Christ Answers His Critics
"If I by the finger of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you" (Lk. 11:20, ASV).
Unable to answer His teaching and unwilling to properly account for His mighty miracles, the Jewish critics of our Lord resorted to an argumentum ad hominem, or one involving a personal attack upon Him. They charged that He was in league with "Beelzebub, the prince of the demons," and so wrought by satanic power (Lk. 11:15, ASV).
The Charge's Seriousness. The rabid animosity toward Christ of these accusers is demonstrated by the charge thus made. Beelzebub was variously known as "lord of flies," "of dung," and the like. The accusation, thus, denoted the ultimate in rejection and despite. It provided an index to their inveterate heart-set against the Son of God, as He was being manifested by His miraculous works. It is well to note that it is in connection with this charge by the Jews that Jesus' teaching concerning blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was given (Mk. 3:22-30). It was "because they said He had an unclean spirit," Mark explains (v. 30). He cast the evil spirits out "by the Spirit of God," Matthew tells us (Mt. 12:28).
Hence, to ascribe that work to the Devil was to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, as the Lord declared. His adversaries, accordingly, were perilously close to having passed beyond that point of rebellion against God, from which there is no possibility of return (cf. Heb. 6:4-8).
Those today, or in any day, who reject the witness of the Spirit to Christ's Sonship have never forgiveness," but are "in danger of eternal damnation" (Mk. 3:28-29). That is simply because there is no Savior but Jesus, and faith in Him is required for acceptance by God.
The Lord's Discreet Answer. The Lord's reply to the Jews' blasphemous accusation embodies a paragon of discretion. It exemplifies Paul's counsel to Christ's followers: "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:6). Again: "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth" (II Tim. 2:23-26).
Rather than vehemently denouncing the blasphemy of the Jews and loudly proclaiming His identity with God, the Lord gently reasoned with them. As was characteristic of His procedure in such encounters (see Mt. 12:1-8), He pointed to the inconsistency of His opponents' position. If His exorcism of the evil spirits was by Beelzebub, then by whose power did the Jews whom His critics approved cast them out? He asked (Lk. 11:19). "Therefore, they shall be your judges," it was added (Mt. 12:27).
The Illogical Charge. The complete absurdity of the charge of collaboration with the Devil in His exorcism of evil spirits was next answered by Christ. "If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself," it was observed, in recognition of the obvious. "How, then, shall his kingdom stand? it was asked. The Lord then remarked that "every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation" (Mt. 12:25-26). The latter declaration should constitute a solemn alert to the jeopardy of that which calls itself the church, in its state of division and competition.
The fact of the matter regarding the Devil's evil kingdom is beyond question. Although it is finally to be brought to desolatlon by Christ, it is not divided. In that respect, the church could take example from it. There are diversities of agents and operations in the satanic kingdom—a hierarchy of them, in fact. But at no point is there opposition of one to the other. All are united in one diabolical intent of blinding people to "the light the glorious gospel of Christ" (II Cor. 4:3-4), and of subverting their souls unto eternal damnation. To say, therefore, that Satan was casting out Satan was ridiculously absurd, on the face of it.
The Witness in the Case. The complete unreasonableness of the Jews' charge was also apparent from another viewpoint, Jesus pointed out. It was evident in the fact that He was extending God's kingdom in His ministry. That was done by destroying Satan's dominion. Even the Jewish critics recognized the diametrical oppositeness of the two realms.
The fact that the Lord was manipulating the evil spirits at His will showed that He had bound the Devil. That was apparent from an indisputable circumstance. It was that no one can "enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man, and then will he spoil his house" (Mt. 12:29).
The fact that Jesus was so indiscriminately casting out the evil spirits, thus, was concrete evidence that He had bound, or restrained, the Devil, who is the lord of those spirits. The prehminary binding was effective during Christ's earthly ministry. By His death for the world's sins and His triumphant resurrection, the binding was perfected, and the Devil brought to "nought," and his works destroyed (Heb. 2:14-15; I Jn. 3:8).
The Continuing Situation. On the subject of kingdom division, it is well to note an undeniable situation that exists in all kingdom subjects that remain in the flesh. It is that they have within themselves distinctly divisive elements. Although born of God by faith in Christ, they retain in their fleshfy nature an inveterate opponent of God. So is it written of them, "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye "cannot do the things that ye would" (Gal. 5:17; cf. Rom. 7:15-17, 19-25).
The directive of God is for the new divine nature to constantly engage and keep the old sinful one subdued. Hence, the commission to, "through the Spirit" "mortify the deeds of the body," with the promise of life toward God for doing so (Rom. 8:12-14). There is no point this side of the grave at which that struggle will cease for anyone in Christ.
It is in view of this crucial conflict that the prevailing power of God, as manifested in the earthly life of Christ, has its greatest significance for and application by us. We have evil thoughts, evil tendencies—indeed, a thoroughly corrupt nature—to "cast out," or cast down (II Cor. 10:3-5), keeping it in subjection to our regenerated spirit. It is comforting and enstrengthening, therefore, to know, as John declares, that "greater is He" that is in us than the adversary that is against us (I Jn. 4:4). In that knowledge, and by full employment of the associated power, let us rule "in the midst" of our enemies, as Christ did among His (Ps. 110:2).
A remark to the Jews by our Lord in connection with His ministry can have great significance for us at this point. "If I by the Spirit of God cast out demons, then is the kingdom of God come upon you" (Mt. 12:28), ASV). So as we, by the indwelling Spirit, are enabled to present our body "a living sacrifice" to God (Rom. 12:1-2), we have in ourselves incontrovertible evidence that the kingdom of God has "come upon," or into us, or we are identified with it. Such triumph cannot be otherwise achieved.