Believers and Demons

I know this is a controversial subject. But before I get into that, I need to give you a bit of history on this particular post. About two months ago, the Lord started to continually bring this subject to my awareness and I knew that I had to look into it and possibly write a post on it. Since that time, I have been researching this subject, which specifically focuses on whether a child of God, a true believer who has given their life to Jesus, could in fact, be possessed by a demon or unclean spirit. Possessed would mean, indwelling within their body, versus oppressed, which is external attacks from outside of their body. I have no doubt that demons can in fact, oppress Christians. I’ve experienced this myself and so have many others. Being “possessed” within one’s body, for a born again Christian, is another story and the subject of this post.

Since that time I have looked at well over 300 Internet sites and read through a host of cases being made, which either support this supposition or deny it. At times it was a bit overwhelming, to be candid with you. but I kept being led to continue on. This post is the result of the research and prayer that I have done. I believe this post is what the Lord would have you be aware of. If I had my way, I would not be publishing this post, but my way is not what matters.

I will give you a “heads up” now, this post is going to be brutally long out of sheer necessity. It simply can’t be covered in a normal short post.

My experience with this particular subject is limited. Without going into particulars, I have experienced both with myself, plus with other close and distant family members (believers and non-believers), instances where myself and they have been “oppressed” by demons. And I’m not talking about common “arrow” temptations, but rather sustained obsessions and visual manifestivations. Only one time did God use me in a church environment to deal with someone who was possessed with a demon and in that instance God instructed me to raise my arms like a banner and that He would protect and guide me, which I did and which He did. And, for clarification purposes, the person to whom I ministered to, was not at that time a Christian. What I learned from these “limited” exposures was to tread very lightly in areas of which I had not specifically been called to walk in, and to rest in the sufficiency of my Lord.

Deliverance Ministries are expanding at tremendous rates. If you don’t believe me, just type in “Deliverance Ministries” in your Internet browser and you will see what I mean. They are especially prolific within the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement. And yes, yet again, for a few hundred dollars, you too can learn how to cast out demons, just like Jesus did. There is a super abundance of NAR related websites that promote Deliverance Ministries, well organized and steeped in pursuing the “signs and wonders” focus of the NAR movement.

The fact that Jesus saw fit to specifically warn us about the reality of being able to perform some of these “signs and wonders”, did not, in and of itself, validate their acceptance into God’s Kingdom, as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23 NASB: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”, should give all Christians serious cause for concern with regard to following the will of God the Father, versus our own determinations. 

I should state, in all fairness, that you will also find, if searching the Internet, many Church organizations that have created deliverance “related” ministries, to address the realities of various addictions and abuses that flourish within our current society.

Even though this post is exceptionally long, it still cannot address the historical aspects of Deliverance Ministries, within many Protestant and in particular, Roman Catholic church organizations. 

What I will be presenting is “extracts” from a detailed study authored by Dr. Robert Dean, whose credentials are provided below. The source link to his complete document is provided should you wish to read through the entirety of his presentation or have access to the sources that he quotes. I do highly recommend that you read the complete document that also contains many additional highly informative footnotes.

There are two dangers associated with “Deliverance Ministries”. One is to become too absorbed or focused on the practises that some dictate and follow with regard to “deliverance”, and the second is not give this area the consideration that it deserves. In addition, there is also a dangerous tendency to create authenticating doctrines based on experience, versus basing doctrine on Scripture. The following “extract” covers the most common Scripture based assumptions (both pro and con), along with considerable amplifying Scriptural information regarding translation from the Greek.

Just so you know, the author refers to those who adhere to the supposition that believers can be possessed with a demon or proponents of this relatively new concept, as the advocates of neo-spiritual warfare (NSW), that the author utilizes throughout.

Biblical Examples of Demon Possession

Robert Dean, Jr., earned a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and studied in their doctorate (Th.D.) program. He earned a D.Min. degree from Faith Evangelical Seminary. Dr. Dean is the pastor of West Houston Bible Church. Besides an international schedule as a conference speaker, and authoring several books and journal articles, he serves on the Governing Board of Chafer Theological Seminary. His e-mail address is rdean@deanbible.org; his biblical studies website is www.deanbible.org. 

Source document:
https://www.academia.edu/10689292/Demon_Possession_and_the_Christian

Eight detailed accounts are provided in the Scripture of Jesus casting out demons. Three of these are here examined to understand what the Bible means by demon possession and the characteristics of demon possession.

The Gadarene Demoniac.

