WHAT ABOUT DEMONS IN CHRISTIANS?
By Win Worley
“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, and my spirit, with the
power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,
that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (I Corinthians 5:4, 5). The apostle here
deals with the case of a disobedient and sinful believer in the church at Corinth. In verse 10 of
the same chapter he specifically emphasizes that he is speaking not about evildoers of the
world but in the church. He makes that clear again in verse 12.
In another case, Paul writes: “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put
away concerning faith have made shipwreck: of whom Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have
delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme” (I Timothy 1:19, 20).
“In meekness, instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them
repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the
snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (II Timothy 2:25, 26).
When you go into the ministry of casting out demons, inevitably you are challenged by the
question, “Is it possible for a born-again believer to have a demon?” In charismatic circles the
question is: “Is it possible for a believer who is baptized in the Spirit to have a demon?”
“Absolutely not!” comes the stock answer. “The Holy Spirit cannot coexist in the same body
with a demon!” This answer is designed to shut off all further inquiry, to close the mind even to
the possibility as unthinkable. It is invoked with the insistence of a slogan. Yet it is not a
Scriptural answer. It is an extra-Scriptural piece of logic that stands quite by itself. The oftenheard statement does not rest on Scripture; it rests on an assumption.
Actually, the answer to both questions above is definitely “yes.” It is a particularly dangerous
delusion to think that Satan, or the demons, adopt any kind of a hands-off policy toward
believers. In fact, they affect and afflict believers as far as possible. They buffet them, oppose
them, seek to tempt or deceive them or lead them astray. They look for, and seize, any
advantage to hinder believers.
Almost one hundred percent of the deliverance ministry we have had has been among the
born-again believers, and most of them were baptized-in-the-Spirit Christians also. Being saved,
and even being baptized in the Holy Spirit is no guarantee against the inroads of the evil spirits.
They are by no means automatically disposed of through these or subsequent spiritual
experiences, although they may have been rendered temporarily inactive or unable to function.
There is always a possibility of a “revival” of their power during times of stress and pressure, so
long as they are present. This explains the necessity of removing them completely.
Several arguments are advanced to “prove” that under no circumstances can a born-again
person have a demon. The most common statement is that a Christian cannot be “possessed.”
This will be discussed later as a misnomer. The arguments in summary go something like this:
The believer is inhabited by the Holy Spirit; therefore the demons cannot coexist within the
same body. The proof text usually used is I Corinthians 2:12; however, the verse does not say
Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (I John 3:8), and indeed He did. In the case of
problems caused by demons, the remedy and method of doing this is cast out the demons in
The struggle inside the believer is always revealed to be the struggle between the flesh and the
Spirit, and not a struggle involving demons (Romans 6 and 7). Were that the case, the
conscientious claiming of the promises of God would solve every human problem.
The believer is delivered from the power of Satan and his demons (Colossians 1:12, 13;
Ephesians 2:1-3). Yes, but like many other promises, not automatically, but only as we
voluntarily meet God’s conditions for deliverance.
The Christian is provided with complete protection from the fiery darts of the enemy
(Ephesians 6). This overlooks the rather obvious fact that the armor is designed for defense
from external, not internal enemies, and also that even so the believer’s armor is not always in
In spite of these arguments, the dismaying fact remains that born-again Christians, including
leaders, are having difficulties and problems which can find no solution in natural infirmities or
the endless conflict between the flesh and the Spirit.
It is no secret that many have become discouraged and awful despair. Some have dropped by
the wayside, and some even have committed suicide in their desperation and inability to find a
solution within the framework of their theological understandings.
In his tract, ”Demon Activity and the Christian,” Ernest B. Rockstad rightly concludes that:
“Experience, of course is not the basis for the interpretation of the Bible. Nevertheless, if
consistent experiences run counter to an interpretation, the dedicated seeker after truth will
set out to find the reason. He must be willing to re-study his interpretation under the direction
of the Holy Spirit . . . and be prepared to make any necessary corrections in his own beliefs so as
to be in full agreement with the facts as they are.” He further points out that understanding
the biblical doctrine of human depravity should cause one to wonder that the Holy Spirit would
enter a person under any circumstances.
