Can A Christian Have A Demon?
Julian Kinkaid

It is quite evident from Scripture that we as Christians are in a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:12), and that our foes are those spiritual beings who seek to oppose the work of God through those of us who have subjected ourselves to His rule. Furthermore, man was created a lesser being to these 'angels' (Heb. 2:7, 9), especially their leader, who is often recognised as being the most perfect of God's creatures in every way (Ezek. 28:12-15). Consequently man is utterly reliant upon his spiritual armour and weapons of warfare (Eph. 6:11, 13-17), and the kingly power that will enable him to be victorious (1 Cor. 15:57; 1 John 4:4). The question that now lies before us is whether man can exist in an intermediate state, having passed into the Kingdom of Light, but still under the influence of the kingdom of darkness, yet to be delivered from an indwelling foe?

As we are dealing with the possession of a Christian by a demon, our starting point must inevitably be the reality and merit of being in Christ. According to the Scriptures all men are sinners and need to accept the propitiation of Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 3:23-25; cf. Eph. 1:7), and our reconciliation to God (2 Cor. 5:18-21). As the ransom has been paid (1 Peter 1:18-19) God has erased our guilt, cancelled our debts (Col. 2:13f.) and justified us before Himself (Rom. 5:1). By accepting that we are born from above by His Spirit (John 3:5-8), becoming new creations in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; cf. Rom. 6:4) and being sealed in Him (Eph. 1:13-14). It is the Spirit who bears witness that we are God's sons (Rom. 8:15f.) and therefore co-heirs with Christ (Gal. 4:4-7), for we have been baptised into his body (1 Cor. 12:13, 27). However, the new life involves repentance (Acts 3:19; cf. 26:20), no longer succumbing to our fleshly desires (Gal.5:16-22) as when we were enslaved by sin (Rom. 6:6f.) In Christ we have been transferred from Satan's dominion (Col. 1:13; cf. Acts 26:18) to God's victorious kingdom (1 Cor.15:57), for Christ's death has rendered Satan powerless (Heb. 2:14; cf. Col. 2:14f.). Therefore, provided we have submitted to God's rule in our lives (1 Peter 5:6) and give Satan no foothold (Eph. 4:27), even though he seeks to devour us (1 Peter 5:8) we can resist him and he will flee (James 4:7). Even when we fall we have security in knowing that Jesus has prayed for us (John 17:15) and that God will honour this (2 Thess. 3:3). Furthermore, we are always safe in God's hand (John 10:26-30) so that nothing, not even "principalities or powers or anything created" can separate us from His love for us (Rom.8:35-39).

According to the general evangelical position demons are those angels who rebelled under the command of Satan or Beelzebul, otherwise known as the Prince of Demons (Matt.12:24), and are now in a fallen state awaiting their judgement. For some this involves a period of bondage (2 Peter 2:4), but others are free to roam the earth opposing God's purposes (cf. Job 1:7). Furthermore, as spirit beings (Matt.8:16 & Luke 10:17-20) they have no physical bodies of their own, but are apparently at liberty to inhabit those of humans, when given the opportunity, and if vacant! (Matt.12:43-45). The word most frequently used in the Gospel accounts for this possession is dimonizomai and is probably best translated 'to be demonised', for the term demon-possessed engenders visions of total domination, which we shall see is not predominantly so, although in all cases the one demonised is completely affected in his daily living. In the two worst cases of demonisation, namely the Gerasene Demoniac (Matt.8:28) and the young lunatic (Matt.17:18), the demon(s) are seen to rule their lives. One was so violent that he had to live apart from others and the other so erratic that he couldn't be left alone. Then there are those who appear 'only' to have one or more of their physical senses suspended (Matt.9:32; cf. 12:22), and finally what we might term as the lesser cases, those who even seem to work in harmony with the indwelling spirits (Acts 16:16-18; cf. Mark 1:13).

