Idolatry and Sorcery
Continuing with his catalog of the works of the flesh, the next two sins Paul lists are idolatry and sorcery/witchcraft. Eidololatria is, in its simplest form, “idol worship,” which robs the living and true God of His rightful due from human beings as the One who created them in His very image. Of course, idolatry takes an infinite number of forms since any and all things can be worshiped. Paul calls “covetousness” idolatry in Colossians 3:5, tying the ends of the Ten Commandments together quite nicely. And Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 10:19-21 that behind every false god (idol) is a very real demon.
By the way, I believe, and as this devotion will indicate, that we are at a distinct disadvantage with regards to idolatry when compared with the ancient world. In our day, the word, “God,” has become quite meaningless. Most everyone believes in “God.” But the question comes, “Which God?” a question which is quite offensive to people. And you often get the illogical argument that since there is only one God, we must all be worshiping that same God; forget the fact that everyone has their own personal beliefs about who that God is we are all worshiping. The Christian believes that God tells us Himself who He is and does so in the Bible; that is, we are not at liberty to name or define Him as we choose.
And so we Christians must learn to say, “The God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” a mouthful, I know, but we must distinguish the true God from the false gods—which are demons in disguise. Allow me to bring in the ancient world for help: 1) If you support abortion, there is Molech, the detestable god to whom babies were sacrificed (Leviticus 20:1-5; 2 Kings 23:10); 2) if you prefer sexual perversions of any and all kinds which we discussed yesterday, the leading contender would be Baal, the pagan fertility god who figures prominently throughout the Old Testament; 3) or if you are of the feminist persuasion, there is the ancient goddess who goes under several names such as Ashtoreth and Astarte; or perhaps you would prefer the bloodthirsty Hindu goddess, Kali, truly terrifying to any man. I don’t recommend them; I would rather you come to saving faith in the true God through His dear Son. But if we are naming gods, then please go out and get your own and don’t confuse people by suggesting that yours is ours.
Pharmakeia, from which we derive the word, “pharmacy,” originally had simply to do with the use of drugs for healing, but which came to apply to the use of drugs for poisoning, which eventually was associated with sorcery (Fung, NICNT, 256-57). Acts records the work of the sorcerer Simon Magus (8:9-24) and the 50,000 pieces of silver that the books on sorcery totaled which the people burned in the fire upon learning of the power of the true God (19:11-20). Indeed, the ancient world was full of sorcery, usually in the persons of the magi (plural form of “magus”). We see them first in Egypt when Moses went to tell Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let my people go!’” But magi peopled every ancient kingdom from Egypt to Babylon to Persia and every kingdom in between. They were the kings’ counselors and were considered “wise men.” You will recall that God was gracious enough to allow a few magi to locate the Christchild through this forbidden method (please understand that this is not God’s approval of astrology).
God has His approved methods of hearing Him (the Spirit speaking through His word) and of communicating with Him (prayer, and that as His word prescribes). Besides this, we may use prudential judgment, though never in contradiction to His word. Anything beyond this, any method whereby we try to manipulate or conjure up in some manner as to receive some divine message is divination or sorcery. Today’s rivals are astrology, Ouija, and perhaps most popular, forms of the “New Age Movement” which seek the divine in “mystical” ways. These are all forbidden throughout both Testaments.
We tend to trivialize these things in our “scientific” age, but do remember what we have said on many occasions: Behind every false god is a very real demon. So don’t even play with these things—lest you meet a very real demon.