Day 27: Words- Which Ones to Avoid (Acts 13:4-12)
Today’s Passage: Acts 13:4-12
Words, which ones are in vogue and which ones to avoid, are a curious thing.
People advise not to use words that evoke battle, war and armies. Those of us who attempt writing are informed that people today don’t like those words. Especially if those descriptors are used by Jesus’ followers to describe their activity.
The hymn, “Onward Christian Soldier” isn’t getting a lot of air time these days.
However, we don’t seem to mind words like magic, sorcerer, witches and warlocks.
I described this situation as curious. My reasoning for selectingthat word is because the world would have us believe that sorcery is fiction, a type of make-believe genre. Furthermore, the world would suggest that military words are inappropriate metaphors to describe the world that Jesus’ followers find themselves in.
As I reflect on this situation, it is more than curious. It is important because the definition of words, and what we believe about them, affects how we view the world. They impact how we think.
What do you notice about this snippet of a story? Is it that there is a magician present, or that Paul magically blinds the man? Either of these drawing your attention would be understandable.
My attention is captured by verse 7. In it we read that the proconsul summoned Paul and Barnabas to hear the Word of God. In modern day church language, the proconsul is a “seeker”.
In this bit of the Bible we can see a pattern that often repeats:
Someone is seeking God, and is drawn to His Word for insight.
The opposition is not just of this world, it is cosmic.
Then there is an outcome.
Before I go on to describe the outcome, might I just make a comment on something our world seems fascinated by, and yet seems to want us to believe is fiction: magic.
When I say magic, I do not mean the type where someone is pulling colored handkerchiefs out of his sleeves. No, I am speaking to the type of magic referred to in the Bible reading today: sorcery. A sorcerer is someone who seeks alliances with the powers of the spiritual world, in order to use/manipulate those powers, to control the outcome he/she wants. This fool, who thinks themselves powerful, is in fact in bondage to the forces they mistakenly think they control. Consider the explanation you just read in different words. A sorcerer is someone trying to be god—for it is a god who controls the world unseen and brings about outcomes in the seen world. I believe if you read your bible, you will find this is exactly what Satan sought (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Witches, warlocks, sorcerers—call them what you will—are not harmless. They have aligned themselves with Satan. In the end, Satan will kill and consume them. They are quite the opposite of the Bar-Jesus, which means Son-of-Salvation. Rather, they are Sons/Daughters of Destruction. You will not find them in prayer to the Most High God praying, “Thy will be done.”
Returning to this pattern I described, what then is the outcome a believer in this world achieves when faced with such opposition?
The answer—it depends. Don’t misunderstand. God is sovereign and therefore the outcome will always be God’s will. So, the answer depends on—God.
Yet this does not mean we sit by and idly do nothing. Back in verse 4 we read how the church prayed and fasted and commissioned these men to go. They are not alone, and they are not acting in their own strength. We also read in verse 9 that Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Let’s be clear about this Holy Spirit “thing”. When you read that, what do you think it means?
I read it to mean that Paul had a sense that God made it clear to speak the words he spoke. Let me just say that again, God made it clear to Paul. If Paul, in his own strength, was somehow thinking he was summoning up God’s power, he would be no better than the sorcerers described above. For then Paul would be seeking to use God’s power to bring about an outcome in this world.
Followers of Jesus pray, but we are not in a position to manipulate God.
Which still has me working through my earlier question, “What is the outcome a believer in this world achieves when faced with spiritual opposition?”
It depends on God, but we can do much to place ourselves at God’s service. We can pray. We can fast. We can specifically offer ourselves to God in the situation we find ourselves in. Ephesians 6:10-20 instructs us in this matter, and the words used are words of battle and war. To be clear, they are not metaphors, they are descriptors.
The result of this battle is described in verses 10-12.
The one whose allegiance is with darkness is thrust into darkness. The one seeking the Light, believes and meets the Light of the World.