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Acts #71 (chapter 19:11-20)

The Book of Acts

The Power of the Word, Part 2

Acts 19:11-20

 

 

It seems to me that a whole lot of things have gotten out of whack with the modern church when it comes to our understanding of the activity of Satan and exorcisms and the casting out of demons. And while I don't want to underestimate or minimize the power of Satan, neither do I want to put too much emphasis on practices that are unscriptural and get so preoccupied with the devil that I don't put the focus on God.

 

I say that by way of introduction for what we will study tonight in Acts 19. Paul, now on his third missionary journey, makes his way to Ephesus. Now Ephesus is a city that is replete with satanic activity.

But in spite of that, Paul sees some amazing things happen there. So much so, that notice what we read in

 

verse 20

 

So how did that happen? Verse 16 tells us.

 

Verse 16

 

Paul has been there for two years continuously teaching the Word of the Lord Jesus. And when the Word is at work, tremendous things happen.

 

So what kind of influence did the Word have on the city of Ephesus? Well, this text outlines five things in particular that were significant in Ephesus.

We looked at the first of those last week and that was proclamation. The first thing Paul did when he got to town was proclaim the gospel. Verse 8 tells us he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the Kingdom of God. And when he was unable to continue there, he relocated and started all over. And because of his faithfulness, everyone who lived in Asia heard about Jesus. So first came proclamation.

 

Second came

 

2. Confirmation

 

verse 11

 

So here we find God putting His stamp of approval on the ministry of Paul by allowing him to perform miracles. That was pretty standard procedure in the age of the apostles as God makes sure their message is affirmed. In those days, they had no written New Testament, so God puts His stamp of approval on them in an unmistakable way through miracles.

 

That is no longer necessary in our day because we have a New Testament and an indwelling Holy Spirit. And though them, we can affirm or deny the message of preachers.

 

Notice, it is interesting that it says God performed these miracles "by the hands of Paul. I would guess some of them though Paul was doing it on his own. And it gets even more mysterious in

 

verse 12

  1. suppose that's from where the big market for prayer clothes and handkerchiefs and all of that developed. Now remember, the people of Ephesus are deep into mysticism and superstition and when they saw these miracles going on, they assumed the power was Paul's.

 

Now history tells us those handkerchiefs were most likely the rags Paul used to wipe his sweaty brow and face. And the aprons were probably for protection while he was working. So they got Paul's old, dirty, sweaty rags and work clothes, and miraculously, God did miracles even through those!

 

Man, the way I sweat, that means on any given Sunday, I'm sitting on a goldmine, literally, and didn't even know it! So was God feeding their superstitions? No, He was just affirming the ministry of Paul and His Word.

 

So what happened as a result of these miracles?

 

verse 12b

 

First, there were physical healings that took place, and secondly, evil spirits went out of them. So God did unusual miracles by the hands of Paul as a confirmation of His message. And rightly understood, people came to know the difference between the the miracles done by Paul and the power of Jesus Christ behind those miracles. In fact, if they were paying attention, they should have known that this man named Jesus is really something!

 

 

 

Thirdly, notice the

 

3. Competition

 

verse 13

 

It is a given that anytime God shows up in power, Satan is always there trying to twist and subvert and get in on the action. In this case, it is so vagabond Jews who are looking for a new gimmick!

 

They had never seen anything like the power to which Paul has access, so they latch on to the use of the name of Jesus as a new way to make some money.

 

And notice, the use of the words "exorcists." This is the only place that word occurs in the New Testament and it literally means, "those who expel demons by using sacred names."

 

It's the casting out of demons by the use of sacred incantations or calling on the names of gods. Now obviously, if they were Jewish exorcists, they would do it in the Name of Jehovah God. So were they legitimate? I don't think so. They probably believed they were. But I say it is illegitimate because exorcism that stops short of salvation is inadequate.

 

And if there is genuine confession and repentance and salvation, no exorcism is necessary. And if there's no confession and no repentance, they're ineffective. So all of the exorcisms in the Catholic church and the occult and all of that are illegitimate.

Just get folks saved, and that will take care of the demons and evil spirits.

 

So notice what happens in this instance:

 

verse 13

 

The first thing I notice is that obviously, they are admitting they didn't know this Jesus; they're just trying to feed off of Paul's relationship.

