Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 6, 1958
NUMBER 39, PAGE 7,12b-13a


H. Osby Weaver, Kilgore, Texas

If Paul had been a "black-board preacher," he perhaps would have presented Gal. 5:19-23 by dividing the board into two equal parts with a vertical line. On one side he would have written "Fruit of the Spirit," while the other side would have been labeled "Works of the Flesh." According to the American Standard Version, one item listed under the "Works of the Flesh," standing in severe contrast to the "Fruit of the Spirit," is called "sorcery," whatever that is.

In this case, as is generally perceived, "birds of a feather have flocked together," hence we know that "sorcery"' is bad because of some of its colleagues with which we are already acquainted. The Spirit dumps them all into the same category and under identical condemnation. Upon reading Gal. 5:19-21, we are impressed with the fact that "sorcery" has a pretty tough looking bunch of associates.

We propose to investigate the sin of sorcery after this fashion: (1) What is it? (2) What is God's attitude toward it? (3) Is it practiced today?

Now to the first question: What is it? There are several different English words as well as different Greek words that have been used in the New Testament to describe both the practice and the practitioner. Some of the English words are "enchantment," "exorcist," "soothsaying," "witchcraft," and "sorcery." Some of the Greek words are "mageia," magic arts, such as practiced by Simon in Acts 8:11; "magos," one who resorts to the use of magic or sorcery — a false prophet, such as Elymas in Acts 13:8; "pharmakeia," enchantment with drugs — that which one uses who proposes to conjure a magical remedy, "often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it," such as is mentioned in Gal. 5:20. While there are slightly differences in some of the words, it can readily be seen that they all have to do with the same sin. The word "pharmakeia" is the sin of our subject according to Gal. 5:20 and is so much like a kindred English word "pharmacy" that one would guess that it had to do with the use of drugs, but not in any legitimate sense. In most cases it was a concoction of poison which drove away the "evil spirits" or eliminated the disease by reason of having killed the one upon whom the experiment was performed. Sorcery is therefore deceptive and without benefit to the hopeful participant. It is more than common deception; it is an appeal to the spiritual with accompanying claims of extraordinary powers of discernment and performance in a realm which belongs exclusively to God.

Superstition, skepticism, moral degradation, and eventual infidelity are some of the fruits of sorcery. Such conditions prevailed throughout the Roman Empire in New Testament days. It is interesting to note that nations whose priests were magicians and whose practice wassorcery, where the word of God was unknown, reached the greatest heights in superstition and the lowest depths he moral degeneracy. As the people's knowledge of God increased, sorcery decreased proportionately. It is a trace of decay upon the civilization of any nation of literate people to be "taken-in" by the witchcraft of those deceivers who claim for themselves unusual powers, to say nothing of it being a naked demonstration of a declining knowledge of God and His word.

Sir Walter Scott in his "Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft" says, "The sorcery or witchcraft of the Old Testament resolves itself into a trafficking with idols and asking counsel of false deities, or, in other words, into idolatry." The same could be said of sorcery in the New Testament. It is, on the one hand, the practice of deception by religious soothsayers employing sleight-of-hand performances, a degree of hypnotism, and a little psychology with the various accompanying magical arts, while on the other hand it is a case of curiosity, a desire to be bewitched, blind faith, and idolatry on the part of the deceived. Such is sorcery and its fruits.

What is God's attitude toward it? Throughout the Old Testament from the time of the diviners of Egypt in Ex. 7 to God's expressed wrath against it in Mal. 3:5, Jehovah has shown his disgust with such practices which have always been on the side of evil because they are evil. Sorcery led God's people away from Him according to Isa. 2:6 and 47:9,10. He not only condemned sorcery itself, but also pronounced severe penalties upon those who consulted the sorcerer. (Lev. 20:6) With God's approval, King Saul put away from Israel those that had familiar spirits, then in desperation because of his own unfaithfulness, he was the first to seek consultation with one. (1 Sam. 28:3-9) God supplied His people with superior powers contingent upon their fidelity (1 Sam. 28:2; 2 Sam. 2:1), but He did not countenance their trafficking in sorcery. In condemning Saul's obstinacy, Samuel said, "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft." (1 Sam. 15:23) However heinous rebellion is in God's sight, sorcery meets with equal disapproval.

God's attitude toward this sin as revealed in the New Testament has not changed. Gal. 5:21 says, "They who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God," but "their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." (Rev. 21:8)

Is sorcery practiced today? Sorcery has been and is being practiced today both in civilized and savage countries. The soothsayers, dealers in magical books and arts, exorcists, and the conjurers of healing potions in New Testament days find their counterparts today in the Fortune-tellers," false-teachers," mind-readers," palm fondlers,' and 'fake healers' with the last group being the greatest offenders.

Millions of dollars yearly are poured into the coffers of these 'palm-readers' 'tealeaf detectives,' and other 'fortune tellers.' composed of both sorcerers and sorceresses, by a gullible public among whom are members of the body of Christ. Remember, our Lord is no more pleased with those who consult the soothsayer than with the soothsayer himself. Every dollar that a Christian gives to such a racket is a contribution to a sinful, illegitimate business that shuts the door of God's kingdom in men's faces. One may as well buy the bootlegger's brew as to pay a fee to a fortune-teller whether it be at the county fair or a regular established business. Some attempt to excuse themselves on the grounds that "I don't believe in them; I just wanted to see what they would say." Of course you believe in them if you consulted them! Just listen to one who offers such excuse describe at a subsequent time how many things came true that he was told and see if he doesn't believe in them. He is simply deceiving and being deceived. Men can predict fairly accurately some events because of extenuating circumstances past and present. For instance, one might foretell a depression because of certain economic conditions, or even a war. To predict that a single person will at some time get married, is better than even odds. These "fortune tellers" do not hold the future in their hands, and they cannot divine the mind of God. "No man knoweth the things of God, save the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. 2:11), therefore, if we ever know the things of God the Spirit must reveal them. All that the Spirit has revealed or will ever reveal is in the Bible. To consult a modern day sorcerer is an expression of a lack of faith in the things which the Spirit has revealed.

Our vocabulary is entirely too limited to express the disgust and contempt which we feel for the fake-healing sorcerer who is nothing less than a religious racketeer. These religious thugs disguise themselves as gospel preachers, feign great piety, and take captive the unfortunates of the earth while exploiting their miseries for personal gain. With great swelling words of vanity and dramatic demonstrations, these soothsayers make merchandise of the diseased, the maimed, the blind, the ignorant, and superstitious. These practitioners of witchcraft, whose God is the belly, promise the masses a refreshing drink from the fountain of healing but give them vinegar and gall. Through deceit and trickery, they slither from one place to another duping the people who have fallen prey to their smooth speech while hiding behind cloaks of religion and crying "persecution" when exposed. They never cease to promote their sorcery with their hired press agents who continually magnify their claims of success when none know better than they that they are complete failures except for the monetary compensation which comes from fleecing the people. From the days of Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8) until this present time, these fakes like to be thought of as identified with God and His power. Simon was his own press agent, "giving out that himself was some great one." The people said, "This man is that power of God which is called Great," and Simon wanted them to believe just that. He could have produced as many testimonials in his behalf as any present day sorcerer can produce, and his witnesses would have had as high degree of integrity as any that could be produced by the so called "divine healer" today. The fact that he could astonish and amaze the people was no proof that he was what he claimed for himself, neither is such proof today.

May we all through study grow in the knowledge of the Lord that our faith may be increased and no comfort or aid shall ever be given to sorcery in our time, but on the contrary, we shall be ready to stamp its ugly head wherever it is reared regardless of the form it assures or the disguise it effects.