Is So-And-So False or Legit?
Sometimes I’ll hear the claim that minister so-and-so casts out demons by satan’s power (or by illusion or hypnosis). How does one verify such a conclusion?
The Word of God gives us the proper test:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:1-6 ESV)
Does minister so-and-so preach the gospel of Jesus Christ? Does s/he preach that Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6)? Does s/he preach that we must “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 ESV)?
It is true that some ministers from false religions may “cast out demons” or heal sicknesses by Satan’s power. For instance, a typical shaman or witch doctor may cast out a demon or heal a sickness, but there is a catch. They either cast it out temporarily only for it to return later, and/or they do so by replacing that demon with a stronger demon. Have you ever seen a commercial where the listed side effects of a new pharmaceutical are actually worse than the medical problem alleviated by the new drug? The same basic principle applies. According to the above 1 John 4 passage, the test for the false prophet is whether or not the minister preaches the good news that Jesus alone is the Christ--the Savior, Lord, Healer, and Deliverer.
Thus, if you hear a rumor that minister so-and-so is a phony, a false prophet, or a false Christian, then look at their message. Go to their statement of faith on their website if the Holy Spirit so leads you. Go to primary sources, such as listening to their sermons and comparing it to the Scriptures. (c.f. Acts 17:11). Be careful about believing a rumor or opinion from your faith community without first doing your homework; test the spirits according the word of God.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:15-23 ESV).
Does minister so-and-so produce spiritual fruit? Does s/he lead people to the receive Christ as Savior and Lord? Is the fruit of the Spirit (love for God, the church, not-yet-Christians, and those in need) evident in his/her life? Does he/she obey the word of God and teach others to do the same? Do they consider themselves dead to sin and slaves of righteousness? C.f. Gal. 5:22f; John 14:12-15; Romans 6:6ff.
Matthew 7:21-23 warns us that some will heal the sick, cast out demons, and do miracles in Jesus name, yet Jesus won’t have a relationship with them. Thus, according to Matthew 7:21, one can obey Jesus’ commandments in Matthew 10:8 (“Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay") and yet not do the will of the Father. (1) That is a sobering warning that mighty works do not determine whether or not one knows God personally. Jesus expresses the same idea in Luke 10:19-20 (ESV):
“Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
Our relationship with Jesus is based upon our receiving that reconciliation with God as a free gift, not upon our [mighty] works. C.f. Romans 5:6-11; Ephesians 2:8-9. Mighty works are just icing on the cake of the wonderful fact that our sins are forgiven and our names are written in heaven. C.f. Ephesians 2:10.
If we conclude that healing the sick, casting out demons, and miraculous signs are a sure indication that our names are NOT written in heaven, then that would be a silly non-sequitur. If that were true, then Jesus, his disciples, the seventy whom he sent out in Luke 10, the early church, and many Christians today who obey Jesus’ commands in Matthew 10:8 would all be heretics and false prophets who don’t know God personally. If we love Jesus, we will keep his commandments (which includes the ones in Matthew 10:8) if we tenaciously do not give up on them in our real, honest, heart-wrenching battlefield relationship with Him.
(1) They won't have a relationship with Him where they are constantly real with Him about their emotions--that's one aspect of the Father's will.