What is the meaning of spiritual bondage? What is a spiritual stronghold?

‘Spiritual bondage’ describes places in our lives where we’ve become entangled in sin, lies, and/or demonization. Let me define a few terms to explain what that means.

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Spiritual bondage and demonic possession / demonic oppression

While the phrase”demon-possessed” appears in many Bible translations, the phrase “demon-oppressed” doesn’t. Believe it or not, neither phrase make an appearance in the original languages. The literal translation of these words is “demonized.” Demonization is used to describe situations when people have become so afflicted with a demonic entity that they are unable to function normally. In practical reality, every person on earth is under demonic influence to some degree, ranging from subtle to extreme.

Here I should point out that even in cases of extreme spiritual bondage, the devil cannot override our free will. When a demon has control, they’ve been given control. Now, most people don’t give Satan control on purpose; it happens without them realizing they’re doing it. We give him control by giving him power. How does that happen?

  • Believing lies (which is agreeing with Satan, the liar). If I could convince you that a piano would fall from the sky and crush you if you go outside (a lie), I could keep you indoors (I’d have power over you).
  • Choosing to sin. As Paul said, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Ephesians 2:1-2). 
  • Giving in to fear. The devil is the fear-monger. So what is spiritual bondage? Spiritual bondage is giving Satan a measure of control and living under that control.

When people ask me whether a Christian can be demon-possessed, what they’re usually asking is, “Can a Christian be indwelled by an evil spirit?” or, “Can an evil spirit possess (have ownership of) a Christian?” Those are very different questions.

It’s possible to give the devil power over us to the point where his thoughts are woven into our own, so that he is able to “set up shop” in our hearts and exercise a form of rule there. Just ask Annanias and Sapphira in the book of Acts, chapter 5. Their hearts were “filled” with Satan just as Peter’s was “filled with the Spirit.”

So a Christian can be “filled” with an evil spirit, but can a Christian be owned by one? Eternally, ultimately, legally, no. They’ve been purchased by Christ’s blood. But practically, functionally, in a “who’s calling the shots” way, yes. A Christian can definitely be trapped in spiritual bondage, a spiritual stronghold.

When a person gives their lives to Jesus, any indwelling spirits are ‘cast out’ of their spirit, because their spirit now belongs to Jesus and his Holy Spirit dwells there. But these spirits still inhabit (or are attached to) the soul and must be ‘cast off’—rejected and renounced, along with its lies and effects. The Apostle Paul uses this language to talk about the supernatural power of sin in Colossians chapter three.

Spiritual bondage and spiritual strongholds

Depending on what church you attend, you may or may not hear a lot of “spiritual stronghold” talk. The best treatment of spiritual strongholds I’ve ever read comes from Francis Frangipane’s book, “The Three Battlegrounds.”  Frangipane argues (convincingly, too) that while the devil may inhabit a spiritual stronghold, we are the ones who build them. A spiritual stronghold, he says, is another word for an area of our lives we defend against God—a wall we erect between us and our Savior via rebellion, ignorance, deceit, or otherwise.

Since God is light, this wall casts a shadow on our souls, creating a dark place that becomes a natural habitat for sin, lies, and / or demons to thrive. Satan fools us into giving him a dark place to set up shop, and we foolishly oblige him. A spiritual stronghold, then, is a form of spiritual bondage. Read II Corinthians 10:3-5 and watch how Paul defines a stronghold. It jives well with what Frangipane teaches.

This definition is brilliant, because the problem isn’t the demon per se, it’s us. Demolish the stronghold—the pride, the argument, the sinful barrier, and the light streams in. Darkness has no place to hide. This sounds an awful lot like Ephesians 5:8-20 where Paul talks about being children of light. So what is spiritual bondage? What is a spiritual stronghold? The result of giving the devil a place to exercise power over us.

Spiritual bondage and my own problems

You may be wondering, “Is my issue demonic, physical, emotional, or mental?”

I’ve been asked this question many times over. My answer?

“Normally, yes.”

In other words, in any given case several or even all of these factors are usually in play. You might have a chemical imbalance. Physical. But that also becomes mental and emotional, doesn’t it? And have you responded in perfect Christlikeness, with epic faith, hope and love to this issue? No? Then it’s also a sin issue, at least in part.

And Satan? He loves to piggyback existing problems, making them more difficult than they have to be. So the real question is, “To what degree is this issue demonic, physical, emotional, mental, or a sin issue?” This gets a little more difficult. In all likelihood, one of these roots is primary and is exerting more influence than the other factors. But assuming this is the only issue is naive and unhelpful.

Well, that’s it for now. You began this article asking, “What is spiritual bondage?” or, “What is a spiritual stronghold?” I hope you’re closer to an answer. You can get the book I referenced here:

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