After crossing the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and His disciples arrive in the region of Gadara. There He is “met by a man” who had demons. The text does not say the man was coming to Jesus for aid or for deliverance as both Koch and Unger claim. The verb ἀπαντάω may indicate either a pleasant (Luke 17:12) or hostile meeting (Luke 14:31). In this context it indicates simply an encounter. 

The man is described as “having demons” (ἔχων δαιμόνια, Luke 8:27) or “an unclean spirit,” (ἐν πνεύματι ἀκαθάρτῳ, Mark 5:2). Luke also uses the “unclean spirit” (τῷ πνεύματι τῷ ἀκαθάρτῳ) nomenclature (Luke 8:29). Subsequent to his deliverance the townspeople describe him as “demon- possessed” (δαιμονίζομαι) a term Mark uses three times to describe this person (Mark 5:15, 16, 18). The interchange of these three key words for demon possession in this event provides significant information as to their meaning. 

When the afflicted man saw Jesus, Mark says he ran up and bowed down, a sign that the demon recognized the authority of the second person of the Trinity. This is not an example of clairvoyance, as Koch maintains, because the demons who control the man’s body know precisely who Jesus is. But this is not the voice of the man himself, but of the demon who indwells him and controls his body. Throughout the Lukan account, the writer consistently refers to the man with the third person singular pronoun, but when the man speaks he uses the first person plural, “we.” Luke is writing from the viewpoint of the observer who sees one body; the speaker realizes the plurality of demons within the body. Therefore, the speaker is not the man himself, but one of the demons serving as the spokesman for the entire group.

The words uttered by the man were not his own, but they were spoken by the demon controlling him. Contrary to claims of some demonologists today, the demon does not address Jesus with hostility, blasphemy, or cursings, but with respect, “Jesus, Son of the Most High God” (Luke 8:28). His question recognized the authority of Jesus, but he then inquired if Jesus was going to torment them “before the time” (Matthew 8:29). The demons feared Jesus was there to consign them to their eternal condemnation earlier than planned (Matthew 25:41).

Luke informs us that Jesus had already ordered the demon to “come out” (ἐξέρχομαι). Jesus also inquired as to the demons name. After identifying itself as a Legion of demons, the spokesdemon, fearing that Jesus would cast them out (ἐκβάλλω, Matthew 8:31), implored Jesus to let them enter into (εἰσέρχομαι, Mark 5:12; Luke 8:32, 33) the herd of swine. The demons then came out (ἐξέρχομαι, Matthew 8:32; Mark 5:13; Luke 8:33).

In this most detailed of accounts we see that the demon is “in” the person’s body. The demon then is cast “out” of the body by Jesus’ command and comes “out” of the body to enter “into” the swine. The use of the prepositions εἰς and ἐκ along with the verbs used clearly indicates an indwelling presence. Further, in contrast to the claims of the NSW that the name of the demon is used by Jesus as a talisman or magic word, He does no such thing.

The Convulsive Child 
(Matthew 17:14–18; Mark 9:14–25; Luke 9:37– 43). In this instance Jesus is entreated by a father to heal his son. The unfortunate translation of “lunatic” (NASB) is based on the Greek σεληνιάζομαι, which is literally “moonstruck,” but was a Greek idiom for epileptics.The father attested that these seizures had occurred since childhood (παιδιόθεν) – a time just after infancy when the small child would not be inviting demons into his life, living in rank carnality, or exposing himself to occult objects for worship. Mark adds the information that the demon also rendered the boy mute and would cause all manner of convulsions, grinding teeth, and throwing him into fire and water. The father had asked the disciples to cast out (ἐκβάλλω) the demon. They failed. Jesus commanded the demon to “come out” (ἐξέρχομαι).

Again we observe the same salient features. The term ἐξέρχ1ο0μαι indicates the demon must be “in” the boy in order to come out of the boy. We also learn that demons can cause symptoms that appear to be those of diseases. That they are not common diseases is because their origin is not induced biologically or genetically but from an evil spirit. 

The Man in the Synagogue

(Mark 1:23–28; Luke 4:33–37). Jesus is teaching in the synagogue when a man present who had “the spirit of an unclean demon” (Luke 4:33) suddenly cries out. His cry is not a yell for deliverance, but the demon telling Jesus to leave them (pl.) alone. In the demon’s request he addresses Jesus as “Jesus of Nazareth, the Holy One of God (full title in Luke 4:34). Jesus ordered him to come out (ἐξέρχομαι) and the demon came out (ἐξέρχομαι). 

The demon does not approach Jesus for deliverance. The demon addresses Jesus respectfully by His title. And once again, the demon must “come out.” 

