As humans living in the visible, physical world we are generally oblivious to the unseen spiritual dimension of reality. This contains both good (God and the holy angels) and evil beings (Satan and his demons, also called evil spirits). While we often have little comprehension of this spiritual dimension, its involvement and effect in our affairs is greater than we realise. There is a continuous battle taking place around us between God’s holy angels and the forces of evil. As Paul said, “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood…but against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”. Consequently, the weapons that are effective to fight these spiritual forces are not physical but spiritual, with the contest taking place involving body, soul and spirit (Dan 10:12-14; Lk 9:42; 2 Cor 10:3-5, 12:7; Eph 2:2, 6:10-17). The focus of our spiritual warfare is not to be directed towards people, rather the evil influences controlling those who are mere puppets, doing Satan’s bidding.
Which kingdom do I allow to operate through me?
and destroy (Jn 10:10). The fruit of both domains is outworked and readily observed in humanity, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious...But the fruit of the Spirit is..." (Gal 5:19-23). The Bible states, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24). As Christians there is a constant conflict within – will we give in to the carnal selfish flesh or with Christ be victorious over the works of Satan, counting the old nature dead and powerless choosing instead to walk in the new life in Christ (Rom 6:4-7). We decide which dimension prevails, yet be aware evil is always looking for an opportunity to exploit and gain the advantage over us so we must be alert (1 Cor 10:12; 1 Pet 5:8).
By our lifestyle and words, either we surrender to the controlling unseen powers to harass us or we through Christ are dominant over them. We are not to be helpless pawns, dictated to by evil forces out to destroy us, but by utilizing the authority Jesus gives we can rebuff them from our lives, and be involved in the Lord’s work to bring the lost into His Kingdom thus setting them free (Mk 16:17; Jas 4:7). Prayer expresses reliance on God’s direction but also applies His will into situations. As we side with Jesus (by living according to His rules and principles) we can actively resist in His name, what is not of the Lord and reject any counterfeit ploys or temptations Satan brings across our path (2 Cor 11:14,15).
All people groups and religions believe in an unseen spiritual dimension to which they relate in some way though unfortunately, they are often taken in by Satan’s false propositions as he blinds their minds to the truth that “There is no God but our God”, with Jesus the only mediator between Him and humanity (2 Sam 7:22; Hos 13:4; Jn 14:6; 2 Cor 4:3,4; 1 Tim 2:5). We should not be ignorant of Satan’s evil schemes. At all times we must be vigilant, yet confident none of his weapons will prevail, provided we are walking with God, as the Holy Spirit within us is stronger than every tactic of Satan’s and God gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (Isa 54:17; 1 Cor 15:57; 2 Cor 2:11; 1 Jn 4:4).
Nor should we be fearful, give undue attention to, or relate in a trifling way to evils invisible yet real dimension of life. Despite the fact that spiritual forces do come against us we are not to give them more than a fleeting thought, for though Satan is to be resisted Jesus our deliverer is to be centre stage in our minds (Heb 3:1, 12:2; 1 Pet 5:9). As believers, our attention should be exclusively towards God the Father and Jesus Christ. Even the ministry of the Holy Spirit should not be singled out for extra recognition but rather included as a function of the triune Godhead.
Rather than being directed by circumstances, our emotions, fleshly impulses or human reasoning the Bible states we are to “live in the Spirit”, the real, (yet to our earthly senses not fully comprehensible) third member of the Godhead (Rom 8:14; Gal 5:16,25). We must learn to discern God’s voice as distinct from our own thoughts and also separate from our senses (Jn 10:27). Pray for discernment to know what is of God’s mind, and “test the spirits to see if they are of God” by observing their fruit, for both good and evil spirits are only servants reflecting the nature and qualities of their leaders, either God or the devil (Ps 119:125; Mt 7:20; 1 Jn 4:1). Women are often more perceptive or aware of God’s holy presence or what is evil.
