A Cross or Torture Stake: Evaluating the Watchtower’s Claims

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There is perhaps no other Christian symbol that is despised by Jehovah’s Witnesses as the Cross. This is reflective of their contempt for the Christian Church, which they derogatorily term as “apostate Christendom.”

This piece intends to demonstrate that the very belief of Watchtower Society regarding the cross of Christ actually exposes it as an organization that every truth-seeking individual must reject.

An Innovative Idea

At its inception in 1884 and for more than half a century, the Watchtower Society held the cross in high esteem. Many of their publications during these early years contained references – some with vivid illustrations – of Christ’s death upon a cross.

For example, the Society’s early symbol, a cross and crown, was featured on the cover of each edition of The Watchtower magazine.

Their founder, Charles Taze Russell’s pyramid monument at his gravesite in Pittsburgh’s Rosemont United Cemetery, also bears this cross and crown image.

In 1921, the second president of the Watchtower Society, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, wrote:

The cross of Christ is the greatest pivotal truth to the divine arrangement, from which radiate the hopes of men” (The Harp of God, p. 141).

An illustration from a book titled Life, written by Rutherford in 1929 clearly showed Jesus carrying the cross on the way to Golgotha (page 198).

But in 1931 things began to change. First, the cross and crown image was dropped from their magazine. Then in 1936, Rutherford released a book, Riches, where he declared that: “Jesus was crucified, not on a cross of wood … Jesus was crucified by nailing his body to a tree” (p. 27).

Since then, the current JW position was affirmed: “We know that Jesus was nailed to a torture stake” (The Watchtower, January 15, 1966, p. 63).

The Watchtower Society illustrates this torture stake as a single standing pole without a horizontal cross beam, with one nail piercing both of Jesus’ hands – which were placed above His head.

All the artistic renditions in Watchtower publications present this, yet we are told:

“In one instance, he invited Thomas to inspect the wounds inflicted in his hands by means of the nails [John 20:19-29]” (The Watchtower, January 15, 1966, p. 63).

Now this is a contradiction. If Jesus died on a torture stake, it would require just a single nail piercing both hands, yet this Watchtower article is telling us about “wounds inflicted in his hands by means of the NAILS.”

Is it one nail or two?

Granted, The Watchtower says “the depictions of Jesus’ death in our publications … are merely reasonable artistic renderings of the scene…” (August 15, 1987, p. 29).

If this is true, then their depiction of Jesus’ death should not contradict the Bible, logic, archaeology and history. But this is not the case as I will show.

Biblical evidence

First, the Bible clearly states that Jesus’ hands were nailed with two nails. It quotes the words of Thomas who was an eyewitness to the crucifixion:

Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails...” (John 20:25).

The nails mentioned here were for His hands, not feet. Notice that he used the plural form of the word ‘‘nail,’’ while ‘‘print’’ is singular, indicating a separate nail punctured each hand leaving a single mark in each hand.

Second, in Matthew’s account, we read:

‘‘They put up above His head the
charge against Him, which read,
‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’’’
(Matthew 27:37).

Notice the description provided in God’s inspired Word. Matthew reported that the proclamation of Pontius Pilate was ‘‘set up over his head.’’ If Christ had been impaled as the Watchtower describes, the text would have read: ‘‘set up over (or above) his hands.’’

Evidently, Jesus died on a cross. His hands were stretched out and the sign was placed above His head.

Third, the very words of Jesus Himself prophesying the Apostle Peter’s martyrdom refutes the claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses:

‘‘Truly, truly, I say to you, when
you were younger, you used to
gird yourself, and walk wherever
you wished; but when you grow
old, you will stretch out your
hands, and someone else will gird
you, and bring you where you do
not wish to go. Now this He said,
signifying by what kind of death
he would glorify God” (John 21:18-
19).

Notice again the wording of Scripture as Jesus declared that Peter’s hands would be stretched out, not raised over his head. Peter’s crucifixion is attested to by church history.

Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t have it both ways. They must either accept the inspired Biblical record or cleave to the uninspired Watchtower Society.

Semantic Acrobatics

JWs argue that the Greek words translated as ‘cross,’ stauros, means an upright stake or pole and not a timber joined into a cross.

