In a time when it’s trendy for weak-willed people weighed down by their sins to believe demons can possess and demonize Christians I thought it would be good to bring people back to the Bible. Paul wrote in Colossians 2:8 (NIV), “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
FIVE THINGS THE DEVIL CAN DO TO CHRISTIANS
(1) ATTACK THE CHRISTIAN’S FAITH
Paul said in Ephesians 6:11 (NIV), “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” and in Ephesians 6:16 (NIV), “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” Therefore, the devil can scheme and attack a Christian’s faith. However, Paul also said in 2 Timothy 4:18 (NIV), “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Therefore, the default position of the Christian is victorious living. If you are a Christian and are not in victory in your faith, something is wrong. Repent of all sin and unbelief and live in total victory, stop blaming the devil for something you have or haven’t done.
John wrote in 1 John 5:18 (NIV), “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them” and 1 John 5:4-5 (NIV), “4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” Stay strong in the faith!
(2) HINDER THE CHRISTIAN’S WORK FOR GOD
Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:18 (NIV), “For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked [hindered] our way.” More than likely this kind of hindrance is related to persecution. Paul wrote again about being hindered in Romans 15:22-23 in the context of there being “(NIV) no more place for me to work in these regions.” Therefore, for a time, the devil can use others to temporarily prevent us from fulfilling the Great Commission. Nevertheless, Jesus will build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail. That is why while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, waiting to beheaded by Nero, “…I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9, NIV). For a season, the devil may prevent us from preaching and reaching people with the gospel, but God will fill the earth with His knowledge as the waters cover the sea (Habakkuk 2:14) and this gospel will be preached to all the world (Matthew 24:14). Whether by life or death, may Jesus be glorified!
(3) TEMPT THE CHRISTIAN TO SIN
Like with Jesus, the devil knows how to tempt us with his evil intentions (Matthew 4:1-11). Therefore, as with Jesus, we need to resist the devil with the Word of God and he will flee. Notice that James taught us to submit to God and resist the devil in James 4:7 (NIV), “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Therefore, we are not to be fleeing from the devil, but he is to flee from us. We are to be like David running towards the enemy’s gates, taking back what he has stole from us. As Reinhard Bonnke once said, “Christians must plunder hell and populate heaven, in Jesus’s name!” To learn more about what could happen if a Christians continues in willful sin and gives a “place / foothold” to the devil read here.
But lest the Christian think all temptation is from the devil notice what James also wrote in his epistle, “… each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed” (James 1:14, NIV). That is why the full context of James 4:7 is not focused on the devil but rather abstaining from sin, James 4:7-8 (NIV), “7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Stay submitted to God and sin’s enticement (via the devil and the flesh) will be powerless!
(4) AFFLICT THE CHRISTIAN’S BODY
The story of Job’s suffering and affliction is an Old Testament example of how God can allow the devil to negatively impact our bodies for a greater purpose. The Bible states in Job 2:7 (NIV), “So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.” Notice how the devil does not send demons to live in the body of Job to make the boils nor does the devil’s affliction upon the flesh of Job entail power over his mind, soul, or spiritual life. All that we are told is that Job’s body was afflicted, nothing more. This may be what is going in some sicknesses and ailments that Christians face today. Certain Christians give the example of a woman being loosed from a spirit by Jesus in Matthew as a similar account of a Christian’s body being afflicted by the devil. The account is as follows:
Luke 13:10-13 (NIV), “10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.”
Like with Job with are not given any further details. All we are left is a person had an affliction that was related to a spiritual being. We are not told if she was a disciple of Christ. Likewise, it was recorded in Matthew 4:24 (NIV), “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.” The best we can speculate from these accounts is the following:
(i) Some illnesses or physical afflictions may be caused by evil spirits
(ii) Thought there is no example of a New Testament, born again, Spirit-baptized believer having such afflictions; it may be possible
(iii) Jesus is able to deliver all from these afflictions of devil
At best it is naive to make these kind of afflictions equal to demonization in a person’s spiritual soul and at worst it is dangerously deceptive to make people think because they may be afflicted by the devil that they are under his power. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV), “13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Christians be definition are not under the devil’s dominion (rule or power).
