The novel idea that witchcraft has anything to do with Harry Potter style novels where mere striplings cast spells and incantations that make objects fly and cause people to be able to walk through train station walls is, of course, utter misleading nonsense. They, like Macbeth’s hubble-bubble witches, are mere fairy tales with sinister overtones.
Witchcraft, in a Biblical sense, is more to do with subtle persuasion and manipulation than waving a magic wand. The Apostle Paul nails it when addressing the Galatians.
Galatians 3:1-4 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you:Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain —if indeed it was in vain?
Witchcraft – baskaino – ‘to fascinate (by false representations)’, ‘to malign, to speak ill of, to slander, to bring evil on one by feigning praise or an evil eye, to charm or bewitch’.
The Galatians were misled by men who claimed credentials for themselves, but whose message was the antithesis of faith, enticing the Galatians back into the Mosaic Law. This Paul considered to be a form of bewitching – a mesmerising of the people with persuasive words that used scripture to falsely represent grace.
Earlier in the Epistle, Paul tells the Galatians that he likened these men to those ‘who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.’, and that, during a similar incident, he saw that there were those who ‘were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel’.
There’s an interesting word that comes up in a list of heaven-preventing sins Paul brings before the Romans when telling about those who resist God and reject truth. If you read the whole chapter, you will come this passage:
Romans 1:29-30 …being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…
The word is ‘whisperers’, which is a Greek word, psithyristes, meaning ‘a secret calumniator, a whisperer, a secret slanderer, a detractor’.
A calumniator is a person who makes false or defamatory statements about others. Notice he points out that these are ‘secret’ calumniators. They do what they do in secret. They are not out in the open. They are secret whisperers.
The root word is used ‘of the magical murmuring of a charmer of snakes’. It is the Greek version of Chinese whispers where a rumour is started and gradually passed from one whisperer to another until the rumour becomes a meme and an narrative amongst a certain group. Similar, except that it takes the concept of secret whispers to another level.
Secretive and anonymous rumour spreaders are listed as amongst those who have been handed over to a debased mind and sit under the wrath of God that will be revealed at the end of time.
Think about this. God actually hands certain people over to a debased mind. In other words, there seems to be no way back for these people. God gives some of them up to vile passions, others to corruption, and these to debased minds, and maybe all three conditions.
They are literally so obsessed with the shameful things they are engaged in that they cannot be won out of them.
This isn’t just talking about sensual or sexual sins. Paul includes ‘whisperers’ in this list, as well as the backbiters, the proud, inventers of evil things, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, the list is extensive.
The debased mind is defined as a mind that is not able to stand the test. It is rejected as impure, and cast away, being not approved. It is unfit for service. It is the negative of being approved of God.
This is not the same as being unqualified. It is far removed from those who are simply base, or ignoble, or weak, or despised (by men). These are people God can use as long as they bow their knee to the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance is the way to salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Can the debased mind enter this space and be turned around? I would like to think so, but Romans 1 and 2 seem to suggest it would be unusual rather than the norm, but we know that all things are possible with God.
Difficult, because those with a debased mind have already been rejected, it seems, because they have proven that they are determined to remain in their present state, so God hands them over to their own delusion. Surely this is the worse state of all because they do not think they are in the wrong, being convinced of their own righteousness.
Following this list in Romans 1, Paul takes us straight into the second chapter with the following warning for those who judge others out of this state.
Romans 2:1-11 Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.
And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness — indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
Think about this, and don’t let false accusers judge you out of your inheritance. Nor should you join them in their judgment if it is false or untrustworthy and without evidence or proof.
Meanwhile, Paul, back in Galatians, speaks to those he says are bewitched to resist those who would attempt to put blinkers over their eyes with their whispers and rumours, manipulation and false claims, by telling them to stay in faith, and live according the gospel he preached to them.
Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
Do not let the spinners of webs and false tales bewitch you into abandoning your position in Christ. Stand firm in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not allow those who whisper anonymously in your ear to tear you away from the flocks in which you are placed by God.
Examine those who judge and rebuke others anonymously by Paul’s word to the Galatians as he reminds them, and us, how we are to deal with those who are in error.
Galatians 6:1-5 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.
Compare this to the works of the secret whisperers. Are they following the Biblical pattern? Is there a spirit of gentleness prevailing in their presumption of guilt against those they defame or discredit? Have they examined their own work? Or are they publicly rebuking elders whilst themselves being anonymous?
This, according to scripture, is a form of witchcraft, and should be avoided, rejected, and not permitted to sully our minds with fake information that manipulates our thoughts and influences our actions.