I mentioned something in my sermon yesterday that caused a few people to ask, “Can we talk more about that sometime this week?” Why? Because my statement runs counter to what those who are part of the spiritual warfare movement teach. I said that, as I understand scripture, it is not possible for a true believer to be possessed by a demon. I stand by my statement and thought I would use this devotional space to explain.
Throughout Christ’s earthly ministry, his primary goal was to bring people to a place of genuine repentance. Jesus leveraged the miraculous in order to bring people to a saving faith in Him. His miracles weren’t to entertain or simply awe those who witnessed them. Many who find themselves caught up in the spiritual warfare movement seem, at least to me, to be looking for any opportunity to blame every sin and conflict on a demon that needs to be cast out. I find this particular movement is too focused on experiencing the mystical rather than living with sober minds and receptive hearts. In fairness, the opposite approach is equally disturbing. There is another, larger movement of people who simply ignore the spiritual realm, despite the fact that the scripture tells us our battle is against spiritual powers.
I believe the key is not found in our opinions but rather in the text of scripture. The scripture seems to want us to live somewhere between obsessing over spiritual warfare and denying that it exists. So what does it say about a true believer being possessed by a demon? Does the Bible even address this issue? The answer is yes. There is, in fact, an answer to this question. Before we get to the text, let me point out a few things that stood out to me as I studied the scripture:
- There is no clear example in the Bible where a demon ever possessed or inhabited a true believer.
- I can’t find anyone rebuking, binding, or casting demons out of a true believer.
- I can’t find any place in the New Testament epistles where believers were warned about the possibility of being inhabited by demons.
- The letters that were written by the Apostles never instruct believers to cast out demons, whether from a believer or unbeliever.
- As far as I can tell, Christ and the apostles were the only ones who cast out demons, and in every instance, the demon-possessed people were unbelievers.
John MacArthur said it this way when he wrote, “The collective teaching of Scripture is that demons can never spatially indwell a true believer.”
So, instead of trusting our instincts or even our own research, what does the scripture tell us about our original question? We find the answer in 2 Corinthians 6:
What harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
— 2 Corinthians 6:15–16
Translation: The indwelling Holy Spirit will not cohabit with a demon. Here are a few more for you to consider:
In Colossians 1:13, Paul says God “delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.” Salvation brings true deliverance and protection from Satan.
In Romans 8:37, Paul says we are able to overcome anything through Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 15:57, he says we share in God’s victory.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14, he says God always leads us in victory.
In 1 John 2:13, John says we have overcome the evil one. And in 4:4, he says the indwelling Holy Spirit is greater than Satan.
How could anyone hold fast to these amazing truths yet believe demons can possess or indwell genuine believers?
The good news is simply this: if you are in Christ Jesus, you can not be possessed by a demon. If you don’t know Christ Jesus, there is no time like the present to agree with God that you are a sinner in need of a Savior and ask Him, through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, to forgive you and give you life.
Some of the insights on this topic were found in an article by John MacArthur from Pulpit Magazine.