You cannot argue anyone into believing that the old fundamental stand against Christians
having demons is fallacious. Donald Jacobs illustrates it this way: “There once lived a skeptical
fisherman who heard unbelievable stories about people catching fish two feet long. He had
never caught one over twelve inches. One day he caught one three feet long, held it by the tail,
shook his head, threw it back into the water and said ‘Just another lie.’ Likewise, faced with the
evidence of a ‘real live demon,’ a western man would probably react just about this way. ‘There
are just no such things,’ he would say.” 1
There is an excellent presentation of the whole question in Don Basham’s book, Can A Christian
Have A Demon? Non-charismatic writers like Frances Manuel, Merrill Unger, Mark Bubeck, and
Robert Peterson also teach that a Christian can have a demon.
In his very balanced and scholarly treatise, Demons in the World Today, Dr. Unger writes, “In
demon influence, evil spirits exert power over a person short of actual possession. Such
influence may vary from mild harassment to extreme subjection when body and mind become
dominated and held in slavery spirit agents. Christians, as well as non-Christians, can be so
influenced. They may be oppressed, vexed, depressed, hindered and bound by demons.”2
Dr. Unger is frank to say that he had written in 1952, “To demon possession, only unbelievers
are exposed.” Twenty years later, he writes: “This statement was inferred, since Scripture does
not clearly settle the question. It was based on the assumption that an evil spirit could not
indwell the redeemed body together with the Holy Spirit.”3
(Italics added in both quotations.)
Missionaries from all over the world wrote to him, telling of cases to the contrary and, as the
author notes, the claims of the missionaries “appear valid.”
Hobart Freeman points out that “as a result of erroneous teaching and beliefs, which are based
neither upon Scripture or experience, Satan has deluded many concerning the question, can a
Christian be oppressed by Satan or possess evil spirits? . . . Can one who has never participated
actively in any form of occultism be subjected or oppressed?”
The answer to both questions is yes, supported both from the Scriptures and experience.
Believers can be oppressed, vexed, depressed, hindered, bound, and afflicted by Satan or suffer
From Demons at Work in the World Today by Donald R. Jacobs, copyright 1972 by Herald Press, Scottsdale, PA.,
15683. Reprinted by permission. p. 38.
From Demons in the World Today, by Merril F. Unger, copyright 1971 by Tyndale House Pub., Wheaton, IL 60187.
Ibid., p. 117.
infestation by demonic spirits.4 Dr. Freeman goes on to discuss the difference between full
possession (where the life and will come totally under domination and control of Satan) and the
invasion of the mind or body by spirits of infirmity, fear, resentment, doubt, depression, and so
forth. This condition he terms infestation, which is aptly descriptive.
Derek Prince in his helpful pamphlet, “Expelling Demons,” explains facts linguistically which
should help unsnarl the semantic tangle. The New Testament Greek word for demon is
daimonion . . . in the King James Version . . . often translated ‘devil.’ Associated in the New
Testament with the noun daimonion is the passive verb daimonizomai. The literal meaning of
this verb is usually translated by some phrase such as ‘to be possessed’ or ‘to be vexed’ by
demons or by evil spirits. However, there is no distinction in the original Greek text to support
these (translated) distinctions.”5 We dare not rest a theological distinction about the work of
demons on a distinction in language which does not exist in the original.
Believers were definitely subjected to demonic attack in the Scriptures. The physical afflictions
and other disasters of Job are shown to be Satan’s work in Job 1 and 2. In the synagogue there
was a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:23). A woman called “a daughter of Abraham” (Father
of the faithful) was bound with a spirit of infirmity for eighteen years (Luke 13:11-16).
There is no reason to conclude arbitrarily in the two latter cases that that the persons involved
were not believers. In II Timothy 2:23-26, where Paul discusses contention and disputings over
doctrine, believers are indicated who have evidently slipped and need to “recover themselves
from the snare of the devil, who are taken captive of him at his will.”