All the previous examples of demonisation clearly involve subjects who are unbelievers, there are however a number of cases, variously proposed, to promote the inhabitation of believers. In a certain synagogue Jesus was confronted by a woman who had been "crippled by a spirit...", causing her to be bent double. This same woman he labelled as a "daughter of Abraham" (Luke 13:10-17) a term, it could feasibly be argued, that Jesus would only apply to true believers (Luke 19:9; cf. 3:8).[1] However, in healing her there is no evidence of expulsion, but simply the laying on of hands, as for most physical infirmities (Luke 4:40; Mark 16:18). Then there is the case of King Saul who evidently underwent a regeneration process (1 Sam.10:6-12), but in his rejected state was also troubled by an evil spirit (1 Sam.16:14ff.; 18:10f.; 19:9f.). Yet when he was troubled Saul was completely apostate, the Holy Spirit had departed and in fact it was God who sent the evil spirit; furthermore it seems apparent that the spirit did not indwell Saul, but came upon him at specific times (1 Sam.16:16; 18:10). Thirdly we have the account of Simon the magician, who having believed and been baptised (Acts 8:13) is described by Peter as being: "in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity" (Acts 8:23). Even so, there is no mention of demonic activity or need for deliverance, but merely a change of attitude (Acts 8:2; cf. Rom.12:2). Finally there are the cases of Judas Iscariot (Luke 22:3; cf. John 13:27) and Ananias & Sapphira (Acts 5:1-3). Concerning Judas there is no passage clearly indicating he was regenerate (cf. John 17:12) or that he was personally demonised by Satan. Certainly in the account of Ananias & Sapphira the expression used (Acts 5:3) may simply imply a yielding to temptation.

In spite of the obvious lack of biblical evidence for the demonisation of Christians there are still those who claim that their experience suggests otherwise. Such as these argue, from the example of the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matt. 15:22-28), that the authority given to believers to cast out demons is only for the benefit of "those in covenant relationship with God".[2] However, this argument neglects the fact that the daughter, though a Gentile, was delivered and that deliverance through Christ is a provision of the New Covenant ("as is healing"[3] [Matt. 4:23; 8:16; 9:35]). Furthermore, "all commands to exorcise were in connection with evangelism".[4] Others argue, with regard to Christians, that "very few are completely 'new creatures'."[5] as the Scriptures say (2 Cor. 5:17), and that " a major reason for Christians having demons is unconfessed sin".[6] The confusing thing is that in the very church to which Paul wrote this passage we find all sorts of sin "even of such a kind that does not exist among the Gentiles" (1 Cor. 5:1) and yet there is never any mention of demon activity as we are now being led to expect! Moreover, there are those who after having spent some thirty years in the deliverance ministry "cannot recall to mind the experience of meeting or praying for a demon-possessed Christian".[7]

From the biblical accounts of demonisation I have reviewed demon activity is clearly manifest, to greater or lesser degrees. Therefore it is unlikely that anyone could be indwelt unknowingly. Furthermore, I have attempted to show that conversion is a dramatic and life-changing event. Upon regeneration one is reconciled to God, entering under the shadow of his authority and rule and therefore delivered from the dominion of Satan; the defeated enemy. Far from being demonic any disposition alien to the new nature received is usually attributed to the old self, a fleshly lust, which the Christian now has the victory over (Rom.6:12-14; cf. James 1:13-16). Since the Bible is to be the Christian's 'rule of thumb' (2 Tim.3:16; cf. Rom.15:4) and there is complete silence with regard to the question of Christian demonisation I have to conclude that any experience that seeks to contradict Scripture is deception! (cf. Eph.5:6; 1 Tim.4:1).

© Julian Kinkaid 1992


[1] On this point see further Healing Through Deliverance: A Biblical Check-up

[2] John Edwards, Redemption Magazine. (Feb. 1990): 15.

[3] Edwards, p.15.

[4] Colin Hurt, Prayer & Spiritual Warfare Lecture Notes. (Mattersey: Mattersey Hall Bible College. 1990, p.19.

[5] Bill Subritzky, Redemption Magazine. (Feb. 1990): 7.

[6] Subritzky, p.7.

[7] L. Livesey, Redemption Tidings. (Feb. 1990): 9.

Note: This article was written as part of an undergraduate course in theology. It should therefore not be cited as a source in other essays.

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