"Demon Possession and the Christian" (2)
The following is the first of three chapters from the book "Demon Possession and the Christian" by C. Fred Dickason. It is published in the UK by Crossway Books, Eastbourne. (ISBN number 1-85684-015-8.) C. Fred Dickason is the Chairman of the theology department at Moody Bible Institute and the author of "Angels: Elect and Evil". These chapters are offered as research into the subject. They must not be copied, republished, recirculated or stored in any manner, either electronic or on paper. I encourage you to buy the book, as it is useful as a whole in studying this subject.
Demonization of Believers
We are now ready to approach the biblical passages that are used as evidence that genuine believers cannot be inhabited by demons. Not all carry equal weight, but we will seek to analyze the evidence passage by passage.
We must remember that the passages must speak for themselves. We are not to read into them our presuppositions. We must let them say what they actually were intended to say. Any meaning in them for us today must be the genuine result of (1) applying the proper rules of exegesis and interpretation and (2) deducing the proper principles to apply to our questions.
Nor are we to fear what is actually written in Scripture. God did not give us truth to cause us fear but to create and support faith. The more clearly we understand the whole truth of God, the more firmly we may stand in the faith by our faith.
PASSAGES ON THE DEFEAT OF SATAN
These passages are construed to mean that since Christ has defeated Satan, he is bound from seriously affecting the Christian and certainly not free to demonize him.
JOHN 12:31; 16:11
Jesus said, "Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out." He also said later that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of judgment "because the ruler of this world has been judged." Both statements speak of the judgment upon Satan (and his demons) accomplished by the death of Christ, as easily noted by the context of each. The argument that may be offered here is that the cross has bound Satan from ruling over those in Christ's kingdom, those who are genuinely His.
We should notice that Christ refers to the legal judgment of Satan, not to his detainment in the abyss or lake of fire. This judgment allows Christ to draw all from among mankind to Himself (John 12:32-33). This also allows the Holy Spirit to convict the world, under Satan's control and blinding, of judgment upon its system and members, since the leader of the system is judged (John 16:8). This is a provision even at this present time when Christ is absent and Satan is still blinding men to the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-4). This judgment, then, deals with the effects upon the unsaved world, who need to have pre-salvation enlightenment so that they might possibly believe Christ and be saved. We cannot understand this as a statement that Satan has no serious influence upon the believer. Even after Christ made these startling declarations, Satan very seriously affected Peter, leading him to deny the Savior (Luke 22:31-32).
Some, notably a-millennialists, take this to be a reference to the binding of Satan through the judgment of the cross. The thousand years refers in symbolic fashion to the kingdom age, which is present now in the church. There is no literal future millennial kingdom. The resurrection of the saints who "came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years" (20:4) is considered to be a reference to the new birth. In this case, Satan and demons (also bound) have no ability to seriously attack the believer, let alone invade him.
There are several problems with this view. The first is that a normal interpretation of Revelation 20:1-3 and its context presents the binding of Satan occurring at the second coming of Christ in great glory and power with the destruction of His foes (Rev 19:11.21). This is immediately followed by the kingdom, which is designated as one thousand years long, both in the vision (20:1-5) and in the interpretation of the vision (20:6). The resurrection of the saints refers to "those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God." This can not be their new birth but a bodily resurrection for those who had previously believed and had been martyred by the Antichrist, whom they resisted during the Great Tribulation (20:4).
Neither can the second resurrection after the thousand years be considered spiritual. It likewise is a physical resurrection, this time for those who were unbelievers and are destined for the lake of fire (20:11-15). The sequence of the events described is in the order found in the flow of the context, noted by such phrases as "And I saw" (19:11, 17, 19; 20:1, 4, 11), "until the thousand years were completed" (20:3, 5), and "when the thousand years are completed" (20:7). This cannot be, according to normal interpretation of the words and flow in the context, a reference to the present age. It must be a future binding of Satan during the reign of Christ and believers on earth. To this agrees the flow of events described by the Lord Himself in Matthew 24-25.
The second problem with the view that Satan is now bound is that the New Testament presents him as dangerously active along with his demons at the present time (2 Cor 11:13-15; Eph. 6:10-12; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8). Some seek to answer this obvious difficulty by saying that Satan is "not totally bound or destroyed as yet. His doom is sure; his back is broken and he is in his death throes. Still his wrath is great and he 'prowls about like a roaring lion " (1 Pet. 5:8). (1) Though Grayson H. Ensign and Edward Howe do not totally agree with Satan's limitations so described, they offer this explanation: "The binding of Satan is limited in its scope during this present age and that limitation is stated, 'so that he should not deceive the nations any longer' (Rev 20:3). Thus Satan is bound in reference to the nations, the state governments, and nothing is said to indicate that the devil is bound as regards individual Christians. (2) In support of this position, they cite George Eldon Ladd, who says that "binding Satan is a symbolic way of describing a curbing of his power and activity".
This explanation does allow for the obvious present activity of demonic forces, but does not do justice to the context. As pointed out, the binding of Satan is future. He is certainly now deceiving the nations, involving both governmental leaders and other individuals. How is it possible to deceive groups without deceiving individuals? Deception involves individual minds. Further, the Greek word ETHNE can mean nation, Gentile, or pagan (4) and is best taken in this context to mean all nationalities of mankind as individuals. This is the sense of its use in Revelation 20:8, where the nations (Gentiles) number more than the sand of the seashore (hardly governments).
We cannot properly understand, then, that Revelation 20 refers to a binding of Satan and demons today such that they cannot harass or invade Christians. It does not speak to that matter.
It might be argued that Satan and demons were judged by Christ's incarnation and death, so that he is powerless over Christians. Again, we note some of the same answers. Satan's judgment is legal, as was ours at the cross. Our judgment was executed in Christ Our Substitute and we are freed by faith in the substitute. (Demons were not the objects of substitution; Christ died for "flesh and blood" humans.) Our sinful capacity the "old man," also legally judged (Rom. 8:3), is not powerless.
Satan is not really "powerless" either. The Greek word used here, (katargeo)does not mean to destroy or reduce to no power. It rather means to make ineffective, nullify, set aside, doomed to perish. (5) The same word is used of the judgment of our old man in Romans 6:6. Few would argue that our sin nature has no possibility of controlling our lives.
Proper understanding of this passage leads us to say that demonic forces have been judged by the cross and have been rendered inoperative in having the rule over death and the bondage that results from fear of death. Satan's domination of believers through this fear has been broken. His stranglehold has been removed judicially, and believers who lay hold of this truth are released to live without this dread of death. This passage cannot be construed to say that Christians cannot be demonized, for it does not speak to that topic.
This passage speaks of the triumph of Christ through His cross over wicked spirits. Its terms graphically describe God's conquering Leader, true God with human nature, dying and rising from the dead to forgive all our sins (2:12-13), removing all condemnation of God's law (2:14), and by the same act defeating Satan's hosts. The picture is of an invading general defeating the enemy and then stripping them of their weapons and armor, publicly embarrassing them, and leading them in His triumphal march among the populace.
If Christ has so routed and stripped the enemy of weapons, how could the Christian ever expect the enemy to attack, let alone invade a believer's body?
We must understand this passage as portraying a positional, legal victory over Satan and demons ("rulers and authorities," NASB; "principalities and powers," KJV). Paul did not intend to convey that we need not stand guard against them or that they could not seriously affect our lives as Christians. Of course they cannot dislodge us from our perfect position in Christ; for as the context says, "In Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority" (10). Our complete and perfect position before God is secured by the grace of God in Christ. But this context also warns those of such a perfect position that they must be on guard against the attacks from false teachers who would lead them captive through man's wisdom and deception (2:8). This deception involved Jewish legalism (2:16-17), mystical visions regarding angelic intermediaries (2:18), and ascetic practices (2:20-23). They were in danger of being defrauded of Christ's approval and use of their lives. (2:18).
It is one thing to have a perfect, legal standing before God through being "in Christ"; it is quite another to walk in obedience to the Lord and to keep one's self from being led astray through demonic deception. In facing Gnostic heresy the Colossian believers had to realize Christ had defeated principalities and powers, and no angelic intermediary could contribute to their acceptance before God. Christ was not just an intermediary among others; He was the fulness of deity in bodily form. He was all they needed (Col. 2:9-10).
Some may argue that Christ stripped demons of their weapons so that they have no strength against us. However, the judgment is legal and breaks their claim to rule. Demons are still active and dangerous; so says the same author in Ephesians 6:10-13. Note the parallel in Colossians 3:9 where the same Greek word for stripping the weapons (apekduomai) is used of the defeat of the old man, or flesh. The flesh is not absent or without strength. It is, however, judged by the cross, removed from ruling over us; and we are to count on that and oppose its attempt to rule. The same holds true regarding demons. Practically we must face them by faith and in the authority of Christ and His Word.
This passage, then, does not give any support to the contention that a believer cannot be invaded by demons. In fact it warns against openness to their attack upon genuine believers.
The above passages are representative of those that may speak of the judgment of Satan and demons through the cross. None of them make any genuine contribution to the question as to whether Christens can be inhabited by wicked spirits.
PASSAGES ON DELIVERANCE FROM SATAN'S DOMAIN
One Bible college counselor expressed her dismay: "If Christians can be so affected by Satan, then I don't understand what salvation is all about!" She stated what many might say in considering if Christians can be demonized. The Bible does say that we have been delivered from Satan to Christ. What does that mean, and how does it affect our problem question?
This may support the position that we are removed completely from the activity, at least the serious attack, of demonic forces. "Darkness" certainly does speak of the realm of Satan, sin, and error; and "delivered" and "transferred" do speak of a completed work of rescue and removal.
Again the passage must be understood in the positional and legal sense. We are no longer citizens of the kingdom of Satan. We have been redeemed and forgiven of sins (1:14); redemption and forgiveness are legal possessions of those in Christ. We are now citizens of the Son's kingdom. However, we are in a battle, as noted in the treatment of Colossians 2:15. Paul speaks of that struggle in the context (2:1) and of the battle for their minds (2:8, 18). They must know their participation in the victory of Christ over the spirit world (2:10, 15) and stop listening to false teaching regarding spirit beings who give special revelation about the supposed truth and wisdom (2:18). Christ is the wisdom of God in total (2:2-3), and they need no secret wisdom from demonic sources (2:8, 18).
Once again we see that this passage does not state anything about the believer's freedom from demonic influence or invasion but instead is set in a context of warning against demonic deception through false teachers.
Paul recounts his conversion experience and commission in Acts 26:18. Christ sent him to the Gentiles "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me."
Here is another statement of deliverance from darkness and from the dominion of Satan to God's truth and rule. Does it mean that Satan has no power of attack and that Christians cannot walk in darkness?
What has been said above applies here also. This is positional truth, but the practical walk and battle continue. In fact, as Paul was uttering these words, he had not been delivered from the Gentiles as might be presumed from the words of Christ's commission (26:17). He was in a Gentile court, defending himself before King Agrippa and Festus (25:23-26:1). He had been forced to appeal to Caesar because of continued persecution from the Jews and the threat of improper judgment from local Roman authorities (Acts 25:9-11). The deliverance from the dominion of Satan and demons must be understood in the same legal sense as the forgiveness of sins and the inheritance also mentioned. We could note that after that commission and after the statement of deliverance of believers from Satan, Paul himself had battle with Satan, who prevented his service (1 Thess. 2:18) and was allowed to cause some bodily illness (2 Cor.12:7).
This passage fails to support the concept that Christians cannot be seriously affected by Satan or invaded by demons. It does not speak to the point. The same is so of all the passages above in this category.
PASSAGES ON CHRIST'S DEFENCE OF SAINTS
Certain passages forcibly speak of Christ's keeping genuine believers from the power of Satan. How shall we understand their meaning and contribution to whether demons can invade believers?
The Lord Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall 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 the Father's hand."
Some ask, "In view of such a promise, how could we ever begin to think that a believer could be demon possessed?"
Again, the term possessed is misleading. We saw in chapter 2 that this is an improper term. It suggests ownership, a concept not involved in the Greek word daimonizomai. The real concept is invasion and control to some degree, lesser or greater; but never ownership. The possession of eternal life and Christ's keeping of the genuine believer until glory is never at question. That is the real point of the statement of Christ here in John 10.
This passage, then, speaks of the Savior's keeping His sheep in eternal relation to Himself: "They shall never perish." it does not deal with demonic attack or invasion.
Christ prayed, "I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one."
Protection from Satan (tou ponerou) is the request. What does this involve? The predicate asks for preservation from even entering the sphere of the evil one (tereseis autous ek tou ponerou).If this means no opposition or influence, then the prayer was not answered, for the apostles and all Christians (17:20) have suffered opposition. If it means no invasion should ever be possible, it is not too clearly stated. Why would the Lord Jesus suddenly introduce that peculiar request at this point? Where is there any such suggestion of that subject in the context that this matter should rise to consideration?
The most acceptable understanding of this verse is that Christ is not praying that believers be kept from the influence of Satan, for that would certainly be encountered (and was) from the world, out of which the Lord did not pray for deliverance. He is praying for their preservation from becoming completely engulfed in Satan's destructive power and devastation. Some may think Christ is praying that believers would never be lost again. That is possible but unlikely at this point. That seems to be requested later in the prayer in verse 24.
There is too little evidence to say that Christ prayed for preservation from demonizatlon. We cannot fairly construe this verse to mean that.
Included in the requests of our Lord's pattern prayer is this one: "And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil" (the evil one).
The same term, tou ponerou, used in John 17:15, is used here as well. Believers would do well to obey Christ and pray this prayer daily as for their daily bread (6:11). What is the meaning of this request and how does it affect our question of demonization?
First, we should note that this is a responsibility laid upon believers. What would happen if the believer did not pray this or walk closely with the Lord? Why did the Lord teach that this was a necessary prayer? Is there some danger involved? It seems there is. It is best understood in connection with the phrase. "And do not lead us into temptation." Believers are allowed to encounter temptation. James says this is common and expected. (James 1:2-4). To this Paul agrees (1 Cor. 10:13) and adds that God will help us in the temptation by granting strength. But the immediate connection seems to give this meaning: "Do not allow us to fall into such temptation that would lead to ensnaring by Satan." Understood in this fashion, we see that the Lord was not ruling out the possibility of temptation, but warning us to pray to be kept from that serious type of temptation where we would fail into direct influence and possible domination, to some degree, by demons.
Second, we should note that Christ recognizes the reality of direct opposition of Satan to believers and the distinct possibility of his direct action against believers. So He teaches us to pray against such inroads that would capture us in his snare and make us unfruitful. Again the issue of security of salvation is not in view but productive practice in our lives.
This passage does not contribute any guarantee of safeguard of all believers against demon influence or demonization.
2 THESSALONIANS 3:3
How shall we understand this promise and its implications? Paul is writing to a young church that has just been severely upset by a false teaching that may even have been promoted by wicked spirits (2:2). The members had been suffering affliction and persecution (1:4), and some had not been behaving responsibly (3:6). But their faith was virile and spreading (1 Thess. 1:2-10). After instruction and encouragement, Paul asked them to pray for his deliverance, since he often faced perverse and evil men (3:2). Then he made this general statement about the Lord's faithfulness in giving strength and protection.
We cannot take this as an all-inclusive promise for all Christians at all times. Certainly the Lord is faithful. He has a plan and will keep us from evil and use us when we walk with Him. But there are conditions for walking with the Lord, and some believers do not meet those conditions, even as the two letters to these churches demonstrate. Further, Paul knew the attack of Satan in his ministry and in his body (2 Cor. 12:7; 1 Thess. 2:18) and warned all Christians to put on the whole armor of God so that they might be able to stand against demonic wiles (Eph. 6:10-12). It is to be expected that those who do not stand in the power of the Lord and the armor of God will not be able to stand in the battle. The command and provisions are not in vain. Some of those Paul knew in the ministry had made shipwreck of the faith. Paul, in the attitude of discipline, had turned them over to Satan for their correction (1 Tim. 1:19-20).
This promise, then, is for those who walk in obedience to the Lord. Satan will not be able to take them unaware and render them weak, unfaithful, and unproductive in Christian life and service. It is a great promise for the obedient and watchful Christian, but is not a blanket protection promised to all. It does not promise that no Christian will ever be attacked or seriously affected by demonic forces. It does not address the matter of demonization.
1 JOHN 4:4
This, perhaps, is the verse most quoted by those who hold that the Christian cannot be demonized. It is a very encouraging statement to back a command. It is not cast in the form of a promise. What does it actually mean, and can it be used to support the position that Christians cannot be demon invaded?
Some construe this statement to be a guarantee that believers cannot he seriously affected by demons or have demons resident in their bodies. It is taken to mean that the Holy Spirit resides in the Christian (though we cannot exclude the Son and the Father) and that He will prevent the presence of wicked spirits within. The indwelling of the Spirit of God is also mentioned in 1 John 2:20,27. We will treat in chapter 8 the theological question of whether the Holy Spirit and an evil spirit may reside in the same person, but here we want to evaluate this verse in context.
First, we must note that there is no direct statement about a demon resident in a believer if there is inhabitation (and there seems likely to he) in the false teachers, that is exhibited in demonically energized doctrine denying the Person and work of the God-man, our Savior
Second, we observe that John is waning against possible deception promoted by false teachers influenced by a spirit or spirits not from God. Believers must not be deceived by a Gnostic doctrine that denies either the true deity or true humanity of Christ and His substitutionary sacrifice that satisfied God for our sin (1 John 4:2, 10).
Third, we note that John gives two tests that believers are to apply to those who claim to be teachers of God's truth. Believers are not to be gullible or non-discerning. We do not offend the Holy Spirit if we test those who claim to be speaking under His influence; instead we are obeying His command. The first test:
Does the teacher confess 'Jesus Christ has come in the flesh?" (4:1-3). This acknowledges the pre-existence of the Son as eternal God and His taking upon Himself genuine humanity to become our Redeemer. The second test: Do the teachers continue to abide by the apostles' doctrine (2:5-6)? If they fall these tests, they are to be rejected as energized by a spirit of error.
If believers apply these two tests, then the indwelling Holy Spirit will give insight and prevent deception, "for greater is He who is in you than he the false teacher] who is in the world." if they do not apply these tests, they are open to deception and the influence of the wicked spirits energizing the false teacher These are the spirits of antichrist (4:1-3).
Instead of 1 John 4:4's promising no serious demonic influence or inhabiting by a demon, the verse states that God's Spirit will enable the discerning and obedient believer so that he will not be taken in by false teaching. It cannot be used to refute the possibility of demonization of a believer.
Just as I was writing these paragraphs, a thirty-five-year member of the Jehovah's Witnesses came to my door to speak about the name Jehovah. When I asked him if he knew that Philippians 2:9-11 applied the name to Jesus, he denied that it did. I reminded him that that was a direct quotation from Isaiah 45:22-23 and that it identified Jesus as Jehovah. He said, "Then you believe in the Trinity?" I responded, "I certainly do!" He countered, "But the word Trinity is not used in the Bible." That is true," I responded, "but the evidence is widespread. Have you considered the baptizing formula of Jesus' Great Commission that commands baptizing in the singular name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit? That cannot be taken as in the name of God, a human, and an influence." He sought another diversion, but we ended the conversation. Here is an example of applying the tests that John commands we should apply regarding the Person and work of the Lord Jesus.
This might at first glance seem a very forceful statement to the effect that Satan cannot seriously affect the believer; certainly a demon would not invade him or even be allowed to reside in him from a condition prevailing before his conversion.
There are several problems of interpretation of this verse. We must consider them to gain insight to its meaning. The first part of the verse along with the context indicates the connection of this verse. It deals with the professing believer and the problem of sin. Verse 16 deals with prayer for the restoration of a sinning brother and mentions the extreme case of discipline by God that brings death upon a constantly sinning brother The use of the term for sin without the article (hamartia) indicates that no particular sin is in mind, but God is dealing with the individual and his sin problem. Probably this refers to "not a single act but acts which have the character of sin unto death." (6) Verse 17 clarifies that no sin is acceptable, even if it is not met with such severe chastisement as death. Verse 18 states the norm for the true Christian: "The one born of God does not keep on habitually sinning."(7)
Now whom does "He who was born of God" describe? Some point out that this seems to refer to the Son of God. This maybe supported by the change of tenses in the Greek language. The first phrase, "No one who is born of God," is in the perfect tense and refers to the state of one who has trusted Christ. The second phrase, "He who was born of God," is in the aorist tense and is said to refer to the Son of God. (8) If this is the case, then John is saying that Christ guards the believer, and Satan does not touch him.
The word translated "touch" (hapto) means to take hold of, to grasp, and carries the idea of injury in this case. (9) Some could take it to mean that Satan could not seriously affect the life of a believer. That has been shown not to be the case in our previous treatment of other passages. It could mean that Christ keeps the believer secure in his salvation, and the believer can never be returned into the kingdom of Satan. Or, as we pointed out, John could mean that Christ keeps us from coming under the devastating influence of Satan lest we be completely defeated and brought in the sphere of his control. If this is the case, John could be recalling a similar expression of the Lord Jesus that he recorded in John 17:15, where the Son prayed that we would be kept (same verb, tereso)from the evil one (same title, ho poneros.)
If, however, "He who was born of God" refers not to Christ but to the believer, then we have a different meaning. The differences in the tenses previously mentioned do not rule out that both phrases could refer to the believer. In this case we are to understand that the believer does not habitually practice sin, but instead he guards himself so that Satan does not grasp hold of him. The phrase "keeps him" could be translated "guards himself." This is an allowable reflexive use of the Greek pronoun auton (10)and fits the context when John warns them to guard themselves from idols (5:21). There is, then, an implied condition. It is the believer who guards his person carefully who will not be caught by Satan and dragged into sin and more of his control.
Both of the above interpretations have support from the context and from other sections of John's writings and from the entire New Testament. However, only one meaning is allowably the intent of John. The weight falls on the side of the second. But in neither case does this verse say that no believer can be seriously affected by demons or demonized. Certainly the believer will not becomedemonized if he avoids habitual sin and guards himself by walking in obedience to the Lord, avoiding the wiles of the devil. But what happens if the believer does not take these safeguards? Why the statement about guarding, and why the command to keep ourselves from idols? The danger seems clear. We may open ourselves to Satan's particular attacks.
Neither this nor any of the passages in this category provide any sure basis for saying that believers cannot have resident demons.
PASSAGES ON DENIAL OF PARTICIPATION WITH DEMONS
There are certain sections of Scripture that deny the possibility of partaking of demonic evil and fellowshipping with Christ. These are often used as support that no Christian could have a demon resident in his body, that is, be demonized.
We must consider this Old Testament passage because it seems to state a principle clearly: "For Thou art not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with Thee."
At first glance the statement seems quite clear and could be a forceful statement that a demon, who is evil, cannot dwell in a believer's body where God resides. However, we must note the connection between the two stichs of Hebrew poetry. As in synonymous parallelism, the two have the same or similar meanings. That is, God does not take pleasure in wickedness is the same concept as God does not dwell with evil. The main idea is not mutual exclusion of the presence of God and evil but the lack of pleasure or fellowship of God with evil. Presence and fellowship are certainly different.
This understanding of the verse is supported by the meaning of the Hebrew word for "dwell," which means to sojourn, as noted in the margin of the New American Standard Bible (Ps 5:4).This speaks of fellowship along the road or in the house. Evil cannot have fellowship with God. God can call Satan into His presence (Job 1:6; 2:1) and even talk to him, but He has no fellowship with him. Presence and fellowship must be distinguished.
The statement, then, denies the possibility of evil's having fellowship with God. One could speculate that a demon might be present in a believer's body but certainly not have fellowship with God. The believer, if he were inhabited by a demon, still could have fellowship with God by standing against evil and siding with God. Psalm 5:4 does not exclude a demon from inhabiting a believer
1 CORINTHIANS 10:21
Does this statement of impossibility exclude the presence of a demon from any believer's body? It is a strong statement of exclusion. What does it exclude? Several observations are in order.
First, Corinthians 8-10 deals with the question of food offered to idols. Could believers properly eat such food? Paul answers according to the situation. The believer has liberty to do so under certain conditions. He is not to cause a brother to stumble by encouraging him to eat in spite of his conscience against it (chap. 8). A Christian has undeniable liberties in the Lord, but he is to voluntarily limit the exercise of his rights for the sake of others and the promotion of the truth (chap. 9). Chapter 10 points out that privileges received from God do not exclude the possibility of falling into temptation and sin, thus becoming unfruitful and perhaps inviting the chastisement of God. This is the setting of this verse. It is a warning, not a promise.
More immediately verse 12 warns, "let him who thinks he stand take heed lest he fall." Verse 13 promises that God will not allow the obedient one to be tempted beyond ability to resist.
But verse 14 commands, "Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry-" Christians evidently were in danger of being involved or were already involved in idolatry just as they were in immorality (1 Cor. 6:18). Paul reminds the readers that they share in the blood and the body of Christ. He means that they fellowship with Christ and other believers at the Lord's Table on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ. This sharing, or fellowship, is the Greek word koinonia (v 16). It means to share in common and, in this case, in a spiritual, moral oneness.
Next, Paul denies that idols are really gods (v.19), but he affirms that demons promote idolatry and in a sense receive worship (v 20). (This agrees with Ps. 106:36-38, which equates sacrifices to idols as sacrifices to demons.) His concern is expressed pointedly: "I do not want you to become sharers in demons" (v 20). The Greek word has the same root as the one used earlier for fellowship with Christ (koinonous).In other words, if they sat at table at an idolatrous feast and partook of the food dedicated to idols, they would be fellowshipping with demons! This is a great defection and involves great danger.
