Scriptures

Luke 4

Introduction

As Christians, we all often face temptations, they come at us from all directions and in different forms. The devil loves to dangle in front of us things he knows will be seriously attractive to us. Even though he knows some things won’t tempt me, he knows exactly what will tempt me.

In the temptation of Christ, we see the devil tempting Christ in various ways, with various things, but the good news is Christ resisted all those temptations, Hebrews 4:15. We must remember that this event wasn’t the only time Christ was tempted, Luke 4:13 / Luke 22:42 / Matthew 26:39 / Hebrews 2:18.

Temptation

The English dictionary defines the word temptation as ‘the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise.’ Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines the word temptation as ‘solicitation to that which is evil’. What the English dictionary calls something ‘wrong’ or ‘unwise’ the Bible calls ‘evil’. Let’s be clear here, the temptation is powerful enough to lead us into sin.

Temptation And Test

We should note there is a difference between the word ‘temptation’, and the word ‘test’. Satan is the tempter, not God, Genesis 3:1-6 / Matthew 4:1-11 / James 1:13, he tempts us to sin and lure us away from God and to bring out the worst in us, but testing is done by God, to draw us closer to Him and to bring out the best in us, Genesis 21:1 / Genesis 22:16-18 / James 1:2-4.

The Greek word for tempt, ‘peirazo’ is the same Greek word for test but we can understand the difference when we look at the context and what the motivation is. Satan ‘tempted’ Jesus in order to draw Him away from the Father, but God allowed Jesus to be ‘tested’ in order to allow Jesus to exercise His free will. His choice was to follow His Father’s will or follow Satan’s will.

Jesus Is Tested In The Wilderness

‘Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.’ Luke 4:1

Jesus had just been baptised by John and the ‘Spirit of God descending upon Him’, Matthew 3:16, and so now after receiving the Spirit Jesus is now preparing to go about His mission.

This is the way it should be for all Christians, when they receive God’s Spirit at baptism, Acts 2:38, they must be willing to get on with the mission of God in sharing the Gospel with others, Matthew 28:19-20.

It’s interesting that when God is preparing people to begin a mission, those people usually end up in the wilderness, we see this with Moses, Exodus 3:1, John the baptiser, Mark 1:4, Paul, Galatians 1:17, and here we find Jesus being led into the wilderness.

When most people think of the word ‘wilderness’ they often think of a barren place where nothing grows, however, the word ‘wilderness’ often means a place where wild beasts live.

When we read that the ‘Spirit led Jesus’, we’re not to understand this to mean that the Spirit was going to tempt Him, because we know that God doesn’t tempt anyone, James 1:13.

This simply means that the Holy Spirit led Him to the place where He was going to be tempted. In Luke’s account, he tells that Jesus was ‘full of the Spirit’, Luke 4:1, which is a reference to receiving the Spirit at His baptism by John, Matthew 3:16.

This also tells us that when He received the Spirit, He was fully equipped to do the work God had prepared for Him to do, Philippians 2:6-8.

The reason for Jesus being led into the wilderness was to be tempted by the devil, Matthew 4:1. Remember the devil was thrown out of heaven because he wanted to be God, Jude 1:6 / 1 Timothy 3:6.

He is the Christian’s enemy, Matthew 13:28 / 2 Timothy 2:26, but his power is limited, 1 Corinthians 10:13. He is the accuser and deceiver of all men, Matthew 13:19 / Luke 22:31 / Ephesians 6:11 / 1 Thessalonians 2:18 / 1 Peter 5:8-9 / Revelation 20:7-10.

‘Where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.’ Luke 4:2

Jesus is one of only three people in the Scriptures who are recorded to have fasted for forty days and forty nights, the other being Moses, Exodus 34:28 and Elijah, 1 Kings 19:8.

It’s not surprising that Jesus was hungry after eating or drinking nothing for forty days and nights, Matthew 4:2, and it’s not surprising that Satan would come to Him now when He’s at His most vulnerable.

Before we get into the temptations it’s important to note that Mathew, Matthew 4:1-11, or Luke record the temptations of Christ in chronological order.

The First Temptation

‘The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Luke 4:3

The devil is well aware that Jesus is hungry and needs to eat and so he’s about to tempt Jesus in the same way he tempted Eve in the garden, Genesis 3:1-7, he’s now going to offer Jesus the lust of the eyes and flesh, and the pride of life, 1 John 2:16.

