Last Sunday we studied the passage in Matthew 17 where the Lord frees a demon-possessed boy. A while back, someone asked my seminary president, pastor John MacArthur this question, “Was casting out demons only for the Apostolic era? Can Christians do that today?” The answer he gave is Biblical and insightful, and I include it here for your edification. Be encouraged and stand strong in God’s grace!
“Good question. I wrote a book called Standing Strong and it will give you some further detail about it. Let me express this to you in sort of a condensed way.
We do not have the power to command the demons—that is a power that belonged to Jesus Christ. There is no one in the Old Testament who ever exhibited that power, not a prophet, not a priest, not anybody. That is not something that is germane to belonging to God—to have command over the kingdom of darkness.
What happened when Jesus came into the world is that the kingdom of darkness “cranked up” its major assault to obviously thwart the purpose of God, and the conflict was raised to a fever pitch. So demons were then, I think, more aggressively trying to hold on to the souls that were within the hearing of what Jesus was preaching, and the conflict was tremendously heightened. But that was only a part of it; the real issue was, the Messiah, if He was going to save souls, save sinners, would have to move people out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of His dear Son, as Paul put it. So, the Messiah had to demonstrate not only power over disease, and power over nature, but He had to demonstrate power over Satan and demons. So, everywhere Jesus went, two things were happening: He was doing physical miracles and He was casting demons out.
This exhibition of power goes on throughout the life of Jesus, to demonstrate that He has absolute authority over the kingdom of darkness, and to verify that the Apostles were in fact the representatives of Jesus Christ, who spoke the truth in the midst of all kinds of teachers and philosophers and religionists who paraded around. What set them apart as the preachers of the truth was not that they squared up with the Bible because the Bible hadn’t been written, there was no New Testament, so how would you verify that they were the true representatives of the true Messiah? Jesus knew how—they could do, essentially, the same kind of miracles that He could do, and that has to do with physical miracles and the casting out of demons, so that in 2 Corinthians 12:12, Paul says, “These things are the signs of an apostle.”
When the Apostles pass from the scene—those things pass from the scene. And that is why you have absolutely no instruction anywhere in the epistles of the New Testament as to how to do that, because that is not something we are capable of doing. I cannot command demons to do anything. I cannot bind Satan, which is absolutely ridiculous. I cannot bind demons. I cannot pray away territorial spirits. But I can resist the devil and he will flee from me. So what we need to do is to resist the devil, put on the armor, that’s indicated in Ephesians 6 and win the battle.
This idea of praying against demons, that’s not spiritual warfare. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 is a definitive passage on spiritual war. If you understand that passage then you understand spiritual war. It is a war engaged between the truth and error, and if I want to free men from the bondage of Satan’s lies then I have to bring the truth to their minds. Chasing demons is pointless. We’re not called to evangelize demons. We’re not called to bind demons. We’re not called to talk to demons. We are told to preach the truth to every one, to give the gospel to men. The real spiritual war is fought when we bring the truth against the ideologies that have been raised up against the knowledge of God, and the truth shatters those ideologies and the walls come down, and we bring those people out and bring them captive to Christ.”
If you are interested in the full text of this book, you can find it here.