If Judas was not a believer, how could he cast out demons?
The question to be answered is, “If Judas was not a believer, how could he cast out demons and why would Jesus allow him to join the team?”
The Gospels paint a sad picture of Judas Iscariot. Initially, he was a disciple, who became an apostle (Matthew 10:1-4), who stole money from the ministry (John 12:5-6) and later he betrayed Christ (John 13:2). He was called the son of perdition (John 17:12) because of what he did. It is truly amazing what Judas experienced and then turned traitor for money. Finally, he committed suicide by hanging himself (Acts 1:16-18).
Judas, An Unbeliever, Is Named An Apostle
Why did Jesus let Judas become one of the twelve disciples?
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. Matthew 10:1-4 (NASB)
Why did Jesus do that? He may have done it to fulfill the prophecy recorded in Psalm 41:9 which prophesies Christ’s betrayal. But the truth is we do not know because scripture does not specifically tell us.
All The Disciples Were Enabled To Cast Out Demons
In Matthew 10:1 we are told that Jesus empowered the apostles to cast out demons and heal every sickness.
Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Matthew 10:1 (NASB)
Jesus gave authority to all twelve disciples, including Judas. Did Judas cast out demons? Was he able to cast out demons? Scripture never tells us if Judas did cast out demons. In fact, he may not have cast out demons. Luke 10:17 does say that seventy of Christ’s disciples did cast out demons.
The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Luke 10:17 (NASB)
But could Judas have cast out demons? The answer is yes because Jesus gave him that authority (Matthew 10:1).
The False Prophet Balaam Was Empowered By The Holy Spirit
We should remember that the Holy Spirit came upon Balaam in the Old Testament (Numbers 24:2) and enabled him to prophesy even though he was a false prophet (Jude 11; 2 Peter 2:15; Revelation 2:14).
And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him. Numbers 24:2 (NASB)
If the Holy Spirit empowered Balaam to prophesy, why not Judas to cast out demons?
Were The Sons of the Pharisees Able to Cast Out Demons?
In Matthew 12:27 Jesus declares that the sons of the Pharisees cast out demons.
If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. Matthew 12:27 (NASB)
This is a challenging statement. Either Jesus implies that the sons of the Pharisees were able to cast out demons or He is challenging their belief that their sons were able to cast out demons. We know from Acts 19:13-16 that Jewish exorcists did exist. Flavius Josephus also claims that Jews were able to expel demons. Also, the Graece Magicae Papyri documents that Jewish rabbis rebuked other Jews for using the name of Jesus to cast out demons.
John Calvin wrote the following,
It is even possible that there were persons who cast out devils by calling on the name of the Lord; and then people having experienced such a display of the power of God, rashly conclude that it was was an ordinary office.
Can Non-Christians Cast Out Demons?
Now it is possible that some Jews were called exorcists because they were successful and Jesus simply recognized that they were successful on occasions. If they were not successful, then Acts 19, Flavius Josephus and the Graece Magicae Papyri are only documenting that they were called “exorcists.” But then we would have to conclude that Jesus did not mean that the Pharisees’ sons actually cast out demons, but the Jewish community believed that they did. Luke 11:18 also describes the Matthew 12:27 event.
In the following passage Jesus reveals that many will cast out demons who are not Christians.
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 will enter. 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.” Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB)
Now these individuals either lied or told the truth. It is difficult to believe that they would stand and lie to the God of the universe on judgment day. It is possible that they did not believe God knows everything; but when one stands before God on judgment day, that does not seem to be realistic. If they tried to lie or if they told the truth, the answer does not change Jesus’ reply. Notice that Jesus says, “I never knew you.” That is, they were never Christians.
Can Only Christians Cast out Demons?
Mark 16:15-17 states that there are four signs a person is a Christian. First, a Christian will cast out demons. Second, a Christian will speak with new tongues. Third and fourth, they will be able to pick up serpents, and drink any deadly poison but not be hurt.
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. 17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 (NASB)
But there is a problem with basing any doctrine on this passage because Mark 16:9-20 is not in the best manuscripts and, consequently, there is doubt that it is actually scripture. If we accept Mark 16:9-20 as Scripture, then that would mean anyone who cannot cast out demons is not a Christian. That is a serious problem, unless someone wants to claim that only applied to the early Christians. If casting out demons is evidence of salvation, then there are few Christians today!
Christ Is Not Demon Possessed
In both Matthew 12 and Luke 11 Jesus had cast out a demon and was immediately accused of casting out demons by Beelzebul (Matthew 12:27; Luke 11:15). Then Jesus proceeded to prove that He was not demon possessed by giving a principle and responding with two illustrations that would teach two principles. The principle is given in Luke 11:17-19.
But He knew their thoughts and said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges.” Luke 11:17-19 (NASB)
What they experienced was the finger of God (Luke 11:20). Jesus was able to cast out any and every demon. He was not limited but the disciples were limited. In Make 9:28 the disciples asked why they could not cast out some demons. Notice Jesus reply,”This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer” (Mark 9:28-29). Jesus was God in human flesh and it appears from the gospels that Christ eliminated disease and demon possession throughout Canaan during His ministry. No else did or could do that. As God, Christ’s authority was unlimited, but the disciples authority was limited.
Now notice Christ’s reply after He rebuked his critics with, “If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?” In Luke 11:21-26 Jesus presented two illustrations. The first illustration is about a strong man who is able to guard his house and overpower his enemy. The meaning of the parable is that Jesus is the strong man. The second illustration is about an unclean spirit who leaves a man and “passes through waterless places” and then returns with seven other spirits. The message of the second illustration is what happened when their sons exorcized a demon. It returned with more demons. They were phony exorcists. But when Christ cast out demons they did not return. The Pharisees’ sons could cast out demons but it was not permanent.
It is important to notice that Jesus is not trying to prove His diety by casting out demons because He says that their sons could cast out demons. He does not make any negative comments about their sons’ abilities. Jesus’ message is simple and elegant. He was not empowered by Satan. He could cast out any demon and the effect was permanent. A complete explanation of Luke 11:14-28 in two studies can be found at, “Pharisees Blaspheme Jesus Again” and “Blessed Are Those Who Hear and Obey.”
Consequently, there are two reasons to believe that Judas could and did cast demons. The first reason is that non-Christians can cast out demons, but their authority is limited and the cure is temporary. The exorcism is incomplete. The second reason is that Jesus empowered Judas to cast out demons. Just as the false prophet Balaam was empowered to prophesy, Judas was temporarily empowered by Jesus Christ.
1. Flavius Josehus. Antiquities of the Jews. 8.2, 5
2. John Calvin. Calvin’s commentaries, Volume XVI. baker Book House. 1996. Book 2, p. 69
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Discipleship Training – Part 1
Pharisees Blaspheme Jesus Again
Blessed Are Those Who Hear and Obey