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Who Is Able To Cast Out Demons?

Exorcism is derived from a Greek word meaning to adjure, or bind by oath. Although "exorcist" is only found once in the (King James Version) Bible, what exorcism represents, in terms of casting out demons, is found in the Scriptures in a surprisingly complex number of diverse ways, as we shall see from the Scriptures expounded below.

"Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils"

Much of the Christ's ministry of preaching the coming Kingdom of God also involved "healing all that were oppressed of the devil." It was done by the power of God, through the Holy Spirit that was within Him:

Demon Possession

"How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with The Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him." (Acts 10:38 KJV)

Those that the Christ healed of demon possession were almost always also healed of a physical or psychological ailment that the demon-possession had caused either by organic damage or through self-damaging behavior e.g.

"And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity" (Luke 13:11-12 KJV)

"Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw." (Matthew 12:22 KJV)

"And when He went forth to land, there met Him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs ... Then they went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus, and found the man, out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind" (Luke 8:27,35 KJV)

"As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake" (Matthew 9:32-33 KJV)

The Christ also commanded His servants to do the same as He did, as again made possible by the Holy Spirit:

"And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils" (Matthew 10:7-8 KJV)

The Seventy gave evidence of how the power of God always overcomes the powers of Satan:

"And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:17-20 KJV)

The apostle Paul (along with all of the others) was given the same power to cast out demons, by the authority that God had given. This reference also shows how a servant of God, whenever he could not be personally present with those who were helped by him, sometimes sent "handkerchiefs or aprons" that the apostle had touched.

"And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them." (Acts 19:11-12 KJV)

But...

As stated in the introduction, it now gets more complicated. The example of Paul also provides us with a surprising fact: those who are not God's specifically-sent servants can also cast out demons, in this recorded example by "exorcists" who usurped the God-given power provided to His authorized servants. But unlike God's true servants who, according to the Scripture record were never harmed when they cast out demons, the usurpers were injured by the demons. If the horror movie The Exorcist were real, true servants of God would have successfully cast out the demon, quickly with just a few words, and without any harm to themselves, unlike the "exorcists" of the film who were physically harmed in the process of performing their Church of Rome exorcism ritual.

"Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded." (Acts 19:11-16 KJV)

It now gets more complicated. "Independent" people who cast out demons are not necessarily bad, as stated by Christ's famous "he who is not against us is for us":

"And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy Name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My Name, that can lightly speak evil of Me. For he that is not against us is on our part." (Mark 9:38-40 KJV)

Does that mean that self-appointed people can cast out demons? According to the verses above, yes they can. But there is more to it. There are many who may have cast out demons in Christ's name who will yet be condemned because they did not otherwise obey and live by what He taught. People who have not actually been commissioned by Christ are "workers of iniquity," even if they can cast out demons, if they do not otherwise obey all that the Word of God says.

"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name? And in Thy Name have cast out devils? And in Thy Name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23 KJV)

And as a final surprise (to some people), Satan can empower false prophets and ministers to appear to cast out demons as a charade, as a means of deception. The Pharisees made reference to that when they blasphemed the Christ, and the apostle Paul warned of it.

"But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils." (Matthew 9:34 KJV)

"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15 KJV)

Fact Finder: What was the original meaning of "devil"? How did it come to be used for Satan?
See What Makes Satan A Devil?


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