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In the study of deliverance, one of the challenges we run into is making sense of the terminology. Definitions of terms can change a lot over the course of centuries, and somewhere along the way we began to misappropriate the terms we use to identify someone who is emotionally overcome by an evil spirit.
The Bible uses the words devil, demon and spirit interchangeably when discussing evil spirits. Meanwhile, the original Greek (that predates our modern Bibles) uses the term ‘demoniza’ to describe those whom they attack. Yet in modern Christianity we unintentionally misuse the word possession because the King James version translated that word in its place (Mark 5), as has nearly every other modern Bible translation that uses the KJV as its primary source.
When we think about the word ‘possessed’ in the context of modern English, we use the word as a condition that relates to being overcome to the point of total control or ownership. Likewise, when we consider someone overcome by an evil spirit in the context of our modern world, we immediately think of the movie The Exorcist. We picture someone whose flesh and soul—mind, will and emotions—are completely and totally overcome by a demon.
The word possessed is in fact an unfortunate King James translation that didn’t hold the same meaning back in the seventeenth century as it does now. Today the Greek word ‘demoniza’ directly translates to the word demonized, not possessed. When we read in the King James that someone was possessed, our modern understanding of that word immediately has us believing there is no way this could happen to a God-fearing person. This single unfortunate reality is the cause of much of the controversy surrounding our key passage, as one confusing disconnect can easily lead to another.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
While it is true that a born-again Christian cannot be owned by a demon, they can in fact be demonized. If you’re a born-again Christian, you are God’s possession and cannot be possessed by anything else, but don’t miss this: some have the misguided belief that because Christians cannot be possessed in modern terms, we can never be attacked or oppressed by demons—bothered and demonized in our flesh—but we absolutely can be!
Again, the word ‘demonized’ has nothing to do with a person being possessed (completely overcome), but it is without question a condition that requires deliverance from one or more evil spirits.
Concerning the woman we read of in Luke 13:11 who had the spirit of infirmity (which is a demon), the only thing the demon attacked was the part of her body being affected by the infirmity. With the person we read of in Mark 9:25 who had the deaf and dumb spirit, the only part of their body that was affected was their hearing and speech. These are two examples of people who were demonized. To further clarify, demonization is the literal condition where someone can have an area of their body and/or an area of their mind under attack—afflicted, oppressed or invaded by a devil. But praise God, Jesus said that in His name we have power to cast it out, just as He did.
Everyone wants to talk about “what would Jesus do” until it’s time to do what Jesus did. The casting out of demons was something Jesus did nearly everywhere He went, the churches included (Mark 1:39). He cast out demons more than He talked about heaven and hell combined. Every single time He preached the gospel, the people brought those who had evil spirits, and He cast them out in His own name.