Are modern exorcism practices Biblical?
By JACO DE BEER (Goodwood Baptist Church)
Let me give you a few thoughts, which governs my opinion.
1. What is the difference between being spiritually dead (demon possession or the unregenerate) and physical illness? Nothing. Both needs a sovereign intervention from God. Why then are people inconsistent in their approach to both? Why do they not deal with both situations (spiritual death and physical illness) in the same way? Some Christians will accept the fact that God does not heal everyone and therefore we cannot walk around and command every sick to be healed in the name of Jesus. Secondly, that we do not have the authority to walk up to a person and say, “in the name of Jesus be healed.”
2. Do I have the right to command a sick or dead person to rise in the name of Jesus. No, I don’t see any Scripture that tells me every sick or possessed person will be healed and that I have the authority to walk up to someone and say, “In the name of Jesus be healed.” Unless God very clearly tells me to go to a very specific person and pray for him to be healed instantly, I have no right to walk up to a person and give commands.
3. Apart from this, I do not see any Scripture that tells me I have the same authority as Jesus to bind and command demons to go to hell, neither to heal the sick.
4. About the idea of authority to command: The 12 and 72 disciples were given a direct command by Jesus for a very specific purpose and situation. Jesus was busy revealing Himself and His authority over nature, Satan and humanity. These commands were given for a specific purpose to a very specific group of people before the cross to reveal Jesus’ authority. These commands were not given to every believer in general. Neither can we draw a direct application from from these texts to us. We need to look at the whole NT for a clearer context and application. We cannot take every verse and plug it out of context and apply it to us. These passages do not apply directly to us to go and command as we like. We have not received this command, but the 12 and 72 in that context did. The same apply to the apostles who also did these things. They were given the apostolic authority to go and heal the sick en deliver people in the name of Jesus. This was to authenticate their apostolic ministry and confirm Jesus’ victory over Satan. We are not apostles, neither have we been given the authority by Jesus to command things in His name. You will even notice after Acts how this has changed since the apostolic era has come to an end. It is clear from the Bible that the period in Acts was a unique period and you do not see a similar behavior later in the epistles. For example, nowhere in the NT letters are we given the express instruction to go and perform exorcism in the name of Jesus by bounding and casting out of demons. You do not even see this practiced in the NT letters. Even in the writings of the apostolic fathers this is not practiced like today. When you study church history you will see this is a new practice that came with the charismatic movement in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
5. How do I then approach any physical or spiritual diseases? I firstly confess my unmovable faith in Christ alone as the One who are able to do things far more than what I can imagine or pray. I also admit that I have no power in myself. I then submit to God’s sovereignty in all matters. I then confess that I do not know His will for this particular situation, but knows that He has a good plan. I then simply ask Him to heal the person if it is His will and that I trust Him to act according to His will. This, according to me, is what the Bible teach and is more than enough for Christ to fulfil His will. In fact, He does not need my prayer, but uses me as a means to fulfil His will. I believe it is not my faith, or faith in my faith, that moves Christ. It is purely His will and grace that causes Him to act.
6. How then do I go about every day? I preach the pure unadulterated gospel to every single person. I entrust every situation to the Lord. He will reveal His will in His way. Even if it means in a supernatural way. I pray the same prayer for every person. “Lord, please open their hearts to see You. Please conquer all resistance to your gospel. Please give me the words and thoughts in every situation. Please work every situation out according to Your will.” Then I accept the outcome. If I would encounter a demon possessed person going mad in-front of me, I would pray like this, “Lord, you have all authority in heaven and earth. I also accept your sovereign will in this situation. Lord, please rebuke Satan and give this man clarity of mind so that I can explain the gospel to Him. Please deliver this man of the many demons in him.” This prayer of faith in Christ is more enough to bring down hell itself because the power and authority is not in my faith, but in the Person in whom I place my trust. He then will act according to His will. I do not have to command the demons, because I do not have the authority of Jesus. I do not know the sovereign will of God for that particular person. He is present anyway and will command satan Himself as He wills. It is not my method and command that delivers the person. It is Jesus who has the authority to command and heal as He wills. My trust is in Him.
7. Another important point is that we must realize we are not Jesus. We do not have the same authority as He has. It is a bit arrogant of us to claim the same authority and act in ways as if we have been given the express authority to do things in the name of Jesus. We must be careful to speak on Jesus’ behalf in His name about things we have not been given an express command. It is dangerous ground to speak on behalf of God. But, what I do know is that we have been given the clear instruction and authority to go into the world and preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations.