False Gods and Deadly Demonic Drugs

Galatians 5:20

On the way to church here in Jeju, South Korea, we had to swerve around a large line of vehicles and Billy asked, “What’s with all the traffic and the colorful lanterns?”

Steve Nicholes, our host, explained, “On Jeju about a third of the population are Buddhists and they’re celebrating ‘Seokga Tansini’, Buddha’s birthday. Even nominal Buddhists go to the temple today, and so, the long lines. For a fee you can write your name with a wish or a hope on a small slip of paper and attach it to the lanterns. This will be your prayer to Buddha. Or you can go up to the temple, purchase some rice, and offer it as an offering before the Buddha image.”

When Paul went into the cities of Galatia in the first century, he was not greeted with temples with the image of Buddha at the core of the sacred place. Instead, he was greeted with temples dedicated to Zeus and Hermes and the Roman Emperor. Many Galatians worshiped Cybele, a mother goddess, whose devotes castrated themselves, dressed as women, and led wild, ecstatic, orgiastic celebrations. Paul declared a message of freedom and liberation from the worship of these false gods, a worship that often-involved drunkenness and the use of drugs in sorcery. That’s why he closed his letter stressing that part of the deeds of the sin nature involved not only sexual sins, but the sins of idolatry and sorcery.

“Now the works of the sin nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and sensual debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft (drugs) …” Galatians 5:20

The word translated witchcraft is the Greek term pharmakeia from which we get our word “pharmacy.” Drugs were used in the idolatrous religions and with the wild sex and the resulting pregnancies. Drugs were then used to abort the babies.

The Didache, includes the following commands Christians were expected to obey: “You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not corrupt boys. You shall not fornicate. You shall not steal. You shall not make magic. You shall not practice occult (φαρμακεία). You shall not slay the child by abortions (φθορα). You shall not kill what is generated. You shall not desire your neighbors wife” (Did. 2.2). It shows that early in the 2nd century believers were being tempted by the idolatry of pagan religions that involved immorality, the abuse of teen boys, and using drugs to abort children. The LGBTQ issues are paganism again raising its head in a culture.

LORD, again it’s clear that Satan continues to tempt us with his old lies. Use the teaching on Galatians this week especially with my Asian students to help them to return to Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea with the liberating truth revealed in the Book of Galatians. Keep us free from idols.

Did. Didache Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994).

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