Dr. Dean referenced an important article on AmericanThinker.com entitled The Death of Evangelicalism during this class.
Can Christians be Demon Possessed?
1 Samuel 16:14–2
Samuel Lesson #063
September 13, 2016
“Our Father, we are so very grateful that we have You to come to in time of need. We know that You sustain us. We know that You provide for us. We know that You are the only One who knows all of the issues in each one of our lives. You have tailored our spiritual life for each one of us.
Father, we know that there are people in this congregation and those who are listening that are facing serious situations in their lives. They are struggling and holding on to the throne of grace every single day and living one day at a time.
Maybe the problem is financial. Maybe the problem has to do with their marriage or family. Maybe the problem has to do with their work, and their health. Any number of factors can put people under tremendous adversity. The only option is to learn to trust in You. These tests are to designed to test our faith, the doctrine that we know that we may apply it, and that we may grow spiritually and be strengthened.
Father, we pray for each one of these who are facing these challenges that You would strengthen and encourage them through Your Word tonight and through each time that we study Your Word. We pray that You would encourage us.
We also pray for Jim Myers, his new semester, his strength, his stamina with his very busy schedule, and for his health. We pray for us that we might continue to glorify You in all that we say and do. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”
We are still in 1 Samuel dealing with this tremendously important issue related to spiritual warfare, demon possession, demon influence, and this very unusual situation. This is unique in Scripture, that which is happening with Saul. We have been going through the doctrine the past few weeks. Tonight we are going to wrap it up by looking at the question of “Can Christians be Demon Possessed?”
That is not going to take the whole time. I want to come back and talk some about what in the world is going on here with this demon and Saul and the early so-called use of music therapy. We have to analyze music therapy because there is this big trend in psychotherapy today. I want to address that trend.
We are in 1 Samuel 16:14, the key verse to understanding the dynamic that is going on here:
“But the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and a distressing spirit from the LORD troubled him.”
The contrast is that the Spirit of the Lord has come upon David, who is the newly anointed king, but he is not the installed, inaugurated king yet. He is just the anointed king to replace Saul eventually. He is not the king until Saul is taken to be with the Lord at the end of 1 Samuel.
The Spirit of the Lord departs from Saul and an evil spirit. … It is not a distressing spirit. That may be translated that way because that is sort of the effect of this evil spirit. The word there that we see in the lower left of the slide is ra‘, a Hebrew word meaning bad or evil. It indicates that this is a demon that is troubling him, somewhat of a pusillanimous term for what is going on here.
It has the idea of bā‘at, the word in the bottom right of the slide. This word bā‘at has the idea of being overtaken by sudden terror, to be absolutely terrified, to come under extreme anxiety. It would involve anxiety, fear, paranoia that would virtually incapacitate somebody. We have to understand how this is taking place, but that will come at the end of the lesson.
We looked in the previous two lessons at the angelic rebellion as the foundation for this, that there are angels that follow Satan. We learned that there are four different categories of fallen angels, one of which is identified as demons. These demons are active in the world today.
There are two categories that we covered under points 5 and 6:
- Demon influence, which is very different from demon possession, is where a demon is influencing human beings—believer or unbeliever. There is no distinction. This comes through the thought. The demon influences through the thinking of the world, the philosophies of the world, the religions of the world, the peer pressure of the world, the opinions of your parents, your peers, your professors, and the politicians that have ideas that are not biblical.
What does it mean to be nonbiblical?
I have talked to Christian pastors, some doctrinal pastors, and some people who have sat under solid doctrinal teaching for 30–40–50 years. They think that if something is biblical it is because it is consistent with the Bible. A lot of human good is consistent with the Bible. Just because it is consistent with the Bible does not ever make it biblical. What makes it biblical is if it is derived from the Bible. It can be shown to have developed from the text of Scripture. That is what it means to think biblically according to what the Bible teaches, not just to have a system of morality.
There are a lot of unbelievers who have systems of morality. There are a lot of unbelievers who understand certain establishment principles related to authority, related to nationalism, related to marriage and family, but it may be a part of their puzzle. Remember the illustration I have used of a jigsaw puzzle?
You can have 20 pieces in one jigsaw puzzle that are identical to pieces in another jigsaw puzzle. Those pieces in their jigsaw puzzle, let’s say it is a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness, or even a Moslem, those pieces may look identical, but it is the context that defines what the pieces are. It is not the individual pieces.
