A Kingdom That Is Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand
[Luke chapter 11, verses 14-28]
When we left off last week at verse 13 of chapter 11 of the gospel of Luke, Jesus had just finished giving his apostles and those in the crowd that surrounded them the ultimate pep talk. Seek, Jesus said, and you will find. Ask, and it will be given to you. Knock, and the door will be opened. As I wrote last week, the flip side of all the above is that if we don’t seek, ask, or knock, we shouldn’t expect one lousy thing. Nothing at all! As Luke’s written narrative continues today, we find ourselves in an altogether different setting, probably on another day during Jesus’ ministry. As we begin our study starting at verse 14, Jesus is driving out a demon from a possessed individual, much to the consternation of the contingent of people from the Temple at Jerusalem, the scribes and teachers of the Law.
“Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, ‘By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons’. Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven. Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: ‘Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house that is divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.’” (Luke 11, verses 14-20)
As you can see, Jesus certainly had his detractors. Mainly, they were members of the Hebrew religious establishment of that time. It would be like having our modern-day religious establishment vilifying Christ is he were to return today! Imagine that – everybody from the pope to televangelists like Pat Robertson and Kenneth Copeland to the heads of every Protestant denomination you can think of – all of them disbelieving Jesus if he were to return today, all at the same time! This is exactly what Jesus faced every day of the year. So now you know that you worship a Lord and Savior who is tough as nails, who keeps on ticking whenever he took a licking, and a King who cannot be defeated! (Can I get a witness??) Also, notice that the perception of the people was superior to that of the Jewish religious establishment. The crowd was amazed at the miracle Christ performed, but the members of the religious establishment said that only by the “prince of demons” could Jesus drive any demons out at all. The crowd believed Jesus was the Son of God, while the Pharisees did not.
“Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house that is divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?” Kingdoms that are internally divided will fall. This sounds disturbingly like modern-day America, doesn’t it? I have seen the violent pro-and-anti-Trump rallies on the Internet (I don’t watch TV), and watching the demonstrators from both sides clashing with each other is like watching a riot from a safe vantage point. “A house that is divided against itself will fall.” Dysfunctional families are a good example of this. Once the children in dysfunctional families are grown, those families have a tendency to disintegrate, with everyone going off in different directions, scattered to the four winds. I know because I came from such a family. At any rate, Satan’s kingdom – and there is such a thing as this – is united against humanity. If it were not so, Satan’s kingdom would have long since fallen and been forgotten by now, but it’s still here, ever present, and it’s not going anywhere until the 2nd and final return of Christ to the earth.
“Now if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” Here we have Jesus using a little ‘right-back-at-you’ with his critics. The answer to Jesus’ question, of course, is that the religious establishment of his day couldn’t drive out demons at all! ‘If I am driving out demons by Beelzebub’, Jesus was telling them, ‘then so are you!’ “So then, they will be your judges.” ‘You will be judged by those same demons you are working for’, Jesus was saying to them. But if I, Jesus then told them, drive out demons by the power of Almighty God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived. Meaning, Jesus is the messiah, the anointed One of the Lord, except that he didn’t say that in so many words. He didn’t bother because he already knew they wouldn’t believe him anyway. No, Jesus said that for our benefit! So now let’s continue our study, beginning at verse 21.
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.” (Luke 11, verses 21-23)
What was Jesus trying to say here? One minute he was driving out demons and answering questions designed to entrap him, and next he’s talking about ‘guarding your house’. I think what Jesus meant here was that if we performed our due diligence and kept our guard up against Satan and evil people in general (and there’s plenty of those to go around), we would never be susceptible to demonic possession in the first place. The words ‘our house’ symbolize the human heart, mind and soul. If we are not spiritually diligent, the forces of evil will overpower us up to and including full-blown demonic possession. That which possesses such an unfortunate individual will “divide up the spoils”, meaning Satan will make mincemeat out of you if you give him even the slightest opening, even the very least opportunity, to take over your heart, mind and soul. Let’s all be sure to steer clear of that!
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters.” We are either working on the Lord’s behalf as ambassadors for Christ and as soldiers in his army, or we are working for the enemy. If this sounds like we’re in war time to you, that’s because we are! Lucifer and his armies are in full attack mode, and he and his minions will stop at nothing to capture your very soul! Think I’m kidding?? Look at all the pop stars, movie stars and all the gangsters both past and present that died prematurely and unexpectedly. Look at how they all self-destructed while trying to achieve fame, fortune or notoriety. Was all that worth it? Look where they are now – in hell, or at least the majority of them are! Don’t work against God. When we work only for ourselves, with ourselves as the only beneficiary of the works of our hands, the payoff has little meaning. But when we work with Christ harvesting souls, the payoff is eternal. We either work for Jesus or we work against him. The choice is ours, and I hope you all make the right one. And now let’s conclude today’s study starting at verse 24.
“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left’. When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.’ As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave birth to you and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.’” (Luke 11, verses 24-28)
Notice once again that Jesus uses the word ‘house’ to mean the heart, mind and soul of any individual (“I will return to the house I left”). When demons are driven out of people – and exorcism is very real – all the evil that comes with that demon is driven out too. Harboring continuous anger and a bad temper, jealousy and envy, maliciousness and ill will, sexual immorality, theft and corruption – all of the above go hand in hand with being possessed. But when that demon – by whatever name – is driven out, it leaves a void that can only be filled with the presence of Jesus Christ. This means having two baptisms; first by water, and the second by spirit – the Holy Spirit! But more than that, this also means embracing Jesus as the Lord of your life, as your personal Savior and your best friend and confidant. Many preachers and evangelists use the phrase ‘accept Jesus’, but to me that term isn’t strong enough. I much prefer the word ’embrace’ because that’s exactly what occurs when Jesus comes into our lives! ‘Accepting Jesus’ sounds as if we’re doing him a favor by allowing him into our hearts, as if to say, ‘well OK, I guess you can come on in’. But an embrace comes from pure love, unrestrained and unlimited!
“Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” The moral of the story is that if we don’t maintain our relationship with Christ – that 1-on-1 personal, best friend, counselor type of relationship – if we don’t keep Jesus alive within our hearts, minds and souls, Satan will eagerly come and take his place. Plus, when he returns he will bring reinforcements! “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave birth to you and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it.’” Check that out! Now you know my own motivation for writing, posting and publishing all these Bible studies, which I’ve been doing since 2011. I do it all for Christ because he saved me from hell. To me, this is the least I can do. I certainly don’t do this for the money! But the most we all can do, that is, our very best, is to live all our lives for him, as we spend our remaining lifetimes in His service as soldiers, ambassadors, pastors, deacons, counselors and therapists, emergency relief volunteers, and all the other good things people are doing to try and make this world a better place. Let’s focus on that for the rest of the week, and next time we’ll move on to part three of Luke chapter eleven.