Luke 9:49 (ESV):

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.”

The 12 (and later the 70) only started healing people and casting out demons AFTER Jesus "gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases".

The Holy Spirit had not been sent yet, so with what authority was this person acting?

  • Objection: This question is presented as a "Complex Question" fallacy, assuming an answer to an un-asked question, presupposing that the person didn't have "Jesus' mandate"; but, the text only states that "he does not follow along with us", (Luke 9:49); Any conclusions that might follow would likely be invalid - because the text might be silent on the possibility that this person might have met Jesus before - or had been empowered by the Holy Spirit, (as others had been before). Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 4:00
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    A "Meta" Observation: I believe this question is a great "proof" for how leading questions that assume a faulty premise will solicit primarily "opinion-based answers". For this reason - the question should be "closed" or at least fixed. Another Faulty Presupposition: "The Holy Spirit had not been sent yet" Sure, the Holy Spirit might not have been "poured out on all flesh" - as described in Joel, but this hardly means that the Holy Spirit was not present in individuals. Because of this, a reasonable answer cannot be given. Commented Jun 22, 2017 at 4:34
  • @elikakohen you make a good point there. thanks
    – algiogia
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 8:51

6 Answers 6


Perhaps the most important verse in this brief exchange is the following verse,(vs 50)

And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

It's apparent that this individual saw Jesus cast out demons, and saw the disciples cast out demons; what he did not see was the Scribes and Pharisees cast out demons. The key passage to understand who can cast out demons is found in Matt. 11:24-30,"

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.

And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

The key to understanding this passage is vs 27,

And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.

Jesus is throwing their charge of "...he casts out demons by the Prince of demons" back in their face; He is saying, 'Ok, if I follow your argument of casting out demons by the Prince of demons, by what name are you or your followers casting demons by? They will tell you if you are right or not.'

The Truth of the Matter is they did not cast out demons, neither they nor their followers. And then to show them exactly who it was that demons were cast out by, He says,(vs 28)

But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.

The conclusion is therefore, whoever would cast out demons does so by the Spirit of God, this is the ministry of the Kingdom of God that Jesus and His disciples revealed.

The following verse reveals the instance of the man the disciples were trying to restrain from casting out demons,(vs 30}

"He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad."

The Scribes and Pharisees who not with Him and were against Him were "scattering abroad". The man that was casting out demons in Jesus's name was "with Him and gathering". Hence, Jesus could say about him,(Mk. 9:39-40}

But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. 40 For he that is not against us is on our part.

Although he didn't "follow Jesus" the same way His disciples did, he was "for Him" and obviously casting out demons in Jesus's name through the power of the Holy Spirit. To this Jesus's message was "Forbid him not".

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    Ok. So looks like people had that "power" even before he told them. Why did they have to wait for the Holy Spirit then?
    – algiogia
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 0:36
  • @algiogia This person witnessed the works of Jesus and the disciples. The disciples were casting demons out before Pentecost; Jesus gave them power to do so. This person apparently thought that if Jesus and the disciples could cast out demons, the way Jesus and His disciples cast them out, he could too. The Holy Spirit which came upon the church at Pentecost replaced Jesus's Ministry on earth(John 16). The Holy Spirit sent at Pentecost was an indwelling witness of Jesus, however the Holy Spirit was in operation(through faith) manifesting the works of God from the beginning of time.
    – Tau
    Commented Feb 28, 2015 at 4:34
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    @Tau, on what biblical basis do you claim that "The Truth of the Matter is [the Pharisee's children] did not cast out demons, neither they nor their followers"? This exactly undermines Jesus' argument which is based on the assumption that the Pharisees believe their children are casting out demons, and not by the power of Beelzebub. You appear to be contradicting a plain reading of both texts.
    – Schuh
    Commented Mar 7, 2015 at 23:29
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    @Schuh "They"=Children(followers of Pharisees) proved that Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit of God. Why? Because if their "children" had cast out demons, it would have made the Pharisees's case that Jesus supposedly cast out demons by Beelzebub.The Contradiction is exactly correct-except it's the Pharisees and Not Jesus who is being contradicted. The 'plain reading of the text' doesn't spell out the contradiction, Jesus's words do. Think: IF/THEN. IF=Children cast out demons, THEN=Pharisees are right. IF=Children are not casting out demons, THEN=Jesus is right. Now...who is right?
    – Tau
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 3:57
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    The point is even the Pharisees thought that to cast out demons you had to do so with some higher power. They show this in their accusation it must have been by the power of Satan. When Jesus rebukes them saying Satan will not cast out Satan, the direct implication is that it is the power of God that casts out demons. so Jesus can say the Pharisees have not cast out demons because it was not ever them nor anyone else in their own power doing it.
    – Joshua
    Commented Apr 9, 2015 at 13:12

