Can A Spirit-Filled Born-Again Christian Be Possessed With An Evil Spirit?

Within pentecostal and charismatic circles, it’s common to see Spirit-filled born-again Christians undergoing deliverance or exorcism on account of demon-possession. These evil spirits are thought to be responsible for inducing born-again Christians to commit various sins. Is it possible for someone filled with the Holy Spirit to be possessed by evil spirits at the same time that the Holy Spirit is dwelling within the person? Can the Holy Spirit coexist with evil spirits within the same person? What’s responsible for making born-again Christians to commit sin? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these pertinent questions.

James 3:11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

James 3:12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water (NIV).

The Apostle James asked these rhetorical questions above to point us to the fact that it’s against the law of nature for two diametrically opposite entities to coexist in the same place at the same time. Salt water and fresh water cannot flow from the same spring. A fig tree cannot bear olives, neither can a grapevine produce figs. It’s just not natural and it’s therefore impossible for such occurrences to happen.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God. He is holy and divine. He fills and indwells believers in Christ. Evil or vile spirits are spirits of demons who are unclean and impure. They possess people who are unholy and impure. These are people who do not know God, who have not experienced the new birth, or people from whom the Holy Spirit has departed, having previously dwelt in them. Because these two spirits are diametrically opposed to each other (one is holy and the other unholy; one is from God and the one from demons), they both cannot co-exist simultaneously inside the same person.

1 Samuel 16:11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, Are all your sons here? And he said, There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.

1 Samuel 16:12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him, for this is he.

1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

1 Samuel 16:14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

1 Samuel 16:15 And Saul’s servants said to him, Behold now, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.

1 Samuel 16:16 Let our lord now command your servants who are before you to seek out a man who is skillful in playing the lyre, and when the evil spirit from God is upon you, he will play it, and you will be well.

1 Samuel 16:17 So Saul said to his servants, Provide for me a man who can play well and bring him to me.

1 Samuel 16:18 One of the young men answered, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him.

1 Samuel 16:19 Therefore Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, Send me David your son, who is with the sheep.

1 Samuel 16:20 And Jesse took a donkey laden with bread and a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them by David his son to Saul.

1 Samuel 16:21 And David came to Saul and entered his service. And Saul loved him greatly, and he became his armor-bearer.

1 Samuel 16:22 And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David remain in my service, for he has found favor in my sight.

1 Samuel 16:23 And whenever the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him (ESV).

The Scriptures present us with an interesting story in the passage quoted above. The moment David was anointed by Samuel to be king in Israel, God’s Spirit (the Holy Sprit) came upon David. At about the same time, God’s Spirit that was upon Saul (who was previously anointed king by the same Samuel) departed from him, and an evil spirit came upon Saul from that moment. Let’s note something important here: before an evil spirit could come upon Saul, the Spirit of God previously upon him had to depart from him. The evil spirit could not possess Saul while the Spirit of God was still upon him. The Holy Sprit and evil spirits are diametrically opposed and cannot coexist in the same person at the same time. One must give way for the other to take hold of a person.

We’re told in Scriptures that when an evil spirit is cast out from a demon-possessed person, such a spirit has the potential to come back to inhabit that person, if the person is not filled with a contrary spirit (in this case, the Holy Spirit). This means that evil spirits cannot possess or fill someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit and evil spirits cannot coexist at the same time in the same person. For the Holy Spirit to come into a person, every evil spirit in that person must depart first. For an evil spirit to come upon someone previously filled with the Holy Sprit, the Holy Sprit must depart from that person first. One cannot serve two masters at the same time. It’s either one is filled with the Spirit of God and is a servant of God, or one is filled with vile spirits and is a servant of the devil. We cannot serve God and the devil at the same time!

Matthew 12:43 When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none.

Matthew 12:44 Then it says, I will return to my house from which I came. And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order.

Matthew 12:45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation (ESV).

Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (NKJV).

