Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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By : Lonnie Branam [ Sermon Who Has Bewitched You? ]

Lonnie Branam

Galatians 5:1 says, “O foolish Galatians who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified?” The subject of this statement is, “Bewitchment.” The word Galatians in the text referred to Churches of Christ located in the large province of Asia, and the many cities located in this province. Paul had personally established many churches in Galatia. Paul was writing in particular to all Christians in this large territory and scolding them for being bewitched.. If Christians can be bewitched, it is much easier for people to be bewitched who are not disciples of Jesus Christ. It is necessarily implied that all people who lived in this part of Asia were suffering from bewitchment. Moreover, it is equally true that all non-Christian countries and peoples are under the same spell of bewitchment mentioned in this scripture.
Let us first determine what this bewitchment was that had fallen on these Galatian Christians. He did not address these churches in kindly language, as he was accustomed to do. He did not say, "My Brethren.” Instead he said, “O foolish Galatians!.” What he meant was, “O, you foolish Christians.” He was angry with them, and he had a right to be angry. They had become fascinated and spellbound as though they were under the spell of a magician or sorcerer, like a snake charmer can keep a snake spellbound with his eye. Paul scolded them as a Father scolds and disciplines his children. The discipline of children is one of the responsibilities of fathers. When fathers shirk their responsibility, children often end up in prison; others end up in the grave prematurely. He had personally taught the the gospel of Christ to these people, and they accepted it with great zeal. Moreoer, they were willing to suffer persecution to be faithful to Christ. He was astonished that they had departed so quickly from the faith once delivered to the saints. He rebukes them sharply calling them fools, bewitched and disobedient to the truth. This was not abusive language, but such scolding was both fatherly, necessary and holy. There are times in life when anger is as necessary as kindness, and this was one of those times. He was trying to call them back to the right way and rescue them. In a sense they were his children in the faith, for he had saved them. He brought them to Christ and the new birth of the water and Spirit. .
Therefore he says to them in the boldest language “Who has bewitched you?.” To use such a word indicated something terrible had happened to them. We are taught here that well instructed Christians can go wrong and act unreasonably and thoughtlessly. Bewitch is a remarkable word and calls for an explanation. This Greek word means to treat one with malignant words, to slander, blacken character, to bring evil upon, to bewitch, to bring evil on, or to cast on people evil spells. The belief that some people had the power to supernaturally cast an evil spell on people from Satan was a common superstitious belief, and it was a prevalent superstition in the idolatrous Gentile world as early as the time of Moses(1500 B.C.). The origin of this superstition is unknown. It is possible that this superstition was a corruption of the story of what happened to Eve in the garden of Eden. Satan did have a terrible influence on Eve, and it put us all in the grave. However, no one knows the true origin of this superstition. It was one of the tricks of Satan.
Let it be understood that Paul did not believe in witchcraft. This belief and practice is condemned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Exodus 22:18 says, “You shall not suffer a witch to live.” Deuteronomy 18:10 says, “You shall not be found among one that uses divination or an observer of time or an enchanter, or a witch or a necromancer.” In the New Testament we are told that witchcraft is one of the superstitions that will cause people to miss heaven. Galatians 5:19-21 says, “.Now the works of the flesh are manifest which are these: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths. factions, divisions, partiess, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like, of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who ;practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” According to that scripture, there are eighteen ways to miss heaven, and one of them is the belief and practice of witchcraft. In spite of the clear teachings of the Jewish religion and the Christian religion condemning this ancient falsehood, this evil superstition that has captured the human race has prevailed even to modern times. Our English forefathers coined the word witch, a term that was connected with magic. As difficult as it is to believe, the last trial for witchcraft did not end in England until 1722. That is just 285 years ago. That same year was also the last time a person was put to death for witchcraft in Scotland. Disciples of Jesus from England and Europe brought this terrible falsehood to America. To the shame of early America, witches were persecuted in parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Virginia. The terror reached its height in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 when 19 persons were executed as witches, and 150 more were sent to prison.
Some of the left-overs of this ancient superstition still live on in America by the yearly observance of Halloween. which literally means, “Hallowed or holy evening.” Many superstitions and symbols are connected with Halloween. Young people are entranced by these ideas. The Druids, an ancient order of Priests in ancient Gaul and Britain, believed that on Halloween ghosts, spirits and elves came out to harm people. From these Druid beliefs comes the present-day use of witches, ghosts and cats in Halloween festivities. In some cities the police must work had to prevent pranksters from doing damage. The use of pumpkins came from the Druids, but their connection with Halloween is lost in obscurity. Satan really put one on the human race when he introduced superstition to the world.. We are thankful that for the most part this superstition has been wiped out, but the World Book Encyclopedia says there are still people in Europe and America as well as among some primitive tribes in other parts of the world, who believe their lives are influenced by witches. So the superstition lives on to some extent.
In view of the clear teaching that the word of God condemns the belief and practice of witchcraft, how could Paul, an inspired apostle of Christ, accuse Christians in Galatia of being bewitched? Paul did not believe in the superstition that evil spells could supernaturally be cast on people from the Devil. When Paul made this statement, this superstition and falsehood was strongly believed by the Romans and Greeks. Paul, therefore, used the word bewitch as a figure of speech, as a metaphor to convey the terrible thing that had happened to the minds of Galatian Christians. Paul said, “O foolish Galatians how can I explain your behavior?” He, in effect, was saying they were acting like people who were under some kind of a blinding spell or influence . Someone had turned their eyes away from the Christian religion to another religion, and in their case it was the Jewish religion. Astonished, Paul said I presented a clear picture before your eyes of Christ crucified; and I brought you into Christ and His religion. But now someone has turned your eyes away from the Christian religion to the Jewish religion. You observe the days, months, years, seasons, and feast days of the Jewish religion. You circumcise your children, keep all ordinances of the Mosaic Law and believe you cannot be saved unless you keep the Jewish religion as well as the Christian religion. Such a state of mind reminded Paul of evil spells people believe in. That was the bewitchery Paul is talking about. Paul says you people act like someone under an evil spell. You have become children of God by faith in Christ, but now I fear that I have bestowed labor on you in vain. You have turned away Christ to Moses. However, the witches in this case were not elderly women rding on a broomstick, but their own unsound preachers, false religious leaders and false religious teachers, who slipped into the Christian religion with but one thing in mind. They were dedicated to saving the Jewish religion. Their supreme purpose was to see to it that the Jewish religion would never be rejected or done way with. Satan sent these bewitchers among te disciples of Christ who were nothing else but unsound theologians, false religious teachers, and false apostles who were opposed to the Christian religion. They convinced many Christians that they must observe the obey the Jewish religion as well as the Christian religion to go to heaven. . They were said to be bewitched in that their teachers deceived them and turned them away from the one true religion to a dead religion that Christ nailed to His cross. The bewitchment Paul was talking about was nothing but a false religious idea that had been inserted into the minds of Christians. They were so gullible, they received the idea thoughtlessly and unreasonably.
There is a message for us in this today, not only for disciples of Christ, but for all people in the world, religious and unreligious. .The message today for Christians and for people all over the world is that this same evil spell, this same evil influence, this same evil idea, that bewitched the Galatians is still in he world today. It has bewitched the Jewish nation for two thousand years. The evil spell is that the eyes of people are being turned away from the Christian religion, the only religion that can save people, and dthey are being turned to other religions that cannot save them. The delusion and false idea is that good people in all religions will go to heaven, but the truth is that the one true God has but one religion for all mankind, and He will accept no other religion, and that includes the Jewish religion. Jews need to be saved just like the Gentiles. Satan has sent bewitchers all over the world to change people's minds abut the Christian religion, and they have been very successful.. This is not a superstition or a mere tradition;it is real bewitchment, an evil influence that is coming from Satan. In this sense, religious and unreligious people are being bewitched every day throughout the world. Let me repeat again what the bewitchment is. People are being influenced to reject the idea that the Christian religion is the only way to reach heaven. These bewitchers are turning people away from the Christian other religions.
