Robert Jeffress - Exercising Power Without Exorcising Demons
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. If you've joined us recently, then you know that we've devoted the entire month of July to studying the spiritual armor that God has provided to win the invisible war raging all around us. We've studied the devil's deceitful tactics, and the army of demons at his disposal, but one topic we have not yet covered is the question we're going to answer today. Are there some extreme cases of demonic influence that can only be cured by exorcism. My message is titled "Exercising Power Without Exorcising Demons", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
A few weeks ago I was flipping through the television channels late one night when I landed on a movie I had never seen before, "The Exorcist". Remember "The Exorcist"? It was a movie based on the best-selling book. I remember when that movie came out. I remember books being written about it. I remember preachers saying if you go see that movie, that's one step away from worshiping Satan, you know, to go see the exorcist. It was a story about a Catholic priest who exorcized, removed a demon from a 12-year-old girl, and I knew this message today was coming up, so I just couldn't help myself. It wasn't all it was cracked up to be, but that movie was significant in American history because even 40 years ago it began a whole discussion in our nation that continues today, a fascination with the subject of Satan, demons, and specifically, demonic control.
Are there some extreme cases of demonic influence that people experience that calls for extreme practices like exorcism? Are there some people who are so far gone, who are so much in Satan's grip, that you have to employ these special practices like exorcism to free them from Satanic control? Are there people today who have the gift of exorcism? And if the gift really is still legitimate for today, why don't we do it more in the church? Could it be that one reason we have so little success in spiritual warfare is that we have failed to utilize this practice of exorcism? After all, it's in the Bible. Well, that's what we're going to talk about this morning.
If you have your Bibles, I want you to turn to Luke 4, as we meet the first exorcist. I recall a comment by a British pastor who lamented one day. He said, after the apostle Paul preached, the people rioted. After I preach, my people go out and have tea. You know, when Jesus preached, and not only did the people get excited, the demons got excited as well, and that's what you see happening beginning in verse 31. Look at it with me. And he, Jesus, came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and he was teaching them on the sabbath: and they were amazed at his teaching, for his message was with authority. And in the synagogue there was a man possessed by the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, let us alone! What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the holy one of God.
Demons, contrary to what liberal theologians say, demons are more than crude first-century attempts to explain mental illness or the existence of evil. They are angels that chose to follow Satan in his rebellion against God, and there are three characteristics of demons that make them real beings. Intelligence, emotion, and a will. Well, you see in this passage demons having all three. First of all, they had intelligence. When they saw Jesus, they immediately recognized who he was. They recognized that he was the long-awaited Messiah, the Son of God, and not only that, they had emotions. They were fearful of what Jesus was about to do to them, and so they expressed great fear. And thirdly, they had a will. That is, they made a choice here.
Look at verse 35. But Jesus rebuked the demons, saying, be quiet and come out of him! And when the demon had thrown the man down in the midst of the people, he came out of him without doing him any harm. We notice in verse 35 there is no record of Jesus forming a prayer circle around this demon-controlled man, and for hours and hours ranting and Raving and claiming that Jesus is the Lord God. You find no record in here that Jesus used garlic, incense, or latin incantations in order to remove the demons. You don't find any of that here. Jesus simply said, be quiet, to the demon. Literally, be muzzled, is what he said, if he were saying it today, he would say, put a lid on it, demon. That's what he said. He said, be quiet. Put a lid on it, and come out. One simple command. Now, that is a true exorcism. Jesus clearly had the power to remove demons.
Secondly, we notice that he very clearly delegated that power to his 12 apostles. Turn over to Matthew 10:1, where Jesus gave his apostles, the 12 apostles, this authority. Matthew 10:1. And Jesus summoned his 12 disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and he also gave the authority to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now, will you notice the apostles did have the gift of healing. They had the ability to heal, but notice what kind of diseases they were able to heal. They were able to heal every kind of disease, and every kind of sickness.
If somebody really has the gift of healing today, they're not selective in their ability to heal. They can heal every kind of disease. But the disciples, when they had the gift of healing, they could heal them all. Why did Jesus give the apostles the ability to heal these kind of diseases and to practice exorcism? These gifts, as Mark 16 says, were sign gifts. They were gifts given to the apostles to authenticate that they were truly messengers from God. Remember, there was no New Testament to read in those days. The way that people knew Jesus was truly the Son of God was by the signs he was able to perform, and in the same way, the way people knew these apostles were telling the truth about Jesus was their ability to perform signs and wonders.
Matthew emphasizes that this gift to heal and the gift to exercise demons was given to these 12, and the way he emphasizes it is in verses two through four is by listing the names of the people who received this gift. Now, the names of the 12 apostles are, the first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, Simon the zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
Do we have the same power to heal people from illness? Do we have the same power to exorcize demons that these 12 have, and if so, why don't we perform more exorcisms in the church today? I want to suggest to you in the few moments that we have remaining this morning three reasons why exorcism is neither relevant nor effective in the church today. Reason number one is this. The specificity of the gift. The specificity of the gift. Clearly, Jesus had the power to exorcize demons. He also delegated that authority to a certain group of people.
Now, look back at Matthew 10:2-4. Look at those lists of names. Do you find the name of any prominent pastor in that list? Anybody you see on television on a regular basis, do you see their name in there? Do you see your name? Do you see the name of any priest in there? Why do we assume that a gift that was specifically given to named individuals, why do we automatically assume those gifts have been given to us as well? One reason so many people get confused in reading the Bible is they don't bother to read it in context. We are Christians saved by Jesus Christ living under the new covenant. Understand who you are. Understand the distinctions in the Bible. Not every command in the Bible and not every promise of the Bible pertains to you and me. It's the same thing here with this whole idea of exorcism and healing and so forth. We've got to read the Bible in context. There is nothing in scripture that indicates you and I have been given the gift of exorcism, the gift of healing.