Indeed, during the BC era, the term stauros strictly meant a pole or stake, but when the Romans adopted Greek language and customs, stauros came to be used to refer to both poles and crosses.

Gerhard Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (vol. VII, p. 572) gives three meanings for stauros. Only one of them matches the Watchtower’s; the others present other distinct meanings:

‘‘The στανρoς [stauros] is an instrument of torture for serious offenses, … In shape we find three basic forms. The cross was a vertical pointed stake [Skolops] … or it consisted of an upright with a cross-beam above it [T, crux commissa] … or it consisted of two intersecting beams of equal length [† crux immissa].”

Another Greek scholar, Joseph Thayer, agrees with the dual meaning of stauros:

‘‘An upright stake, esp. a pointed
one, … a cross; a. the well-known
instrument of most cruel and ignominious punishment, borrowed by the Greeks and Romans from the
Phoenicians…” (Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 586).

The Watchtower Society dogmatically assert that the word xy’lon used in Acts 5:30, Galatians 3:13 and 1 Peter 2:24 means ‘timber,’ not a cross.

Actually, the Greek word is xulon and it carries more definitions than “the Society” tells its readers.

Greek scholar W. E. Vine translates xulon as ‘‘wood, a piece of wood, anything made of wood’’ and gives its application as ‘‘of the Cross, the tree being the stau-ros’, the upright pole or stake to which the Romans nailed those who were thus to be executed’’ (The Expanded Vine’s Expository Dictionary of N.T. Words, p. 1165).

Kittel gives one of its renderings as ‘‘Cross. A distinctive NT use of ξùλον [xulon] is in the sense ‘cross’ (Theological Dictionary, Vol. 5 p. 39).

Strong’s Concordance defines xulon as anything made from wood, be it a stake, cross or a tree. It doesn’t have a fixed usage. In Matthew 26:47, the word is used for wooden instruments and in Acts 16:24 for clubs or stocks.

In non-Biblical texts, like Antiquities of the Jews for instance, Josephus used it to refer to “gallows” (Book II), and Polybius used it for “a cudgel” (Histories, Book VI).

An online Greek lexicon work defines xulon (tree) as “a beam from which anyone is suspended, a gibbet, a cross, a log or timber, a cudgel or a staff.”

In English language, the term “tree” has a variety of uses which includes a cross, therefore, its Biblical use is completely justified. The Watchtower is being deceptive by providing a single definition for a word with different meanings.

Misquoting Sources

In Watchtower publications, quotes from the Catholic Encyclopedia, Critical Lexicon and Concordance or Greek scholars are often presented to convince the reader that stauros rigidly means torture stake.

But these quotes usually lack complete references or page numbers so you can’t double-check them. The reason is: Watchtower writers quote their sources out of context as if the authors agree with their views. (See some documented examples here and here)

Two examples will suffice.

(1) They cite the work of a
Roman Catholic scholar, Justus Lipsius (1547-1606), De
Cruce Liber Primus.

The illustration in it depicts a man being impaled on an upright stake and based upon the drawing, readers are told: ‘‘This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled.’’

But when one consults this Latin work (which is difficult to find), the dishonesty of the Watchtower Society becomes evident. The work includes several wood-cut illustrations portraying impalement or crucifixion. Most of these illustrations depict a man on the cross, not torture stake.

And Lipsius never suggested that Jesus was impaled on a cross, but instead argued for a ‘‘cross’’ with such statements as, ‘‘the cross was inserted and the other crosswise bar is joined and inserted with the upright plank, and thus it cuts [divides] itself.” (Justus Lipsius, De Cruce Liber Primus, Ch. IX, pg. 24. Translated from Latin by Marie Tseng, University of Southern California).

(2) They also quote from the Imperial Bible Dictionary (1874, vol. 1, p. 376):

“The Greek word for cross, properly signified a stake, an upright pole … Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and always remained the more prominent part. But from the time it began to used as an instrument of punishment, a transverse piece of wood was commonly added. .. about the period of the Gospel age, crucifixion was commonly accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood.”

The part appearing in bold was conveniently omitted by Watchtower leaders for obvious reasons: it damages their argument. So, they dishonestly cite it as if the author agreed with their theory. This is a common tactic in JW publications.

Archaeological evidence

False beliefs do not usually survive the light of scientific inquiry. The archaeological evidence favouring a cross is much more convincing than the alternative theory.

