Can a Christian Be Demon Possessed?
Demon possessed. Is it possible for a Christian? No, I do not believe it is.
While it is true that no specific text states that a Christian can never be demon possessed, there is a cumulative amount of evidence supporting this thesis. The phrase “possessed by demons” is found a number of times in the New Testament (in the Gospels and the book of Acts), beginning in Matthew 4:24. It is actually a translation of a single Greek word which could perhaps be rendered “demonized.” Plainly, more than simple temptation, or even severe demonic attack, is intended by the term. The person who demon possessed or demonized usually exhibited several of the following characteristics:
1) The demon(s) controlled bodily movement, sometimes eliciting bizarre and dangerous behaviour (Matt. 17:14-18; Lk. 13:10-13)
2) The demon(s) afflicted the individual with disease or a crippling handicap (Matt. 9:32-33; 12:22)
3) The demon(s) controlled and disturbed the mind and emotions of the individual (Lk. 8:26-35)
4) The demon(s) overpowered the human will and rendered it incapable of resistence (Matt. 17:14-18)
5) The demon(s) expressed themselves audibly using the person’s vocal chords in some way (Lk. 4:33-35)
Such terminology as “demon possessed,” or “demonized,” show the difficulty the Bible’s authors confronted when trying to describe the spiritual realm in physical, spatial terms. Another example of this (which is relevant to this discussion) is the “filling” of the Holy Spirit (e.g. Eph. 5:18). If He is already omnipresent, how can the Spirit of God “fill” a person in addition? What does it mean?
A definition of the Greek word helps a little. As well as meaning to fill, it can also mean to fulfil. Thus, by the filling of the Spirit is meant His equipping and empowering for the purpose of fulfilling His will. (This is clearly seen in the Bible’s first use of the term (Exod. 31:1-5).
That, in turn, helps us with an incident in Acts 5:1-11, in which Ananias and Sapphira try to deceive the church. When Peter confronts Ananias he asks, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie...? (vs. 3). So, is this a case of demon “possession”? And is Ananias also a Christian? Because if so, it is an example of what the present author is suggesting cannot happen. Actually, whether Ananias is a true believer or not is irrelevant, though I am inclined to think he may have been. What happened to him parallels the filling of the Spirit. It was an equipping to prepare him to fulfil the devil’s wicked and destructive purpose.
That it was not true demon possession in Ananias's case can be seen from the fact that none of the above listed characteristics were in evidence. There were no bizarre bodily movements. The two were quite rational-- otherwise Peter’s interrogation would have been pointless. And Peter’s question suggests that Ananias’s will was functional. “Why, Ananias, why have you let this happen? Why have you not resisted temptation?” The devil was at work, but not in a way that bypassed the decision-making ability of the sinning couple.
Though it is plain from the Word of God that Satan and his demon army can continue to tempt the one who has become a Christian, and to attack in various outward ways (Eph. 6:11-12), it is contended here that true “demonizing,” involving the possession and absolute control of the believer, cannot occur. There are too many passages indicating that God has put powerful safeguards in place against any such demonic indwelling.
1. The Full Meaning of Salvation
When a person gets saved, all things become new. A new day has dawned, conditions have forever changed. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (II Cor. 5:17). Some see the difference between a Christian and a non-Christian as simply that one has faith in Christ and the other does not. But this falls far short of the transformation that takes place the instant God saves a lost sinner. It is like radical surgery. He can never be the same again.
Space does not permit a discussion of the 30 to 50 things God does that are a part of this great “umbrella” word, salvation. But here is a relevant one. Christians have the permanent “seal” of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit within. “In Him [Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).
We are the temples of God. “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (I Cor. 6:19). Does it not seem inconceivable that the Spirit of God would also give place to the devil or his demon hosts? According to the teaching of Jesus, it is the “empty house” these wicked entities sought out (Matt. 12:43-45). But God has placed His seal of ownership on our hearts and writ large over the door, “Occupied.”
2. The Effect of the Work of Christ
Why did Christ come? He came “that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2:14-15).
“He [God the Father] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13). We have been “delivered from the power of darkness.” Could anything be plainer? God sent Paul to preach the gospel to the unsaved, “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God...” (Acts 26:18).
The people of God are already on the victorious side and have overcome the evil one. “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one” (I Jn. 2:14). (Note: Some hold that the age levels spoken of in First John 2:12-14 are levels of maturity. It seems better to see them as aspects of Christian experience, each potentially true for all believers.) The Son has made us free, and “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed [free in reality, unquestionably free]” (Jn. 8:36).
“God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind [meaning a disciplined, self-controlled mind--not a demon controlled mind]” (II Tim. 1:7). “You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rom. 8:15). “We have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16).
Further, we are part of the body of Christ. “Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually” (I Cor. 12:27). Christ is working to “sanctify and cleanse” the church “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church” (Eph. 5:25-27). And Christ Himself lives in us. “Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
3. The Nature of Our War Against Satan
Though it is an argument from silence, nonetheless no believer on this side of the cross is ever warned about the possibility of demon possession--or of what to do about it if it happens. This is a serious oversight, if such a condition is a danger Christians face. Paul was founding churches among the Gentiles, people who had little or no background in the Old Testament Scriptures or the things of God. That he would not teach them about this vital area is inconceivable-- if it were needed.
Satan’s place is “in the world”--where he is able, for a time, to attack Christians from the outside. He goes about “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:8). But this he does by an external assault, not by taking possession of their souls. “Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God....You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (I Jn. 4:1-6).
“We are not ignorant of his devices” (II Cor. 2:11). We have only to resist the devil. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4:7). “Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (I Pet. 5:8-9). Notice the contrast between the absolute mind control of “demonization,” and the assumption that Christians have the God-given power to resist. And how do we “resist”? We arm ourselves with truth, “above all taking the shield of faith [literally, the shield of The Faith, meaning the whole body of truth contained in the Scriptures] with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one” (Eph. 6:1018). This is exactly what the Lord Jesus did when He confronted Satan repeatedly with “it is written” (Matt. 4:1-11).
4. The Protection God Provides
While the following passages do not deal with demon possession directly, they show how jealously God guards His own. No one is able to snatch away His sheep. “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (Jn. 10:28-29). “Never” translates a compound Greek negative meaning: not under any circumstances, not under any conditions. Praise the Lord, we can never be separated from the love of God--not even by demons. “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers...shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39).