Notice that the tempter uses the word, ‘if’, the devil knew who Jesus is, He is the Messiah, and so, he uses the word ‘if’ to try and place doubt in Jesus’ mind as to who He was, Matthew 4:3.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The tempter appeared in this passage as the Lord’s antagonist in three different guises, giving rise to the impression that Satan too has a triune nature. Three names characterise Satan in the book of Revelation. He is called the devil, the beast, and the false prophet, Revelation 20:10. He appears in three guises, as a serpent, Revelation 20:2, as a lion, 1 Peter 5:8, and as an angel of light, 2 Corinthians 11:14.’

‘This same triple pattern is seen in the temptation of Adam and Eve, through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the vain-glory of life, 1 John 2:16. It is noteworthy that the temptation of Christ followed this same three-phase pattern.’

Because the tempter knew that Jesus was hungry, he asks Jesus to turn some stones into bread so that he can have food to eat. The temptation here was for Jesus to perform a miracle so that Jesus could meet one of man’s most basic needs, which is hunger.

The tempter wanted Jesus to perform a miracle for Jesus’ own personal gain, which would mean Jesus wouldn’t be relying on God to meet that basic need, Matthew 6:11 / Matthew 6:25-34, but to become self-reliant.

Jesus’ Response

‘Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Luke 4:4

Notice how Jesus responds to the tempter, He says ‘it is written’, which is a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4 when Israel was reminded not to forget God and what He did for them in bringing them out of Egypt.

This is the way all Christians should respond when they find themselves being tempted, we should respond with the Word of God, Acts 20:32 / 1 Thessalonians 2:13 / 2 Peter 1:3.

Jesus came to give us not only life, but life to the full, John 10:10, and whilst we understand that physical life is important, our spiritual life is far more important. We know we have to eat physical food to help us grow and become healthy people, but we also must feed our souls with God’s Word in order for us to grow into healthy Christians, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2 / Hebrews 5:11-12 / 2 Peter 3:18.

The Second Temptation

‘The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Luke 4:5-7

How the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour is unknown.

McGarvey, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Christ, in some way unknown to us, was transported through Satanic power to a great eminence where the devil made all the kingdoms of the world to pass in review, as it were, before the mind of Jesus. If they were presented only to his mental vision, it might have been accomplished by a vivid description, such as Satan is capable of, aided by the excited imagination of Jesus as he looked abroad from the top of the exceeding high mountain.’

The devil tells Jesus that he will give Him all these kingdoms. The temptation here is that Jesus can rule the world with the devil but Jesus knows that that the Father had already given all things into His hands, John 13:3 / John 17:2 / Mathew 28:18, and that Jesus knew that He was to be King of kings and Lord of lords, 1 Timothy 6:15. When Christ returns He will then hand over His present kingdom reign to the Father, 1 Corinthians 15:26-28.

It’s important to note that the devil is the father of lies, John 8:44, and here, he clearly lies to Jesus because the devil has no control over the kingdoms of the world, although he may use deception to try and rule over them, Luke 4:6.

We know if Jesus had given in to this temptation then Jesus wouldn’t have won the kingdoms of the world, but the devil would have won them and God’s plan to save the world would have failed just as quickly as it had begun.

Jesus’ Response

‘Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” Luke 4:8

It was after the devil’s third temptation that Jesus commands him to get away and notice that Jesus calls him Satan, Matthew 4:10. The reason why Jesus calls him Satan is seen in His response where He quotes Deuteronomy 6:13,

Jesus takes that passage of Scripture and includes the worshipping of Satan. In other words, Jesus was telling him that it’s not only sinful to worship men or women, Matthew 2:11 / Acts 10:26, but it’s also sinful to worship Satan and his angels, Revelation 19:10, only God is worthy of our worship, Revelation 4:8-9.

The Third Temptation

‘The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Luke 4:9-11

The place where the devil took Jesus next was the holy city of Jerusalem, Luke 4:9 / Nehemiah 11:1 / Nehemiah 1:18 / Matthew 27:53.

Jesus stood on the highest point of the temple, although no one knows exactly where this is located in the temple, we do know that he was facing the Kidron Valley.

The point here is that this place was high enough for someone to jump off to their certain death unless a miracle prevented them from dying.

In order to prove that Jesus was God’s Son, the devil asks Jesus to throw Himself down. Notice again that the devil asks Jesus to perform another miracle to prove who He was.

In other words, in this temptation, he’s telling Jesus that He could save Himself a whole load of time and energy in trying to convince people that He is the Messiah.

