Demons in Christians
“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:4,5)
Here the apostle deals with the case of a disobedient and sinful believer in the church at Corinth. In verse 10 and 12 of the same chapter he specifically emphasizes that he is speaking, not about evildoers of the world, but those in the church. In another case, Paul writes:
“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (I Timothy 1:19,20).
“In meekness, instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.” (2 Timothy 2:25,26)
When you go into the ministry of casting out demons, inevitably you will be challenged by the question. “Is it possible for a born-again believer to have a demon?” In charismatic circles the question is: “Is it possible for a believer who is baptized in the Spirit to have a demon?”
“Absolutely not!” comes the stock answer. “The Holy Spirit cannot coexist in the same body with a demon!” This answer is designed to shut off all further inquiry, to close the mind even to the possibility as unthinkable. It is invoked with the insistence of a slogan. Yet it is not a Scriptural answer! It is an extra-Biblical piece of logic that stands quite by itself. This often-heard statement does not rest on scripture but on an assumption.
Actually, the answer to both questions above is a definite “YES!” It is a particularly dangerous delusion to think that Satan or the demons, adopt any kind of a hands-off policy toward believers. In fact, they affect and afflict believers as far as possible. They buffet, oppose, seek to tempt or deceive or lead them astray. They look for and quickly seize any advantage to handicap and hinder believers.
Almost one hundred percent of our deliverance ministry has been among the born-again believers; most of them also baptized-in-the-spirit. Being saved, and even being baptized in the Holy Spirit, is no guarantee against the inroads of the evil spirits.
Through these or subsequent spiritual experiences there is no automatic disposal of evil spirits. It is possible however that demons may be rendered temporarily inactive and unable to function for a time. So long as they are still present there is always the danger of a “revival” of their power during times of stress and pressure. This explains the necessity of removing them completely.
Several arguments are advanced to “prove” that under no circumstances can a born-again person have a demon. The most common statement is that a Christian cannot be “possessed.” This will be discussed later as a misnomer. In summary the arguments run something like this:
1. The believer is inhabited by the Holy Spirit; therefore demons cannot coexist within the same body. Usually the proof text used is 1 Corinthians 2:12; however the verse does NOT say this.
2. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8), and indeed He did. In the case of problems caused by demons, the remedy and method of doing this is cast out the demons in His name.
3. The struggle inside the believer is always revealed to be the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit; not a struggle involving demons (Romans 6 and 7). Were that the case, the conscientious claiming of the promises of God would solve every human problem.
4. The believer is delivered from the power of Satan and his demons (Colossians 1:12,13; Ephesians 2:1-3). Yes, but like many other promises, not automatically, but only as we voluntarily meet God’s conditions for deliverance.
5. The Christian is provided with complete protection from the fiery darts of the enemy (Ephesians 6). This overlooks the rather obvious fact that the armor is designed for defense from external, not internal enemies; also even so the believer’s armor is not always in place.
In spite of these arguments, the dismaying fact remains that born-again Christians, including leaders, are having horrendous difficulties and problems. These can find no solution in natural infirmities or the endless conflict between the flesh and the Spirit.
It is no secret that many have become discouraged and filled with awful despair. Some have dropped by the wayside, others have even committed suicide in their desperate inability to find a solution within the framework of their theological understandings.
In his tract, “Demon Activity and the Christian,” Ernest B. Rockstad rightly concludes that: “Experience of course is not the basis for the interpretation of the Bible. Nevertheless, if consistent experiences run counter to an interpretation, the dedicated seeker after truth will set out to find the reason. He must be willing to re-study his interpretation under the direction of the Holy Spirit… and be prepared to make any necessary corrections in his own beliefs so as to be in full agreement with the facts as they are.” He further points out that understanding the Biblical doctrine of human depravity should cause one to wonder that the Holy Spirit would enter a person under any circumstances. You cannot argue anyone into believing that the ancient fundamental stand against Christians having demons is fallacious. Donald Jacobs illustrates it this way: “There once lived a skeptical fisherman who heard unbelievable stories about people catching fish two feet long. He had never caught one over twelve inches. One day he caught one three feet long, held it by the tail, shook his head, threw it back into the water and said, `Just another lie.’ Likewise, faced with the evidence of a `real live demon,’ a western man would probably react just about this way. `There are just no such things,’ he would say.”