From these three episodes, we can discover the exact meaning of the term demon possession (δαιμονίζομαι), analyze the appropriateness of this translation, and discover important characteristics of demon possession that can then be used as an absolute standard for evaluating modern cases of possession. 

The Meaning of Δαιμονίζομαι. 

The Greek word δαιμονίζομαι is a participial form of the more commonly used noun for demon (δαιμόνιον). Scholars usually translate δαιμονίζομαι “to be possessed by a demon;” or, when it is used to describe a person in that condition, it is rendered “demoniac.” The word is used thirteen times, all in the Gospels. It is increasingly popular to dilute the meaning of this word by translating it as “demonized.” 

The second term in the Greek is ἔχειν δαιμόνιον, “to have a demon.” This phrase is used eight times in Matthew, Luke, and John. The Greek grammar conveys the idea that the subject is characterized by having a demon indwell him. 

Since no systematic definition is given in the Bible for demon possession, the best way to define the term is to examine the characteristics in the biblical examples that define for us these words. From these two basic terms we see that someone “demonized” (δαιμονίζομαι) or who is said “to have a demon (ἔχειν δαιμόνιον)” is a person who has one or more demons dwelling within him. The demons have taken up residence inside the body, not inside the soul or spirit. (Some writers seek to make a distinction: the demon indwells the soul but the spirit is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, no biblical evidence for this exists.) 

If our information about demon possession was limited to the term δαιμονίζομαι, then it might be legitimate to conclude that this is merely a generic term describing some sort of demon activity in relation to human beings. In fact, this is exemplified in an approach increasingly popular today. The claim is made that the idea of demon possession per se is not in the Greek of the New Testament: 

To be demonized means to be under the control of one or more demons. Demonization is not a matter of extremes, such as the either/or idea of being completely free or totally bound; it’s a matter of degrees.

Neo-spiritual warfare advocates claim that the English terms “demon possession” and “demon influence” are merely theological inventions that do not accurately reflect the original language of the Bible. All the Bible says, so the reasoning goes, is that people are demonized, acted upon to some degree by a demon. Unfortunately, this is not supported by linguistic evidence. The standard way of translating this Greek term as demon possession continues to be upheld by the latest lexicons.

The lexical methodology of the NSW advocates commits the fallacy of defining a word based on its root meanings, or etymology, rather than on how the word is actually used and defined in context. “Demonized” and “to have a demon” are used in Scripture of only one extreme type of demonic activity: to have one or more demons take up residence inside the body of a person and exercise control by overriding the individual’s volition in relation to their bodily functions. The person’s soul, his identity, is still there, though suppressed. His volition to believe or reject the Gospel must therefore still be there; however, the ability to control his body is not. Blomber defines it as follows: 

Demon possession was viewed as a unique situation in which an evil 1s2pirit actually took control of an individual, acting and speaking through that person in at least partial independence of his or her own volition and consciousness.

These words never describe a case involving anything less, such as mere influence or putting ideas into someone’s mind. For example, these terms never describe Satan’s activities of accusation, temptation, deception, or persecution; they depict only the extreme case of being inwardly controlled by a demon where the only solution is for the demon to “come out.”

This is true of every such case in the New Testament and is what distinguishes demon possession from the less threatening demon influence. In fact, δαιμονίζομαι and its synonyms never describe a situation where a person does not have a demon in them needing to be cast out. A person may become vulnerable to demon possession because of certain sinful choices or activities such as necromancy, idolatry, or spiritism, into which they have willingly entered. But this is not necessarily the case and is never hinted at in the biblical accounts. The Scriptures never attribute the demon possession of a person to the wrong choices or actions of that person. Though the person’s body is controlled by a demon, his identity is still present along with his ability to believe or reject the Gospel. Only his ability to control his body or express himself is lost. 

Since the major feature here is control, we must ask if “possess” is an adequate English term to convey this meaning. According to one group, possess is inadequate because it conveys the idea of ownership, which is one of several meanings for the noun. However, the Oxford English Dictionary lists as the first meaning of the verb possess, “Of a person or body of persons: To hold, occupy (a place or territory); to reside or be stationed in; to inhabit (with or without ownership).” This primary meaning for possess clearly accords with the evidence of the biblical events. Therefore, the case for rejecting demon-possess as an accurate translation of the Greek δαιμονίζομαι is without support in either Greek or English lexica or the biblical usage of the term itself. 

The hidden agenda for this debate is to break down the distinctions between demon possession and demon influence in order to support the conclusion that Christians can be demon-possessed.