When you hear certain non-Christians talking about the importance of family, what they mean by family is not what you and I should be talking about. We get our ideas of family directly from the text of Scripture, not from empirical data, not from sociology, not from the ideas of another religion that may not be 100% kosher shall we say.
Demon influences are these ideas. That is why you have to develop discernment to be able to tell the difference using the Bible as a tool for understanding and discerning the difference between truth and error, because Satan goes around like an angel of light. His ministers are ministers of righteousness. They cloak themselves. He is the master counterfeiter. We have to understand how to tell the difference between counterfeit truth and true truth. That is demon influence.
- Demon possession
We went through the exegetical details of the linguistic studies last week. This is when a demon, an immaterial being, takes up residence inside the body of an unbeliever, never a believer, only an unbeliever. This demon can control the physical actions of the unbeliever. He does not bloat out their soul though. The individual is still real, even though the soul may be somewhat covered up, that soul is still in control at some level that can still exercise positive volition.
The only solution to demon possession is for that person to hear the gospel and to respond by trusting in Christ. That is the only option today. There were different options, as we saw, at the time of Christ. He could cast out a demon. He never exorcised a demon. The Greek word for exorcism, EKSORKIZO, is only used of the magicians and the sorcerers. The others were trying to do it through various uses of smells, bells, incantations, and things like that. Demon influence is very real.
- New Testament warnings about demon influence. These are the warning passages:
- 1 Corinthians 10:20
- 1 Timothy 4:1
- 2 Corinthians 11:14–15
- James 3:13–15
You can come under serious demon influence. You can come under serious demon influence by becoming anti-Semitic. You can come under serious demon influence by being anti-Zionistic. You can come under serious demon influence by subscribing to the various theories of humanistic psychology. That is very dangerous. That has captured the evangelical church.
There was an article on American Thinker a couple of weeks ago called “The Death of Evangelicalism.” It was absolutely excellent. This writer laid the beginning of the suicide attempt of the evangelical church at their acceptance of humanistic psychology in the seminaries back in the 1970s and 1980s. I could not agree with him more.
The next step in committing suicide was the acceptance of contemporary Christian music and contemporary Christian worship. Music is a language. It may not be consistent with a biblical or a theistic worldview. It can communicate a message that is 180 degrees contrary to the words that you put with that music. You are giving a mixed message.
We have studied that. You can go back to the Revelation series I taught seven or eight years ago going through that study, as well as the 2013 series that Scott Aniol taught at the Chafer Conference, or you can read his book, Worship and Music: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship. It is very good. So many Christians, solid Christian teachers in other areas, such as Chuck Swindoll, I read this quote from him last week:
“Can a Christian be demonized? For a number of years I questioned this, but now I am convinced it can occur. If a ‘ground of entrance’ has been granted the power of darkness (such as trafficking in the occult, a continual unforgiving spirit, a habitual state of carnality, etc.) the demon(s) sees this as a green light-okay to proceed …” ~Chuck Swindoll, Demonism
“I have worked personally with troubled, anguished Christians for many years. On a few occasions I have assisted in the painful process of delivering them of demons … while present within the body (perhaps in the region of the soul) that evil force can wreck havoc within the life.” ~Chuck Swindoll
These teachers base their doctrine of demonology not on exegesis in the Scripture, but on personal experience. This has happened time and time again.
What I want to do now is address this question of “Can a Christian be Demon Possessed?” How do we understand that, from whence do we get our information? Always we start with the Bible.
I want to correct something. It is in the book on Spiritual Warfare. I have taught this many times, but we always have to come back to it.
There is a traditional argument against demon possession of a Christian. It goes something like this:
Major Premise: The Holy Spirit indwells every believer.
We all believe this. That is a true statement. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer. We will look at the verses in just a minute.
Minor Premise: A demon and the Holy Spirit cannot be in the same place, the same location.
That sounds good, but it is fallacious, because, and is often pointed out, if you go to Job 1–2 there is a convocation of the sons of God, which includes Satan and the fallen angels. They come before the throne of God in Heaven. You see the same thing in the passage we studied a couple of weeks ago in 1 Kings 22. Micah sees this vision of the throne room of God. The sons of God are gathered before God. He asks for a deceiving spirit to go forth to deceive Ahab. You have the presence of evil angels in the throne room of God. They are in the same location as God. The problem is this minor premise.
