Exorcism: What is it?

Straight Talk

The Question

I have a question about exorcism. I know it is to rid a place or person of evil spirits but in movies it seems really dangerous and scary. God is involved in this matter, right?

– B. From Maryland

The Answer
Part 1: The Wrong Way
Part 2: The Right Way

The Wrong Way (Part 1)

It’s interesting to note that the only actual use of that word in the Bible is in Acts 19:13 and in that case the exorcism was unsuccessful AND dangerous and scary. I guess from Hollywood’s viewpoint, it would make the best movie.

Let’s examine it and see what we can learn. During that time Paul was ministering in Ephesus and “performing extraordinary miracles” (Acts 19:11). “But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, ‘I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches’” (Verse 13).

Exorcism (from a Greek word) is a charge or solemn command to expel an evil spirit. These seven sons of a Jewish chief priest evidently made a practice of performing exorcisms. I don’t know how successful they were at other times but in this case they made a giant error. They attempted to “borrow” the authority of Jesus and Paul to cast out the demon even though they were not submitted under that authority. They were not disciples of either Jesus or Paul.

The results were disastrous when the evil spirit called them out on it. “’I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered the, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” It’s a good lesson for us. If we want to avoid the dramatics they encountered exorcism must be performed the right way.

The Right Way (Part 2)

Jesus often cast out evil spirits during His earthly ministry and His disciples, under His authority, often did the same. Never once did any of them have a demon attempt to attack them or challenge their right to remove them. When done correctly, exorcism today should look the same. No movie stunts needed.

Authority is the key. Jesus told His disciples: “’Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you’” (Luke 10:19). Those words still apply to any true disciple of Jesus Christ and as such they can experience the same results as the first followers.

Those who know their authority level well don’t need to yell. Haven’t we all seen a child who stops bad behavior at nothing more than a firm look from a parent with well-established authority? When we are under proper authority we can exercise authority to those under us. It is because of the ultimate authority of Jesus Christ and by His name that we can expel a demon. In that case it is subject to us and has no choice but to depart when commanded.

Here are a couple of extra practical things that help successful exorcism. Where sin has opened the door to the evil spirit, repentance is necessary to close it. When roots of entry are uncovered it is easier and faster to expel any evil spirits. Remember that the person with the demon has a free will; make certain the person wants the thing removed or it will probably come right back with their permission.

You asked the question: “God is involved in this matter, right?” Well that better be the case! YES, God should be closely involved. If not, I’m afraid there might be another fiasco like the seven sons of Sceva experienced in the book of Acts.