This is made evident by one such theologian’s statement: 

If by ‘demon-possessed’ they mean that a person’s will is completely13 dominated by a demon, so that a person has no power left to chose to do right and obey God, then the answer to whether a Christian could be demon possessed would certainly be no. . .

By rejecting the historically accepted definition of demon possession and reducing it to nothing more than an extreme form of demon influence, that author is then able to say that Christians can be demon-possessed, and thereby justify so-called deliverance ministries and exorcisms of believers.

Having now raised the issue, it must be answered: Can a Christian be demon-possessed? The redefinition of the term δαιμονίζομαι is but one approach in the attempt to validate demon possession of the Christian. Another is exemplified in the work of Dr. C. Fred Dickason, along with those he has influenced. Dr. Dickason followed the methodology of examining all of the biblical passages used to either prove or disprove demon possession of the Christian. His conclusion was that no Scripture clearly answered the question one way or the other. He then addressed the theological arguments marshaled to prove or disprove the case. Again, Dickason concludes that these arguments were all found wanting. He then concluded that since the Bible does not clearly answer the question, we can only rely on our own experience to answer the question. Using a clinical approach, Dickason then documented numerous alleged cases of Christians who were demon-possessed, and he concluded that Christians could be demon-possessed. In essence, he claims that his interpretation of these experiences is more certain than the interpretation of Scripture. Unfortunately, the arguments against demon possession that he rejected could have been stated in stronger terms.

Here are six arguments demonstrating why a regenerated person cannot be demon- possessed.

Six Arguments Against Demon Possession of a Christian

1. The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is indwelt by the Holy Spirit from the instant of salvation (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19). This indwelling has positionally set the believer apart as a Temple for the indwelling of the Trinity.39 In addition, 1 John 4:4 reminds us that “Greater is He that is in you, then he that is in the world.” Since God the Holy Spirit is stronger than any demonic being, including Satan himself, then no demon or evil spirit can enter. 

Some theologians attempt to refute this statement by stating that since a believer is a sinner and Christ indwells the sinner, this argument does not work. For they claim, “if the power of sin can inhabit a Christian’s body and exert such a significant influence that Paul could say it `reigns’ (Rom. 6:12– 13), why do we suppose that another form of evil influence cannot dwell there?” This ignores two vital realities. First, the believer’s positional sanctification based on the imputation to him of Christ’s perfect righteousness. Christ is able to indwell the believer because the house, the physical body, has been cleansed positionally. Second, the sin nature is not a personal entity and has had its power broken at the instant of salvation. 

The strength of this argument is often overlooked. The Greek word used for the “temple” of the believer’s body is ναὸς [naos] rather than ἱερόν [hieron]. The significance is that the inner sanctum or holy place [naos] is the point of comparison rather than the entire temple complex [hieron].40 Access to the holy place was restricted and nothing evil or unclean was allowed to enter there and coexist with the dwelling of God. 

The idea of “temple” must be interpreted in light of the Old Testament. At Sinai, God sanctified the Holy of Holies as He filled the tent of meeting with His presence manifested as the cloud or pillar of fire. Once sanctified God then protects this Temple from any defiling presence. The attempt of Nadab and Abihu to present unauthorized fire is met with their immediate death. Uzzah’s attempt to steady the ark on the back of the donkey as it is being transported to Jerusalem is again met with his immediate death. When God purifies the Temple for His indwelling presence, nothing undefiled may enter. 

A further illustration can be gleaned from the analogy of Israel’s organization as they encamped around the Tabernacle. As is frequently the case, events in the life of the nation Israel portray issues in the life of the individual Christian. The nation encamped around the tabernacle is analogous to the body of the believer. Sin could exist in the camp, though it was disciplined by God. The nation itself is indwelt by the glory of God who is in their midst. This is analogous to the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit inside the believer. But nothing defiled or evil could enter that Temple. In the same way, the believer has been set apart as undefiled, a Temple for the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit and God the Son. Nothing can defile that inner sanctum. No spirit can enter and desecrate that holy place.

2. Empty House.

Jesus gives us a picture of demon possession in one of His dialogues with the Pharisees. In Matthew 12:28, 29, 43–45 Jesus pictures the possessed victim as a house in which demons dwell. Casting out the demons is analogous to throwing the inhabitants out of the house. Therefore, it is clear that demon possession includes evil/unclean spirits, another term for demons, indwelling an individual. This is further reinforced by the terms used to describe the moving in and eviction of demons from their captive. Both transitions are recorded in Mark 5:13, with the “coming out” (ἐξέρχομαι) of the demons from their human hostage as they then “entered into” (εἰσέρχομαι) the herd of swine. Mary Magdalene is described in Luke 8:2 as the woman “from whom seven demons had gone out (ἐξέρχομαι).” These precise terms provide clarity for the meaning of δαιμονίζομαι, making it indisputable that the word means nothing less than the indwelling of a demon in the body of a human host.

