Can a Christian Be Possessed or Oppressed?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

There is a teaching held by some that Christians can be possessed by demons and need to be delivered. However, nowhere in Scripture does it teach that a true believer in Jesus Christ can be possessed by a demon. There are no accounts in the Gospels or book of Acts of true believers being possessed by demons.

Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Although He was making this comment in light of the Pharisees’ accusations that He was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub (Satan), it does make us aware there is a spiritual kingdom of light and a spiritual kingdom of darkness.

You are either in the kingdom of darkness or in the kingdom of light. If you are in the kingdom of darkness you are vulnerable to demon possession. However, if you are in the kingdom of light, you have the Holy Spirit abiding in you (John 14:17). When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us:

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)

As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).

In Luke 11:24-26 (see also Matthew 12:43-45) Jesus talks about a person who, after being delivered from a demon makes only moral changes instead of submitting their lives to Jesus Christ. The evil spirit found the house empty because reform without repentance and regeneration is ineffective. Merely professing faith in Christ is not the same as possessing salvation in Jesus Christ and being indwelt by His Spirit.  

While believers cannot be possessed by demons, we can experience oppression (an external influence or harassment by demonic forces). Peter (Matthew 16:22, 23) and Ananias (Acts 5:3) are examples of how demons (Satan) influenced their decisions.

Scripture clearly indicates that believers in Jesus Christ are in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:3, 4). The Apostle Paul’s life is an example of this spiritual battle (1 Thessalonians 2:18). The apostle Peter describes Satan as a roaring lion seeking who he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). In the flesh, we have no power to resist him, but when we walk in the Spirit we represent Jesus Christ, who by His very words the demons tremble.

Satan does have some authority in this world (Matthew 4:8, 9; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:1; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19) and with his demonic hosts he is trying to do anything he can to turn people away from knowing Jesus Christ. But never forget that as a child of God, you have the victory:

• You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

• Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)

 • For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38, 39)

• For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4, 5)

• And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (Revelation 12:11)

How do we wage war in this spiritual battle? First, make sure you are a true believer who is trusting in Christ alone to save you. Second, evaluate your life and turn away from anything that compromises you and turn towards obedience to Jesus Christ. Avoid occult games, movies and practices (fortune telling, astrology, séances, Tarot cards...) that are channels to demonic spirits. The Bible strictly forbids such types of activities (Exodus 22:18; Leviticus 19:26, 31; 20:6, 27; Deuteronomy 18:9-14; Isaiah 8:19, 20; 1 Corinthians 10:20, 21). Third, follow the advice of Paul to:

Put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:11, 12).   

Continuing on in Ephesians chapter 6, we discover what makes up the armor of God. Notice that we have only one offensive weapon – the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Therefore, we must stay rooted in God’s Word while walking in the power of the Holy Spirit.