Can Christians Be Possessed?
First of all, its important to say that the position that a Christian can have a demon in them IS NOT the same as saying a Christian can be possessed by a demon or an unclean spirit. The word “possession” implies ownership. We belong to Jesus, we have been bought with a price, and therefore, no one should be arguing that a Christian can be possessed by demons.
Secondly, the Greek Word “daimonizomai” has been incorrectly translated with the word “possessed” in many Bibles. This mistranslation has done more damage than it will ever be possible to calculate. The word should be translated “demonized”. The word describes the condition of a person who has demons. It does not necessarily imply that a person is totally controlled by demons. Very few get that bad, and certainly no real Christian is totally controlled by demons.
If you cannot understand the above, please read it again, because a lot of time is wasted when people keep repeating “A Christian cannot be possessed by a demon”. I am not arguing that they can be.
What I Am Saying
I am contending that it is possible that a true Christian could have a demon in them. Or indeed, many demons. Before you reject this out of hand, please ask yourself: “on what basis do I reject it?” Is it because the idea is not aesthetically pleasing? Is it because people have done foolish things in deliverance ministry sessions? Is it because people have been hurt emotionally by people who have unwisely counselled others? NONE of those reasons are sufficient to prove the point either way. We need to look at what the Scriptures say.
How Can Light Dwell with Darkness?
Some object that it is impossible for demons to be in the temple of God. They assert that this cannot be, since for them it would be tantamount to denying the power of God to protect a believer. This objection does not stand, however, when we consider that the presence of evil anywhere does not disprove the idea of God’s almighty power and superiority. The real question is: can a believer give place to the devil in his or her life?
In fact, there is plenty of Scriptural evidence that evil has come into the presence of God many times. In Job 1, Satan comes before the throne of God? Does this mean that God was unable to keep him away? Not at all. But here we have the evil one himself entering the presence of the very throne of Almighty God.
Not only that, but in the book of Ezekiel, chapter 8, we see that while God’s presence was still in the Holy of Holies of the Jewish temple, there were various demonic abominations and idolatries going on within the temple. It was not until Ezekiel chapter 10 that the presence of God reluctantly left the temple of God. God puts up with a lot before he disowns us. If we persistently disown him and deny him through idolatry, there comes a time when he no longer stays. People might like to argue about whether such a person was truly born again or not. All I can say is, if you are born again, don’t try to see how much you can hurt God and how much He will stay with you if you persistently and wilfully keep on sinning. Only a fool would.
So its quite clear that the temple of God can have abominations in it. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 3:16,17 – the passage where God says we are the temple of the Holy Spirit – the possibility of defiling the temple of God is EXPLICITLY mentioned. Does this mean that God is less than omnipotent? Of course not! What is does mean, is that defiling the temple of God is possible. But how could THIS be, if the idea that “light and darkness cannot exist in the same body” is fundamental, and basic to a correct understanding of Scripture, or if God has determine to settle everything immediately by the use of force?
Furthermore, if demons cannot exist in the same body as the Holy Spirit because of the power of God, then how can sin? How can the flesh? No Christian I know of denies the reality of the indwelling power of sin in the believer’s life, which must be overcome through the cross. But if light and darkness cannot mix, how is it that sin can exist in the life of the believer.
Does this Doctrine Violate the Promises and Declarations of Scripture?
Some object that it cannot be that a Christian could ever have a demon, for “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
If this Scripture is to be used to prove that demons cannot be in a Christian, surely it can also be used to prove that sin cannot be in a Christian also! Since “all things have become new, and old things have passed away” couldn’t we argue that sin no longer affects a Christian? If we can’t, then we have to look at other ways of understanding this Scripture and others like it.
The simplest way to understand this problem of what the Scripture declares about us in Christ versus what we experience, is to realise that these Scriptures describe our positional legal standing in Christ. They do not describe our automatic experience once we come to the Lord. For a start, no one would deny that we still have to renew our minds after we come to Christ. God has provided all we need for that, but it is not appropriated instantly. Likewise, the putting away of old things, including demons in our lives, does not happen instantly, as soon as we come to Christ. The above Scripture, and Scriptures like it, no more prove that demons all leave us when we convert, than they prove that the power of sin leaves us totally once we come to Christ. We all know, it just isn’t so.