In his book, Evangelism in the Early Church, Michael Green states:

‘‘Some experts doubt whether the cross became a Christian symbol so early, but the recent discoveries of the cross, the fish, the star and the plough, all well known from the second century, on ossuaries of the Judaeo-Christian community in Judea put the possibility beyond reasonable cavil’’ (pp. 214-215).

In the 1945 discoveries at Talpioth, eleven ossuaries were found and reported to be from Christian grave sites in Bethany. These burial boxes too were engraved with crosses and their burial date was estimated at 42-43 A.D. – slightly more than a decade after our Lord’s death and resurrection (Jack Finegan, The Archeology of the New Testament, pp. 238-240).

Even non-Christians indicate that archaeology favours the cross above a torture stake. In 1971, it was reported that:

“Israeli archaeologists announced that they had identified the remains of the unfortunate young man and found clear evidence of his grisly execution. The Israelis scholars who studied the find for more than two years before making their announcement, were understandably cautious. What they uncovered and authenticated is the first firm physical evidence of an actual crucifixion in the ancient Mediterranean world” (Time Magazine, 1971, p. 64).

Early Church History

From the works of early church writers, one can infer that it was common knowledge that Jesus died on a cross.

In 100 AD, the writer of The Epistle of Barnabas (12:2) says:

“The Spirit saith to the heart of Moses, that he should make a type of the cross and of Him that was to suffer, that unless, saith he, they shall set their hope on Him, war shall be waged against them for ever” (J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, eds. The Apostolic Fathers, p. 278).

Justin Martyr (160 AD) described the cross beam used to crucify Jesus and wrote that, “He will come again in glory after His crucifixion was symbolized by the tree” (Dialogue with Trypho, p. 40).

Ignatius of Antioch, an early church leader, in his Epistle to the Trallians (11:1-2), speaks of the ungodly and says:

‘‘These men are not the Father’s
planting; for if they had been, they
would have been seen to be
branches of the Cross, and their
fruit imperishable — the Cross
whereby He through His passion
inviteth us, being His members.”

Tertullian also said that Christians used the Greek letter tau or T as a sign of the cross after the manner of Jesus’ death (Ad nationes 1:11).

Interestingly, The Watchtower (November 15, 1993, p. 9) quotes Tacitus, a historian saying that the early Christians were “nailed up to crosses” after the manner of Christ.

An ancient drawing (dating back to the 3rd century) called Alexamanos graffito shows a Roman soldier worshipping a man with a donkey head being crucified. The caption on it reads:

“Alexamanos worships [his] God”.

It was probably intended to mock Christians who worshipped a victim of crucifixion.

Early church scholar, Tertullian, made allusion to these mockeries of the Christian faith by unbelievers: “Some among you have dreamed that our god is an ass’s head – an absurdity which Cornelius Tacitus first suggested” (Ad nationes 1.11).

On a final note, true believers do not venerate or pray to a cross as Jehovah’s Witnesses are made to believe. The true Christian focus is not on the cross as a piece of wood, but on what Jesus accomplished on it (Col. 2:14-15)

However, when Biblical, historical, archaeological and logical evidence are integrated, it’s safe to conclude that Jehovah’s Witnesses are in plain error on this one. Their organization has revealed itself as one of the “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18).

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Can Christians need Deliverance? (I)

The field of deliverance ministration is one in which many saints have laboured for ages. Today, there are many helpful materials on the subject and it’s not my intention to add to them.

In fact, I wasn’t particularly interested in wading into such an extensive area until a dear friend of mine recently brought up a question on the subject and I couldn’t provide an answer without delving into it. His question was: Can a Christian be infested with demons?

Now, before I give my answer, I need to emphasize that I have read from both sides of the fence – those who argue that a Christian cannot be inhabited by a demon and those who argue otherwise.

So, my answer to the question is not based on denominational indoctrination, but from personal study, experience, interactions with other believers and logical deduction.

I was raised in a church which maintained that once you are born again, you have been automatically delivered from every demonic connection from your past. We believed deliverance ministration was only for witches, satanists, weirdos and tormented sex fiends.

But as the years went by as I began to critically examine my own life as well as those of others in that church, I didn’t see the “peace and joy” that we often talked about.

