Cases of demonization involving Seventh-day Adventists are found worldwide.1 The church has attempted to issue clear guidelines on the subject.2 Notwithstanding, uncertainty persists surrounding the pastoral ministry of healing and deliverance in the church, leaving some members seeking deliverance in Pentecostal and charismatic churches. In response, the church has affirmed the biblical reality of demon possession, stating, “Seventh-day Adventists, as believers in the Bible, should, therefore, believe in the genuine casting out of demons as they go out to fulfill the gospel commission.”3
Participation in ministry
The Bible says that different ministries of the Holy Spirit are bestowed on church members for the “perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12, KJV). Deliverance ministry (DM) is presented as an ongoing ministry after Jesus’ resurrection (Mark 16:17). DM takes serious commitment and prayer, searching of the soul, and fasting, all in the name of Jesus alone through His presence and power. Many believers who encounter these situations have developed a sensitivity to spiritual warfare and a mentality that recognizes the need for preemptive prayer when visiting certain places of evil.
In order to face the widespread incidents of demon activity, it is recommended that all church leaders (pastors, elders, deacons and deaconesses) receive training in this area (see James 5:14; Acts 6:1–4). The training should also be open to any church member who desires greater preparedness (Mark 16:17, 18).
Ministry training will need to be contextually relevant. People of traditionally animistic societies will have terminology and practices different from those of modern and postmodern societies, who will be “less inclined to engage in animistic practices, but they are also less experienced in engaging the powers of darkness.”4
Preparation for ministry
In order to discern these situations, one must seek the Holy Spirit’s presence. The Greek words diakrisis (1 Cor. 12:10) or diakrino (1 Cor. 14:29) imply judicial estimation. Discerning of spirits also means discernment between the symptoms of mental illness and the symptoms of demonic manifestations. In general, mental health problems are corrected when the right treatment is administered (eating better, getting sleep, hormonal therapy, appropriate medication, etc.).
Because it is difficult, if not a waste of time, to try to pray for the deliverance of a demonized person who does not want to be set free for one reason or another, it is crucial to have a sincere desire, even the explicit consent of the demonized person for deliverance before undertaking any ministry of deliverance. The Scripture says, “Let him call for the elders of the church” (James 5:14, KJV).
Both the demonized and the ministering team (between two and five persons are suggested) should set aside days to fast and pray. The fasting could be for one day or more according to the conviction and disposition of both parties. The nature of the fasting could be liquid fasting or total fasting. Fasting from sunset to sunset is generally recommended. In order to pray with knowledge, as much as possible should be known about the person requesting deliverance. In ideal circumstances, the use of a questionnaire to give the ministering team added information on the spiritual history of the demonized person should be encouraged.
Place of ministry
Team members should include both genders to prevent the possibility of scandal when ministering to a member of the opposite sex. If possible, allow team members to rest. Consider engaging in short sessions using different team members, as long, drawn-out deliverance sessions are often emotionally and physically draining.
A dedicated church building is an ideal setting for a deliverance session, as are the hours of the Sabbath, from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. The Lord Jesus Christ presents the Sabbath as a day “made for man” (Mark 2:27). It was on the Sabbath that Jesus healed two extreme cases of deformity and oppression (John 5:1–16; Luke 13:10–16). However, it will not always be possible to meet in a church building or conduct the deliverance service on the Sabbath. Thank God He hears our prayers, wherever the place and whatever the time.
Weapons of warfare
In my years of experience, I have observed that certain Bible texts are powerful in exposing Satan and demons in their activities. Scripture texts describing the power the Lord Jesus Christ over evil spirits are particularly effective (see Matthew 8:29; 10:1; 17:21; Mark 16:17; Luke 10:18, 19; Acts 10:38; Revelation 12:7–11).
Many believers who encounter these situations have developed a sensitivity to spiritual warfare and a mentality that recognizes the need for preemptive prayer when visiting certain places of evil.
The team may read them aloud and, if possible, the demonized person can repeat them as a prayer to God.
