A reader recently sent in the following question:
Can a Christian be demon-possessed? And do Christians have the authority to say someone is demon-possessed? The Bible says to discern the spirits, but what if you’re wrong and say something is from the devil, but it is actually from God?
There are three questions here, each one requiring a careful answer. So let’s take each questions one at a time over the next three blog posts… When they are done, I will include links to all three at the bottom of each post.
So let’s tackle the first question in this post:
Can a Christian be Demon-Possessed?
I do not think a Christian can be demon-possessed.
Christians cannot be demon-possessed because we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
There is a whole lot of theology behind the nature and origin of demons (I do not think demons are fallen angels), but the main thing to remember is that they are unclean spirits. Demons are unholy spirits or evil spirits.
When a person believes in Jesus for eternal life, they are immediately regenerated, indwelt, baptized, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Believers are the dwelling place of God. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19).
Since God dwells in us, I do not think that God is going to share His dwelling place with an evil spirit.
For the Holy Spirit to share His dwelling place with an evil spirit, or to get replaced by the evil spirit, would imply that the evil spirit was more powerful than God. We know this cannot be true, for greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4).
There are numerous other Scriptures which help answer the question of whether or not a Christian can be demon-possessed (cf. Col 1:13; 1 John 2:13; 2 Cor 6:15-16). One resource I found online which does a pretty good job showing this is an article by Don Stewart called “Can a Christian be Demon-Possessed?” He summarizes his article this way:
Scripture does not teach that a Christian can be possessed by a demon. The believer is “in Christ,”- one of His. Every example in the Bible of a person being demon-possessed concerns an unbeliever – there are no examples of believers being possessed. Furthermore, we must be careful not to rely on stories of believers and demon-possession – many other explanations are possible. The Christian, who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, need not fear demon possession. Yet, demons do attack believers in various ways. Therefore, it would be wrong to say that they cannot have any affect on the Christian
So can a Christian be demon possessed? I say no.
When someone asks, “Can a Christian be demon-possessed?” it is necessary to state a few caveats to my brief answer above.
1. Not everyone is a Christian who says they are.
First, there are lots of people who think they are a Christian, but aren’t. If a person goes to church, reads their Bible, and calls themselves a Christian, but has never believed in Jesus for eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47), then they have not received the indwelling Holy Spirit.
There are many people today who walked an isle at a revival service, raised a hand at a youth event, or prayed a prayer in a trying moment of life, and they think that these actions “saved them.” But they didn’t. Scripture nowhere instructs people to do these things to receive eternal life. Instead, Scripture tells us to believe in Jesus for eternal life. To receive the free gift of eternal life by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
If we are believing in something else for our eternal life, or have tried to earn our way into eternal life by some sort of good work or change of behavior, then we have not received the free gift of eternal life which is given to anyone and everyone who simply believes in Jesus for it.
So whenever someone asks the question, “Can a Christian be demon-possessed?” I always begin to answer that question by emphasizing that although the answer is “No,” the real question is, “Have you believed in Jesus for eternal life?” It is by faith that we receive eternal life and the indwelling Holy Spirit, who guarantees by His presence that a Christian will not be demon-possessed.
While it is true that a Christian cannot be demon-possessed, this only applies to those who are Christians.
2. There is a difference between demon possession and demon oppression.
Second, it is important to note that just because a Christian cannot be demon possessed, this does not mean that Christians cannot be oppressed by fallen angels and evil spirits.
The devil and his minions can tempt and influence people to disobey God. Demons can tell us lies and try to lead Christians in direction that will ruin their lives and destroy their fellowship with God.
Evil spirits cannot take away our eternal life, for nothing can do that (Rom 8:38), but they can try to hinder us from enjoying the benefits of our eternal life and keep us from participating in fellowship with God. So while we can say “No” to “Can a Christian be Demon Possessed?” we can say “Yes” to “Can a Christian be demon-oppressed?” The spiritual realm is nothing to be trifled with, and we ignore it at our own peril.
3. We must be extremely careful about labeling someone as demon-possessed.
Just because someone exhibits erratic behavior, says evil things, or engages in un-Christian behavior, this does not mean that they are demon-possessed. There are all sorts of other explanations for why a people might have such behavior.
We will continue to look at this point more in the next post.
What do you think? Can a Christian be demon-possessed? Give your opinion in the comment section below.