Subsequently, he became Associate Editor of The Alliance Weekly magazine, a member of the Board of Managers of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, and a professor at Missionary Training Institute in Nyack, New York, now known as Nyack College. In 1932 after nine years of many dramatic experiences with spiritual warfare, he wrote a series of articles in The Alliance Weekly, the periodical of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, entitled “The Authority of the Believer.”(4)  Eventually they were published in book form, distributed widely and also republished in other periodicals. MacMillan had a remarkable and extensive ministry in the exercise of the authority of the believer and spiritual warfare spanning more than thirty years.

MacMillan’s Exercise of the Authority of the Believer

John MacMillan’s practice of the authority of the believer began when as a businessman, he was informed that the house next to his house caught on fire. Calmly, “he committed the crisis to God in prayer, claiming divine protection according to Psalm 91:10 that ‘no destruction would befall the house.'” He drove home to find out that the fire had miraculously stopped at a wooden fence that separated the two houses.(5)

MacMillan turned his business over to another man when he left for the mission field, designating a portion of the profits to go to his missionary support, but the man reneged on his contract, failing to forward the funds. Speaking with the believer’s authority, MacMillan prophesied, “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” Eventually the business went bankrupt. So through MacMillan’s application of the believer’s authority, he was vindicated and the dishonest contract-breakers suffered the judgment of God.(6)

On the mission field in China an Asiatic cholera epidemic threatened the mission. MacMillan again confessed Psalm 91:3, “Surely he will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence.” He prayed, “May we be enabled to keep the Home ‘in the secret place of the Most High and under the shadow of the Almighty.'” They emerged victorious and received divine protection from the plague. (7)

MacMillan told of how Christian and Missionary Alliance missionaries would claim land from demonic control in China and bind the powers of darkness. On a certain occasion, the missionaries took possession of a piece of land and began moving logs. Evil spirits resisted the takeover by projecting a supernatural voice from a log. The voice in the log threatened, “Don’t you dare move it!” The missionaries were not taken aback, but rebuked the voice. They then removed the log without any further incident and gained the victory over the dark powers.(8)  MacMillan’s most dramatic illustration of exercising the authority of binding and loosing occurred in 1924 when several missionaries were kidnapped. As MacMillan and the remaining missionaries exercised the believer’s authority of binding and loosing, the missionaries were released without harm.(9)

John MacMillan’s exercise of the authority of the believer and engagement with the powers of darkness increased during his ministry in the Philippines. He exercised authority over nature, binding the Enemy as a tree fell toward him and the mission buildings. As a result, the tree fell between the buildings, causing no harm to the buildings or himself. MacMillan perceived in this startling occurrence of divine protection a spiritual message from the Lord, “The way out is blocked—is it not a gracious call to prayer, lest the great adversary block our efforts and shut us up in a small place? We have prayed for the binding of the strongman—we must watch and pray that the strong man does not bind us.”(10)  As he took authority over tobacco addictions, many people were set free and in one district in the Philippines, all the believers stopped growing tobacco.(11)

Another remarkable and dramatic demonstration of MacMillan’s authority as a believer resulted in miraculous healing of his broken leg. Retired pastor Otto Bublat recalls that MacMillan described the incident years later in a class at the Missionary Training Institute: “Once on an emergency mission trip where he was alone on the rainy slippery trail, he slipped and broke his ankle. . . . His only recourse was the Lord since he was alone and about twenty miles from even a first aid station. In simple faith, he stepped out and began walking those many miles. He got home safely, and shortly thereafter had the ankle X-rayed. There had been a clean break, but it was perfectly healed.”(12)

MacMillan frequently exercised authority over demonic occult powers in China, the Philippines, and later in North America. On one occasion, a spiritist witchdoctor was performing a ceremony, chanting in a trance-like mediumistic state and calling on the spirits. A drum in the room began to beat in rhythm without anyone touching it. Then it rose to the ceiling in a state of levitation. MacMillan walked into the room, took authority over the spirits, rebuking them in the name of Jesus Christ. The drum immediately dropped to the floor and ceased pounding.(13) This was a strong demonstration of what we call today a “power encounter.”

For nearly three years, he battled the principalities and powers in the Philippines and encountered personal attack upon him and his wife. In the midst of his wife’s grave illness he wrote in his diary: “We are, by prayer in Jesus’ name, dislodging the spirits that have bound the people of this field. It seems to me that an infernal fiat has gone forth that we must be crushed. But, ‘rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; though I fall, I shall rise.’ God is with us and we shall live and triumph.”(14) His wife died a month later, but her death was not a defeat for MacMillan and the Philippine mission. Rather, it galvanized and united people in prayer more and more. The morale and fortitude the Enemy tried to destroy was actually strengthened. His son Buchanan remarked, “This seemed to be the beginning of a new era of spiritual life in the mission field that . . . has been singularly unresponsive and discouraging.”(15)  The loss that resulted in the breaking of John’s heart actually became a breakthrough—a breaking of the Enemy’s stronghold on the peoples of the Philippines. The outbreak of revival for which MacMillan had been earnestly praying and waging war for more than three years began the latter part of 1929 as the floodgates opened and hundreds were converted in the ensuing months. MacMillan’s legacy continues into the twenty-first century, for out of the Philippine mission that MacMillan revitalized, the Christian and Missionary Alliance has grown to be the largest evangelical Protestant church denomination in the Philippines today. All this has been the outcome of the exercise of the authority of the believer.

