Simon the sorcerer amazed people with magic (Acts 8). He boasted that he was great; people believed him, and he enjoyed the attention. Too bad; they were fooled. So was Simon.
Since the Garden, Satan’s major focus has been to divert humans away from worship of God (Genesis 3:1). He entices with suggestions of power, self-realization, and enlightenment. Witchcraft is one branch of that enticement. To become involved in the occult is to enter Satan’s realm. Seemingly harmless modern entanglements with the occult include Harry Potter, horoscopes, Ouija boards, Eastern meditation rituals, and some video and role-playing games. Any practice that dabbles in a power source other than Jesus Christ is witchcraft. Revelation 22:15 includes witches in a list of those who will not inherit eternal life. Sad.
Satan is clever. He draws attention to himself without people knowing it. When Philip came to Samaria and did miracles, however, Simon could not copy them. Think Egyptian magicians (Exodus 7, 8). Now the people are really impressed. God doesn’t lose power contests. Surprise: Simon himself believes instead of resisting. Good for him. Now he is following Philip, astonished at what he sees: “Hey, how did you do that?”
Sorcery: influencing people through demon spirits. Sorcerers were common in ancient Egypt (Exodus 7:11) and in Babylon, especially with King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:2). Black magic: influence through using curses, spells and alliance with the powers of darkness. White magic tries to undo curses and spells, using occult forces supposedly for good. Wrong! Sometimes magic is trickery, and sometimes it uses the power of the underworld to produce something supernatural, like levitation or casting a spell to make someone sick. It’s real. And it’s real bad. People want influence so others will look at them, like Simon. They also want to know the future by illegitimate means and control events not theirs (or ours) to control.
Occult: Latin “occultus”, “hidden, secret.” Refers to the realm beyond the human. Natural: “of nature, physical, observable with the senses.” Supernatural: “super”—above. The supernatural is above or beyond the natural.
God is supernatural. So is Satan. Some only believe in the natural realm. Others believe in the supernatural realm but are unable to discern between good and evil, and they end up hanging around demons. People in the occult are intrigued by the supernatural (like Simon), some because it is fun to delve into the mysterious, others because they want information (like about their future or a financial investment) or contact with departed spirits (like a spouse who died). A séance (fr. “sitting”) is a meetings with the spirits of the dead. Think King Saul and the witch of Endor. Actually it is a meeting with demons impersonating the departed, and people are deceived.
God says that we can make contact with Him but not with the dead (Luke 16). It is both impossible and ungodly. The occult invites people to make contact with dead spirits (spiritism). If you want help, contact a medium. Some want information from the dead or comfort that the dead are doing all right, and a séance is meant to give that kind of comfort.
All activity related to the occult is condemned in the Bible, because it means going to the supernatural power of darkness rather than to God. The apostle Paul says: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife . . . and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). (Normal length stops here. This one is longer.)
Sorcery was listed among the sinful practices of the nations surrounding Israel in the Promised Land: “There shall not be found among you . . . anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD” (Deut. 18:10,11).
A Christian was asked at a party if he wanted his fortune told. He liked the idea, not knowing the Scripture. “When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19). He was intrigued by what he heard. He should have known better.
“We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” so we do not come against sorcerers and witches. We are going after the source, Satan and his demons. When Paul cast a demon out of the servant girl who had followed him around for three days and had correctly identified him as a servant of the most high God, he was coming against the powers of darkness, not the girl, who could have been identified as a witch, a person with occult powers.
A witch is a supposed expert in the supernatural. Usually a woman (not always), she can work for “good” or for evil, casting spells (curses), foretelling the future (divination), often using potions or drugs. Some witches have good hearts and want to help people, like an occult friend I met last week. They tap into the supernatural, but it is the wrong world, and they are deceived—and maybe deceivers. They have access to information that normal people don’t, because they are receiving help from the world of darkness. Some worship Satan; many believe in God and think they are His tools. Those who come to understand their deception may well be open to the Good News! That’s where you come in. Love is convincing!