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REVIVAL VS. WHITE MAGIC!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Evening, October 5, 2003


"Give me also this power" (Acts 8:19)


The man who said this was Simon the Sorcerer. He was a magician, and he still had the mind of a magician when he said,

"Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost" (Acts 8:19).

Simon had just witnessed the mighty revival that occurred in Samaria under the preaching of Christ by Philip.

"Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake" (Acts 8:5-6).

This was a mighty revival, an outpouring of the Spirit of God.

Now, when Simon the Sorcerer saw the power and might of that revival, he said,

"Give me also this power" (Acts 8:19).

This is the response of a magician to revival. I fear that it is far more common today than we realize. Dr. A. W. Tozer once said, "So strong is the bent of the human heart toward magic that there has hardly been a time when the faith of Christ has not been plagued with it" (A. W. Tozer, "Magic No Part of the Christian Faith," in Of God and Men, Christian Publications, 1960, p. 87). The cry, "Give me also this power," is often heard in Christian circles in connection with revival, but I am afraid it is far more closely connected with magic than with what the Bible teaches about real revival. I will explain that by giving three points:

1. The definition of magic.

2. The difference between magic and revival.

3. The difference between prayer for revival and
magical manipulation.

I. First, the definition of magic.

Dr. Merrill F. Unger was a professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Dallas Theological Seminary from 1948 to 1967. In his book, Biblical Demonology (Scripture Press, 1952), Dr. Unger gave this definition of magic:

Magic may be defined as the art of bringing about results beyond man's power through the enlistment of supernatural agencies (ibid., p. 108).

In his book, Demons in the World Today (Tyndale House, 1983), Dr. Unger speaks of "white" magic:

White magic is black magic in pious masquerade. It uses, in a magic way, the name of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, along with Bible phrases and terminology, but is demonic in character. It is carried on in many so-called Christian circles…It is called "white" because it parades under the banner of light, in contrast to "black" magic that openly enlists the aid of the powers of darkness (ibid., p. 85).

Dr. Unger pointed out that "White magic furnishes a perfect illustration of the Apostle Paul's warning":

"And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works" (II Corinthians 11:14-15).

As Dr. Unger said, "Magic may be defined as the art of bringing about results beyond man's power through the enlistment of supernatural agencies." He said that "white" magic "uses, in a magic way, the name of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, along with Bible phrases and terminology…" Simon the sorcerer was thinking in terms of "white" magic when he said,

"Give me also this power" (Acts 8:19).

II. Second, the difference between white magic and revival.

Philip's preaching was attended by real revival, but Simon the Sorcerer wanted magic. He wanted supernatural power to bring "about results beyond man's power through supernatural agencies." The basic difference was this - Philip "preached Christ" (Acts 8:5), but Simon said,

"Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost" (Acts 8:19).

This is "channeling." It is the idea, in magic, that a human being becomes the "channel" of supernatural power. Dr. Tozer describes magic as supernatural power given "if certain gestures are made or if certain secret words are mumbled" (Tozer, ibid., p. 85).

I believe that Charles G. Finney introduced elements of "white" magic to the subject of revival. This may be a new thought to you, so please listen carefully. Finney said, "A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense…a revival is the result of the right use of the appropriate means" (Revival Lectures, Revell, n.d., p. 5). It is true that Finney used the name of God, sometimes spoke of Christ, and occasionally quoted a Bible verse. But "white" magic does this as well! What we find, in Finney's Revival Lectures is actually quite similar to the "channeling" of "white" magic. It is the idea that God is not sovereignly in control of revival, and that revival can be "channeled" through Christians by "the right use of the appropriate means." Finney argues against

…the Church being persuaded that promoting religion is somehow so mysterious a subject of Divine Sovereignty, that there is no natural connection between the means and the end. In fact, what are the results? Why, generation after generation has gone to hell, while the Church has been dreaming and waiting for God to save them without the use of means (ibid., page 6).

That is an absolutely false statement. Brian Edwards gave a list of 18 major revivals between AD 1150 and the time of Finney, in which multiplied millions of people were converted - including the First Great Awakening (1730 and onward) and the Second Great Awakening (1800 and onward), in his book, Revival! A People Saturated With God (Evangelical Press, 1991, pp. 271-272).

Finney attacked the doctrine of the sovereignty of God by misrepresenting the fact of revivals in history. He did that because he believed that revivals are man-centered. That's why he said, "A revival is not a miracle, nor dependent on a miracle, in any sense…Religion is the work of man. It is something for man to do" (ibid., pp. 5, 1). Yet Finney does bring God into the picture - as an "agency." He says, "But means will not produce a revival without the blessing of God" (ibid., p. 5). He calls this "blessing" "an influence or agency from God" (ibid.). The channel through which this "influence or agency" comes is the church: "When the churches are thus awakened and reformed, the reformation and salvation of sinners will follow" (ibid., p. 8).

Do you see how this resembles "white" magic? Dr. Unger said, "Magic may be defined as the art of bringing about results beyond man's power through the enlistment of supernatural agencies." For Finney, the power of God is channeled through the church when certain conditions are met.

Dr. Bill Bright was a good man in many ways, but he was influenced by Finney regarding revival. I do not blame him for this. I myself was once confused by Finney's ideas. But Dr. Bright said,

During my first forty-day fast in 1994, the Lord gave me the assurance that He was going to send a great spiritual revival to His church…However, with that assurance of the coming revival was the admonition that believers must meet the conditions…Then, to my amazement, the Lord impressed me to pray for two million believers to join me in fasting and praying for forty days to help fulfill the conditions of that promise and to see the revival… (Bill Bright, The Transforming Power of Fasting and Prayer, New Life, 1997, p. 7).

