Can Christians be demon possessed?

Dan Vander Lugt (captured from RBC)

The word demonization is a term recently coined by evangelicals who believe that Christians can be inhabited by demons. These evangelicals believe that Christians can be inhabited by demons who control unyielded areas of their spirit, while not possessing them entirely (in the sense of displacing the union between their spirit and the Holy Spirit, or taking away their salvation).

It is important to note, however, that the terms demonization and demonized are simply transliterations of the Greek word that has traditionally been translated as “possessed” (daimonizomaiMatthew 4:24; 8:16,28; 9:32; 12:22 ). This word indicates overwhelming demonic control as The Easton Bible Dictionary clarifies regarding demon possession: “This influence is clearly distinguished from the ordinary power of corruption and of temptation over men. In the demoniac, his personality seems to be destroyed, and his actions, words, and even thoughts to be overborne by the evil spirit Acts 19:15 ).”

There is no biblical basis for believing that a genuine Christian can be under the degree of demonic control indicated by the word daimonizomaiFirst Corinthians 6:19 makes it clear that the Holy Spirit establishes a permanent, intimate relationship with every believer. The body of a Christian is the Holy Spirit’s temple. Other passages also describe the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and lives of Christians ( John 3:3-7 ; Romans 8:5-11 ; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 6:16 ; Ephesians 1:13-14 ; Titus 3:4-7 ).

In all of the documents left us by Paul, Peter, John, and the other New Testament writers, there is not one passage that directly states or even implies that Christians may have to deal with their own sin or the sin of another Christian by confronting and casting out an inhabiting demon.

This doesn’t mean that Christians can afford to be careless in respect to Satan’s power. Scripture warns of the danger of spiritual evil ( 2 Corinthians 2:11 ; Ephesians 4:27; 6:11-12 ; James 4:7 ; 1 Peter 5:8 ). While the biblical examples of demonic possession imply a degree of direct demonic control that can’t exist when a person has established an intimate relationship with God through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, Christians can still be oppressed and influenced by the demonic. One of the most striking examples in Scripture was Simon Peter’s opposition to Jesus’ commitment to the cross .1

Ironically, in a misguided attempt to directly confront the demonic, Christian people sometimes become obsessed with it. This happens when they mistakenly conclude that all — or nearly all — of the evil they perceive within themselves derives from a separate personality — Satan or a demon. There may be disastrous consequences for Christians who attribute their personal sins to exterior, demonic causes rather than taking responsibility for the evil within their own hearts (see Is there a biblical basis for a deliverance ministry in which counselors free Christians from demonic influence? ).

1. “Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men’ ” (Matthew 16:23). But this kind of demonic influence doesn’t involve demonic possession or “inhabiting demons.” Nor does it require exorcism.

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