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 problem with the term “demon possession” is that it indicates that the person is completely under the domination of the evil spirit. This, of course, possibly occurs in the case of unbelievers deeply involved in the occult, but it’s impossible for Christians. So the bottom line is: 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.