Anglican Parish of Derby and Blackville
Highlights of Sermon:
Christian Rejection of Mediums and Fortune-Tellers
(Trinity 10, August 9, 2015, Fr. Gerry Laskey,
Anglican Parish of Derby and Blackville)
“The manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man for the common good”
1 Corinthians 12:7
- Paul teaches us in 1st Corinthians and elsewhere, that true spiritual gifts come from God the Holy Spirit; that He gives us gifts according to His will and purpose (not ours) and that they are given to build up the Body of Christ (the Church) in love and service. Gifts are not to be a source of pride, boasting or division.
- In the Trinity 10 Epistle, St. Paul echoes his teaching elsewhere that the gift of tongues must be accompanied with interpretation. He also names here “discerning of spirits”. Elsewhere, discernment is held up with prophecy (speaking God’s message in plain language) and love as among the most valuable gifts.
- The Scriptures make clear that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person of the Trinity, who exhibits truth, peace, unity and love – not confusion, division, self-centredness and deception. The Bible also makes clear (especially in St. Paul’s and St. John’s writings) that we must discern (distinguish) between the Spirit of Truth and false, wicked spirits.
- This is part of our common life in the Church, it’s not just about our own private, personal opinions. As Christians we must be loyal to the teaching of the Bible and the Church, and submit all our life and behaviour to Christ.
Two recent events prompted this sermon:
- The appearance of a “psychic medium” in our community ;
- A recent sermon (containing clearly false teaching) on the fortune-telling slave girl in Acts 16, sadly made by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA).
Both remind us of the importance of knowing the Bible’s teaching on these matters and to consult God and put our trust only in Him. We must trust Him with our past (with our departed loved ones and our griefs) and our future.
Let us hear the voice of Scripture on these issues:
From Isaiah 8: 19-20 – “When they say to you: ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers [those who communicate with the dead] who chirp and mutter’, should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony!”
From Deuteronomy 18: 9-12 – Among the “abominable practices” of the pagan nations God drives out before Israel, that the Lord forbids his people to imitate are: burning their children as an offering (sacrifice to false gods); practicing divination or fortune-telling, interpreting omens, being a sorcerer (witch), charmer, medium, or necromancer [one who inquires of the dead]; “for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord”.
From Deuteronomy 18:14 – “For these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.”
- Despite the fact that many such performers are frauds and charlatans using tricks and emotional manipulation, Christians cannot see such activities as harmless or mere ‘entertainment’! God forbids them because they are unhealthy, not good for us. They are “occult” (dark, hidden) practices.
- People can become obsessed with them. They can open doors to the whole unseen world of false and wicked spirits, even if we treat them as a ‘joke’ at the beginning. They also teach us not to put our whole trust in God but to seek false paths to knowledge of the departed or our future.
- In fact, the Bible tells us two stories which show these things ‘work’ – that there is a real power at work, but it is not healthy or holy. That is why Scripture tells us “discerning of spirits” is so important. (The first line of defence in discernment is to simply ask: “Is it forbidden or contrary to Scripture?”)
Do these things ‘work’?
- In 1st Samuel 28 King Saul seeks a medium to call up the ghost of the Prophet Samuel. There is no suggestion that it did not ‘work’ – it seems to truly be Samuel. But, he is not happy about this unholy disturbance and it leaves Saul almost scared to death. It does him no good and much harm.
- In Acts 16:16-24 Paul and Silas are being followed by “a slave girl who had a spirit of divination, and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation!” So, even though the false spirit is actually saying something true, Paul becomes annoyed and exorcises (casts out) the spirit in the Name of Jesus. This is very like Jesus confronting the evil spirit “Legion” in Luke 8:26-39 who cries out: “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?”
Profits over people?
- In both texts, people are more concerned about loss of profit – the slave ‘owners’ with the loss of their fortune-telling ‘cash-cow’; the villagers (when the Legion enter the herd of pigs who drown) than with the healing of two possessed people! Profit and ‘entertainment’ still make a powerful, unhealthy recipe to lead people astray and enslave them!
- This passage (Acts 16) was, very sadly, turned completely inside out by the former Presiding Bishop of the American Church who perverted the plain meaning of the text. She sees the fortune-telling slave girl as someone who is simply expressing her ‘spiritual gifts’ in a valid way that is just different from Paul’s – not wrong. She further corrupts the text by suggesting that God allows Paul and Silas to be arrested -in the commotion stirred up by the slave ‘owners’ having their ‘property’ (the girl) de-valued and later released to ‘teach Paul a lesson’ that he should ‘affirm’ her ‘gift’ and not be so arrogant and intolerant. This denies the plain sense of the text that the girl was healed, delivered of demonic oppression – not ‘oppressed’ by Paul!
Who do we trust?
- We must seek discernment. We must let the very plain, straight-forward Word of God direct and rule our hearts and our lives. We can trust Him with our lives. We can trust Him with our past (along with its sorrow, hurts and griefs) and our departed loved ones. We can trust Him with our future.
Let us listen to “the Law and the Prophets” and to Christ our Lord. “To the teaching and to the testimony!”