Demons Have No “Legal Rights”

Some people claim that the devil or demons have “legal rights” over people. For example, Derek Prince claims that if we (including Christians) have any unconfessed sin, then “in that area we do not have the full legal rights of redemption. Satan still has a legal claim in that area…. He has a legal right to occupy that territory. The devil is a legal expert.”[1]

If you have read lots of books on spiritual warfare or deliverance, you might be convinced that Satan has legal rights. But those who haven’t bathed themselves in such books wouldn’t come to this conclusion simply from reading the Bible because, well, it simply isn’t there.

The Bible never claims that demons have any “legal rights.” In contrast, Charles Kraft erroneously claims that demonic “rights are granted according to the rules God has set up to govern the universe.” He suggests, for example, that “one of the rules God has set up is that if a person holds on to anger or any other negative emotional reaction, a demon has the legal right to live inside that person.” He then wrongly claims, “This is spoken of in Ephesians 4:26-27, where we are told to not hold on to anger past sundown … lest we give the devil an opportunity—a legal right—to cause us trouble, presumably from inside of us.”[2] This passage says nothing about legal rights. Rather, Ephesians 4 indicates that a person might “make room for the devil” (v. 27, NRSV)[3] to destroy the unity of the church community by means of more sinful behaviors.

Practically speaking, if the devil or demons have legal rights over all people (including Christians) who have unconfessed sin, then the devil probably has legal rights over every Christian because I’m pretty sure that most Christians have sinned in ways that they have forgotten to confess. Some liturgical traditions have their parishioners confess their sinfulness in every worship gathering, so perhaps they are safe from demons (tongue in cheek). But those who speak of Satan’s “legal rights” generally claim that we need to name and renounce the specific sins we have committed in order to remove Satan’s legal rights over us.[4] I don’t recall Jesus ever saying anything like this.

I believe that demons are real and that they do affect people, but my impression is that many books on spiritual warfare and deliverance turn dealing with the demonic into magical formulas that we need to follow. If we don’t follow the formula right by renouncing the right sins, then we don’t break the spells (“legal rights”) that demons have over us.

This seems eerily similar to the prosperity gospel, where you have to “confess” your faith in just the right way in order to get God to act in the way that you want. The difference here is that the magical formula of our words is meant to control demons instead of God.

 

[1] Derek Prince, War in Heaven: God’s Epic Battle With Evil (Grand Rapids: Chosen, 2003), 158-160.

[2] Charles H. Kraft, The Evangelical’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare: Practical Instruction and Scriptural Insights on Facing the Enemy (Grand Rapids: Chosen, 2015), 219.

[3] The Greek literally reads “do not give a place [topos] to the devil.”

[4] For example, Kraft, The Evangelical’s Guide to Spiritual Warfare, 165. See another example here: http://www.greatbiblestudy.com/legalrights.php, which, contrary to its name, is not a great bible study.

3 Comments

  1. I through Jesus said before he left. I am. Leaving the evil one is coming but don’t be afraid because he has nothing in me so he does not have any power over me. Is this a orrect statement by Jesus in John 14:30

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