Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
Lev. 17:7 π Dt. 4:2 π Dt. 12:32 π Dt. 32:17; 2nd π Jdgs. 9:23 π 1 Sam. 16:14 π Psa. 91:6 π Psa. 106:37; 2nd π Prov. 30:6 π Isa. 13:21; 2nd π Isa. 19:14 π Isa. 34:14; 2nd π Mt. 8:28-34 π Mt. 12:43; 2nd π Mt. 12:43-45; 2nd π Mt. 12:45 π Mt. 15:22 π Mk. 1:23 π Mk. 3:22; 2nd π Mk. 3:30; 2nd π Mk. 5:1 π Mk. 5:1-20 π Lk. 4:33 π Lk. 8:2 π Lk. 8:29-30 π Lk. 8:30 π Lk. 8:33 π Lk. 11:26 π Lk. 11:39 π Lk. 15:1 π Jn. 7:20; 2nd π Jn. 8:44 π Jn. 8:48-49; 2nd π Jn. 10:21 π Acts 16:16-17 π Acts. 19:13-16 π 1 Cor. 10:20-21 π Eph. 1:14 π Eph. 2:2 π Eph. 6:12 π 1 Ths. 5:23 π 2 Tim. 4:1 π Heb. 4:12 π Jas. 2:19 π 1 Jn. 1:9 π Rev. 9:20 π Rev. 16:14 π Rev. 22:18-19
Greek Words Mentioned in This Article
Demonizeddaimonizomai – [1139]; 2nd; 3rd π Demondaimonion – [1140] ; 2nd π Badlykakos – [2560] π Spiritpneuma – [4151] π Evilponeros – [4190]

God has always made it a point to tell people not to add to or take from His words. ( Dt. 4:2 , 12:32 , Prov. 30:6 , Rev. 22:18-19; top ) Yet this does not stop many a well-meaning scholar and preacher from doing just that. The notion of possession by a demon is an excellent case in point. Though many men have pronounced their final view on the matter - and many an unwary devotee of that man will swallow their notions whole without ever once checking any Scripture - the Bible is much less clear on the matter than the teachings of these men would indicate. Let us look at what they teach. To do so, I have selected Spiros Zodhiates as spokesman for his camp. He is by no means the only one, but his work and expertise in the Greek makes him a particularly believable scholar to the spiritually uninformed and unwary.

Zodhiates, in his definition of “daimonizomai” [ 1139 ], says,

“In view of the fact that Jesus Christ has absolute power over the demons, it is impossible for a demon to possess a believer in whose heart Christ dwells.”

To support this bald statement, Zodhiates only references where the scribes and the Jews accused Jesus of having Beelzebub or an unclean spirit. ( Mk. 3:22 , 30 , Jn. 7:20 , 8:48-49; top )

Well, let’s look at those passages in the Amplified version.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, He is possessed by Beelzebub, and, By [the help of] the prince of demons He is casting out demons... For they persisted in saying, He has an unclean spirit. ( Mk. 3:22 , 30; top)
The crowd answered Him, You are possessed by a demon! [You are raving!] Who seeks to kill You? ...The Jews answered Him, Are we not right when we say You are a Samaritan and that You have a demon [that you are under the power of an evil spirit]? Jesus answered, I am not possessed by a demon. On the contrary, I honor and reverence My Father and you dishonor (despise, vilify, and scorn) Me. ( Jn. 7:20 , 8:48-49; top )

Pointing to two instances in Scripture where someone said that Jesus had a demon is not nearly the same thing as pointing to a Scripture that says a believer in Jesus cannot be possessed by an evil spirit. To use these above Scriptures to support what one already believes about being demonized is simply adding something to the Bible - and, in this case, it is adding something which Scripture does not say anywhere. Zodhiates’ inference is simply that - a logical inference based on his own presuppositions about what the Bible teaches. It is not a statement drawn directly from the words of Scripture.

In Zodhiates’ definition of “daimonion” [ 1140 ], he makes the same mistake when he says, “Demons are spoken of as taking up their abode in a man without his having any apparent choice in the matter. ( Mk. 5:1 ff; top) They cannot do so, however, in a Christian believer because Christ indwells the believer. No demon can be conceived as stronger than Christ and able to oust Him from a believer’s heart.” He then goes on to talk about various other aspects of demons and demonic possession.

