“When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. 7 And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” 9 Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.” – Mark 5:6-10
Having a better understanding of the origins and attributes of fallen angels, or demons, revealed to us in the pages of Scripture, what more do we need to know and consider about their activity? I noted in our last edition that demons have the ability and power to inflict and exacerbate physical and mental illness in people. For example, in Luke 11:14, we find that a demon made a man mute. After Jesus cast the demon out, the man was able to speak again. The Bible also teaches us that demons are active in many forms of deception and discouragement. Thus, they are part of the Christian’s common enemy in spiritual warfare. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
So, if demons are powerful, yet their power is limited, what else can they do? Can they possess people? Can Christians be demon possessed? The answer to the second question is clearly, “Yes.” Some people, particularly unbelievers, can be demon possessed. We can see this clearly in Christ casting out the demon in Luke 11:14, the unclean spirit in Mark 1:24, as well as his casting a legion out of the Gadarene man in our focus text in Mark 5.
As we consider the account in Mark 5 for a moment, we find the demon asking a similar question the one in Mark 1 asked, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” See that the demon knew who Jesus was and further distanced himself from Christ by his question. “Please, please don’t torment me!” was the essence of his plea. When Jesus commanded the demon to come out of the man, and then asked what the demon’s name was, know that the question reveals His superior power over the demon – not that Jesus didn’t know his name and merely wanted to know it. No, He had supreme power over him. Legion was the spirit’s name, “for we are many,” he said. A Roman legion was six-thousand men. Think about this for a moment as you consider what was true of Legion. Even if his name doesn’t mean an entire Roman legion, it indicates a vast number of demons. See how Legion then cowered before Jesus, begging Him earnestly, recognizing Jesus’ absolute power over him. Praise God for our Almighty, Lord Jesus! No one, not even the greatest spiritual forces of darkness have power or authority that comes even remotely close to the omnipotence of God. They are but creatures. Let this be of great comfort to you today!
Further, Jesus authorized and equipped the twelve disciples, along with the seventy, to cast out demons in His name (by His power). We find this true in Luke 9:1 “Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.” Also in Luke 10:17, the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Why did Jesus do this? As these verses communicate, the purpose was to show Christ’s dominion over the demons and to verify that the disciples were acting in His name and by His authority.
Some may ask, do modern “deliverance ministries” or “exorcism services” have biblical grounding? No, they don’t. There seems to be no gift in the New Testament apart from the Apostolic ministry of the exorcism of the demons. This is supported by a recognizable shift in the latter part of the New Testament. We find teaching in Romans through Jude to teach about demonic activity, yet not the actions of casting them out. Further, we are not told how to cast demons out of others, or that we should even consider doing so. So, what are we taught to do in regards to demonic forces and our encounters with them? We are to fly to Christ in prayer for aid in our times of need and distress. We are commanded to put on the armor of God and stand against them (Ephesians 6:10-18). We are to submit to God and resist the Devil (James 4:7), being watchful and aware of him and his wiles (1 Peter 5:8). We must not give place to him in our lives (Ephesians 4:27).
Others may ask, if some people can be demon possessed, what about Christians? Can we be demon possessed? No, we can’t. Simply put, we can be oppressed and assailed by demons, but where the Holy Spirit dwells, demons can not. Dr. RC Sproul helpfully says, “The Scriptures indicate that Satan can oppress us, assault us, tempt us, slander us, and accuse us. But a Christian who is indwelled by the Holy Spirit cannot be possessed by a demon. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). If a person indwelled by the Holy Spirit can at the same time be sovereignly controlled by an evil spirit, then our redemption is meaningless.”
In our next edition, we will consider more of the attributes and activity of angels.