Demon Possession and Believers
The topic of demon possession comes up frequently among believers. Most often, I hear the question: Can a born-again believer be demon possessed? Many opinions have been offered concerning that question. The New Testament does not definitively answer that question, but it does provide great insight into how sin, evil and the devil work in the lives of born-again believers. So, let us begin with the basics.
Lust, Sin and Death
As believers, we face temptation to sin. We sin because of an evil process within ourselves. The process of sin never starts with God tempting anyone.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13, Page 1888).
In James 1:13, we read first that God tempts no one, ever. Lust gives rise to sin and then sin brings about death. Therefore, I know that God will never tempt me to sin. No sin that I commit ever originates from God tempting me with evil. Sin actually arises from my flesh, although I am a born-again believer. The lust of each believer carries the believer away and entices the believer to sin.
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” (James 1:14, Page 1888)
So my own lust starts the process of sin and death in my life. Notice that all sin arises within me. My own lust forms the root of the problem. But my lust only starts the evil process. After my lust carries me away and entices me, then lust, when it is conceived, gives birth to sin.
“Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” (James 1:15, Page 1888)
Sin comes from my own lust carrying me and enticing me. Lust produces sin in my life. Notice again that sin comes from within me, as a product of my own lust. It does not arise from forces external to myself taking control of my life. Jesus taught that all kinds of evil proceed from within a man, out of the heart of man.
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. (Mark 7:21-22, Page 1571)
Therefore, born-again believers should never assume that all sin in their lives comes from demons or the devil. The Bible uniformly provides that all sin arises from the heart and flesh of man. Therefore, we know that no external evil forces can force me to sin. My sin always arises from my lust, my heart, my flesh–all within me. Temptation does not equal sin, and being tempted is not the same as being sinful. You may recall that Jesus was tempted in all ways as were are, yet Jesus remained without sin (Hebrews 4:15, Page 1873). The devil can tempt us, just as the devil tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1, Pages 1504-1505). Temptation alone is not sin.
Demon Possession │ Believers
God Controls Every Temptation
The devil never has unlimited control over temptation. God never allows the believer to be tempted, from any source, beyond what we are able to endure.
“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, Page 1793)
The devil and demons can never overpower the will of a believer and cause a believer to sin, because God always provides a way of escape from the temptation. God never allows us to be tempted beyond what we are able to resist. Therefore, demons cannot take control of a believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit, unless that believer desires to live under the control of the demon. So, even if you conclude from other passages that a demon may indwell, possess, or oppress a believer, the demon can never cause a believer to sin. Sin always arises from the flesh and heart of the believer.
The New Creation
At the moment of spiritual birth, several major changes take place within the believer. The new believer becomes a new creature.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, Page 1809)
According to 2 Corinthians 5:17, Page 1809, old things inside a person passed away at the moment of salvation. We also know that a new creature was born of God at that same moment of salvation.
“No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1 John 3:9, Page 1906)
The new creature has been born of the seed of God, and it remains in the believer. God has no evil in Him at all (1 John 1:5, Page 1904). Therefore, His seed does not contain any evil. Furthermore, the evil one cannot touch the one born of God. Therefore, we know that the new creature now indwelling the body of the believer cannot sin and the evil one cannot touch this new creature (1 John 5:18, Page 1909). Of course, such teaching fits perfectly with our prior understanding that the believer will always have a choice about sinning. God will never allow the believer to be tempted beyond what that believer can bear.
The Old Nature
The old nature produces sin of every type. When a believer sins, sin dwelling in the members of the believer commits the sin, not the new creature. Therefore, Paul wrote: “So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” Paul distinguished himself from the sin causing him to do the very things he hates to do (Romans 7:15-16, Page 1767).
“So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.” (Romans 7:17, Page 1767)
Therefore, we know that sin comes from our old nature. The old nature caused us to live in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest (Ephesians 2:3, Page 1828). As Jesus said, our hearts give rise to sin, for sin proceeds from within a person. The activity of the devil and demons must be limited to influencing our wills, by arousing the lusts of the old nature. The new creature, born of the abiding seed of God, cannot sin. Now we can examine the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God.
