In this video excerpt from his message at the recent 9Marks conference held at Southeastern Seminary, Matt Chandler describes “an epic beatdown”:
Here’s the story from Acts 19:11-20:
And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 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. 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.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 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. 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. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
As Chandler notes, it’s interesting that the demon responds to the sons of Sceva, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”
The question is revealing. Demons know Jesus—and shudder (cf. James 2:19). They know He is the Sovereign one who will, on the day of judgement, cast them all into hell.
They also recognize Paul. As Christ’s chosen instrument to reach the gentiles (cf. Acts 9:15), he is a known entity in the spiritual realm. He has power—because He believes.
But these guys…
They are sons of a Jewish high priest and itinerant exorcists.
Who don’t believe.
“I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims,” they declare; they treat the power of Christ in the life of a believer like a magic spell.
And the demons, instead of turning tail, turned on them.
And after that, by God’s grace, the gospel exploded in Ephesus.
When you look at a passage like this, it can be challenging to see what application we can make. As I’ve been reading it, one clear, practical application jumps to mind:
In our pursuits, in our passions, are we really, truly all about Jesus—His glory, His fame, His majesty, His gospel—or do we use His name like an incantation?
Do you want to use His name to further your agenda…
Or is He your agenda?
The challenge here is that the answer reveals something of our hearts. If we’re using Christ’s name to further our agenda—even for a great cause like helping people who live in poverty, freeing young girls from the sex trade or setting up an after-school program for kids in inner-city neighborhoods—and the agenda is not, clearly, overtly that we want people to love and serve Jesus… we might wind up no better off than the sons of Sceva.
It’s scary to think about, but we can pursue God-honoring things in a way that is insulting to Him. When we rely on our own ability, when we make our cause, our movement, our agenda the main thing. When we pursue our glory instead of God’s.
So, today as you go through the day, rely on Christ, not on your own ability.
Glory in Christ, not in your own cause.
You never know, you could see the gospel explode where you are.