The Bible reveals that Jehovah God who created mankind had always intended and planned to bless mankind with one religion for both Jews and Gentiles, according to the promises made to Abraham. Fleshly Jews thought the promise to bless Gentiles would come through the Jewish religion, but Jehovah planned the promise to be carried out through spiritual Jews, that is, Jews who accepted and proclaimed the Christian religion. History testifies that God blessed the Gentiles through the Christia religion. It was in the planning stage for over 4,000 years, and it became a reality some two thousand years ago. The Bible says, “When the fulness of the time had oome God sent forth His Son, born of a woman born under the law(of Moses) to redeem those who were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons.” This Son was both human and divine and came to redeem and save Jews and Gentiles alike. The Bible says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life..” God's Son established one universal relgion for all mankind to united Jews and Gentiles into one religious brotherhood thus bringing peace to mankind. In addition, this religion will permit its members to live in heaven. The Bible is the story of how God's Son came into the world and blessed the human race with joy, happiness and even the possibility of living forever in heaven among the angels. Jesus, God's Son, uttered this central command of the Christian religion, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.” That statement applies to people of all other religions. The one universal religion Jehovah had in mind is the religion of Christ. To reject the Christian religion will condemn a person and keep him out of heaven. All other religions are dead religions and cannot save people. According to the Bible all people, none excepted, who reject the Christian religion are bewitched. The only people who reject this religion are under some kind of a spell or evil religious influence. To all such people we can only say like Paul, “Who has bewitched you? What has happened to you people of all other faiths and religions. How can you let theologians and unsound religious teachers of all kinds deceive you and turn your eyes away from the Christian religion that will cause you to to lose your souls?
Finally, let me say that in spite of the great truths that have been expressed in this message, many disciples of Jesus today are under this bewitchery that Paul saw in the ancient Galatians. People who have accepted the Christian religion are being bewitched. Some have turned away from the priesthood of the Chhristian religion and appointed their own High Priest and earthly priests to forgive the sins of the people. They had to turn from the Christian religion to the Jewish religion to do such a thing. Others worship on the Sabbath Day instead of the first day of the week. Still others obey Moses and refuse to eat certain foods. Infant baptism is a carry-over from the circumcision in the law of Moses. Others observe the Lord's Supper on Saturday night, and in America that is the Sabbath Day. Still others are not satisfied with the acappella music that Christians offered to God in the primative church, which is music without instrumental accompaniment. Clearly, the bewitchment of the Galatians continues to live on.
In addition countless numbers of Jewish people are suffering from bewitchment all over the world. Satan has sent bewitchers out among them who oppose the Christian religion, and have turned the eyes and minds of great numbers of Jewish people away from the Christian religion. They are under the spell of religious teachers who disagree with Jehovah's plan for mankind. They are turning the eyes of the people away from the Christian religion. Their message is that Jesus is not the Messiah. You don't have to become a Christian. Jews are still God's chosen people etc. In spite of the fact that countless thousands of Jewish people became Christians in the first and second centuries of this era, in spite of the overwhelming miraculous evidence for Christ and the Christian religion, which is far greater than that for Moses and Jewish religion, yet they are under the spell of bewitchers who have turned their eyes away from the Christian religion to another religion, which in their case is the Jewish religion. How shall they explain the fact that a remnant of Israel accepted the Christian religion?. What convinced so many of their ancient Jewish ancestors to turn their eyes a way from the Jewish religion and become a part of the Christian religion? I will tell you why!. The miraculous evidence was so great for Christ that He was the Messiah, and the Jewish Christians performed so many wonderful miracles that there was no way they could deny that it was Jehovah's will that they accept the New Covenant predicted by Jeremiah their great prophet.
Likewise, what shall I say of the millions of people in the other twelve or thirteen world religions? Theologians and false unsound religious tseachers in high place, who oppose Christianity, are the bewitchers who exert powerful influences on gullible peiple. Their message is, “Go to any religion, but not to the Christian religion, for they believe Christians are the only ones who will go to heavsen.” People are acting like people who are under some kind of an evil spell. They are so thoughtless and unreasonable that they are not even willing to look into the Christian religion and examine its evidence. They are being taught that good people in all religions will go to heaven. No one religion, they say, has a right to claim all must be in that religion. But Jesus said, “If you believe not that I am He, you will die in your sins.” That is the message of the Christian religion. Christ means not only that He is indeed the Messiah of the Jews, but He is also the Savior of all mankind, having tasted death for every man. He offers the gift of eternal life to both Jews and Gentiles, and all who accept his gospel are unite together into one religious brotherhood, called the Kingdom of heaven , the Church of Christ, and the Church of God. Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father but by Me.” He quoted the Jewish prophets said, “They shall all be taught of God.” He also said, “All who have been taught of God comes to Me.” Don't let anyone or anything turn your eyes away fr om the Christian religion to any other religion.Consider what I say and the Lord give you understanding.

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