Verses 14–26

The substance of these verses we had in Matt. 12:22 Christ is here giving a general proof of his divine mission, by a particular proof of his power over Satan, his conquest of whom was an indication of his great design in coming into the world, which was, to destroy the works of the devil. Here too he gives an earnest of the success of that undertaking. He is here casting out a devil that made the poor possessed man dumb: in Matthew we are told that he was blind and dumb. When the devil was forced out by the word of Christ, the dumb spoke immediately, echoed to Christ’s word, and the lips were opened to show forth his praise. Now,

I. Some were affected with this miracle. The people wondered; they admired the power of God, and especially that it should be exerted by the hand of one who made so small a figure, that one who did the work of the Messiah should have so little of that pomp of the Messiah which they expected.

II. Others were offended at it, and, to justify their infidelity, suggested that it was by virtue of a league with Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, that he did this, Luke 11:15. It seems, in the devil’s kingdom there are chiefs, which supposes that there are subalterns. Now they would have it thought, or said at least, that there was a correspondence settled between Christ and the devil, that the devil should have the advantage in the main and be victorious at last, but that in order hereto, in particular instances, he should yield Christ the advantage and retire by consent. Some, to corroborate this suggestion, and confront the evidence of Christ’s miraculous power, challenged him to give them a sign from heaven (Luke 11:16), to confirm his doctrine by some appearance in the clouds, such as was upon mount Sinai when the law was given; as if a sign from heaven, not disprovable by any sagacity of theirs, could not have been given them as well by a compact and collusion with the prince of the power of the air, who works with power and lying wonders, as the casting out of a devil; nay, that would not have been any present prejudice to his interest, which this manifestly was. Note, Obstinate infidelity will never be at a loss for something to say in its own excuse, though ever so frivolous and absurd. Now Christ here returns a full and direct answer to this cavil of theirs; in which he shows,

1. That it can by no means be imagined that such a subtle prince as Satan is should ever agree to measures that had such a direct tendency to his own overthrow, and the undermining of his own kingdom, Luke 11:17, 18. What they objected they kept to themselves, afraid to speak it, lest it should be answered and baffled; but Jesus knew their thoughts, even when they industriously thought to conceal them, and he said, “You yourselves cannot but see the groundlessness, and consequently the spitefulness, of this charge; for it is an allowed maxim, confirmed by every day’s experience, that no interest can stand that is divided against itself; not the more public interest of a kingdom, nor the private interest of a house or family; if either the one or the other be divided against itself, it cannot stand. Satan would herein act against himself; not only by the miracle which turned him out of possession of the bodies of people, but much more in the doctrine for the explication and confirmation of which the miracle was wrought, which had a direct tendency to the ruin of Satan’s interest in the minds of men, by mortifying sin, and turning men to the service of God. Now, if Satan should thus be divided against himself, he would hasten his own overthrow, which you cannot suppose an enemy to do that acts so subtlely for his own establishment, and is so solicitous to have his kingdom stand.”

2. That was a very partial ill-natured thing for them to impute that in him to a compact with Satan which yet they applauded and admired in others that were of their own nation (Luke 11:19): “By whom do your sons cast them out? Some of your own kindred, as Jews, nay, and some of your own followers, as Pharisees, have undertaken, in the name of the God of Israel, to cast out devils, and they were never charged with such a hellish combination as I am charged with.” Note, It is gross hypocrisy to condemn that in those who reprove us which yet we allow in those that flatter us.

3. That, in opposing the conviction of this miracle, they were enemies to themselves, stood in their own light, and put a bar in their own door, for they thrust from them the kingdom of God (Luke 11:2): “If I with the finger of God cast out devils, as you may assure yourselves I do, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you, the kingdom of the Messiah offers itself and all its advantages to you, and, if you receive it not, it is at your peril.” In Matthew it is by the Spirit of God, here by the finger of God; the Spirit is the arm of the Lord, Isa. 53:1. His greatest and most mighty works were wrought by his Spirit; but, if the Spirit in this work is said to be the finger of the Lord, it perhaps may intimate how easily Christ did and could conquer Satan, even with the finger of God, the exerting of the divine power in a less and lower degree than in many other instances. He needed not make bare his everlasting arm; that roaring lion, when he pleases, is crushed, like a moth, with a touch of a finger. Perhaps here is an allusion to the acknowledgment of Pharaoh’s magicians, when they were run aground (Exod. 8:19): This is the finger of God. “Now if the kingdom of God be herein come to you, and you be found by those cavils and blasphemies fighting against it, it will come upon you as a victorious force which you cannot stand before.”