A member of the church in Corinth seems to have been overcome by a spirit of lust
(I Corinthians 5:1-5). Jesus rebuked a spirit of fever in Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39) and
the spirit left her, and she was well. In Mark 3:33 and Mark 9:25, Jesus uses this same term to
rebuke Satan. Sickness is described as an oppression of the devil in Acts 10:38 and Jesus often
healed by removing spirits of infirmity, which are simply another method of Satanic attack (See
Luke 4:40, 41).
Consider Peter, who one moment spoke by Divine revelation, declaring that Jesus was the very
Christ, and in the next moment was reprimanded by Jesus, who rebuked Satan in him, saying
“thou savorest not the things that be of God” (Matthew 16:13-23). Simon the magician is
presented as one who believed and was baptized, but had evidently not been delivered from
his occult bondage and was commanded to repent and pray (Acts 8:20-24). How did Satan
From Angels of Light by Hobart Freeman, copyright 1969 by Logos International, Plainfield, NJ 07060. Reprinted
by permission. pp. 73, 74.
From Expelling Demons by Derek Prince, copyright by Derek Prince Publications, Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Used by
permission. p. 4.
manage to “fill the heart” of the believers Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:3)? Paul himself reports
that he suffered buffeting from a “messenger of Satan” (II Corinthians 12:7).6
Dr. V. Raymond Edman, the late president of Wheaton College, wrote the following in answer
to a question as to whether or not a Christian could have a demon: “. . . The unguarded
Christian may have demon possession in the soul, which would affect mental processes and
emotions; or in the body, as was the case of the woman who had a ‘spirit of infirmity eighteen
years and was bowed together, and could in nowise lift up herself’ (Luke 13:11). Of her, the
Saviour said when He healed her, ‘Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom
Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?’ To
say that a Christian cannot be demonized in any area of his life is a happy but inaccurate
Paul reproves the Corinthian Christians for receiving another spirit than the Spirit they had
previously received (II Corinthians 11:4). This is a case in which the language of the King James
translation does not fully convey the force of the original. The Phillips translation says: “For
apparently you cheerfully accept a man who comes to you preaching a different Jesus than the
one we told you about, and you readily receive a spirit and a gospel quite different from the
ones you originally accepted.” Or, as the Living Bible puts is, “You swallow it all.”
Paul inquired, in Galatians 3:1, about who had bewitched the believers to draw them away
from the truth. The effects upon them were not just the effects of wrong mental impressions
conveyed by false teachers but were the effects of evil spirits imposing false doctrine through
false teachers. These references emphatically do not suggest that believers enjoy an easy
exemption from the activities of devils but are particularly targeted by them.
Robert Peterson makes an interesting comment: “It appears that the full force of deceiving
spirits is directed against the spiritual believer in doctrinal rather than worldly matters,
although the latter may be used after the believer has been ensnared by the more subtle
means. In I Timothy 4:1 and 2 the Apostle Paul gives a full account of how wicket spirits attack
the spiritual believer and by deception beguile him away from the faith through the use of false
This passage begins: “Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some
shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
Don Basham sums up the matter when he writes that there is, “almost universal sense of fear
and loathing toward the whole subject of Satan and the evil spirits. Many believers have
Freeman, op. cit., p. 75.
From Alliance Witness by V. Raymond Edmond, April 26, 1967, Vol. 102, #9, p. 22.
From Are Demons for Real? By Robert Peterson, copyright 1968 by Overseas Miss. Fellowship, Moody Press,
Chicago. Used by permission. p. 98.
adopted the fallacious idea that if they ignore Satan, he will ignore them. Scripturally, such a
position is indefensible” (1 Peter 5:8, 9; James 4:7; II Corinthians 2:11).9
When the power of God begins to move in a person’s life, he quite naturally becomes an object
for the devil’s most crippling attacks. This should not bring despair or fear to the believer, for
the power of God is greater than all the power of the devil.