Conclusion: A Christian therefore cannot have both a demon and the Holy Spirit in the same place.
It is not that this is not generally true, but it is not specifically true. We have go get down to the specifics of what the Scripture says. This is a poorly constructed argument. The problem is not with the conclusion that a Christian cannot be demon possessed. It is that the argument to get there is poorly, poorly constructed. We have to understand what the text actually teaches.
- The indwelling of the Holy Spirit happens to every single believer in the Lord Jesus Christ from the instant we believe in Christ as Savior, 1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 6:19.
I have seen on the Internet any number of listings of all the different things that Christ does for us at the instant of salvation. I have seen Lewis Sperry Chafer’s 32 things revised to 34 things revised to 40 things. I have seen others list 88 things, some list 100 things, and some list 150 things. If you look at the way Lewis Sperry Chafer listed them in his Systematic Theology, many said something like the seven things the Holy Spirit of God does for you. Then it lists those seven things as sub-points.
Other people come along and break them out as main points. It depends on how you organize the things.
Basically, they are all giving the same list. They just innumerate them and break the points out differently. That is why I have never tried to come up with a fixed number on that. There are an innumerable number of things that were done for every believer at the instant we believed in Christ.
We are told in Ephesians 1 that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. I cannot count those. It is beyond my numerical ability. We are all indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God from the instant of salvation. This never happened before in history. Never was one single Old Testament hero indwelt by the Holy Spirit like the Church Age believer is.
The Old Testament believers are endued or empowered by the Spirit for specific leadership roles. We studied that—the Judges, Moses, those who built the furniture in the tabernacle. It is all empowerment for specific roles. It is not for the spiritual life. It is not creating a dwelling place for the Shekinah, the dwelling of the Lord Jesus Christ in every believer.
The two key verses here are:
- 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
“Do you not know?” Paul says that a lot. The plural use is to talk about the whole congregation. Paul is talking in the plurality. It is as “don’t you want to be here on Saturday morning for the men’s prayer breakfast?” When I say this you know that I am not talking to everyone here. I am just talking to the men who are here. We understand contexts to what the “you” means, but I am talking to everybody even though I am using a plural “y’all.” “Don’t y’all want to be here for the men’s prayer breakfast?” I am speaking to each individual male that is in the room. That is how language works.
When Paul says “do y’all”, talking to the Corinthians, do y’all not know he is talking to the group, so he uses a plural but he means every individual in that congregation. The reason I say that is because there are some people who use this verse to say that the church, the body, is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, not the individual. That is a misunderstanding, a misexegesis.
- 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own.”
I think it is Romans 8, 9, 10 that makes the same point. Paul says if the Spirit of God dwells in you. This is speaking about the facts assuming that the Spirit of God would dwell within every believer. This is clear that this is a doctrine for every single believer from the instant of salvation.
The word that is translated “temple” here is the important word. I have two different words that are Greek words in the bottom panel that are used and translated “temple”:
NAOS refers to the inner sanctum, the holiest, and the Holy of Holies. It is the most sanctified location. This is where the Shekinah dwelt in the Temple in the Old Testament.
HIERON is a much broader term. This includes the courtyard where the laver and the brazen altar were located. It goes out to the courtyard of the women and even the courtyard of the Gentiles. It would talk about the entire Temple complex, the outer courtyards and the external grounds.
I have shown the differences in this slide. NAOS: Holy of Holies, which is inside the Holy Place where the presence of God dwelt. Everything else is the HIEROS, the outer Temple. Herod’s Temple is depicted in the slide.
This is another schematic. We have the Holy of Holies on the left, NAOS. It referred to the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies specifically. You could not go in there at all unless you were cleansed as a priest. You could not go in to do the altar of incense or change the bread or any of those things. Only the priests who sanctified themselves could go in there.
HIEROS is the outer Temple.
You see the same thing here with the tabernacle. The tabernacle itself would be the NAOS, and the outer areas would all be the HIEROS.