MacMillan was a trailblazer in the concept of “territorial spirits,” describing what he called “praying geographically” in dealing with demonic strongholds over a region. He appealed for intercessors at home “to roll back the powers of the air, and make it possible to bring the Truth to bear on these regions where the devil is blocking the way.”(16) He had viewed his battle for Isabel’s life as an “infernal fiat” intended to crush them because they were dislodging the spirits that held the territories of the Philippines in darkness. He also was a pioneer of recognizing and dealing with generational bondage. Predating modern teaching on “generational sin” and “generational curses” by decades, MacMillan warned on the basis of Exodus 20:5, of the consequences of sin being visited upon succeeding generations, what he called “an inexorable law of return and of increase,” and the “principle of heredity.”(17)

The Development of Teaching on the Authority of the Believer

John MacMillan was not the first to teach principles on the authority of the believer, but he was apparently the first to combine many of those principles together into one treatise and to expand upon them, thus becoming the seminal writer on the concept. The notion of the authority of the believer arose originally out of the Reformation doctrine of the priesthood of the believer and developed embryonically. A. J. Gordon notes that Swiss healing movement leader Dorothy Trudel realized the authority of the believer, declaring that it is the believer’s privilege to be kings and priests of God.(18)  The Keswick and Higher Life movements picked up the theme with their emphasis on Covenant theology and the privileges and inheritance of the saints through the Covenant. In 1885, Andrew Murray was teaching that believers have authority: “Church of the living God! Your calling is higher and holier than you know! God wants to rule the world through your members. He wants you to be His kings and priests. Your prayers can bestow and withhold the blessings of heaven.”(19)  He quoted famed Scottish preacher and hymn writer Horatius Bonar, saying, “God is seeking kings. Not out of the ranks of angels. Fallen man must furnish Him with the rulers of His universe. Human hand must wield the scepter; human hands must wear the crown.”(20)  In 1895, as interim successor to Charles Spurgeon, A. T. Pierson taught, “Obedience to Him means command over others; in proportion as we are subject to Him; even the demons are subject to us in His name.”(21) Pierson also taught “the authority of faith”: “This we regard as the central, vital heart of this great lesson on Faith. The Master of all girds the servant with His own power and entrusts him with authority to command.”(22)

The concept of the believer’s authority was also taught in germinal form by Pierson’s friend A. B. Simpson, founder of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, in an article entitled “The Authority of Faith”:

The word “power” should be frequently translated “authority,” in the New Testament. “Behold, I give unto you authority,” Christ says, “to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

He did not promise the disciples power first, but the authority first; and as they used the authority, the power would be made manifest, and the results would follow.

Faith steps out to act with the authority of God’s Word, seeing no sign of the promised power, but believing and acting as if it were real. As it speaks the word of authority and command, and puts its foot without fear upon the head of its conquered foes, lo, their power is disarmed, and all the forces of the heavenly world are there to make the victory complete.

This was the secret of Christ’s power that He spake with authority, prayed with authority, commanded with authority, and the power followed. The reason we do not see more power is because we do not claim the authority Christ has given us. The adversary has no power over us if we do not fear him, but the moment we acknowledge his power, he becomes all that we believe him to be. He is only a braggart if we will dare to defy him, but our unbelief clothes him with an omnipotence he does not rightly possess. God has given us the right to claim deliverance over all his attacks, but we must step out and put our foot upon his neck as Joshua taught the children of Israel to put their feet upon the necks of the conquered Canaanites, and faith will find our adversaries as weak as we believe them to be. Let us claim the authority and the victory of faith for all that Christ has purchased and promised for our bodies, our spirits, or His work.(23)

MacMillan expanded upon Simpson’s teaching. An article by Simpson in The Alliance Weekly on June 14, 1919, would appear to be a source for MacMillan’s policeman analogy of spiritual authority: “‘I give you authority.’ This is the policeman’s badge which makes him mightier than a whole crowd of ruffians because, standing upon his rights, the whole power of the state is behind him. . . . Are we using the authority of the name of Jesus and the faith of God?”(24)  MacMillan, further expounding upon the idea in The Authority of the Believer, changed the illustration from a mob to bustling traffic stopped by a policeman at a busy intersection.(25)  MacMillan’s illustration has since been frequently used to describe the believer’s authority.

At a China Inland Mission conference in 1897 Jessie Penn-Lewis, whose writings MacMillan absorbed, taught on the believer’s position in Christ according to Ephesians 1 and 2.(26) Later, in 1912 she and Evan Roberts included a short section on the believer’s authority in their book War on the Saints.(27)  Also about 1897, A. B. Simpson, also began teaching the believer’s position in Christ according to Ephesians 1.(28) Whether he was influenced by Penn-Lewis, or vice versa, we cannot be sure, but apparently, they all came to the same basic insight, either through the Holy Spirit independent of one another or perhaps through interchange of ideas. MacMillan’s book The Authority of the Believer is a more thorough exposition of the position of the believer according to Ephesians 1 and 2, expanding on the germinal thought of both Penn-Lewis and Simpson. Alluding to Simpson’s exposition of Ephesians entitled The Highest Christian Life, MacMillan wrote, “The Epistle to the Ephesians is the manual of the higher life. In a fuller degree perhaps than any of the others its leads the believer up to the heights of fellowship, of authority, and of victory.”(29)

The concept of throne life described by Simpson is one of the foundational principles of MacMillan’s understanding of the authority of the believer. MacMillan declared that the believer can assert “in prayer the power of the Ascended Lord, and the believer’s throne union with Him.”(30)  Again he writes, “Where in faith the obedient saint claims his throne-rights in Christ, and boldly asserts his authority, the powers of the air will recognize and obey.”(31)  Commenting on Exodus 17, he writes, “The rod [of Moses] symbolizes the authority of God committed to human hands. By it the holder is made a co-ruler with his Lord, sharing His throne-power and reigning with Him. . . . So today, every consecrated hand that lifts the rod of the authority of the Lord against the unseen powers of darkness is directing the throne-power of Christ against Satan and his hosts in a battle that will last until ‘the going down of the sun.'”(32)

