At the sound of the true name, the powers of the god
stood ready to perform the invoker’s bidding.
—Kurt Seligmann, Magic, Supernaturalism, and Religion (1948)

Exorcism in Jesus’ Name

In the Book of Acts, we learn of some itinerant exorcists who had seen the apostle Paul cast out demons (19:13ff). Paul had banished the evil spirits “in the name of Jesus.” These wannabe exorcists saw and appreciated the effectiveness of Paul’s approach to exorcism. They wanted a piece of the action and decided to imitate his methods. So when they came upon a demon-possessed man, they spoke to the demon “in Jesus’ name.” They said, “We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”

The demon, speaking through the host body, said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know. But who are you?” At that point the demon-possessed man proceeded with a big-league beat down of the rookies. They fled from the man’s house, wounded and naked.

Magic and the True Name

These exorcists had a magical view of exorcism. They believed that there was an ontological connection between all things in the physical universe, and the way to harness the “power of the connection” was through the strategic use of cosmic name-dropping. This is a common theme in magic and magic-based religions. The children of Israel who received God’s law at Sinai were certainly familiar with this belief because it was part and parcel of the Egyptian religion they just left.

According to Egyptian mythology, the first god, Khepri (one manifestation of the divine sun), created himself from nothing by uttering his own name. The goddess Isis gained the power of the sun god Ra by tricking him into revealing his true name to her. The Egyptians believed that the essence of a thing was to be found in its name. To know the true name of a thing was to have power over it. To know the true name of a god was to have power over him. In Magic, Supernaturalism, and Religion, Kurt Seligmann writes:

In the magic incantations of the Egyptians, not only the name but every spoken word had its supernatural effect. Nothing could come into being before its name had been uttered. Not before the mind had projected its idea upon the outside world could a thing have true existence. “The world,” the hieroglyphics tell us, creates all things: everything that we love and hate, the totality of being. Nothing is before it has been uttered in a clear voice.” To accomplish its full effect, the word must be spoken correctly (39).

In fact, the exact pronunciation of the word was a huge deal. Intonation and rhythm were crucial in the practice of magic and required intense study and preparation. “Success depended on the exact delivery of the formula.”

God’s Word versus Man’s Word

Scripture says that God called the world into existence by His word (Ps. 33:6, 9). On each of the six days of creation, God created, shaped, or filled His world by speaking His word (Gen. 1). God’s word expressed and accomplished His will. God’s word is powerful. It never returns to Him void and always accomplishes His purposes (Isa. 55:11). But here’s the thing: The power is never in the words or phonetic sounds, but in God Himself.

Man’s word is not creative. Man doesn’t share the mind of God. Man can repeat God’s words, but He speaks them as the image of God and as a creature in covenant with God. Man’s repetitions of God’s word may have covenantal significance and status, but they have no magical power. In other words, man may use God’s words in a way that God has authorized with the expectation that God will fulfill whatever promises or threats He has expressed in those words.

The Name of God

In Scripture a name represents identity, character, and authority. God’s name tells us who He is. In the Old Testament, God names Himself “I am” (Jehovah or Yahweh), the self-existent, covenant-keeping God. But He also calls Himself Adonai, our Lord, and El Shaddai, God Almighty. He is El Olam and El Elyon, God Everlasting and God Most High. He is the LORD of Hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth, and the LORD our Righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu. He is Elohim, the powerful One who made the world.

In the New Testament, God reveals Himself more clearly as Trinity. He is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Three divine Persons, but only one God (Matt. 28:19). In His incarnation, the Son of God took the name Jesus (Yeshua), “Jehovah saves” (Matt. 1:21). Paul tells us that this divine name is above all names (Phil. 2:10; cf. Eph. 1:21). Jesus bears the title Messiah or the Christ, “the Anointed One,” because God has anointed Him to be the Prophet, King, and Priest of man’s redemption. Jesus is Lord, Redeemer, and Savior. He is the divine Logos, the eternal Word of the Father (John 1:1). He is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:6). He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He is the Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the earth (Rev. 13:8). He is Immanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23).

The Third Commandment that God delivered to Israel from Mt. Sinai tells us to always have reverence for God’s name. We are not to take His name “in vain,” in an empty, foolish, or cavalier manner. Rather, we are to use His names and titles with respect and seriousness. The man who liberally punctuates his speech with “God” and “Lord” is using the divine name in a vain, irreverent manner. This, according to the Bible is sin, and God holds such behavior accountable. But the Third Commandment has a much deeper and broader scope than this.

