Unclean spirits

Personal Matters

A man tries to kill himself by running straight in front of my friend’s car, a brother’s niece hospitalised and on suicide watch, children who are too anxious to go to school, a ministry forced to move on because of chronic lying, personality disorders surfacing in Christian leaders, the chemsex phenomena (gay sex on drugs) and the insistence that kids as young as 5 can determine their “real” gender identity.

All these are happening around us in “the lucky country”; and the presence of global terrorism is inescapable.

Biblically, the world is getting weirder because the bondage to demonic powers is intensifying. Whilst Western Christians can mouth biblical passages about spiritual warfare have lost our discernment of demonic powers.

If we were discerning spirits we would already be in a spiritually militant Church actively engaged in overt spiritual warfare seeing the type of demonic manifestations recorded in scripture (Mark 9:25-29; 1 John 2:18-27).

We are blind to such things because we have lost touch with an essential component of biblical spirituality.

Unclean Spirits

… unclean spirit

Whilst the Greek New Testament uses “unclean spirit” (pneuma akatharton)

21 times many recent translations render this “evil spirit” attempting to make the text more intelligible to modern readers (CEV, GNT, NLT, NIV 1984 edn.).

Much of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament is is a response to the ritual and moral uncleanness that sin brings. The “sin offering” of Leviticus is in effect a purification offering effecting a cleansing that makes God approachable (4:1-5:13).

The central purification offering of the Day Atonement cleansed the temple sanctuary permitting the holy God to dwell in the midst of an unholy people (Lev 16:16-22).

When the perfectly holy dwelling place of God appeared on earth the unclean spirits possessing people reacted with fear and loathing; v.23there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, v.24What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”” (Mark 1:23-34; John 2:21).

Christ’s presence forced them to recognise their actions in sinners was abominable in God’s sight (Lev 18:26-27; Rev 17:4-5).

Considering the category of uncleanness opens up dimensions of the cross rarely considered today; the washing away of impurity.

Jesus was the perfectly pure sanctuary entirely full of the Spirit of the Father and as such he prophesied, “…the ruler of this world is coming. He has nothing in me,” (John 14:30). The cry, ““My God…why have you forsaken me””, is a sign that the temple of Christ’s body is filled with the defiling impurities which cause the withdrawal of God’s holy presence Ezek 5:11; 10; Mark 15:34.

 In bearing our sin Jesus takes into himself every “abomination that makes” human life “desolate” of God’s glorious presence (Matt 24:15).

All that is vile and loathsome in God’s sight is taken into Christ desecrating the real sanctuary by the presence of our uncleanness.

The scriptural remedy defilement is the shedding of blood (Lev 16:19).

In shedding his blood Jesus has purified every space in heaven and earth where God and man might meet in him (Heb 9:22-24). He has triumphed over all unclean spirits by recreating holy places for the indwelling of God; “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” Since Satan resides in the shame of the lost glory of fallen humanity it is the devil’s turn now to face shame in the presence of God’s holy habitation, the Church (Eph 2:20-22).

Unclean No More

As there is no uncleanness in Jesus, “in Christ” we are “completely clean” (John 13:10).

The Lord confidently declared, “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3). Being “born again” is more than forgiveness, it is “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,” (Tit 3:5 cf. Acts 22:16; 1 Cor 6:11). With “hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience” we are unashamedly open hearted to the continual infilling of the Holy Spirit (Heb 10:22).

Having been declared clean “once for all” the process of inner purification goes on as we are “washed by the cleansing of God’s word” (Eph 5:26; Heb 10:10).

As far as our basic access to God in Christ goes we are in the position of the person described in the psalm:

Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.

To be pure and free from unclean spirits is a fruit of the gospel; this is why the New Testament expects that the conflict between Christ and Satan will continue openly through the Church (Acts 8:7; Acts 16:16-18).

Psalm 24:3-4

Manifest Lord

As the Church lives clean so Satan and his unclean hordes are exposed as real and active.

As believers with a clean conscience “enter the holy places (in heaven) by the blood of Jesus” the presence of Christ must cause demons to uncontrollably manifest themselves (Heb 10:20-25).

The more the effectiveness of power of the blood of the cross is let loose in the Church the more the Lordship of Jesus over all things is manifest in the world.

The conflict between the Holy Spirit and unclean spirits becomes public for all to see and the asymmetric nature of the warfare between Christ and Satan becomes clear.

 The confession “Jesus is Lord” is a verbal reality across the Western Church, but the effective evidence of this Lordship in the visible expulsion of evil powers is largely absent.

This is a sign that demonic forces gave deceived on consciences of Christians into believing they are unclean. I have never heard a preacher say to his hearers, “You are unclean.”, but every time a congregation receives a message about being more healthy, wealthy, sexy, joyful, successful etc. the hearers are being consolidated in their sense of inner impurity.

Meanwhile the evil originator of every sense of unclean shame remains hidden (Zech 3:1-5). 

When Jesus entered the local assembly of his day the unclean spirits manifested uncontrollably in the presence of his Lordship; please name an “influential” mainstream church in the Western world where such things are happening today!


The biblical vocabulary of uncleanness has been lost amongst us because we no longer recognise what it means to be clean in Christ.

Jesus is the Victor but we are missing a massive dimension of his Lordship (1 Cor 15:57).

Our churches have become like the prosperous Israelites of old; “Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed. Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation.” (Deut 32:15).

Expect the Sovereign King to hand over nation and church to ever weirder things, until we bow the knee at his feet and allow him to “reign in the midst of his enemies” (Ps 110:2).

Like the exorcisms in the Bible this will not be pretty but it will surely constrain the confession, “Jesus is Lord!” (1 Cor 12:3). Who would desire anything else?

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