Should Christians Try to Perform Exorcisms or Cast Out Demons?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Should Christians be trying to cast out demons with exorcisms? Should Christians be exorcists?

Demonic Possession

Should Christians be trying to cast out demons with exorcisms? Should Christians be exorcists? Lately, the evangelical church has the idea that the church should be casting out demons and trying dispossess people from demons and even more so with the newest version of The Exorcist. One such church nearby even has classes on how to cast out demons, but is this wise, and better yet, is this biblical? Is this what the church is called to do? The fact is, it is very rarely referred to in the pages of the Old Testament and it’s hardly ever referred to in the New Testament. All but two exorcisms came outside of the Gospels, meaning most of the exorcisms where done in the Gospels and almost all exorcisms were done by Jesus. For Jesus, it was the easiest thing for Him to do. He is their Creator and He has power and authority over them. We see this when Legion, meaning many demons (thousands?), asked Jesus’ permission to enter the pigs (Matt 8:28-34). For these reasons, we need to be very careful about being around people who have “the gift of exorcising demons,” especially since the Bible never mentions such a gift.

New Testament Teaching

The early and later New Testament church never stressed or taught about casting out demons. Why? It is because when a person is saved, the “strong man” casts out the demon (Luke 11:14-15); the strong man being Jesus Who overcame Satan and the world and even death. Demons cannot be in the same body as one who has the Holy Spirit. Christians have God living in them, so by means of the Spirit, no demon, not even Satan, is able to take residence and possession of a believer. The idea of you and I, just every day, ordinary Christians going around to discover where demons are, and who is demon possessed to perform an exorcism is not wise. Even more foolish is the idea that God has called us to cast out demons. Again, I think we need to be cautious.

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The Strong Man

Jesus was the greatest exorcist. He cast out more demons than anyone else by far, and many were likely cast out by prayer and fasting. Remember when the disciples failed to cast out a demon and Jesus said that “this kind goes out only by prayer” (Mark 9:29)? Some Gospels add that it is “by fasting and prayer” (Matt 17:21). Prayer is our resource in every case. Some people are delivered only by prayer and by someone or people who such a desire to have the person dispossessed, they even fast about it. What they are really praying for is not so much for them to be dispossessed by a demon but rather, they are praying for them to be saved. If they are saved, no demonic power can withstand the presence of the Holy Spirit. God is the exorcist in the truest sense…and He is in every case…not we ourselves!

Doctrines of Demons

There are a couple of references in the Book of Acts, a reference in 1 Corinthians to the worship of demons, and a reference in 1 Timothy 4:1 where the Apostle Paul says, “the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demon.” Someone doesn’t have to be possessed to be teaching demonic doctrine, because there is no shortage of false pastors hiding in sheep’s clothing. Anything contrary to the Gospel (i.e., Rom 10:9-13; Eph 2:8-9) is not from God but from Satan or demons. The real purpose of Jesus’ disciples performing exorcisms was to show Christ’s dominion over the demons (Luke 10:17). It wasn’t given to them so that they could make it a full-time mission. These exorcisms were used by God to verify that the disciples were acting in His name and by His authority, not theirs. We read of once case where the disciples could not cast out a demon, but it is unclear what part casting out demons actually played in the discipleship process because there is so little about it.

Fewer Miracles and Exorcisms

It is interesting to note that there seems to be a shift in the latter part of the New Testament regarding demonic warfare. The teaching portions of the New Testament (Romans through Jude) refer to demonic activity, yet not one of them discuss the actions of casting demons out, nor are believers exhorted to do so. If God had wanted us to take on demons, surely He would have left us instructions in the Bible and commands to do so, but He didn’t. I remember reading where Jesus told the disciples that “these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues” (Mark 16:17), however, most manuscripts end the book at Mark 16:8, so this may have been a late insertion. Either way, we must remember who it was Jesus was talking to! He was speaking directly to the disciples. Many of these were fulfilled shortly after during Paul’s missionary trips.

Our Commission

Nothing in the New Testament church or books of the New Testament tell believers we need to be casting out demons. Rather, we are told to put on the armor to stand against these unclean spirits (Eph 6:10-18), and to resist the devil (James 4:7), and to be careful of him (1 Pet 5:8). We’re also told to not give room to the Devil in our lives (Eph 4:27), however, we are not told how to cast out Satan, or cast out demons out of others, or how to bind Satan (which I’ve heard too often). Our commission does not involve casting out demons, but rather renewing our minds (4:23) and preaching the Gospel to the whole word (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). The role of casting out demons was replaced early on with evangelism and discipleship through the Word of God.

Power over Demons

When Jesus authorized the 72 to go out to heal the sick, displaying that the Kingdom of God has come near them (Luke 10:9), He did not mention demons nor did He tell them to go about casting out demons, but apparently they did cast out some demons. The question is, by whose authority and power did they do this? It was by Jesus’ authority, not theirs, so we cannot claim to have power over Satan, or as some do, claim they’ve bound Satan.  If Satan is bound, it sure doesn’t look like it and if I read Revelation 20 correctly, God does not need our help binding Satan.  Besides, we’re no match for these wicked spirits anyway and to be going around looking for demons under ever rock is dangerous.  You just might find one.  Better yes, let’s focus on exactly what Jesus called us to do and taht is to go into all the world to proclaim the Gospel (Matt 28:18—20; Acts 1:8).  Nowhere are we commanded to go into all the world and cast out demons. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job and we make a poor imitation of the Spirit. It every sense of the word, only God is the exorcist because it is by His Spirit and His power that people are set free from the bondage and captivity of Satan (2 Cor 4:3-4).

Don’t Try This at Home

I would not recommend that anyone try to perform an exorcism. I remember reading where it turned out very badly for the Seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:14). A demon they were trying to cast out refused, saying, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you” (Acts 19:15)? They had no authority from God to do this, so what happened? The demon-possessed man viciously “jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding” (Acts 19:16). It was seven sons against one man, but the demon still won…convincingly. Now, do you really want to try playing with fire?


If you know someone who you believe is possessed or even suspect they are, the most you can do is pray for them to know Christ.  Only by God’s Spirit can they ever be cleansed.  Sadly, some churches focus on exorcisms and classes for all kinds of things and this brings people to the church for the wrong reason. They come to satisfy their curiosity or for family activities or for coffee and donuts, but unless they come in repentance and faith, it is all in vain. Seeker-sensitive churches produce more tares than all the fields of the world! Incidentally, I pray you have put your trust in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. If that has not happened yet, my friend, you are in real danger of hell fire. And I mean, in immediate danger. You’re one breath, one heartbeat…one accident away from eternity when it will be too late to repent. Today is the best day to believe (2 Cor 6:2) since tomorrow is no guarantee. If Jesus Christ came today, here is your fate (Matt 7:21-23). This is why I plead with you as you read this, repent today…and I mean right now. Put your trust in Jesus Christ. If you do not, you will face God’s judgment after death guaranteed (Heb 9:27) or at Jesus Christ’s appearance (Rev 20:12-15), which could happen at any moment.

Here is some related reading for you: Can Christians Be Demon Possessed? A Biblical Analysis

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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