25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. 26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. 27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. 28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
It is very important when reading the Bible to discern what a word means based on the context. For instance, there are and were evil spirits, entities from the unseen, spiritual world. Any Bible believer who has not bought into the modernistic viewpoint of atheistic determinism will accept from Biblical statements alone the existence of a spirit world.
However, it is important to understand that not every reference to a spirit refers to something supernatural. A spirit can be the attitude one has, the way of thinking, the motivation. There is a danger in fundamentalism of not using common sense when reading and giving mankind a pass, as if he or she wasn’t responsible for their behavior or thinking by blaming an unseen force for their actions.
The following passage refers to a Hebrew man’s emotional state and the guilt or innocence of his wife.
Numbers 5:14 And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled:
No one is trying to exorcise an evil spirit in this case. They are trying to determine guilt or innocence. The next verse, in context, is a reference to the spiritual condition of the rulers of Egypt.
Isaiah 19:14 The LORD hath mingled a perverse (perverse = corrupt, crooked, and froward, see Deut. 32:5 and Proverbs 2:4) spirit in the midst thereof: and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a drunken man staggereth in his vomit.
Taken out of context it might be implied that this is a reference to an evil spirit but see the verses previous to that one;
Isaiah 19:11 Surely the princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings? 12 Where are they? where are thy wise men? and let them tell thee now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts hath purposed upon Egypt. 13 The princes of Zoan are become fools, the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof.
There are clear references to unseen, spiritual entities as in the following that possess a young woman. Paul rebukes this spirit and orders it to leave the girl.
Acts 16:16 And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
Clearly, in the following verses, though, the spirit in question belongs to the man and is not another individual.
Job 32:8 But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.
Numbers 14:24 But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit with him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereinto he went; and his seed shall possess it.
Recognize that there are unseen, spiritual entities, but be careful about assigning responsibility for a Christian’s actions to them. Man’s heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9) and in no need of guidance or persuasion to do that which is wrong.
Psalm 7:1 ¶ O LORD my God, in thee do I put my trust: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me: 2 Lest he tear my soul like a lion, rending it in pieces, while there is none to deliver.
Obviously, that wasn’t a human enemy.
Psalm 3:3 But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
Jesus is making an important point about prayer AND fasting, which focuses you on the spiritual world but keep in mind that in the books or letters written directly to Christians that start with the name, Paul, there is no mention of possession. We don’t see unclean spirits at work again until the end times in Revelation (16:13). 1 Timothy 4:1 underscores the activities of “seducing spirits” in the “latter times”. None of this implies entry into a living person’s mind, much less the possibility of the Holy Spirit, which dwells inside each believing Christian, sharing the space with a devil.
Mankind is inherently evil in and of himself. Don’t ascribe your wicked behavior or thoughts to something you can’t see thereby excusing yourself for your wickedness. You own your sin, pal. Your wrath and your anger and your pride play into the Devil’s hands (Ephesians 4:26; 1 Timothy 3:6). The things the Devil does to a Christian are external. He is not in your head. He doesn’t need to be. You’re too predictable. Just throw the right bait/temptation in front of you and you’re hooked like a fish. You lose your testimony, quench the Holy Spirit’s influence, and make others despise the name of Christ. That is Satan’s pride and joy.
Notice references to the Devil in Paul’s letters. Here, your anger and wrath play into the Devil’s purposes to destroy a Christian’s testimony before others and their relationship with Christ.
Ephesians 4:26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither (Don’t even) give place to the devil.
Your defense against the wiles of the Devil is putting on the whole armour of God in Ephesians 6:13-18. In 1 Timothy 3:6-7 Paul warns that a new Christian through pride can share in Satan’s condemnation due to pride, found in Isaiah 14 as the reason for his fall. He then calls a bad reputation in the world a snare for a Christian leader; the snare of the Devil. 2 Timothy 2:26 refers to an unsaved person. All of these functions of the Devil to the Christian are from the outside, not from the inside of the Christian. We have the Holy Spirit of God in us, not the Devil.
An unforgiving spirit plays right into Satan’s hand and this bitterness gives him power, as I have seen all too often in life. (2 Corinthians 2:10, 11) He can destroy our flesh (1 Corinthians 5:5) and make us suffer (2 Corinthians 12:7), he can hinder us in our work for God (1 Thessalonians 2:18). But, Satan can’t possess a Christian.