4. That his casting out devils was really the destroying of them and their power, for it confirmed a doctrine which had a direct tendency to the ruining of his kingdom, Luke 11:21, 22. Perhaps there had been some who had cast out the inferior devils by compact with Beelzebub their chief, but that was without any real damage or prejudice to Satan and his kingdom, what he lost one way he gained another. The devil and such exorcists played booty, as we say, and, while the forlorn hope of his army gave ground, the main body thereby gained ground; the interest of Satan in the souls of men was not weakened by it in the least. But, when Christ cast out devils, he needed not do it by any compact with them, for he was stronger than they, and could do it by force, and did it so as to ruin Satan’s power and blast his great design by that doctrine and that grace which break the power of sin, and so rout Satan’s main body, take from him all his armour, and divide his spoils, which no one devil ever did to another or ever will. Now this is applicable to Christ’s victories over Satan both in the world and in the hearts of particular persons, by that power which went along with the preaching of his gospel, and does still. And so we may observe here,

(1.) The miserable condition of an unconverted sinner. In his heart, which was fitted to be a habitation of God, the devil has his palace; and all the powers and the faculties of the soul, being employed by him in the service of sin, are his goods. Note, [1.] The heart of every unconverted sinner is the devil’s palace, where he resides and where he rules; he works in the children of disobedience. The heart is a palace, a noble dwelling; but the unsanctified heart is the devil’s palace. His will is obeyed, his interests are served, and the militia is in his hands; he usurps the throne in the soul. [2.] The devil, as a strong man armed, keeps this palace, does all he can to secure it to himself, and to fortify it against Christ. All the prejudices with which he hardens men’s hearts against truth and holiness are the strong-holds which he erects for the keeping of his palace; this palace is his garrison. [3.] There is a kind of peace in the palace of an unconverted soul, while the devil, as a strong man armed, keeps it. The sinner has a good opinion of himself, is very secure and merry, has no doubt concerning the goodness of his state nor any dread of the judgment to come; he flatters himself in his own eyes, and cries peace to himself. Before Christ appeared, all was quiet, because all went one way; but the preaching of the gospel disturbed the peace of the devil’s palace.

(2.) The wonderful change that is made in conversion, which is Christ’s victory over this usurper. Satan is a strong man armed; but our Lord Jesus is stronger than he, as God, as Mediator. If we speak of strength, he is strong: more are with us than against us. Observe, [1.] The manner of this victory: He comes upon him by surprise, when his goods are in peace and the devil thinks it is all his own for ever, and overcomes him. Note, The conversion of a soul to God is Christ’s victory over the devil and his power in that soul, restoring the soul to its liberty, and recovering his own interest in it and dominion over it. [2.] The evidences of this victory. First, He takes from him all his armour wherein he trusted. The devil is a confident adversary; he trusts to his armour, as Pharaoh to his rivers (Ezek. 29:3): but Christ disarms him. When the power of sin and corruption in the soul is broken, when the mistakes are rectified, the eyes opened, the heart humbled and changed, and made serious and spiritual, then Satan’s armour is taken away. Secondly, He divides the spoils; he takes possession of them for himself. All the endowments of mind and body, the estate, power, interest, which before were made use of in the service of sin and Satan, are now converted to Christ’s service and employed for him; yet this is not all; he makes a distribution of them among his followers, and, and having conquered Satan, gives to all believers the benefit of that victory. Hence Christ infers that, since the whole drift of his doctrine and miracles was to break the power of the devil, that great enemy of mankind, it was the duty of all to join with him and to follow his guidance, to receive his gospel and come heartily into the interests of it; for otherwise they would justly be reckoned as siding with the enemy (Luke 11:23): He that is not with me is against me. Those therefore who rejected the doctrine of Christ, and slighted his miracles, were looked upon as adversaries to him, and in the devil’s interest.

