CHAPTER 15: AUTHORITY
CAN A CHRISTIAN BE POSSESSED?
Some started teaching many years ago that Christians can be demon-possessed. This false doctrine is unbiblical and implies that demons are more powerful than Christ indwelling the Christian. The Bible says that the one who indwells believers is greater than any other spirit.
1 John 4:4 (ESV) Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
OPPRESSION vs POSSESSION
While a believer can be oppressed (attack from the outside) they cannot be possessed (demon inside).
What is the view of the Assemblies of God?
The Assemblies of God believes it is possible for people to be demon possessed and be delivered by the “power of the Spirit, and the name of Jesus”. However, it cautions against overemphasis on demonology and rejects the belief that Christians can be possessed by evil spirits. *
Luke 11:21,22 further implies that Jesus has bound Satan as far as Satan’s power to enslave a believer is concerned. Only when a demon returns and finds the house empty is he able to re-enter (Luke 11:24–26). **
Believers have nothing in common with darkness or Satan. The Holy Spirit and a demonic spirit cannot cohabit in the same person.
2 Cor 6:14-16 (NIV) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? … What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God.
Demons are driven out by the Spirit of God (Matt 12:28) and we have the Holy Spirit inside us (1 Cor 3:16).
Jesus and evil spirits have no business together.
Matt 8:29 (NASB) And they cried out, saying,
“What business do we have with each other, Son of God?”
When Jesus simply came into the presence of those who were demon possessed they started screaming and begging him for mercy. (Mark 1:24)
What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!
NO CURSE FOR CHRISTIANS
Jesus gives abundant life, not a life with residual curses from the past.
John 10:10 “… I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
We serve a God of new beginnings. Jesus said, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36). Not “half-free”, “almost there” but FREE INDEED.
Jesus doesn’t half-save people. Jesus cancelled our debt completely. There are no legal demands on us!
Jesus doesn’t half-save people. Jesus cancelled our debt completely. There are no legal demands on us!
Col 2:14 (NASB) … having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
When you are a Christian, your past does not dictate your future. Neither do the sins of your family. No generational curses! You are a new creation in Christ:
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
There are only 3 options regarding a person who is possessed, while claiming to be a Christian:
They may be a Christian in name only who was never truly born again.
1 John 2:19 (NIV) They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us…
They might not be possessed at all and are mistaking a carnal habit for a demon.
1 Cor 3:1-23 (ESV) But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ…
Like Saul, they might be a former believer, who have apostatised from the faith.
1 Tim 4:1 (ESV) Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons…
In the case of King Saul, a former believer who apostatized, we read that: “the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.” (1 Sam 16:14, NIV)
Note the sequence; the Spirit of God first left before the evil spirit could torment him.
1 John 3:8b The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
In the context of driving out demons, Jesus made it clear that the strong man is bound by someone stronger and that his house is plundered.
Luke 11:20-22 (NIV) “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.”
Saying that a Christian can be demon-possessed overstates Satan’s power and minimises the work of Jesus on the cross. Those who have trusted Christ have been delivered from curses and the possibility of demonic possession.
Eph 2:1-2 (NASB) And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked … according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Believers do not live under the authority of the power of darkness anymore.
Col 1:13-14 (NASB) He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption…
We have authority over demons:
Mark 16:17 (NIV) “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons…”
In the time of Josephus (1st century AD) “exorcism involved burning herbs and immersing the possessed person in water… At times cooperation was coerced from the demon by ‘fumigation,’ exposing it to smoke and sulphur… The goal … is to eventually learn the name of the evil spirit. The exorcist then uses the power of the demonic spirit’s own name to ‘overpower’ it, by round after round of scripted ritual actions involving threats and rebukes, getting more intense and invasive with each effort. A few ceremonies on record reached the point of actually “beating” the demon out… *
While the exorcists of Jesus’ day had long complicated process to drive demons out, Jesus amazed everyone by simply speaking and commanding demons to leave.
Mark 1:27 (NIV) The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”
He had no need to appeal to the authority of any other spiritual power. He himself was the authority that the demons recognized. In all Jesus’ encounters with demons, they recognised who he was, his authority and the fact that they had to submit to his commands to leave the host.
While demons may be a formidable foe for most men to face, they have to submit to the authority of Jesus. In the case of the man from Gerasenes, Jesus came up against a legion of demons (Mark 5:9), yet he clearly has the upper hand in the encounter. (A Roman legion could be as many as 5,000 men at that time).
In contrast to many modern deliverance ministries, the exorcism process used by Jesus and the apostles was generally very brief and simple.
Jesus’ mere presence unsettled demons who then would identify him.
They not only obeyed him – they feared him and proclaimed him as the Son of God, perhaps hoping to appease him so they might get off lightly.
He spoke sternly, commanded or rebuked. He does not rebuke the man, but the demon using two short, direct commands to expel the demon “Go!” or “Come out!”
“Go! [Grk: hypagete]” (Matt 8:32). Same root word (Strong’s ref 5217) as Matt 4:10 “Be gone [Grk: hypage], Satan!”
“Come out [exelthe] of him!” (Mark 1:25)
“Come out [exelthe] of this man, you evil spirit!” (Mark 5:8)
“You deaf and mute spirit. I command you, come out [exelthe] of him… ” (Mark 9:25)
On one occasion (with the daughter of the Syro-phoenician woman), Jesus even performed the exorcism at a distance - without being in the presence of either the possessed girl or the demon (Mark 7:24-30).
