Preface: this letter is from a long email exchange with an old friend who is a self-proclaimed Pagan. This letter is mostly about spiritual warfare with a bit of Holy Spirit baptism included.
I have been talking about two separate yet possibly connected things. Demonization/oppression and spiritual warfare. I want to make sure that is clear. I will first discuss why I believe demonization is very much a reality in modern society and then I will discuss what I mean by spiritual warfare. I have been providing information mostly about spiritual warfare, yes. But the question I had for my professors was about evil/demonic forces in the world today. I just want to make sure you realize that. Based on what I have learned there are different causes to these thoughts we have as humans that can be explained as purely psychological and on the other hand could very well be demonic. Demonic thoughts are things like blasphemous thoughts that arise from a person’s heart and are consciously expressed without the slightest remorse, whereas thoughts that are pathological in nature are thoughts that force themselves upon a person and instead of being expressed are abhorred and genuinely repented of.
What I know as truth is this: demonization is VERY real and I know this because of the things Mark has experienced, I have experienced, the anecdotal evidence I have read about in books and heard in interviews, and the great frequency of the record of such cases in the synoptic gospels. Did you know that there are 17 cases of demonization mentioned in the gospels alone? Jesus Christ treated 9 specific cases of demonized persons. Two cases that could have easily been dismissed as psychological were indeed actually demonic, the case of the dumb man in Matthew 9:32 who in this case a demon caused passivity of this man’s speech and once the demon was cast out by Jesus the man was in control again. And the other one was mentioned in Matthew 12:22 when the man was blind and dumb, once Jesus cast the spirit out the man was able to use his sight and speech normally. This “demon-caused passivity” (daimonizomenos) is the control by one or more demons with various results in the life of the person, including the physical and the psychological.
Here are some of the reasons I believe in the existence of modern-day demonization. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention demons will stop tormenting us humans/believers. In the Bible there is PLENTY of mention of the demonic and unclean spirits, here are some of them. Like I mentioned before, I do not base my beliefs on feelings and convictions alone, that would be the definition of emotionalism and that is not a basis for sound rationalism. The Greek phrase “echo pneuma daimoniou akathartou” means “having the spirit of an unclean demon”and its mentioned in Luke 4:33 and Acts 8:7. And in Acts 16:16 the Greek phrase “echousan pneuma puthona” means “having a python spirit”
In Mark 1:23 the phrase “en pneumatic akatharto” presents a man with an unclean spirit and in Luke 6:18 it talks about Jesus curing “encochloumenoi app pneumatic akatharton” or “those who were troubled with unclean spirits” and in Acts 10:38 when Peter was speaking to the Gentiles for the first time he says “katadunasteuomenous hypo you diabolic” which means “and healing those all who were oppressed by the devil” In Luke 8:30 the spirit who is external to the man is seen as invading his body, most likely the control centers of the brain that affect his mind, behavior, and physical strength. These are just to name a few of the reasons I believe what I believe.
Demonization is not merely an old-world term for schizophrenia. Schizophrenia can be relieved by drugs and therapy. When someone is demonized the personality of the demon eclipses the personality of the person afflicted. A perfect example of demonic possession in the Bible is in Mark 5, the story of the demoniac. He exhibited 8 symptoms of possession: the indwelling of an unclean spirit, unusual strength, fits of rage, disintegration/splitting of personality, resistance to spiritual things, excessive sensibility (clairvoyant powers), alteration of voice, occult transference of spirits within him into nearby swine.
In Mark 9:14-29 it appears as if the boy has epilepsy, but is then cured when Jesus casts an impure spirit out of him. And in Luke 13:11-17, a woman that has a severe case of scoliosis is cured by Jesus casting out a satanic spirit. This is why I say that all things that appear to be merely physical/psychological are not always so. I must revoke any implication I have made in the past about ALL physical ailments having a spiritual component, this I can not be certain of based on more research I have been doing, but it is clear based on scripture that it is sometimes the case of spiritual demonization and not merely natural causes that bring people illnesses.
Here are some more symptoms of demonization based on symptoms noted by counselors: projection of new personality, supernatural knowledge, supernatural physical strength, moral depravity, deep melancholy or seeming idiocy, ecstatic or extremely malevolent or ferocious behavior, spells of unconsciousness, and foaming at the mouth, resistance to prayer or Bible reading, falling into a trance during prayer, reaction to the name of Jesus, the exhibition of clairvoyant abilities, and speaking in unlearned languages.
I believe deliverance through believers is true/necessary because of these verses: Matthew 16:18, John 14:12-14, Matthew 18:18-19, Eph 6:10-20.
