The Subtle Sin Of Sorcery


Sorcery is a term loosely encompassing a number of activities that are forbidden in the Bible.  It is defined as the use of evil supernatural power over people.  It is closely connected to witchcraft and the casting of spells.  Today the whole subject of sorcery has gained wide popularity as reflected particularly by the Harry Potter books and movies.  We have also been gently initiated into sorcery by the TV, starting long ago with such innocent and funny programs like “I Dream of Jeannie,” then moving deeper into programs such as “Bewitched,” and finally on to the really heavy stuff like “The Exorcist.”

It seems that despite its strong biblical prohibitions, we Christians hardly have a clue as to sorcery’s evil nature and its damaging effects upon humankind.  I can remember that as a student in a Christian college, several of us young men (some were already pastors) had numerous sessions at hypnotizing each other.  At the time, we had no idea that the seemingly innocent practice of “casting spells” was absolutely forbidden by the scriptures (Deut. 18:11).  I have often wondered what damaging and long-term effects might have resulted from these sessions.  I have personally repented and asked God‘s forgiveness for my ignorant participation.

Perhaps it is about time for the church to consider this subject in view of the strong warnings of scripture, even those of our own New Testament.  Hopefully our children can be much better prepared to deal with sorcery than some of us were in the
older generations.


In Deuteronomy 18:10-12, many of the practices associated with sorcery are named for us: “Let no one be found among you…who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD…”  Although the Bible speaks about sorcery in several other places, like Leviticus 19 & 20; Exodus 22; and Isaiah 8; this passage in Deuteronomy is still probably the most comprehensive one
in defining it.

There are a few other verses in scripture that widen the scope of sorcery a bit.  In Isaiah 47:13, God rebukes Israel with these words: All the counsel you have received has only worn you out!  Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you.” With this verse we see that astrologers and stargazers are also displeasing to the Lord and are probably also listed as sorcerers.  This certainly casts suspicion upon the very prevalent practice of reading and heeding horoscopes.

Many other things are certainly suspect although they are not clearly forbidden in scripture.  In Isaiah 2:6, the prophet cries to the Lord for Israel, “You have abandoned your people, the house of Jacob. They are full of superstitions from the East…”  Today, due to New Age influences, many eastern ideas are permeating our society and our churches.  These include eastern meditation, various forms of mind control, and even seemingly harmless exercise and relaxation programs.  In Psalm 147:19-20 we read: “He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel.   He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws….”  We must understand that the special saving revelation of God to humanity has come exclusively through Israel.  We must not
look elsewhere.


We see that sorcery can begin in seemingly innocent ways but due to the captivating and holding power of evil, it always leads people into deeper involvement.  Some of our children’s games can even become the doorway into the occult. I am speaking of games like the Ouija Board and Dungeons and Dragons.  These are very popular among the youth.  In the Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs by John Ankerberg and John Weldon, they mention a Consumer Reports survey of 17,000 young people between the ages of 10-14.  Out of 83 games listed as enjoyed and played most often, Monopoly was number one but the Ouija Board was number two.  Ankerberg and Weldon quote psychic and spiritist, Harold Sherman, president of ESP Research Association in Arkansas.  He says, “The majority who have become involved with possessive and other entities come by this experience through the Ouija Board.”  Of Dungeons and Dragons, Ankerberg and Weldon state that magic is prevalent along with demons, necromancy, astral projection and spells.

Magic potions and drugs are age-old companions of sorcery and witchcraft.  As our world drifts more and more into sorcery, we should not be surprised at the increased use of hallucinogenic drugs.  Those experimenting with drugs today probably do not realize that they are likely also experimenting with sorcery.  For years, the close connection of drugs and sorcery has been noticed in the New Testament Greek word for “witchcraft.”  It is the word “pharmakia” (Gal. 5:20), a word from which we get our “pharmacy.”

Over the last several generations, due to modernist tendencies in Christianity, we have discounted such things as sorcery, witchcraft and demons.  We did this in spite of the fact that the Bible takes them all quite seriously.  Today in our society the occult is taken for granted even by the unbelievers.  The TV and movies are saturated with it.  It is about time that we Christians once again acknowledged this dangerous reality.


God regards sorcery as something very serious.  He regards it as so dangerous that in the Old Testament he commands the death sentence for sorcerers.  We see this in Leviticus 20:27: “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.”  In Exodus 22:18, we also read these stern words from God: “Do not allow a sorceress to live.”

King Saul was God’s anointed king.  He wanted to serve God, but somehow he always managed to fail.  In obedience to God’s word he banned sorcerers from the land.  However, in the moment of trial as he faced his last battle, he visited the witch at Endor (1 Sam. 28:7).  The purpose for the visit concerned necromancy, that is consulting with the dead, also a forbidden practice.  The scripture tells us that it was partly for this reason that Saul was killed the next day (1 Chron. 10:13-14).

The New Testament does not speak so much about sorcery because it assumes that God’s people have read and heeded the Old Testament.  It is obvious from the gospels that a large part of Jesus’ ministry was spent in undoing the work of sorcery by casting out evil spirits.  Jesus’ disciples were also commissioned to carry on this vital task. On one occasion, as a result of Paul’s ministry, former sorcerers brought forth their magic books and burned them (Acts 19:19).  The cost of the books was listed at 50,000 drachmas.  A drachma was about a days wage, so this sacrifice amounted to a sizeable fortune.  On another occasion in Acts 8:9-25, Peter deals directly with Simon the Sorcerer, who apparently wanted to mix God’s truth with his sorcery. Peter said to him: “You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God” (Acts 8:20).  It is interesting that the early church writers credit this Simon as a source for much false teaching in Christianity’s early years.

The horrible price of continuing to practice sorcery is illustrated for us in Revelation 22:14-15.  Jesus says, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”  Obviously those who choose to practice magic arts or sorcery will be permanently excluded from the kingdom of God.

The good news is that there is still time to repent of this sin. The Bible says in Psalm 97:10: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil…”  God hates sorcery.  As we have seen, it is detestable to him.  As God’s dear children we must love what he loves and hate what he hates. Yet, we know from the Bible that while God hates sin, he loves the sinner.  While we also must hate the sin of sorcery in all its forms, we must remember to love the sorcerers and never stop praying for their deliverance.

                                                                                                             -Jim Gerrish


May, 2002

Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Magic Circle
by John William Waterhouse, 1886, London/Rome