THE THORNY PROBLEM: CAN A BELIEVER BE DEMONISED?
Let be begin by quoting a verse that might be very useful if we wanted to "prove" that a born-again believer cannot sin:
Yet, if you say to a Christian - can you commit sin? They reply, well of course! What do you mean? Is this a joke - of course a Christian can sin.
The above scripture seems to promise immunity from sin, yet we have no problem with everyday reality here. Experience, common sense and the overall testimony of scripture tells us that indeed, as born-again, Spirit-possessed human beings, we CAN and DO fall into sin.
Why is it that we cannot apply the same common sense to the subject of demonisation of a Christian?
When this subject is raised, loud are the protests, that the Bible does not say that a believer can become demonised. But, equally, the Bible does not specifically state that he CANNOT. Furthermore, there are cases in scripture which suggest demonic control, for instance Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), Simon the former magician (Acts 8:9-24) and the man living in incest (1Cor 5:1-13).
Though the Bible does make much of a believer's walk in victory, and gives every assurance of protection and preservation, it still does not rule out that a believer might fall, or sin, or come under demonic control to some extent.
So we must, as in all these situations, use not only the biblical evidence but the factual evidence. Generations have been raised on the notion that no Christian can be invaded by spirits. But missionaries and ministers in countries where voodoo or other satanic cults exist, quickly find out that the theory does not hold water.
EXPERIENCE SPEAKS OUT
Grayson Ensign, a former Bible College professor and missionary to Jamaica made this statement:
Kurt Koch, famous author of "Occult Bondage & Deliverance" and "Christian Counselling And Occultism" as well as many other books on cults and the occult, says the subject of Christian demonism is "hotly disputed" amongst Christians. He is right. However, he says that in his experience (which I am sure is enormous) only those who have no experience of deliverance stick to the "no-invasion" theory. Koch then gives a list of many noted ministers, doctors, professors and psychiatrists who DO believe it is possible for Christians to be demonised, because they have seen it.
He also says:
Another person who found out that demons could indeed use Christians is Jessie Penn-Lewis, who experienced the Welsh Revival, and saw the excesses and satanic counterfeits that arose because of it. Her book "War On The Saints" is a much-valued work today because it has many modern parallels. Penn-Lewis writes of a case known to her:
The woman in question was delivered, but not before much prayer and warfare against the demon had been accomplished. It was a lengthy process over a number of weeks, in which the demon was first muted, then silenced, and finally driven out by the authority of the name of Jesus, accompanied by howling and vomiting. The woman, freed from all effects of this horrible experience, was able to return to her missionary work.
Does this not show that popular theories should be tested in the light of the evidence, both biblical and factual?
A DOCTRINE BORN OF FEAR
I believe there is a fear problem in many people. The more that a person has been subjected to demonic terror, perhaps as a child, and the more he or she fears the supernatural, the more vehemently he or she will declare that a Christian CANNOT be demonised.
I have also seen that the more demonic control there is in a Christian's life, the more absolutely they will DENY that a Christian can "have" a demon. Like me, you must have come across the glazed-eyed misfit in the church who is always having problems, always causing trouble in the Church, making false prophecies, running away from anything truly spiritual and embracing one disastrous false teaching after another. Try explaining to this person that some of his/her problems might be demonic, and you will be told in no uncertain terms that NO Christian can have a demon! It seems as if the devil is having a field-day pulling the wool over our eyes.
I have witnessed several cases of professing Christians who scream aloud in church, run out the door, vomit, or exhibit all the classic signs of demonism - yet deliverance is denied them. I knew one lovely girl who had come out of a witchcraft background and was obviously saved, yet she could not take the elements at Communion. "Something" within her was terrified of the wine and bread (and what they represented.). This poor girl would rather run out the building than take communion, yet deliverance was never offered to her. She was counselled just to "pray it through" and "try to overcome her fears". Somehow the rules we would apply to non-believers are abandoned if a person has made a profession of faith.
Another genuine believer, a man who attended our prayer-group, had an ongoing problem with lust and sexual sin. He would repent, then be dragged back in. One evening we prayed for him, and he repented of his sin. He began to hiccup and burp uncontrollably. It was not natural, folks! He tried to stop, but could not. Eventually, we withstood the evil spirit of lust that had control of him, and he was delivered. Somebody came into the meeting after all this, and during prayer had a picture of this man sitting with his feet resting on a black pig. He had put that unclean spirit underneath his feet! Can anyone deny this Christian was "demonised"?
If a non-believer (even a devoutly, God-fearing, religious one) wanders into some occult area like meditation, or playing with a ouija board, we would warn them of the danger of demonic deception and control. Yet if a Christian does the very same thing, somehow the same rules no longer apply. The Christian is immune, so we are told. No matter what a Christian does, no matter to what low level of sin or depravity a professed Christian falls, he or she can NEVER be demonised. Is this true?
The reasoning behind this theory seems to be that a believer has the Holy Spirit, so therefore cannot "have" a demon. But, as the article by Mr Simpson says, a believer is saved from the inside out. Accepting Jesus as Saviour does not immediately or automatically perfect the soul or body. It does not make us sinless, or immune from sickness. (We have no problem believing that, at least!)
If it were impossible for a Christian to "have" a demon, we must assume that every person who accepts the Lord at that point is AUTOMATICALLY delivered of every demon they formerly had, due to sin or occultism. I do not believe we can show that to be the case.
It was not believed in the early Church either, for from the earliest times anyone who became a Christian and wanted to join the Church had to undergo exorcism as part of his baptismal preparation. It was never "assumed" that the demons would go automatically, either in water baptism, or receiving the Holy Spirit.
Each of us comes to the Lord with a history of life in the world, and carrying around the problems we picked up along the way. This means that, as we come to Christ, many of us do need deliverance, but If deliverance were automatic, taking place at salvation (or baptism, or Spirit-baptism - when does this happen. precisely?) then no repentance is required. The demon is expelled simply as a matter of course.
Yet evidence shows that a demon will not leave unless the particular area of control is both confronted and relinquished. God does not overpower us to force us to change our ways, but waits until we repent and are transformed by the Truth. Many sins take years to be uncovered and dealt with by the Holy Spirit. Logic alone drives us to conclude that the demons controlling those areas do NOT all automatically depart as soon as a person accepts Christ as Saviour. Though a new Christian has Christ in his heart, he is not fully redeemed in his body and personality. Thus full deliverance from the influence of demons will take time.
I will say here that many people are afraid of this subject, because they have only a Hollywood picture of exorcism. They associate demon-control with extreme manifestations such as insanity, murder, uncontrollable rage or satanic abuse. They think all deliverance has dramatic effects where the victims vomit, scream and writhe. This is sheer ignorance of the subject, and the devil would love to keep them in ignorance. It leads to fear, and thus an avoidance of the whole subject.
Although such things do happen, they ARE extremes. The great majority of cases that come up for pastoral care involve mundane everyday problems, and casting out the spirit is a quiet affair. Many demonised Christians live fairly comfortably with their problems and never seek advice; those who do are often surprised to discover the spiritual root. If Ministers were acquainted with the true facts, they could offer much more practical help to sufferers.
THE SPIRIT AND THE INNER MAN
If the Holy Spirit did totally fill and rule the body, soul, mind and heart of every Christian, then sin and sickness would disappear from the Church, for where the Spirit reigns there is life and light. That is clearly not the case.
This is because the Holy Spirit in regeneration renews the inward man, the spirit of a person. The light of life spreads outward from the spirit, gradually transforming all of the person in time (if permitted.) However, just as no Christian is immune from sickness or sin, no Christian is immune from demonic control in a certain area.
God requires that the human personality be surrendered to Him, but this takes time - often many years. It is a slow and often painful process towards glory. It also depends on our willingness, for God will not force obedience, even in his own children. Free will means that we can chose to exclude the Holy Spirit from areas which are too precious to us, or too scary, or too painful. Not only does that mean no healing is available, but it makes the dark area ripe for demonic use.
As long as we are resident, in these earthly bodies, on this fallen world, we are called to "fight the good fight of faith", never ceasing in our striving against sin, the world and the devil. The devil is subtle above all creatures. He is ever seeking to undermine our faith and lead us into evil. We need to be vigilant and on guard against all his wiles. Scripture after scripture warns us to guard against the devil:
In Augustine's major work "City of God" (written in the fifth century AD) he explains his view of the work of the devil. He believed that from the time of Christ's death the devil was bound to a degree, but he explains that this is not an absolute binding, only a limitation of the devil's activities, because of God's desire to preserve the saints. (I would disagree with Augustine on many points, but I will go on ) Augustine therefore believed more than most in the preservation of Christians from evil.
Yet in one passage he tells how the devil still attempts to deceive believers, and remarks that the devil is excluded "from the inward man". By singling out one particular area in which Christians are preserved from harm, Augustine seems to be affirming, presumably from his experience of Church life, that the other regions, ie body and soul, are NOT absolutely preserved from demonic attack.
He says that God is making use of the devil "by not debarring him absolutely from tempting the saints (though he be utterly cast out from their inward man) that they might reap a benefit from his badness". Such attacks actually strengthened the believers' faith, thought Augustine, as well as exposing the real nature of satan to all.
How convenient it has been for the devil to convince us that he cannot greatly trouble us, as believers! "Relax", he tells us, "let down your guard". No worries! We can safely indulge in the things that non-believers do, such as yoga or TM or astrology or head-banging to heavy-metal music (or whatever takes your fancy) and no lasting evil will result. We can practise psychic powers, receive visitations from spirit-beings, or go on out-of-the-body trips to "heaven" just like the new-agers but in our case demonic power is limited to temptation only.
This is as nonsensical as saying that we can safely practise anal sex with an AIDS sufferer because the Holy Spirit will protect us from the consequences. Sorry to be shocking, but the subject really IS as shocking as that.
These days, multitudes of believers ARE getting themselves heavily demonised, through the so-called toronto "blessing" and other such delusions.
Can we really stand on the sidelines while the beloved people of God writhe on the floor like snakes, bark like dogs and babble like idiots, stroking our chins and saying well, no lasting harm can come of it, because Christians can't get demonised. This to me is the very height of selfishness on our part. Let's wake up to the present dangers and begin to react sensibly to the facts.
Just one testimony of a Christian receiving a deceiving spirit comes from Philippe Pelissier. He writes:
This letter has been much abridged for the sake of space, but the writer was delivered of the deceiving spirit. He ends his letter thus:
If the present Church scenario continues, then we need to be ready for the fallout. Along with teaching, counselling, correction, guidance and prayer, deliverance may also be needed. We need every tool that the Lord has provided, and one of those gifts is the "casting out of devils". Some of those who have been involved in Toronto may need to be delivered of the spirits that have been using them and deluding them.
It seems to me that the believers referred to above, who are "taken captive" by the devil are in the biblical sense of the word "demonised". It is simply hair-splitting to say that they are not "possessed", for this is not a biblical term in any case. These believers have come under the influence and control of demons - as all captives become subject to their masters.
POSSESSION IS NOT THE ISSUE
I frequently meet Christians who deal with this subject in an illogical fashion, even though they think clearly about almost everything else. When I ask them to clarify their beliefs, it always boils down to this:
"A Christian can indeed be bothered by demons, or even deceived, but the demon can't "get inside him". As long as the demon is outside the person, it conforms to our theology. We don't deny that a Christian can be deceived, or show demonic manifestations, but it is NEVER the result of the demon getting INSIDE him."
This reasoning is not the result of good biblical exegesis, or even intelligent thought, but FEAR. Some Christians fear that they might inadvertently sin and attract a demon, and then never be able to get rid of it. So the doctrine developed that demons can do anything they like except "get inside" a Christian. This would limit every demonic attack to a temporary glitch in the smooth flow of life, nothing to worry about really. It would mean that a Christian could sin and suffer no lasting effects. How very convenient!
But is it scripturally correct? I don't believe the scripture makes any distinction between inside and outside - we look for it, but it just isn't there. The reason is - it doesn't matter as much as WE have made it matter. We have gotten paranoid about the LOCALITY of the demon instead of concentrating on the LOGISTICS of demonism. Scripture does not specify a location, and does not need to, nor does it speak in terms of temporary or permanent, for ALL demonic attacks must be resisted. The Bible speaks only of
These activities can be a result of demons outside or inside a person.
The Bible only uses one word to describe a person who is troubled or controlled by demons - "demonised"
DAIMONIZOMAI (dahee-mon-id'-zom-ahee) in the Greek. We have invented new categories that do not exist in scripture, for we now speak of being "influenced" and "oppressed" and "possessed" - all terms that suit our theology but have no support in God's word!
Where the Greek word DAIMONIZOMAI is used, the King James reads "possessed" which gives the impression of complete and total take-over. Possession no doubt may occur at high levels of witchcraft, where the person's spirit is controlled by an evil power, but in ordinary life this is rarely the case, and I would say this can never be true of a Christian who has the Holy Spirit in his reborn spirit. Yet the outward personality and physical body of a Christian may still be demonised.
THE INNER MAN
What is demonisation anyway? The usual belief is that a demon, once INSIDE (horror!!) will never leave again. But this betrays a basic misunderstanding of the spirit world and the human being, and the way these things take place. The demon does not in fact LIVE permanently inside a human being, Christian or not. It simply establishes certain rights to certain areas, and uses them for his own.
We understand what it is to receive a guest into our home, and also what it means to receive the Holy Spirit. Yet when the Bible tells us that we might receive a false spirit, somehow we deny it. The very same word "receive" (Gk: LAMBANO) is used both of receiving the HOLY Spirit, and receiving an UNHOLY spirit:
I want to try to clarify this whole subject by using (as the Bible often does) the analogy of a HOUSE or building to describe the human being.
In referring to demonic control, the Lord Jesus spoke of a person as a house:
THE HOUSE THAT WE OCCUPY
So, in a symbolic way I want you to imagine that we are houses. Now all houses are owned by somebody, whether a landlord who rents out the property on a temporary basis, or a mortgage company who loans the money to purchase the property, or the man or women who has bought the house permanently and has become the full owner.
The person who lives in the house is not necessarily the owner, and that is the position of human beings on earth. We were created to be owned by God, but we (mankind) sold out to the devil instead. Now, satan owns the properties and makes the rules that the fallen man or woman obeys.
Imagine such a person, exhausted by sin, burdened under the rule of satan, as somebody who has the devil as a Landlord. This evil landlord keeps putting up the rent, and never does any repair work to the property. He oppresses his tenants.
But God then makes a move on his behalf. He offers to pay off any outstanding debts, to purchase the house and to take over its maintenance, all because he loves the tenant! What a wonderful offer. A Christian is one who has agreed to this offer, and let the Lord God take over the ownership of his "house". He now belongs to God, and things begin to change.
God the Father does not himself come to live in this house. The Father is resident in Heaven. But nevertheless God does take possession of this house, and becomes its owner.
However, the tenant can elect to "receive" as a guest the Holy Spirit, the Lord's "agent". This does not mean that the Holy Spirit become trapped in the house and has to become a permanent fixture, unable to leave (as some would preach!) No, the Holy Spirit blows where He wills, and goes where he is received. As long as the door is open, though, the Holy Spirit has the right to walk right in the front door, make himself totally at home as both honoured guest and intimate friend.
THE CLEANSING OF THE INNER CHAMBER
The first thing this "agent" does is clean out the innermost sanctum (formerly locked up and abandoned) and he makes it a place of light and life, fit for his holy presence. He lights a lamp that illuminates every corner. Then he adopts it as his special guest-room, always ready to receive him, like the prophet's room given to Elijah:
From out of this wonderful chamber now pours glorious light, delicious fragrance, and heavenly music that fills the rest of the house just like a baking smell from the kitchen permeates the house. The Holy Spirit is not strictly speaking IN the rest of the house, (he respects the rights of the tenant) but His glorious presence is felt and heard there all the time. Whenever there is a problem, His voice can be heard - faintly at times, but very real - "do this; go there; don't believe that " who would ever want to grieve or turn away this most honoured and precious Guest? (Yet Christians do!!)
If a Christian is living right, then the Holy Spirit becomes a permanent friend, guide, helper, and counsellor. As the saying goes we "live in eachother's pockets". In some areas, you still find that the family in one house always has one or two neighbours, and relatives, around their house so as you would think they all lived there. They are always in and out of eachother's houses. But the legal position, if it comes down to that, is that God is the owner, and the tenant is the rightful occupier of the premises. He hasn't lost his rights, he's just decided to listen (if he is wise) to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Since the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, He can be present in ALL the House of God, the Church at the same time. Unlike a human being, He does not have to divide his time between people or "houses", but as long as He is welcomed in, He is there! Praise God!
GRIEVING THE SPIRIT
I should also say at this point that the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person's life can vary. It is not a case of either-or. Since the Spirit is not a permanent fixture, trapped inside the house, but free to come and go at will, there can be dark times when we grieve the Spirit and his presence within us is dimmed to almost nothing. There are also occasions when we experience the Spirit's presence more, because we are submitting to his holy rule, and doing his will. When called upon to do some miracle for God, the special anointing of the Spirit's power and presence will be experienced in more abundance.
However, the chamber which we have set aside for God's sole use is the innermost chamber of our human spirit. As the scripture tells us, God is SPIRIT: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24). We are one with Jesus in spirit, one with the Father in spirit, and our experience of the Holy Spirit is in the spirit.
At the same time, we carry this spiritual treasure in a vessel "of clay". How well we know it! It's the body, and the soul (emotions, self-will, thoughts) that let us down, not the innermost desires of our hearts. The Apostle Paul also experienced this reality:
The human spirit is being kept in eternal life by the Holy Spirit:
But the only hope of redemption for the physical body is the resurrection from the dead:
So the "house" of a Christian looks bright and illuminated from the outside because of the lamp that burns in its central room, its spiritual centre. But now to the message of this article - demonisation.
THE DEMONIC STRATEGY
While God the Father exists on the heavenly plane, satan and his fallen powers are of the earth. Satan is called "the god of this world" and his demonic rulers exist in the air of this earth. Evil spirits are the powers of the air. (Eph 2:2).
Thus, demons are earthly and seek to control the earthly body and personality of any human being. One could argue that satan ALREADY possesses the spirits of non-believers for they are "the children of the devil", so what his demons are sent to do is to control as much as possible of a person's life on earth, to make a human being into a puppet of his evil will.
In the house analogy above, satan owns all the houses already, and he rents them out to tenants. What happens to a Christian is that his house changes ownership, praise the Lord! That does not mean he is no longer resident in his house, but that God has become his house-owner.
We have no problem seeing that a demon can enter the house of a non-believer, on invitation, to wreak havoc there. But can this happen to a believer? YES! The same reasoning applies.
The inner sanctum is lit up, and the Holy Spirit is in residence there, but sometimes when demons come knocking at the door, the occupier may let them in for various reasons.
Demons are disembodied and this hinders the expression of their nature, so they look for a puppet to use. They are seeking the limbs and mind and emotions of a human being in order to express themselves on earth. Sci-fi films seem to understand this strategy only too well - why don't we?
The demonic strategy is to create a situation in which they will be allowed past the doorstep. This is not as easy as it might appear, and certainly I believe that God guards his children jealousy. I believe that God will sometimes intervene to forestall a demonic attack.
Nonetheless, on occasion demons do succeed because of unconfessed sin, (particularly sexual sin) and occult involvement. (Much supposed religious activity these days is in fact occult activity with a thin veneer of Christianity, hence the crucial role of discernment ministries that seek to open the eyes of Christians to the dangers.)
It has been shown by many deliverance ministries that an open door, or a breach in a Christian's defences, can occur through prolonged sin, trauma, serious physical illness, religious deception and a number of additional key factors like unresolved emotional conflicts.
Once the door is opened, the demon cons its way into the sitting room and - like some pathetic tramp - tries to get lodgings in the house. At this point the wise Christian will say "In the Name of Jesus, I command you to begone!", and that ends the matter. However, on occasion an unsuspecting Christian allows the demon to settle in as a lodger.
Now, no lodger spends all his time trapped in the house. He comes and goes. He first moves all his stuff into his room - (the room allocated to him as lodger) then he goes about his life, making that room his base of operations. But he does not "possess" that room (it's only rented to him) nor does he occupy it ALL the time.
Notice here the difference between possession and being demonised. Possession of the house would mean that ownership changed hands and the "tramp" gained ownership of the property. This is not the case. The occupier still has his rights, and God still owns the house, but now there is a troublesome lodger with a key to the front door. He comes and goes, not always noticed, but there.
Similarly with demons. They are
(a) unable to change the "ownership" of a Christian from God to the devil.
(b) unable to force entry into rooms that are not specifically allocated to them
(c) unable to stay if they outwear their welcome
They are also utterly terrified of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the house, and will try anything in their power to stop the Christian praying, worshipping, fellowshipping with other Christians, reading the Bible or doing anything that would manifest the presence of the Spirit. It is worth remembering that, whatever the devil would like us to believe, demons are much more afraid of a Christian than we are of them. Take heart!
NEVER POSSESSED BY DEMONS
The difference between "possession" and "demonisation" should have become clear. The house is POSSESSED by God the Father, OCCUPIED by the human being who lives in it, and HAS the Holy Spirit in residence. But all the same, lodgers can come and go, and even at times (if the man of the house is not vigilant) squatters can set up in the basement or attic, or any unguarded area. However, the ownership of the house is at no time challenged or compromised by the presence of tenants or squatters.
To bring this into non-symbolic terms, a Christian may be truly born-again, having given his life to God, and received the Holy Spirit, but still be deceived into allowing demons to control parts of his life and activities. This is what the Bible means by "demonised" - plain and simple.
Whatever area of a Christian's life is still in darkness of sin and unsurrendered to God, will be left open to the influence of demonic control. Demons love the darkness. They sense where we are hiding sin, or covering up wrong attitudes, and they gradually work their way in - first by casual hints, then by a deeper form of control that amounts to renting a room in the building.
(This does not happen all at once, nor EVERY time a Christian sins. There are particular rules that apply, but this is not the place to examine them.)
THE QUESTION OF DELIVERANCE
The question of deliverance has always been a thorny one. Many respected ministers claim that deliverance is never necessary for Christians. Looking around me, and seeing any number of demon-controlled personalities, I feel sympathy for them and think it's a crime to deny them the help they need. Telling a demonised person to pull his socks up and try harder is likely to lead him to despair, rather than holiness, for he needs to come out from the control of the demon first, in order to repair the damage.
I know of two Christians who committed suicide. Perhaps you know of some, too. One lady ended up in a mental hospital, having to undergo treatment by non-Christians - and indeed some of her problems may have been psychological - yet at least part of the problem was caused by her occult activities in the past that had led to her being tormented by demons. She got much sympathy, but no practical help from the other members of her church. All exhortation to pray more, read the Bible and attend church were useless, because her mind was so clouded by demonic control that she could hardly think, let alone pray. Should she have been abandoned to her fate, which led to despair and suicide? Could deliverance have helped her - we shall never know, but I think it is fair to suggest it.
Another girl whom I met briefly at a church meeting was also let down by the fellowship I attended at the time - a spirit-filled, Pentecostal assembly that knew about the devil and all his wiles! This girl got into bad company and was eventually cursed by her satan-worshipping boyfriend. Her friends sneered and dismissed all talk of curses - curses could not "work" on a Christian, right?
A week later, she was dead, having suffered a mysterious ailment that the doctors could not identify. She suffered horribly right up to the end. I attended her funeral service, and while some were weeping because of her loss, I was weeping hot tears of rage that she had died needlessly. All the pious phrases that the minister intoned seemed hollow because he had failed to deal with the demonic problem that could have saved her life.
THE DEVIL GETS THE BOOT
Some claim that the "casting-out" process of deliverance is NEVER applied to a believer in scripture. Though no instance of Christian deliverance is recorded in scripture, that does not entirely rule out its validity for it was certainly practised in the Church from the earliest times.
It has been argued that the Greek word for "casting-out" is never used of Christians. Let's examine that. The Greek for casting forth a spirit (or indeed anything else!) is ekballo and the King James Bible translates this as: bring forth, cast (forth, out), drive (out), expel, leave, pluck (pull, take, thrust) out, put forth (out), send away (forth, out).
This word is not used EXCLUSIVELY in the Bible for casting out a spirit from within a person, nor does it always mean casting out something from inside something else. It is a more loose term, that means in some cases "to discard, put aside" as for instance in this verse from Revelation, where the outer court is not measured:
The word also means "send forth" people or things as in Matt 9:38: "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest". And EKBALLO also means to "drive" somebody towards a place as in Mark 1:12 "And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness". These people were despatched from one place to another place. The implications for dealing with evil spirits should be obvious.
EKBALLO in scripture does not always imply that spirits are resident inside a person, for casting out in the Name of Jesus may mean simply sending demons away from a person who is being troubled by them. In this case, the gift of "casting out devils" might mean the same as in Mark 1:43: "And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away". (EKBALLO).
Those who say that EKBALLO is never used of Christians in the Bible limit the use of the word to "casting out from within" yet I have shown that the Greek word is not always used in that sense.
Conversely, there is evidence that the word IS used for believers, at least symbolically, for Jesus told us to "pluck out" (EKBALLO) anything that was becoming a stumbling-block to faith, such as the "mote" that prevents us seeing clearly (Luke 6:42) or the offensive entity here:
When we sense a demonic presence (as discerning Christians do) we may command it to "begone". This is EKBALLO in action. We are driving out the devil, no matter where he is. I am trying to show that a certain theology has grown up on the use of absolutes, when neither the Bible nor Christian practise has proven those absolutes. The whole subject is much more complicated than commonly believed.
DELIVERANCE IS NECESSARY
If we are confronted by a believer who suddenly and dramatically manifests a demonic symptom - say, irrational, uncontrollable anger, or flailing and weird screaming - then we should cast out the demon to resolve the situation without worrying about its locality. This sort of situation demands immediate action, and we don't have time to sit and debate whether a Christian can be demonised - rescue is imperative. I feel we will be faced with more and more of these panic situations as time goes by, so we need to settle once and for all our beliefs in this area.
Jesus gave his disciples power to cast out demons (Matt 10:7-8) and this gift was numbered amongst the signs following true believers.
Are we to assume that this gift was ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY given to the disciples to deliver NON-believers from the power and control of demons? I think that is an assumption we cannot make.
The book "Early Christian Creeds" states that "the exorcism of devils was much practised in the early Church" and words and formulas for exorcism were quite soon developed. There is preserved amongst our ancient creeds an elaborate rite for the exorcism of evil spirits, which was to be performed only by priests. While the early Christians saw the casting out of devils as purely a gift of the Spirit, for all believers alike, the practise soon became restricted to elders only (one can understand why!) and by the year 253 the "office" of Exorcist was recognised as a separate church ministry.
While saying this, I know that there are a lot of abuses in the area of deliverance. I recognise that many people have been frightened and damaged in their Christian walk by over-zealous "deliverance ministries" that see a demon in EVERY symptom. I am not suggesting that demonisation is the cause of every human problem, nor that deliverance is the magical cure for everything from insanity to acne. However, we should not totally abandon the idea, as a reaction against its abuse.
It is matter of record that the casting out of demons from both unbelievers AND believers took place in the early years of Church history. Demonised people were knows as ENERGUMENI (people operated by evil spirits) or CHYMADZUMENI (people tossed to and fro like a boat in a storm). Cyprian (who died in 258AD) described their symptoms in terms of sleepless nights, panic attacks and restlessness and showed that prayer and the laying on of hands and the use of the name of Jesus would expel demons, who often screamed aloud or blasphemed as they left their "house".
Exorcism was always performed when a newly-saved Christian underwent training for Baptism, because it was believed that every heathen had spirits that must be cast out before the Spirit of Christ could enter. However, not only "catecumens" - (those preparing for baptism), but "those already among the faithful" were given pastoral care and exorcism if they showed signs of demonisation. (Quotes taken from "Dictionary of Christian Antiquities" which cites several church fathers.)
SICKNESS AND DEMONS
The casting out of evil spirits sometimes accompanied the laying-on of hands and anointing with oil for healing in the early Church. We must assume they believed that at least SOME sickness had demonic origins. That sickness and sin are linked is obvious from a number of passages:
Since Christians still sin, and get sick, perhaps they also get demonised as well? Certainly the Bible indicates this is true.
The testimony above of the woman who was struck down by a demonic illness is an example of how demons cause more than just spiritual trouble. I still recall an incident that happened in the '70's concerning a man who is now very well known internationally as a scholar and writer as well as a minister in the Anglican Church. He was at that time my Vicar, and he and several people in the church were trying to help a coven of witches, some of whom professed to have been saved. Later this was shown not to be the case - perhaps they were just having fun with these gullible Christians?
However, at one point the coven warned the Vicar that if he dared to continue his efforts to save the witches, he would suffer the consequences. They would lay a curse upon him. As usual, this warning was brushed aside as the Vicar and most of his entourage did not believe in such things. They felt they were immune.
A few days later, as the Vicar was officiating in the communion service on Sunday morning, he found himself paralysed and unable to pronounce the words of blessing over the bread and wine. He fainted, and had to be carried from the church. He was put to bed, and suffered sickness and terrible torments, which nobody seemed able to relieve. I know this because I was one of the group called in a panic to pray for the Vicar - it was known that I was one of those weird Christians who actually believed a Christian could be demonised!! Suddenly they wanted my help, when the chips were down!
Unfortunately, the vicar refused to receive our prayers and ministry, stubbornly sticking to his theory that his illness had nothing whatever to do with the witchcraft curse. Eventually he got better physically, but I don't know if the experience left a scar - it probably did.
All the stories that stick in my mind (like the wonderful elderly couple, fellow ministers of mine, who were also cursed by a coven and who both died unexpectedly of cancer within the year) are unfortunately negative ones simply because ignoring the problem led to tragedy. I have no doubt whatever than many similar disasters HAVE been averted, almost daily, because discerning Christians responded correctly with prayer, rebuked the devil, and withstood evil. We will never get to hear of those stories, because they are not dramatic and tragic.
Knowing that many people do avoid tragedy, however, does not replace the friends and acquaintances I have lost, all because of the theology that says "a Christian cannot be demonised." (A so-called "curse" works by sending a demon to inflict harm on the person concerned. The point here is that the demon obviously did enter into a Christian's body so as to cause these physical effects.)
Two common criticisms of the whole area of deliverance and Christian life are that talk of demons brings fear of the devil instead of confidence in God; and that deliverance can become as easy way out of sin instead of repentance and a change of life.
These criticism are understandable, yet neither invalidates correctly performed deliverance for a Christian in trouble. Also, rightly taught, the truth about the supernatural world leads not to fear, but to a release from fear. Whenever the truth is uncovered and explained, then light dawns and a sensible response can be made. There are far more Christians in fear hiding behind the "I can't be demonised" teaching than there are fearful deliverance ministers! This is because an acquaintance with the true facts reveals the underlying WEAKNESS and TERROR that the demons actually have, confronted by a born-again believer using the Name of Jesus.
However, it is undeniable that there are abuses. I have seen both sides of the deliverance debate. I have witnessed the most appalling manipulation of Christians by "ministers" who bring them into abject terror that they might somehow become demonised at any moment, for no apparent reason. I have seen Christians reduced to such terror of the devil that they would not walk home from a prayer meeting for fear of being kidnapped by witches!
A charlatan, looking to enhance his own self-importance and to dominate others, can use the subject of demonism to control people. It is fairly easy to persuade immature Christians that they might have demons, and the situation is usually exaggerated beyond all bounds. Terrified, they are then told only HE can help them. Desperate for deliverance, they accept anything he tells them, giving the supposed minister the satisfaction of complete control over their lives.
There are also people who delight in telling overblown and lurid testimonies of the power of evil spirits thus leaving us with the impression that we are all at risk. (The books written by Rebecca Brown and her helpmate, and the testimony of Lauren Stratford are two examples of this genre). There are also evil individuals who exploit their knowledge of the occult by peddling their much-enhanced life stories round the Church for profit. All this is deplorable, and gives deliverance a bad name.
However, biblical spiritual warfare against evil powers is real, and is necessary. Treated in the right way, it is totally beneficial.
JESUS THE VICTOR OVER ALL
I feel that most of the abuse in the area of deliverance has come from giving the supernatural world too high a profile. The demonic world should be respected for its serious attempt to undermine our faith, but it should not be exalted above its place. Satan is a fallen foe as far as a Christian is concerned. There is nothing a demon fears most than being reminded of this fact, which is undeniable.
Often, pure praise and proclamation of the truths of scripture are enough to drive out a demonic presence, however strong it appears to be. Every Christian, no matter how young or immature, can confidently proclaim that our Lord has received a name above all names, and has been made the head of all principality and power. Thus every Christian has superior power over the supernatural world.
Realising that a Christian can be demonised on occasion, is not destructive to our confidence in God. Rather, it is a rallying call to discernment, to vigilance, and to a surrendered lifestyle. The Lord said "the truth shall set you free". Knowing the truth about demonic attack cannot harm us. On the contrary, it will put iron in our souls. It will strengthen our resolve to live as faithful, obedient children of God, and put us on guard against sin and rebellion in our lives. Surely that is just what the Lord intended?
The message of this article is not one of hopeless vulnerability to demonic attack. Quite the reverse in fact. It is a message of liberation from a false doctrine - a doctrine that encourages lax attitudes towards evil. It is also a message about the power of the Name of Jesus Christ to set us free from any demon or evil power.
Once a Christian realises the greatness of the power of God, he loses his fear of demons. Part of the devil's conceit, and deception, is to claim power and authority that he does not have. He is arrogant. He is full of boastfulness. The best way to wound him is to puncture his pride with a brush-off - scathing but firm. Remind the devil where he is heading - the lake of fire.
When a Christian not only knows his ground, but STANDS his ground, he really is invulnerable to demonic attack. (But how many of us live this quality of Christianity?) Unless we see the need to put up a fight, we will not develop spiritual muscles. We will sit at ease, secure in our delusion of immunity, making ourselves a target for the roaring lion who is prowling around looking for prey.
On the other hand, once we know the true facts, we develop a hunger to know the power and presence of God. God said that he left a few enemies in the Promised Land just to teach his people how to fight. Similarly, it is not just knowing about, but DOING spiritual warfare that opens our eyes to the victorious might of the Lord of Hosts.
The mature, because they are not afraid to use all the weapons God has provided, develop an understanding of both the evil powers and those of God. They are aware of the seriousness of demonic power, but at the same time they have full assurance of the overcoming might of God in Christ. They know that Jesus Christ has been made the Victor over every evil power:
The power of Jesus Christ is more than a match for any demon, and we should rejoice that we can share in the benefits of the victory that Jesus Christ has won over evil.
Knowing the reality of the supernatural world is just one more reason to rejoice for a balanced Christian. Because no matter how strong is the enemy, we are stronger in Christ! Hallelujah! I end by praying for you, as Paul did -
Several important issues could not be dealt with in this article, but that does not mean I was unaware of them or wanted to ignore them. Some of these issues are -
(1) Grayson H Ensign & Edward Howe, "Bothered, Bewildered, Bewitched?" quoted in "Demon Possession & The Christian" by C. Fred Dickason.
(2) Kurt Koch, "Occult Bondage & Deliverance", quoted in "Demon Possession & The Christian" by C. Fred Dickason.
(3) "War On The Saints" Jessie Penn-Lewis, p.316, using private letters written by an evangelist in Germany.
© 1997 Copyrighted to Tricia Tillin, Banner Ministries, PO Box 23, Belper, Derbyshire, DE56 1QR. Those wishing to reproduce this article must first seek permission. No authorisation is given for automatic reproduction, either electronically or on paper.
© 1997 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.