These first two arguments work together. Since the Holy Spirit lives in the material house of a believer, then every time a demon knocks at the door, the Holy Spirit answers. Since God the Holy Spirit is stronger than any demonic being, including Satan himself, then no demon or evil spirit could enter. It’s that simple: God is greater than Satan, and thus He protects His children.

3. Intercession of Jesus.

Several other New Testament passages indicate that Christ’s victory over Satan and the demonic was so extensive and His power so vast that it totally protects believers “from the evil one.” First, Jesus prayed in His great high- priestly prayer that the Father “keep them [Christians] from the evil one” (John 17:15). But what exactly did He mean, “keep from”? As one writer notes, if this is a prayer to protect believers from simple influence or temptation, then it was a vacuous prayer that was never answered. Such would not be in harmony with the intercessory power of the second person of the Trinity. Jesus must have some event much more extreme in mind that the believer is to be kept from. The preposition ἐκ here is used to indicate severance or separation. Whatever else our Lord intended, this would exclude the invasion of a child of God’s body by unholy demons. Since we know the Father has heard and is fulfilling Christ’s request this must at least include protection of all believers, obedient and disobedient from demon possession.

4. Kept from Harm.

The apostle John later wrote that each believer is kept by God and that “the evil one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18). The context of 1 John 5:18–19 reflects the Lord’s intercessory prayer in John 17, in v. 19 he also refers to the believer living in the world, in the very power sphere of the devil. This particular passage is one that involves several technical difficulties which must first be resolved before there can be accurate interpretation. First, the identity of the first “who is born of God” (a perfect participle) is undisputed and refers to the regenerate believer. Second, the identity of the second “who was born of God” (an aorist passive participle) is debated. Some argue that the shift in tenses indicates a shift in reference, so that the second participle refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the verse would be translated: “We know that no regenerate believer sins; but Jesus Christ, the One who was born of God keeps him . . .” This would again indicate that our Lord keeps and protects us from demon possession. However, those who want to say Christians can be demon-possessed reject this interpretation. Though we agree that the above is the best interpretation, for the sake of argument, we will assume the alternate position. 

This raises the second difficulty with this passage. The object of the verb “keeps” is “him” in some ancient manuscripts but not in many of them. An alternate reading found in the Majority Text might be understood to mean “himself.” Those who believe Christians can be demon-possessed attempt to avoid the implication of this passage by rejecting the standard reading of the Greek text in favor of the Majority Text alternate reading. But even if we grant for arguments sake that this is the correct reading and interpretation of the text it nevertheless still supports the view that a believer cannot be demon- possessed. Majority text advocate Zane Hodges who follows the same alternate reading Dickason suggests, concludes that the passage still means that believers are not demon-possessed.

John thus affirmed that “the one who has been born of God keeps himself (there is no word for safe in the original). This restates the truth of [1 John] 3:9 in a slightly different form. A believer’s new man (or “new self”; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10) is fundamentally impervious to sin and hence the evil one (cf., 1 John 2:13–14; 3:12), Satan, does not touch him.

It is not the textually disputed phrase that clinches the argument against demon possession of the believer; it is the verb in the final clause. The Greek ἅπτω in the middle voice means “to touch, take hold of, or hold.” This word indicates touch with intent to harm, which means that Satan cannot touch nor do any serious damage to the believer. Since this would include, at the least, indwelling by an unclean spirit, the Christian is clearly protected from demon possession. The final clause “the evil one does not touch him,” is not conditioned upon the previous clause but is an additional reality. It is hard to imagine how a believer could be demon-possessed but also be said to have not been touched by the evil one! Certainly, this passage would add weight to the teaching that believers cannot be demon-possessed.

5. Protected from the Evil One.

Paul declared in 2 Thessalonians 3:3 that “the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” The Greek preposition ἀπὸ translated “from” here is different from the previous passages. Here the preposition has the idea of kept away from something and when in combination with the verb to guard, means to protect something “so that it is not lost or damaged.”This protection is based upon the Lord’s faithfulness, not man’s. Nothing in the context indicates it only applies to believers who are walking in obedience. To assume that is to presume one’s interpretation to predetermine the conclusion. It is no wonder some writers believe the Scripture unclear on the matter! It is hard to believe that our faithful Lord’s protection would allow one of His children to become demon-possessed. It does not make sense in the light of Scripture. Why then do some assert that believers can be open to some form of demonic possession? 