(5) BONUS: BE LIKE A “THORN” IN THE CHRISTIAN’S FLESH
This vague reference from Paul has given scholars much to debate over the years, but certain things can be said from the beginning:
(i) Whatever the thorn is, it has nothing to do with demonization (the word and context do not fit the standard narrative of such activity- Matthew 8:28)
(ii) Paul was in no way under the power of a demon (Paul would have been disqualified from being an apostle if he was under the control of a demon- 1 Timothy 3:6)
(iii) Paul’s spiritual soul, along with his body was free from all moral evil (Paul couldn’t pray something for others to experience spiritually that he himself was not experiencing, this would make him a hypocrite, 1 Thessalonians 5:23)
Now, let us read the situation in its original context:
2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (NIV), “1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The following explanations have been given to explain this odd situation:
(i) Paul was mentally attacked by a demon (like being tempted to sin, 1 Corinthians 11:29).
(ii) Paul was physically attacked by a demon (like in his eyes, Galatians 4:15).
(iii) Paul was persecuted by people influenced by demons (like in 1 Thessalonians 2:18).
I personally choose option three because the Holy Spirit has showed me with biblical evidence that it fits best with the context. Notice in Numbers 33:55 what God said the wicked nations would be like to the Israelites; (NIV) “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.” Likewise, the word Paul used for torment [kolaphizō] is not the Greek word used for demonization, but rather the word used for buffet or strike, as in what the Roman soldiers did to Jesus and what the mobs at times did to Paul (Matthew 26:67, Mark 14:65, & 1 Corinthians 4:11). Hence the KJV translating verse 7 as, “there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me.”
Really, what do you think is more likely, Paul was demonized or he was describing how God was allowing the devil to send people to persecute him? The answer should be obvious. But once last line of evidence comes from how Paul described those who persecuted him. Notice later in the same book he wrote 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 (NIV), “14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” Therefore, it is most likely that the false super-apostles were being used by the devil to buffet and cause problems for Paul. And after ask God to remove this thorn in his side, God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And that is why he then said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul didn’t say, “I delight in demonization,” God forbid! Paul knew how to suffer persecution for the sake of Christ because he knew it would result in souls saved and a reward for him when he went to Jesus.
ONE THING THE DEVIL CANNOT DO TO CHRISTIANS
POSSESS OR CONTROL ANY PART OF THE CHRISTIAN’S BODY, SOUL, OR SPIRIT
In the debate of what the devil can do to Christians, some get lost in the Greek word for demon-possessed, daimonizomai. These people believe Christians can be demonized but not possessed because they point out daimonizomai has a unique range and function. However, all major transitions and Greek dictionaries still affirm the English word possess is still best to describe the Greek word daimonizomai. Note the usage of possess in all the English translations below (take from here):
Therefore, no matter how the word is defined, the devil has no control, power, or possession of a Christian for the following reasons:
1-At the moment of being saved a Christian is a new creation and they are the righteousness of God
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV), “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV), “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2-Those who are born again no longer have the spirit of the world:
1 Corinthians 2:12 (NIV), “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God.”
Ephesians 2:1-6 (NIV), “1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
3-Who the Son Sets Free is Free Indeed
John 8:31-32 (NIV), “31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:34-36 (NIV), “34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
4-Christians have been rescued from the dominion of darkness
Colossians 1:13-14 (NIV), “13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
5-After being born again one’s soul is purified
1 Peter 1:22-23 (KJV), “22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
6-The Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer’s entire body, soul, and spirit and keeps them blameless unto the coming of Christ
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (NIV), “23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
7-Christians are in the light, not darkness
1 John 1:5-6 (NIV), “5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.”
8-The devil cannot touch a Christian
1 John 5:18 (NIV), “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.”
9-Greater is he that is in a Christian then he that is in the world
1 John 4:4 (NIV), “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”
10-Spiritual warfare is to stand in the victory of being more than a conqueror in Christ
Ephesians 6:13 (NIV), “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”