Now to speak on spiritual warfare:
This is what I understand of spiritual warfare based on personal experience, anecdote evidence of friends and strangers, Biblical text, and research of books/sermons written on the subject. We as Christians have 3 enemies to combat while experiencing spiritual warfare: the flesh, the world, and the satan (and his demonic armies). I think my problem is that my pastor and my professors have seemingly disregarded the satan as being one of our enemies in modern-day spiritual warfare. I think that’s what it all comes down to now that I think about it.
The flesh is not our human nature, mankind, or the covering of our bones, the flesh has a more limited meaning. The flesh is the evil capacity within each human. Psalm 51:5 shows that ever since Adam and Eve sinned all men are born in a state of sin and based on Ephesians 2:3 we are all “by nature children of wrath” These are related to depravity. We as humans are completely affected by sin in our intellect, emotions, and will. Romans 3:10-18 and Ephesians 4:17-19 explain this. The flesh is that part of a human person that is in rebellion toward God.
“Flesh” (sarx) is mentioned in many verses using different language to describe the same thing, Romans 8:3-4, Galatians 5:16-19, Romans 6:6, and Eph 4:22 to name a few. In Romans 6:6 some teach the “old man” is “dead” meaning annihilated because it is crucified with Christ. “Dead” as used in the NT never means annihilation though, it means separation and lack of normal functioning. The death of the sin nature (flesh, sarx) is a legal judgment that separates it from being able to dominate us so we do not have to operate in our old natural functions as sinners.
The flesh is selfish. Sin nature functions are powerful in the realm of rebellion against the law of God. The flesh seeks to forbid the practice of spiritual good in the life of the believer. Whether in an unsaved man or saved man, the flesh cannot begin to please God. It is self-gratifying in nature. Here are the verses that cause me to believe this: Romans 7:21-25, Romans 7:14-20, Romans 8:6-8, and Galatians 5:19-21. The flesh is inclined and capable of all sorts of evil behavior. The satan uses the flesh as a tool to gain control in our lives, Paul warns of this in Ephesians 4:27. When Christians practice sin we give place-literally claim or practical ground to the satan’s activity in our lives. When we willfully practice sins of the flesh it gives occasion for the satan to have his way in the life of a believer. Even though all legal claim of the satan against us was canceled on the cross, a believer’s willful indulgence in fleshly sins gives the enemy a place or a claim against us which he will surely exploit quickly. This is what I meant when I was saying we surrender our will to the satan.
But Hallelujah to this fact, by Christ the flesh was defeated legally at the cross through our co-crucifixion with Christ (Romans 6:1-10). We, as believers, were baptized unto Christ by the Holy Spirit upon our trusting Christ, and we were placed in union with Christ in His death and resurrection as well. This also legally judged the flesh and removed its right to rule our lives constantly like it did before we were saved. We as Christians have the responsibility to apply this truth by recognizing the fact of the defeat of the sin nature, reckoning ourselves dead to sin but alive to God, refusing to let sin rule us, and relinquishing the control of our lives to God, in this we have the promise that grace and not the law will enable us for victory. When we give God FULL control of our lives we are open to being filled with the Holy Spirit and we are commanded to be constantly filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) but in order to do this, we must obey the Spirit’s Word (Colossians 3:16) The Holy Spirit is what helps us gain victory over the flesh, the flesh and the spirit are in a constant battle according to Galatians 5:17.
Now to speak on the world and how it contributes to the spiritual warfare of the believer:
In the Bible, it is clear that the world is an active enemy of God and the true believer. The world is to be understood to involve a philosophy and an organized system to express that philosophy. As we know from the Bible, the satan is “the god of this age/world” according to 2 Corinthians 4:4. And we also know that the satan is the creator of a creature-centered philosophy based on what we read in Scripture as well. Jesus refers to the satan as “Ho archon you kosmou” or “prince of this world” in John 12:31 and John 16:11. The satan is the ruler of an organization of fallen men and angels who are willfully separated from God and are His natural enemies. This world that belongs to the satan is the counterfeit’s counterpart to God’s rule and Kingdom including its nations and individuals.
We live in a sinful culture, just look around with your spiritual eyes, and you will see. Humans are enslaved and governed by this sinful culture. Jesus says “the whole world lies in the evil one” (1 John 3:12) It is apparent by the vast value held in humanism where man is the center and standard of all things.
The world extends the dynamic of the flesh and this is evident and validated by 1 John 2:16-17.
The satan desired to be like God in control, not in character (like we believers are expected to be). He then sold his rebellious philosophy to men and he now rules over all who have fallen into sin. He promotes this concept of creature-centered living. The “wisdom” of the world promotes bitter jealousy and selfish ambition and leads men to be arrogant and so lie against the truth. According to James, “this wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic” (James 3:14-15) It was the rulers of this world following this “wisdom” that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ!
