It's a word used in a Christian context as a euphemism for kicking demons out of a person; it's basically exorcism, but not necessarily done by a priest as a part of a complex rite involving recitations and holy water (as one usually expects with the word "exorcism"). In charismatic circles, the distinction between ‘exorcism’ and ‘deliverance’ is an indispensable one, although it remains true that the terms still remain poorly defined. Stated simply, the distinction is that exorcism is administered to those who are demonically ‘possessed’ and deliverance is for those who are merely ‘oppressed’. This distinction is not particularly new.

The question of the legitimacy of deliverance has resulted from the vexed theological issue, which has concerned the evangelical world in recent years, of whether Christians can ‘have’ an evil spirit. In the charismatic movement, the dispute is all but settled with a positive affirmation. It is argued, in simple terms, that Christians cannot be possessed, that is, totally controlled by an ‘unclean spirit’, since this would be a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, it is possible for Christians to be ‘oppressed’, ‘bothered by’, ‘in bondage to’, demonic forces. While the spirit, the innermost being, of the Christian is the temple of the Holy Spirit, the outer regions of the person, body and personality, can be ‘infested’. A certain amount of confusion, however, still remains in charismatic doctrines. The theological difficulties arise partly because of the spatial model of being indwelt by the Spirit of God. The usual model is that of the Christian’s life as a battle zone where the Holy Spirit and the sinful nature meet in confrontation.

All this is very much more than mere subtle theological semantics. It amounts to a precise belief that evil spirits can exercise considerable influence over certain aspects of a Christian’s life. In turn, this is often perceived as a product of ‘spiritual warfare’, in which the Christian is under the relentless attack of demonic agencies. Moreover, while it is argued that some deliverance may take place at conversion, the Christian also has to deal with the legacy of sin which remains. The believer, then, is viewed as subject to the consequences of a fallen world in much the same way as a non-Christian, and has the same physical and emotional health problems, as well as sharing in the consequences of Satan’s assault. The act of deliverance, therefore, becomes a weapon in the armoury of the ‘born-again’ Christian.

Deliverance gradually grew as a practice in the charismatic renewal movement both within the mainline denominations and the independent ‘house churches’. Often it was perceived by charismatics as being all part of ‘the present moving of the Spirit’ and the renewal of the church. At the same time, it coincided with the wider interest in ‘divine healing’ by Catholic and Protestant neo-Pentecostalists. As part of their concern with healing, the charismatics had developed a fascination for secular counselling, which was then applied to those in need of therapy within the churches. Some critics of the present deliverance ministry have argued that it is merely a form of ‘spiritualized psychotherapy’; in particular, an expression of ‘encounter’ counselling/therapy overlaid with a ‘spirit gloss’. Many sceptics have speculated that practitioners have taken the Christian psychologist Frank Lake’s teachings of ‘rebirth’ to their most extreme conclusions. From this perspective, deliverance mirrors the secular world’s preoccupation with psychotherapy and emotional healing.

Demons and the Believer

When we study what the Bible says about demons, it is very clear that Christians cannot be demon possessed. However, the Bible does say that a believer can be oppressed or influenced by a demon. What’s the difference? Possession means that the demon has full control over the person. Examples of this can be found in Matthew 17:14-18 and Luke 4:33-35; 8:27-33. Demon oppression is very different. If a person is oppressed by a demon, that demon influences the person toward sin.

There are no instructions or commands in the Bible to cast a demon out of a believer. Instead, believers are instructed to resist the devil: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). 1 Peter 5:8-9 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Believers are a new creation and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, not indwelt by demons. Romans 8:9-11 says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” The Bible is very clear that believers war with Satan and his demons, but not from within themselves, but rather externally. “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you [God] is greater than the one who is in the world [Satan]” (1 John 4:4).

Chuck Smith explains how proponents of Deliverance Ministry get around these clear verses, “The proponents of this unscriptural doctrine use such terms as Christians being ‘invaded by demons’ rather than demon possessed. This is nothing more than a word game and a smoke screen to hide the scriptural weakness of their position. They also present an illogical supposition that demons can invade or control the mind or body but not the spirit. God’s Word declares that the body is a temple of the Holy Ghost who is in us.”

We, as believers are called to lead a life brimming with victory, joy, happiness, love, peace, good deeds and deliverance. Let's uproot with the power of the Holy Spirit, every root within us leading to be in bondage by the ugly devil and thereby lead a life filled with the goodness and grace of our Jehovah Nissi, the victorious Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.