 

verse 14

 

Now this guy Sceva must have been something. He had seven sons that went around supposedly casting out demons. It's a little family empire! And notice, he was a Jewish chief priest. Now if that means "chief priest", he is on thin ice! It could mean he belonged to high priestly family, or it could mean he just gave himself that title.

 

Either way, notice what happened.

 

verse 15

 

That's one of my favorite verses! These evil spirits get a little sarcastic and say, "What do you guys think you're doing?"

 

It must have been a little unnerving when this evil spirit speaks in a human voice and says, "I know about Jesus and Paul, but who are you?"

 

So did this demon really know Jesus? Absolutely! Not in a salvation sense, but demons were all created as angels and spent all their time praising and serving God until the fall. There is no doubt, they knew Him well! In fact, the word "know" that he uses means personal knowledge. He knew Jesus.

 

And they also knew Paul and the word used there is a different word for knowledge. It is knowledge to a lesser degree. They didn't know Paul nearly as well as they knew Jesus, but the word was out among the demons, "You better watch out for this guy named Paul!"

 

Paul had a reputation! And so do you! I've been thinking about a sermon series based on these verses that includes three message: Who in the world are you, who in heaven are you and who in hell are you? After all, you've got a reputation in all three!

 

And anyway, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?" This demon felt no compulsion of power to obey. They may have used Jesus' name, but there wasn't any power in it. There was no authority there. And what happened was amazing.

 

verse 16

 

That is the first instance of streakers! What an amazing situation! Instead of being cast out, this demon becomes empowered, completely dominated the situation. This demon was powerful and strong.

 

that must have came as a terrible shock to these sons of Sceva! After all, if they've been casting out demons, they must have been doing it in cooperation with Satan. They would say the word and the demons would leave so Satan could deceive and manipulate the situation.

 

But this time, things twist off and they run away naked and bleeding!

 

So why didn't the demon leave this time? Well, I'm speculating, but I think it is because Christ is in control. Satan wanted the demon to leave and continue to feed the lie, but Christ doesn't allow it to happen

 

Satan brought the competition, but Christ overruled it. So we see the proclamation, confirmation, competition, quickly look at the

 

4. Conviction

 

verse 17

 

It appears folks are making the distinction between the message of Paul and the object of his message. After this incident, people everywhere are talking about the Name of the Lord Jesus! And that's exactly what God wanted. What a name!

 

verse 18

 

The word "believed" indicates there had been a previous experience of conversion which means they are now making open, public professions of faith. That part is fairly simple. But what about the second part where they were "telling their deeds"?

 

"Telling their deeds" seems to indicate that these are former sorcerers and magicians who are revealing their trade secrets. They are confessing their deceptions and how they did what they did.

 

They were giving up all their magic because they saw the truth of the power of Jesus and they saw that magic didn't work, and in comparison to His name it was absolutely impotent.

See the order? His Name was magnified in verse 17, and as a result of that, people believed and confessed, and their lives were transformed. Want proof?

 

verse 19a

 

They had a public book burning and all of their "books" and magical arts, all the gimmicks and formulas and all the paraphernalia, they burned. All the scrolls, all the secret formulas, they burned them. And the interesting thing, the word "burned" is imperfect. They kept on burning. I don't know how long the bonfire lasted. But they kept burning.

 

You say, "Was that a big deal?"

 

verse 19b

 

So how much is 50,000 pieces of silver?" Well, the literal Greek just says “fifty thousand of silver” so it is a little bit unclear.

 

If it was silver denarii, each one was worth a day's wages for a farm worker or other laborer, so that would be a total of about $5.5 million.

 

If they were silver talents, each one was worth a year's wages for that same laborer, so that would total about $1.5 billion.

 

The New Living Translation calls the total “several million dollars”. Either way, this was a tremendous amount of money!

 

 

Well, the Word was proclaimed, confirmed, competed with, and finally, we'll use the word

 

5. Domination

 

verse 20

 

That makes sense in this text and it makes sense in your life and mine, it makes sense in the church, or in any other setting for where the Word of God dominates, there is victory. As long as the Word of God dominates, there'll be victory. That's the pattern.

 

That's good news for people who live in a

Satan controlled world! Satan, even with all his assembled against us, cannot prevail against the Word of God. What's the lesson? Saturate your life with the Word, and you can live in victory.

 

Let's pray.

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