In Acts 19, the Apostle Paul is ministering in Ephesus among the people to whom he would later write his Epistle to the Ephesians. There, he encountered great opposition, but he was also used by the Lord to produce great fruit. It was a dark place where the magic arts were practiced and demons dwelt, so it is no surprise that in chapter 6 of his letter to the Ephesians, Paul would deal directly with the reality of spiritual warfare. Here in Acts 19:11-20 we get a glimpse of one such encounter.
Wednesday, June 12th
Larger Portion of Scripture - Acts 19
Focused Passage for Reflection - Acts 19:11-20
Reflecting on the Text:
Is Jesus a name to be invoked in order to serve our needs, or is the person of Jesus a Savior, in whom we live and move and have our being? The seven sons of Sceva seemed to think it was the former. The demon which bested them knew He is the later.
This passage challenges our first world, modern senses with the scene of spiritual warfare played out in a very physical setting. Maybe we are challenged because for many of us, we’ve either grown numb to, or written off entirely, the prospect of a spiritual realm where Satan’s minions wage war on the children of God. Maybe that is just as the devil would want it. But the Bible does not apologize for such interactions. In fact, much of Jesus’ ministry was centered on establishing His lordship over the demons, thus furthering His kingdom reign.
In the early church, particularly in the Acts of the Apostles, the apostles carried on this ministry as they took the gospel out to new people groups. The beginning of Acts 19 records some of these miraculous acts. To the chosen people of God, these signs spoke to the truth of the gospel. To imposters like the Sons of Sceva, they seemed to be a way to further their own desires.
Verse 13 tells us that these brothers sought to mimic the apostles, thinking the power to exorcise demons came in the form of a magical incantation. The Sons of Sceva, either out of an earnest desire to help people or out of a desire to gain fame (and possible fortune), tried to do just that, invoking the name of Jesus.
Yet the demon didn’t take the bait. This demon had a better theology than the exorcists. It understood clearly that it wasn’t merely pronouncing the name of Jesus, but rather living in relationship (union) with Him which carried power.
The whole saga proved painful for the Sons of Sceva, but in the end, the power of Jesus did prevail. The people who heard the story came away with the realization that the power of Jesus was too great to be controlled. They heard, and glorified His name. This is the power of God: the imposters were whipped naked, and rival broke out. Magicians turned from their witchcraft, and the Word of the Lord increased mightily…a phrase which in Acts means the Kingdom of God advanced and many came to saving faith. Praise the Lord!
Questions for personal reflection:
When you hear of spiritual warfare, do you write it off as a thing of the past? Or, do you recognize it today, even in its most subtle of forms?
Assuming you are praying for the Lord’s protection in the spiritual realm, do you find yourself using Jesus’ name as a formula to tag on at the end of prayer? Or, do you pray dependently in union with Him? Do you know how to distinguish between the two?
Do you have a prayer partner with whom you can process some of these questions? Do you have a prayer partner with whom you can share your deepest prayer needs? If not, what would it take for you to find such a prayer partner?