The assumption that one requires divine authority to exorcise demons, cure infirmities, or perform miracles does not appear to have been shared by biblical writers. There are several instances in the gospels themselves where individuals other than Jesus and his disciples are said to exorcise demons (e.g. Mt.7:22, 12:27; Lk.9:49) and other examples of people outside their circle performing miracles, the most renown being Simon Magus as told in Acts 8.

This continues the belief evident in Old Testament stories of magicians, sorcerers, future-tellers, and workers of the occult who were believed to exercise real power, often with God’s apparent approval.(1) Jewish sources contemporaneous with Jesus likewise reported the feats of the miracle-workers Honi ha-M'agel and Hanina ben Dosa. According to the Dead Sea Scrolls exorcisms were performed within the Jewish Essene sect, and Josephus likewise reported exorcisms following the ancient traditions of administering poisonous root extracts and making sacrifices.

Whatever one makes of these stories today, the biblical writers understood their world to be diversely magical, and many people were believed to have the specialized knowledge or ability necessary to perform miracles, including exorcisms, quite apart from Jesus. It is within this cultural context that many people may actually have first come to belief in Jesus as the Christ.(2)


(1) B.A. Robinson, “Divination, Magic & Occultic Activity in the Bible,” Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. http://www.religioustolerance.org/divin_bibl.htm

(2) Ben Witherington, 'Through Christ-- the Magus.' http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2008/10/through-christ-magus.html

For an exhaustive list of biblical reference to witchcraft, astrology and magic: http://www.bibleplus.org/witchcraft/witchcraft.htm

  • From the scriptures seems quite clear that said Simon was just a swindler that "used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria". Sorcery was forbidden, so I don't see Jesus commending such a person.
    – algiogia
    Commented Mar 8, 2015 at 19:00
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    algiolia ~ According to Acts 8:9-13, Peter and Simon both performed “great miracles” (δυνάμεις μεγάλας) that “amazed” (ἐξίστημι) the people. Unfortunately, some translators render the same Greek vocabulary differently for the two; in the KJV you cite, for example, Peter’s ‘amazing miracles’ are Simon’s ‘bewitching sorcery.’ Regardless, the non-Christian Simon was a miracle-worker, which was my point above. Thanks!
    – Schuh
    Commented Mar 9, 2015 at 20:57
  • The Greek text actually reads, speaking of Simon, "προϋπῆρχεν ἐν τῇ πόλει μαγεύων" (where μαγεύων translates "practicing sorcery") and not "δυνάμεις μεγάλας"
    – algiogia
    Commented Mar 10, 2015 at 9:15
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    That’s v.9. Here’s v.10: “They all gave heed to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘οὗτός ἐστινἡ δύναμις τοῦ θεοῦ ἡ καλουμένη μεγάλη’(This man is the great power of God).” Simon was formerly a magus, like the Magi who visited Bethlehem, and he and Peter are described using the same vocabulary.
    – Schuh
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 17:09
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    @Schuh The suggestion that "occult" purveyors can 'exorcise' demons directly defies the words of Chirst, "If Satan casts out Satan; he is divided against himself". That they manifested "power" is certain; but it is not the power associated with healings, exorcisms, miracles, etc. Even the Scribes and Pharisees admitted this when Nicodemus said, "We know you are a teacher from God, for no man can do these miracles, except God be with him.".(John 3:2) That 'occult' power was manifested during Biblical times is recorded, but they understood the difference between the devil and God.
    – Tau
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 11:46

This is such a great question. All the answers are making some conclusion of the circumstance. I almost did too. The answer is "in your name," and this shows how powerful the name and belief and Jesus can be. It is obvious that he had to have had some exposure to Jesus' teachings and was so moved by it he wanted to spread the word whether by word or by deed, in this case, deed. The discussion of the Holy Spirit and other aspects are all moot. We don't know and it really does not matter. The point of it is that just because a certain someone is not us, do not stop them if they are preaching the word. As someone who comes from a Catholic family with 1/2 coming from the Protestants this is very insightful. As long as a different group is actually preaching the word, they are not against you. That, here, is what is most important. Not, by what authority, although, that should be obvious.

