How Much Room is Satan Allowed in Believers' Lives?
As an introduction for this study, please read Can a Christian be Demon Possessed?
Let’s start by admitting that this question is not directly addressed in Scripture so we must piece together what Scripture says to come to a conclusion.
First, let’s look at God’s wonderful promises for protection against Satan:
1. We know that Jesus in us is greater than Satan in the world.
1 John 4:1-6: Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. 4 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. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.
2. God promises protection from Satan.
2 Thessalonians 3:3: But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.
3. God has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness.
Colossians 1:13: For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves…
But we must also consider what Scripture says about our role in staying under God’s protection.
We are called to resist Satan in these ways:
1. Genuinely repenting of our sins.
James 4:7-8: Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
2. Being alert and sober minded, standing firm in our faith.
1 Peter 5:8-9: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
3. Forgiving others.
2 Corinthians 2:10-11: Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
4. Dealing with our anger in a timely fashion.
Ephesians 4:26-27: “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.
5. Putting on the full armor of God.
Ephesians 6:10-18: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 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. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
6. Separating ourselves from pagan and occult influences and involvement.
2 Corinthians 6:14-17: Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” 17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
Acts 19 records the immediate response of new Christians to their past connection with occult influences.
Acts 19:19: A number of [new believers] who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars.
We must also admit that there is some mystery involved in the ways God allows Satan to act in the lives of His children.
We can trust that God only allows what is best for us, but we see two examples that also should be part of our discussion:
1. God allowed Satan to test Job in some dramatic ways.
This link will allow you to read the first chapter, but the whole book impacts our discussion.
2. God gave Paul a “thorn in his flesh” described as a “messenger of Satan” sent to torment him and keep him from becoming conceited.
2 Corinthians 12:6-10: 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.
No one can fully understand how Satan impacts the lives of believers, but we can trust God is good and He will not allow us to be tested beyond our ability to resist (1 Corinthians 10:13).
He will provide whatever we need to live godly lives.
2 Peter 1:3: His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Read more on Paul's condition: Got Questions: What Was Paul's Thorn?
My conclusion: Perhaps a Christian cannot be possessed by a demon. I would like to think they cannot. But I don't think Scripture provides enough information for us to know what is possible beyond a shadow of a doubt. However, I wonder if we aren't spending too much time on things Scripture doesn't make clear and ignoring the clear warnings of Scripture. Our emphasis should be resisting Satan and separating ourselves from pagan and occult influences.
2 other resources on demon-possession:
Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer of Moody Church explains that the original languages of Scripture don’t talk of anyone being “possessed” by a demon. However, he believes Scripture gives us reason to think Christians can give Satan an internal foothold in their lives.
“We at The Moody Church have discovered that there can be demonic control in a believer’s life (however that be defined)...We, of course, grant that there is a great deal of mystery we must accept as we deal with the unseen world.”
Got Questions explains that “a demon cannot inhabit or take full control of a Christian. Demonic influence and oppression are realities for Christians, no doubt, but it is simply not biblical to say that a Christian can be possessed by a demon or demonized.”
copyright 2018, Gail Burton Purath, BiteSizeBibleStudy.com