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, daily ensconced in one cool room, in a high brow part of the city.
Besides, 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; 3:15; Luke 4:36; 8:29; 9:49, 11:18 etc.). These signs go hand-in-hand with 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.