Matthew 10:1 (Unclean Spirits)

What key phrase in Mat 10:1 marks an important point of expansion in Jesus’ salvation ministry to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mat 10:6)?  See Mat 7:29, 8:9, 9:6-8.  What authority did Jesus give his twelve apostles, and how was this an answer to the prayer commanded in Mat 9:38?  See Mat 9:35-37.  What does this teach us about what is necessary in order to reap a harvest in the Lord’s field, and what we need to seek and pray for in order to do so?

For what two purposes did Jesus give His apostles authority over unclean spirits?  Note: rendered literally, the Greek in this verse says that “He gave them authority over unclean spirits so as or in order (hoste) to cast them out and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness”, and the grammar is quite clear and specific in subordinating both “to cast them out” and “to heal” as the result of the authority He gave them over the unclean spirits.  What does this indicate about the close relationship in Scripture between casting out unclean spirits and healing disease and sickness?  Cf. Luk 6:18, 7:21, 8:2, 9:42, 13:11,16, Act 5:16 (note NASB text note on this verse), Act 8:7, and consider the significance that each of these references was written by Luke, the beloved physician (Col 4:14).

What is meant by an unclean spirit?  See Luk 9:42.  What is the significance that such evil spirits are referred to as “unclean”, a word that occurs most frequently in Leviticus and that refers primarily to ceremonial defilement?  Think: what does ceremonial uncleanness teach us about spiritual uncleanness, and the importance of being separated from the manifold defilements of the world?  See Psa 106:34-39, Isa 52:11, 64:6, Eze 44:23, Zec 13:1-2, Act 10:14-15, 1Co 7:14, 2Co 6:17, Eph 5:5 (NAS “impure” = unclean), Rev 17:4; think too: in what way is an unclean spirit the opposite of a holy spirit (or the Holy Spirit)?  What does this teach us about the relationship between an unclean spirit and a worldly spirit, and the means by which one comes under the influence of evil spirits?  See 1Co 2:12, Eph 2:1-2; cf. Jam 4:4, Deut 28:49-52, Jer 5:15-17, 6:22-23, Luk 21:25, Hab 1:6-11, Jer 25:3-10, Isa 14:3-15, Mat 3:7-10.  Consider too how a spirit of lust, envy, resentment, jealousy, depression, violence, anger, greed, perversion, gluttony, drunkenness, selfishness, unforgiveness, faultfinding, lying, etc…, may “well up within” or come upon a person (including us?) from time to time and with varying frequency and intensity.  Moreover, consider that while such evil may originate within a person’s own wicked heart, it will quickly attract “unclean” spirits whom God in His wrath will allow to tempt him, so that those whose hearts are not pure may gladly welcome them, and even entertain them; cf. Jdg 9:23, 1Sa 16:14-23, 18:10-12, 19:18-24, 1Ki 22:19-22.  And so just as the uncircumcised former inhabitants of the physical land of promise that Israel failed to completely drive out became pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides (Num 33:55-56, Jos 23:12-13, Jdg 2:1-3), so do the unclean powers of darkness come to oppress those who would compromise their spiritual land of promise by not suffering in the flesh to resist the devil (Jam 4:7, 1Pe 5:8-9) and by not taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2Co 10:5).  The result is that such “spells” may increase in frequency and intensity over time, even discernibly altering one’s spirit (for indeed it is no longer his spirit, but an evil, unclean spirit oppressing him) to the point that he becomes enslaved / controlled / driven by the unclean spirit(s).  In this way the possessor becomes the possessed (Eze 7:24, Lam 5:2; cf. Mat 12:43-44, 2Co 5:1-2) as his spiritual land of inheritance is turned over to others (Jer 6:12), so that like Saul he is tormented and in bondage, and unless delivered by a greater power and authority he will “perish from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you” (Jos 23:13).

In light of the eternal consequences, is such spiritual bondage any less oppressive than that bondage experienced by the Jews under the Romans or any of their other oppressors throughout history?  Indeed, what is the ultimate root cause of all a person’s or people’s physical bondage and oppression?  Cf. Luk 19:41-44.  How is this truth reflected in the order of the two purposes for which Matthew says here in Mat 10:1 that Jesus gave His apostles authority over unclean spirits?  Is the primary evidence that a person is in bondage to unclean spirits that he manifests supernatural demonic activity, or that he manifests an uncontrollable spirit of lust, or envy, or resentment, or jealousy, or depression, or violence, or anger, or greed, or perversion, or gluttony, or drunkenness, or selfishness, or unforgiveness, or faultfinding, or lying, etc…?  With this understanding, do you think people today are any less oppressed by unclean spirits than they were in Jesus’ day?

