Are deliverance ministries biblical? Are they taught in the Bible?
We Were Delivered
The Bible has much to say about deliverance. Deliverance, or being delivered, is mentioned over 160 times in all. It’s a concept God obviously wants us to think about. God promised Abraham that He’d deliver him out of his enemy’s hands (Gen 14:20), God delivered Israel out of their Egyptian bondage (Ex 18:8), and God delivered David out of all kinds of danger and fear (1st Sam 17:35-37; Psalm 31:8). In the first century, Jesus said, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men” (Matt 17:22), and “who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Rom 4:25), and by this, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13), because we could not rescue ourselves (Eph 2:1-5). The point to all these references about deliverance is that it is a major theme of the Bible. We are redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God and delivered from the domain of darkness, so deliverance is a good thing, but what about the so-called “deliverance ministries?” What are these about? Are they based upon biblical teaching?
As we have previously read, we know the Bible says a lot about deliverance, including being delivered from the domain of darkness, and whom “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2nd Cor 4:4). The judgment of God through Jesus Christ has fell upon the Devil and his demons (John 12:31), so even though “the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me” (John 14:30), meaning Jesus Christ. This is reason for us to never look down upon unbelievers, because we were “dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph 2:1b-2), so we must all remember that “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph 2:3). We don’t look down upon the lost; we look to them, and we pray God uses us as a means to save them. That is the greatest deliverance anyone can have, so the Bible speaks much about deliverance, but not anything about a “deliverance ministry.”
Maybe you haven’t even heard of deliverance ministries. Some among this ministry profess to have received divine inspiration from God and are told to deliver such a person from some demon or evil spirit. A deliverance ministry refers to the cleansing of a person who is possessed by a demon or evil spirit which “claims authority” over them and is allowed to oppress them with drug addictions, pornography addictions, and all sorts of psychological problems. They believe that this person needs deliverance by prayer and the laying on of hands, or a combination of practices that seek to cast out the spirit or demon that is responsible for their sinful, evil deeds. For one thing, isn’t this like saying, “The Devil made me do it?” The Bible teaches each of us is led away by our own lusts and when these lusts are conceived in the heart, they give birth to sin (James 1:14-15). It is most certainly not from God (James 1:13), but we can be attacked by demons. We know there’s a spiritual war going on and we’re up against a powerfully potent, clever, invisible enemy (Eph 6:11-12), but we don’t need someone to deliver us from them; that’s up to us to take up the armor (Eph 6:10). No one can take it up for you. Is “cleansing a believer from a demonic spirit of addiction” biblical? An important point is believers can be possessed by God’s Spirit, but not by an evil spirit, including Satan himself. That’s because “everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1st John 5:18). Writing in the context of God the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John writes, “you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1st John 4:4). Sorry Satan or demons…when God dwells in us, there’s no room at the inn. God’s greater Who is in us than he (Satan) who is in the world. It’s no context. You’ve been delivered.
What I have seen deliverance ministries do is to seek to cleanse inanimate (non-living, non-organic) objects. They have anointed houses, cars, garages, ladders, rocks, and property, so how can an evil spirit possess something that is not alive? Didn’t even the demons need the pigs to enter into rather than the “dry places?” The demons could have asked to be sent to a hundred different inanimate places; the rocks, the water, even the temple, but they needed living beings. I have never seen anything that is not alive being possessed. It is not deliverance that we have over the enemy; it is victory through Christ. We don’t need deliverance; we have God’s authority (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). To try and cast out a demon of alcohol with an unsaved person is fine, but why not preach the gospel to them and allow the Spirit of God and the Word of God to work in the person’s heart. Once that person has trusted Christ, the Spirit of God enters and the spirit of disobedience is vanquished and the enemy must flee. Evil spirits cannot indwell a child of God. That’s not the case with unbelievers, so pray for them, yield to God to be used by Him, and trust God with the results, because Jesus Christ has “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:15). Jesus did, we didn’t. Pray for their deliverance, yes, but pray first and foremost for the deliverance from the kingdom of darkness.
There may be demons which have a propensity to push certain things on people, like pornography, alcohol, drugs, violence, and so forth, but I do not know that for sure. I won’t speculate on something that the Bible clearly does not say, and if the Bible says nothing about deliverance ministry, then I can say nothing about it, except that I believe it is a human belief. I know the false prophets had a lying spirit in them, but even that was from God, and not Satan (1st Kings 22:23), so we are focusing on the wrong kind of deliverance. It makes for interesting reading, but it takes our eyes off of what is important; the gospel, of which Jesus said is repentance and belief (Mark 1:14-15). Jesus didn’t want us to rejoice at having authority over the enemy, but rejoice that our names are on heaven’s roll (Luke 10:20). Deliverance ministries also teach very little about accountability. For example, they put the blame on the demon and not the person, so the person who is addicted is the victim, and that can make them have no sense of responsibility since it’s the demon’s fault. Of course everyone is responsible for their own sins, which is all the more vital reason to trust in Christ, and once and for all, be delivered from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of God. Deliverance ministries focus far too much on Satan or the demons, thereby giving them more power than they actually have, but true Christianity focuses on Christ and on Him alone. That’s because the delivered always look to their Deliverer, not a defeated Enemy.
More for you to read: How to Identify a False Prophet or Teacher
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.