The conditionalism in that statement, as in Finney, seems to indicate that God is a "force," and that the "force" or "agency" of God's power can be obtained by doing certain things. This reminds me of Dr. Tozer's statement, "So strong is the bent of the human heart toward magic that there has hardly been a time when the faith of Christ has not been plagued with it" (A. W. Tozer, ibid., p. 87).

We cannot obtain the power of God with money (as Simon Magus tried to do), or by fasting, or "if certain gestures are made or if certain secret words are mumbled" (A. W. Tozer, ibid,. p. 85). God is not a "force" to be "channeled" through "believers" if they meet certain "conditions." This is "white" magic!

III. Third, the difference between prayer for revival and magical manipulation.

God is a person, not a new-age force! Please turn to Matthew 6:9. Jesus said,

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:9-10).

These familiar verses show us that we should direct our prayers to God "in heaven," and that we should ask for His will to be "done in earth, as it is in heaven." Iain H. Murray says that there is

…no promise of an extraordinary giving [of the Holy Spirit] for any time or circumstance of our own determination…and it is not for us to dictate to God what is his will. Critics of this view do not themselves bring forth texts of Scripture which promise the extraordinary, rather they base their confidence either upon contemporary predictions which someone has made or simply upon an impression of their own which they confidently attribute to the Holy Spirit. Church history is strewn with examples of misplaced hopes of this kind (Iain H. Murray, Pentecost Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival, Banner of Truth, 1998, pp. 76-77).

Again, Murray says, "Too often in the twentieth century there has been faith in 'revival' where there has been little faith in God himself" (ibid., p. 78).

Jesus taught us to pray for God's will to be done. We cannot dictate to God whether He will send revival or not. We can, and should, pray for revival. But in the end its coming depends on the will of God, not on us. That is the difference between prayer for revival and "white" magic.

When Simon the Sorcerer said

"Give me also this power" (Acts 8:19)

he was still thinking like a sorcerer, in terms of magic. He thought that the power of God could be controlled, and channeled through him.

Tonight I heard that a famous Baptist pastor preached a sermon on the subject, "How to Get God to Do Things." Many "faith" teachers today have this emphasis as well. To me, this reveals a magical mindset. We can't "get" God to do things! We can ask God to do things - but He has the divine authority to say "no!"

Please turn to II Corinthians 12:7. The Apostle Paul said,

"And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me"
      (II Corinthians 12:7-9).

Although I disagree with John MacArthur on the Blood of Christ and Lordship salvation, I think he was right when he gave this comment on II Corinthians 12:8, "For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me":

The 3-fold repetition of Paul's request parallels that of Jesus in Gethsemane (Mark 14:34-41). Both Paul and Jesus had their requests denied, but were granted grace to endure their ordeals (MacArthur Study Bible, note on II Corinthians 12:8).

Jesus taught us to pray for God's will to be done. We cannot dictate to God whether He will answer our prayers the way we want Him to answer them. We can and should pray for revival. But in the end it is up to God to give the answer He deems best. As it was with the Apostle Paul, in II Corinthians 12:7-9, we should accept the answer that God gives us - whether it is "yes" or "no."

Does "powerful" prayer, or the prayers of many people, always precede revival? To be sure, strong prayers often precede revival, but the Bible teaches that this is not always so. The greatest revival in human history is prophesied in Revelation 7:1-14. And yet this revival will not be preceded by a single prayer of any Christian on earth! The Christians will already be raptured! There will not be a single Christian on earth praying for this mighty revival when it comes!

I think that this passage of Scripture shows us that God can send revival without the prayers of God's people on earth. Please turn to Revelation 7:10. The great multitude of those saved during the Tribulation revival will cry out,

"Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb…Saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen" (Revelation 7:10, 12).

God alone is the author of salvation and revival!

"Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen."

The Apostle Peter understood this. Please turn to Acts 3:12. Peter said,

"Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus…" (Acts 3:12-13).

It is not "our own power or holiness" that brings revival - or any other miracle! God sends revival Himself - to glorify His Son Jesus!

Yes, we should pray for revival! But we should constantly remember that it is God who sends it - to glorify His Son Jesus! God, Himself, is the author of revival!

God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.
    ("God Moves in a Mysterious Way" by William Cowper, 1731-1800).

Pray for God to send revival! He is not bound! He is not feeble! He is the Lord God Almighty! Pray for Him to send revival - according to His will!

If you are still not saved, I urge you to come to Jesus and trust Him. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He has risen from the dead, and He is alive up in Heaven, at the right hand of God. Come to Christ. Trust Him, and He will save you from sin, Hell, and the grave! That is not magic! That is the gospel of Christ!


(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 8:5-23.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"God Moves in a Mysterious Way" (by William Cowper, 1731-1800).

THE OUTLINE OF

REVIVAL VS. WHITE MAGIC!

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

 

"Give me also this power" (Acts 8:19)

(Acts 8:5-6)

I.   The definition of magic, II Corinthians 11:14-15.

II.  The difference between white magic and revival, Acts 8:5, 19.

III. The difference between prayer for revival and magical manipulation,
Matthew 6:9-10; II Corinthians 12:7-9; Revelation 7:10, 12;
Acts 3:12-13.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."