The people assured us that they were walking in victory on every side; that they were blessed above measure; that the devil was a babbling fool writhing underneath their feet, but right before my very eyes, I could see that these ecclesiastical idioms were just words they rehashed; their lives belied their gnomic claims.

I also observed strange things (which I later discovered to be demonic activities) operating in our lives. We were not really enjoying the things we claimed to have.

But I didn’t want that. I wanted a realistic Christianity; one in which my life spoke louder than my words, and it was while searching for this better way that I realized that I was myself under demonic oppression!

Since my church had failed to enlighten us about demonic oppression or how to deal with it, I had unknowingly allowed demonic bondage persist in my life for several years through denial and loose living.

I was blinded to my own true spiritual state because the extent of the light entering our eyes determines how and what we will see. The extent of the spiritual truth you know will determine how far you will discern. We all see within the limits of our horizons.

Today, this church in question, now accepts the reality that even spirit-filled Christians can also need deliverance. But they were too late in admitting it.

Many sincere folks had left the church in frustration when they couldn’t find solutions to their problems. Many fervent pastors who knew about deliverance also left when they realized their ministry found no acceptance within the church.

Most of those in the “a-Christian-cannot-have-demon” camp are sadly casualties of an all-too-academic war; a war that is usually waged by ivory tower theologians who would not know a demon from a hole in the ground.

Whenever I come across preachers or authors who argue that a Christian cannot need deliverance ministration, I always want to assess their backgrounds, their level of experience in ministry, their knowledge of cultural nuances, their denominational positions and of course, their degree of dogmatism.

These are key factors that often shape most people’s acceptance and/or interpretations of spiritual realities.

I have observed that many missionaries who have worked with people from diverse cultures usually have a good understanding of spiritual warfare, deliverance and the operation of the Holy Spirit than many “sit-tight-in-church” clergymen with theological degrees under their belts, who are daily ensconced in one cool room in a high brow part of the city.

Aside that, you can’t have a vibrant ministry that leads people out of the cults, occult, drugs and sexual perversion and tenaciously argue against the reality of deliverance for believers. Unless, you are wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Granted, as Africans, sometimes when you read books written by some American or European Christian authors, you feel a sense of disconnect because of the differences in our cultural backgrounds.

The depth and scope of prayer ministration that a believer from a multi-generational pagan/occult background would need will not be the same as one from a multi-generational Christian family.

So, when an African or Asian Christian parrots the “anti-deliverance” arguments gleaned from a preacher who thinks the whole world revolves around America or Europe, it amounts to self-harming disservice. I would take the words of a man with experience above the one with an opinion any day.

First, let’s examine some basic facts about this issue:

(1) The Bible shows that deliverance is God’s provision for His people:

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles” (Psa. 34:17)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18).

It’s instructive to note that the Greek word for salvation, soteria, or sozo which is translated “to save” is used in a variety of ways in the New Testament that go beyond the forgiveness of sins.

It is used in many cases of people being physically healed (Matt. 9:21-22; 14:36; Mk. 5:23, 28). It is also used of a person being delivered from demons (Luke 8:36) and of a dead person being brought back to life (Luke 8:50). The same Greek verb is also used to describe God’s ongoing preservation and protection from evil (2 Timothy 4:18).

Therefore, salvation should not be limited to the experience of having one’s sins forgiven and being born again – and many Christians have sadly done this. Salvation is the key to abundance, healing, success, blessing and deliverance, which some have dubiously omitted from the package.

2. Deliverance is an arm of the ministry of Jesus Christ which the church must pay attention to.

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18).

As Jesus and the disciples preached the gospel and the people believed, they were healed of their sicknesses and freed from demonic oppression (Matt. 10:1, 8; 12:24, 43; Mark 1:26; 1:39; 3:15; 6:13; Luke 4:36; 8:29; 9:49, 11:18;13:32 etc.).

These signs go hand-in-hand with the preaching of the Gospel and no preacher or theologian has any right whatsoever to set any of them aside.

It must also be noted that Jesus called deliverance from demonic bondage “the children’s bread” (Mark 7:27). The Greek woman had to put her faith in Christ to receive this privilege on her daughter’s behalf; it was (and is) a benefit for only God’s people.

If you have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, deliverance from all forms of captivity is your “bread”; your spiritual right.

