God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary. The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing—handkerchiefs and scarves and the like—that had touched Paul’s skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it—they were healed and whole.
Some itinerant Jewish exorcists who happened to be in town at the time tried their hand at what they assumed to be Paul’s “game.” They pronounced the name of the Master Jesus over victims of evil spirits, saying, “I command you by the Jesus preached by Paul!” The seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were trying to do this on a man when the evil spirit talked back: “I know Jesus and I’ve heard of Paul, but who are you?” Then the possessed man went berserk—jumped the exorcists, beat them up, and tore off their clothes. Naked and bloody, they got away as best they could.
It was soon news all over Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. The realization spread that God was in and behind this. Curiosity about Paul developed into reverence for the Master Jesus. Many of those who thus believed came out of the closet and made a clean break with their secret sorceries. All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them. Someone estimated their worth at fifty thousand silver coins. In such ways it became evident that the Word of the Master was now sovereign and prevailed in Ephesus.
~Acts 19:11-20 (MSG)
There is a lot going on in Ephesus in Acts 19, and Paul is right at the center of it. He is performing miracles and even the clothing that touches Paul’s skin is healing people. This is the power of the gospel moving through the culture of the time. Believe me when I say that the power of that gospel has not changed. The power of the gospel is moving in this world, for you, for me, and for now.
In Ephesus, people not associated with Paul or with right-minded thinking caught on quickly. Don’t they always? They saw a way to make a buck. People haven’t changed, but neither has God’s truth. We see in this passage how those only interested in their own personal success decided to jump on the miracle train and attempt to work a few miracles of their own. God wasn’t in it. Satan was in it. Satan has a way of imitating whatever God’s people are doing, because he knows the unsaved can’t tell the difference between his ways and God’s ways. In 2 Corinthians it says those people who Satan uses, “masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (MSG)
The moneymaking scheme falls flat on its face and the exorcism drama almost gets the fakers killed. However, this crazy exorcism event doesn’t stop Paul from preaching and teaching, and soon, “Curiosity about Paul developed into reverence for the Master Jesus.” Obviously, whatever Paul is doing here, he is most definitely not claiming any of the glory for himself, rather Paul is doing what we are all to do as servants of Christ Jesus—directing people’s eyes to Jesus so that He is the object of the their praise and honor. The power of the gospel in the midst of man-created chaos rules and reigns!
What happens next is truly astounding: Jesus Christ’s power is acknowledged and the witches, warlocks, and all the others practicing sorcery come out of the closet and into the life-light of Jesus Christ. The text says the people practicing the dark arts destroyed books and papers worth fifty thousand silver coins in a huge bonfire. My go-to Warren Wiersbe commentary explains that the value of the magical books and spells burned were equivalent to the total salaries of 150 men working for a whole year. Wow.
Power. Treasure. Influence. All gone up in smoke. And the fragrance of those perverse books and papers burning reached heaven where God smiled. There’s got to be a party in heaven when Satan’s schemes go up in flames, right? Of course, God triumphs. We have scripture’s assurance that He will always win in the end. In this passage, God’s power is demonstrated in a place where Satan thought he had the upper hand. Satan’s “home territory” was diminished.
Say, is there something in your life right now that you need to throw into the bonfire? What is that thing that has too much power and influence over you? You know, in this day and age Satan’s ways are very subtle. Scripture clearly states that we are to, “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up.” (1 Peter 5:8 MSG) I’m pretty sure you don’t have any spell books in your closet right now, but what else are you reading or watching or listening to that is influencing your mind and behavior? What social media sites have you wrongly convinced that…just one more of this or a little of that will improve my life/mindset/social situation/happiness level/marriage/family.
Guard your heart. Guard your mind. Be alert. The lion prowls.
It isn’t unusual or wrong to be caught unaware. Don’t underestimate the power of God’s unconditional love for you. It’s true that God loves you—period. When you need help, call on the Holy Spirit to guide you. Pray for discernment, confess what the Holy Spirit lays on your heart, and then sit quietly in His presence and allow Him to heal you. No shame. I repeat, no shame! Only the unconditional love offered by a compassionate God. Reject Satan’s lies! They don’t align with God’s truth! Read these comforting words found in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” Whatever the Holy Spirit is telling you needs to burn—do not wait. Light that match, and baby, let it burn.
Jesus, Lord and Savior, you are my champion. Show me today how to stop making excuses and make you Lord of my life. Teach me how I can live so I’m no longer a slave to fear or to any of Satan’s schemes. I want to see the power of your gospel in my life today. Jesus, I know you fight all my battles for me in both the earthly and heavenly realms against forces I don’t even claim to fully understand. Please hem me in on every side and protect me from the evil one. Don’t let me become complacent or compliant to worldly evils. I want to please you, not people. Keep my mind sharp and keep me in your will at all times. And finally, help me live in the truth of the gospel, that I AM NOT my sin. My true identity lies in Christ. I AM a child of God. (1 John 3:1-2) Amen.
Read John 8:42-47 (MSG) to hear what Jesus had to say about the Liar, then take some time to worship with Jesus Culture’s No Longer Slaves.
Today’s post was written by Cindy Koopmans.
Cindy is married to her college sweetheart, Brian, for 38 years. She has three grown boys, two sweet daughters-in-law and a gorgeous little grand-man named Oliver Brian. Cindy teaches fifth grade at Sorrento Elementary and serves at the Mount Dora campus as their Worship Coordinator. Cindy’s passion is music, so her happy place is at the keyboard. She also enjoys reading (so many books, so little time), thrifting, and hanging out with Kramer the wonder Bichon. You can find her on Sunday mornings worshiping at our Real Life Mount Dora campus.