In Jesus’ Name

God has given His people a sort of power of attorney. He has given us the privilege of speaking and acting in the name of Jesus. This is a covenantal privilege, not a magical one. To act in Jesus’ name means that we act with the authority He has given us and not on our own authority, and that we act within the limits of our authorization, whatever those limits may be. We act as His agent, in His stead, to His credit, and for His benefit. His subjects are to receive us on those terms, and He will call to account those who don’t. Of course, we’re not to use this privileged status to enrich, empower, or amuse ourselves. Nor may we dictate the exact manner in which God will carry out His will and promises through us or for us. We are creatures, not gods. Servants, not magicians.

God has ordained quite a few uses of Jesus’ name. We pray in Jesus’ name. We teach and baptize and bless in Jesus’ name. In His name we excommunicate as well as restore. In each case, we are acting for Him. We must do all these things biblically, or we take God’s name in vain. But when we use His name lawfully, we may rightly expect Him to perform His will in response to, or in connection with, our words and actions. Speaking specifically of church discipline, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). That is, He stands with His own to ratify and enforce their actions when those actions are in harmony with His word. To return to the case of the would-be exorcists, these folks apparently had no commission from Jesus to cast out demons as Paul did. His commands to evil spirits were effective. Theirs weren’t and led to the beat-down.

Oaths and Covenants

The implications of the Third Commandment for the political and social spheres are profound. Our basic social institutions—church, State, and family—are all covenantal, since each rests upon a self-maledictory oath sworn in God’s name. We “promise to submit in the Lord to the government of this church.” We swear “to tell the truth” or “to uphold and defend the Constitution.” We vow, “‘til death do us part.” But when we rebel in an ungodly way at church, defy the civil courts, commit treason, or break our marriage vows, we also take God’s name in vain. And the Third Commandment tells us that God will not hold us guiltless when we do. God will actively judge those who break their oaths and vows. He brings judgment within history (Ps. 58:11) and at the end of history (Matt. 12:36). His timing, though, will always be on His own terms.

The Covenant State versus the Sorcerer State

In Scripture, the State is a covenant institution ordained by God and subject to His laws. Paul calls the civil ruler “the minister of God” (Rom. 13:1-7). As a minister, the civil ruler exercises delegated power. That power is neither plenary nor omnipotent. The scope of that power is civil justice and national defense, nothing more.

The pagan world, however, has always seen the State as the point of continuity between the human and the “divine.” The “divine” may be a formal deity, humanity in the abstract, or the evolving universe. In any case, the State is seen as the agent and incarnation of deity. The State therefore speaks magically and with sovereign power. What the State declares must be. Fiat currency, fiat security, fiat social change—the State need but speak the word and the reality appears. Of course no secular society admits its religious commitment to magic. It never recognizes images as idols or meaningless slogans as magical incantations. But no amount of rational criticism or prophetic denouncement will shake the faith of the True Believer in the all powerful State. The State is ultimate and solves all problems by proclaiming the word. Just believe. “So shall it be written … so shall it be done.”

Conclusion

When a society no longer reverences the name of God and no longer fears His judgment and wrath, its people feel free to violate their oaths and break their vows. Commitment at any level evaporates. Covenants, constitutions, and contracts become pointless pieces of paper. The ties that bind men and women together are blurred, bent, and broken. Convenience and expediency govern all. Interestingly, these same people, the covenant benders and breakers, always look to the State as a source of magical salvation from all of life’s problems. Worse, they offer up their very souls to the devil to get quick, something-for-nothing salvation, as all true magicians must.

For Further Reading:

Gary North, Unholy Spirits, Occultism and New Age Humanism (Ft. Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1986).

Gary North, The Sinai Strategy, Economics and the Ten Commandments (Tyler, TX: The Institute for Christian Economics, 1986).

T. Robert Ingram, The World Under God’s Law, Criminal Aspects of the Welfare State (Houston, TX: St. Thomas Press, 1962).

Rousas J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law (N.p.: Craig Press, 1973).

8 Comments

  • Avatar
    MacLaren Posted May 22, 2011 8:54 am

    You are wrong. Pagans like myself do NOT see the State as a religious or otherwise portal to the Divine. I am a Constitutional Conservative. I believe in Nature, our Mother Earth, and cast off your christian god as false. Do you realize that EVERY SINGLE christian holiday or event is STOLEN from old pagan festivals? Your bible thumping is old, and incredibly tiresome. I live by the same basic principles as your commandments, I live a decent and productive life, and I speak out when someone tells me I am wrong. For thinking that their supposed religion is better or more pure than mine is blasphemy of the human spirit! F*** YOU!! Who are YOU to tell me you are better than anyone else, and who the hell MADE YOU GOD?