Well, let’s look at this story of the Gerasene demoniac, the only passage he mentions as giving support to his notion about the impossibility of demonic possession of a believer.

They came to the other side of the sea to the region of the Gerasenes. And as soon as He got out of the boat, there met Him out of the tombs a man [under the power] of an unclean spirit. This man, continually lived among the tombs, and no one could subdue him any more, even with a chain; for he had been bound often with shackles for the feet and handcuffs, but the handcuffs of [light] chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he rubbed and ground together and broke in pieces; and no one had strength enough to restrain or tame him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always shrieking and screaming and beating and bruising and cutting himself with stones.

And when from a distance he saw Jesus, he ran and fell on his knees before Him in homage, and crying out with a loud voice, he said, What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? [What is there in common between us?] I solemnly implore you by God, do not begin to torment me!

For Jesus was commanding, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit! And He asked him, What is your name? He replied, My name is Legion, for we are many. And he kept begging Him urgently not to send them [himself and the other demons] away out of that region.

Now a great herd of hogs was grazing there on the hillside. And the demons begged Him, saying, Send us to the hogs, that we may go into them! So He gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out [of the man] and entered into the hogs; and the herd, numbering about 2,000, rushed headlong down the steep slope into the sea and were drowned in the sea. The hog feeders ran away, and told [it] in the town and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had taken place.

And they came to Jesus and looked intently and searchingly at the man who had been a demoniac, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, [the same man] who had had the legion [of demons]; and they were seized with alarm and struck with fear. And those who had seen it related in full what had happened to the man possessed by demons and to the hogs. And they began to beg [Jesus] to leave their neighborhood.

And when He had stepped into the boat, the man who had been controlled by the unclean spirits kept begging Him that he might be with Him. But Jesus refused to permit him, but said to him, Go home to your own [family and relatives and friends] and bring back word to them of how much the Lord has done for you, and [how He has] had sympathy for you and mercy on you. And he departed and began to publicly proclaim in Decapolis [the region of the ten cities] how much Jesus had done for him, and all the people were astonished and marveled. ( Mk. 5:1-20 - Amp.; top)

That’s the whole story. From there the Gerasene demoniac fades into total obscurity as he is never heard from again. But again, while it is obvious that Christ is indeed more powerful than even a legion of demons, there is nothing in this passage which says a believer in Christ cannot be possessed of a demon. It is only a logical inference from the mind of Zodhiates and the religious traditions he has absorbed - not a valid quotation from the pages of Scripture.

In fact, quite another inference can be gained from this story - though if one were to insist on this inference, one would make the same mistake as Zodhiates. But just to shed a different light on what the Scriptures do actually say, consider what Jesus later taught about demons. He said, “But when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it roams through dry [arid] places in search of rest, but it does not find any. Then it says, I will go back to my house from which I came out. And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, put in order, and decorated. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. So also shall it be with this wicked generation.” ( Mt. 12:43-45 - Amp.; top)

The story of the Gerasene demoniac is told in Mt. 8:28-34; top . Now here in Mt. 12:43; top Jesus uses an illustration of a man delivered and then re-possessed to describe the condition of the generation that would reject Him as Messiah. There is no Scripture that says Jesus is referring to the Gerasene demoniac - but, then again, there is no Scripture that says He is not.

In the same way, though Jesus says the evil spirit had gone out from the man, it does not indicate by what manner it left. The only time an evil spirit leaves a man in the New Testament, it is forcibly evicted by Christ or one of His followers. Similarly, Jesus says the house is cleaned and put in order but does not say by what power or method this is accomplished. Any other time a man is recognized as having put his house in order in Scripture is in connection with having obeyed some commandment of God.

Draw what conclusions you will, but let us be careful when we insist on something that the Scriptures do not say!

