Exorcism is the casting out of an evil spirit or demon from a person. Jesus frequently cast out evil spirits and commanded His earliest followers to do the same (Matthew 10). However, there is much controversy regarding whether this practice continues today. Can a Christian today perform an exorcism?
Is an exorcism something a Christian can perform today?
A close look at the New Testament shows that power over evil spirits is not a calling or ability given to every person. All Christians are called to put on the full armor of God to stand against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:10-12). However, only some had power over spirits. First Corinthians 12:28-30 emphasize only some had the ability to perform "miracles," a term associated with casting out spirits.
But even if only some people could cast out evil spirits, does this mean some people can cast out spirits today? The later portions of the New Testament seem to indicate a shift in this area. Demonic activity was acknowledged, but the response did not include exorcism. Instead, we are told to give "no opportunity to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27) and to be careful of him (1 Peter 5:8).
Then what if someone encounters what he or she considers to be a person possessed by a demon today? First, we are called to pray. God clearly has greater power than any demonic force. "The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16).
Second, stand firm against spiritual evil. Ephesians 6:13 teaches, "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 firm." With the armor of God, including salvation, prayer, and God's Word, there is no need to run in fear.
Third, involve other believers whenever possible. Jesus promised, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them" (Matthew 18:20). An evil spirit cannot stand to remain where others unite together in the name of Jesus. Either the spirit will flee or a person controlled by spiritual evil will.
Fourth, read Scripture. The iconic movie versions of exorcisms involving a crucifix likely do not scare evil spirits. However, evil spirits despise the truth of God, including the promises of His Word. When Scripture is prominent, evil spirits are likely to flee.
Again, the New Testament records many times when Jesus and some of His early followers cast out demons, but this is not commanded of all believers. However, God's Spirit at work in us can change the spiritual situation in the lives of others. Through prayer, Scripture, a holy life involving the armor of God, and uniting with other believers, we can find that evil spirits will leave our presence and we can have a great positive influence in the lives of those troubled by spiritual evil.
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