If the Holy Spirit and evil spirits cannot coexist in the same person at the same time, what then is responsible for a Spirit-filled believer sinning? If it’s not evil spirits residing in the Spirit-filled believer that inspires him to sin, what is at work? What we must understand about the Spirit-filled believer is that he has a dual nature. Every born-again Christian who’s filled with the Holy Spirit also have their own innate sinful nature still resident in them. We all have our flesh or “old man” still alive in us. It is the flesh or the “old man” in us, the sinful nature, that induces us to sin, not evil spirits inhabiting us. That sinful nature or the “old man” in us is what we all struggle with in our sanctification process. Sanctification is mortifying the flesh or carnal nature in us, and allowing the Holy Spirit and his fruits to dominate and control our lives. The daily battle for believers is between the Holy Spirit and the flesh in us. When we fail to mortify the flesh, through the Holy Spirit in us, we become overwhelmed by the flesh, and it will manifest his works, which are sinful. Sin then is not the work of evil spirits in us, but the manifestations of the flesh or old nature still resident in us, which will only be removed when we’re glorified and clothed with our immortal bodies. That’s when we will have and manifest sinless perfection.

Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.

Romans 7:19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Romans 7:20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Romans 7:21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.

Romans 7:22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.

Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members (NKJV).

Romans 8:12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (NKJV).

Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,

Galatians 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,

Galatians 5:21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Galatians 5:23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (NKJV).

So then, it’s not deliverance that will make a born-again Christian to stop sinning, because there are no evil spirits possessing him or her. To stop sinning, a Christian needs to deal with the sinful nature (the flesh or the “old man“) which is still alive in every Christian, despite our new birth experience. And, dealing with the “old man” or the flesh is not a one-off thing. Crucifying or mortifying the “old man” is a lifelong process of sanctification. It involves filling our hearts and minds with the word of God, meditating on the word of God, praying, fasting, separating ourselves from sinful associations and sinful environments, etc. We’ll never be sinless on this side of eternity, because the “old man” will never completely die, until we’re glorified. However, we’re expected to sin less and less as we grow more and more in grace. It’s as we discipline and pummel the flesh that the Holy Spirit is allowed to dominate and guide and lead us in the path of righteousness and holiness. Working out our sanctification involves working on the flesh to subdue it and bring it into subjection to the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, however high we rise in our sanctified walk, we’re all still capable of falling and sinning. And when we fall and sin, it will not be because we’re possessed by evil spirits; it will just be because the flesh which has always been there in us was released from its suppression by the Holy Spirit and broke through, because we allowed it. What we need to do at such times is not to undergo deliverance, but to repent and rededicate ourselves to God, and continue with the daily work of mortifying the flesh.

Psalms 119:9 How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.

Psalms 119:10 With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!

Psalms 119:11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You (NKJV).

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (NKJV).

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

1 Corinthians 9:26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air (NIV).

Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God (NKJV).

Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Colossians 3:2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Colossians 3:3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Colossians 3:6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

Colossians 3:7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

Colossians 3:8 But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Colossians 3:10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator (NIV).

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (NKJV).

1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (NKJV).

In conclusion, the Holy Spirit and evil spirits cannot co-exist at the same time in an individual, just as fresh and salt water cannot flow from the same spring. It’s impossible. It’s therefore unscriptural and incongruent to be conducting exorcism on Spirit-filled born-again Christians for whatever reasons. When Holy Spirit-filled Christians sin, it’s not because they were induced to do so by evil spirits residing in them. Christians sin simply because every born again child of God still harbours the sinful nature (the “old man” or the flesh) in them, despite the new birth experience. As long as the “old man” still remains in us (and he will continue to remain in us until we’re glorified and clothed with our immortal bodies), we will still be susceptible to sin. The “old man” in every Christian can be tempted to sin, and it will succumb every now and then. In fact, those who rise the highest in their walk with God and think they’re now standing should take heed, because they can fall at any time if they’re not careful. The safeguard against sin is to mortify the flesh and its lusts, through the Holy Spirit residing in us. This is done by filling our hearts and minds with the word of God and meditating on it day and night, through prayer and fasting, and by separating ourselves from sinful companions and environments. This sanctification process is lifelong and will never be complete on this side of eternity, as we can never achieve sinless perfection in these vile bodies of ours. However, we’re to sin less and less as we grow in grace and in our walk with the Lord. When we sin and fall short of God’s glory (which will happen every now and then), what we need is not deliverance or exorcism, but repentance, confession of our sins and a rededication of our selves back to God. A Spirit-filled Christian doesn’t need to undergo deliverance each time he sins, simply because he is not possessed by evil spirits!

Published by Dr. Ndubuisi E. Ojo

Dr Ojo is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a student of the Word of God, who believes firmly in the original apostolic faith as the only authentic version of Christianity, and the only legitimate basis for Christian conduct, order and doctrine.

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