The real point is the Scriptures are exclusively quiet about demonic possession of a believer. Zodhiates, except for his above mistakes, does an excellent job of listing some of the characteristics of demons. Throughout his definition of “daimonion” [ 1140 ] he notes that Satan is an unclean spirit ( Lk. 8:29-30 ), that demons wander in desolate places ( Isa. 13:21 , 34:14 , Mt. 12:43 ) and dwell in the air ( Eph. 2:2 ), they have power to work miracles but not for good. ( Rev. 16:14 , Jn. 10:21 ) They are hostile to mankind ( Jn. 8:44 ), utter heathen oracles ( Acts 16:16-17 ), are the power behind heathen idols ( 1 Cor. 10:20-21 , Rev. 9:20 , Dt. 32:17 , Psa. 91:6 , 106:37 ), are the authors of moral evil to mankind ( 2 Tim. 4:1 , Jas. 2:19 , cf. Eph. 6:12 ), and they can enter into a person thus rendering him a demoniac and afflicting him with various diseases ( Lk. 8:30 , 33; top ) as is implied in the verb daimonizomai [ 1139 ], to be possessed with demons. In the Hebrew, they are referred to as evil spirits ( Jdgs. 9:23 , 1 Sam. 16:14 ), spirits of perverseness ( Isa. 19:14 ), demons ( Dt. 32:17 , Psa. 106:37 , Isa. 13:21 , 34:14 ), and vain gods. ( Lev. 17:7; top )

Some other characteristics are also worth noting. Zodhiates says,

“There are degrees of evil among them ( Mt. 12:45 ), some being merely malignant, and some being more harmful physically than others as in Mt. 15:22; top where the expression kakos [ 2560 ], badly, and daimonizomai [ 1139 ], is possessed and acting as a demon, implies some specially virulent form of possession.”

Zodhiates also notes that

“the wicked, such as Pharisees, publicans, and sinners, are never spoken of as being possessed. (e.g., Lk. 11:39 ff, 15:1 )” But “the possessed are permitted to enter the synagogue ( Mk. 1:23 , Lk. 4:33 ), which would hardly have been the case had they been regarded as notoriously evil. ...the evidence is stronger for possession having been regarded as a moral as well as a physical disorder. Some are referred to as being morally as well as physically harmful. ( Lk. 8:2 , pneumaton [ 4151 ], spirit, and poneron [ 4190 ], evil or malevolent; Lk. 11:26; top )

What can we gather from all this? Simply this: demons are evil spirits that inhabit men and cause both moral and physical disorders. To conclude much more is to begin to add to Scripture. In spite of some logical inferences of well-meaning scholarly men, the Scriptures are completely silent on whether a believer can be possessed by a demon - and I think for a very good reason. To understand that reason, though, requires that we have a revelation from God as to the nature of our existence and the nature of the demon’s existence. I can reference the verses and even explain the reasoning to you, but unless the Spirit of God brings it to life for you, you will remain unconvinced and you will consider my words to be just my opinions and nothing more. So be it.

The reason the Scriptures are silent about the possession of a believer is rooted in the nature of our existence. Scriptures clearly speak of the believer having a body, soul and spirit. ( 1 Ths. 5:23 for example) The living Word of God divides between soul and spirit, which is then compared to bone and marrow. ( Heb. 4:12; top ) The soul and the spirit are the inner parts of a man - just as bones and marrow are inner parts of the body. The spirit is to the soul what marrow is to the bone. The soul is the mind, the will and the emotions of a man. The spirit is that something “other” in a man which is most like and completely compatible with God.

When a demon, a rather unidimensional evil spirit, “possesses a believer” - as is indicated in the believer’s life by a continued inability to set aside some area of sin - he is not in possession of the spirit of the man. That demon is only controlling some area of the soul and causing the man to commit some sin with his soul and/or body. The spirit of the man - which is sealed with the guarantee of our inheritance, the Holy Spirit ( Eph. 1:14; top ) - is only being inhibited from controlling the soul and body of the man until such time as the demon is removed from the soul. When the Lord does remove the demon from the soul, then the man will be free to walk in greater obedience to the Spirit of God. As Zodhiates said above, “No demon can be conceived as stronger than Christ and able to oust Him from a believer’s heart.” With this understanding of the spirit and the soul, it is easy to see that no demon is stronger than Christ nor is Christ ever ousted from the believer’s spirit or soul. Rather the demon exercises control only over an area of the soul which the believer has either negligently or willfully left open to that demon’s influence.

