Mark 16:17-18 (NKJV) 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
This is the scripture that many Christians, especially those in the word of faith and prosperity gospel movements, use to say that all believers have the ability, whether they use it or not, to perform exorcisms or cast out demons. They also use it for claiming universal authority for other things as well but those are not a subject of this post.
Exorcism is derived from a Greek word, exorkistēs, meaning to adjure, or bind by oath. I wrote about binding in another post. Can We Bind and Rebuke Satin - What Does The Bible Say?, You can read it by clicking this LINK!
Before I begin as I have done with other controversial posts I must make this disclaimer. you write a post like this you run the risk of being misunderstood so I did have some reluctance in finally deciding to do it. I do believe that Satan exists and that the spirit world is full of countless numbers of demonic spirits or demons. I also believe that Jesus “cast out”, ordered, commanded, or otherwise told demons to leave the bodies of people when he walked the earth. I believe, because it is recorded in scripture, that Jesus gave his followers authority to “cast out” demons and finally I believe, again because it is recorded in scripture, that the apostles and others were able to “cast out” demons after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. What I don’t believe is that scripture says that all believers or followers of Jesus have that authority. That is why I wrote this post.
One point that I want to make right out of the box is that when I refer to the casting out of demons I’m talking about casting them out of the unbeliever. The believer can’t be possessed or be the dwelling place of a demon. I say that because as Paul says the believer’s body is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV) Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 6:19 (NKJV) 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
Think about it. Can a demon or an evil spirit dwell in the same place as God? Now that that is clear I want to quickly address those who believe that any illness that they have is the result of demonic presence. Again I say it is impossible for there to be any possession of any kind in the body of a believer. There can be and there is attack from outside the body but we are told to resist and the devil (that includes his demon friends) will flee.
James 4:7 (NKJV) Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Ephesians 6:13 (NKJV) Therefore take up the whole armor of God that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
One other point. Every illness, financial crisis, breakup, loss of job, or other unpleasant happening are the result of demonic activity. Poor eating habits or dangerous activities may be the cause of sickness or accidents. Foolish financial decisions can result in financial crises. Downsizing of a company or an economic recession can cause loss of a job....you get the picture.
I first want to address the scripture that is most often used to assert that all Christians or believers have been given the authority to “cast out”. My guess is that there is a note of some kind in your bible that reads something like; “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have Mark 16:9-20." This is another way of saying that these verses are not considered inspired scripture, and thus should not be used to build doctrines or to even preach on by themselves, since they are considered unreliable and were most likely added to the scriptures by some scribe.
This is from the notes in The MacArthur Study Bible, copyright 1997 Word Publishing, Nashville, TN:
"Mark 16:9–20 The external evidence strongly suggests these verses were not originally part of Mark’s gospel. While the majority of Gr. manuscripts contain these verses, the earliest and most reliable do not. A shorter ending also existed, but it is not included in the text. Further, some that include the passage note that it was missing from older Gr. manuscripts, while others have scribal marks indicating the passage was considered spurious. The fourth-century church fathers Eusebius and Jerome noted that almost all Gr. manuscripts available to them lacked vv. 9–20. The internal evidence from this passage also weighs heavily against Mark’s authorship. The transition between vv. 8 and 9 is abrupt and awkward. The Gr. particle translated "now" that begins v. 9 implies continuity with the preceding narrative. What follows, however, does not continue the story of the women referred to in v. 8, but describes Christ’s appearance to Mary Magdalene (cf. John 20:11–18). The masculine participle in v. 9 expects "he" as its antecedent, yet the subject of v. 8 is the women. Although she had just been mentioned 3 times (v. 1; 15:40, 47), v. 9 introduces Mary Magdalene as if for the first time. Further, if Mark wrote v. 9, it is strange that he would only now note that Jesus had cast 7 demons out of her. The angel spoke of Jesus’ appearing to His followers in Galilee, yet the appearances described in vv. 9–20 are all in the Jerusalem area. Finally, the presence in these verses of a significant number of Gr. words used nowhere else in Mark argues that Mark did not write them. Verses 9–20 represent an early (they were known to the second-century fathers Irenaeus, Tatian, and, possibly, Justin Martyr) attempt to complete Mark’s gospel. While for the most part summarizing truths taught elsewhere in Scripture, vv. 9–20 should always be compared with the rest of Scripture, and no doctrines should be formulated based solely on them. Since, in spite of all these considerations of the likely unreliability of this section, it is possible to be wrong on the issue, and thus, it is good to consider the meaning of this passage and leave it in the text, just as with John 7:53–8:11."