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
Jesus promised His disciples that after He died, He would send the Holy Spirit to them (John 16:7, Page 1687). Jesus also promised that the Holy Spirit would no longer just abide with the disciples, but when He comes, He would be in the disciples (John 14:17, Page 1685).
“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30, Page 1831)
In fact, Paul described the Holy Spirit as the seal upon believers for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30, Page 1831). Following the ascension of Jesus to heaven after He died on the cross, the Holy Spirit came down upon the believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:4, Page 1700). The believers were filled with the Holy Spirit. Just as John the Baptist prophesied, Jesus would come and baptize all believers with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8, Page 1558). That prophecy was fulfilled at Pentecost when Jesus baptized all the believers with the Holy Spirit. At that moment, the Holy Spirit came to abide in each believer, just as Jesus has prophesied in John 14:17 (Page 1685) and each believer was sealed in the Holy Spirit. We know that each believer has been baptized with Holy Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13, Page 1797). We also know that our physical body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19, Page 1788). Therefore, the Holy Spirit permanently abides in the believer.
Demon Possession │ Believers
Every believer faces attack by evil spiritual forces. Each believer must put on the armor of God to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Believers do not struggle against flesh and blood, but against powers, against world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12, Page 1834)
Although the evil one cannot touch the new creature, he and his allies in evil can greatly influence the believer, with evil schemes designed to tempt believers and with fiery arrows designed to pierce the believer (Ephesians 6:16, Page 1834). Spiritual warfare requires the believer to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (Ephesians 6:10, Page 1834). The devil and demons can never overpower believers with temptations, as we have seen above. In fact, believers can cause the devil to flee from us.
“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, Page 1899)
We know that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Although no evidence in the New Testament conclusively proves that a believer may be possessed by a demon, it does indicate that the devil may devour a believer. By staying alert and sober, the believer can resist the devil. Satan cannot devour the sober and alert believer. In fact, every believer can and must resist the devil.
“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, Page 1891)
Every believer has the power to resist the devil by submitting to God. The devil will flee from every believer who submits to God. Notice the promise of God. The New Testament never described an exorcism of a believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Exorcisms for believers are not necessary. If believers gather together to pray for relief from demonic attack, to exhort another believer, and to strengthen a weaker believer, then we can all praise God together. We can all benefit from the faithful support of other believers. We can encourage a believer to resist the devil, so that the devil will flee from that believer. Should we call those ministries exorcisms? No, because we are not casting a demon out from a believer. If the believer is unwilling to submit to God, then no amount of ministry will accomplish what that believer is unwilling to do for themselves by submitting first to God. Only the believer can do the resisting, and only a believer can put on the armor of God. Other believers cannot do some things for you, no matter how much they love you.
Demon Possession; │ Can Believers Be Demon Possess │ Christ Assembly
The New Testament contains many passages about demons being cast out of people. No verse in the New Testament indicates a believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit ever had or needed an exorcism. Every believer may benefit from teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16, Page 1864). Indeed, every believer will need strength and encouragement from other believers to be strong in the Lord. But because not a single instance appears where a believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit ever received an exorcism, we may understand that believers are not possessed by demons or subjected to control by demons, except that believer may be devoured by the devil when the believer is unwilling (1) to submit to God; and (2) resist the devil; and (3) stand firm in the might of the Lord; and (4) and put on the armor of God. Believers must never live in fear of the devil, or demons; believers only fear God Himself (Matthew 10:28, Page 1517). We live in Christ and He appeared to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8, Page 1906). Jesus Christ forever disarmed the rulers and authorities, and He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15, Page 1843). Jesus bound the strong man (the devil) and Jesus plunders the strong man’s house at will (Matthew 12:29, Page 1521). We live as more than conquerors, in the power of Jesus Christ, without fear of demons or the devil or anyone except God Himself.
Demon Possession │ Believers