The theme of throne life permeated the Keswick, Higher Life, and Overcomer movements. In 1888, George B. Peck, a friend of A. J. Gordon and A. B. Simpson, wrote his book Throne-Life, or The Highest Christian Life, in which he wrote concerning “throne-power,” or the “command of faith.”(33)  Also in the late 1800s George D. Watson, popular Methodist holiness leader who later affiliated with the C&MA, wrote Steps to the Throne.(34) In 1906, Jessie Penn-Lewis wrote a booklet entitled Throne Life of Victory, which was hailed as “God’s answer to powers of darkness.”(35)  MacMillan developed his concept most directly from George D. Watson’s book Bridehood Saints in a chapter entitled “The Hand on the Throne” (also one of MacMillan’s sub-titles).(36)

MacMillan’s Impact on Evangelical Christianity

MacMillan’s first and almost immediate impact on the evangelical world came just a year after the publication of his series of articles on “The Authority of the Believer” in The Alliance Weekly in 1932. The seventh edition of War on the Saints by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts, published in 1933, included in its introduction a reference to MacMillan’s recent writing: “It is perhaps striking that in recent months a magazine so well informed of Christian work in many lands as The Alliance Weekly of America, should feel it necessary to publish some very able articles by The Rev. J. A. MacMillan dealing with demon possession.”(37) It goes on to quote a lengthy section of MacMillan’s writing. Shortly after this, the articles were published in pamphlet form.

The British deeper life periodical The Overcomer, founded by Jessie Penn-Lewis and edited by J. B. Metcalfe, also published MacMillan’s articles in the 1930s.(38)  MacMillan’s sequel article “The Authority of the Intercessor” was also produced in pamphlet form, then later published by another evangelical organization.(39) Eventually it was included with The Authority of the Believer and produced by Christian Publications in book form. MacMillan’s 1948 series of articles in The Alliance Weekly on demonization and deliverance ministry were compiled together in a small book entitled Modern Demon Possession, later republished with additional material under the title of Encounter with Darkness.(40)  These writings have been referenced again and again through the years by ministers and theologians alike.

Herald of His Coming became a popular interdenominational evangelical newspaper in the 1940s and 50s. It featured articles by many evangelical leaders including Keswick and Higher Life holiness writers such as A. B. Simpson, A. W. Tozer, G. D. Watson, A. T. Pierson, Oswald J. Smith, and others. In July 1948, the editor of the monthly journal wrote regarding The Authority of the Believer, “This is so far as I know the very best presentation of the great subject of the believer’s place and power with the Lord Jesus to be found anywhere.”(41)  They advertised and reprinted MacMillan’s works several times between 1948 and 1956.(42) Hence, this journal became one of the most extensive disseminators of MacMillan’s teachings in the mid-twentieth century evangelical community.

Even more significantly, Paul Billheimer, a Bible college president and radio preacher in the Wesleyan holiness tradition, gave a radio message entitled “Deliverance from the Hands of Our Enemies,” which was printed in Herald of His Coming in 1952. He did not mention MacMillan by name, but he spoke on MacMillan’s themes, declaring on the basis of Ephesians 1 that believers are “made sharers potentially of the authority which is His. They are made to sit with Him. That is they share His throne.”(43)  This and other parts of the article are virtual quotes of MacMillan’s words. My dissertation compares Billheimer’s article and MacMillan’s The Authority of the Believer, showing some of the parallels and discussing the question of plagiarism and other possible explanations.(44)  On other occasions he expanded upon MacMillan’ themes.(45)  He became a leading holiness proponent of the overcoming Christian life.

Additional influence from MacMillan can be observed in Billheimer’s more recent book Destined for the Throne. Though he does not make reference to MacMillan, he does make mention of some of the same themes of the authority of the believer based on Ephesians 1:20-22 taught by MacMillan in his chapters entitled “Christ’s Gift of Authority” and “The Legal Basis for the Authority of the Church.”(46)  Other similar MacMillan-like themes can be found throughout the book. The ramification of this is that Billheimer’s popular book Destined for the Throne is based on and birthed out of MacMillan’s principles.(47)  MacMillan’s teachings clearly predate and furnish the foundation of thought upon with Billheimer built. When a person thus reads Billheimer, he is reading a magnification of what MacMillan originally presented in germinal form, and no doubt, MacMillan would add his “Amen!”

The most widespread referencing of MacMillan’s material by an evangelical occurs in the writings of Merrill F. Unger, one-time Foursquare Church minister who became a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. Unger was a 1934 graduate of the Missionary Training Institute at Nyack. Although he graduated the semester before MacMillan joined the Nyack faculty, he likely had known of MacMillan and his popular classic. He makes four references to MacMillan in What Demons Can Do to Saints and eight references in Demons in the World Today.(48)  In addition to numerous citations of MacMillan’s published writings, he included a lengthy, previously unpublished letter written by MacMillan, describing a significant and difficult case of exorcism which took place in 1951 at Nyack.(49)  It is apparent that Unger, himself a scholar, regards MacMillan as an authority on dealing with demonic forces. Unger has become the foundational scholarly work on spiritual warfare and demonology upon which other academic study has been built.(50)  Unger’s theology, in turn, was influenced in part by MacMillan.

Many other evangelicals have cited MacMillan and/or his themes, including Moody Press, Baptist pastors C. S. Lovett and Ernest Rockstad, Episcopalian John Richards, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School professors Tim Warner and Wayne Grudem.(51)  Mark Bubeck, in his 1975 book The Adversary quotes from MacMillan’s The Authority of the Believer, avowing, “This is one of the finest expositions on the subject and basis of the believer’s authority that I have ever read.”(52)  Professor Ed Murphy, in his monumental volume The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare, frequently cites Unger and uses a variation of MacMillan’s policeman illustration. Though he does not mention MacMillan, in a personal interview he confirmed to me that MacMillan’s writings have influenced his ministry and teaching.(53)  It is clear that MacMillan’s works and concepts have been cited as standard fare in scholarly books and bibliographies, and have been highly regarded by evangelical leaders and academics from a variety of backgrounds.

