By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Acts 19-20
Key Scripture Verses: Acts 19:13-16 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.”
On first reading of this passage, we might think that the Jews who were driving out evil spirits in the name of Jesus were doing a good thing and it would be God’s will to do so; however, these men were using Jesus’ name as if it were a magical incantation. In a real sense, they were mocking Paul and Jesus by their actions, because their sole purpose was not to heal, but to make a profit from these acts. They were not believers who knew and worshiped Jesus.
The Ephesians performing the exorcisms thought that using the magic words was enough and they found out that their power was not equal to God’s–it was the Holy Spirit in Paul who gave him the power. These people were not disciples of Jesus, but were dabbling in the occult—their powers did not come from God.
When the man possessed by the evil spirit reacted by severely beating them, fear spread among the people in Ephesus. Many were afraid and confessed their sin that they, too, had been using witchcraft and sorcery which was clearly forbidden (Deuteronomy). Many became believers and were converted; Paul continued to make disciples for Jesus and performed many miracles because of the Holy Spirit within him.
We may be tempted to try to contact angels or to use witchcraft or divination. It can be very attractive to want to know the future or to speak with a loved one beyond the grave, but we are strictly told not to. Christians need to put on the “full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11) to “take your stand against the devil’s schemes” which may at first appear to be of God.
Those who dabble in the occult may find themselves in spiritual danger and the great deceiver, Satan, has subtle ways of making us believe that all spiritual and mystical experiences come from God. But, even the evil spirits know who Jesus is. Christians need to know the scriptures in order to be able to discern the will of God, “so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” (See Ephesians 6:10-17 for scriptures re: spiritual protection from evil).
May we be well versed in the scriptures that we are able to discern truth from deception. May we pray for spiritual protection, as Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (The Lord’s Prayer: Matthew 6:9-13). Amen.