In the African Society, we have two versions of preachers. Some have entirely refrained from teaching the relationship between demons and Christians, yet others go on ahead to give non-biblical teachings on the same. The former refrain either because they do not believe in the existence of demons or do not have a biblical understanding of them. As a result, Christians have grown in fear of the mention or even the thought of the existence of demons. In this article, we will seek to understand what Scripture teaches about Satan and demons and their relationship to Christians.
Satan and Demons
The Bible is not silent on the existence and work of Satan (the devil) and demons. Satan’s name means “the adversary,” “accuser,” “the one who opposes,” and “deceiver”, according to Revelation 12:9. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, their right to rule was handed over to the devil. The world now lies in his power (1 John 5:19) hence the reason Jesus referred to him as “the ruler of this earth” (John 12:31). Scripture also refers to him as “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:20), “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). So, where did Satan and his demons come from?
Satan is a finite creature. He is not eternal. Like every other creature, he was created by God (John 1:1-3, Col. 1:16). He was an angel who resided in heaven with God and other angels. He and some angels, however, defied God’s authority and, as a result, were cast out from heaven (Isaiah 14:12-15, 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6). The angels cast out are the ones referred to as “angels of the devil” (Mathew 25:41). They are referred to as ‘demons’ because they are under the rulership/leadership of the devil. They are spiritual beings; hence we cannot visually see them but can see their work because they “are closely associated with magic and the occult”. They seek the destruction of humanity even as they await their ultimate doom (Luke 4:84). They are commonly identified as “fallen angels,” who, under certain conditions, can possess (control)…,” Dr. Kim Riddlebarger.
Jesus and Demons
Jesus, during his time of ministry on earth, had several encounters with people possessed by demons. The Gospel writers carefully wrote accounts of Jesus’ encounter with Satan and demons and how he handled them (Matthew 4:1-11, 8:16, Luke 11:14, Mark 1:34). While teaching in the synagogue, a demon-possessed man confronts Jesus. Christ commands the demon out of him (Luke 4:31-37). Luke gives another account in Chapter 8 of a man from the city with demons. For a long time, he had not lived in a house but among the tombs (Luke 8:26-39). The man saw Jesus and fell before him, begging Jesus not to torment him. Jesus then commanded the spirits out of the man into a large herd of pigs feeding there on the hillside. He later sent the man home to tell of what God had done for him.
In Jesus’ encounter with Satan and demons, they acknowledge his Sonship to God (Matthew 4:3-6, 8:28-29) and his power over them (Matthew 8:31).
“In the African ministry context, accusations of demon possession are commonplace. Unfortunately, in many cases, there is a very thin line between occurrences of mental disorder and demonization. The African worldview is quite tolerant of accusations of demon possession. This is because of the belief that spirits—good and evil—permeate the cosmos, many belonging to the malicious category. In African Traditional Religion (ATR), it is believed that certain persons possess the ability to induce spirit possession. Mental disorders are quickly linked to demon-possession, which occurs when a person is under the sentence of the divinities or ancestors” (Journal of Adventist Mission Studies, Vol. 18 , No. 1, Art. 4). Because of these claims and beliefs, many preachers have slotted sessions for exorcism and deliverance in their church services. Many false preachers are making a killing out of these sessions as people give money in order to receive these services. The question is, can Christians be demon-possessed? Does Satan have power over Christians?
To be “demon-possessed” means to be under the control of, to be subject to demonic influence, or to have an unclean spirit. This tells us that the demon has some form of control over the victim. On the other hand, Scripture refers to Christians as children of God (John 1:12, Romans 8:16, Galatians 3:26, 1 John 3:1-2). Christ has placed his mark of ownership upon us (John 3:33, 2 Corinthians 1:22) and thus has set us apart from the world. Paul reminds us in Colossians 1:13 that God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. This means we are now not and can never be under the enemy’s power but under God’s leadership. No power can take us away from the Father (John 10:28, Romans 8:37). No Christian can be inhabited by Satan or his demons because He who is in us (the Holy Spirit) is greater than He who is in the world (the devil) (1 John 4:10). However, unbelievers can be controlled by Satan (Ephesians 2:2) as he blinds them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4).
That does not mean that believers are not susceptible to the schemes of the evil one. Though we are not of the world (John 17:16), we are in a constant battle between our flesh, the world, and “the ruler of this world” (Ephesians 6:12). We wage spiritual battle, but “the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (2 Corinthians 10:4). The devil attacks us by tempting us, through deception and all forms of accusation. Jesus, in his prayer in John 17:5, asks God to keep us from the evil one because he prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).
The call, then, to Christians is to be vigilant and sober-minded (Ephesians 6:13, 1 Peter 5:8-9), to resist the devil (James 4:7), and remain in Christ. He is the one who guards us faithfully against the evil one (1 Peter 1:5, 1 John 5:18). We don’t need to live in fear of the devil and his demons.
Freedom in Christ Course by Neil .T. Anderson