1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”
You, as an individual believer, you are the place where this dwelling of the Holy Spirit created through the Son of God, Christ in you the hope of glory, Colossians 1:27. It is created. It is special. It is not that the Holy Spirit just dwells in you, but it is the significance of that dwelling making you a NAOS temple, not a HIEROS temple. In a NAOS temple nothing unsanctified can enter. That is what defines and clarifies that particular argument.
1 Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?”
Both these 1 Corinthians verses emphasize the fact that it is a NAOS temple. Therefore, nothing, no one unclean can go in. Nothing evil can go into that especially sanctified area. That relates to our positional sanctification.
We can wrap it up by refining the argument this way:
Argument against demon possession of a Christian
Major Premise: Every believer is a set apart sanctuary (by the Holy Spirit) for the indwelling Jesus Christ. We are a NAOS sanctuary.
Minor Premise: Unsanctified creatures (including demons) cannot enter into this kind of set-apart sanctuary. It is very distinct. The word “temple” is very important.
Conclusion: Demons cannot enter into the set-apart sanctuaries of the believer’s body. Our body has been set apart to God as a NAOS temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is why John can say in 1 John 4:4, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
That is the theological argument as it is derived from the text of Scripture.
We have another place in the Gospels where Jesus uses an illustration that is very similar. It is in relation to Israel and casting out demons.
This is a situation in Matthew 12 about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Jesus illustrates this because the Pharisees have said that He was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, which is another title for Satan. Jesus said:
Matthew 12:28, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
What we saw there is that this does not mean that the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated or that it started or any of that. What it means is that the Kingdom of God is being offered and it is present in the person of the King, who is offering the Kingdom.
The other night at the Israel conference Andy Woods gave an excellent presentation on Why Christians Should Support Israel. He had copies of his new book, The Coming Kingdom: What is the Kingdom and How is Kingdom Now Theology Changing the Focus of the Church? This is an excellent book. It goes through all of these different issues. If you want to get a good book detailing and going through all the different passages on how the “Kingdom of God” is used then you need to get that book.
You may not realize it, but at the core of progressive politics is the idea that was borrowed from liberal Christianity at the end of the 19th century, because they were post-millennial. We are going to be better and better in every way. They co-opted the word “Kingdom of God” and that the Kingdom of God was being manifested through progressive political theory. We are going to make everything better and better and better.
Of course, that was slaughtered on the fields of Flanders in WWI. This perverted heretical idea of the kingdom is at very core of liberal progressive politics. They have secularized it and destroyed it. That is part of the abuse of that whole term.
Jesus says that this is evidence that He has cast, EKBALLO, out a demon, and the Kingdom of God is present among them in the person of the King. Then He gives an illustration. He says:
Matthew 12:29, “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.”
Jesus is using the illustration that if you have got a thief coming into your house and he gets to you before you get to your .45, then he ties you up, then only after he has tied you up can he then plunder the house. He applies that general illustration.
Matthew 12:43, “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.”
The house is unoccupied because the demon was taken out, bound, and removed. He finds moral, ethical cleansing or cleaning of the house, spring cleaning. This is what the Pharisees were doing in legalism. They were just doing spring cleaning.
Matthew 12:45, “Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
Then the demon comes back and says, oh, they have cleaned up their life. Then the demon goes and gets all his buddies. They come back and the whole gang takes up residence there. They live there because it has not been sanctified. It has only been morally cleansed. That is the point of that illustration. Only if there is true spiritual sanctification that takes place is it going to be prevented from coming back.
1 John 4:4, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”
John 17:15, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”
Jesus’ high priestly prayer I think is an extremely strong argument against demon possession. The night before Jesus goes to the Cross Jesus prays for the church. That is why it is called the high priestly prayer. This is the “Lord’s Prayer,” not Matthew 6. This is the Lord’s prayer here. He is praying for His disciples. He is praying to God, the Father. He says that He does not pray that You should take them out of the world. The world is Satan’s cosmic thinking. That is demon influence. Do not take them out of the world, but keep them from the evil one.
In both places this same Greek word is translated:
- In one place it is translated “out of.”
- In the other it is translated “from.”
The word is the Greek preposition EK, which indicates severance or separation for the grammatical explanation. He is not going to separate us from the world, but Jesus is praying that we should be kept separated from the evil one.