6. Argument from Sufficiency and Silence.

The fact that the Trinity indwells and protects the believer should be reason enough for anyone to conclude that Christians cannot be demon-possessed. Furthermore, when this fantastic truth is combined with the reality that demon possession is not even mentioned as something believers should be concerned about after the resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, then it should remove any doubt that might still be lingering. The burden of proof lies with those who believe that Christians can be demon- possessed, since the Scriptures do not support that point of view. Valid proof must flow from the Scriptures, not from experience. NSW advocates to enormous lengths in their tapes and books to show from their case studies that the Christians they counseled were under such great demonic bondage that only a diagnosis of demon possession accounts for their symptoms. This is anecdotal theology, not exegetically sound, biblical theology. Often the believer is pictured as having tried all the techniques of the Christian life as found in the New Testament, but without success in dealing with his or her problem. The point which is often emphasized is that if the person had not realized that he was demon-possessed and been delivered, he would never acquire the means to overcome his problem by applying the God-given principles found in the Bible.

But if Christians can be possessed, then why do the New Testament Epistles, letters written specifically to teach believers how to live a mature Christian life until the return of Christ, not warn us that believers can be demon-possessed, or command us to cast out demons from Christians, or tell us how to otherwise deal with this problem? It is unthinkable that a subject as important as this one would not be dealt with in the Epistles. If Scripture is foggy as to whether Christians can be demon- possessed, as is claimed, then it certainly cannot be clear as to how to deal with Christians who are demon-possessed. Conversely, if the Epistles gave instructions on how to cast out demons, then it would be clear that Christians could be demon-possessed.

Therefore, since there are no instructions for dealing with demon-possessed Christians in the New Testament, and assuming believers can be demon-possessed, then once again it is back to experience and trial-and-error as our teacher for functioning in this area. To those who suggest that this argument is based on the silence of Scripture, it seems that such silence speaks volumes. The Bible clearly claims to give us “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3, emphasis added) and is “adequate to equip us for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:17). Christian demon-possession is certainly a vital matter pertaining to godliness for which we should be equipped. If the Bible claims to give everything pertaining to godliness but ignores this particular subject, we can be absolutely confident that Christians need not worry about demon possession. Therefore, those who teach Christian possession are by implication denying the sufficiency of Scripture and are going beyond its authority by promoting the authority of their own experience. They have forgotten the warning of Paul: “… that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other” (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Alleged Examples of Demon-Possessed Believers in the Bible

Attempts are often made by NSW advocates that demon possession also took place in the Old Testament and that Old Testament saints were so afflicted. But is this the case? 

“Satan can and does demonize believers,” declares John Wimber. Wimber attempts to support his belief that Christians can be demon-possessed from several biblical passages. His first example is King Saul, whose story is told in the book of 1 Samuel. Wimber is correct that Saul was a believer, since Samuel indicated they would be together in Paradise (1 Samuel 28:19).19 However, Wimber wrongly equates the fact that Saul was tormented (16:14) with demon possession. 

For several reasons, this could not have been a true case of demon possession: 

1.The evil spirit is said to have been sent from God, not Satan (16:14).
2.The evil spirit would leave when David played his harp (16:23), and no demon is said in Scripture to depart at the playing of music. Instead, 
demons are cast out in the name of the Lord.
3.Saul later repented of his sin (26:21). The New Testament presents a 
demon-possessed person as a victim who needs freedom, not repentance.
4.The Hebrew prepositions clarify that the evil spirit would come upon 
מֵעָלָיו(1( him, and depart from upon him )אֶל( Saul, or to ]עָלֶיךָ[ Samuel 16:16, 23); it is never said to have entered into (ְּב) Saul, as would be expected if demon possession was the intended idea. We saw earlier that the language of demon possession is that of entering into and exiting out of a person, not coming upon. The description in this passage is consistent with an external attack that does happen to believers. Finally, since the case of King Saul is considered the strongest candidate for demon possession in the Old Testament, it follows that there are no genuine cases of demon possession recorded in the Old Testament.

Luke 13:16 is another verse sometimes cited as supporting demon possession of a believer. In this case, Jesus called a woman who had been demon-possessed for 18 years “a daughter of Abraham.” Some suggest that this means she was a believer. However, the term “daughter of Abraham” is a nationalist term for a female citizen of Israel and is never used to indicate a person’s salvation. Many Israelites were believers, but most were not. Nothing in the text indicates whether she was at that time a believer. 