Isn’t this Stuff Just Purely Psychological?
Our western materialistic rationalistic mindset might influence us to think that all talk of demonic manifestations is merely psychological. While some things that go on are no doubt primarily of psychological (soulish) origin, more is of demonic origin than many of us imagine.
If you hear demons talking out of Christians, as I occasionally have, speaking things they could not have known naturally, you might be willing to draw a different conclusion. Even secular psychiatrists like M. Scott Peck have come to acknowledge the existence of demons in people. Such people would not adopt such an uncool idea unless they had good reason to believe it.
Jesus did not train his disciples in the principles of modern psychiatry. It was not necessary, because He gave them of His Spirit, He gave them his Healing Words of Life, and the authority of His name to drive out lying deceiving spirits and voices that lurk in the shadows of the human psyche. Modern psychiatry has a woeful track record in getting people better from their hangups, although sometimes the medications prescribed do help. But if the church returned to God’s Word on this matter, instead of leaning on human wisdom, education and what one might call in Scriptural terms “the arm of the flesh”, a lot more could be achieved for the glory of God. Perhaps then, modern society would come to us to get answers for their issues, instead of paying hundreds of dollars an hour for the help of psychiatrists and psychologists, as they do in many cases. Truly Jesus has something to offer here. He binds the broken hearted and preaches deliverance to the captives (Luke 4:18ff). He came to destroy the works of the devil. Some Christians have not yet discerned that so many diseases of the body and mind ARE works of the devil that Jesus came to destroy (Acts 10:38). Read your Bible.
Jesus and the apostles talked in terms of spirits of infirmity (Luke 13:11), spirits causing blindness and muteness (Matthew 12:22), demons causing epilepsy (Matthew 17:15-18) and “deaf and dumb spirits” (Mark 9:25). Were these things recorded for our instruction, or as historical curiosities? Was Jesus unsophisticated, and therefore incorrect, on this issue? Or could it not rather be that we have departed from the things he expects us to do (Mark 16:15-17) so that now, not only are we unable to cast out demons – we even doubt that we are likely to ever need to?
What About Foolish and Hurtful things Done in Deliverance Ministry?
That unwise and hurtful things have been said and done to sufferers is beyond dispute. People have frightened and confused others by applying formulas involving long lists of demons instead of depending on the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Abuse has also been done also in every other area of church life and ministry. The foolish actions of someone who believes in God does not provide a powerful argument for atheism. Neither does the foolish action of one or more who believe in freeing Christians from indwelling demonic oppression mean that the whole idea is wrong or unbiblical.
The same thing applies to those who object to those who seem to be profiting financially from this ministry. In most cases, deliverance ministry is done at such personal expense to the minister, for such little reward. But perhaps some have managed to commercialize the grace of God here as has been done with the things of God in other areas at times. They have done it contrary to Jesus’ instructions. Don’t blame God. And don’t try to determine what is true by looking at the sins of those who abuse their privileges in the things of God. Have people exploited the gospel for personal gain? They certainly have. Does that prove the gospel is false? No it doesn’t. The same with deliverance.
The Devil Made me Do it…
Some fear that if we acknowledge that its possible for demons to be in Christians, there would be some validity to the excuse offered by some in counselling situations, that, “the devil made me do it”.
Actually, we are responsible for what we yield to. In know way should the truths of the ministry of deliverance be twisted so as to de-emphasize the importance of personal responsiblity, the need for repentance, or the need for self-discipline in our daily walk with God. If a person yields to evil, whether that evil is within or without, THEY are responsible. We cannot blame the devil. However, the more one yields to sin, the more one is enslaved to it (see John 8:31-34). Repentance could many times have prevented such slavery to sin, but in some cases, repentance alone will not free a person from sin. It takes the work of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit. And sometimes, yes, that work of God includes the ministry of deliverance.