Jesus, who is our High Priest, who is always in fellowship and has perfect harmony with God, the Father, knows how to pray and gets His prayers answered. If Jesus is praying that God is going to keep us from the evil one, then guess what? We are going to be kept from the evil one. That is going to keep us from any kind of demon possession.
The grammatical explanation here indicates severance or separation. Whatever else the Lord intended by saying this, would certainly exclude at the minimum the invasion of a believer’s body by unholy demons. Since we know that the Father has heard and is fulfilling Christ’s request, this must at least include protection for all believers, obedient and disobedient, from demon possession. Jesus is praying for the body of Christ. At any moment we can be out of fellowship. That does not expose us to demon possession. God is the one who is always protecting us.
Another great promise:
1 John 5:18, “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.”
“Wicked one” is a reference to Satan or the demons. He cannot touch the believer.
1 John 5:19, “We know that we are of God and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.”
This is another way that John takes what Jesus prayed in the high priestly prayer and writing it in his own words.
Paul does the same thing in 2 Thessalonians 3:3, “The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
Paul does not say that the Lord might, on occasion, on the condition that you are in fellowship, on the condition that you have not done certain sins. Paul says, “He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” Our protection is totally on the basis of the power of God and our position in Christ, and the fact that we are a sanctified temple for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Last but not least we have the promise:
2 Peter 1:3–4, “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who calls us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
What is left out of the word “all things”, everything? Is anything? No, everything is everything. The point of this is that the Epistles in the New Testament, Romans to Jude, are written to Church Age believers to teach us how to handle everything we are going to face pertaining to the spiritual life of the Church Age believer. That is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. That is what 2 Peter 1:3 emphasizes. The Scripture is sufficient because God has given us everything.
Where between Romans and Jude do you find anything about demon possession at all? Not one place. The silence is thundering. It is so obvious. There is not only no mention of demon possession, but there is no mention of a solution to demon possession. You do not have anybody casting out any demons or anything from Romans to Jude. It is not mentioned at all.
Major Premise is that the Word of God is sufficient.
Minor Premise is that nowhere in the Epistles addressed to Church Age believers is there a mention of a problem of demon possession or the solution to demon possession.
Conclusion: Demon possession is not an issue for the Church Age believer. If it was it would be mentioned.
Some people are going to say that it is in the Gospels. But the Gospels are a different dispensation. The Gospels are the period of the Law and dealing with this specifically intense period under the Age of Israel, the dispensation of the Messianic offer of the Kingdom. It happens also in Acts and only during the transition period at the beginning of the Church Age when the apostles are going out and proclaiming the gospel.
That makes it clear from Scripture that this is not a problem for Church Age believers. Yet, there is a whole segment of Christians who have been influenced by the theology of third-world countries, the mysticism, animism, spiritism that comes out of these third-world countries. Missionaries become deceived by this. This is what happened.
One event is that you had a great professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, Merrill Unger, who wrote his doctorial dissertation on Biblical Demonology concluding that Christians could not be demon possessed, impossible for Christians to be demon possessed. Then he got a lot of push back from missionaries who gave all their personal testimonies based upon experience, not exegesis, not the Word of God. These missionaries said that they knew all these people who made professions of faith, etc., etc., and then they were demon possessed.
- How do you know it was demon possession and not something else?
- How do you know it was not psychosis?
- How do you know it was not neurosis?
- How do you know it was not some sort of other problem?
- How do you know it was actually demon possession?
You do not know because you are a finite being. You cannot see into the realm of the invisible. You have to rely on the Word of God. Unger succumbed to the pressure and changed his view and wrote another book called Demons in the World Today and also What Demons Can do to Saints. He took the position that Christians could be demon possessed.
Everybody in Bible churches, including Chuck Swindoll and a number of other people, have been confused ever since because they have lost the ability to exegete the text. They are no longer standing on the Word of God and the Word of God alone, but they are standing on:
- The Word of God plus psychology,
- The Word of God plus sociology,
- The Word of God plus experience
to tell them what is really going on. Charles Ryrie said many, many times that you are not following the Scripture if you are interpreting the Scripture from your experience. You have to interpret your experience from the Word of God. The Word of God tells you how to understand your experience. You may have had some kind of experience.
- You heard some kind of a spirit talk to you in the night.
- You had an angel appear to you in your dream.