If He jumps from this high point and lives and everyone sees Him, this act within itself will convince everyone that He really is the Messiah.

Notice that the devil also quotes Scripture to Jesus to encourage Jesus to jump, his quote is taken from Psalm 91:11-12.

Notice the three places these temptations took place, first there was the wilderness, then a very high mountain, Matthew 4:8-9, now the temple. It appears that the devil tried to tempt Jesus in three different places and three different ways.

You will also notice that the devil took Jesus upon a very high mountain and he took Jesus up to the holy city. This tells us that Jesus purposely permitted the devil to take Him to these places to be tempted because Jesus knew this was the will of God, Luke 22:39-46.

Jesus’ Response

‘Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Luke 4:12

Jesus once again, responds to the temptation by saying, ‘it is also written,’ Matthew 4:7.

Notice in response to the devil’s misquotation or misapplication of the Scripture, Jesus didn’t rebuke him for doing so. The reason for this is because the words quoted from Psalm 91:11-12 actually do apply to the Christ.

Jesus didn’t reject the temptation to jump from the temple because the devil misquoted the Scriptures, Jesus rejected the temptation because it would have created an unnecessary presumption and would have been testing God, hence why Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16.

If we learn anything from Jesus’ response is simply this, we must always understand any text in its context before applying it to anything else. If we look at the next two verses, Psalm 91:13-14, they tell us that God would in His work in the life of Jesus destroy the works of Satan.

‘When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.’ Luke 4:13

Jesus commands the devil to go away and he obeys, Matthew 4:11, but this wasn’t to be for long, he would come at Jesus again very soon, Luke 4:13 / John 14:30.  As the devil leaves, angels come to attend to Jesus, they came to attend to His physical needs after fasting for forty days and nights, Matthew 4:11.

The devil’s proposal to change stones into bread was as unnecessary as it was sinful. Jesus who is introduced to us in the very first verse of the New Testament is introduced as ‘the son of Abraham,’ Matthew 1:1.

Abraham if you remember on Mount Moriah when he was going to sacrifice his son Isaac said, ‘the Lord will provide!’. Genesis 22:14, and the Lord certainly provided for Christ by sending His angels to Jesus to provide for His physical needs. The father was always with His Son, always there to help Him in His hour of need, Matthew 26:53 / Luke 22:43.

We should be encouraged in knowing that Jesus experienced temptation as we all do, and so He is more than capable of emphasising with us when we face our temptations, Hebrews 4:15.

We should also be encouraged in knowing that He overcame those temptations, 2 Corinthians 5:21 and we too can overcome our temptations, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

We must remember that it’s not sinful to be tempted, it’s sinful when we yield to those temptations. Doing what pleases God, as Jesus did when He was baptized, doesn’t exempt anyone from temptation but Satan often intensifies his efforts when a person begins to serve God.

Knowing the Scriptures is really important for the Christian because we hear all kinds of texts being taken out of context to promote some kind of theory or belief.

We must be aware of what the Scriptures actually say when someone comes along and tries to teach us something ‘new’, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 / Romans 16:17-18 / Revelation 22:18-19.

‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.’ Luke 4:14-15

Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returns to Galilee and news about Him spread everywhere. He went into the synagogue’s teaching and everyone praised Him. Jesus was indeed the Christ, a recognition that came at the very beginning of Christ’s ministry, as more fully evident in John.

The Synagogue

Notice that it is described as ‘the Synagogue’, indicating that at this time, Capernaum, had only one synagogue, so we may be quite sure which synagogue is meant. In Luke 7:5 we hear the people of the Capernaum, speaking about ‘our synagogue.’

They state that it had been built for them by a Roman Centurion, and it seems reasonable to conclude, that the revelation in Mark’s account that the synagogue was given to the town by a benevolent Roman soldier, reveals that it was originally written for Roman readers.

Archaeologists are fairly certain that the ruins which may still be seen in the town, are not those of the original synagogue in which Jesus entered and preached, but are the remains of a 2nd-centurynd century building that had later been built on the same spot.

Its Purpose

This means that we may accurately describe the Synagogue as ‘a man-made expedient’, for that is exactly what it was. But it served several significant purposes.

1. The Synagogue maintained the Jewish national consciousness and became the social centre for the life of the captives so that even in captivity they never forgot that they were Jews.

2. It promoted a renewed interest in, and respect for the Scriptures and became the place where the collective study of the word of God was conducted.

3. Because it was no longer possible to observe the feasts, fasts and sacrifices prescribed by the Law, there being neither priesthood nor temple, the synagogue also became a place for communal prayer.

