11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.”
14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.
We get to see a few sides of the way power works in this section.
For some reason, God is healing people through the touch of tokens. Handkerchiefs, aprons, just pieces of cloth that were part of everyday clothing or work, that had touched Paul could then touch a sick person and they would be healed. God was healing people with Peter’s shadow earlier in Acts, now He’s using rags.
I think about this every time I wrap a gift to give to someone or prepare our little Gospels of John for Halloween trick or treaters. God is still working miracles.
The theory these black-eyed sons of Sceva were working off of was that if you mentioned a powerful spirit to a less-powerful spirit, the less powerful spirit would run off. Kind of like the authority a mom shows at the McDonald’s playground when she says “You better get down here right now! One…Two…Come on Danny… Two and half…”
It’s not real authority. It’s make-believe authority.
Using Jesus’ name like that is idolatry. It’s like having a little statue of Him and holding it up to ward off evil spirits. We just read that God doesn’t live in temples made by man. God’s power isn’t in created things. His Spirit in living and moving in His people. To use His name like a magic word is to use it in vain. It’s name dropping at best, and witchcraft at the worst.
Jesus is Lord.
Those that know Him and walk in Him have all of the authority over darkness that He has. It’s His authority. It’s His very life that is in us. It’s such authority that it could even stick to a handkerchief.
It doesn’t come through magic words or hope in our power to say them right at the right time. It’s comes through Jesus. He loves us so much that He won’t let us counterfeit His name for very long.
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Extra Credit: If you were into Christian Alternative music in the mid-90s, you can’t read this passage without thinking of this gem: