After a sermon, a blog post, and some conversations, I’ve been asked a question a handful of times lately. The question usually goes something like this, ‘Can Christians be demon possessed?’ This is a very good question and I’m thankful for those who are asking it because it demonstrates a realization that we, as Christ-followers, are engaged in a spiritual battle which is between spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12). The question makes a lot of sense, but unfortunately it stems from difficulties we have in translating words from an ancient language to our own modern day tongue.
Let me share an explanation from a man much wiser than myself, Dr. Wayne Grudem. “The term ‘demon possession’ is an unfortunate term that has found its way into some English translations of the Bible but is not really reflected in the Greek text. The Greek New Testament can speak of people who ‘have a demon’ (Matt. 11:18; Luke 7:33; 8:27; John 7:20; 8:48, 49, 52; 10:20), or it can speak of people who are suffering from demonic influence (Gk. daimonizomai), but it never uses language that suggests that a demon actually ‘possesses’ someone.” This is from Grudem’s Systematic Theology on page 423 (a fantastic resource!).
It dramatically changes our thinking if we begin asking the question based on a better understanding of the biblical language. By comparison, It is helpful to remember that a person who has genuinely placed their faith in Jesus Christ will continue to be tempted and influenced by sin. They are not controlled by or bound by sin any longer, but the influence of sin on their life remains. This helps us reflect on the reality of what Paul is saying in Ephesians 6:12 when he informs us that we are engaged in a battle against spiritual forces of evil.
Let’s rephrase the question based on this understanding, ‘Can a Christian be under great demonic attack or influence?’ I would answer with a resounding affirmative as the Apostle Paul indicates to us in Ephesians 6:12. Why is this important enough to address in blog post? First, I believe all questions which cause us to reflect on the scriptures are good questions. Second, if we have coaxed ourselves into believing that we have been spiritually vaccinated from the influence of evil spirits then we have refused to acknowledge our greatest battle. As I have said before, I believe the greatest scheme of Satan amidst the ‘conservative evangelical church’ could be their dismissal of his ongoing and unceasing activity.
Should this create fear in us? Maybe some healthy fear and respect for the battle in which we are engaged, but it must not create a paralyzing fear in us. Luke’s gospel provides us with this snapshot, ‘The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold I have given you authority to tread on serpent and scorpion, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.’
The victory of Jesus is unquestionable. The authority given to us over evil is promised by Jesus himself. However, the greatest weapons in war are useless if the enemy’s presence and actions are not acknowledged or identified. I believe, from my own counseling/discipleship conversations, the dismissal and lack of discussion on these issues may be one of the greatest barriers to true healing and growth in the life of the so called ‘conservative evangelical Christ-follower.’
Why do you think there is so much ‘taboo’ around discussing the reality of evil spirits and the schemes of Satan? Or, in your experience, have you not experienced this reality? How might making some of these observations and affirmations change the way you live your everyday life?