The following is an excerpt from Chapter Two of Setting Captives Free that tackles the important question of whether or not a Christian can have a demon and need deliverance.
The question of whether or not a genuine Christian can have a demon is probably the most controversial aspect of the ministry of deliverance. The answer to this question has far-reaching implications, because it dramatically impacts how we view the various problems that Christians are dealing with. There is no doubt that many Christians are struggling with a wide range of issues. Tormenting fears, bondage to sin, deep depression, and mental health issues are just a few of the problems that many believers are dealing with today. What if demonic influence is a factor or even the root cause of some of these issues? If it is believed that a Christian cannot have a demon, then it will not be dealt with from the perspective of deliverance from an evil spirit and therefore no true or lasting freedom will be achieved.
Before God opened my eyes to the truth about deliverance and led me into this ministry, I believed that a Christian could not have a demon. In fact, many believers have such a strong conviction about this, as if we should not even consider the possibility of a Christian needing deliverance. After all, how can the Holy Spirit and an evil spirit dwell in the same body? How can a demon inhabit God’s temple? This is the primary argument for those who believe that a Christian cannot have a demon, and at a glance it appears to be sound reasoning. But, does it really line up with Scripture? Let’s take this same logic and apply it to the temple in the Old Testament.
Israel’s history is plagued with idolatry, and at times idols were even brought into the temple of God. For instance, the Bible says this about King Manasseh: “He even set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God” (2 Chronicles 33:7). This is significant to our discussion because there is a direct correlation between idols and demons. Consider Psalm 106:36-38 (emphasis added):
They served their idols,
Which became a snare to them.
They even sacrificed their sons
And their daughters to demons,
And shed innocent blood,
The blood of their sons and daughters,
Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
And the land was polluted with blood.
Paul also makes this same connection between idols and demons in 1 Corinthians 10:19-20: “What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.” These two passages make it clear that a sacrifice made to an idol is actually a sacrifice made to a demon.
Why am I emphasizing this point? Because it shows that it is possible to bring demons into the temple of God. When King Manasseh brought his idols into God’s house, he was allowing demons entrance. Not only did he bring idols into the temple, he also built altars there in order to sacrifice to these false gods (see 2 Chronicles 33:4). As we have just seen, sacrificing to an idol is the equivalent of sacrificing to a demon. There is a biblical precedent for demons inhabiting the house of God, and if it could happen in the Old Testament temple why could it not happen in the New Testament temple, the body of a believer?
The belief that a Christian cannot have a demon is based to a large degree on a misunderstanding of what it means to have a demon. To have a demon does not mean that you are possessed by a demon. Unfortunately, many English translations of the Bible use the term “demon-possessed” to describe a person in need of deliverance. For example, Matthew 8:16 says, “When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick” (emphasis added). The Greek word that is translated “demon-possessed” in the above passage is daimonizomai, which is a commonly used term to describe the influence of demons in the New Testament. A more accurate translation of this word would be “to have a demon,” to be “influenced by a demon,” or to be “demonized.”
This is an important distinction to make. The word “possessed” denotes total ownership. This would imply that the person no longer has any control of their actions or words and that the demon is totally in charge. But this is not the case, especially for believers. A Christian cannot be owned or possessed by a demon, but a demon can be present and be influencing their life.
The belief that a Christian cannot have a demon is also based on a misunderstanding of what it means to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. To say that being the temple of the Holy Spirit automatically takes away the possibility of having a demon is an argument that is based more on human logic than biblical fact. Using this same logic, you would also have to conclude that it is impossible for a believer to sin or ever have an evil thought. For how can sin—which is contrary to God’s nature—be in His temple? How can evil thoughts be in the mind of a believer, when we have the mind of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 2:16)? Yet, we know that believers do stumble into sin and that they can and do have evil thoughts at times. The same people who argue that a Christian cannot have a demon would never argue that it is impossible for a Christian to sin or have a dark thought. This is inconsistent logic.
It is clear that there is no agreement between the temple of God and idols (see 2 Corinthians 6:16). Yet, idols were brought into God’s temple. In the same way, evil spirits do not belong in God’s house, but that does not mean that it is impossible for them to be there. We seem to have the idea that the temple was like a one-room box, and if God was in it, nothing evil could be present. But the temple had three main areas as well as many rooms, chambers, and other quarters. God’s manifest presence was in the Holy of Holies, but not necessarily the rest of the temple. Using this comparison, it is my belief that a demon cannot inhabit the spirit of a born-again believer (where the Holy Spirit dwells), but that it is possible for one to occupy a place in the flesh or the soul (mind, will, and emotions).
I want to say clearly that not all problems and struggles that Christians face are caused by demons. But it is also true that many believers do have problems caused, at least in part, by demons. And if we do not deal with the demonic element, they will never experience the fullness of freedom that Christ purchased for them on the cross.
Setting Captives Free is filled with biblical teaching on the topic of demons and deliverance, powerful testimonies of those who have been set free, and practical prayers that you can use for yourself or others in need of deliverance. Make sure to get your copy!