What is the relationship between spirit / breath / words / wind?  Note that the Hebrew word for spirit (ruach) is also the same word commonly used for breath and wind; cf. Gen 1:2-3,26, 2:7, Joh 20:22, Job 8:2, 15:2,13, 26:4, 32:8, Psa 33:6, Pro 1:23, 17:27, 27:15-16, Isa 11:2-4, 40:7-8, 59:21, 61:1, Eze 37:1-14, Joh 3:34, 6:63, Act 4:31, 10:44, Eph 6:17; consider too our expression for someone who is all talk as being full of hot air.  What is the relationship between being filled with the Holy Spirit and meditating upon God’s word?  See Neh 9:20 and compare Eph 5:18-20 with its parallel passage in Col 3:16-17 (written by Paul at the same time).  Think: what sort of spirit comes over or upon a person who meditates on God’s word?  In light of this relationship, what do you think is related to being oppressed by an unclean spirit; i.e., with what things might people fill their hearts and minds that would cause an unclean spirit to come over or upon them?  Contrast Phil 4:8-9 and think: how does the “spirit” or atmosphere of a bar or football game differ from the “spirit” or atmosphere that in times past was found in a church?  How has the “spirit” found in many churches now become more like that of a bar or football game?  What is the “spirit” of most television programming and the typical TV sit-com?  How does the “spirit” that comes upon and influences a person who frequents a bar or other worldly amusements and entertainments differ from the spirit that comes upon and influences a person who spends time with the Lord in prayer and the study of His word?  What does Scripture call that Spirit that comes upon and influences a person who spends such time with the Lord?  What does Scripture call the various spirits that come upon and influence people who fill their hearts and minds with carnal thoughts, worldly amusements, and other forms of wickedness and evil?

Consider again that Jesus “felt compassion” for the multitudes who “were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd” (Mat 9:36); do you think He has the same compassion for the multitudes today?  See Heb 13:8.  By what means can they be set free from their bondage?  See Mat 9:37-10:1.  What is the nature of the “authority over unclean spirits” that Jesus gives His disciples that allows them to set the captives free; i.e., by what practical means were the apostles able to cast out such unclean spirits and relieve people’s physical sufferings?  See Mat 10:7, Luk 9:2, 4:18, Psa 107:17-20.  If an afflicted person has only his immediate physical sufferings relieved, such as by a pain reliever or a 30 day supply of food, is that evidence of a complete healing or deliverance?  What is it that brings lasting deliverance?  See again Luk 4:18.  Is the breadth of truth of God’s living and written word that He provides for man’s lasting deliverance and healing something that can be quickly or immediately imparted to people?  Given the time required to transform people’s lives by the renewing of their minds (Rom 12:2), again, what is necessary in order to reap a harvest in the Lord’s field, and what do we need to seek and pray for in order to do so?  See Mat 9:37-10:1.

Consider that with every word that goes out of our mouths there is a spirit with which it is spoken, whether it is spirit of truth, encouragement, love, joy, peace, etc, etc, etc,  that builds up and cleanses, or a spirit of falsehood, bitterness, resentment, lust, selfishness, etc, etc, etc, that defiles (i.e., makes unclean) both the one speaking and those who hear.  This is what makes preaching so powerful or not, for it is not so much the eloquence with which the actual words are spoken, but the spirit with which they are spoken that is able to bring conviction and repentance (see 1Co 2:1-5).  Thus when Jesus says that we will render account in the day of judgment for every careless word we speak (Mat 12:36-37), His meaning is that it is by the spirit or intent of our words that we will be justified, and by their spirit that we will be condemned.  Consider further that in a family, social group, people or even a nation, by the mutual exchange of the spirit of their words there comes to be a spirit associated with them.  Think: what sort of spirit is associated with your family, the Kiwanis, the VFW, a gay bar, the Mennonites, Hamas, a boy’s locker room, a shopping mall, the United States, etc…  Consider too that if a people or nation is defiled by an unclean spirit or spirits and will not respond to the cleansing power of the gospel that sanctifies and purifies by the Holy Spirit of God, by what other means will God remove the unclean spirit of that land?  See Jos 10:40, 11:11,14, Gen 7:21-22.

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