So effectively did this ‘expedient’ work, that when the people returned to their homeland they took it with them and developed it, so that with the passing of time, the Synagogue was accepted as a uniquely Jewish ‘institution’, and the Synagogue services became more formal and ritualistic.

As for the buildings in which the services were held, these varied in grandeur and style according to the congregation’s size and affluence. Externally, the buildings weren’t usually impressive, because in the Middle Ages the height of synagogues was restricted by law; a manifestation of the anti-Semitism which was fairly common in those days.

But, whatever physical differences there may have been between the buildings themselves, there were contained certain items of furniture which came to be common to all of them and which can be identified to this day.

Since the Middle Ages, the sacred scrolls containing the Law have been housed in the ‘Ark’, a kind of cupboard or chest, which is always located on the wall, which faces Jerusalem.

In front of this ‘Ark’, there is the ‘Perpetual Light’, symbolising the constant Presence of God, and which is said to remind the congregation of the fire on the altar which, in the days of the tabernacle and the temple, was never allowed to go out.

There is, also, the ‘Bimah’, a raised platform on which stands a reading desk from which prayers are led, the Scriptures read, and announcements are made. This used to be situated at one end of the Synagogue, but these days is usually placed in the centre of the building.

Incidentally, one may be forgiven for supposing that those who attend the Synagogue have no problem in allowing their left hand to know what their right-hand does!

According to one rabbi, the Bimah is also the place where, ‘acts of benevolence are made, in the form of donations, which those who are called up to the Reading of the Law want to make’!

Jesus Rejected At Nazareth

‘He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:17-19

This rejection of Jesus in Nazareth took place at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. The rejection of Matthew 13:54-58 took place at the close of His ministry. The residents of Nazareth had two chances to hear Jesus, but they wouldn’t listen on either occasion.

As was the custom of the Jews, Jesus went to the synagogue to listen to the reading of the Old Testament law. However, the Sabbath assembly in the synagogue wasn’t a part of the Old Testament law. The synagogue came into existence in Palestine after the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity in 536 B.C.

Keep in mind also that not all Jews in a community met in the synagogue simply because the synagogues were not large structures. The synagogue was a Jewish cultural centre where the reading of the law could be heard. The Jews’ custom was that the Old Testament law is read only while the reader stood.

We have to remember that nothing that was done in the Synagogue could be condemned as a violation of the Law of God. Since the Law commanded worship, benevolence and obedience to God’s Word, it could be argued that the Synagogue encouraged and assisted the Jews to understand and obey the Law. For this reason, the Lord Jesus would have no objection to it.

This particular scroll was twenty-three feet long, seven meters, which length was determined by the length of the Isaiah Scroll that was discovered in the Dead Sea area in 1947. There are more prophecies concerning Christ in Isaiah than in any other prophet, Isaiah 49:8-9 / Isaiah 58:6 / Isaiah 61:1-2.

Some translations use the word ‘book.’ However, a scroll wasn’t in the format as the books that we have today. A scroll was a roll of papyrus paper or leather on which the law was written. Jesus unrolled the scroll and read from the law.

The Jews knew that the Scripture from which Jesus quoted referred to the Messiah. When Jesus made this statement, they knew that He was making application of the Scripture to Himself.

Therefore, this would be the announcement and beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and work toward the cross in order to bring about what Isaiah had prophesied.

Their concept of the ministry of the Messiah was nationalistic, but Jesus’ destiny was spiritual. They wouldn’t be delivered from the occupation of foreign powers. They would be delivered from their bondage in sin. It was difficult for them to accept these words from the mouth of a carpenter’s son, John 6:42.

‘Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.’ Luke 4:20-22

Every word which Jesus spoke from Isaiah, pointed to the fact that He was the Messiah. With intense interest, therefore, they were here expecting something of Him at this time because the age of thirty was the accepted age at which one began any ministry among the Jews.

They possibly expected Him to make some formal announcement of His intentions concerning His life. He did, but what they heard wasn’t what they expected. He claimed to be the specific fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the Messiah.

Everyone knew who Jesus was. He had grown up in the town of Nazareth. They had heard of the miraculous happenings that surrounded His conception and birth.

They knew of Him as a wise and obedient child of Mary and Joseph. They also knew that He was one who had been very knowledgeable of the Old Testament Scriptures since childhood.

‘Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’” Luke 4:23

They could accept Him as a good teacher, but not as the Messiah of Israel. Jesus spoke in a manner that was appealing. The eloquence of His speech commanded their attention.