A third suggestion is that Judas was a believer because he was one of the twelve disciples. There is no question that Judas was demon-possessed. John 13:27 uses clear “demon possession” language (cf. Luke 8:30) in describing the fact that “Satan then entered [εἰσέρχομαι] into him [Judas].” It should be equally clear, however, that Judas was not a believer.

First, Jesus commented in John 6:70, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?”49 Judas is singled out as that devil in the next verse. This is hardly a term for a Christian. Certainly the burden of proof would be on someone to demonstrate that Judas was a believer after a comment like that on his résumé.

Second, Jesus tells the twelve in the upper room that all the twelve disciples were “clean” except Judas (John 13:10–11).50 “Clean” (καθαρὸς) in20this context clearly indicates salvation.

Third, Judas, the “son of perdition ἀπώλεια)” perished (ἀπόλλυμι), the same word used of those who fail to believe in Christ alone for salvation (John 3:16). It is wrong to equate a disciple as necessarily being a believer, since not all of Christ’s disciples were believers. 

Peter is said by some to have been demon-possessed when he was rebuked by Jesus in Matthew 16:23, “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” Once again, this is an inferential assumption that can be demonstrated to be wrong. Satan’s influence was that of persuasion from outside, not an operation from within. Why? Because Peter had accepted a wrong view about the role of the Messiah: Peter did not want Jesus to die. However, this was contrary to God’s plan for Jesus, so Jesus rebuked Peter to let him know the source of that type of false thinking. False thinking is equated to demonic thinking (James 3:15). 

Earlier, when Peter had declared that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16), Jesus had said that the source and inspiration of that thought was a revelation from God. However, when Peter rebuked Jesus for following the revelation of God’s will for His life, Jesus wanted to make sure that Peter knew that the source of this thinking was not God but Satan. Notice that Jesus explained after His rebuke that Peter was not setting his “mind on God’s interests, but man’s” (16:23). This is a picture of Satan using persuasion from outside Peter to try to convince him to believe false teaching.

Ananias and Sapphira are other candidates for examples of believers who were “demonized” to lie because “Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3, emphasis added). The reasoning is that someone whose heart is “filled” with something is experiencing internal control and thus demon possession. We will not debate whether Ananias and Sapphira were believers, but we will assume that they were. The difficulty with this verse is that so little information is given. It is possible to understand the phrase “Satan filled your heart” in two ways. The first is that Satan, the “father of lies” (John 8:44), influenced the heart of Ananias to lie. This would be similar to the type of external, mental persuasion that we saw in the previous event involving Peter. 

The second way, the way deliverance practitioners understand it, is that Satan himself entered the heart of Ananias. However, if this were the case, then it would be Satan who lied; yet it was Ananias who lied and was punished. Had Ananias been Satan- or demon-possessed, it would have been Satan inside him who was lying, and the solution would have been to cast out Satan, since Ananias would be the innocent victim and not the perpetrator that the Bible declares him to have been. The next verse says, “Why is it that you Ananias have conceived this deed in your heart?” (Acts 5:4, emphasis added). Ananias, like every believer, is in control of his thoughts and responsible for his thinking, decisions, and actions – not Satan. Therefore, this is an example of Satan using the rebellious thinking of a Christian as a base of operations, influencing him with “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

A final example focuses on the incestuous man in 1 Corinthians 5. Some contend that he was a believer whose behavior was a symptom of demon possession. Thus, Paul placed this man out of the church and into the sphere of Satan for discipline, with the result that the man could lose his physical life, even though this would not affect his eternal destiny (verse 5). However, Satan does not have to possess a person internally to kill him. King Saul was not demon-possessed, but he was driven to death by an evil spirit (1 Samuel 31). Job was certainly in no danger of being demon-possessed, but the Lord told Satan that he could do anything to him except kill him. Paul was given a thorn in the flesh to buffet him, a demonic messenger (called an ἄγγελος from Satan, 2 Corinthians 12:7), yet he was not demon-possessed. 

The Apostles and the Demonic

On three occasions the apostles are said to have been involved in the casting out of demons (Acts 8:5–8; 16:16–18; 19:11, 12). None of these passages involves a debate over whether those delivered were Christians; all would agree that they were not. The significance of these events is as signs that the apostles had the authority from their risen Head (Christ) to act and speak on His behalf, as was demonstrated by the fact that they had authority over Satan like their Master. Once the foundation of the church had been laid by the apostles (Ephesians 2:20) and the boundary and nature of the Gospel message established, the norm for dealing with demon-possessed unbelievers had become the preaching of the Gospel.

