Magic

What is magic?  Magic is the manipulation of natural and supernatural forces.  Most people who get involved in magic have a control issue.  The classic example is when someone does not love a person as they wish.  A spell is cast and love happens.  The sons of Sheva in today’s passage use Jesus in a way that is ‘magical’.  They use the power of Jesus for their own ends.  This is actually what a lot of people do when they use The Word of Faith.  Some people believe that if you believe that Jesus will heal you, you will be healed.  Some people believe that if you have great faith, your plans will succeed.  This is simply not true.  We can not manipulate God into working out our plans.  Faith in God must involve submission to God.  God allows suffering.  God allows death.  God allows poverty.  We must find God’s purpose in those circumstances.  We can work to alleviate suffering.  We can not manipulate Jesus into doing our will.  That is not faith – it is magic.

The obvious forms of magic are voodoo, the occult, and wicca.  These are all ways to manipulate natural forces and supernatural forces.  Initial success in tarot reading or ouija boards, may suck us in.  However, the dark forces behind these tools are not to be trifled with.  They will dominate and control.  Also, ultimately, the kingdom of darkness will fall and so will those who are bound to it.

Lastly, many religions include practices to bring good luck or to control the forces of nature.  These attempts to practice rituals and exert control over the environment are snares.  They will trap people and lead them away from the truth.

Acts 19:8-41

 8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

 11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

 13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

 17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.[c] 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

 21 After all this had happened, Paul decided[d] to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

The Riot in Ephesus

 23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”

 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.

 32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

 35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.

Questions

  1. Where was Paul during this chapter?
  2. In what ways do magical themes rise to the surface?
  3. How does Paul oppose the magic in Ephasus?
  4. In what ways do people use magic today?  How are your efforts or prayers sometimes ‘magical’?
  5. How is the power that comes through submission to God’s will different from the power that comes through magic?

Going Deeper

Read Ephesians.  As you read it think of how Paul is building a case against the magical practices that centre around the cult of Diana (Artemis) of the Ephesians.

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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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