Now I am fully aware that I have just made as many unsupported statements as Zodhiates. And I am completely aware that what I have just said in the last two paragraphs are just as much an inference as what Zodhiates has made - and I am aware that that inference is just as equally reasonable a conclusion as his.

I am also aware that I have raised it to another level by saying that recognizing these statements as true requires a revelation from God. That is not meant to exalt myself and those who believe similarly over the rest in any way. Rather it is necessary to recognize this need for spiritual revelation as true, even if just for argument’s sake, to understand why the Scriptures are almost silent about the demonic possession of a believer.

The reason the Scriptures are so quiet about this is really for our own good. If there were some proof-text that blatantly said, “A believer can be possessed by a demon,” then the hyper-charismatics would see two demons behind every rock! In addition, any man, even though he is not filled with the Spirit of God, would see the outward signs of demonic possession, rightly diagnose the problem as demonic possession and then approach the demon with the powers of his own soul. Talk about bringing a knife to a gunfight! This is precisely what the seven sons of Sceva discovered when the demon said to them, “Paul I know. And Jesus I know. But who are you?” and then proceeded to strip and beat all seven of them so that they fled naked from the house of the demoniac. ( Acts. 19:13-16; top )

If you choose not to believe my understanding of demonic possession, please, at least have the courtesy to receive me as a brother with a different view than yours. For if you will not even do that, then you are simply practicing the divisiveness that God hates. But I do want to encourage you to seek God on this because, even though you may be a believer or you might even be the “pastor” of some “church,” perhaps the very reason you cannot receive this revelation is because some demon has control over some area of your soul - perhaps your mind that says, “This just cannot be so” or perhaps your will which says, “I will not surrender this area of my soul to God’s control but only to my own.” (This latter, by the way, could be the very deception which gives a demon entrance to your soul. If you, as a genuine believer, won’t surrender an area of your soul to God, you have no power or means of your own by which to prevent it from coming under the power of demonic influence.)

Any area of the soul, that is, the mind, the will or the emotions, can be controlled by an evil spirit. But it requires being filled with the Holy Spirit for another person to spiritually discern whether various human activities are truly demonically inspired or only some human quirk or disease. In other words, only God can tell you if what someone else is doing is truly demonic or not. The human soul can only take his best guesses - and then he has no power of his own to deal with a demon even if he should happen to guess right.

It is only Christ who has the power to evict a demon or to demolish demonic strongholds from within any person’s life - believer or otherwise. But, once a demon has been evicted, it is up to us to present ourselves to God to be filled with His Holy Spirit so that the demon doesn’t return with seven of his bigger brothers and make our life an even worse example of being uncontrollably disobedient to God. ( Mt. 12:43-45; top )

Demonic possession of a believer’s soul is not an excuse for sin. Each sin is to be confessed and will require God’s forgiveness and cleansing. ( 1 Jn. 1:9; top ) But it is very likely to be the explanation for those sins which we simply cannot bring under control. When we find such a sin is present in our lives, we should seek elders of the body of Christ who have dealt with such things and submit ourselves to them for prayer and instruction.

Now, please, be careful not to just run off to the nearest charismatic quack who makes a show out of miraculous healings and deliverances. No, seek the obviously but quietly mature saints of God who reek of His presence and who have much experience with demonic powers. In short, ask God to bring the right people to you rather than go running off after every showman and huckster who claims to have “the power.” Always know that it is the truth that sets you free - not the fact that someone prays over you and exercises authority over a demon. The demon may indeed be cast out in a moment, but it is the ensuing lifetime of walking in the freedom and truth of the Spirit of God that keeps the house in order and impervious to further demonic possession.

Evicting a demon is not always an easy thing - nor should it be done lightly. If a demon is ordered to leave a person who is not ready to walk in full obedience to God, the end result could be a worse condition for the person possessed. But God is faithful. And greater is He that is in your spirit than he that is in the world but who exerts some measure of control over some portion of your soul life. Never assume that some activity represents the workings of a demon - and never assume that it doesn’t. Always seek God for clear discernment and direction in all things and you will never need to fear the demonic in any way.

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