My primary area of interest in study and writing has been spiritual warfare, with particular attention to warfare and evangelism. One biblical text that captures my burden is Acts 19:11-15 –
God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, so that even facecloths or work aprons that had touched his skin were brought to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches!” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul—but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded. (HCSB)
Here are some applications that come to mind from this text:
1. “Miracle” working is no guarantee we belong to God. The Jewish exorcists made a living casting out demons (or at least appearing to do so), but they were not children of God. Jesus, too, warned us about this deception (Matt. 7:21-23). Thus, we must evaluate all “miracles” and “miracle workers” by the Word of God.
2. Jesus’ name is not a magical formula. The charlatan Jewish exorcists included the name of Jesus in their list of spells and magical charms, but Jesus’ name is not to be used that way. The power in His name is in who He is. I fear, though, that many people today appeal to His name without ever considering following Him.
3. To take on the demons without wearing the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-17) is dangerous, indeed. In the Acts 19 case, the demon-possessed man beat up the exorcists. It’s possible that demons will expose our powerlessness if we dare take them on apart from the power of God.
4. Religious activity does not threaten the enemy. The Jewish exorcists were doing their religious work, but without the power of God. That’s where this text challenges me. How many pastors and laypeople are:
- leading the church, but they themselves are not genuine believers?
- leading the church while not wearing the full armor of God?
- doing the work of the church, but in their own power and strength?
- going through the motion of religion, yet making no dent in the darkness of the world?
- trying to take on the enemy on the basis of somebody else’s power?
I wonder if Satan and his forces ever say to our churches: “Jesus, I know. Paul, I know. And you just continue doing what you’re doing – you don’t scare me anyway.” I even wonder if the enemy ever says those words about me personally. Just some questions to consider . . . .