There is an excellent presentation of the whole question in Don Basham’s book, Can A Christian Have a Demon? Non-charismatic writers Frances Manuel, Merrill Unger, Mark Bubeck and Robert Peterson also teach that Christians can and do have demons.
In his very balanced and scholarly treatise, Demons in the World Today, Dr. Unger writes, “In demon influence, evil spirits exert power over a person short of actual possession. Such influence may vary from mild harassment to extreme subjection when body and mind become dominated and held in slavery by spirit agents. Christians, as well as non-Christians, can be so influenced. They may be oppressed, vexed, depressed, hindered and bound by demons.” 2 Dr. Unger is frank to say that he had written in 1952, “To demon possession, only unbelievers are exposed.” Twenty years later, he writes: “This statement was inferred, since Scripture does not clearly settle the question. It was based on the assumption that an evil spirit could not indwell the redeemed body together with the Holy Spirit.” 3 Missionaries from all over the world wrote to him, telling of cases to the contrary and, as the author notes, the claims of the missionaries “appear valid.” (More information is contained in Dr. Unger’s last book on the subject: “What Demons can do to the Saints” published by Moody Press)
Hobart Freeman points out that “as a result of erroneous teaching and beliefs, which are based neither upon Scripture or experience, Satan has deluded many concerning the question, can a Christian be oppressed by Satan or possess evil spirits?…Can one who has never participated actively in any form of occultism be subjected or oppressed?” 4
The answer to both questions is YES, supported both from the Scriptures and experience. Believers can be oppressed, vexed, depressed, hindered, bound, and afflicted by Satan or suffer infestation by demonic spirits. Dr. Freeman goes on to discuss the difference between full possession (where the life and will come totally under the domination and control of Satan) and the invasion of the mind or body by spirits of infirmity, fear, resentment, doubt, depression, etc. This condition he terms infestation, which is aptly descriptive. In his helpful pamphlet, “Expelling Demons,” Derek Prince explains facts linguistically which should help unsnarl the semantic tangle. “The New Testament Greek word for demon is the passive verb daimonizomai. The literal meaning of this verb is `to be demoned,’ that is, in some way to come under the influence or power of demons. In the King James Version this verb is usually translated by some phrase such as `to be possessed’ or `to be vexed’ by demons or by evil spirits. However, there is no distinction in the original Greek text to support these (translated) distinctions.” 5
We dare not rest a theological differentiation about the work of demons on a distinction in language which does not exist in the original. Believers were definitely subjected to demonic attack in the Scriptures. The physical afflictions and other disasters of Job are shown to be Satan’s work in Job 1 and 2. In the synagogue there was a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:23). A woman called “a daughter of Abraham” (Father of the faithful) was bound with a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years (Luke 13:11-16).
There is no reason to conclude arbitrarily in the two latter cases that the persons involved were not believers. Paul discusses contention and disputing over doctrine in 2 Timothy 2:23-26. There believers are indicated who evidently have slipped and need to “recover themselves from the snare of the devil, who are taken captive of him at his will.” A member of the church in Corinth seems to have been overcome by a spirit of lust (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). Jesus rebuked a spirit of fever in Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4;38-39). When he left her she was well. In Mark 9:25, Jesus uses this same term to rebuke Satan. Sickness is described as an oppression of the devil in Acts 10:38. Jesus often healed by removing spirits of infirmity, which are simply another method of Satanic attack (See Luke 4:40,41).
One moment Peter spoke by Divine revelation, declaring that Jesus was the very Christ. In the next he was reprimanded by Jesus rebuking Satan in him.
“Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
Simon the magician is presented as one who believed and was baptized. Evidently he had not been delivered from his occult bondage and was commanded to repent and pray (Acts 8:20-24). How did Satan manage to “fill the heart” of the believers Ananias and Sapphira? (Acts 5:3). Paul himself reports that he suffered buffeting from a “messenger of Satan” (11 Corinthians 12:7). 6
Dr. V. Raymond Edman, the late president of Wheaton College, wrote the following in answer to the question about Christians having a demon:
“The unguarded Christian may have demon possession in the soul, which would affect mental processes and emotions; or in the body, as was the case of the woman who had a `spirit of infirmity eighteen years and was bowed together, and could in nowise life up herself’ (Luke 13:11). Of her, the Savior said when He healed her, `Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, who Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’ To say that a Christian cannot be demonized in any area of his life is a happy but inaccurate generalization.” 7
Paul reproves Corinthian Christians for receiving a spirit other than the spirit they had previously received (2 Corinthians 11:4). This is a case in which the language of the King James translation fails to fully convey the force of the original. The Phillips translation says: “For apparently you cheerfully accept a man who comes to you preaching a different Jesus than the one we told you about, and you readily receive a spirit and a gospel quite different from the ones you originally accepted.” Or, as the Living Bible puts it, “You swallow it all.”
In Galatians 3:1, Paul inquired about who had bewitched believers to draw them away from the truth. The aftermath of this was not just the effects of wrong mental impressions conveyed by false teachers. Evil spirits had imposed false doctrine by using fraudulent teachers. These references emphatically do NOT suggest that believers enjoy an easy exemption from the activities of demons but are particularly targeted by them.
Robert Peterson makes an interesting comment: “It appears that the full force of deceiving spirits is directed against the spiritual believer in doctrinal rather than worldly matters, although the latter may be used after the believer has been ensnared by the more subtle means. In I Timothy 4:1,2 the Apostle Paul gives a full account of how wicked spirits attack the spiritual believer and by deception beguile him away from the faith through the use of false prophets.” 8
“Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
Don Basham sums up the matter when he writes that there is an “almost universal sense of fear and loathing toward the whole subject of Satan and the evil spirits. Many believers have adopted the fallacious idea that if they ignore Satan, he will ignore them. Scripturally, such a position is indefensible” (1 Peter 5:8,9; James 4:7; 2 Corinthians 2:11). 9
When the power of God begins to move in a person’s life, quite naturally he becomes an object for the devil’s most crippling attacks. This should not bring despair or fear to the believer for the strength of God is greater than all the power of the evil.
The unreasoning fear of demons is directly fostered and promoted by Satan and his hosts. This prevents intelligent interference with their program by keeping it shrouded in darkness and mystery. Personally I have seen case after case of people who became disturbed, upset and genuinely frightened at the mention of casting out demons. Later they received deliverance from wicked spirits. Following this, they became fearless, enthusiastic warriors in the fight to free other bound ones.
Basham concludes that a Christian can be tormented or afflicted by evil spirits in some area of his life and still be a sincere Christian; just as he can be tormented by physical sickness and still be a sincere Christian. 10
It is always a blessing to see truths, not mere speculations, in print concerning spiritual warfare. Satan never misses an opportunity to pound away, arguing that the majority must be right. Accusations fly that you have gone off your “theological rocker” to become involved in anything so controversial. After all, this is actively and determinedly opposed by a great majority of the professing brethren. How reassuring to hear now and then from a brother who is discovering some of the same truths and insights which you have received.
I shudder when I hear someone remark skeptically, “Well, I just can’t believe that. I’d have to see it first.” They seek to shield themselves by mere ignorance! Take care, you may well experience manifestations in yourself and in your immediate family to chasten you. I believe Satan is sometimes enraged when people doubt that he is able to provoke all of the wild and outlandish manifestations of demons in a deliverance session. If someone sneers at the idea that the devil can work in certain ways, they could find out the hard way through personal or family consequences.