Jesus never let demons draw him into extended dialogue. He specifically would not allow them to speak – when they were giving lip service to his authority (Luke 4:33-35, 41)
Because he indicated that an expelled demon would try to return with seven others (Luke 11:24-26), Jesus followed up his exorcism of the boy with strict instructions for the demon not to return (Mark 9:25).
At least once Jesus enquired about the history of the ailment (Mark 9:21-22, ESV). But he asked the father not the victim. Don’t accept information given by a demon - including background to the problem - as factual. John 8:44 identifies Satan as a liar and the father of lies. So don’t trust anything a demon says.
When a person has multiple demons, some modern deliverance ministries claim that several sessions are required because the demons leave one at a time. In contrast when Jesus drove the demons out of Legion, they all went at once. He doesn’t schedule future follow-up exorcism sessions. This disparity is a cause of concern.
When handling a more difficult group of demons, Jesus asked for the demon’s name (Mark 5:9)
The exorcisms sometimes happened violently with falling down, shrieking and convulsing (Mark 1:26, 9:26, Luke 4:35).
At times the victim may be exhausted after the exorcism (Mark 9:26, 7:30).
Jesus cast out demons by the spoken word - not touch (Matt 8:16). While with those needing physical healing (even lepers), sometimes touch played a role, some note that Jesus never touched a demon-possessed person.
The power of demons is limited and the power of God in us is greater.
1 John 4:1-4 (NIV) Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God… You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
Jesus delegated authority to his apostles:
Luke 9:1-2 (NIV) When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons ...
Luke 10:17–19 (ESV) The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.”
IN THE NAME OF JESUS
Paul used the authority in the name
of Jesus to drive out evil spirits:
All believers have access to the name of Jesus to cast out demons:
Mark 16:17 (ESV) “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons…”
In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her! [Acts 16:18]
Demons still flee at the name of Jesus’ name – its power has not diminished. To ask in the name of Jesus Christ means:
... to ask in His merit. We come before God in Christ’s standing. *
... I come as His representative. When an ambassador goes to another country, he does not go in his own name. He goes in the name of his own government... He is a representative. Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 said, “We are ambassadors for Christ, for God...” *
Why do demons leave when commanded by true believers who invoke the name of Jesus?
Despite being malevolent, demons are intelligent beings who recognise the limit of their power. They know the following:
They know there is only one true God – and they fear him (James 2:19). They know their eventual fate (Matt 8:29).
They knew the true identity of Jesus (Luke 4:41).
They submit to Christ’s authority and obeyed his direct commands (Luke 4:36).
But demons also know the difference between genuine and fake believers and do not submit to the mere use of Jesus’ name if the person using it has no authority. The power of Christian exorcism is invested with those having Jesus’ authority, not in the ritual itself.
Acts 19:13-16 (ESV) Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.
But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
DEGREES OF STRENGTH
There are degrees of evil in various demons.
Matt 12:45 (ESV) “Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there…”
There are also different degrees of strength. In the above case, it seems the demon who has already been exorcised successfully is not confident enough to return to the host alone. It has to get seven more evil spirits to assist so that it will again be able to repossess the person. In this case successive exorcisms will prove to be more difficult and Jesus says “the final condition of that person is worse than the first”.
In Mark 9:29 Jesus implies that there are different “kinds” of demons in terms of resistance to exorcism.
Undoubtedly more powerful demons are equally more difficult to exorcise. On asking Jesus why they were unable to drive the demon out of the boy who took seizures, he replied that “This kind can come out by nothing, except by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29, NKJV).
When a person is delivered from demon possession, they need to realise that they cannot live as they previously did. They must renounce their former way of life and separate themselves from their past e.g. the man from the Gadarene region (Mark 5:20, Luke 8:35). When the demon was cast out of the slave girl, she immediately lost her ability to tell fortunes (Acts 16:18-19).
What should you do to occult books and paraphernalia if you are saved? Like the Ephesians, you should burn them (Acts 19:19).
While the Bible doesn’t spell out all the causes of possession, it does clearly indicate what causes re-possession. If demons are exorcised but the Spirit of God does not inhabit “the house” (or body) the host is described as having a house that is swept clean but empty and the demon might return with reinforcements “more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” (Matt 12:44-45)
After the deliverance of Legion, Jesus spent time with the counselee, giving instruction on how he was to live. The people of the nearby city found him “sitting down at the feet of Jesus”.
Delivering people is not necessarily going to make you popular with everyone. When Jesus delivered those demon possessed, his enemies accused him of using the power of Beelzebub. Whenever the gospel threatens vested interests, either religious or economic, it is bound to meet with opposition.
When Jesus delivered Legion, he was asked to leave the region, possibly due to the financial loss of the pig farmers.
When the possessed slave girl is delivered, far from being pleased at her liberation, her owners think only of their future loss of revenue. Paul and Silas are beaten and imprisoned.
What of those who charge a fee for deliverance? Note what Jesus said when he sent out the Twelve:
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. [Matt 10:8, NIV]
Jesus came to release the captive. Salvation brings deliverance and protection from Satan. 1 John 2:13 says we “have overcome the evil one”. 1 John 5:18 says of “anyone born of God” that “the evil one cannot harm them”.
Rom 8:37-39 (ESV) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither … angels nor rulers… will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Cor 15:57 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from:
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from:
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™
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Other Scripture quotations taken from:
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
The New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.