Vol. IX — No. 13 March 31, 1968
And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. And others tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. But he knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall Come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth, When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it, swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first, find it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice and said unto him Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it.
In Christ Jesus, who has crushed the serpent’s head, Fellow Redeemed:
The very first promise of a Savior was not spoken directly to man, but to Satan. I am sure that you know these words from memory: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:l5. Satan had made himself a special, personal adviser to Eve. He had told her how to get ahead in life, yea how to become as God, Eve had shifted her trust from the Creator to the deceiver. That had been her undoing. The Lord now says that He will cause enmity, strife, hostile relations to exist between Satan and the woman. That would not be a one generation conflict, but would continue between Satan’s seed, all unbelievers, and the woman’s seed, the believers. He can see how that conflict broke out between Cain and Abel, then the Cainites and the Sethites. This conflict between unbelievers and believers would continue until it came to a climax between One who would come from the woman’s seed and Satan himself. That woman’s Seed was God’s Son come in the flesh as the Representative and Champion of the human race against Satan. Think of how the Lord battled against Satan in the forty day temptation in the wilderness, then in the garden of Gethsemane and finally on the cross. During this conflict Satan would be able to bruise the heel of Christ. And that he did with the bitter suffering and death of our Lord. But in the process his own head would be crushed. His power would be broken. His tyranny over the children of men would come to an end.
It is proper to view the entire mission of Christ as a duel between Christ as King of His Kingdom and Satan as prince of his kingdom. Christ came to break the power of Satan. St. John expresses this point of view when he writes, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” I John 3:3. The writer to the Hebrews explains the reason for Christ’s mission to earth in these words: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself—God’s Son—took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” Hebrews 2:l4.
Our text this morning gives us an opportunity to observe this battle at close hand. Christ is attacking the kingdom of Satan, and Satan is counter-attacking. It’s a struggle for total victory with no quarter given, for Christ came to crush the Serpent’s head. From this point of View we would consider our text:
We observe first of all that—
St. Luke reports, “And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.” The phenomenon that is reported in this verse is a case of demoniacal possession. What does that mean? It means this that an evil spirit or evil spirts would take up their abode within the body of a victim and would afflict him or her in one way or another. In this case the evil spirit deprived its victim of his ability to speak. In other cases the victims would lose control of their bodies as in an epileptic fit or would lose control of their minds while the body was endowed with great strength as in the case of mad men, The way in which the victim was afflicted varied, but the cause remained constant: an evil spirit or spirits entered into the body of the victim and simply took Control, concentrating in one area or another of the body or mind.
It is common for many Bible critics, who are themselves the victims of Satan who has filled their hearts with doubts and unbelief, to deny the phenomenon of demoniacal possession. They consider all these cases just examples of popular superstitions. They contend that the afflicted suffered from natural diseases. They would have us believe that Jesus was either Himself deceived as to the diagnosis of the affliction of these sufferers or that He simply accommodated Himself to the superstitions of the common people. That would make Jesus either ignorant or dishonest. A Savior, who didn’t know what He was doing or who was dishonest in His speech and actions, is no Savior at all, but just a pious fraud and a deceiver.
It was quite the contrary. Jesus knew His enemy. He knew that He was engaged in a battle unto death with Satan for the possession of men’s hearts. When He saw individuals who had been made helpless victims of Satan’s fiendish sadism, He freed them by casting out the evil spirit and thus demonstrated His power over Satan.
But Satan was not ready to surrender the field to Jesus. He counterattacked through his slaves, the unbelieving Jews who were the enemies of Jesus. In this instance we see how—
Luke reports, “But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven.” The enemies of Jesus at that time were different from His enemies today. In our scientific age Satan moves his slaves to deny the reality of our Lord’s miracles, also His power over the evil Spirits. His enemies at the time that He lived on earth could not deny the reality of His miracles, for they witnessed them. They denied that the source of His power was of God. They attributed it to Satan. This became the standard counterattack of Jesus’ enemies. They explained to the people that Jesus could do such great miracles and had such power over the evil spirits because He was not the incarnate God but rather an incarnation of Satan, that He was an agent of satanic power, that “He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils.”