Personally, I had no real problem believing in a personal devil and in the fact that demons infest both lost and saved as they have opportunity. I first ran into a storm of questions and angry abuse about the subject after we began casting demons from infested Christians. It was necessary to retrace the scriptures and think through the truths God had given me. Over and over the scandalized cry came from those decrying deliverance, “You can’t do that!”
To me it was as foolish as telling Peter he could not walk on the water when he was already doing it. It was as pointless as the demon who indignantly informed me that I could not come against him. I pointed out that I was already doing it and that he was powerless to stop me. It is like trying to prove the sky is blue on a clear day or that water is wet. Such self-evident truths, but they are so difficult to show to those predisposed to disbelieve and reject them. Amazing, too, is the fact that so many of the critics are well-versed in many crucial doctrinal matters in scripture. How sad that Satan has managed to hoodwink them in this vital area.
A person is born again by confessing his sin and asking the Lord Jesus Christ to come into his heart and save him (Romans 3:23,24; 6:23; Revelation 3:20). He is received by the Heavenly Father and salvation comes instantaneously in the experience of the new birth. Love, joy and peace are the initial and logical by-products.
The Holy Spirit comes to indwell and seal the believer as God’s earnest of redemption (Ephesians 1:13,14). His abiding presence is guaranteed until the believer is redeemed completely (in point of time) by being taken to be with the Lord. This can be through the door of death or through the door in the sky (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17).
The Holy Spirit inhabits the body of the believer in a peculiar and special way since that special Day of Pentecost, when He was poured out on the assembled believers as the promise of the Father (Acts 1:8). The child of God (John 1:12) is accepted in the Beloved, Jesus, (Ephesians 1:6) and blessed with the assurance of God’s presence and blessing (John 10:28-30).
In spite of these wonderful changes, however, scarcely a week will pass in a babe’s life, that he will not be convicted of sins of omission or commission (James 4:17), which must be confessed and put away (I John 1:9; Proverbs 28:13). This will continue indefinitely as long as the believer is growing in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many of these sins of omission and commission were present at the time of conversion. Some will lie unnoticed by the believer for months, until the Lord deals with them. The Holy Spirit is able to coexist with these unconfessed sins. Why then is it so difficult to accept the fact that the Holy Spirit is able to also coexist with indwelling demons until they are detected, hated, renounced, and expelled in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Reprinted from Battling the Host of Hell by Win Worley, © 1976, WRW, Box 852626, Mesquite, TX 75185
1. Demons at Work in the World Today by Donard R. Jacobs, © 1972 by Herald Press, Scottsdale, PA 15683. Used by permission, p. 38.
2. Demons in the World Today by Merrill F. Unger, © 1971 by Tyndale House Publ., Wheaton IL l60187. Used by permission, p. 113.
3. Ibid. p.117.
4. Angels of Light by Hobart Freeman, © 1969 by Logos Internatl, Plainfield, NJ 07060. Used by permission pp. 73,74.
5. Expelling Demons by Derek Prince, by Derek Prince Pub., Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Used by permission p. 4.
6. Freeman, op. cit. p. 75.
7. Alliance Witness by V. Raymond Edmond, April 26, 1967, Vol. 102, #9, p. 22.
8. Are Demons for Real? by Robert Peterson, © 1968 by Overseas Miss. Fellowsh, Moody Press, Chicago IL. Used by permission. p. 98.
9. Can a Christian Have a Demon? by Don Basham, © 1971 Whitaker Books, Monroeville, PA. Used by permission p. 51.
The following is an excerpt from “How Demons Operate, Booklet #16″ by Pastor Win Worley. Copyright © 1983 by Win Worley, Revised © 1991. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including storage and retrieval system, without securing permission in writing from the publisher, WRW Publications, PO Box 852626, Mesquite, TX 75185.
If you’d like to obtain your own copy of not only this, but other materials authored by Win Worley, please contact WRW Publications atwww.wrwpublications.com