God is present everywhere (omnipresent) while Satan is much more limited in his capabilities and must roam the earth to see what is happening (Job 1:7, 2:2; Ps 139:7-12; Jer 23:23,24; 1 Pet 5:8). God is all powerful yet has allowed Satan limited power to run this world for a limited time. Although in the natural it appears Satan's reign of evil and destruction is gaining momentum, God will put a decisive end to it and Satan along with all those who do evil and do not turn to Him for salvation will be doomed to eternal damnation (Rev 20:14,15, 21:8).
God allowed an evil spirit to torment Saul, yet when David played the harp in his presence he would experience relief (1 Sam 16:14-23). This would indicate undesirable spiritual entities can be repelled by changing some aspects of our environment and what we give our attention to. As Christians we must not open ourselves up to anything except the Lord (Rev 3:20). “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him” and He is to be our sole focus, not the divine agents sent by God to serve those who are His children (Ps 34:7; Heb 1:14).
Keep your eye on Jesus – our Commander-in-chief
and is able to bring good out of what mankind (controlled by Satan) intends for evil (Gen 50:20; Rom 8:28). So while the events of life happen in this sinful world our awareness is to be focused on Jesus not the possibility that evil forces may be involved.
Occult and New Age practices focus on and connect to the spirit world, through ignorance opening people up to deceiving spirits that are not of God (1 Tim 4:1). The belief in a personal spirit guide that bypasses the divinely inspired and only way to God, (which is through Jesus) is a sham; there is an incompatible difference between spirit guides and the Holy Spirit.
Transference of spirits
There is no Scriptural basis for the concept of evil spirits being transferred by touching or being in the close proximity to someone, although we can be readily affected by negative attitudes and sinful behaviour in others. What is sometimes referred to as the transference of spirits is generally nothing more than the conveying, from one person to another, of their emotional state, character, mannerisms, attitudes and motives rather than a spiritual being. There is a subconscious absorption of their nature and unless we guard ourselves from a person with a stronger personality, we can come under their dominance or manner of lifestyle. After the spies propagated their defeatist attitude following their reconnaissance of the Promised Land all the people took on their mindset of fear and unbelief (Num 13:31,33). Only Joshua and Caleb had a different spirit, one of belief in the power of God, Sadly, because of their sinful bias the nation did not grasp the opportunity presented (Num 13:30, 14:24).
God sovereignly took the Spirit that was on Moses and replicated it on 70 other leaders to help carry the burden of the people (Num 11:16,17,25). The Bible records the common practice of 'laying on hands' to pass on a blessing and divine impartation (Gen 48:13,14; Deut 34:9; Mk 10:16; Act 6:6, 19:6). There is nothing mystical about the laying on of hands on a sick person but is often a trigger for the person’s faith to receive healing (Mk 16:18; Lk 4:40).
Obviously we must be wise about who we allow to minister to us, so we don’t absorb any unbeneficial ‘gift’ or influence from their life, for those who walk with the wise grow wise while bad company corrupts good character (Prov 13:20, 22:24,25; 1 Cor 15:33; 1 Tim 5:22). With any conveying of, or sharing the blessings and resources of God, the focus must be on the Lord, not the means or method, which may include physical contact with another (Act 8:18,19; 2 Tim 1:6).
It was only after Elisha used the cloak of Elijah that he performed miraculous works but the cloak or mantle had no intrinsic spiritual merit (2 Kgs 2:14). It is the divine anointing that empowers God’s people to do His work, being similar to Jesus receiving the Spirit which descended on Him at His baptism (Mic 3:8; Zech 4:6; Mt 3:16, 12:28; Act 10:44, 11:15; Eph 3:16; 1 Thes 1:5).
See also: armour (spiritual), deliverance, discernment, entry points, evil spirits, hands, impartation, influence, Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Satan, manifestations, occult, spirit oppression/possession, spirit, spiritual warfare.