Can Christians be demon-possessed? The Bible doesn’t support that thesis:
All true Christians are filled with Holy Spirit when they put their faith and trust in Christ Jesus alone for their salvation:
“In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13, ESV).
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own” (1 Cor. 6:19, ESV).
1 Peter 1:5 tells us those who are saved are guarded by Christ’s power. 1 John 5:18 tells us that because of this, “the evil one does not touch him.”
When the Holy Spirit takes up residence in someone’s life, He doesn’t cohabit with demons. Jesus tells us this emphatically:
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24, NLT).
The Spirit of God will not co-exist with an evil spirit. They are enemies of one another and will not indwell or occupy the same body.
“Don’t team up with those who are unbelievers. How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever? And what union can there be between God’s temple and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: ‘I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty’” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, NLT)
Overtaking a Strong Man
“But (Jesus), knowing their thoughts, said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Luke 11:17-22, ESV).
In this context, Jesus is teaching that a demon (a “strong man”) has control over someone until someone stronger (the Holy Spirit) drives him out and takes away the control he had over a person’s life. Jesus is emphatic that a demon is not stronger than the Holy Spirit, so the reverse logic is true. When the Holy Spirit (the “stronger man”) guards a Christian’s life, that life is safe because the weaker cannot overcome and subdue the stronger.
Return of an Unclean Spirit
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26, ESV).
This passages teaches us that once a demon is driven out of a person, they need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to prevent a demon (and his buddies) from returning and taking over an “empty house.” The house needs to be occupied by a “stronger man.”
Can a Christian be “Demonized”?
To avoid being exposed for their doctrinal error, many false teachers equivocate and play semantics games. They change the term, “demon-possessed,” for a term not found directly in Scripture: “Demonized.” In most cases, this word game ends up being a distinction without a substantive difference. The implication is that a Christian’s life can be controlled by a demon and the Christian is powerless under the demon’s influence. Thus, the demon needs to be cast out of, or cast “from” a true Christian. Again, this was never taught, nor practiced, by the Apostles in the New Testament.
Can a Christian be Oppressed by a Demon?
Demons can tempt Christians, but they have no power over them to make them submit to the temptation.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13, ESV).
Demons can harass a Christian, but they cannot control their will or take away their joy unless the believer submits voluntarily to their attacks.
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited” (2 Cor. 12:7).
What Should a Christian Do if He or She is Being Harassed by an Evil Spirit?
Spirit-filled Christians are never commanded in Scripture to seek out an exorcism. They are commanded to put on the full armor of God to resist the devil.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:10-13, ESV).
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (1 Pet. 5:8-9, ESV).
Should We Cast Out (or Cast Off) Demons from Our Fellow Christians?
The Bible never teaches us to cast demons off fellow Christians. If a Spirit-indwelled believer is being oppressed by the devil, this is what the Bible says he or she should do:
“Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God. RESIST THE DEVIL, AND HE WILL FLEE FROM YOU. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:5-8, ESV).
Can Demons Manifest Themselves During a Church Service?
Many showboat preachers like to bring in TV cameras to allegedly perform exorcisms on stage to wow an audience. Often, these carnival side-shows are nothing more than paid actors performing for money or notoriety, or sometimes atheists have even infiltrated church services pretending to be demon-possessed so they can make fun of gullible Christians who believe some kind of spiritual manifestation has taken place. Can a truly demon-possessed person enter a church and manifest during a regular service?
Such scenarios certainly can happen when unbelievers from off the street are coming into the church. What makes this new push from showboat preachers so troubling is they are claiming this is something that happens frequently in Bible-believing, Bible-teaching churches. It does not! Even more disturbing is their teaching that Christians should cast off demons from other supposed believers. That is clearly unscriptural. Nowhere in the early church do we find demons manifesting in church services full of Spirit-filled Christians, and never in the New Testament do we find the Apostles teaching that Christians can be “demonized” or “demon-possessed,” or should have demons cast out of, or off of, them. All of this teaching is extra-Biblical and anything we add to Scripture is usually dangerous.
Should Christians Pursue “Deliverance Ministry”?
There are demons in the world, and when a Christian encounters one, he or she should not be fearful. God’s Spirit within a believer is more powerful than any demonic spirit. But the Bible never instructs us to go out looking for demons, and we shouldn’t be expecting to see one behind every bush. When/if a Christian encounters a demon, he/she should take authority over it in Jesus’ name, cast out the demon if need be, and then get back to the work of sharing the gospel. So-called deliverance ministries are often historically fraudulent and distract from the real work of the Church (evangelism and discipleship).
Jesus specifically taught that believers shouldn’t emphasize “deliverance ministry” in some dramatic way, or make it a major focus. Jesus downplayed the sensationalization of casting out demons. He would not support the efforts of some publicity-hound showboat preachers to build a ministry around it. Jesus emphasized the Gospel, and so should we.
“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17-20, ESV).
What If Your Personal Experience Contradicts Scripture?
Many people point to their personal experiences and say the Bible can’t be saying what it seems to at face-value, because their experience tells them something different, but we should always interpret our experience through the lenses of Scripture and never Scripture through the lenses of our experience.
Israel Wayne is the Site Editor for ChristianWorldview.net. He is an author and conference speaker and founder of Family Renewal, LLC. Israel’s book, Questions Jesus Asks: Where Divinity Meets Humanity, contains an entire chapter that gives a Biblical theology of demons and demonic activity.