The question of whether Christians can be demonized and in need of deliverance is a thought-provoking topic that ignites intense debate within Christian circles. While opinions may differ, this chapter aims to present a comprehensive overview of how Christians can benefit from the ministry of deliverance, supported by scriptural evidence. By delving into biblical passages, studying the original Greek, and examining the theological perspectives surrounding this topic, we can gain a deeper understanding of the possibility of Christians requiring deliverance from demonic influence/oppression.
Oftentimes you will hear it said in Christian circles: "a person can either be possessed, oppressed, or influenced by the devil." However, this terminology is not used in the Bible, especially as it relates to the word "possessed." In fact, the Greek word "daimonizomai," used in some Bibles to mean "demon-possessed" is often improperly translated. Scholars argue that this translation does not accurately convey the complete meaning of the word. Instead, it signifies being under demonic power or influence to varying degrees—partially, moderately, or fully. The proper translation of this word would be "to be demonized."
The New Testament offers a mosaic of narratives that depict the intricate dynamics of demonic influence, illustrating how individuals can be affected by spiritual forces while still retaining facets of their autonomy. In Mark 1:21-28, we find Jesus entering a synagogue on the Sabbath, a time of communal worship and teaching. Amidst the congregation is a man who, in the midst of his customary synagogue attendance, begins to manifest an unclean spirit. The spirit's recognition of Jesus and subsequent expulsion showcases the man's dual reality—engaged in his ordinary routine, yet simultaneously grappling with a powerful demonic influence. This scenario exemplifies the concept of "daimonizomai," where individuals, even while participating in routine activities, can experience the effects of demonic influence without full possession.
A parallel illustration emerges in Mark 9:14-29, where a father brings his son to Jesus. The boy is afflicted by a spirit that intermittently seizes him, rendering him mute and causing convulsions. The sporadic nature of the boy's affliction emphasizes the nuanced nature of "daimonizomai." Unlike complete possession, where an individual is entirely overtaken by demonic forces, this case demonstrates a partial influence—highlighting that the boy is not perpetually under the control of the demon but experiences its effects at distinct intervals. This intermittent nature of the boy's condition shows the complex interplay between human agency and demonic presence, illustrating how individuals under the influence of unclean spirits can still engage with their surroundings and seek deliverance.
When examining these passages together we see the diverse ways in which demonization operates. Individuals like the man in the synagogue and the afflicted boy exemplify the spectrum of demonic influence, ranging from intermittent control to distinct disruptions within routine activities. These narratives underscore the different levels of interplay between human autonomy and demonic forces, reinforcing the notion that "daimonizomai" denotes a state of being demonized while retaining various degrees of personal agency.
As we grasp the essence of the complex reality of demonization we can soon begin to realize that even born-again Christians, empowered by the Holy Spirit, may still have areas of their lives not fully surrendered to God. Consequently, they may require deliverance in those specific areas.
Regarding this concept of believers having areas of their lives that are not fully surrendered to God, the Bible provides examples and exhortations for believers to continually strive for complete surrender and sanctification. For example, in 2 Corinthians 2:10-11 the Apostle Paul exhorts believers to avoid unforgiveness so that "no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes." Additionally, scholars argue that Ananias and Sapphira are a prime example of the enemy gaining access to a believer's life as the Apostle Peter declared to Ananias in Acts 5:3- “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?"
In the Old Testament, when the Israelites were given possession of the Promised Land by God, they were instructed to drive out the inhabitants and possess the land fully (Joshua 1:3-4, Joshua 23:5-13). This is how it works with deliverance and sanctification for the believer: we have been given the "promised land" through Christ, but we must now dislodge the enemy from every space he occupies in our life. This serves as an analogy for believers today, emphasizing the importance of continually surrendering all areas of their lives to God and actively engaging in spiritual warfare to gain control over the influences of the enemy.
Scripture encourages believers to pursue spiritual growth, to resist the enemy, and to submit fully to God (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:8-9). It acknowledges the existence of spiritual battles and the need for believers to be vigilant, putting on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). This recognition affirms that although believers have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, they can still have areas of vulnerability that may benefit from the ministry of deliverance.
Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, Jesus regularly encountered believing individuals afflicted by demonic forces and exercised His authority to deliver them. As mentioned earlier, in Mark 1:23-26, Jesus encounters a man demonized by an impure spirit in the synagogue. This is someone you may consider to be a "churchgoing man." Instead of kicking the man out of service for being disruptive, He rebukes the spirit and sets the man free. These encounters demonstrate Jesus' acknowledgment of the reality of demonic oppression within individuals, including believers. Jesus instructed His disciples to "cast out demons" when they came into contact with demonized people. This is His prescription, not just prayer, not just "breaking them off", not just rebuking them, but casting them out!
The apostle Paul provides valuable insights into the existence of demonic oppression within the Christian community. In Ephesians 4:27, he cautions believers, "And give no opportunity to the devil," highlighting the need for Christians to be aware of potential openings for demonic influence. Additionally, Paul's instructions in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 to "take every thought captive to obey Christ" imply the need for spiritual warfare against deceptive and evil influences.
3 Common Objections to Christians needing deliverance:
When discussing the topic of deliverance from demons for Christians, there are common objections that may arise. Let's address a few of these objections and provide a balanced perspective:
Objection #1: "If a person is a believer and has the Holy Spirit, how can they still be oppressed by demons?"
Response: While believers have the Holy Spirit residing within them, they are not immune to the influences of the enemy. The presence of the Holy Spirit does not eradicate all vulnerabilities or the consequences of past experiences. Deliverance is a process that addresses specific areas of bondage or influence in a believer's life, enabling them to experience greater freedom and wholeness. Most scholars of demonology agree that demon cannot “occupy space” in the realm of the born-again Christian’s spirit, but rather in the realm of their mind, will, emotions, and flesh.
Objection #2: "Isn't deliverance from demons only necessary for non-believers or those involved in occult practices?"
Response: Deliverance is not limited to non-believers or those involved in occult practices. Believers can have areas of their lives that are not fully surrendered to God, leaving room for demonic influence. For example, Jesus teaches that we can be handed into demonic bondage in Matthew 18:34–35 where He says, "and his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
Objection #3: "Shouldn't we focus solely on the power of the Holy Spirit and not give too much attention to the demonic realm?"
Response: While the focus should always be on God's power and the work of the Holy Spirit, it is important not to neglect or downplay the reality of spiritual warfare in the life of the believer, which requires that we better understand how the spiritual realm works. The Bible explicitly acknowledges the opposing activity of demonic forces and instructs believers to be vigilant and engage in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18). Recognizing the need for deliverance does not detract from the power of the Holy Spirit but rather enables believers to fully experience the freedom and victory available through Christ.
We see deliverance ministry producing fruit
Testimonies and accounts from believers who have undergone deliverance, including myself further affirm the reality of Christian vulnerability to demonization. These individuals often describe release from bondage, newfound peace, and transformed lives after receiving deliverance from demonic oppression. Instead of questioning whether these individuals are saved or not because they needed deliverance, we should embrace the fact that the Holy Spirit has honored this ministry in a mighty way in order to set people free all the way into modern times. I can also say from my perspective as an ordained pastor that the vast majority of people I have ministered deliverance to over the years are professing believers who have been Baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Opponents of Christian demonization often emphasize the authority given to believers over demonic forces. While it is true that Christians have been granted authority through Christ, it does not guarantee immunity from demonic influence. The battle against spiritual forces requires believers to actively engage in spiritual warfare, utilizing the authority and power bestowed upon them by Christ. Deliverance ministry serves as a means for believers to exercise that authority and experience victory over spiritual oppression.
In light of the scriptural evidence and theological perspectives presented, it becomes apparent that the possibility of Christian demonization is a valid and significant aspect of spiritual warfare. Christians can find themselves susceptible to demonic influence due to vulnerabilities, sin, and the ongoing spiritual battles described in the Bible. Deliverance ministry, rooted in biblical principles, provides an avenue for believers to address and overcome these challenges, leading to greater spiritual freedom and an enhanced experience of the abundant life in Christ.
While the topic of Christian demonization remains a subject of debate, it is crucial to approach it with a balanced perspective that embraces both the authority and power given to believers as well as the reality of spiritual battles. By acknowledging the possibility of Christian demonization, Christians can actively pursue a deeper understanding of their spiritual identity, engage in deliverance ministry when necessary, and stand firm against the schemes of the enemy, thereby living victoriously in Christ.
Written by: Kyle Bailey, D.Min.