MacMillan’s Impact on the Charismatic Movement

By far the greatest popular dissemination of teaching on the authority of the believer has been through the charismatic movement. In fact, it has been so much so, that some have erroneously believed that the concept originated with charismatics, or more specifically, the Word of Faith movement. The periodical Herald of His Coming had circulated among Pentecostals, as well as the evangelical community, so undoubtedly the Pentecostal movement picked up the concept of the authority of the believer from MacMillan’s material that was featured from time to time.

The first known recorded impact of John MacMillan’s teaching in Pentecostal/ charismatic circles is found in the Pentecostal publication Herald of Faith, published by Joseph D. Mattsson-Boze, which featured news and articles about Pentecostal ministries, especially that of William Branham. Beginning the June 1963 issue, MacMillan’s booklet was published for three months as a series of articles. It was advertised as a “New series of articles that will thrill our readers.”(54)  At the end of the third article (August 1963) a note appeared saying “continued next month” as in the prior issues.(55)  Inexplicably, however, the September issue did not continue the series, nor did any future issue. No explanation was given. In what appeared to be a substitution, an article by Pentecostal missionary Cornelia Nuzum appeared, entitled “The Authority of the Blood.”(56)  One can only venture a guess as to why the series which would “thrill” their readers was canceled.

The next influence of MacMillan’s writings, which has become the major impact on the charismatic movement, comes from the writings of Kenneth Hagin. In 1967 Hagin began teaching on the authority of the believer in churches and on radio. Also in that year, his booklet Authority of the Believer was published.(57) Like Billheimer, Hagin quoted MacMillan’s writing extensively so that some have accused him of plagiarism, though others have exonerated him. (See endnotes for a discussion of this controversy.)(58)  In his 1984 edition retitled The Believer’s Authority, Hagin acknowledged his indebtedness to MacMillan: “Then [in the 1940s] I came across a wonderful pamphlet, entitled The Authority of the Believer by John A. MacMillan, a missionary to China who later edited The Alliance Weekly.”(59)  The chief point for this study is that MacMillan’s concept of the authority of the believer has been propagated widely in the charismatic movement, predominately through the teaching of Kenneth Hagin. In particular, other Word of Faith leaders such as Kenneth Copeland and Charles Capps have further expanded upon Hagin’s teachings on the authority of the believer.(60)  Though their present form and application differs in some respects from MacMillan’s original teaching, MacMillan’s basic principles furnish the foundation of contemporary charismatic understanding and practice of the concept.

While Hagin’s popularization of MacMillan’s principle of the authority of the believer predominates, other charismatic leaders have made use of MacMillan’s concepts and/or writings on the authority of the believer and spiritual warfare as well, including Michael Harper, Don Basham, Dick Leggatt, and New Wine magazine.(61)  In addition to MacMillan’s writings and the referencing of Unger, other evangelical writers influenced by MacMillan have also impacted the charismatic movement. Paul Billheimer’s books and teachings, which, we have seen, are founded in large part by MacMillan’s principles, have been popular among charismatics. Oral Roberts University has used Destined for the Throne in a course on prayer for several years. Billheimer also appeared a number of times on the charismatically-oriented Trinity Broadcasting Network—TBN.(62)  Wayne Grudem, now associated with the Vineyard movement, has also been consulted by serious-minded charismatics. Because of the proliferation of current teaching on spiritual warfare, additional leaders could be cited ad infinitum.

This review has demonstrated that John MacMillan’s ministry and writings have exercised great influence in these significant contemporary Christian streams. In many instances, MacMillan has not been given credit for his role. The impact of MacMillan has resurfaced and is being extended once again through the recent publishing of the book Binding and Loosing: Exercising Authority over the Dark Powers by K. Neill Foster in collaboration with myself, in which we cite MacMillan’s principles and experiences. In fact, my dissertation was birthed out of that book in order to bring to light the extent and significance of MacMillan’s contribution.(63) Whether dependence on MacMillan’s concepts has been direct or indirect, his thought has been seminal to most teaching on the authority of the believer that has followed. In some cases, his principles have been expanded upon and modified, sometimes in ways he would not agree with or approve of today (such as “little gods” and “name it and claim it”).(64)  Former Nyack College President Rexford A. Boda (who was a student of MacMillan) aptly summarizes MacMillan’s contribution: “In his ministry and writing, he laid down the basic principles which, in theory and practice we, the Body of Christ, continue to work out in the battle for souls as we approach the twenty-first century.”(65)


1 D. R. McConnell, A Different Gospel (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1988), 142; Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), 131-135, 257-258; John F. MacArthur, Jr., Our Sufficiency in Christ (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1991), 213-237; John F. MacArthur, Jr., Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 360-361. The book Binding and Loosing: Exercising Authority Over the Dark Powers by K. Neill Foster with Paul L. King (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1998) addresses this particular area, providing a moderate position between the two camps.

2 Paul L. King, “A Case Study of the Authority of the Believer: The Impact of the Life and Ministry of John A. MacMillan,” D. Min. Dissertation (Tulsa, OK: Oral Roberts University, 2000).

3 Unless otherwise noted, the biographical information in this paper is taken from John MacMillan’s family and other genealogical sources including his daughter-in-law Jane MacMillan, grandson Alan MacMillan and handwritten notes of his son J. Buchanan MacMillan entitled “J. B. MacMillan: An Acct. of Family and Self,” written 1964-1965. For more detailed genealogical information and sources on the history of John MacMillan’s family, see King, “A Case Study of the Authority of the Believer,” Chapters 2-4.

