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 Doctrine: Can Christians Be Demon-Possessed?

Can Christians Be Demon-Possessed?

Galatians 1:8, Matthew 12, 2 Corinthians 6, Colossians 1:13, 1 John 2:13,
Code: QA191

By John MacArthur

We must remember, first of all, that God’s Word is our only reliable source of truth about Satan and demons.

Princeton theologian and scholar Dr. Charles Hodge rightly warned:

No amount of learning, no superiority of talent, nor even the pretension to inspiration, can justify a departure from the . . . truths taught by men to whose inspiration God has borne witness. All teachers must be brought to this standard; and even if an angel from heaven should teach anything contrary to the Scriptures, he should be regarded as anathema, Gal. 1:8. It is a matter of constant gratitude that we have such a standard whereby to try the spirits whether they be of God (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972], p. 395).

What does God’s Word, the touchstone of truth, say? Can demons inhabit or spatially indwell a true believer? Can they walk through an open door and become a squatter? Proponents of today’s spiritual warfare movement say yes, but they base their answer on subjective experience, not on God’s Word. The Bible makes it clear that such a claim has no justifiable basis.

There is no clear example in the Bible where a demon ever inhabited or invaded a true believer. Never in the New Testament epistles are believers warned about the possibility of being inhabited by demons. Neither do we see anyone rebuking, binding, or casting demons out of a true believer. The epistles never instruct believers to cast out demons, whether from a believer or unbeliever. Christ and the apostles were the only ones who cast out demons, and in every instance the demon-possessed people were unbelievers.

The collective teaching of Scripture is that demons can never spatially indwell a true believer. A clear implication of 2 Corinthians 6, for example, is that the indwelling Holy Spirit could never cohabit with demons:

What harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (vv. 15–16).

In Colossians 1:13, Paul says God “delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” Salvation brings true deliverance and protection from Satan. In Romans 8:37, Paul says we overwhelmingly conquer through Christ. In 1 Corinthians 15:57, he says God gives us the victory. In 2 Corinthians 2:14, he says God always leads us in triumph. In 1 John 2:13, John says we have overcome the evil one. And, in 4:4, he says the indwelling Holy Spirit is greater than Satan. How could anyone affirm those glorious truths, yet believe demons can indwell genuine believers?

DEMON POSSESSION AND TRUE CONVERSION

Many of the leading voices in today’s spiritual warfare movement are too quick to hail every profession of faith in Christ as proof of salvation. That reflects the easy-believism that has swept this generation.

A thorough biblical understanding of the doctrine of conversion makes it clear that demons could never indwell or possess a believer. Jonathan Edwards wrote about true conversion:

Scripture describes conversion in terms which imply or signify a change of nature: being born again, becoming new creatures, rising from the dead, being renewed in the spirit of the mind, dying to sin and living to righteousness, putting off the old man and putting on the new, becoming partakers of the divine nature, and so on.

It follows that if there is no real and lasting change in people who think they are converted, their religion is worthless, whatever their experiences may be. Conversion is the turning of the whole man from sin to God. God can restrain unconverted people from sin, of course, but in conversion he turns the very heart and nature from sin to holiness. The converted person becomes the enemy of sin.

What, then, shall we make of a person who says he has experienced conversion, but whose religious emotions soon die away, leaving him much the same person as he was before? He seems as selfish, worldly, foolish, perverse and un-Christian as ever. This speaks against him louder than any religious experiences can speak for him.

In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither a dramatic experience nor a quiet one, neither a wonderful testimony nor a dull one, counts for anything. The only thing that counts is a new creation (The Experience That Counts! p. 99).

In Matthew 12, Christ rebuked those who were following Him just for the sake of witnessing great signs and wonders:

When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to my house from which I came” ; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes, and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation (vv. 43–45).

Instead of responding with spectacular signs and wonders, Christ addressed their need for salvation. Many people appear to have their lives in order. But in reality, they have not trusted Christ as Savior and Lord. Their souls are “unoccupied” — that is, the Holy Spirit does not indwell them. Thus they are open to demonic invasion. That cannot be true of those whose bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 6:16).

According to 1 Peter 1:5, when Christ reigns in a person’s life, that person is kept by God’s power. As a result, “the evil one does not touch him” (1 John 5:18). When the Holy Spirit inhabits a person, no demon can set up house as a squatter. Indwelling by demons is only evidence of a lack of genuine salvation.

This article originally appeared in Pulpit Magazine , an online magazine of the Shepherds’ Fellowship , Grace Community Church .

 2011/6/1 3:22
savannah
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Joined: 2008/10/30
Posts: 2004


 Re: Doctrine: Can Christians Be Demon-Possessed?

The following link is to a downloadable PDF booklet which addresses the subject of this thread.

http://www.ihcc.org/download/sites/all/files/booklets/demonization-of-the-believer.pdf

Anyone interested in researching this subject would profit from this short booklet.

I recommend it!

