When it comes to ministering deliverance from evil spirits, we must avoid the tendency to become overly formulaic or rely too heavily on specific methods. I believe in having a basic model to follow and using prayers for deliverance. These can be very helpful and effective in giving you a basic framework to minister. But every situation is unique, and we must always rely on the direction and power of the Holy Spirit. And while the Holy Spirit may lead you to use various methods, and some may become consistent, always remember this: God anoints the minister not the method. In Acts 19, we see a powerful illustration of this truth.
The apostle Paul carried such a powerful anointing of the Spirit, that people were delivered from demons even when cloths that he had touched were taken to the sick and demonized:
“Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:11-12, emphasis added).
The very next few verses go on to describe an instance of some Jewish exorcists who tried and failed to cast out demons.
Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19:13-16)
The word exorcists in the above passage implies the use of a ritual or formula to get rid of demons. This is similar to, but not the same as deliverance ministry. The main difference is this: exorcism puts the emphasis on a specific ritual as a means to be free from evil spirits while deliverance ministry deals with directly confronting evil spirits and casting them out in the name of Jesus. (I am aware that some people use the terms deliverance and exorcism interchangeably, but this is technically not correct.)
Some Jewish exorcists must have witnessed that Paul’s way of taking authority over demons in the name of Jesus was effective, and they tried to add this to their methods. They thought they had a new formula that would do the trick. The problem is, the name of Jesus is not simply a magic word that can be thrown around outside of the context of a relationship with Him. Even in the framework of a relationship with the Lord, we are not to see His name as some kind of a magic word, like some in the occult would view a charm.
The seven sons of Sceva tried to use the name of Jesus, but they themselves did not carry authority in the spiritual realm. Their newfound formula did not work as it had for Paul. The demon’s answer must have totally stunned these exorcists. “Who are you? I know Jesus and I’m familiar with Paul; but who are you?” This is not what you want to hear when you are attempting to cast out a demon! The end result was quite dramatic, with the seven fleeing the scene naked and bleeding after being overpowered by the demonized man.
What I find fascinating about this whole episode is that Paul’s handkerchief carried more power and authority to drive out demons than the “correct” method being used by people who did not genuinely know Jesus. Again, this is because God anoints the minister more so than the method. This story is a warning that we should not enter into deliverance ministry lightly and we should not use the name of Jesus apart from an abiding relationship with Him. It is also a warning for us to avoid becoming overly formulaic in our deliverance methods. Though I would encourage developing a basic model and using specific prayers for deliverance, I would caution against relying too heavily on methods and formulas.
Intimacy with God. Compassion for people. Kingdom authority. The power of the Holy Spirit. These are the primary keys for casting out demons and setting captives free!
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