In addition to Bible texts, hymns or short choruses on Christ’s resurrection and victory over death and Satan can be used to build faith and assurance on the part of the victim.5
Facing resistance. When facing resistance, the team should take a break in order to spend time fortifying the demonized person or team members by ensuring there are no strongholds or unforgiven sins that are giving some right to the evil spirits to resist. Author Ellen White writes that “Satan and his angels are unwilling to lose their prey. They contend and battle with the holy angels, and the conflict is severe.”6 In some cases, demons have tried to resist our Lord’s power. Scripture admonishes, “let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up.”7
Prayer with spiritual authority. The Bible generally presents Jesus speaking with authority to Satan or demons: “ ‘Be gone, Satan’ ” (Matt. 4:10, ESV); He “rebuked the demon” (Matt. 17:18, ESV); He “did not allow the demons to speak” (Mark 1:34, NKJV); “ ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit’ ” (Mark 5:8, ESV); “I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him” (Mark 9:25, KJV); “Hold thy peace, and come out of him” (Luke 4:35, KJV); and He “commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man” (Luke 8:29, KJV). Christ issued His orders with an authoritative, even militaristic tone. As a consequence, Scripture declares, “Then the spirit cried out, and convulsed him greatly, and came out of him” (Mark 9:26, NKJV).
Healing prayer. It is quite clear from Scripture that demonic attacks could be the cause of some disabilities (Matt. 9:32; 12:22). Thus, the combination of healing (either inner or physical) and deliverance (Mark 9:17–26; Luke 11:14) is “the key to wholeness for the demonized.”8 Here there is great need for spiritual discernment. An ailment may be a chemical imbalance requiring not deliverance by a church leader but treatment by a medical professional.
Growth in Christ
In deliverance ministry, there is always the risk that expelled demons will return to their former habitation, find it empty, and invite in more evil spirits, causing the person’s condition to be worse than it was before (Matt. 12:45). Thus, those set free from Satan’s bondage need the hallmarks of growing in Christ: (1) a life born of the Spirit (John 3:5); (2) a life of love and unity (John 13:34); (3) a life of study (2 Tim. 3:16, 17); (4) a life of prayer (Eph. 6:18); (5) a life of fruit bearing (John 15:4); (6) a life of spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:12, 13); and (7) a life of worship, witness, and hope (Acts 2:42–47).9
Impediments to mission
Five important impediments to DM are as follows: (1) the danger of using the name of Christ without a relationship with Him (Acts 19:13–17); (2) triumphalism and self-sufficiency (Luke 10:20); (3) sensationalism or using magical approaches (Acts 5:15; 19:11, 12); (4) seeking information from demons (Luke 11:18a); and (5) using practices that could hurt or harm the demonized.
It is important to have an organized and biblical response that would engage the church leader in ministering to cases of demonization. At this time of global spiritualism, such a response is both a great challenge and a huge opportunity for ministry among fellow Adventists, the wider Christian world, and members of other world religions.
- A version of this article was published in Journal of Adventist Mission Studies 11, no. 2 (2015): 115–138. It is reprinted here with modifications. Used by permission.
- See “ ‘Spiritual Warfare’ and ‘Deliverance Ministry’ and Seventh-day Adventists,” Biblical Research Institute, 1983, sdanet.org/atissue/warfare/index.htm. For an abridged and adapted version, see Ángel Rodriguez, “Freedom From Demonic Harassment and Possession in the Bible and in the Life of the Church,” Appendix 1 in The Church, Culture and Spirits: Adventism in Africa, ed. Kwabena Donkor (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 2011), 193–225.
- Lameck Miyayo, “Casting Out Demons: Lessons From the Bible” in The Church, Culture and Spirits, 171. See also D. Francisco Gayoba, “Biblical Anthropology and Ministry in an Age of Spiritualism,” in What Are Human Beings That You Remember Them?, ed. Clinton Wahlen (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, 2015) 283–287; B. Michée Badé, “A Biblical and Theological Foundation for a Seventh-day Adventist Practical Approach to Deliverance Ministry,” Journal of Adventist Mission Studies 11, no. 2 (November 2015): 117–135; B. Michée Badé, “The Seventh-day Adventist Church and ‘Growing in Christ’: From Ecclesiological Awareness to Missiological Engagement,” Journal of Adventist Mission Studies 13, no. 2 (January 2017): 122–128; and Gorden R. Doss, Introduction to Adventist Mission (Silver Spring, MD: Institute of World Mission, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2018), 36, 69.
- Doss, Introduction to Adventist Mission, 322.
- See, for example, hymn numbers 229, 233, 292, 294, 295, and 300 in the Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1985).
- Ellen G. White, Messages to Young People (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing, 1930), 60.
- Heb. 12:1 (TLB). See also Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1942), 91.
- Charles H. Kraft, The Evangelical’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Practical Instruction and Scriptural Insights on Facing the Enemy (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Pub. Group, 2015), 188.
- Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . A Biblical Exposition of Fundamental Doctrines, 2nd ed. (Silver Spring, MD: Ministerial Association, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005), 155–161.