Among Christians, the one aspect of Angelology that is severely debated is whether Christians can have a demon
and be controlled by one. There are legitimate concerns by those who deny whether Christians can have a demon:
- If the Holy Spirit indwells a Christian, the concurrent presence of a demon seemingly diminishes the power
and work of Christ.
- If Christians can have a demon, it absolves one from the personal responsibility in living an abiding life
in Jesus Christ; a Christian has an excuse for a sinful life.
There are a variety of proof verses that are used as evidence against the demonization of a believer. While none
explicitly denies that a demon can indwell a Christian, the evidence presented by many theologians implies such a
position. The following are a sampling of the types of verses used to deny the demonization of a Christian.
Satan and his demons are judged and defeated; they are powerless and cannot demonize Christians.
With the impending crucifixion marking the defeat of Satan, Jesus’ statement about Satan’s legal
judgment would be understood later when the Holy Spirit comes to convince Christians of Satan’s judgment to come.
Satan has been judged and all those who side with him will be judged as well. While this verse does not consider
whether a Christian can be demonized, these verses show that there is no neutral position: one is either a child
of God or a child of Satan.
In establishing the close identification between Christ and the Christian, the author of Hebrews
concludes that Christ became human so that He could destroy Satan and free human beings from the bondage of sin.
In this context, it’s hard to see how a Christian can be demonized.
The result of Jesus’ crucifixion is portrayed in the imagery of a victorious general who returns
with the public display of his defeated foes. It was a reference to Christ’s legal and positional victory over
Satan and demons, which broke their claim to rule human beings. Given that all of the personal sins of a Christian
are forgiven, it is difficult to understand how the hypothetical case of an indwelling demon, present before one’s
conversion, can continue its on the former non-Christian.
Christ’s work has delivered Christians from the domain of Satan; Christians are not available for demonization.
Formerly citizens in the kingdom of Satan, Christ’s atonement provided Christians a transfer of
their citizen to the kingdom of God. While these verses are in reference to the legal position of man, the value
of citizenship seems lessened by the possibility of a Christian being demonized.
In sharing his mission of "opening eyes" so that man can "turn from the dominion of Satan to
God," Paul speaks of the change in legal position that man experiences before God. This passage does not speak
to the question of whether Christians can be indwelt.
Christians belong to God and are protected from the power of Satan: Satan is prevented from demonizing Christians.
While Christians are figuratively spoken as sheep protected by Christ, this passages refer to
Jesus keeping Christians in eternal relation to Himself. This passage does not shed any light on the question of
whether a Christian can be demonized.
In His personal prayer and prayer that He teaches to His disciples, Jesus recognizes that
Christians will be assailed by demonic forces. While these passages do not speak to the question of whether
Christians can be indwelt, they do not necessarily include its possibility.
2 Thessalonians 3:3
Directed towards those who "are doing and will continue to do what we command" (v. 4), Paul’s
message of God’s strength and protection from the evil one is to the abiding Christians. This active form of
protection from demonic attacks would have to include immunity from demonization. For non-abiding Christians,
this verse does not necessarily mean that they have lost their immunity from demonization.
1 John 5:18
While this verse has been used to support the position that Christians cannot be demonized,
it is very challenging to interpret. Does this mean that a Christian who sins isn’t really a Christian? A study
of this verse can be found in the article:
Do Christians Sin? A response to pseudo Christianity. When
viewed in context, this verse does not speak to the question of whether Christians can be indwelt or not.
Christians are indwelt and sealed with the Holy Spirit; the presence of the Holy Spirit prevents any demonic
spirit from residing in Christians.
This form of Hebrew poetry is synonymous parallelism where the two lines of thought share
similar meanings. With the first thought as God not delighting in wickedness, the second thought takes "evil" as
either an abstract noun equivalent to "wickedness" or in reference to "evil people" which are described in the
following verses. Because this verse is likely referring to evil human beings, its use in the argument against
the idea that Christians can be indwelt is not pertinent.
1 Corinthians 10:21
Within the context of this passage, this verse is a warning about the sin of fellowshipping
with demons by participating in idolatrous actions. This verse does not speak to the question of whether
Christians can be indwelt or not.
2 Corinthians 6:14-16
In verse 15, the term "Belial" for Satan, refers to one who is wicked and causes destruction.
In these verses, Paul is warning the Corinthians against the dangers of cooperating with false teachers. While
Paul is concerned about the Corinthians being influenced by demons through false teachers, this passage does not
address the question of whether Christians can be indwelt.
1 John 4:4
John speaks of the spirits of teachers; a true prophet of God is one who receives direct
revelation from God whereas a false teacher does not and promotes false teachings. The Holy Spirit, indwelt in
Christians, provides the discernment against false teaching. Would a non-abiding Christian be as discerning?
While there are no explicit verses that deny that a Christian can be demonized, advocates for this view make
the case within the context of a non-abiding Christian. And because there isn’t any explicit biblical guidance,
it has spawned speculation as to how a Christian can be demonized. Yet can the implied evidence against the
demonization of Christians be disregarded so easily?
On the other hand, if one denies the possibility that Christians can be demonized, how does
one help those genuine Christians who display occasional demonic behavior? Is it simply a medical or psychological
Without any explicit biblical evidence, this controversy will continue with strong advocates
representing both sides.
Perhaps this issue of whether a Christian can be demonized calls to attention the real crux of the problem.
Even as there is an absence of any obvious biblical mention of Christian demonization after Pentecost or promotion
of the practice of exorcism, the emphasis of the New Testament is on Christian living and the process of
sanctification: avoiding sin and striving for holiness.
In this light, the focus on the question of demonization may be misplaced, the question should perhaps ask,
"How much can a genuine Christian allow his life be dominated by sin?"