In simple terms, an exorcism is a ritual to rid someone of evil spirits that are plaguing them. It is something you have probably seen in movies or on TV, but never something you think would go on in real life. However, there are still instances of exorcisms being performed in today’s society.
As a Christian, you might be scared of the practice. Is it something that should be done? Is it Biblical? It’s a foreign concept that should be explained. The Bible does speak about exorcisms and gives us clear answers.
Early Documentation of Exorcisms
Jesus frequently cast out evil spirits and commanded that His early followers did the same. Jesus’ disciples performed exorcism to show Christ’s power over demons (Luke 10:17) and to prove that the disciples were acting under God’s authority. It also showed the possessed person’s lack of faith (Matthrew 17:14-21). It became an important part of the ministry of the disciples.
Various people in the Gospels and the Book of Acts are recorded having performed the practice. The disciples did so as part of Christ’s instruction in Matthew 10, Paul in Acts 16, the children of the Pharisees in Luke 11:18-19, and certain exorcists in Acts 19:11-16.
However, Jesus did not instruct everyone to perform these exorcisms. He chose specific people with the power over the evil spirits, and it was not a calling or ability given to everyone. All Christians are called to put on the full armor of God to stand against spiritual forces of evil (Ephesians 6:10-12), but only some had power over spirits. First Corinthians 12:28-30 emphasizes only some had the ability to perform "miracles," a term associated with casting out spirits.
Shift in the New Testament
Though some people were given the power to rid the world of evil spirits, this wasn’t something that was meant to last through modern times. It was also never something that every Christian should feel like they had to do or learn how to do.
Later portions of the New Testament, Romans through Jude, indicate a shift in exorcisms as a whole. While demonic activity was acknowledged, the response to it was never an 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). It is never written that we should cast him or his demons out of others, or that we should consider doing so. These later books give us clear and precise answers of how we are to handle spiritual welfare instead.
The book of Ephesians gives clear instructions on how to be victorious in our lives in the battle against the forces of evil. The first step is placing our faith in Christ (2:8-9), which breaks the rule of “the prince of the power of the air” (2:2). We are then to choose, again by God's grace, to put off ungodly habits and to put on godly habits (4:17-24). This does not involve casting out demons, but rather renewing our minds (4:23). After several practical instructions on how to obey God as His children, we are reminded that there is a spiritual battle. It is fought with certain armor that allows us to stand against—not cast out—the trickery of the demonic world (6:10). We stand with truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer (6:10-18).
When we are faced with the possibility of an exorcism, we should instead be focusing on sharing with them the Word of God. God gave us a slew of weapons in which we can use to fight back against the devil that does not require exorcisms like early Christians had to. The role of casting out demons was replaced with discipleship through the Bible. The New Testament does not give us instructions to continue the practice as modern Christians, and instead use these other tools for such efforts.