Furthermore, the people from whom Jesus expelled demons in the Gospels were all Jews, under the Covenant of Moses. They could be viewed analogously to Christians in the New Testament under the New Covenant.

The apostles might have been an exception to this because Jesus directly cleansed them: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

3. A common objection frequently raised is, “Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to cast out demons from one another.”

If we apply this argument to the signs Jesus listed in Mark 16:17, then we should also say that Jesus never asked the disciples to minister the baptism of the Holy Spirit to other believers, neither did He say we should lay our hands on other believers to be healed.

Besides, the term ‘disciple’ has to be properly defined. It means a follower of Christ. And there were many disciples – before and after Pentecost – who were set free from the influence of demonic powers by the power of Christ (Luke 8:2; Acts 8:7; 19:12).

The premise behind the “Jesus-didn’t-expel-demons-from-the-disciples” argument is that once you are born again, you will never be physically sick again; you will never sin again, and of course, you wouldn’t need to be prayed for to be freed from spiritual bondage!

That’s more of Word-Faith mental cotton candy which flies in the face of reality and sound Bible exegesis.

4. Some Christians object to deliverance ministration by citing Colossians 1:14 and Ephesians 2:6 which say Christians have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and are now seated with Christ in heavenly places. “This is what became our possession when we became born again! We were absolutely delivered!” they argue. The answer to this is yes – and no.

There are two sides to this issue: the legal and the experiential. The answer will differ according to which side we view it from. Let me explain.

Legally, we were delivered from the kingdom of darkness and became heirs of God when we were born again. But experientially, we must appropriate in faith, step by step, all the benefits of redemption that are already ours by legal right through our faith in Christ. This is not automatic.

In John 1:12-13, the apostle says concerning those who have been born again through receiving Jesus, that God has given them “the right to become children of God.” The Greek word translated “right” is exousia, usually translated “authority.”

That’s what a person actually receives at the new birth: authority to become a child of God.

Now, the believer must exercise that God-given authority to experience the actual results of the new birth. This is what deliverance entails: using your God-given authority to completely sever all the links you had with the kingdom of darkness.

Since the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan are in total opposition to one another, you cannot enjoy the full rights and benefits of a citizen in God’s kingdom until you have finally and forever severed all connections with Satan and totally cancelled any claim he may have against you.

Take a look at the example of the children of Israel. God spoke to Joshua on how they were to take possession of their inheritance: “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses” (Joshua 1:3).

Note the perfect tense: “I have given [the land].” Legally, the land of Canaan had become the inheritance of the children of Israel, but experientially, nothing had changed. The Canaanite nations and all their giants were still living there.

So the task before Joshua and his people was to move from the legal to the experiential. That’s also the task before us today. The children of Israel were to go to battle – one step at a time – and destroy the illegal occupants until they recovered their inheritance.

Actually, they fought a long series of battles against the various inhabitants of the promised land before they could posses it. Even after much warfare, God still says to Joshua: “There remains very much land yet to be possessed” (Josh. 13:1).

If Joshua had been like some Christians today, he would have led the Israelites to stand before the Canaanite nations, thumb down their noses and fold their hands saying, “Well, God has given your lands over to us. Now it’s our possession! It has been settled and we don’t need to lift a finger to take them.” And the people of Canaan would have laughed at their grandiose claims.

Now, just as Joshua led Israel into the land of promise, Jesus is leading Christians into the land of promises. The legal to experiential appropriation of redemption applies to every area of our Christian life.

Being born again legally delivers you from Satan’s kingdom, but in terms of experience, that’s just the beginning of a long process that requires your actions. You need to still evacuate the strangers nesting in your life and fight to be free. Christianity is not theoretical; it’s very practical.

5. An objection that is often put forth is an appeal to 2 Cor. 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

It is asserted that automatic deliverance from all spiritual captivity takes place the moment we are born again based on this verse.

While I admit that God can sovereignly intervene and completely set a new believer free, those who use this argument either lack a full understanding of the complex, tripartite nature of the human person or do not know what regeneration entails.

Before regeneration, we were dead in our sins and trespasses and separated from the life (Greek: zoe) of God. At salvation, our spirits are “made alive” by indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:5). But our bodies and souls are not born again; they are susceptible to the old ways we lived and the evil spirits we had hosted.

