October 8, 2017
Are demons active in the world today? Much of our western secularized society is unwilling to admit the existence of demons—except perhaps in “primitive” societies—and relegates all talks of demonic activity to the category of superstition. But the unwillingness of modern society to recognize the presence of demonic activity today is, from a biblical perspective, simply due to people’s blindness to the true nature of reality.
But what kind of activity do demons engage in today? Are there some distinguishing characteristics that will enable us to recognize demonic activity when it occurs? Tarnish
If we think of the overall emphasis of the NT epistles, we realized that very little space is given to discussing demonic activity in the lives of believers or methods to resist and oppose such activity. The emphasis is on telling believers not to sin but to live lives of righteousness. For example, in 1 Corinthians, when there is problem of dissention, Paul does not tell the church to rebuke a spirit of dissention, but simply urge them to “agree” and “be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). Problem of incest—Paul tells them that they ought to be outraged and that they should exercise church discipline until the offender repent (1 Cor. 5:1-5). Problem of going to court to sue another believer—Paul said simply tells them to settle those cases within the church (1 Cor. 6:1-8). Disorder at the Lord’s Supper—Paul simply tells them that they should “wait for one another”, “examine themselves, and so eat the bread and drink the cup” (1 Cor. 11:33, 38)
With regard to preaching the gospel to unbelievers, the NT pattern is the same: although occasionally Jesus or Paul would cast out a demonic spirit that was causing significant hindrance to proclaiming the gospel in a certain area (Mark 5:1-20 [Gerasene demoniac]; Acts 16:16-18 [soothsaying girl at Philippi]), that is not the usual pattern of ministry presented, where the emphasis is simply on preaching the gospel (Mark 9:35; Rom. 1:18-19; 1 Cor. 1:17-2:5). In marked contrast to the practice of those who today emphasize “strategic level spiritual warfare,” in no instance does anyone in the NT (1) summon a territorial spirit (2) demand information from demons about a local demonic hierarchy (3) demonic stronghold over the city have to be broken before the gospel can be proclaimed with effectiveness. Rather, Christians just preach the gospel, and it comes with power to change lives.
Therefore, though the NT clearly recognizes the influence of demonic activity in the world, and even as we shall see, upon the lives of believers, its primary focus regarding evangelism and Christian growth is on the choices and actions taken by people themselves (Gal. 5:16-26; Eph. 4:1-6:9; Col. 3:1-4:6). Similarly, this should be primary focus of our effort today when we strive to grow in holiness and faith and to overcome the sinful desires and actions that remain in our lives and to overcome the temptations that come against us from an unbelieving world. We accept our own responsibility to obey the Lord and not to shift blame for our own misdeeds onto some demonic force.
Nevertheless, a number of passages show that the NT authors were definitely aware of the presence of demonic influence in the world and in the lives of Christians themselves. In 2 Timothy, Paul implies that those who opposes sound doctrine have been captured by the devil to do his will: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
Person causing the problem.
Jesus similarly asserted that the Jews who obstinately opposed Him were following their father the devil: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Emphasis on the hostile deeds of unbelievers as having demonic influence or sometimes demonic origin is made more explicit in John’s first epistle. He makes a general statement that “he who commit sin is of the devil” (1 John 3:8), and goes on to say, “By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:10).
Here John characterizes all those who are not born of God as children of the devil and subject to his influence and desires. He further says that “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5: 19). In Revelation Satan is called the “deceiver of the whole world” (Rev. 12:9); “the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4); and “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2).
When we combine all these statements and see that Satan is thought of as the originator of lies, murder, deception, false teachings, and sin generally, then it seems reasonable to conclude that the NT wants us to understand that there is some degree of demonic influence in nearly all wrongdoings and sin that occurs today. Not all sin is caused by Satan or demons, nor is the major influence or cause of sin demonic activity, but demonic activity is probably a factor in almost all sin and almost all destructive activity that opposes the work of God in the world today.
The person who takes the lead; the central figure.
In the lives of Christians, as we noted above, the emphasis of the NT is not on the influence of demons but on the sin that remain in the believers lives. Nevertheless, we should recognize that sinning (even by Christians) does give a foothold for some kind of demonic influence in our lives. Thus Paul could say, “BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph.4:26-27).
Wrongful anger apparently can give opportunity for the devil to exert some kind of negative influence in our lives—perhaps by attacking us though oue emotions and perhaps by increasing the wrongful anger that we already feel against others. Similarly, Paul mentions “the breastplate of righteousness” (Eph. 6:14) as part of the armor that we are to use standing against “the wiles of the devil” and in contending “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:11-12).
If we have areas of continuing sin in our lives, then there are weakness and holes in our “breastplate of righteousness,” and these are areas in which we are vulnerable to demonic attack. By contrast, Jesus, who was perfectly from sin, could say of Satan, “He has no power over me” (John 14:30). We may also not the connection between not sinning and not being touch by evil one in 1 John 5:18: “We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.”
The preceding passages suggest, then, that where there is a pattern of persistent sin in the life of a Christian in one area or another, the primary responsibility for that sin rest with the individuals Christian and his or her choices to continue that wrongful pattern. Nevertheless, there could possibly be some demonic influence contributing to, and intensifying that sinful tendency. A believer who has struggled in other areas, such as unwilling to submit to rightful authority, or lack of self control, may consider whether a demonic attack or influence could be contributing to this situation and hindering his, or her effectiveness for the Lord.