Galatians 5:19–21 (NKJV)
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Whenever we as human beings throw off the worship of the Living God, we do not cease to worship, we do not cease religious practices. Rather, we replace the worship of the true God with idolatry, and we replace the practice of true religion with superstitions such as sorcery or witchcraft, the work of the flesh that we focus upon today. “The works of the flesh are evident, which are… sorcery.”
The Greek word is pharmakia – from whence we get our English words “pharmacy” and “pharmacist” – one who dispenses drugs. While we often associate “sorcery” with the casting of spells, more frequently sorcery was connected with the use of hallucinogenic drugs, alcohol, and poisons, along with an invocation of demonic forces, to do either harm or good. Sorcerers use their skills to frighten, enslave, and accumulate wealth. They make lavish promises of victory over foes, increased fertility, inevitable prosperity. Because sorcery uses drugs and appeals to dark forces, it is always accompanied by other types of wickedness and incurs the wrath and judgment of God. Thus Moses warned Israel:
“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives [the nations] out from before you” (Dt 18:10–12).
Despite this warning, sorcery has reared its ugly head again and again whenever a people turn away from God toward idols. So King Saul, in his apostasy, consulted the witch of Endor (1 Sam 28); the wicked king Manasseh “caused his sons to pass through the fire… [and] practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists” (2 Chr 33:6). And in our day, too, the practice of witchraft and sorcery is becoming increasingly common. Thus we find Malachi and many other prophets warning that God would come in judgment on those who practiced sorcery (Mal 3:5). And John writes that “sorcerers… shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone…” (Rev 21:8).
When the Gospel arrives, the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection and His conquest of the powers of darkness, it drives out sorcery. Even as light drives out darkness, so the true worship of God drives out superstition. God had promised through the prophet Micah, “I will cut off sorceries from your hand, And you shall have no soothsayers” (Mic 5:12). So, after Paul had preached the Gospel in the city of Ephesus, “many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all” (Acts 19:19). The Gospel frees us from lies and superstitions.
So what of you? Have you been freed from superstition? The promise of such superstition is that one can control the future or protect oneself from harm. But the one who has come to love God no longer needs to manipulate the world but can rest in the good providence of God, trusting Him to protect and to prosper those who love Him and keep His commandments. So do you trust Him? Or are you trying to manipulate the world in some superstitious way?
Reminded that sorcery incurs the wrath and judgment of God and that it is the fruit of rebelling against God, let us acknowledge that it has become increasingly common in our society and that we too, as the people of God, are sometimes lured by its promises of control and prosperity. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able and seek the Lord’s forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.