Now, I want to be real careful here. I do believe in healing. I believe that God heals people. I believe God can choose to answer a prayer to heal people. There is no passage that indicates every Christian has been given the gift of healing or the gift of exorcism or the other sign gifts. No passage except one. Now, this is really gonna stir it up, so turn over to Mark 16:17-18. Mark 16:17-18. These are the words that Jesus spoke. Closing of the book of Mark, the earliest of the Gospels, and Jesus said, these signs will accompany those who have believed. Now, notice to whom this is addressed. These are the signs that will accompany not a special class of people, but everyone who believes, those who have believed the name of Jesus. That is, it seems to be directed to you and to me. In my name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues, they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them: they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
Now, Jesus is indicating that everyone who believes will have the ability to perform exorcisms. They will have the ability to speak in new tongues. They will have the ability to drink snake venom. They will have the ability to heal anybody and everybody. Now, in your Bible, if you have a study Bible, probably verses 9-20 of Mark 16, of this chapter, have a bracket around them. Or there is a footnote there. And if you read the footnote, you'll find that the footnote says these verses, verses 9-20, do not appear in the oldest manuscripts. That means their existence, their authenticity, is doubtful.
There's only one other place in the Bible like that in John 8 about Jesus writing in the sand after the woman caught in adultery. These are the two passages in the New Testament that don't appear in the earliest manuscripts. We know about them. There aren't any more than those, but there are those, and because of that, their authenticity is doubtful. Would you really want to risk your life on verses that may not be a part of the New Testament? And here's the more important part. The fact that people had died drinking snake poison, haven't you read those accounts? The reason people get lethally ill because they have misapplied this verse shows that every believer has not inherited the ability to drink snake poison, and if they don't have that ability it means they don't have the ability to exorcize demons or healing or anything else, because all of these signs are linked together.
What I'm saying to you is, outside of this passage, which is highly doubtful that it belongs in the New Testament anyway, there is no place in the Bible that indicates you and I have received the gift of exorcism. Secondly, the reason I don't believe the gift is relevant or even effective today is its infrequent mention in the Bible. Its infrequent mention in the Bible. If this is such an integral tool for us to be using in spiritual warfare, why is it the apostle Paul never mentions it?
In Ephesians 6, here he is talking about spiritual warfare, the six pieces of armor. Why didn't he give us a seventh piece, exorcism, if it's important, but he never mentions it. Why is it that when he wrote Timothy or any of the pastoral epistles, there's not one mention of exorcism if it's an important practice for the church today, why is it that Peter and John never mentioned it in the letters they write? Why is it that when spiritual gifts are talked about in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, not one mention of all of the gifts of the gifts of exorcism. It's because it was a gift limited for a specific time for a specific group of people. And then thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, the reason I don't believe this is a relevant or effective gift today is because of the limitations of the gift of exorcism, the limitation of the gift of exorcism.
You know, let's face it. We all are looking for quick fixes to complex problems, aren't we? I mean, we hear about a new diet and we think, maybe this is what I need to do to win the battle of the bulge that I'm facing all of the time. This is the answer to my problem. If I'll just try this diet. Or perhaps we hear about a new book and say, if I'd just read this book or listen to these CDs, it will restore the intimacy to my marriage that I need. Or maybe we have an enslaving addition that we're battling and we think, boy, if I'd just go through this plan, or if I'll just pray this special prayer, then I can be forever released from this addiction. There are no quick fixes to complex problems, but we want them anyway, but here's the downside of exorcism, even in the Bible to those who have the gift. It doesn't last.
See, Jesus taught very clearly that even if you do remove a demon from a person, it's not forever removed. There's nothing to say that even if you go through this ritual of exorcism, it will forever demon-proof your life. Turn over to Luke 11 where Jesus taught this. Verses 24 through 26. Luke 11:24-26. Fascinating passage. Jesus said, when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, that's referring to a demon, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, I will return to my house from which I came. And when the demon returns, it finds the house swept and put into order. Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they will go in and live there: and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.
What in the world is Jesus talking about here? The unclean spirit, Jesus says, leaves him for a while. Maybe through an exorcism. The unclean demon leaves for a while, but then it comes back to this man's life, and notice how he finds the man's life. He comes back and finds it swept and put in order. Now, that sounds like a good thing to us, doesn't it? I mean, we all want houses and lives that are swept and put in order. Well, this isn't a good thing here. What it means is, the demon comes back and finds that this man's life is unoccupied. So, not only does this demon feel the freedom to return. He brings seven of his friends along with him.
The point is this. There is no once for all ritual that will forever free your life from demonic control. It's the choices we make that determine whether our life is demon-free. Perhaps that explains why after the book of acts there are no more exorcisms in the Bible. See, in the book of acts, exorcisms were not once for all actions. They were sign gifts given to authenticate the message of the disciples, but now that that has been accomplished, now the responsibility for living a demon-free life, that responsibility has shifted from specially empowered agents of God, like the apostles or the Lord himself, that responsibility has shifted to us individually. And what I'm saying is, you and I are individually responsible for making sure that no area of our life is open to Satan's control.
If there is a bottom line thought I want to leave you with today, it's this. You don't need any sensationalistic rituals to live free in Christ, to be free from Satan's control of your life. God has given you everything you need, these six strategies to allow you to experience the kind of life Christ wants you to experience. And next week, as we conclude this series on spiritual warfare, we're going to look at some very practical ways that every day you can put on God's divine defense.