Though our life of sin is legally passed away and we have been made a new being, the responsibility lies on us to use our spiritual authority to bring other areas of our lives completely under the direction of the Spirit of God. This is why self-crucifixion and deliverance are important.

The story of Lazarus in John 11 illustrates this. He had been dead, but Jesus raised Him from the dead and new life entered him. But he still had his grave clothes on. Jesus said: “Loose him and let him go”. He needed others to help him remove those grave clothes so he would be free.

There are many Christians like this; they have been saved for years, they attend church fervently, witness for Christ, know the Bible and even teach it, yet there are spiritual grave clothes wrapped around them, holding them back from complete freedom and enjoying their spiritual birthright.

Though they talk about liberty, they experience spiritual slavery. Though they testify of victories, their personal lives evince defeat. They have the potential to soar high, but their wings have been clipped down. They need to be liberated.

 

Can Christians need Deliverance? (II)

Having explained the relationship between salvation and the ministry of liberation, let’s now take it up a notch by examining the issues surrounding demonization:

(1) The term “demonization” is an Anglicization of the Greek word frequently used in the New Testament: daimonizomai. The word may be translated “under demonic influence” or “to be demonized.” Some folks interpret demonization as being “demon possessed,” but this is incorrect and misplaced.

The term demon possession is an unfortunate term that found its way into some English translations of the Bible but is not really reflected in the Greek text. The Greek NT speaks of people who “have a demon” (e.g Matt. 11:18) or people who are suffering from demonic influence (Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, Inter-Varsity Press: England, 1999, p. 179).

Demonization can range from demonic oppression to severe demonic control. Though there are degrees of demonic attack or influence in the lives of believers, the term “demon possession” should not be conflated with demonization and shouldn’t be applied to Christians.

The term “demon possession” conveys to an English ear that a person is owned by a demon, but this is impossible for Christians. A Christian’s personality can come under demonic influence but he/she is still owned by Christ. Therefore, a demon cannot have a Christian, but a Christian can have a demon.

(2) A major objection raised against deliverance is, since the Holy Spirit lives within the believer, it would be impossible for a demon to live in the same place as the Holy Spirit. This brings us back to the question: can a Christian who has the Holy Spirit also have a demon?

While the Bible does not definitively answer that question, there are some things we need to reflect on. For instance, the Holy Spirit is everywhere in the universe; would this mean that there are no demons anywhere in the universe? Obviously not.

The Scriptures teach that the true believer is no longer in the flesh but in the Spirit (Rom. 8:1-9), yet the flesh continues to operate in the believer’s life alongside the Spirit. So let’s rephrase the initial question with a twist: How can the Holy Spirit cohabit the same body with the unholy flesh?

Our flesh/carnal nature is not any less evil or unclean than is a demon. Both the flesh and demons are in sinful rebellion against a holy God. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit can indwell a saved sinner who still has the flesh, then He can also live in a believer who has a demon. The demon wouldn’t “hurt” the Holy Spirit. That idea is even absurd. And the demon wouldn’t automatically flee because of the Holy Spirit (William Schnoebelen, Blood on the Doorposts, Chick Pub., 1994, p. 47).

Contrary to what some folks teach, the Holy Spirit will not come into you and cast out the demons that you’ve invited in, and which Christ has already given you the authority to expel.

(3) The Bible says we are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1Cor. 3:16). Just like the ancient temple of the Lord in the OT, we have three basic constituents – body, soul and spirit. The temple had the outer court, the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place.

In Ezekiel 8, we see that the temple of God was defiled. The people brought an idol of jealously into it; they practised abominable acts; drew images of demon gods and unclean animals on its walls; burned incense to idols; they worshipped the rising sun and their women wept for Tammuz – occult rites that invited evil spirits into the temple.

Yet, all the while, the presence of God was still in the Holy of Holies. This can be a reflection of a Christian today; the Holy Spirit can dwell in His spirit while sinful practices – before or after salvation – have led to demonic infestation in his body and soul.

It doesn’t mean he’s unsaved or evil, he only needs to purge his temple and evacuate the evil strangers from their hiding places.