Paul points out the sharp incongruity in verse 21: "You cannot partake (metecbein) of the table of the Lord and the table of demons." This partaking means to participate, to have a part in. This unfitting combination does not rule out the possibility that some may try to partake of both tables. But did they not know that fellowship with demons excludes fellowship with the Lord?
Paul is really warning about the actual possibility of such sin. He also warns against the resultant chastisement of the Lord:
"Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?" (v. 22). This connects to God's jealousy expressed against idolatry in the second of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:4-5). God rewards idolatry and the worship of demons with visiting these sins upon the third and fourth generation of those who in this way hate Him.
Instead of excluding the presence of demons from believers, this passage is a stern warning about the possible sin of fellowshipping with demons by participating in idolatrous actions. (11)
2 CORINTHIANS 6:14-16
This statement of lack of agreement or harmony between Christ and evil maybe used to claim that demons cannot live in the same body with Christ. What does it really mean?
The context of 2 Corinthians 1-6 deals with the contrast between the surpassing glory of the New Covenant ministry and the faded glory of that of the Old. In 6:14 Paul appeals to the Corinthians not to listen anymore to the false teachers of the law of Moses nor to support them, for they have nothing in common with them. The rest of the chapter, including the verses here under consideration, speak forcibly of the inconsistency of trying to fellowship with false teachers and with the true God, the Father of the Lord Jesus.
We must note some important details. Paul commands the Corinthians to stop being unequally yoked with unbelievers, the false teachers of Law. The present tense of the command indicates that they are in the process of listening and supporting these teachers. They were to some degree already yoked together (beterozugountes)with a different kind of moral entity His argument for separation builds upon the incongruity of light and darkness, Christ and Belial, a reference to a pagan deity sometimes to Satan in Jewish literature. (12) This shows that it is possible for a Christian, the temple of the living God, to have fellowship with unbelievers, even to participate in the works of Satan. It is obvious that Paul again sees evil spirits energizing these false teachers and that co-operation with them is co-operation with demons (compare 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 1 John 4:1-3).
Note also the five terms used for co-operation between these believers and the false teachers who are demon energized. (13) In verses 14 we find "partnership" (metocbe), meaning a sharing or participating. The next is "fellowship" (koinonia), which indicates a communion and close relationship, a term used of the believer's fellowship with Christ and other believers. In verse 15 there is "harmony" (sumphonesis), an agreement or working together as instruments in a symphony. The term for "what in common" is meris, meaning part, share, or portion. In verse 16 the last term is "agreement"(sugkatatbesis), which means a union or common decision by group action. Paul multiplies these terms in questions that build upon each other to show the terrible inconsistency that has overtaken the Corinthians. They are in the middle of a moral conflict. Their actions are inconsistent with their union with Christ and with their professed allegiance to His righteous cause.
Far from supporting the idea that Christians cannot have fellowship with evil, these verses confirm it and warn against it vociferously. There is no way that a principle can be drawn from these words of Paul that would mitigate against a Christian's being severely influenced by demons or being inhabited by demons.
None of the passages we have studied can with any fair treatment be construed to eliminate the possibility of a genuine believer's being inhabited by wicked spirits. As much as one might want such passages to say that, for whatever reason, there is no way that these must be understood to deny demonization of any believer. We may say definitely however, that the believer who heeds the warnings and obeys the Scripture and walks in fellowship with Christ cannot be freshly invaded. Christ will guard him from that as the believer guards himself from evil with the provisions from God.
Two authors, who have had considerable experience in counseling believers who have been demonically oppressed, come to this conclusion:
"In vain do we search for a Scripture that grants Christians full immunity from the attacks or invasions of Satan. All of us know too well the external attack of Satan which Paul calls "the flaming missiles of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16). Also we know that we sometimes sin grievously and that it comes as a shock to everyone Including ourselves. . . . There is no statement of Scripture to indicate that Christians are incapable of being harassed or even invaded by evil spirits if they give grounds to evil spirits. (14)
Though we have considered what some regard as emotional, perhaps upsetting matters, we should not let emotions cloud our objective and rational approach to the Scriptures. The Bible, not our hopes or prejudices, must be our guide. We must take courage in the battle. Demons are no match for Christ, and they will flee from the believer who submits to God and resists the devil (James 4:7). We have the authority of Christ as those in union with Him. We have the armor of God that we may he able to stand (Eph. 6:10-13). Let us stand in faith and obedience to the Word of God. He will never fail us!
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