There was another group of enemies who claimed to be not quite convinced. They kept on asking for a special sign from heaven as His divinely certified credential. Jesus cast out devils, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, stilled the storm, raised the dead. All these signs His opponents rejected. They kept on clamoring for a sign from heaven. Jesus answered these people in the section following our text. Each group functioned as pawns of Satan. Jesus recognized them as such. In answering them—
His enemies had claimed that He was an agent of Satan and so had power to drive evil Spirits out of people. Jesus exposed the foolishness of this charge in a commonly accepted saying. “But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.” A party split hurts the party. The coming election may demonstrate that again, as the last one did. A nation divided cannot successfully achieve a given objective. This is a matter of common experience and common observation. Our Lord applied this common truth to the situation at hand, “If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub.” Satan’s aim was to torment and enslave people. Jesus freed people by casting out devils. He was working against, not with Satan. Why would Satan want to fight himself? The charge that Jesus was an agent of Satan didn’t make sense, except as an effort on the part of Satan to discredit Jesus.
Jesus attacked His opponents from another angle. The Jews also had their exorcists who were in some instances successful in driving out devils. The Jews were very proud of these men. Jesus asks, “And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons east them out? Therefore shall they be your judges.” Are you going to say that your own people are also in league with the devil? They will rebuke you for that and so will exonerate me.
Jesus continues by giving the true explanation of His power over the evil spirits. “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” In a parallel reading the “finger of God” is revealed to be the Spirit of God. Jesus was working in the power of God’s Spirit, not as an agent of Satan. If they would but recognize that, they would realize that the kingdom of God had come among them.
Jesus continues by speaking of His mission to earth as a battle against that powerful enemy, Satan:
“When a strong man armed keepth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.” The point of the illustration is that complete defeat must precede any plundering. Satan was the strong man guarding his palace which is the whole world, for Satan is the prince of this world. But a Stronger One had come. Jesus was on the scene. He was plundering Satan’s possessions by driving out evil spirits and so liberating prisoners of Satan. How could He do that? He could because His victory over Satan was certain. Jesus acted in anticipation of the complete victory that He would win through His death and resurrection. He had come to destroy the power of Satan and would succeed in so doing.
That means that there are only two choices for each person: “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth.” Either we are servants of Christ or slaves and victims of Satan. Neutrality is impossible! What a pity that so many who think themselves to be Christians are in fact slaves of Satan!
Satan is defeated; his power is broken, but he will continue campaigning until the sentence of eternal damnation is executed upon him on the final judgment day. Our Lord exposes his strategy of counterattack in these words: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself: and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” What is Satan’s strategy? Even as he attacked Jesus and then left Him for awhile, so he tempts a person and then leaves him alone for a season. Satan may make a person a victim of such a gross sin as drunkenness. Through the efforts of friends and by the power of the Spirit that slavery may be broken and the one time victim of Satan may become a fine respectable citizen, member of a Christian church, and to all outward appearance a true child of God. He is as a house swept and garnished. Then Satan returns and sees his chance. He finds the man proud of his conquest over drink. He finds him trusting his own righteousness rather than the righteousness of Christ. He Finds the man no longer repenting and clinging to Christ for forgiveness, but self-confident and secure in his new way of life. Satan charges in with seven new spirits to encourage the man in his new respectable way of life—without repentance and faith in Christ. And so that last state is indeed worse than the first!
In the last two verses of our text—
There was in the audience a woman who was greatly impressed by the words of Jesus. She could no longer contain her enthusiasm, but cried out: “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked.” Oh, that she could but have been the mother of such a man! How blessed His mother must be! Jesus responded, “Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” Not blood relationships, but spiritual connection with Christ counts!
Herein lies the secret of a child of God’s success against Satan—hearing and keeping the Word of God and then using it as an effective weapon against Satan. Satan cannot stand up against the word of God. “One little Word can fell him.” Let us train ourselves to use this weapon against him. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.