Jesus Did Give Authority to Cast out Demons
Matthew 10:1, 8 (NKJV) And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. 8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
Mark 3:14-15 (NKJV) 14 Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons:
Mark 6:7-13 (NKJV) 7 And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. 8 He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff--no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts-- 9 but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics. 10 Also He said to them, "In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. 11 And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!" 12 So they went out and preached that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.
Luke 10:1, 17 (NKJV) 1 After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. 17 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."
Luke 9:1-2 (NKJV) 1 Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
It appears that the purpose of Jesus' disciples performing exorcisms was to show Christ's dominion over the demons (Luke 10:17) and to verify that the disciples were acting in His name and by His authority. It was obvious that this act of casting out demons was important to the ministry of the disciples.
However, in none of these scriptures is there any indication that Jesus gives this authority to all who follow Him and believe. Jesus gave these men this power and authority to prove that he had to authority to grant this ability to others in proof of his Deity. I do believe that today certain believers may be able to perform an exorcism but not all believers, because scripture doesn’t support it.
After Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension there are scriptural references to casting out demons
Acts 8:6-7 (NKJV) 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.
Acts 16:17-18 (NKJV) 17 This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation." 18 And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her." And he came out that very hour.
Acts 19:11-12 (NKJV) 11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.
Again there is no scriptural indication that all believers have this ability or have been given this authority. All believers do not have the same gifts of the Spirit so it stands to reason that all believers would not be given the authority to cast out demons. So while God is no respecter of persons, as we like to say, He does give some people gifts and talents that He doesn’t give others.
I would caution you about confronting demons, unless you definitely know that you have been given authority by Jesus to do battle with them. There are some examples in scripture of those who didn’t have that authority. The bible doesn’t say whether these people are believers or not but Jesus Himself said that there were those who were not His followers with the ability to “cast out demons”
Luke 11:19 (NKJV) 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
Acts 19:13-16 (NKJV) 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" 16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Read the account of Simon who the bible say was a believer.
Acts 8:5-9, 13, 18-24 (NKJV) 5 Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. 6 And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. 7 For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city. 9 But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, 13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. 18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20 But Peter said to him, "Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity." 24 Then Simon answered and said, "Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me."
As I said in my disclaimer I do believe in the existence of Satan and demons and I believe that I have sensed their presence before. My response has been to pray for protection and then “split”. It is foolish to seek confrontation and to discount the instructions and advice of scripture.
2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NKJV) But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.
James 4:7 (NKJV) Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Here is what is says on the GotQuestion?org website!
In the New Testament books of Romans through Jude, in which is most of the teaching and doctrine for the church, there are references to demonic activity but there is no discussion of casting them out nor are believers exhorted to do so. We are told to put on the armor to stand against them (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are told to resist the devil (James 4:7), be careful of him (1 Peter 5:8), and not give him room in our lives (Ephesians 4:27). However, we are not told how to cast him or his demons out of others, or that we should even consider doing so.
It appears that as the Word of God was completed, the Christians had more weapons with which to battle the spirit world than the early Christians did. The role of casting out demons was replaced, for the most part, with evangelism and discipleship through the Word of God. Since the methods of spiritual warfare in the New Testament do not involve casting out demons, it is difficult to determine instructions on how to do such a thing. If necessary at all, it seems that it is through exposing the individual to the truth of the Word of God and the name of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV) 21 "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
If God has not ordained you to use His name for casting out demons, don’t think you can simply conjure up some faith and do it anyway. Based on the Bible, it will not work!
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Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.