They had heard of the healing of the nobleman’s son that Jesus did in Capernaum a few days earlier, Matthew 4:13 / John 4:46-54. They asked Him for such a miracle in Nazareth in order that the hearsay concerning His other miracles is confirmed in His own country.

‘Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:24-27

Those of one’s own home town are slow to accept the greatness of one who is from that town, Matthew 13:57 / John 4:44. Those of Nazareth were surely proud of Jesus as a teacher. But it was difficult for them to accept Him as the Messiah who had been promised through the prophets.

Jesus speaks of the many widows in Israel during the time of Elijah who went through a severe famine, 1 Kings 17-18 / James 5:17. The widow of Zarephath was a Gentile.

It was to this woman alone that Elijah, the prophet of God, was sent. God sent Elijah to her because she accepted him. Jesus teaches that the messengers of God are sent to those who accept them. God’s evangelists, therefore, should go to those who are receptive to teaching, Matthew 7:6.

Naaman was a Gentile and it was by God’s grace that he was cleansed while many Israelites at the time who were lepers remained unclean, 2 Kings 5:1-14. His faith led him to Elisha, whereas those who ignored the prophet didn’t seek him.

Those who are accustomed to the prophets of God are often those who reject what the prophets say. In this case, Jesus was saying that those who were accustomed to Him in Nazareth would reject Him, though others throughout the world would receive Him.

‘All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.’ Luke 4:28-30

These Jews of Jesus’ home town were greatly prejudiced against the Gentiles. When Jesus said that the Gentiles would receive the prophets of God before the Jews would, such greatly angered the Jews.

They couldn’t accept the fact that others would be more righteous and privileged than they. Their religious prejudices at this time in Jesus’ ministry were stirred to the point of an attempted murder of Him, John 8:37 / John 10:31. This same furious response to truth is something we see happening with Stephen, Acts 7:51-54, and Paul, Acts 22:22.

Notice that Jesus simply walked right through the crowd and went on His way. It’s difficult to determine if this was done miraculous or not but Jesus has done this before and will do it again later, John 8:59 / John 10:39 / John 18:6.

Jesus Drives Out An Impure Spirit

‘Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.’ Luke 4:31-37

Capernaum

For most of Jesus’ ministry, He lived among fishermen and went back and forth from Capernaum. The Sea of Galilee wants a sea but a lake and also called Gennesaret, Chinoreth Tiberius, because it was shaped like a harp, it was one of several fishing towns, villages.

Capernaum’s population is believed to have been less than 2000 and had one long street on the shoreline of the sea of Galilee. It had a fish market, the location of which has been discovered. Josephus records that, at one time 230 fishing boats worked on the Sea of Galilee.

Though small it was important because of its location near the main highway running from Egypt in the South, to the northern provinces of the Roman Empire. It also had a tax office, Matthew 9:9, where taxes were collected for both the occupying Romans and Herod, who ruled over Galilee.

You might imagine that Capernaum was a famous, large, ancient city but it was not. Even though the name, Capernaum, means, ‘city of Nahum’, it had nothing to do with the prophet Nahum, who lived about 740 BC, because it was only established about 200 years before the birth of Jesus, and, consequently it is never mentioned in the Old Testament.

However, even in these troubled times, Capernaum remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Israel, because of its many associations with Jesus, who made His home there. Matthew 4:13 ‘Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum’.

Mathew also tells us that it was ‘His home town’ Matthew 9:1 and points out that this was the fulfilment of the prophecy made by the prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 9:1-2.

There are too many things that happened in and around Capernaum to mention them all, because, most of the events concerning the Lord’s ministry, recorded in the first 9 chapters of Mark’s account occurred in and around Capernaum.

Demon Possession

The topic of ‘demon possession’ is an interesting subject, to say the least, and I know most people have their own thoughts and ideas about it. Some believe it still happens today and others say there’s no way it can happen today and still others are not sure.

I remember many years ago a friend of mine witnessed someone who was a member of a certain ‘church’ being literally beat up by the ‘pastor’, as he says this was the only way to drive out this ‘evil spirit’ from the young boy. Anyone who knows anything about the Scriptures will know that ‘beating’ beating up to drive out some ‘demon’ is nowhere found in the Bible.

There was a documentary on TV a few years ago where certain ‘churches’ were being investigated for this very subject. Their pastors were claiming they some members were ‘possessed’ because they stole something from a shop, some were claiming that members were ‘witches’ because since those individuals joined the ‘church’ nothing but ‘bad luck’ has happened to other members.

