(Extracted and Adapted from Counselling Recipes Through 40 Years Pastoring by Timothy Tow)

In the story of the powerless disciples failing to cast out a demon that possessed a boy, various terms are used by the Evangelists to describe the case. In Matthew, the young patient is called a “lunatick”, a “devil” (Matthew 17:15, 18). In Mark, he is described as having a “dumb spirit”, the “foul spirit”, and the “dumb and deaf spirit” (Mark 9:17, 25). In Luke, the child is said to have had “an unclean spirit” (Luke 9:42).

In these Synoptic accounts, we can see how the poor boy was variously affected – from lunacy, that is, a derangement of the mind, to his spirit or soul being possessed by the devil or demon. There is a borderline connection between lunacy or madness and demon possession. But we must distinguish clearly between those who are mentally deranged and those who are possessed. Lunacy is the beginning, and demon possession the final.

The reader will have noticed that I mentioned in the title “obsession” and not “possession”. The reason is I have not met such a violent case as had gripped this boy who hurt himself in fire and water, nor have those who practise “exorcism” (more on this later) in Singapore today, I believe, dealt with a proven demon-possession case. If they have, they are very few!

When I was in Nanking under Dr Chia Yu Ming, 1946, there was the case of a young girl who was gripped by a brutal spirit. This gave her strength to smash up whatever things stood in her way. Several men barely overpowered her, who locked her up in a storeroom. Dr Chia, my teacher, was called. We students were summoned to pray together for her release. We prayed earnestly and sang Gospel choruses. Her raging inside the storeroom slowly subsided. But what finally became of her, I cannot recollect, for we were busy with our studies.

Dealing with Demons Today
As Bible-believing Christians, we have no doubt about the reality of demon cases and the casting out of demons by the Lord. We rejoice in the power of the Apostles who were given authority over the unclean spirits (c.f. Luke 10:1, 19).

There are charismatics who claim to have apostolic power to cast out demons. Thus a ministry of exorcism has arisen amongst them, and even with a B-P minister (though only for a season). Such an exorcism ministry, like opening a medical clinic by a quack doctor, is bound to fail as the power to cast out devils is given primarily to the Apostles (Acts 5:12) for the confirmation of their preaching ministry (Mark 16:20). Moreover, as the early Church grew and became established, there were no more recorded demon cases dealt with by the Apostles after Acts 19, nor are there any injunctions or prescriptions on demon-possession in all the Epistles.

What shall we do today, if we should meet with cases? Of course, we can pray for deliverance. Dr John Sung dealt with demon cases and had cast out some inasmuch as God had given him grace to heal the sick. It was a dispensation of mass soul-saving graciously bestowed on China and Southeast Asia in the thirties.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we can rebuke the demon to depart (c.f. Jude 1:9), and when he gets out, all glory be to the Son of God. However, if God does not grant deliverance by our prayers, let us submit to His will. Let us acknowledge God has now given, by His common grace, the ministry of improved hospitals and mental institutions. Let the suffering patient be admitted to one of these institutions until such time as the doctor can let him out. Let us recognise also that modern medicine and surgery are a gift from God. It is vain for someone suffering from a tumour to persist in prayer against the plain open way of good treatment from the surgeon’s scalpel.

After the John Sung Revival in Singapore, there were those who would refuse taking two tablets of Panadol when afflicted with a headache. To take any drug, according to their thinking, would be a lack of faith tantamount to sin. I would rather take the medicine with a prayer for recovery and thanks-giving to God and the doctor in advance.

Resist the Devil and he will flee from You
Talking about demon-possession, or rather obsession, insofar as the patient is concerned, he must be encouraged to put up a fight against the evil power. The Apostle Peter gives us this recipe, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:8-9) This is succinctly restated by the Apostle James, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

A born-again Christian, who has the Holy Spirit indwelling Him, cannot be possessed! John says in his Epistle, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them (the false spirits): because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:1-4). Nevertheless, every Christian is not free from temptation by the Evil One. Even our Lord had to undergo temptation by the Devil after He had fasted forty days and forty nights in the Judean desert (Matthew 4:1-11).

What shall we do then? As stated, the recipe is most succinctly given to us by James, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). This must be acted upon with full confidence. Jesus repulsed Satan with three sword thrusts by quoting Deuteronomy thrice. The Word of God is “the sword of the Spirit” (Eph. 6:17). The more of the Bible we know, the more dexterous we are in crossing swords with the Devil. Let us encourage one another to constantly read the Bible and memorise it too.

What about beginning believers who are emerging from a background of su-perstition and idol worship? These need counsel of the Lord to come out from among them and be separate (2 Cor. 6:14-7:1). They need encourage-ment, help that mature Christians can give.
(To be continued)


Rev. Timothy Tow on Counselling Only By the Bible

“With the study of theology that is key to Bible knowledge, a seminary (Bible College) graduate, if he now makes that Bible his lifelong Book, he should be able to counsel better than those who used humanistic principles or try to “integrate” those principles with the Bible. In order to counsel well, he must read his Bible regularly and meditate in His law day and night (Psalm 1). . . In the words of Melchior Wolmar, teacher of the Greek Testament to Calvin, ‘In this book is the answer to every problem, the remedy of every abuse, the rest of every laden soul.’

“For the last 44 years as pastor of Life Bible-Presbyterian Church . . . I have to counsel countless cases of men and women, old and young, not only with members of my church but also to many who would seek me for deliverance from the Lord. I do not claim to have an answer for every problem nor the power to cure the soul’s diseases. I merely point every client to the Counsellor of counsellors (Isa. 9:6), even our Saviour Jesus Christ and to His Holy Spirit, the Comforter. . . speaking through the Book. The Lord is the doctor as well as the medicine. I am rather like a dispensing pharmacist.”

“The Bible is God’s All Complete Plan of Salvation” (完全救发) Dr Chia Yu Ming