Luke 11:17 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and a house divided against a house will fall. 18If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? After all, you say that I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 20But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Matthew 7:22 Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?'

Did these people drive out demons by the finger of God?


2 Answers 2


To answer the main question, no - there is nothing in Luke 11 which implies that others drive out demons by "the finger of God". To understand Jesus' words here it's beneficial to have some context around exorcism in the ancient world, and we will explore this below.

There is an implication that the Pharisees accuse Jesus of having spiritual power over demons by a connection with Beelzebub, but don't make such accusations against their own people. Jesus' point is more to highlight the hypocrisy of their accusation than to make any claims about the methodology or origins of the other exorcists.

Exorcism in the ancient world

Exorcism was a common practice for various groups in the ancient world, and probably covered a range of cases between genuine demonic possession to various degrees of mental illness. The Exorcist would apply something considered to be 'holy' or have spiritual power in order to forcibly drive out the unholy presence, such as herbs, oils, running water, or even the written name of God. Josephus gave one firm example:

"I have seen a certain man of my own country, whose name was Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal, in the presence of Vespasian and his sons and his captains and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down, immediately he abjured him to return into him no more, still making mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantations which he composed. And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a little way off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it, and thereby let the spectators know that he had left the man; and when this was done the skill and wisdom of Solomon were shown very manifestly." - Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 8, section 42

Thus there were understood to be many mechanisms for gaining power over demons, without invoking God's direct action.

Exorcism among early Christians

Exorcism became an extremely common practice in the early church. The name of Jesus or sign of the cross were taken as symbols of power which could expel demons. Baptism was in itself understood as an exorcising experience, which had the power to free believers from demons in their past, and the catechism process was expected to release new believers from demonic possessions of the past, which in some cases were issues like addictions to sins such as lust and anger. Among the early church fathers, Justin Martyr and Origen in particular emphasised that Jesus' Kingdom was one which in a primary sense overcame the demonic powers of the world.

"Christians still have a remedy against demons: they can drive them out by prayer and lessons from Holy Scripture, not only out of men's souls, but - and mark this - out of animals as well." (Origen, C. Celsus. vii. 67)

Origen held that certain names, sounds and syllables had the very power to invoke the persons they represented, and so that the names of Jesus and the God of Abraham in themselves had power independent of the person using them. (Exh. Ad Martyr, 46)


As we ourselves understand the gradual decline and tendency of the early church towards superstition and mysticism/paganism, and understand that it eventually became relatively 'normal' for Christians to seek exorcism and deliverance regardless of whether they were genuine disciples, we can understand the relevance and caution of Jesus' words. As the pages of history turn, we find the growth of many who drove or claimed to have driven out demons, but in themselves did not 'do' the works Jesus commanded in his Sermon on the Mount which you quote in your question.

The distinctive thing about Jesus was that he did not need to invoke any secondary name or article in order to drive out demons. He wasn't recorded using any special names, formulae or items to gain power over demons - he could command them himself. And so he could say that it was the very 'finger of God' driving them out - not just a man invoking the power of others greater than himself.

  • Very good points made here. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 31, 2020 at 10:21

7And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;
12And they went out, and preached that men should repent. 13And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

Mark 6:7-13 (KJV)

Judas was with the twelve who were sent out, and he was paired with one of the other eleven. There is no reason to believe that Judas didn't cast out demons in Jesus' name, and his partner would have known that he had.

When I read Matthew 7:22, I think of Judas. It is unlikely there weren't/aren't/won't be others who have been gifted by the Holy Spirit, but whose hearts are set on earthly treasure rather than heavenly. Surely the writer of Hebrews had such in mind when he wrote:

4For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

Hebrews 6:4-6 (KJV)

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