(4) An objection raised to the above is to appeal to 2 Cor. 6:14-16 that since there can be no agreement between darkness and light, or Christ and Belial, a Christian who has the Holy Spirit in him/her cannot also have a demon in him/her.

This argument is based on the fallacious notion that for the Spirit of God and an evil spirit to reside simultaneously in the same person, mutual cooperation is required between both of them. This is a fatally flawed thinking.

The passage was actually directed to the Christians in Corinth who were in unequal partnership with pagans and their norms. Apostle Paul was warning them against entanglement with unbelievers (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Eerdmans, 1979, Vol. 1, p. 780).

(5) In several places, Scripture tells us that sin opens the door to captivity, affliction, bondage and attack from the devil e.g. Eccl. 10:8; Isa. 5:12-13; Matt. 23:37; John 5:14; Eph. 4:26-27.

If a Christian for instance, dabbles in divination (consulting palm readers, Tarot cards, psychics etc.), that sin can open the door to demonic bondage/invasion. This may not always be the case every time, because demonization is not a cut and dry phenomenon as some of us think.

The demons’ degree of influence in Christians varies from person to person – depending on the magnitude of sin and the class of demons involved – yet, the spiritual doorways provided by sin are no less real.

(6) Scripture shows us that our lives can be defiled, and we are to cleanse ourselves from spiritual filthiness and have our bodies, souls and spirits preserved blameless (1Cor. 3:16-17; 1Cor.7:1; 1 Thess. 5:23). If it wasn’t possible for Christians to be defiled (whether by sin or demons), these verses wouldn’t be in the Bible.

Interestingly, the same Greek word for “defile”, phtherei, is also used for “destroy.” It means to spoil, corrupt, bring to a worse state and to deprave. This is what sowing to the flesh does to the believer (A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, Ethelbert Bullinger, Zondervan MI, 1975, p. 213).

(7) To neglect, deny or ignore the ministry of deliverance has more serious consequences than the other way round. If a Christian who needs to be liberated is being taught that he doesn’t need deliverance, two major things can happen:

One, the Christian fruitlessly struggles against besetting sins until he/she is exhausted or completely demoralized. It becomes a vicious cycle of falling into the sinful habit, praying for forgiveness, promising to apply spiritual discipline and falling after a few hours and praying for mercy again. It soon gets to a point where he begins to embrace it as normal.

Two, the Christian is overwhelmed with demonic oppression and begins to doubt if he was ever saved at all. The demons will then bombard his mind with thoughts like: “I can never be a good Christian!”; “This is my destiny”; “God has rejected me because I was too evil”; “God doesn’t answer prayers” etc. 

(8) What I find striking about the “demons-in-Christians” debate is how people on both sides of the divide, usually reduce deliverance to casting out of demons from a person or place. That’s reductionist and distracting, and it should be pointed out.

Any Christian who has studied the Bible and has a keen understanding of spiritual things will agree that deliverance is more than expulsion of evil spirits. There are many people who are not infested from within but bound from without. Therefore, deliverance in its full scope involves:

(a) Releasing people from destructive pacts/covenants and seals (Isa. 28:18). These things remain in place even after salvation unless they are specifically addressed in prayer.

(b) Releasing people from generational/family and personal curses (Gal. 3:13). These are also categorized as “vertical and horizontal curses.”

(c) Breaking occult spells, triggers and cues that have been placed on/in people (Micah 5:12). These are tools used by the enemy to enslave individuals or groups of people.

(d) Destroying evil linkages, soul ties and spiritual yokes (Isa. 10:27). These are used to impede a person’s progress in a divine direction.

(e) Removing demonic implants and demonic luggage from people (Matt. 15:13).

(f) Breaking spiritual chains placed on people by the powers of darkness and setting them free from spiritual prisons and cages (Isa. 61:1).

(g) Revoking evil dedications, renouncing false worship/communal bondages (Acts 19:19).

(h) Recovery of what the enemy stole (Obadiah 1:17). It could be a person’s virtues, joy, finances, vision, body parts or spouse.

Conclusively, from the highlighted points, it’s important that believers understand what this aspect of spiritual warfare entails. We have been commissioned to keep enforcing the defeat of Satan and his imps in our lives and those of others.

While the ministry of deliverance is not to be touted as the silver bullet to every problem, it should not also be ignored, disparaged nor reserved only for extreme cases in our churches.