4 John A. MacMillan, “The Authority of the Believer,” The Alliance Weekly, Jan. 9, 16, 23, 30; Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27, 1932; The Alliance Weekly, Mar. 9, 1935, 147; John A. MacMillan, The Authority of the Believer (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1980).

5 Rev. Jay Smith (C&MA chaplain), letter to author, Sept. 24, 1998. Smith, as a student at Nyack, lived with the MacMillans 1952-1956. MacMillan later wrote out of his own proven experience about the authority of claiming divine protection from Psalm 91:

True it is that the angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him, with a view to their deliverance. But the child of God is personally responsible for the definite claiming of such protection, and also for abiding within the circumscribed limits wherein it is effective.

Faith is the channel along which the grace of God flows, consequently, there is the necessity for maintaining a constantly victorious spirit over all the wiles and the attacks of the enemy. . . . More and more, therefore, it is vital that every true servant of God learn the secret of dwelling “in the secret place of the Most High,” thereby in all the going out and coming of life, experiencing the security of those who “abide under the shadow of Shaddai. “Raging Chariots,” The Alliance Weekly, May 15, 1937, 307; see also John A. MacMillan, The Adult Full Gospel Sunday School Quarterly, Dec. 27, 1936, 40.

6 Journal of John MacMillan, May 4, 1923; Apr. 2, 1924; May 19, 1924; Aug. 18, 1925; Mar. 31, 1926; notes from C&MA Archives.

7 MacMillan Journal, Sept. 26, 1924; Oct. 4, 1924; Nov. 6, 1924.

8 Rev. Paul Valentine (Minister-at large for the C&MA), phone interview, Oct. 23, 1998.

9F oster and King, Binding and Loosing, 247-248.

10 MacMillan Journal, Sept. 26, 1926.

11 “Cleansed Within,” The Alliance Weekly, Jan. 14, 1939, 19; SSQ, Aug. 9, 1953, 17-18.

12 Rev. Otto Bublat, letter to author, Jan. 7, 1998. Bublat was a student of MacMillan’s at Nyack 1938-1941.

13 Rev. Richard Barker (retired C&MA pastor), phone interview, Jan. 19, 1999. Rev. Barker was a student of MacMillan’s in the early 1950s.

14 MacMillan Journal, July 24, 1928.

15 Buchanan MacMillan’s Philippine Archive Notes.

16  The Adult Full Gospel Sunday School Quarterly, Aug. 9, 1953, 18; John A. MacMillan, “Our Mohammedan Problem in the Philippines,” The Alliance Weekly, June 22, 1929, 404; John A. MacMillan, “Let Down Your Nets for a Draught,” The Alliance Weekly, Dec. 28, 1929, 833; Benjamin Y. Mendoza, The Philippine Christian Alliance: First Seventy-Eight Years. Self-published and printed in the Philippines, 1985, 46-47; Robert Ekvall, et al., After Fifty Years: A Record of God’s Working Through the Christian and Missionary Alliance (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1939), 233, 234 for more on MacMillan’s pioneering concept of “territorial spirits” and “spiritual mapping,” see “Praying Geographically,” The Alliance Weekly, Sept. 14, 1946, 579.

Also, at that time MacMillan’s friend Frank Laubach, had become a semi-invalid, submerged in deep depression and defeat. He returned a new man in 1930 to discover a breakthrough in literacy and evangelism, for which he would become world-famous. Helen M. Roberts, Champion of the Silent Billion: The Story of Frank C. Laubach “Apostle of Literacy” (St. Paul, MN: MacAlester Park Publishing Co., 1961), 68-69; Marjorie Medary, Each One Teach One: Frank Laubach, Friend to Millions (New York: David McKay Co., Inc., 1954), 28ff.

17 MacMillan, The Adult Full Gospel Sunday School Quarterly, Oct. 10, 1943, 6. Chaplain Jay Smith comments on MacMillan’s teaching, “Breaking family curses was not a concept articulated in those words in the 1950s; but John felt strongly that demonic hold on some had its roots in family history, in spiritism, occult, drugs, etc, and referenced the Old Testament Scripture that speaks to the iniquity of the fathers being visited on the children.” Letter from Rev. Jay Smith.

18 A. J. Gordon, The Ministry of Healing, quoting Trudel in Healing: The Three Great Classics on Divine Healing (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1992), 215.

19 Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1981), 136; see also 116-117, 178.

20 Ibid., 136.

21 A. T. Pierson, The Acts of the Holy Spirit (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1980), 92.

22 Arthur T. Pierson, Lessons in the School of Prayer (Dixon, MO: Rare Christian Books, n.d.), 59. This was republished in Herald of His Coming under the title of “The Authority of Faith.” A. T. Pierson, “The Authority of Faith,” Herald of His Coming, July, 1953, 7.

23 A. B. Simpson, “The Authority of Faith,” The Alliance Weekly, Apr. 23, 1938, 263.

24 A. B. Simpson, “Spiritual Talismans,” The Alliance Weekly, June 14, 1919, 178. Simpson taught that authority on the basis of Luke 10:19, as the authority to act as Christ’s law enforcement officer, as a legal authority as a representative of the government of the King. A. B. Simpson, Christ in the Bible (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1992), 4:338.

25 MacMillan, The Authority of the Believer, 11-12.

26 Jessie Penn-Lewis, The Warfare with Satan (Dorset, England: Overcomer Literature Trust, 1963), 63, 65.

27 Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts, War on the Saints—Unabridged Edition, Ninth Edition (New York: Thomas E. Lowe, Ltd., 1973), 259-262.

28 Simpson, Christ in the Bible, 5:413-414. For more on this, see Paul L. King, “The Restoration of the Doctrine of Binding and Loosing,” Alliance Academic Review, ed. Elio Cuccaro (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997), 57-80.