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    – agarza
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 13:42

A parallel verses in Mark 9:38-41 may better illustrate the situation

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me,

40 for whoever is not against us is for us.

41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

Before that, both Mark and Luke described an argument among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. It told the disciples of Jesus had a growing ego in their mindset, that led them to a conclusion that whoever not with them was against them. What Jesus did in here was to correct their mindset, and it is very important to the Christians today. For now Christianity is splitting into many sect, that we should live in collaboration for the name of Jesus, rather than dispute.

Let's review the verses

  • Verse 38 - Though the person was not a disciple of Jesus, he had to be someone believed in Jesus in order to perform miracle in Jesus name. It implies here is that person believed in Jesus but not in the circle of the disciples. He belonged to another sect.
  • Verse 39 - It tells no one can perform a miracle without truly believe in Jesus. For in the next moment if he say something bad about Jesus, no miracle can be done.
  • Verse 40 - This is the key statement from Jesus
  • Verse 41 - A further addendum Jesus given. Though a person is not in your sect. But if they offer you help in Jesus name, for knowing you are with Jesus, their reward in Jesus is certain.

So here is the teaching, that we should humble ourselves, and accept people who are not against us.

We may see that the scripture just took a brief description of the scene the one who casted out the demon. Was it successful? It depended on whether he was truly believe in Jesus.


In light of all these answers, how do you explain Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” “And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.” Apparently people CAN cast out demons in Christ name that are not going to heaven! And if they were going to heaven at the time they cast out demons, how did they lose their salvation?

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    The miracle workers rejected in Matthew called on Jesus' name, but did not do the will of the Father. In Luke 9:50, Jesus says not to forbid anyone who casts out demons in his name, but he makes no claim here that simply performing these miracles in Jesus' name will get someone into heaven, either. He is only cautioning his disciples not to try to control everyone, or to make rash judgements against 'others'. Just because this miracle worker is not 'one of us' - ie. specifically chosen - doesn't make him the enemy, or his actions or intentions automatically wrong. Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 11:19
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    Marsha, if you put asterisks before and after words that you want to emphasize, it will italicize them. All caps makes people feel like you're shouting at them. Thanks. :-)
    – Dieter
    Commented Jun 6, 2018 at 1:39

However, Saul ... resolved to have David slain; and commanded his son Jonathan and his most faithful servants to kill him ... and I will then inform you of my father's resolution.'' Accordingly David complied with such an advantageous advice, and kept himself then out of the king's sight. On the next day Jonathan came to Saul, as soon as he saw him in a cheerful and joyful disposition, and began to introduce a discourse about David: What unjust action, O father, either little or great, have you found so exceptionable in David, as to induce you to order us to slay a man who has been of great advantage to your own preservation, and of still greater to the punishment of the Philistines? (Antiquities of the Jews 6:205-209).

Consider these things, and change your mind to a more merciful temper, and do no mischief to a man, who, in the first place, has done us the greatest kindness of preserving you; for when an evil spirit and demons had seized upon you, he cast them out, and procured rest to your soul from their incursions: and, in the second place, has avenged us of our enemies; for it is a base thing to forget such benefits.'' (Antiquities of the Jews 6:205-209 and 6:211 JOE)

The reason for the disciples' perplexity was not because the man was casting out demons, but because he was using an unconventional method: The Name of Jesus.

Several questions then arise: Was the demon expelled by the experience of the exorcist who only added "the Name" to the process? Was the demon expelled because the exorcist followed the teachings of Christ, even though he was not a proselyte of the disciples? Was the demon cast out upon hearing "the Name" regardless of the circumstances?

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