Works of the Flesh: Sorcery

Let us continue our examination into the practices which Paul deemed as “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21 with “sorcery,” as we can see in Galatians 5:19-20:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties…

The word for “sorcery” (also translated as “witchcraft”) in this text is the Greek pharmakeia, defined by Thayer in four ways:

1) the use or the administering of drugs
2) poisoning
3) sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it
4) metaphorically the deceptions and seductions of idolatry

Since the Bible is not known in other places to condemn the use of drugs, we may be certain that Paul is not discussing the dispensing of drugs in this context. Its closeness to idolatry in his list demonstrates that the type of sorcery under discussion is best expressed with meaning (3).

This “sorcery” is seen in the Scriptures as the magic that Simon of Samaria used to the amazement of the Samarians (Acts 8:9). We also see Saul visiting the “witch” of Endor, a woman who practiced sorcery in calling up dead spirits (cf. 1 Samuel 28).

What, then, is this “sorcery?” Webster’s defines it as:

Magic; enchantment; witchcraft; divination be the assistance of evil spirits, or the power of commanding evil spirits.

Sorcery, therefore, is the practice of any form of magic arts. Sorcery is also divination, but this divination is done without regard to the will of the Lord. God often gave predictions to His people Israel when they petitioned Him, yet many times the people of Israel sought divination from unholy sources (cf. 2 Kings 1:2). In this form of divination do we see the implications of Thayer’s connection between sorcery and idolatry: trusting in the divination of other spirits is contradictory with complete faith in God.

It might be believed by many that because sorcery refers to the cults of the religions of old that the Christian today ought not be concerned with this “sorcery.” Unfortunately, however, a different form of sorcery is very much alive today, and it is seen in the form of tarot card readings, horoscopes, psychic predictions, and things like these. All of these practices claim to be based on some form of supernatural understanding, be it the way the cards fall, the movement of stars in the sky, or the “sixth sense” a person might purport to have. These “supernatural” understandings fit the definition of “sorcery;” these understandings do not rest with the authority of God but with some other spirit.

Many may claim that these modern forms of sorcery are legitimate and might say that they can attest to their truthfulness; therefore, they are truly not sorcery but are legitimate means of understanding the future. The Scriptures, however, attest to the fact that sorceries can have power, be correct, or even that false spirits can come from God. We read the following about Pharaoh’s magicians in Exodus 7:11:

Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers: and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did in like manner with their enchantments.

We might see that in the example above, the “witch” of Endor was able to conjure up the spirit of Samuel who predicted truly the demise of Saul (1 Samuel 28). We may also see in 2 Chronicles 18:18-21 that God can send out false spirits:

And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear ye the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting upon His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right hand and on His left.
And the LORD said, ‘Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’
And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will entice him.’
And the LORD said unto him, ‘Wherewith?’
And he said, ‘I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’
And He said, ‘Thou shalt entice him, and shalt prevail also: go forth, and do so.'”

We may see, then, that merely because a form of sorcery might speak what actually occurs does not justify its practice in the eyes of God. It even possibly could be God Himself causing His plan to be executed.

The problem with sorcery is the idolatry inherent in it: if you place your faith in your horoscope, or the tarot card reading, or the psychic, you are not placing your faith in God. Jesus commanded us the following in Matthew 6:25-34:

“Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Jesus has commanded His followers to not be concerned about the future and what it entails, for the Father in Heaven will take care of you– how, then, can one justify using tarot cards, horoscopes, or psychics when such a greater promise has already been made? Placing your hope in tarot cards, horoscopes, and/or psychics demonstrates that you have lost your hope in God to take care of you. You have placed your faith in something other than God, and this is idolatry.

Let the Christian today not be deceived: tarot card readings, horoscopes, psychics, and other types of media like these who claim to have “supernatural understandings” is sorcery. Even if their predictions come to pass, the Christian is called to place his faith in God, who alone has the power to keep and to save. Following after these practices claiming supernatural understandings diverts your ability to follow after God and His righteousness, and is idolatry in the eyes of God. Hold fast to the Gospel of Christ and place your faith in God, who will most certainly see that you are taken care of and who may confirm that your future, however uncertain and hard it may seem on Earth, is secure with Him in Heaven.

ELDV

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