I cannot question. You cannot question somebody else’s experience. You cannot say that they did not experience that. “They would say that they did, and how can you say I did not?” The issue is you did not interpret it correctly, because you interpreted it on the basis of your experience and not on the basis of what the Word of God says.
Once you get the Word of God into your soul, then you can hear or even experience these things and know that it sure seemed real, but that devil is the great deceiver! I have been deceived. I am going to interpret this according to the Word of God.
Remember what Deuteronomy 13 says. It says that you are going to have dreamers of dreams and false prophets that come along, and they even work miracles. But God said these false prophets are given to test you to see if you will love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and not run after these deceivers and these deceptions. It does not matter how real it seems to you, you are going to be tested to see if the Word of God is more real to you than your feelings, your experience, and everything else.
This really comes to play when you come under some really serious adversity in life. I have seen so many Christians who fade out, and they run to all kinds of different solutions. Because the trend of our sin nature is to say that I do not want God’s solution. I want to solve it myself. We are antagonistic to the solution that God says, because that is the trend of our sin nature.
That is a nice introduction bringing us back to Saul who is just as carnal. He is über carnal. He is hyper carnal. He has been in rebellion against God, and that rebellion against God has been identified by the prophet Samuel as being equivalent to idolatry and to the sin of divination. It is equivalent to already being involved and under heavy demonic influence. That is who Saul is. He is under this heavy demonic influence.
We come to this situation where Saul is under extreme paranoia, extreme fear that is debilitating him, shutting him down. This may also include depression. We see across the board today, in Christianity and in the world, people who are struggling with all sorts of psychological problems, emotional problems. They are real problems. They come under extreme depression. They come under fear. They come under anxiety. They come under all kinds of things.
The knee-jerk reaction from our culture is to say, “Let’s go to the doctor and get some medication.” The medication is going to do something. It is going to do some good things. It is going to do a lot of bad things. There a lot of books out on it. You can go to various sources and search on these things on the Internet. A book I have read is Toxic Psychology and several others that are out there. Every time I talk about this I get an upset e-mail, because people are relying on whatever drug they are taking in order to solve their problem.
But what we see here is a very interesting dynamic. I am going to start off by asking the question here:
Can music deliver a person from demonic depression?
It is an interesting question. What in the world is going on here? We have to understand the mechanics of the situation:
- Saul has made negative volition choices again and again and again for years.
- Saul is spiraling out of control spiritually because he is living on the power of his sin nature.
- Saul is independent from God.
- Saul has rejected God.
- Saul is in rebellion and has been under full-blown extreme demon influence for a very long time.
This is not a believer who has been on negative volition, rejecting God for a few days or a few weeks or something like that. This is somebody who is the anointed leader of Israel in a special position of the history of the world. He is not John Doe Christian. He is very, very different. He does not have the Holy Spirit indwelling him, but he is not demon possessed either. That is not the issue here. The solution is unusual. There is not another place in the Scripture that has anything like this.
When it is recognized that Saul is under this oppression from this demon that is outside of him. That is very important. That is what the preposition tell us. Even his servants say:
1 Samuel 16:16, “Let our master now command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man who is a skillful player on the harp.”
A few weeks ago when I was touching on this, somebody made some comment, “I cannot wait to hear about your thoughts on music therapy.” I had not even thought about that. That was great. That really gave me something to think about. David is going to play. He is a skillful player on the harp.
“And it shall be that he will play it with his hand when the distressing spirit from God is upon you, and you shall be well.”
“Upon” is the word ‘al, which means outside of.
Here we see the solution:
1 Samuel 16:23, “And so it was, whenever the spirit from God was upon Saul, that David would take a harp and play it with his hand. Then Saul would become refreshed and well, and the distressing spirit would depart from him.”
The “spirit” is the evil spirit that came from God. The spirit was upon Saul. That is the word ‘al, outside, not inside. It is not be, which is the preposition for the word “in.”
Notice, whenever this happened, which was not just once or twice, this happens regularly. Saul has got a real problem. Saul has a fragmented soul. He is in extreme paranoia. He constantly has to get relief. What that tells us is that the music therapy only alleviates the symptoms for a short time. The playing of music only has a short duration in terms of relief.