The satan has a stronghold on the human heart and it is clear he rules the world system and has an influence on the human flesh. He wants to rule as god and he desires the worship that only God deserves. He is the reason why this world involves so many false religions and threatens to defeat the true children of God. The satan offered the kingdoms of this world to Jesus Christ, how could he offer something that was not his to give away? He uses the governments and kingdoms of this world to carry out schemes that are in direct opposition to God and the church of Christ.
But like Jesus conquered the flesh, He has also conquered the world! Hallelujah! Jesus’s sacrifice has indeed limited and put an expiration date on the satan’s powers but it has not eliminated them as you will see in the following section. The power of Christ allows believers to overcome the world’s attempts to appeal to our flesh, entice us with its offers, shame our faith, and conform us to its standards!! Our faith is the victory that has overcome the world! SO COOL!
The world is passing away and also its lusts: but the one who does the will of God abides forever! Amen! (1 John 2:17)
We do this by obeying the Word of God. His commandments are not burdensome, as the world will try and convince us of. The God I know is good and gracious and He knows the peace and joy come from HIS pleasures not the worlds’.
Okay not to speak on the satan and his demons part in spiritual warfare:
Based on personal conversations, it seems like some of the Christians I have spoken to about this manner are afraid to study what the Bible has to say about this topic out of fear of coming under demonic influence or something? I’m not sure why they think that, but that’s the impression I am getting. God didn’t provide all the information about it within His Word for us to ignore it or consider it unimportant or harmful. Some seem to think ignorance is bliss. That’s just foolishness! They are only leaving themselves open to the satan’s wiles by not arming themself with what the Word of God has to say on the matter, in my personal opinion. This is probably why so many churches are teaching false gospels and a majority of Christians are not truly saved, I’m not sure, just a speculation. From a biblical perspective, all believers should know all we can about the satan and his tactics and methods of attacking us. We must also know the biblical basis of our victory over him and his vast world of darkness.
No one in this world is not either directly or indirectly affected by demonic influence. Like I mentioned above, all men are considered sinners that are influenced by the flesh which is morally related to the satan. We all live in the satanic world system and the demonically influenced individuals and governments influence many lives. Demons are everywhere and no one can totally escape their influence.
The evidence I have come across that Christians face demonic influence and it’s directly opposed to the Christ within them is found in the book of Acts. Luke thought it was important enough to mention 11 instances of confrontation with demons!
All idolatrous activity is energized by demons and demons overall reject the gospel and oppose its spreading.
There are also at least 16 sections in the NT that specifically deal with satanic or demonic effects on believers. If you are curious where these are found I am more than happy to send you a list.
In order to battle these demonic forces we must receive scriptural teaching, fill our heads with the Word of God (sharpen our sword of truth), and resist the satan at all costs.
Random note on receiving the Holy Spirit through water baptism alone:
Based on what I’ve studied, not everyone who is baptized in water is given the Holy Spirit automatically. I know why the denomination Church of Christ believes that but they are not taking instances like Cornelius in Acts 10, David in 1 Samuel 16:11-13, All the apostles on Pentecost, the fact that the Holy Spirit is given to those who sincerely believe as Jesus mentions in John 7:37-39, Jesus Christ gave the Holy Spirit to His disciples through His breath not water in John 20:18-23, the Apostle Paul received the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands before water baptism in Acts 9 , AND people believed the word of God and received the Holy Spirit before water baptism in Acts 10 (the list goes on!) into account. The thing I notice about a lot of denominations is that they latch on to ONE verse and build their whole belief system in that area on that one verse without taking all of the other verses that are similar in nature into account as well. That is what I am trying to say. Thats a HUGE problem!! There’s my beef on that situation.
The Holy Spirit falling on people is A GIFT OF GOD, no man can give it. The work of the Spirit directly relates to the grace of God. You cannot walk into the grace of God without the power of the Holy Spirit. Whenever the Spirit of God is at work within us it is through the grace of God. These two elements are very much connected, this relation is mentioned in Zechariah 4:6-7. In the NT 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 the new covenant of Grace is described as being received through the Power of the Holy Spirit. We cannot walk in to God’s grace without the help of the Holy Spirit. Does that make sense to you now?
I think I answered all of your questions to the best of my ability. And I do think God grants grace to unbelievers through getting them through addictions and this could be a way He calls them but they do not answer. God calls everyone but only the elect answer the call. Matthew 22:14 “Many are called, but few are chosen.” That is so sad to me when I think about all the people God has called but who were too stubborn/rebellious to answer.
Maybe what I’ve said is true, or maybe I’m just crazy! Haha! Only God knows.
Anyways, now that I wrote a novel, I look forward to hearing back from you,