Upon belief in Christ as Savior, an unbeliever is delivered not only from his sin but also from any demon possession that might have afflicted him. So the proper biblical way to deliver an unbeliever from demons is to preach the Gospel to him. It does not benefit the victim for someone to cast out demons (if possible) only to have him remain in his unsaved condition. Christ told the Pharisees in Matthew 12 that when the demon comes back to his old house and finds it swept and clean, he will go and get seven other demons, so that the state of the person will be worse than at the first. Any believer can deliver another person from demons by leading him to Christ. The Scriptures do not require a second step of deliverance for a believer in order that he may be freed from the demonic; Christ sweeps the house clean at the moment of salvation. 

Our True Focus

Since demon possession is not possible for believers, it is not an issue in the believer’s sanctification. For the believer to assign blame for his spiritual failures to the activities of demons is to subvert the emphasis throughout the Bible on personal responsibility. The Christian indeed faces an unseen enemy. In many cases, that influence may be quite overwhelming. But Christ defeated Satan at the cross and the believer today is to live a spiritual life based on that finished victory. The focus of the believer should be on dependence on the power of God the Holy Spirit, being filled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16), and learning and applying the Word of God. To be distracted by seeking solutions in deliverance from demonic indwelling will always lead to a life of spiritual failure. By trusting in the sufficient power of the Word of God and the Spirit of God, the believer can defeat any problem, difficulty, or sin. 

Final Note: The General Presbytery of the Assemblies of God in May, 1972, issued a five page Position Paper indicating that for born again Christians, deliverances from demon possession is unscriptural, which can be viewed here.

For your consideration.

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!

20 comments

  1. The thought of charging money for “training” in deliverance is disgusting. Peter had some strong words for the sorcerer who wanted to buy the Holy Spirit ‘s power. (Acts 8:19-20)
    C. S. Lewis would agree with you, that there are two dangers when it comes to demons – being overly interested in them and being oblivious to them.
    As for your statement, “Access to the holy place was restricted, and nothing evil or unclean was allowed to enter there and coexist with the dwelling of God,” I’ve heard the other side of that argument, that there was a time when Israel had fallen so deep into idolatry that their idols filled the Temple, until God had had enough and departed. Just wondering…
    I am painfully aware that I can be influenced by the enemy, and so I daily ask the Lord to cover my mind with the”helmet of salvation” and shield me from the enemies lies, temptations, distractions, accusations, and threats – or at the very least, make me aware of them, so I can resist. The mind is indeed a battlefield.

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    • Hi Annie, I think 70 AD was the answer to the Temple question, although there definitely were previous blatant descrations before that, not to mention the absence of the Ark of theCovenant. I share your distaste for how the gifts of God to the Church have been turned into a commodity, available to one and all, for a price. Sound advice about covering our minds, hearts and spirits. Blessings!

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  2. Excellent scholarship Bruce with a convincing and reassuring conclusion. I was especially interested to see that about Saul being saved, because he eventually joined Samuel as 1 Samuel 28:19 hints at him going to heaven.

    To be honest, I always assumed Saul was lost. Now, I suspect God was merciful to him. As someone who’s had plenty of mental illness/demonic oppression, I find this reassuring (although I’m not going to use it as an excuse to try and intentionally disobey God!).

    God bless!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. True. It is important that the person who is demon possessed should surrender his or her life to Christ. Christ sets us free.

    As a teacher, I had several encounters of students being demon possessed. How great it is that God protected me each time because there is power in the name of Jesus.

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  4. Thanks, Bruce. Wow! You’ve obviously put a lot of work into this. This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read on the topic. I re-published a Throwback Thursday post on demonic possession/exorcism just a short time ago so this subject was still on my mind.

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    • Hi Tom, I thought it was really good too. He covered a lot of different aspects very well and then brought them all together. The information on the Greek translations was also edifying! The NAR is having a field day out there! Blessings brother!

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  5. Excellent information, thankyou Bruce. It has cleared up some of those “on the shelf” questions I’ve always had about some of this stuff, like Saul’s evil spirit.
    Those deliverance ministries are just plain WEIRD! Where there is light, no darkness can dwell!

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  6. I am so glad you wrote this! When I was fourteen years old, I joined a group of my classmates who were holding seances. We used a Ouija board and, later, autonomic handwriting. The outcome was absolutely horrific. No, I was not a Christian then. But now I am, and I am 100% forgiven and FREE in Jesus. Praise God for His Amazing Grace!!!!!!

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  7. Great job in piecing all of your research together, Bruce. Thanks for taking the time to do that, and to post a summary of your efforts here!

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  8. Very well done, Bruce. Many great points I had never heard or considered. Thank you for following the Spirit’s leading and investing so much time.

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