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Old Testament Foundations: A Biblical View of the Relationship of Sin and the Fruits of Sin: Sickness, Demonization, Death, Natural Calamity, by Peter H. Davids

 

Sin Leading to Demonization

Demonization is another fruit of sin in the New Testament. While the New Testament does not give a comprehensive discussion on how people get demonized, probably because the issue for the authors was expelling demons rather than their previous history, it does give us some illuminating examples of the connection of the demonic with sin. Judas Iscariot is the first example which comes to mind. While Luke 22:3-6 indicates that Satan had “entered into” Judas (cf. Mat 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11, which do not mention the demonic element), it does not give a motive, although one is suggested in mentioning the promise of money or the request for money.17 John 12:6, however, places a reference to Judas’ being a thief into the earlier account of the anointing at Bethany. John then retains the reference to Satan entering Judas in John 13:27. Is this a suggestion that Judas’ sinfulness (greed, thievery) was the basis for Satan’s entering him? We cannot be certain, but that would be one possible implication, which could also be latent in Luke’s account, where the request for money is underlined.18

The story of Judas Iscariot does not settle the issue of whether a Christian may be demonized … Judas was certainly demonized in the end, but the issue of whether or not he was a believer rests on one’s definition of what it means to be a believer.

A second example of this connection is in Acts 5:1-3, the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Here it is clear that they sinned (i.e. lied to the Holy Spirit). Yet we must ask what Peter meant by “Satan [has] filled your heart.”19 The plot to deceive is clearly attributed to Satan, but (1) was this demonization and (2) was this the fruit of sin or the cause of sin? The evidence seems to suggest that it was demonization—He was clearly influenced by Satan who “filled [his] heart.”20 The evidence also seems to suggest that this demonization was the fruit of sin. Surely it is hard to believe that such a deliberate (attempted) deception was conceived and executed without some previous weakening of their moral fiber.21 Did that give the opening for this temptation? Since the phrase “Satan [has] filled your heart” suggests demonization (even if only a mild form), then they (or at least Ananias) were Christians who were demonized as a result of their sin.

There are two passages in which a Christian is handed over to Satan as a result of sin, 1 Cor 5:4-5 and 1 Tim 1:20. In both cases the individuals involved have committed a specific sin. The result of the sin is not automatic, but the church (or in the case of 1 Timothy, Paul) hands them over to Satan who will be the agent of discipline (and hopefully salvation). Clearly this is not a willing role which Satan plays (why would Satan ever do something which might lead a person to reject sin or even “be saved in the day of the Lord”?), but rather the author describes the effect of Satan’s activities. In this case we cannot say that demonization is the fruit of sin alone, for the church assists. What we do observe is that when a person was put outside the protection of the church, demonization, at least to the extent of physical or some other form of affliction by Satan, was the expected result.22

Another set of passages indicates that Satan has designs on Christians: 2 Cor 2:10-11; 1 Tim 3:6-7; 1 Pet 5:8. In the first passage, 2 Cor 2:10-11, a repentant person who had been excommunicated (probably for opposition to Paul’s authority) is to be forgiven and received again to keep him from becoming a prey of Satan, presumably through depression (sorrow). In the second passage, 1 Tim 3:6-7, elders are not to be conceited but are to be experienced Christians of character so that they do not fall into Satan’s traps (i.e. he is seeking to “get his hooks into” them). In the third passage, 1 Pet 5:8, Satan is looking for Christians to devour (the context might suggest through pride or through harboring anxiety), so alertness and self-discipline are to be practiced. All of these suggest that a lack of virtue makes a Christian vulnerable to Satan, although the exact nature of his traps or influence is not specified.

Still a final group of texts speaks of the danger of falling into Satan’s trap: 1 Cor 7:5 (sexual temptation); Eph 4:26-27 (anger); 2 Tim 2:25-26 (false teaching, opposing the truth). Abstinence from sexual intercourse between married partners, anger, or involvement in sin (perhaps those mentioned in 2 Tim 2:21-22) lead to becoming Satan’s captive or becoming trapped by him. While this may simply mean further involvement in sin as a result of previous sin, it does seem to indicate a level of demonic influence in which at least a person’s mind or will is involved.

We conclude that the New Testament does not directly say that demonization can be a fruit of sin, but it does imply this connection. It does this in narrative form by connecting sin and demonic (Satanic) influence. It does this in the epistles by connecting sin to falling under the influence of Satan. In some cases the demonization might be quite mild (temptation), in others more intermediate (having a mind captive to Satan, probably indicating compulsive sin or deception), and in the case of the excommunicated it may be rather severe (e.g. to the extent of illness which may destroy their body). While the data are not as clear as we might desire, the connection is legitimate according to the New Testament.

 

Reversing the Fruit of Sin in the Old Testament

If the fruits of sin include those things which we discussed above, we need to ask if there is a way to reverse them? In other words, if one sins (or if others sin and one is exposed to the results), must he or she simply accept the bitter fruit, or does the Scripture present some other solution?

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2006

About the Author: Peter H. Davids is a visiting professor of Christianity at Houston Baptist University and part-time professor at Houston Graduate School of Theology. He has taught biblical studies at Regent College (Vancouver, British Columbia) and Canadian Theological Seminary (Regina, Saskatchewan), and he continues to teach in theological schools in Europe. He is the author of commentaries on James and 1 Peter. He is the New Testament editor of the Word Biblical Commentary series, the translator (from German) of Reinhard Feldmeier, 1 Peter (Baylor, 2008), and has also been part of several Bible translation projects (including The New Living Translation, The Voice, and The Common English Bible). Davids’ passion for the church has been expressed in his deep church involvement. He served as a Plymouth Brethren US Army Chaplain for 5 years, then an Episcopal priest for 34 years. He is presently a Catholic priest in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. Faculty page Ministry page

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