Satan & Demons

8. Can A Christian Be Demon-Possessed?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Christians cannot be possessed by Satan or his demons, because we are God's possession in Christ.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part eight of a series. Read part seven.

Christians cannot be possessed by Satan or his demons, because we are God's possession in Christ.

In previous articles, we have discussed Satan's origin as Lucifer; his essential nature as the adversary of God and the saints, and the father of lies; his role as the destroyer; and his relationship to this present world. In our last article, we began addressing questions regarding Satan's relationship to believers in Christ.

In our last article, we saw that Christians are in the "triple grip" of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and therefore Satan cannot rob us of our salvation. The result is that we also cannot be Satan-possessed or demon-possessed. Christians have a different Father; He is the One who possesses them by His Spirit. The warfare that saints experience with Satan is an external one. He may perch on the believer's shoulder. He may seek to influence you through the old nature. But he cannot once again take up residence in your heart. He has been evicted once and for all. Let's consider each of these points in turn.

Christians Have a Different Father

First of all, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that while Satan is the true father of unbelievers and they are under his sway, Christians have a different Father, whose Spirit indwells them:

"You [Jesus was speaking to the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders] are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God." (John 8:44-47)

"But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:31-32)

"You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you." (Matthew 10:18-20)

"Jesus said to her [Mary Magdalene], 'Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, "I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God." ' " (John 20:17)

This relationship is the basis on which the Apostle Paul addresses all of his epistles to believers throughout the world. The greeting, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," and similar references to God as the Father of the believer, open every one of Paul's epistles to churches and to individuals. The epistles of James (1:17, 1:27), Peter (1 Peter 1:13-3 and 17), and John (1 John 3:1; 2 John 3) also emphasize this vital relationship.

Jude speaks of the special nature of that relationship when he refers to believers as "those who are called, sanctified (egiosmenois, set apart from profane things and dedicated to holy service) by God the Father, preserved (teteremenois, carefully guarded in their new state) in Jesus Christ" (Jude 1). Believers are positionally set apart from the evil one, and assiduously preserved in that state by God in Christ. In much of the rest of his epistle, Jude makes the point that false teachers who enter the church by devious means are the latest in the long line of those who do their evil deeds under the influence and direction of Satan, "not having the Spirit" (verse 19). Believers, in contrast, have the privilege of prayer in the Holy Spirit (20). That is a key distinction between the saved and the lost - they have a different father, and therefore operate according to a different spirit.

Christians' Bodies Are God's Temple

Secondly, Scripture tells us that our bodies are the temples of God the Holy Spirit, and that there is therefore no concord between Christ and Satan within us. Note especially that the Spirit indwells us because we are God's by right of posession:

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)

"Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

"And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.' " (2 Corinthians 6:15-16)

The Distinction Between Possession and Oppression

Scripture makes a distinction between Satanic or demonic possession and oppression, and believers must be careful to maintain this distinction as we think about our warfare with the enemy.

Possession involves direct control of an individual through residence:

"Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are - the Holy One of God!' But Jesus rebuked him, saying, 'Be quiet, and come out of him!' And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him." (Luke 4:33-35)

"Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, 'What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!' For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness. Jesus asked him, saying, 'What is your name?' And he said, 'Legion,' because many demons had entered him. And they begged Him that He would not command them to go out into the abyss. Now a herd of many swine was feeding there on the mountain. So they begged Him that He would permit them to enter them. And He permitted them. Then the demons went out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the lake and drowned." (Luke 8:26-33)

"And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 'Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic [more precisely, the term used here is "moonstruck" or "influenced by the moon" - not a clinical diagnosis of disease] and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.' Then Jesus answered and said, 'O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.' And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour." (Matthew 17:14-18)

"Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him." (Mark 1:34)

"Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city." (Acts 8:4-8)

In contrast, oppression is a spiritual attack from the outside. The believer's warfare against the powers of darkness is always described in terms of warfare against the external forces of the evil one, who seek to incite us to sin by stirring up the old nature, and these incitements occur by God's sovereign permission:

" 'Be angry, and do not sin': do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." (Ephesians 4:26-27)

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." (1 Peter 5:8-10)

"Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, 'The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously'? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.' Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." (James 4:4-7)

The Christian's Warfare With Satan is External

The Holy Spirit chose the words of Scripture purposefully. In the original Greek, the words translated "nor give place to" and "resist" the devil always speak of acting in opposition to an external force. The phrase "he will flee from you" uses the Greek preposition apo, which speaks of Satan moving "away from" the believer externally. The preposition ek, "out of" - i.e., from within the believer - is not used.

God would never allow His blood-bought children (1 Peter 1:18-19), who are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), to be possessed and therefore controlled by Satan or demons. Believers are engaged in warfare with Satan and his demons, but not from within ourselves. The apostle John declares, "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). Satan and his demons are in the world, but because we are God's purchased possession, His Holy Spirit is in us. Through Christ's victory over Satan, the believer is forever secure from possession by the enemy of our souls.

Next: Who is Belial?

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