Our television is filled with programmes that speak about demon possession, films have been made about demon possession, someone heard about someone else in the middle of some far-off country, in the middle of some village, of someone who possessed. You can go on YouTube and see a video of people who are supposedly possessed and you can see videos of people having those demons driven out.

I mean, it’s everywhere and people’s minds are slowly being filled with all kinds of wonderful ideas about the subject. However, whether we like it or not these practices are still rampant within some religious circles today. Possibly because of ignorance, possibly because some so-called ‘pastors’ have a desire for power and financial gain.

The whole purpose of this study is to try to compare what people believe is demon possession today with the Scriptures and then you can make your own mind up about the subject at hand. We can either believe ‘people’s testimonies’ or the Word of God.

And please know that I’m not disputing what people are claiming they have seen and witnessed but I am disputing if what they saw and witnessed was genuine. Some people claim that they have been possessed by a demon or they at least, claim they know someone who has been possessed.

Do Demons Exist?

We can’t deny that demons or ‘evil spirits’ exist because the Bible tells us so, James 2:19. We know that demons were under the power of Satan, who is the commander of all evil spirits. This is what the Jewish leaders were accusing Jesus of in Matthew 12:24.

How Did Demons Operate?

We know from the Scriptures that these demons entered into people’s bodies and controlled their lives, Matthew 8:28-34. They often caused sickness in the people they entered such as not being able to speak or see, Matthew 12:22.

They caused people to become insane and mad, Luke 8:26-36, and they often caused people to conduct personal injuries on themselves, Mark 9:14-27. They often caused other kinds of bodily infirmities, Luke 13:10-17.

What Do Demons Know?

Well, unlike most of the people in Jesus’ day, they certainly knew who Jesus was and they understood why He came into the world in the first place, Luke 4:41. There are no doubts that they actually believe in God too, James 2:19.

They are well aware of the coming Judgement and they fear the Judgment and their eternal punishment, Matthew 8:28-29. All of the above text shows us that demons are not some kind of diseases like some people have claimed but these demons or evil spirits are just that, they are spirit beings who think, speak, and act.

Who Was Capable Of Casting Out Demons?

Now, this is an important question which we’ll get back to later but for now, we see in clearly Scripture that Jesus often cast demons out of people, Matthew 8:16.

Jesus also gave the ability to cast out demons to His early disciples, Luke 10:17, and Jesus also gave the ability to cast out demons to His apostles, Mark 16:17-18 / Acts 5:16 / Acts 8:7 / Acts 16:16-18 / Acts 19:11-12.

The apostles were able to give miraculous gifts to others by laying their hands on them, Acts 6:6-8 / Acts 8:14-21 / Acts 19:1-6. Please remember that these miraculous powers would have included the power to cast out demons, Acts 8:5-8.

Do Demons Still Possess People Even Today?

1. There is no indication that demon possession occurred before the ministry of Jesus and His apostles.

We have no references to it in the Old Testament, Saul was not demon possessed, 1 Samuel 18:10. And the first we hear of this is in the Gospels during the ministry of Jesus.

The last we hear of it is during the ministry of the apostles. This suggests that demon possession was something God allowed for a short time in order to demonstrate the power and authority of the Lord Jesus and His apostles.

2. There is no instruction in the epistles on how to cast out demons.

If demon possession is a problem for the church today, then surely believers need to be able to cast out demons and to do so we must know how. Because there is no such instruction, suggests this isn’t a problem now.

If demon possession continued today, Satan would have more power than God, for he could send his demons into people, but God’s people couldn’t cast them out.

3. What is sometimes called demon possession today doesn’t match up with the accounts we find in Scripture.

We don’t find people, for example, who break the strongest of chains, as the possessed man of Gadara did, Mark 5:3-4 / Luke 8:29.

4. Most alleged demon ‘exorcisms’ today are secluded, back-room affairs that are only later publicised.

Yet when Jesus expelled evil spirits, his miracles were publicly viewed, by astonished multitudes, Luke 4:36.

When Did Demon Possession End?

Zechariah, an Old Testament prophet, spoke of the time when Christ would come, Zechariah 13:1. This fountain was opened when Jesus shed His blood on the cross for the sins of the world.

Following the time when the Lord would die for our sins, prophets, men who spoke by the Holy Spirit, and unclean spirits, demons, would no longer be in the land, earth, Zechariah 13:2.