The unreasoning fear of demons is fostered and promoted by Satan and his hosts directly. It
prevents intelligent interference with their program, keeping it shrouded in darkness and
mystery. I have personally seen case after case where people who became disturbed, upset and
genuinely frightened at the mention of casting out demons were later delivered of demons.
After this, they became fearless and enthusiastic warriors in the fight to free others who are
bound. Basham concludes that a Christian can be tormented or afflicted by evil spirits in some
area of his life and still be a sincere Christian; just as he can be tormented by physical sickness
and still be a sincere Christian.
It is always a blessing to see truths, not mere speculations, in print concerning spiritual warfare.
Satan never misses an opportunity to pound away at you, arguing that the majority must be
right and accusing you of having gone off your “theological rocker” to become involved in
anything so controversial, which is so actively and determinedly opposed by a great majority of
the professing brethren. How reassuring to hear now and then from a brother who is
discovering some of the same truths and insights which you have received.
I shudder when I hear someone remark skeptically, “Well, I just can’t believe that. I’d have to
see it first.” They seek to shield themselves by mere ignorance! Be careful, you may well
experience manifestations in yourself or in your immediate family to chasten you. I believe
Satan is sometimes enraged when people doubt that he is able to provoke all of the wild and
outlandish manifestations of demons in a deliverance session; and I am convinced that if
someone is sneering at the idea that the devil can work in certain fashions, they may find out
the hard way in personal or family consequences.
For myself, I had no real problem believing in a personal devil and in the fact that demons can
infest both lost and saved as they have opportunity. Therefore, when I first ran into a storm of
questions and angry abuse about the subject (after we began casting demons from afflicted
Christians), I had to go back through the Bible to think through the truths God had given to me.
Over and over the scandalized came, “You can’t do that!”
To me it was as foolish as telling Peter he could not walk on the water when he was already
doing it. It was as pointless as the demon who indignantly informed me that I could not come
From Can a Christian Have a Demon? By Don Basham, copyright 1971 by Whitaker Books, Monroeville, PA. Used
by permission. p. 51.
against him. He was annoyed when I pointed out that I was already doing it and that he was
powerless to stop me. It is like trying to prove the sky is blue on a clear day or that water is wet.
These truths are self-evident, but so difficult to show to those who are predisposed to
disbelieve them. Amazing, too, for many of the critics are well-versed in many crucial doctrinal
matters in Scripture. How sad that Satan has managed to hoodwink them in this vital area.
When a person is born again by confessing his sin and asking the Lord Jesus Christ to come into
his heart and save him (Romans 3:23, 24; 6:23; Revelation 3:20), he is received by the Father
and salvation comes instantaneously in the experience of the new birth. Love, joy, and peace
are the initial, logical by-products. The Holy Spirit comes to indwell and seal the believer as
God’s earnest of redemption (Ephesians 1:13, 14) and His abiding presence is guaranteed until
the believer is redeemed (in point of time) completely by being taken to be with the Lord,
whether it be through the door of death, or through the door in the sky (I Thessalonians
The Holy Spirit, therefore, inhabits the body of the believer in a peculiar and special way in
these days since Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the assembled believers.
The child of God (John 1:12) is accepted in the Beloved, Jesus (Ephesians 1:6), and blessed with
the assurance of God’s presence and blessing (John 10:28-30).
In spite of these wonderful changes, however, a week will scarcely pass in a babe’s life
(assuming he follows the Lord in Bible study and prayer), that he will not be convicted of some
sin of omission or commission (James 4:17), which must be confessed (I John 1:9) and put away
(Proverbs 28:13). This will continue indefinitely as long as the believer is growing in grace and in
the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many of these sins of omission and commission were present at the time of conversion and
some will lie unnoticed by the believer for months, until the Lord deals with them. The Holy
Spirit is able to coexist with these unconfessed sins.
Why then is it so difficult to accept the fact that the Holy Spirit is able to also coexist with
indwelling demons until they are detected, hated, renounced, and expelled in the Name of our
Lord Jesus Christ?