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Mark 9:38-40 (ESV):

38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us.

vs.

Acts 19:11-16 (ESV):

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Can non-disciples of Jesus cast out demons in Jesus' name? Mark 9:38-40 appears to say "yes" but Acts 19:11-16 appears to say "no". Does the answer depend on the particular conditions of each situation?


Related: If a "house divided cannot stand" how did non-disciples cast out demons?

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  • I think the use of the word 'non-disciples' complicates matters (see my answer) but up-voted +1, nevertheless.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 18, 2021 at 9:20

4 Answers 4

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The question complicates matters by using the word 'non-disciples'.

Some actually cast out demons in Jesus' name, effectively, and should not be stopped merely because they are not closely associated with others who follow Jesus.

Some failed to cast out demons because they had no power to do so and the demons were able to resist them.

The two incidents do not hinge on the matter of 'non-discipleship'.

The power is in the name of Jesus but only if one has that power from He, himself.

And one may have that power from He, himself, and not (or not yet) be closely associated with others who also do likewise.

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  • What, then, determines whether a non-disciple has or lacks Jesus' name's power? Why in Mark 9:38-40 they had that power, but in Acts 19:11-16 they didn't?
    – user38524
    Jun 18, 2021 at 10:16
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator I tried to make it clear that it is the knowledge of Christ, himself, personally, in a real spiritual relationship, that gives the power (through the Holy Spirit) to act effectively in the name of Christ. This is true in many ways (our testimony, our ministry, our own personal, secret life with the Lord).
    – Nigel J
    Jun 18, 2021 at 11:27
  • But in both Mark 9:38-40 and Acts 19:11-16 the individuals lacked a personal spiritual relationship with Christ. They were non-disciples. Yet in one case they were able to cast demons but in other case they were not.
    – user38524
    Jun 18, 2021 at 11:33
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    Jesus does not deny the first, simply because they are not alongside his first disciples. That is the whole point of the incident. In the latter case, it is the demons who decide the issue, for there is no power. Again I say, you are joining and complicating two entirely different episodes by using the term 'non-disciples'.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 18, 2021 at 14:17
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    More or less. Yes.
    – Nigel J
    Jun 19, 2021 at 6:57
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Acts 19:11-16 is not saying ‘no’, it’s showing us that the demon questioned the exorcist brothers’ authority and the right to use the name of Jesus. They were exorcist (clearly had already exorcised demons prior). They flinch and the demon did to them what they should have done to the demons.

Throughout the whole time that Jesus was on the earth, the disciples were not casting out demons by the Holy Spirit, rather merely by the authority of the Name. Healing was also done by authority.

Therefore if someone wants to use the Name of Jesus they can because it’s a powerful Name or a powerful authority

If someone were to impersonate a police officer, they could use the authority a police officer possesses in his office. He could fight a lot of crime successfully even but if the police chief were to meet him and the impersonator utilizing the authority of the office were to ask for remuneration, he would not only be refused but charged.

The issue isn’t so much whether someone is or is not a disciple, it’s whether they know how to use the Name of Jesus to cast out demons and perform miracles/healings. The Name is sufficiently powerful, but it doesn’t guarantee a relationship with Jesus. The seventy that walked away from Jesus walked away after they had cast out demons and healed people. Sure they were authorized to use the Name but we see Mark 9:38 another who wasn’t a disciples also using the Name and achieving the same results.

The signs are not the fruits. It’s very dangerous to measure one’s relationship with Jesus based on signs.

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I always believed that in mark chapter 9 the man was not necessarily a member of the disciples team but he was a follower of Christ per se versus the seven sons of sceva who are trying to cast out demons yet not willing to turn from Judaism. Therefore Satan recognized that they had no power, because they came in the name of Jesus that Paul preaches but they themselves not having a personal Walk with Jesus. Many scriptures confirm even in the Old testament that God knows whose hearts are committed to him and who's are not and I have to believe that Satan is no fool at least not full enough to listen to just anyone.

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    Oct 23, 2023 at 13:36
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The "itinerant exorcists" were not even believers of Jesus, having his spirit to cast out evil spirits. So, this issue is not about non-disciples or non-apostles, but non-believers. These exorcists were trying to be copycats, using the name of Jesus as the magic charm of the black magic art they were experienced in. Thus, their attempts failed. The context clearly states that believers having baptised with the holy spirit are empowered to exercise the authority of God.

The Mark 9 man's example was different that he was not properly following the methods or doctrines, yet he was a believer; in other words, the disciples thought him as heretic with some errors. Jesus told them it doesn't matter. This merely shows that doing miracles in God's name isn't a sign of authenticity of a believer (cf. Matt 7:22).

Meyer's commentary writes,

Act 19:13. But some, also, of the itinerant Jewish demonexorcisers (sorcerers, who, for the healing of demoniacs, used secret arts derived from Solomon, and charms, see Joseph. Antt. viii. 2. 5, Bell. Jud. i. 1. 2; Mat 12:27) undertook (ἐπεχείρ., see on Luk 1:1), in expectation of greater results than their own hitherto had been, and provoked by the effects which Paul produced by the utterance of the name of Jesus, to use this formula with the demoniacs: I conjure you (to come out, ye evil spirits, Act 19:15) by Jesus (who, besides, will punish you), whom Paul announces.

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