29 MacMillan, The Adult Full Gospel Sunday School Quarterly, Oct. 28, 1934, 12.

30 MacMillan, The Authority of the Believer, 49.

31 Ibid., 55.

32 Ibid., 93, 96.

33 George B. Peck, Throne-Life, or The Highest Christian Life (Boston, MA: Watchword Publishing, 1888), 171, 174-175, 177.

34 George D. Watson, Steps to the Throne (Cincinnati, OH: Bible School Book Room, n.d.).

35 Brynmor Pierce Jones, The Trials and Triumphs of Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis (New Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1997), 136; see also Penn-Lewis and Roberts, War on the Saints, 183.

36 Compare MacMillan, The Authority of the Believer, 93-96, with George D. Watson, Bridehood Saints (Cincinnati, OH: God’s Revivalist, n.d.), 117-118, 120-122. For a comparative analysis, see King, “A Case Study of the Authority of the Believer,” 274, 289-290, note 43.

37 Penn-Lewis and Roberts, War on the Saints, n.p.

38 Interview with Dr. Keith Bailey. Bailey first became acquainted with MacMillan’s articles on the believer’s authority in the 1940s when someone gave him copies of The Overcomer from the 1930s in which he discovered MacMillan’s series.

39 John A. MacMillan, “The Authority of the Intercessor,” The Alliance Weekly, May 23, 1936, 334; John A. MacMillan, The Authority of the Intercessor, Minneapolis, MN: Osterhus Publishing Co., n.d.

40 John A. MacMillan, “Modern Demon Possession,” The Alliance Weekly, July 24, July 31; Sept. 4, Sept. 11, Sept. 18, 1948; John A. MacMillan, Encounter with Darkness (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1980), 9.

41 The Alliance Weekly, Sept. 18, 1948, 604.

42 James A. MacMillan, “The Authority of the Intercessor,” Herald of His Coming, June 1952, 11. The editors mistakenly listed his byline as ” James A. MacMillan.” See also Lulu Jordan Cheesman, Herald of His Coming, Apr. 1952, 12; Lula Jordan Cheesman, “Oppression, Obsession, and Possession,” Herald of His Coming, Aug. 1953, 7; J. A. MacMillan, “The Authority of the Believer,” Herald of His Coming, Apr. 1954, 4; Herald of His Coming, Apr. 1956, 7; also Herald of His Coming, Sept. 1956, 6.

43 Paul E. Billheimer, “Deliverance from the Hands of Our Enemies,” Herald of His Coming, Jan. 1952, 3.

44 See King, “A Case Study of the Authority of the Believer,” 271-273. It can be observed that some citations are a shortening or paraphrase of MacMillan; others are virtually word for word. On the face of it, it would appear that Billheimer has plagiarized MacMillan. However, in light of the godly reputation of Billheimer and the content of his other writings on the deeper life in Christ and the cross life (crucified life, death to self), such a charge is incongruous. Thus, it is highly unlikely that his seeming plagiarism was intentional. Rather than impugn the integrity of Billheimer, it would seem prudent to consider other more valid explanations.

It is commonly known among ministers that preachers sometimes preach a message and refer to someone else’s writings or sermons without giving the source in a message. In all likelihood, Billheimer read from MacMillan in his radio address without citing him by name; then when it was transcribed and published MacMillan did not get the credit. In fact, MacMillan himself quoted from other authors without mentioning their names; however, when he did so, he usually marked the statements with quote marks, indicating they were not his own. MacMillan, The Adult Full Gospel Sunday School Quarterly, Aug. 13, 1939, 22. Even more significantly, MacMillan used distinctive words, phrases and concepts from other authors without noting the source. See King, “A Case Study of the Authority of the Believer,” 274, 289-290, notes 41-44.

This may have been a common and accepted practice then, and today’s standards of plagiarism may not have been in force at that time. Even today, it is not uncommon for a pastor to preach someone’s material without mentioning his sources. Billheimer does acknowledge that some of his material comes from another source when he states, “Not until it was pointed out . . .” and “One who understands the original tells us . . .” Billheimer, “Deliverance from the Hands of Our Enemies,” 3.

One would also think that the editors of Herald of His Coming, who were familiar with MacMillan’s work, would recognize the parallels and dealt with the issue if it had not been acceptable then. Since Billheimer is no longer living and unable to respond to the allegation, it is best to give Billheimer the benefit of a doubt regarding his motives, while at the same time recognizing that the practice would not be legally acceptable today.

45 Paul E. Billheimer, “Man Was Made To Have Dominion Over the Works of God’s Hands,” Herald of His Coming, July 1951, 4; see also Paul E. Billheimer, “Prayer Controls Events,” Herald of His Coming, June 1951, 2. After MacMillan’s “The Authority of the Believer” was republished by Herald of His Coming in April 1954, an article by Billheimer on authority and deliverance was published a month later as a follow-up. Paul E. Billheimer, “Awake, Awake . . .,” Herald of His Coming, May 1954, 6-8. See also Paul E. Billheimer, Destined To Overcome (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1982), 10.

46 Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne (Ft. Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1975), 57-81.

47 Compare MacMillan, The Authority of the Believer, 22; “Commanding God,” The Alliance Weekly, Oct. 7, 1939, 626; “The Kingdom of the Messiah,” The Alliance Weekly, Feb. 17, 1940, 98; “Behavior in the House of God,” The Alliance Weekly, Oct. 29, 1949, 690; MacMillan, The Adult Full Gospel Sunday School Quarterly, Sept. 4, 1949, 31, with Billheimer, Destined To Overcome, 36. Compare also “Facing Deadly Foes,” The Alliance Weekly, June 3, 1939, 338, with Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, 40. See King, “A Case Study of the Authority of the Believer,” 275-276.

