As I am studying the topic of deliverance I was researching what the difference between deliverance and exorcism is. In this article, I pulled my findings together to share it with you.
What is the difference between deliverance and exorcism?
Exorcism as the expelling of demons is only performed by a Roman Catholic priest that received the authority of their bishop. It is a liturgical ritual for treating demonically possessed or oppressed people. Deliverance is the term used in the Bible to describe the casting out of demons.
Even though deliverance and exorcism seem very similar I need to go in more detail about the differences, especially concerning exorcism. Also, I want to see where both topics are found in the Bible.
What Is Exorcism?
Exorcism is the deliverance ministry that the Roman Catholic Church uses in order to free people from demonic oppression or possession. It is usually performed by a priest, although he needs the Apostolic authority given to him by a bishop before he can go ahead with the practice.
The Webster Dictionary defines the practice of exorcising as “to expel (an evil spirit) by adjuration”. Adjuration means “an earnest urging or advising”.
Before the priest starts to exorcise the person in question he needs to discern whether it is a case of possession or severe oppression. Even then he is advised not to engage in the ritual right away. The Roman Catholic Church requires an investigation to see if the symptoms could also be mental or medical illnesses.
According to the Roman Catholic belief, demon possession is a demon taking completely over a person’s body. He or she gains supernatural strength, suddenly has occult knowledge, knowledge of all languages, and is detecting “the holy”.
Furthermore, there is a difference between an “exorcism” and a “solemn exorcism“.
Exorcism in itself is an “imprecatory prayer” which means it’s a commanding prayer.
The solemn exorcism is a “liturgical imprecatory ritual” provided by the Church for treating demonically possessed people. Again, only the priests with the authority of their bishop are allowed to perform this ritual.
Deliverance is also attempted to be released through the reception of the sacraments. These sacraments are baptism, eucharist, confirmation, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, marriage, and Holy Orders.
Other means attempting exorcism come through spiritual direction, spiritual guidance, confession, forgiveness, prayer, penance, and the Mass.
Hereby it is important for the recipient of the exorcism to let go of their own sin, repent, and forgive others.
(Most of the above information about exorcism I gathered from stpaulcenter.com)
Is Exorcism In The Bible?
The word “exorcist” is only listed once in the KJV version of the Bible in the book of Acts 19:13.
“Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.”Acts 19:13 KJV
The word used in Greek stems from the root word exorkistēs and means: “one who employs a formula of conjuration for expelling demons”.
The act of conjuring according to Webster’s Dictionary means: “to summon by or as if by invocation or incantation, to affect or effect by or as if by magic”.
These definitions are quite revealing because the vagabond Jews in this whole passage of Acts 19:13-20 try to exactly do that with this person.
Because they don’t know Jesus personally they try to use a set of words like a magic spell to make this demon go out. Which is like witchcraft and obviously has no effect on this evil spirit. The demon ends up beating them up.
Interestingly the whole passage is about God bringing true deliverance and revival to people bound in magic. You should really check out the context.
The Complete Jewish Bible mentions the word “exorcist” twice.
“The astrologers answered the king, “Your majesty, nobody in the world can do this! Never has a king, no matter how great and powerful, asked such a thing of any magician or exorcist or astrologer.”Daniel 2:10 CJB
“Dani’el answered the king, “No sage, exorcist, magician or astrologer can tell his majesty the secret he has asked about.”Daniel 2:27 CJB
The KJV uses the word “Chaldean” instead of “exorcist”.
To draw a short conclusion so far I would say exorcism with repetitive mindless prayers like formulas is absolutely unbiblical.
The word “exorcists” is mentioned once in the KJV Bible, but with a negative connotation implying a “magical” background by merely repeating words to expel an evil spirit.
The rituals and some of the sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church use just the same methodology. It is a mere repeating of words like a formula, which they might call prayers, in order to either make God do something or exorcise a demon.
Of course, God is sovereign over all this and might even use priests to deliver people from oppression or possession. For such a case Jesus said, “Do not forbid him (the casting out of demons), for he who is not against us is on our side.” But a good rule of thumb might be to do it the way Jesus and the Apostles cast out demons.
What Is Deliverance?
Deliverance describes the process of delivering a person from an evil spirit through prayer in the name of Jesus. It is mostly performed by protestant and evangelical Christians that believe in the authority of Jesus Christ, which is received through accepting Jesus’ redeeming work at the cross.
Through His authority, they are able to cast out demons, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and even raise the dead. Sometimes God moves in an instant, and sometimes it is a process.
“Deliverance is a process of freeing a person from the influence of an evil spirit.”ChristianHealingMin.org
Truth is that demons, angels, and the spiritual realm are real. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we do fight against evil forces in a spiritual realm. Christians can come under the attack of demons.
The Bible says that Satan is going around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8).
Jesus gave us as Christians spiritual weapons against him to not only defend ourselves but conquer the kingdom of darkness (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). This takes place through casting out demons and healing the sick in Jesus’ name and getting people saved (Mark 16:15-20).
I am only scratching the surface right now on this topic. But here I put together more information to help you actually apply the power of God practically in your life.
Is Deliverance In The Bible?
The act of deliverance in the way of bringing people into freedom from oppression or possession of an evil spirit can be found in the New Testament and in the Old Testament. The deliverance of the man with the demon “Legion” would be the most prominent example in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, the Exodus out of Egypt is the most prominent example of being delivered out of an oppressing situation.
Examples of casting out demons are not rare either. One example is David playing music for King Saul when the evil spirit would come upon him. Whenever David played his harp the evil spirit would leave King Saul (1 Samuel 16:23).
Another example starts with Jesus announcing His ministry in Luke 4:18, “(…) To preach the gospel to the poor; (…) to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;“
Wherever Jesus went, He preached the gospel, healed the sick, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, and cast out demons. You might remember the man with the demon called Legion. Jesus cast out the demon and the man was healed through deliverance and in his right mind (Luke 8:36).
After showing His disciples what a ministry should look like, He commissioned them, and through them, every believer after them as well, to do the same (Mark 16:15-20, Matthew 28:18-19, John 20:21).
For a more extensive Bible study on the topic of deliverance in the Bible check out this Article. Or check out this post I made for you on how to actually pray for deliverance.
Looking at the biblical account I cannot see a clear argument for the method of exorcism in the Roman Catholic Church. Only the fact that they actually attempt to cast out demons, speaks in their favor because that is what Jesus did.
Should they do it the way Jesus did out of a real relationship with Jesus, then I bless what God is doing through them. But if they just repeat exorcism prayers like a formula to get a demon out of a person, then may Jesus reveal them His truth.
To me, it is out of the question that ministries that practice deliverance and follow the example of Jesus, stand on a good biblical foundation.
Here is what a healing and deliverance ministry looks like that is helping people and setting people free in a biblical way.
Let me know in the comments if I missed something. I’d love to hear from you.
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