We are told that when he would do this that Saul would become refreshed and well. The distressing spirit would depart from him. That is ‘al, meaning from over or above him. It is not in him. We are not talking demon possession. We are talking an external vantage point.
I worked my way through this. I had to have a good visual for this. We are going to start off thinking about the make-up of every human being. We have a brain inside most of our heads. There are a few people that you wonder about on occasion. They appear a little brainless and vacuous, but we imputatively have a brain. In that brain is a material thing, but inside that brain is a soul. That soul is immaterial.
If you can explain how a ghost runs the physical machine, then you are more knowledgeable than anyone else in human history. How does a material body and brain get run by an immaterial soul? How does it connect? How is it secured? How is it held together? We do not know.
There is another thing that has to be understood here in the make-up of a person. That is the sin nature. It inflames the soul. When that sin nature is not controlled, then the sin nature controls all of the components of the soul. The more the sin nature is allowed free rein, especially in the areas of weakness and sin, the more destructive it is to the soul, to the thinking of the person, to their conscience, to their self-consciousness, and it is also going to impact their emotions.
There is another thing that we have to add to this. At this point this is a picture of an unbeliever.
We are going to add the human spirit. That shows that this is a regenerate person. I believe Saul was regenerate, but he still has that nasty sin nature that is fragmenting his soul because he is relying upon that and not on the Word of God.
If we think about this a little bit in terms of the spiritual progress and deterioration, the first thing that we see is that negative volition gives the sin nature control. When we choose to operate on the sin nature we are choosing to make that decision. We are letting the sin nature control. The more the sin nature controls, the more it fragments and tears up our soul. But who is making the choice? Who is responsible? We are responsible. It is not some external influence.
There may be influences from peers, professors, the world system, and all these other things, but we choose what we are going to respond to. We choose what we are going to apply, and what we are going to think about. The more we reside in the power of the sin nature, the more destructive that is going to be, until we are a backslider, and until we are at a point where God is going to pull back the restraints and let us freefall into self-destruction spiritually. That is part of divine discipline.
The next thing that happens is the sin nature creates emotional control. One term that was coined for this is the emotional revolt of the soul. I have a little problem with that. I like it, but a little problem with that is that it indicates that the emotion is always controlling the soul, but the emotion may be the original control, but it changes the thinking, because the unbeliever is going to generate a lot of thought that is consistent with his false views.
What I mean is that you can have someone who is an intellectual that is not apparently emotional. They are still in emotional revolt, because that is ultimately what is generating. What is the emotion? Hatred toward God is the emotion that is generating everything. It is hostility, an antagonism, hatred toward God.
Remember, I taught that in worldliness you are imitating the thinking of Satan. You have two basic broad ways in which that is manifested. One is this sort of antagonism toward God, this hatred toward God.
The other is arrogance. Those two A’s.
- Antagonism—hatred toward God.
This is what we have seen in Saul. We have seen his arrogance almost from the beginning. He becomes more and more hostile toward God until God gives him over. That is that verb, that process, that is indicated in Romans 1:26–27, “God gave them over to …” Each one of those steps is further deterioration because they have suppressed righteousness and replaced God with the worship of the creature rather than the worship of the Creator. That is what Saul did.
Remember, “rebelliousness is like the sin of divination, and insubordination is like the sin of idolatry.” That is what this is. You get so immersed in idolatry, where you are worshiping the things of the world, the details of life, that eventually it destroys your soul.
After you have gone through this process, that is all generated by your own volition. All of this was generated by Saul’s volition. Then you get to a super level of divine discipline that only a few people have experienced in history. It may not be us. That is demon depression. This is the only example like this that we have in Scripture. This demonic depression on Saul increases the fragmentation of his soul until he is almost incapable of functioning.
Then what happens? There is a temporary alleviation of the problem: music. Music does not provide a permanent solution. It provides temporary relief through structure and meaning. That is what music is. Music has structure and meaning, unless you are listening to John Cage, Def Leppard, Kiss, or somebody like that. There is structure and meaning that when it is listened to apparently helped Saul’s thinking to be structured, and to have relief from what was going on.
If you want to get an in-depth analysis of music and worldview and all that, I recommend those studies I did back in the Revelation series on worship and music, or the three lessons that Scott Aniol had in the Chafer Conference in 2013. His book you can also get on the Internet, Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship. It is excellent.