So, I guess the question is, when did this happen? As we saw earlier, only the early disciples and just before Jesus ascended back to the Father, only the apostles could drive out demons. Later it was only those whom the apostles laid their hands on had the ability to drive our demons and perform other miracles.

In other words, since no early disciples are still alive today, since no apostles are still alive today and since no Christians of whom the apostle’s laid their hands on to bestow upon the gift of casting out demons are still alive today, we can safely say that demon possession can’t exist today because no one has the power to drive them out today.

We understand that the purpose of these miracles was to confirm or prove that what they were saying was God’s Word, Mark 16:20 / Hebrews 2:2-4.

One of the nine spiritual miraculous gifts in the first century according to 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 was ‘the discerning of Spirits’. We must remember to try to understand these gifts in the context of the historical period during which they were exercised. This verse, which seems so strange to us, would be perfectly understood by the people alive at the time of the writing of Paul’s letter.

For example, his readers would understand that, when he writes in 1 Corinthians 14:37 about those whom he describes as ‘spiritual’.

Paul was referring to those who were believed to be possessed by a spirit because this was the name by which such people were known. Also, Christians weren’t the only ones who believed in ‘spirit-possession’ i.e. individuals who were regarded as being under the influence of spirits that used them as their ‘instruments’.

Both Jewish and Pagan religions also had their prophets, whom they believed were under spirit control. Paul hints at this in 1 Corinthians 12:1-2, but, because men recognised the existence of both good and evil spirits, it was essential to determine by which spirit a person was being ‘possessed’ and ‘controlled’.

We know that during the ministry of the Lord Himself, there were times when He encountered and dealt with people who were possessed by evil spirits.

The man at Gadara, and the spirit-controlled son of the man who came to Jesus because he said, the disciples couldn’t cure the lad, Matthew 17:14-20, Luke records the experience of Paul at Philippi, in dealing with a spirit possessed girl, Acts 16:16-19.

With this in mind, Paul lays down two criteria that must be used in making this judgment.

1. Sanity.

For centuries about 500 B.C., in fact, the Greeks had flocked to temples where priests or priestesses were believed to contact and be controlled by the gods, for who they acted as ‘mouthpieces’, as the gods spoke through them to deliver messages.

Whether it was real or fake, when these people were under the control of their gods they foamed at the mouth, their hair streaming out, and their limbs wildly flailing, as in an epileptic fit, all of which was taken to prove that they were being ‘moved’ by the spirit of the god whom they served.

Not so the prophets of the church, they did not scream or foam at the mouth, or roll on the ground! The Holy Spirit enlightened their minds and sharpened their vision. They didn’t claim that they were the mouthpiece of God, but the messengers of God.

2. The credit of honour to Christ.

The well-used Christian confession of faith in New Testament times was ‘Jesus is Lord’, and as Paul reveals in 1 Corinthians 12:3, this was the formula by which the prophets were to be judged either true or false.

Bear in mind that, beginning with Caesar Augustus, Roman Emperors had begun to regard themselves as ‘gods’, and everyone in the Empire was required to recognize and acknowledge this! Citizens had to declare their loyalty to Caesar as a god by saying the words, ‘Caesarea Kyrios’, ‘Caesar is Lord’.

In fact, at the entrance to every Roman Camp there was an altar onto which the soldiers were expected to throw a pinch of incense in the worship of the Emperor, whilst saying those words, ‘Caesar is Lord’, and, woe betides any man who failed to do so!

But when the favour with which Rome had originally looked on Christians turned into persecution, this affirmation of loyalty to Caesar was something that the Christians also were required to make, and failure to make it usually meant death.

At the same time, there was a quite different affirmation that was being freely made by both Jewish and Pagan enemies of the church. They were saying, as Paul records in 1 Corinthians 12:3, ‘Jesus is accursed’, and obviously, only the enemies of Christ would utter those words!

Furthermore, when a Christian refused to speak those words which were taken as an acknowledgement of Caesar’s deity, their refusal was taken as a denial of his deity and that was treason that brought the death sentence.

Thus, the distinction between the prophet inspired by the Holy Spirit, and the false prophet was, in this way, easily made. The one was happy to say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, whilst the other, because he was under the influence of an evil spirit said, ‘Jesus is accursed’.

John also writes about the importance of making this distinction in 1 John 4:1-3. One needs little imagination to understand that in a pagan world, many pretended to be possessed and controlled by the gods so that they might claim to be speaking in their names.