48 Merrill F. Unger, What Demons Can Do to Saints, 94-97; Merrill F. Unger, Demons in the World Today (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1971), 122, 123, 193-195, 199, 203, 204, 207. Unger does not refer to MacMillan in his earlier work, Biblical Demonology. The Authority of the Believer was not directly relevant to his study in that book. He may not have been familiar with MacMillan’s Modern Demon Possession when he first wrote the book in 1952. Merrill F. Unger, Biblical Demonology (Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press, 1952).

49 Unger, What Demons Can Do to Saints, 94-97.

50 In 1969, J. Dwight Pentecost, a colleague of Unger’s at Dallas Theological Seminary, wrote Your Adversary, the Devil, in which he included a chapter entitled “The Believer’s Authority Over Satan.” Written as a popular evangelical treatment of the topic of Satan and spiritual warfare, he does not reference other sources, as does Unger. Hence, though he does not mention MacMillan or his writings, he is very likely familiar with MacMillan’s material as he comments on Scriptures included in MacMillan’s exposition, such as Eph. 1:19-23, Eph. 2:1-10 and Col. 3:15. J. Dwight Pentecost, Your Adversary, the Devil (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1969), 156-165.

Fuller Theological Seminary professor Charles Kraft includes a chapter on the authority of the believer in his book Defeating the Dark Angels, but again like Murphy, does not cite MacMillan, though he makes several references to Unger. Charles Kraft, Defeating the Dark Angels (Ann Arbor, MI: Servant Publishing, 1992), 79-98.

51 In 1960, a portion of MacMillan’s Modern Demon Possession was reprinted in Demon Experiences in Many Lands, a compilation of the experiences of many missionaries dealing with demonic forces published by Moody Press. Demon Experiences in Many Lands (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1960), 132-136. In 1967, Baptist pastor C. S. Lovett, in his book Dealing with the Devil, makes use of a policeman illustration similar to that of MacMillan’s, but makes no reference to its source. C. S. Lovett, Dealing with the Devil (Baldwin Park, CA: Personal Christianity Chapel, 1967), 140, 141. John Ellenberger, professor of missions at Alliance Theological Seminary, claims that the deliverance ministry of another Baptist, Ernest Rockstad, was derived out of MacMillan’s ministry and teaching, in particular, the use of the I John 4:3 method of testing spirits. Rockstad became a mentor to Ed Murphy, a missionary and professor who recently authored The Handbook of Spiritual Warfare, the most comprehensive study on the subject to date.

Episcopalian John Richards, in his book on exorcism entitled But Deliver Us From Evil, cites MacMillan’s book Modern Demon Possession (retitled later as Encounter with Darkness) in his bibliography. John Richards, But Deliver Us From Evil (New York, NY: The Seabury Press, 1974), 233. More recently, Samuel Wilson, an ordained C&MA minister and former missionary serving as a Professor of Missions and Evangelism at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, in his article “Evangelism and Spiritual Warfare” makes reference to MacMillan’s Encounter with Darkness, calling it “an old but reasonably sound exposition of the power given to believers by our identification with Christ.” Samuel Wilson, “Evangelism and Spiritual Warfare,” reprinted on the Internet (http:// www.episcopalian .org/TESM/writings/spirwil.htm) from the Journal of the Academy of Evangelism in Theological Education. Wilson served as a C&MA missionary in Peru and as research director at World Vision’s MARC and the Zwemer Institute for Islamic Studies. He is currently Director of the Stanway Institute for World Mission and Evangelism.

Professor Timothy Warner in Spiritual Warfare: Victory Over the Dark Powers of Our World cites from The Authority of the Believer MacMillan’s illustration of the policeman’s authority to stop a car in the name of the law as an analogy of the believer’s authority in the name of Jesus, and gives him credit as the source. Timothy Warner, Spiritual Warfare: Victory Over the Dark Powers of Our World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), 74. Wayne Grudem, professor of Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, recently published his extensive Systematic Theology. In his chapter on “Satan and Demons” he discusses the concept of the authority of the believer and deals with questions regarding demonization of Christians. While he does not cite MacMillan by name. In his discussion, he does list The Authority of the Believer and The Authority of the Intercessor in his bibliography at the end of the chapter. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leischester, England: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 426-428, 435. For fuller documentation and discussion, see King, “A Case Study of the Authority of the Believer,” 276-280.

52 Mark I. Bubeck, The Adversary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 115.

53 Ed Murphy, Handbook of Spiritual Warfare (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993, 1996), 20, 49-51, 277, 300, 477, 539, 541, 542, 544, 545. Phone interview with Ed Murphy, Nov. 6, 2000.

54 J. A. MacMillan, “The Authority of the Believer,” Herald of Faith, June 1963, 9, 10, 23; July 1953, 9-11; Aug. 1963, 8, 10, 19.

55 Herald of Faith, Aug. 1963, 19.

56 C. Nuzum, “The Authority of the Blood,” Herald of Faith, Sept. 1963, 13. This article had appeared a decade earlier in Herald of His Coming. C. Nuzum, “The Authority of the Blood,” Herald of His Coming, Jan. 1953, 8

57 Kenneth Hagin, “The Authority of the Believer,” sound recording (Tulsa, OK: n.p.,1967).

58 Kenneth Hagin, Authority of the Believer (Tulsa, OK: Faith Library Publications, 1967). Several years after Hagin’s publication of Authority of the Believer, Oral Roberts University graduate student Dale Simmons (who had become a Christian in a C&MA church) was studying the writings of Kenneth Hagin, when he observed a remarkable similarity between MacMillan’s 1932 The Authority of the Believer and Hagin’s 1967 Authority of the Believer. Simmons concluded that Hagin had plagiarized MacMillan’s writings. See Dale H. Simmons, “Mimicking MacMillan,” unpublished term paper, Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Apr. 23, 1984. See also McConnell, A Different Gospel, 69-71.