Deliverance is not a Magic Bullet, A Quick Fix
As wonderful as deliverance ministry is, and as miraculous as its results can be, it is still not a magic bullet, that does away with the need for essentials such as Bible reading, prayer, praise, fellowship or self-denial. “Deliverance ministries” become unbalanced when every problem is seen in terms of the demonic. We all must realise, that we also have to deal with the flesh, by painful self-denial at times, and the flesh cannot be cast out. It must be put to death through faith in what Jesus did on the cross for it, through identification with Christ and through obedience to the Word of the Lord by the Spirit of God.
Nevertheless, if a Christian is doing everything they know from the Word of God, but still experiencing severe opposition from within, there may be a need for deliverance, and often the liberating results are quite amazing. Thank God that there are still miracles of deliverance wrought today by faith in God and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
On to the Evidence
Having hopefully cleared away some of the major objections to the idea that a Christian might conceivable have a demon in them, let us consider what the Scripture teaches.
No where does the Scripture encourage us to be reconciled to the fact that we have demons as if we can do nothing about it, or as if its the will of God for our lives. No, the Scripture tells us, “Submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7). It says, “These signs will follow those who believe, in my name they will drive out (expel) demons. So we are supposed to cast them out, not to accept them if they are around. And God has promised us ALL we need, in order to get them out. His Holy Spirit is jealous for us, and want to have all of our souls. So God will help us to get free, if we meet the conditions.
But can the problem exist in the first place? There are a number of Scriptures that suggest it can. Here are some:
Ephesians 4:27 says, “Neither give place to the devil”. We are told not to give place to the devil. But every commandment of God could be ignored and disobeyed by foolish people. That means, it IS POSSIBLE that this commandment of Holy Scripture coming through the apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit COULD be disobeyed. In another words, it is possible that Christians give a place to the devil.
How could this happen in practice? Well, a very common way that Christians give place to the devil is through unforgiveness. Many times, Christians treat each other badly, and when that happens, we need to be quick to forgive. Otherwise, Satan will get a place in our lives.
The Scripture is very explicit on this subject. Jesus goes so far as to say that if you (read ‘we’) do not forgive our brother from the heart, the Father in Heaven will do to us as the King did to the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18:34! See Matthew 18:34,35. But what did that King do to the unforgiving servant. He “delivered him to the torturers”. The torturers, my friend, are demons. And God will hand you over to these tormenting beings if you do not forgive those who sin against you. Many Christians are tormented by resentment and bitterness because they do not obey the word of the Lord here.
Forgiveness is so important that Jesus teaches us straight after the Lord’s prayer that if we do not forgive those who sin against us, our Father in heaven will not forgive us. I do not want to stand in that place ever.
In Matthew 15:21-28 we have the story of the Syro-Phoenician woman who came to Jesus. What was she after? Verse 22 says that her daughter was severely demonized. Jesus however, seems to resist her plea for help. And at one stage, he comments, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs”. Now I am aware that the main point of this passage is about faith, and not about demons. Nevertheless, from this passage, it is hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that “deliverance from demons” is “the children’s bread” according to none other than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If that be the case, its important to see that deliverance from demons is something for the children of God, not primarily something for those who choose to reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their own lives.
This points strongly to the fact that it is normal for Christians to need deliverance from demons from time to time. Another thing which points to this fact is even the words of the Lord’s prayer. In that prayer, Jesus taught his disciples to say, “Deliver US from the evil one”. Who was this prayer for? Was it for unbelievers? No, it was for disciples. And if we need deliverance from the evil one, it is much better to know it, and receive it, than it is to deny its possibility, and stay the way we are.
Another passage in the New Testament points to the reality of demons in Christians. This is the passage surrounding Acts 5:3 where Peter says to Ananias, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit”. Many Christians lie to God in the things they sing to Him. So how can we know that they do not have the same condition, albeit perhaps in a milder form, as had Ananias? The Scripture says to Ananias, “Satan has filled your heart”. To assert that this can never happen to a Christian is therefore, in my view, treading on dangerous ground.
For more evidence and arguments, including some taken from the Old Testament pictures of God’s dealing with his people, see this link.
May God bless you all and please ask the Holy Spirit to show you if there is something that you personally could benefit from along the lines of personal deliverance from evil spirits. If after lots of self-discipline and scriptural meditation, and other disciplines you are not free, maybe this is a key that can help you to obtain the victory that Jesus Christ purchased for you on calvary.