Too many Christians have been deceived by the devil to think that the music is neutral. Music is not neutral. All music communicates something by its form and structure. You are either communicating something that is consistent with a biblical worldview or derived from a biblical worldview or you are not.
Most music that is used in churches today does not communicate by form and structure. You have got the devil’s music. It is not “rock” and it is not “syncopation”. It is not any of these things that a lot of people said it was. It is just the structure of the music. What happens is this provides temporary relief, and there goes the demon. He is out of there.
Something new has developed over the last few years. There is a lot of debate over this, even in academics, as to how valid this is. It used to be one of those “Mickey Mouse courses” about 30–40 years ago. It is called “Music Therapy.” It is a branch of psycho-therapy. I want to define it for you.
The Music Therapy Association defines “music therapy” as:
- A recent branch of psychology has developed a field called music therapy. The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic (key word) relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.” (Emphasis added)
- Something about music works with patients with dementia and other emotional problems. No scientific data as of yet. There are results, but not explained. It is not well funded or researched.
There is a lot of debate as to just what that is. This is something that we ought to understand. There is something that happens when music is played for patients who have dementia. You can start singing a hymn, and they will remember it and sing it with you. Or you can sing a Bible verse that they have learned that tune and they will sing it with you, but if you ask them to say the verse with you, they cannot do it. They do not remember it.
Music works in another part of the brain than the memory. We know that music has an impact that people who are struggling with anxiety, paranoia, that music has an impact in calming them down. But no one has any data on it. This is a really under-funded, under-researched area according to my research. There are a lot of people who jump to a lot of overblown conclusions as to what it can do. We know it does something, but nobody knows why or how it works, but it does do something.
A lot of it is mixed up with a lot of psycho-therapy, mumbo-jumbo, and juju black magic that does not have any biblical base.
- One factor may be that it helps an emotionally fragmented mind organize itself and settle down for a temporary period.
That seems to be what is going on with Saul, but it is not a permanent solution.
It is just like all the other quick-fix solutions we have for people who are facing depression and anxiety and all these other things that we have in our culture for which they are being over medicated and over medicated and over medicated. The medication has a temporary quick fix, but it does not solve the problem because the problem is the sin nature. The problem is a spiritual problem.
If this spiritual problem is not addressed with the Word of God, if it is not addressed with the spiritual skills, if you are not confessing sin, and if you are not turning to the Word of God to cleanse you further from your sin by refreshing and rebooting your mind with the truth of God’s Word, renewing your mind, Romans 12:2, then it is not going to work. The quick-fix human solutions of human viewpoint are just that. They are nothing more than a panacea. It does not solve the problem. We have to address it spiritually.
I think this chart explains what is going on and what can happen to many believers as they are under some kind of serious fragmentation of the soul due to years of carnality, years of not really trusting the Word, years of not really understanding the Word, and deceiving themselves. This happens with a lot of people.
If you are in a tough situation and are going through anxiety, you are going through depression that does not necessarily mean that that is the cause of your case. It is for some people. You look at your life and you have not been confessing sin. If you have been living in a lot of sin for a long time then this might fit you. If you have not been, then do not put yourself under a pseudo-guilt complex and say, “Well, golly, I have been a horrible sinner for years. I have not used any doctrine.”
We all go through different tests. We all fail, but the solution is the Word of God. There is always hope. God can solve it. If a person is going through depression, that can be the area of weakness of the sin nature. They trend toward fear. They trend toward worry. They trend toward depression. You have to memorize Scripture that relates and targets those areas in your sin nature. Constantly claim those promises to reformat your brain into thinking in terms of the Word and not in terms of your own weak sin nature.
Saul only gets a temporary fix. Every time that David takes down the harp, Saul is temporarily refreshed, then the spirit departs and then it comes back. Saul goes back and forth. There is no solution because he does not turn to the Word of God. Our hope, our only hope, is the Word of God. Let’s close in prayer.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to study this and to learn the dynamics of the negative side and what happens when we just live on the basis of our sin nature and let it control us over and over again. We rebel against You. We turn away from You. We reject your grace solution. Father, challenge us to turn to You, to hold on to Your Word, to grasp your throne of grace, holding on to every precious promise so that we can see our minds renewed and refreshed and our lives transformed by the truth of Your Word. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.”