The significant contrast between these frenzied fakers and the calmness of the Spirit-led Christian prophets are, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14:26-33.

Notice ‘The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets’. In other words, there was no wild abandonment in the manner in which they delivered their message. Everything was done in an orderly manner, because ‘God is not the author of confusion, but of peace’.

A final observation, the exercise of the ‘gift of discerning of spirits’ was to be used when several prophets spoke in the service, 1 Corinthians 14:29.

Now Paul said these spiritual miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit would fail, cease, and vanish away, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. These miraculous gifts would cease when that which is perfect is come. This refers to the New Testament, which is called the perfect law of liberty, James 1:25.

As we noted a moment ago, one of these miraculous gifts was the power to cast out demons. Therefore, evil spirits possessing men, along with the power to cast them out, ceased when the New Testament was completed and confirmed.

Some people often go to Mathew 7:21-23 but notice that Jesus didn’t say they did prophecy or drive out demons in His name, He was simply saying what they would claim. And the very fact that He says, He didn’t know them and called them evildoers, suggests that what they were doing was fake, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12.

Why Demon Possession In The New Testament?

The New Testament clearly indicates that demons were under the control of divine authority. Jesus, for example, could command them to leave a person, Matthew 8:16, or even to keep quiet, Mark 1:34.

The demons that tormented the man in the country of the Gerasenes couldn’t enter the nearby swine herd except by the Lord’s concession, Mark 5:13-14.

Since it’s the case that demons could do nothing except by divine permission, the intriguing question is, why did God allow these spirits to enter into people? The truth of the matter is, that the Bible doesn’t give a specific answer to this question.

I personally believe that God permitted demons to possess certain people in the time of Christ and the apostles so that His power could be seen.

Not only did Christ have power over nature, disease, and death, but He also had power over the spirit world. The Devil and his demons were proved to be powerless before the Son of God, Colossians 2:15 / 1 John 3:8.

And we do know that the ability to cast out demons in the first century was given in order to confirm the truth of the Gospel message, Mark 16:17-20. Demons still exist, but they don’t possess people today.

Today, we need to be concerned about Satan, the Devil, who tempts us to sin. We know that the devil is still working today but he doesn’t have the power he once had and so he can only work through lying and deceit.

Lying And Deceit

Note the following passages which speak about how he operates today, John 8:44 / 2 Corinthians 11:3 / 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 / Ephesians 6:11 / 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 / Revelation 12:9 / Revelation 13:12-14 / Revelation 19:20.

The purpose of the church, especially the duties of elders, preachers, and teachers, is to teach people so that they are not as vulnerable to such deceit, Ephesians 4:12-14.

Like I said at the start of this subject, the whole purpose of this is to try to compare what people claim is demon possession today with the Scriptures, in order for you to make your own mind up about the subject at hand.

And to know that I’m not disputing what people are claiming they have seen and witnessed but I am disputing if what they saw and witnessed was genuine.

As a result, of Jesus’ teaching and miracles, great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him, Mark 1:28.

Jesus Heals Many

‘Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah.’ Luke 4:38-41

Jesus came into Simon Peter’s house and found his mother-in-law sick in bed with a high fever, Mark 1:29-34. He spoke to her, raised her up, and the fever left her. She then began waiting on Jesus and the disciples. He also healed many others who were brought to Him.

Several features of Jesus’ healings are noteworthy.

1. He healed immediately, with no delay.

2. He healed everyone who came to Him regardless of their disease, Matthew 8:16-17 / Luke 4:40-41.

3. He healed so completely that Simon’s mother-in-law was able to get up and start waiting on them.

After a fever breaks, it normally takes a few days for a person to recover his strength. Jesus’ healings put people back as if they had never had their disabilities in the first place!

4. Jesus sought to avoid publicity. He ordered the demons not to announce who He was.

Why sunset? They were confined to their homes and weren’t allowed out until sunset, 6:00 am.

‘At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.’ Luke 4:42-44

Jesus frequently sought solitude for prayer, Mark 1:35. Prayer during the daytime was nearly impossible since the crowds continually pressed on Him, so He skipped sleep to be able to talk with His Father that He missed so much.

After finally finding Him that morning, the disciples reported that everybody in the town where He had been, were seeking Him, Mark 1:36-37.

Nevertheless, since He wanted to be able to get the message, the good news of the Kingdom of God, to as many people as possible, He insisted on moving on to other towns, to preach in their synagogues, Mark 1:39.

Go To Luke 5

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

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