A long time ago I heard a story about a missionary woman who was attacked by a demon. She tore apart her house, ripping down wallpaper and destroying everything she could. While I don’t remember the outcome of the story, it has always stayed with me because it challenged what I had always been taught – that Christians cannot be touched by demons. If that was true, what was the explanation for this woman’s behavior?
When you study spiritual warfare, you will see that there are a lot of different teachings on whether Christians can have a demon and how this relates to our experiences, such as in the story of the woman above. Of course we should never interpret the Bible by our experience, but experience does play a role in our understanding. I have found the best explanation which covers people’s experience and also fully reflects the teachings of Scripture is an explanation taught by Deeper Walk Ministries. I am going to give you a brief look at their three-fold model of how demons can affect people that can help us understand why Christians do get attacked by demons and what the extent of their attacks can be.
The first was that demons attack people is called oppression. This is like spiritual harassment – the “flaming arrows” of the evil one mentioned in Ephesians 6:16. Satan and his demons are constantly trying to find ways to keep Christians from being effective, and to keep non-Christians from coming to Christ. He seeks weaknesses and vulnerabilities and uses those to harass and oppress people. This is a pretty broad category, and it can range from little annoyances to constant pressure. As Christians, we need to remember that the more effective we are, the more Satan wants to keep us from working for Christ, so this oppression is not necessarily a bad thing. However, we need to remember to stay close to Christ in order to be able to “extinguish” these arrows and stay strong in faith.
The other end of the scale is full demon possession. This is when a person has given themselves completely over to demonic control, and no longer has the ability to make decisions contrary to the will of the demons within them. It is not possible for a Christian to be possessed in this way because a Christian has the Holy Spirit living within them. Some biblical examples of this are the Gadarene demoniac, and the boy who was controlled by a demon. The Greek word for this is daimonizomai.
There is a middle ground between the two, however. Now, I will admit right off the bat that not everyone accepts this middle ground, and mostly because the only Biblical term that directly relates to demon-possession is daimonizomai. However, there is another term which Paul uses when he is talking to the Corinthians about their relationship with demonic forces, and that is koinonia. Sound familiar? It probably does, and this is because it is the word translated for “fellowship”, and is often used to describe the fellowship of believers, or the fellowship between God and believers. It refers to a mutual participation between two parties. This concept appears in 1 Corinthians 10:20, where Paul warns the Corinthians not to have “fellowship” (koinonia) with demons. The implication is that they could be Christians and still participate with demons, and were in fact doing that. He warns them in verse 21 that they cannot drink the cup of both the Lord and demons. In other words, living in that state indefinitely will have serious spiritual ramifications. I’m not talking about loss of salvation, but I do believe it leads to being spiritually crippled. Paul encourages them to come out from this lifestyle. In 2 Corinthians 7:1, which continues the thoughts started in 1 Corinthians, he says, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” In other words, he is saying that they should get out of fellowship with demons, and move into fellowship with God.
Another way to describe this is giving the devil a “foothold” as in Ephesians 4:26-27. While we are not giving him all of us, we are giving him ground in our lives. He uses this ground to torment and harass. It is much more constant and intense than oppression and may hinder our communication with Christ. How do we end up in fellowship with demons, or how do we give the devil a foothold? The answer is the same as I described in the September 2018 blog on giving permission to evil spirits. We give permission through unresolved or habitual sin, participation in the occult, unforgiveness, and believing Satan’s lies. We can also have footholds in our lives through what other people have done, whether generational sin or even severe trauma (This is a big subject in itself! I don’t know enough to address it, but there are resources available for those interested). All of these things give evil spirits ground in our lives.
And what happens if we, like the Corinthians, have given the devil a foothold in our lives? Thankfully, we are not stuck there forever. Because of Christ in us, all of our lives are rightfully His, and therefore we can take back ground that has been given to evil spirits. We first must recognize what we have given to them and cancel the devil’s right to that area by reaffirming our commitment to Christ, confessing the sins that brought us to that point, and then commanding the devil and his associates to leave. A simple way to do this is saying, “In the name of Christ, I command you to leave.” Now, I haven’t talked a lot in these blog posts about this overt kind of warfare and there is a lot to learn, so you may need to do some research or work with someone who knows more about spiritual warfare to address deeply rooted strongholds.
As I have said many times over the course of these blogs, the bottom line in all of this is to maintain our relationship with Christ. You can “extinguish the flaming arrows” of the evil one by pressing into Christ. If you fully submit yourself to Christ, you will not give ground to the devil, and if you have done that already, you can revoke that ground by returning to Christ. So above all, be in Christ!
This is the last blog post that I am going to write on spiritual warfare. I hope it has been helpful to you, and as always, feel free to contact me if you have questions or want to learn more about spiritual warfare!