[I preached on Mark 1:21-28 yesterday. If you’re interested, you can download or stream the sermon here. The following is an excerpt from the sermon. Soli Deo Gloria :)]
Charismatics often look to passages such as this in order to justify elaborate theories, really speculations, about how a Christian minister ought to cast out a demon. Yet if we see only the erratic and violent behavior of the unclean spirit, we miss the greater point at issue: The battle fought here is between Christ the Word and the unclean spirit who tries to command and control Christ through spoken words.
As one bible commentator notes, “possibly the naming of Jesus is an attempt to gain the advantage by uttering his true name in the midst of the approaching supernatural confrontation.” There is a real confrontation between the Word incarnate and this unclean spirit: Christ has come to preach the Gospel, and the demon is trying to oppose and suppress the preaching of the Gospel.
Paul says as much about spiritual warfare to Timothy when he says that “in the later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” (1st Tim 4:1) That is to say, the conflict is between Truth and error. The Truth saves and sanctifies those who are saved. Hence, the Scriptures tell us that the truth will set you free. And our Lord prays “Sanctify them in the Truth.” Sound doctrine sets a man free from idolatrous notions of who God is, from false thoughts about himself and the remainder of God’s creation, and from slavery to sin, death, and the devil. Inversely, false doctrines, the doctrines of demons, as Paul tells Timothy, have ethical/moral effects in the life of the person who believes them. Those who follow false doctrines, for instance, have abandoned the faith, the Lord in whom they once professed to believe. And this following of false doctrines works itself out in things as practical and common as whether or not one gets married or eats certain kinds of food.
Let us not look for the spectacle of exorcisms made popular by movies and the charismatic movement. It is the Truth who is attacked by the unclean spirit in this passage. And it is the Truth who overcomes and destroys the unclean spirit.