Monday, September 10, 2012

The sons of Sceva are overcome

13 ¶Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
 14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
 17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
 18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.
 19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.
 20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed. (Acts 19:13-20)
The two incidents in these verses—the failed exorcism and the book burning—are usually not discussed together, but I suspect they are related to each other.

That these vagabond Jews decide to use the name of Jesus to try to cast out evil spirits shows that they heard of the power of Jesus’s name and they believe in it.  It is interesting that their father was a priest.  They could have been priests too, but we don’t know.  

That the evil spirit refuses to recognize them as having any authority over him shows that simply using the name of Jesus without authority to back it up will not work in the realm of spirits, but will actually be detrimental.  The evil spirit indicated he knew both Jesus and Paul had power over him, which shows that there is a hierarchy in the spirit world.

And then, when the man with the evil spirit overcame all seven of the vagabond Jews that tried to cast it out, that demonstrated that evil is not to be trifled with.  This must have been what most impressed the people who heard about it.  If a man with an evil spirit could overcome seven men, then you must not muck about with evil in the least degree, as it can destroy you.  Thus, they became determined to forsake evil in all its forms, having learned the dangerous consequences of being overcome.  So, members of the church (“them that believed”) confessed and forsook their sins, and many others decided to forsake their “curious arts” and burned all their books relating thereto. 

This is one of the reasons why we do not toy with the occult in any way, whether with séances and mediums, or with Ouija boards or fortune telling or any of that.  Nor should we play with any other kind of evil.

I can’t help but point out that although the evil spirit may have overcome the vagabond Jews, because the people who heard about the incident were willing to repent and forsake their evil deeds, ultimately the word of God prevailed in this story!  Yaaaaaaaaaay!


urinalsoftheworld said...

Great post. To find an itinerant exorcist in the Roman provinces that was invoking the name of a powerful deity would hardly be unusual in Paul's day. Rome took polytheism to new levels through the practice of incorporating local deities into the official Roman pantheon. What is more interesting is that this exorcist would invoke the name of Jesus rather rather than Diana in Ephesus. The Temple of Diana (Artemis) was the foundation of the entire economy of the entire city, and one can hardly envision talking about any deity other than Diana. It would be like going to the Vatican and raving about Zoroastrianism.

It speaks to the impact of Paul and the miracles he performed in the name of Jesus in capturing the imagination of the local people whose livelihood depended on the cult-worship of Diana. It was a power that was so obvious that one could not deny it, even in the shadow of Diana's great temple.

Michaela Stephens said...

Great point, Reid, thanks for sharing those background details and putting it into perspective for us.