The Evangelistic Importance of Testimony about Jesus’ Exorcisms

June 14, 2014

In many ways, the NT highlights the evangelistic importance of testimony about Jesus’ exorcisms. This evidence calls for adjusting our evangelistic strategies so that they properly account for this importance.

The Synoptic Gospels Provide Much Testimony about Jesus’ Exorcisms

The Synoptic Gospels underscore the evangelistic importance of Jesus’ exorcisms by providing multiple accounts of his casting demons out of people. The following list provides in chronological order[1] the passages that record Jesus’ performing exorcisms (parallel passages among the Gospels are indicated by the use of “/” between references):

1. Mk. 1:21-28/ Luke 4:31b-37;

2. Matt. 8:16/ Mk 1:34;

3. Matt. 4:24/ Mk 1:39/ Luke 4:41;

4. Matt. 12:22-37/ Mk. 3:20-30;

5. Matt. 8:28-34/ Mk. 5:1-20/ Luke 8:26-39;

6. Matt. 9:27-34

7. Matt. 15:21-28/ Mk. 7:24-30;

8. Matt. 17:14-21/ Mk. 9:14-29/ Luke 9:37-43a.

9. Luke 11:14-36

The Synoptic Gospels also underscore the evangelistic importance of Jesus’ exorcisms by providing information about other exorcisms that Jesus performed for which the writers of the Synoptic Gospels chose not to give an actual account of His doing so (seven demons cast out from Mary Magdalene [Mk. 16:9]).

This data makes clear that the Holy Spirit viewed including testimony about Jesus’ exorcisms as vital in the writing of these Gospels. Because the Gospels were written to evangelize people, the inclusion of these accounts shows us the importance of evangelistic testimony to Jesus’ exorcisms.

The Synoptic Gospels Record Jesus’ Commands to Testify about His Exorcisms

The Synoptic Gospels further emphasize the evangelistic importance of testimony to Jesus’ exorcisms by recording on at least two occasions that Jesus commanded people to give testimony about His exorcisms:

 Luk 8:38 Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.

Luk 13:32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. 

Because the Synoptic Gospels not only provide testimony about Jesus’ exorcisms but also make known that He commanded some people to testify about them, we learn that such testimony has great evangelistic importance.

Acts Records Apostolic Gospel Testimony about Jesus’ Exorcisms

Like the Synoptic Gospels, Acts also shows the evangelistic importance of testimony about Jesus’ exorcisms, but it does so in different ways than the Gospels do. Acts emphasizes such testimony by recording a seminal statement in Peter’s gospel message in Caesarea:

Act 10:38 How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

Luke highlighted testimony to Jesus’ exorcisms in a profound way with this statement because that testimony is the only explicitly recorded information that we have about how Peter testified on this occasion to the miraculous works of Jesus.

Through directing Luke to record this gospel testimony for us, the Holy Spirit also has provided us with a superb model of how we should evangelize people concerning their understanding of the term Christ (for more information about this point, see the brief discussion of Acts 10:38 here).

Acts Highlights the Evangelistic Importance of Testimony to Jesus’ Exorcisms through a Striking Account of Jewish Failure in Exorcism

Acts further emphasizes the evangelistic importance of testimony to Jesus’ exorcisms through a striking account that contrasts apostolic success in exorcising people possessed by demons versus Jewish failure to do so (Acts 19:11-17). While Paul was in Ephesus, God worked special miracles through him, including even the casting out of demons from people through their coming into contact with handkerchiefs or aprons from his body (Acts 19:11-12).

Some Jewish exorcists then attempted to perform an exorcism by invoking the name of Jesus whom Paul preached (Acts 19:13-14). Not only did these men fail to drive out the demon, but also the man who had the demon overpowered them and drove them out “naked and wounded” from the house where they were (Acts 19:15-16).

Through the spreading of news about their striking failure, the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly magnified among all who were in Ephesus (Acts 19:17). Hence, through testimony that dramatically contrasted the successful apostolic exorcisms with the unsuccessful attempt of these Jewish exorcists, many lost people received a powerful evangelistic witness of the power of Jesus’ name.

As the readers of Acts, we thus see that Acts accords with the Synoptic Gospels in emphasizing the evangelistic importance of testimony about Jesus’ exorcisms.

Discussion

Both the Synoptic Gospels and Acts instruct us in various ways about the evangelistic importance of testifying to Jesus’ exorcisms. This evidence is more than sufficient to teach us that we should include such testimony in our evangelism whenever possible.

Some may object to this conclusion by pointing out that explicit testimony to Jesus’ exorcisms is strikingly lacking in the Gospel of John, which has an explicit statement about its evangelistic purpose (John 20:31). Does this seemingly major difference between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John mean that testimony to Jesus’ exorcisms is not an important aspect of proper evangelism?

For several reasons, attaching such determinative significance to this lack of testimony in the Gospel of John is invalid. First, as noted above, the Synoptic Gospels and Acts provide abundant evidence that such testimony is important.

Second, because the Gospel of John was almost certainly written after all the other Gospels and Acts were written, any reader of the Fourth Gospel would need to interpret it in conjunction with all that God had revealed prior to giving this final Gospel.

Third, at the point that John was written, the apostles and other believers had already been evangelizing people for several decades and thus already knew well what was important to include in evangelistic testimony. For that reason, the lack of explicit testimony to Jesus’ exorcisms in John would not have played any important role in changing the thinking of believers about what they should say when they evangelize people.

Finally, although John lacks any explicit accounts of Jesus’ exorcisms, John has implicit teaching that fully accords with that vital aspect of Jesus’ ministry. John writes that Jesus interpreted a voice that thundered from heaven (John 12:28-29) by giving vital testimony concerning what His upcoming death would mean for the devil:

 Joh 12:30 Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

 31 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out (Gk. ekballw).

 32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.

 33 This he said, signifying what death he should die. 

Jesus’ statement that the devil would be cast out (John 12:31) ties at least implicitly to many passages in the Synoptic Gospels about His casting out demons from people because the same verb ekballw is used both in John and in those passages in the Synoptic Gospels.[2] This strong link between John and the Synoptic Gospels further supports the conclusion that lack of explicit testimony in John to Jesus’ exorcisms does not negate the vast evidence in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts about the importance of such testimony.

Conclusion

Profuse testimony in the Synoptic Gospels about Jesus’ exorcisms makes clear that such testimony is of great importance in proper evangelism. Additional evidence in Acts further supports this conclusion.

We should include testimony about Jesus’ exorcisms in our witnessing whenever it is possible to do so. We can provide such testimony by sharing Acts 10:38 with everyone we witness to and explaining that statement to them thoroughly.

 

[1] This chronological listing is based in part on information provided in “An Outline For a Harmony of the Gospels” (Thomas and Gundry, A Harmony of the Gospels, 7-14).

[2] Matt. 8:16, 31; 9:33, 34; 12:24, 26, 27, 28; 17:19; Mk. 1:34, 39; 3:22, 23; 7:26; 16:9; Lk. 11:14, 15, 18, 19, 20; 13:32

Rajesh

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