An excerpt from the introduction:

Can a believer be demonized? There is a movement within
Evangelicalism today that says, “Yes.” This movement is teaching that a high percentage of sin among Christians is caused by demons. Followers assent that a person can be a believer in Jesus Christ, experience fullness of salvation, and still be in bondage to Satan and demons. The popularity of this movement can be seen in the seminars being held across the country and the best-selling books being published that promote this teaching...This booklet is not meant to be an exhaustive study of demonology.

Instead, it is an analysis of the demonization movement in
light of Scripture. Throughout this booklet, I often refer to the works of two men, Neil Anderson and Fred Dickason, who have had great influence in promoting demonization teaching.

 2011/6/1 7:27Profile









 Re:

Quote:
Followers assent that a person can be a believer in Jesus Christ, experience fullness of salvation, and still be in bondage to Satan and demons.



The subject of my post is that Believers cannot be demon POSSESSED. It does not mean they cannot be demon OPPRESSED. There is a huge difference. Christians suffer from depression and fear that is often the result of such oppression. Also, Job could be considered one example of demonic oppression.

 2011/6/1 7:53
AbideinHim
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Joined: 2006/11/26
Posts: 3487
Louisiana

 Re: Doctrine: Can Christians Be Demon-Possessed?

"There is no clear example in the Bible where a demon ever inhabited or invaded a true believer. Never in the New Testament epistles are believers warned about the possibility of being inhabited by demons. Neither do we see anyone rebuking, binding, or casting demons out of a true believer. The epistles never instruct believers to cast out demons, whether from a believer or unbeliever. Christ and the apostles were the only ones who cast out demons, and in every instance the demon-possessed people were unbelievers."

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16: 15-18).


These are the words of Jesus. The Lord has given every child of God the authority to cast out demons. Isn't it amazing that the casting out of demons was common in the nministry of Jesus and His disciples but now some well known men are telling us that there is no basis for this? I would rather believe the authority of the scriputres. I would rather believe God than man. Men have formed their own doctrines because of their own unbelief and lack of experience in this area.

"Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." (John 20:21).

"He that commits sin is of the devil; for the devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." (1John 3:8).

The Son of God was manifested to destroy the works of the devil. All those that are born of God have been sent to do the works of God, and to destroy the works of the devil.

"And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
(Luke 10:17-19).

Jesus has given his servants power (authority) over all of the power of the enemy. The Lord would not have given us power over demon spirits if He didn't expect us to use that authority.

While the church debates whether or not a Christian can have a demon, many are in bondage, and now we do not cast out demons any more, we council those that are afflicted, so that they can learn how to live with the demon that is tormenting them.

The Church should be doing ths same works that Jesus did. We are His Body, His hands and His feet.

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." (Luke 4:18).

Many Christians are apposed to deliverance ministry because they have seen much misuse and abuse by those that see a demon under every bush and are demon conscious.

There are two extremes to be avoided when it comes to dealing with demons. One is to give more attention to the subject than it deserves. Our focus needs to be on the Lord and our minds should be set on those things that are above. The other extreme is to believe that evil spirits cannot have any effect on a child of God.

Every believer that is following the Lord should be involved in spiritual warfare. "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." (Ephesians 6:12).

God has given us mighty weapons to wage this war with and to fight the good fight of faith.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).

Deliverance is no cure all. The cross must be taken up daily in the disciple's life. No child of God will have lasting victory until we get victory over ourselves. The flesh (sin nature) must be crucified. We must live holy, consecrated lives. We must believe and appropriate all of the Word of God, every promise of God to live in victory.


Mike

















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Mike

 2011/6/1 7:53Profile
Lysa
Member



Joined: 2008/10/25
Posts: 3394
East TN (for now)

 Re:

Quote:
These are the words of Jesus. The Lord has given every child of God the authority to cast out demons. Isn't it amazing that the casting out of demons was common in the nministry of Jesus and His disciples but now some well known men are telling us that there is no basis for this? I would rather believe the authority of the scriputres. I would rather believe God than man. Men have formed their own doctrines because of their own unbelief and lack of experience in this area.


Amen.


God bless,
Lisa

PS: Oh and what better place for evil spirits to hide but in this teaching; they have a clear paved road ahead of them with no worries?


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Lisa

 2011/6/1 8:18Profile
TrueWitness
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Joined: 2006/8/10
Posts: 522


 Re:

I do not believe that a Christian can be "possessed" by a demon in the sense that the Christian is completely controlled by the demon. Satan can however send thoughts into a Christian's mind and if the believer is not alert and discerning may accept those thoughts as his own. Satan will try to send 1) lies and deception, 2) accusations against the believer and God, and 3) enticements to sin into the mind of the believer. If the believer accepts and acts on these thoughts, he falls into darkness.
1 John 5:18
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
Yes, the evil one cannot DIRECTLY touch the child of God. But he can influence him/her. Just as Baalam could not directly curse Israel as they wandered in the desert, he did the next best thing. He got them to commit sin and bring a curse and bondage upon themselves.
In our Western worldview, we tend to assume that a demon cannot do anything to a "good" Christian, and that the best thing to do with Satan and demons is to ignore them. We do this in spite of the fact the Bible never tells us to ignore the devil; that is just where our Western worldview has led us. The Bible, on the contrary, tells us to resist the devil. The Greek word translated resist or stand against is the same in Ephesians 6:13, James 4:7, and 1 Peter 5:9, and "good" Christians are not exempt. Even the apostle Paul had a "messenger of Satan, to torment" him (2 Cor. 12:7), and Satan "hindered" him from carrying out his plans to visit Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2:18, KJV). The apostle Peter warns us that:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
But somehow in churches today we get the message to ignore the enemy instead of resisting him. There needs to be balance however. Back in the 1970s there were deliverance ministries that saw demons behind every problem. There is such a thing as being too preoccupied with all things demonic. But we do need to be knowledgeable and alert against the wiles of the devil.

 2011/6/1 9:05Profile









 Re:

Quote:
These are the words of Jesus. The Lord has given every child of God the authority to cast out demons. Isn't it amazing that the casting out of demons was common in the nministry of Jesus and His disciples but now some well known men are telling us that there is no basis for this?



You are a liar. Like the serpent in the garden, you are twisting my words/intents and John MacARthur's. He never said we are not to cast out demons! He is only stating that demons cannot inhabit a Holy Ghost filled Believer in Christ. If there are any demons to be cast out it would only be from heathen. YOU are twisting scripture to your own use. Shame on you.

 2011/6/2 21:25
rbanks
Member



Joined: 2008/6/19
Posts: 1257


 Re:

Quote:
You are a liar. Like the serpent in the garden, you are twisting my words/intents and John MacARthur's. He never said we are not to cast out demons! He is only stating that demons cannot inhabit a Holy Ghost filled Believer in Christ. If there are any demons to be cast out it would only be from heathen. YOU are twisting scripture to your own use. Shame on you.



Sister this is very unchristian. You owe Mike an apology. You need to go back and read your op again.

Blessings to you!

 2011/6/2 21:51Profile
jimp
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Joined: 2005/6/18
Posts: 1481


 Re:

hi, few have had experience in this area and are like priests teaching on marriage. on the field you see people whose lives have been cursed by witchcraft.i have seen and been involved in many events where people who have made a profession had demonic influence on their lives.Jesus said that deliverence was the childrens bread.jimp

 2011/6/2 23:15Profile
iansmith
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Joined: 2006/3/22
Posts: 963
Wheaton, IL

 Re:

I would say that this is not as simple and straightforward as it may appear. I respect Mr. MacArthur as a brother in Christ, and have been blessed by some of his teachings--but when a friend of mine reached for one of his books titled 'Charismatic Chaos,' in the church library, I suggested that he should put it back. Mr. MacArthur has very strong opinions, and he is only one voice in a very diverse set of voices that make up global Christianity.

That being said, some of the best and brightest minds in missions, at both the level of practioner and in the academic settings wrestle with this question--because despite all of the theological wrangling, most Christian Missionaries working in non-Western settings have run into things they cannot explain with pat-answers and a couple verses from the bible.

I was blessed to be able to take a class on Spiritual Conflict at Wheaton College taught by Dr. Scott Moreau. Aside from being an incredible teacher, he is also the editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly and operates MisLinks.org. He has been involved in the ongoing discussion of Spiritual Warfare within the Lausanne Theological Working Group.

The main point of the class was that Spiritual Warfare was real, and most Westerners are blissfully unaware of how much of a reality it is even in our own daily lives. This naivety is shaped by and has its roots in our Western post-Enlightentment worldview, and leads to a very narrow view of the scripture and Christian experience.

Here are some resources to help you in your own exploration of the topic of Spiritual Warfare:

Lausanne Statement on Spiritual Warfare and Worldview (1993
http://www.lausanne.org/all-documents/spiritual-warfare-1993.html

Spiritual Warfare and Worldview by Paul Hiebert (article)
http://www.lausanne.org/all-documents/spiritual-warfare-and-worldview.html

Lausanne, Evangelization Issues: Spiritual Warfare (resources)
http://www.lausanne.org/issues/spiritual-warfare.html

Deliver Us from Evil (Lausanne Consultation Statement, 2000)
http://www.lausanne.org/all-documents/consultation-statement.html

MisLinks: Spiritual Warfare
http://www.mislinks.org/topics/spconflict.htm

Network For Strategic Missions: Spiritual Warfare
http://www.strategicnetwork.org/index.php?loc=kb&view=b&fto=571&sf=Y

I hope that you will see that the diversity of different views when it comes to Spiritual Warfare (and Demonology) is as a result of how very important and complex this issue is to the church of Jesus Christ and his mission work around the globe. That means we should listen to all of the voices, and be less quick to pull a verse or two out of context to make a broad theological statement.


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Ian Smith

 2011/6/3 0:57Profile





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