5. That there was a vast difference between the devil’s going out by compact and his being cast out by compulsion. Those out of whom Christ cast him he never entered into again, for so was Christ’s charge (Mark 9:25); whereas, if he had gone out, whenever he saw fit he would have made a re-entry, for that is the way of the unclean spirit, when he voluntarily and with design goes out of a man, Luke 11:24-26. The prince of the devils may give leave, nay, may give order, to his forces to retreat, or make a feint, to draw the poor deluded soul into an ambush; but Christ, as he gives a total, so he gives a final, defeat to the enemy. In this part of the argument he has a further intention, which is to represent the state of those who have had fair offers made them,—among whom, and in whom, God has begun to break the devil’s power and overthrow his kingdom,—but they reject his counsel against themselves, and relapse into a state of subjection to Satan. Here we have,

(1.) The condition of a formal hypocrite, his bright side and his dark side. His heart still remains the devil’s house; he calls it his own, and he retains his interest in it; and yet, [1.] The unclean spirit is gone out. He was not driven out by the power of converting grace; there was none of that violence which the kingdom of heaven suffers; but he went out, withdrew for a time, so that the man seemed not to be under the power of Satan as formerly, nor so followed with his temptations. Satan is gone, or has turned himself into an angel of light. [2.] The house is swept from common pollutions, by a forced confession of sin, as Pharaoh’s—a feigned contrition for it, as Ahab’s,—and a partial reformation, as Herod’s. There are those that have escaped the pollutions of the world, and yet are still under the power of the god of this world, 2 Pet. 2:20. The house is swept, but it is not washed; and Christ hath said, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me; the house must be washed, or it is none of his. Sweeping takes off only the loose dirt, while the sin that besets the sinner, the beloved sin, is untouched. It is swept from the filth that lies open to the eye of the world, but it is not searched and ransacked for secret filthiness, Matt. 23:25. It is swept, but the leprosy is in the wall, and will be till something more be done. [3.] The house is garnished with common gifts and graces. It is not furnished with any true grace, but garnished with the pictures of all graces. Simon Magus was garnished with faith, Balaam with good desires, Herod with a respect for John, the Pharisees with many external performances. It is garnished, but it is like a potsherd covered with silver dross, it is all paint and varnish, not real, not lasting. The house is garnished, but the property is not altered; it was never surrendered to Christ, nor inhabited by the Spirit. Let us therefore take heed of resting in that which a man may have and yet come short.

(2.) Here is the condition of a final apostate, into whom the devil returns after he had gone out: Then goes he, and takes seven other spirits more wicked than himself (Luke 11:26); a certain number for an uncertain, as seven devils are said to be cast out of Mary Magdalene. Seven wicked spirits are opposed to the seven spirits of God, Rev. 3:1. These are said to be more wicked than himself. It seems, even devils are not all alike wicked; probably, the degrees of their wickedness, now that they are fallen, are as the degrees of their holiness were while they stood. When the devil would do mischief most effectually, he employs those that are more mischievous than himself. These enter in without any difficulty or opposition; they are welcomed, and they dwell there; there they work, there they rule; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Note, [1.] Hypocrisy is the high road to apostasy. If the heart remains in the interest of sin and Satan, the shows and shadows will come to nothing; those that have not set that right will not long be stedfast. Where secret haunts of sin are kept up, under the cloak of a visible profession, conscience is debauched, God is provoked to withdraw his restraining grace, and the close hypocrite commonly proves an open apostate, [2.] The last state of such is worse than the first, in respect both of sin and punishment. Apostates are usually the worst of men, the most vain and profligate, the most bold and daring; their consciences are seared, and their sins of all others the most aggravated. God often sets marks of his displeasure upon them in this world, and in the other world they will receive the greater damnation. Let us therefore hear, and fear, and hold fast our integrity.