On the other hand, other scholars have refuted the charge of plagiarism. William DeArteaga, for instance, dismissed the accusation of plagiarism by Hagin in his book Quenching the Spirit. DeArteaga concluded that Hagin was not intentionally plagiarizing, but rather possessed a photographic memory, and engaged in “the informal borrowing that happens every Sunday from countless pulpits across the nation. . . . Hagin’s books and pamphlets are mostly transcribed radio and camp-meeting sermons.” For a lengthy discussion of DeArteaga’s explanation, see William DeArteaga, Quenching the Spirit (Lake Mary, FL: Creation House, 1992), 228-229. Other scholars have confirmed this as well as pointed out to me by James Zeigler. See also James R. Zeigler, “Oral Tradition and Pentecostal Publications: The Problems of Doing History in an Electronic Age,” a paper read at the Society of Pentecostal Studies, Southeastern Bible College, Lakeland, Florida, Nov. 9, 1991; conversation with James Zeigler, Oral Roberts University. My listening to a taped sermon on the authority of the believer by Hagin in 1967 further confirms this hypothesis. Kenneth Hagin, “The Authority of the Believer,” sound recording, 1967. It would appear, then, that Hagin’s use of MacMillan is thus very similar to that of Billheimer, and also the practice of Bosworth, and even MacMillan himself, as cited above.

In today’s academic and professional publishing arenas where precise documentation and accuracy are important, such undocumented borrowing by these writers would be considered abnormal. But in the informal, non-academic, and often loose atmosphere of preaching and teaching, uncited borrowing from one another has been and continues to be commonplace and accepted practice in many circles.

59 Kenneth Hagin, The Believer’s Authority (Tulsa, OK: Rhema Bible Church, 1984).

60 Kenneth Copeland has taught on the authority of the believer from the same passage of Scripture of MacMillan’s exposition, Ephesians 1. He also used the same police officer illustration used by MacMillan. Kenneth Copeland, “Prayer of Binding and Loosing,” Ft. Worth, TX: Kenneth Copeland Ministries, sound recording, 1987. Charles Capps wrote a booklet Authority in Three Worlds on the authority of the believer. Charles Capps, Authority in Three Worlds (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 1982). Since both Copeland and Capps are leaders in the modern Word of Faith movement, undoubtedly, they gleaned the illustrations and teaching from their mentor Kenneth Hagin, but MacMillan was the originator. MacMillan, however, would not approve of all that is currently taught regarding the authority of the believer and faith.

61 Anglican charismatic Michael Harper, in his 1970 book Spiritual Warfare, refers to the authority of the believer, but does not mention MacMillan. MacMillan’s influence is evident indirectly, however, as Harper cites Unger four times. Michael Harper, Spiritual Warfare (Plainfield, NJ: Logos Intl., 1970), 26, 29, 56-59, 68-69, 116. In 1974 Don Basham and Dick Leggatt co-authored a book entitled The Most Dangerous Game as a “Biblical expose of occultism.” While they do not mention MacMillan by name in the text of the book, they do list another of his books, Modern Demon Possession, in the bibliography at the end of the book. This demonstrates that they were familiar with and dependent upon MacMillan’s work, and found his material important enough for others to read and study. Don Basham and Dick Leggatt, The Most Dangerous Game (Greensburg, PA: Manna Christian Outreach, 1974), 128. Basham published other books on the subject as well including: A Manual for Spiritual Warfare; Can a Christian Have a Demon?; Deliver Us from Evil. Don W. Basham, Manual for Spiritual Warfare (Greensburg, PA: Manna Books, 1974); Don W. Basham, Can a Christian Have a Demon? (Monroeville, PA: Whitaker House, 1971). New Wine, a charismatic magazine with which Basham was associated, carried an article entitled “Prayer Works,” by Erik Krueger and Ron Milton, which taught the authority of the believer according to Ephesians 1, but with no acknowledgement of MacMillan as the source. Erik Krueger and Ron Milton, “Prayer Works,” New Wine, Feb. 1980, 27-28. For fuller documentation and discussion, see King, “A Case Study of the Authority of the Believer,” 283-285.

62 Because of his connection with TBN and a questionable interpretation of a certain passage of Scripture, Hank Hanegraaff mistakenly labeled him as a cultic faith teacher, not knowing his teaching comes out of the classical holiness camp. Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1993), 164-165, 383, 396.

63 Foster and King, Binding and Loosing, 13, 18, 62, 67, 107, 119, 135, 138, 247, 248.

64 King, “A Case Study of a Believer with Authority,” 389-410.

65  Boda, “J. A. MacMillan and Spiritual Warfare,” Communicate, 8, no. 4 (May 1998), 1.

All rights reserved – Used by Permission

Please visit Paul King Ministries and purchase one of Dr. King’s books: A Believer With Authority: The Life and Message of John A. MacMillan, Moving Mountains: Lessons in Bold Faith from Great Evangelical Leaders, and the fuller, academic work Only Believe: Examining the Origin and Development of Classic and Contemporary Word of Faith Theologies


  1. Thank you for the background I shall now endeavor to source and cite the original materials. As an ex missionary myself I realise that breaking new ground more directly brings you into contact with the demonic. I eagerly devoured books by Bilheimer, Hagin, Derek Prince etc in my earlier years and used them to underpin my theology and in discipling many . I too have lent heavily from the pulpit I guess, on the illustrations and quotes common to many who drew from the Faith Movement. I suppose Solomon was right when he said that “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Again Thanks
    Mark Habgood NSW Australia

  2. Greetings and much christian love from pastor Adrian Matongo, the family and brethrens. it is our pleasure to meet you the very hour and hope to partner with us so that we can reach many souls .

    May God’s will be done as we start the journey of healing hearts together.

    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Pastor Adrian

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