    Get off your pulpit and write something useful. I don’t care to hear any of your self righteous BS.
    Dan McPhate
    Pagan Conservative

  • Avatar
    Mr. Apathy Posted May 22, 2011 9:21 am

    Dan thank you for your witness in your faith. Your anger and harsh words are testimony. In our home and community you would be forgiven. In yours, I am sure we would be screamed at and cursed. This article was written for us by someone looking out for our interests as Christ’s followers. I am sure if the shoe was on the other foot it might be as equally offensive to someone else. Try and have a nice day in light of our existence.

  • Avatar
    cahilton63 Posted May 22, 2011 10:05 am

    Dan not all Christians celebrate the pagan holidays some actually celebrate the Feasts of the Yeshua. We Christians haven’t been a very good example to people that are non-believers and for that I am truly sorry. We have become like the Sadducees and Pharicees in the Bible that Yeshua warned everyone about. We are judgemental and hypocritical. We are like what the Bible says we try to remove the little stick in anothers eye when we have a log in our own. We don’t love as Yeshua loved or help the poor, orphaned and the widow. We take the scriptures and use them for our gain and to condone anything and everything and we will as will everyone stand one day before the Almighty for our sins. the only thing i can ask of you is to please forgive me and all the others of our poor example of what it really means to be a Follower of the Way. I’m praying I and others will do better to live that life as Yeshua would have me to.

  • Avatar
    Mr. Apathy Posted May 22, 2011 3:07 pm

    Please keep Dan’s rant there. The early Saints and contemporary Martyrs for the faith have paid the price for believing to spread the message to people like him. The hate that he has in his heart is what Christ died to forgive him for.

    It has always puzzled me that some atheists hate a God so much that they don’t believe in and deists are so threated by a religion they have so little regard for.

  • Avatar
    Awumdah Posted May 23, 2011 1:59 am

    Dan I too apologize
    You have been offended by these things and agree that the two ways of life have peculiar similarities. However Christian are instructed to bring good news and to inform to the that their sins are forgiven and that the gift of God is eternal life to all whom Christ died for, and that includes you. However, some believers are misunderstood while others choose to exploit this fact to gain profit an/or control over others. But don’t worry or be insulted by those who condemn as there is no condemnation in Christ.
    The true story of Christ is that what ever that could have caused man to be separated from God has been corrected and the true followers have only one law as all other things have passed away and to love one another is the only law given by Christ to those that choose to follow Him. We believe our Christ has the keys to Hell and no one can go there that He died for, and also that the will of our God shell be done. God’s will by His own word is “It is not MY will that any parish buy ALL should come to the knowledge of the truth” I hope this helps you better understand we mean no harm to you and expect to be with you in a loving world forever.. Take care and don’t be offended by those who serve Christ in obedience and not love as some feel that they somehow earn the free gift by there labor and thus believe punishment is due all who don’t do Christ there way. They have their reward as God is love and Just and Hell is locked!!! We ” Judge no man that we are selves will not be judged for with what judgment we judge we shall be judged” Go in peace

  • Avatar
    truth Posted May 25, 2011 11:17 am

    Whatever a person believes does not change the truth. The truth is that there is a heaven and hell and that Jesus is the only way to heaven. If people like Dan do not change their minds (turn, repent), when they die, they will become believers of the truth but, it will be too late.

  • Avatar
    jimmy2 Posted May 26, 2011 6:42 am

    Because the word is alive and as vibrant from when was inspired by the Lord of Host.
    I, too traveled a dark path,circling the globe three times – always looking for that special something. No drug, liquor, or lifestyle. Nor other organized religion could impart on a stony heart, prideful mind and lost soul until I got to an altar of repentance.Where my life changing experinice occured.To know his name is a joy, to speak the name above all names with His power. Breath and living water flow – out of darkness into His marvelous light. His glory is reflected in the love we display for one another.
    with a sling and a stone – jimmy

  • Avatar
    chang ho Posted May 30, 2011 12:48 pm

    This was a great historically accurate article, and the Passover one was good too. Dan, you may think the Christian festivals are pagan, but that’s because you don’t understand that Christmas, Easter, and New Years is actually pagan and NOT Christian (Christianity got hijacked in the 3rd century). The Christian Holy days are found in Leviticus 23, starting with the Sabbath which is determined by the lunar cycles as evidenced in Exodus 16.

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