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Possession, Power and Politics: A Lesson from Acts 19

Some people love the Lord, others try to pimp him, but eventually, motives will be exposed and consequences meted out.

Acts 19:11-20 chronicles this. As the apostle Paul spreads the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit imbues him with such power that people touch his skin with their hankies and aprons in order to bring healing to their loved ones.

In Acts 19, people who belonged to Jesus were not characterized by self-aggrandizing demonstrations of healing (Paul was described as one who “preaches” in verse 13, not as a "healer," and he didn't even actively heal in verse 12), but were those who feared, praised, confessed and spread the gospel.

Some people love the Lord, others try to pimp him, but eventually, motives will be exposed and consequences meted out.

Acts 19:11-20 chronicles this. As the apostle Paul spreads the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit imbues him with such power that people touch his skin with their hankies and aprons in order to bring healing to their loved ones.

In Acts 19, people who belonged to Jesus were not characterized by self-aggrandizing demonstrations of healing (Paul was described as one who “preaches” in verse 13, not as a "healer," and he didn't even actively heal in verse 12), but were those who feared, praised, confessed and spread the gospel.
In contrast, the seven sons of Sceva (who were sons of a Jewish high priest not-so-incidentally) might have seen a gravy/glory train as they observed Paul. They may have believed that people listened and followed him because he could work wonders in the name of this Jesus. They missed the fact that Paul was taught just as they were, and had the same power and influence that they wielded, and yet chose to give up his religious-political zeal in order to serve the Lord wholeheartedly.

Instead, they sought to capitalize on the Name. Now, I would think that HPKs (High Priest’s Kids) would have a healthy fear of God and His reputation; at least they would have known the gravity of taking the Lord’s name in vain from Exodus 20:7. The commandment promises that God won’t hold guiltless (also translated “leave unpunished”) those who misuse His name.

The text is silent as to whether the Scevas had any past success in invoking Jesus’ name, although it implies that they habitually traveled around doing this. I am inclined to believe that God in His mercy may have granted the Sceva boys some miraculous results for them to repeatedly call on “Jesus who Paul preaches.”

One day, though, enough was enough. An evil spirit talked back to the sons of Sceva and basically said, “Look, I know who Jesus is, and I have heard of Paul, but who are you?” Jesus’ name was not a mere mantra. If exorcism were a night club, the Scevas could plead all they wanted that they knew Jesus; they weren’t getting past the velvet rope because their name wasn’t on the list. (I find it impressive, and startling, that even evil spirits knew Paul and were clear on his “possession” by the Savior. If you belong to the Lord, evil knows you by name. Okay…that’s another blog.) These men did not belong to Jesus.

Because God doesn't hold guiltless those who use His name in vain, there were repercussions. Via the possessed man, the evil spirit tore into all seven of the Sceva men so badly that their clothes came off. They were exposed both physically and spiritually to have no power at all.

Ironically, word of the Scevas’ beat-down catalyzed many in Ephesus to come to faith in Jesus, and Acts 19:17 reads "the name of the Lord Jesus was praised." God’s purposes supersede man’s vain ambition.

As election season draws near, I can’t help but notice that there are some who choose to employ the playbook of the the sons of Sceva by calling on Jesus’ name as though it were a magical spell to conjure political victory. Others wield the Name like a sword, with which they attempt to appoint kings or impale unfavorable leaders. They may even do so with a modicum of merciful success. Ultimately, though, God will judge the motives of those who call on the Name of the Son. How many perpetrators have already been exposed via sex scandals, embezzlement charges, and compromised integrity?

Here is my Sceva-meter: are the people who name The Name doing so to spread the gospel of Jesus, the grace of God, the compassion of the Savior? Are they using The Name as an ATM machine? A voting booth? A dagger? Are they consistent, or do they espouse The Name only in a certain season or with a certain audience?

Do not be deceived; God will not be made a fool. Galatians 6:7-8 makes it clear that “a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.”

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Sharifa Stevens

Sharifa Stevens is a Manhattan-born, Bronx-raised child of the King, born to Jamaican immigrants, and currently living in Dallas. Sharifa's been singing since she was born. Her passion is to serve God's kingdom by leading His people in worship through music, speaking and writing, and relationships with people. Her heart is also unity, inspired by John. Sharifa hates exercise but likes Chipotle, bagels with a schmeer and lox, salmon sushi, chicken tikka, curried goat (yeah, it's good) with rice and peas, and chocolate lava cakes. She's been happily married to Jonathan since 2006...and he buys her Chipotle.

2 Comments

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    Sue Bohlin

    Goosebumps

    This gives me goosebumps. Or maybe "God-bumps." Way to show God's gift of discernment, Sharifa!

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    SonShine

    Wonder of Wonders

    The name of Jesus to be praised. What power there is in the name of Jesus and the evil spirits knew it. This tale always brings chuckles as well as a reminder that even the evil spirits knew Paul and what he stood for. 

    This made me chuckle:  they weren’t getting past the velvet rope because their name wasn’t on the list. You have a great imagination and keep us reading to the very end. 

    Great post…I found one typo..you can fix it …if you want. (believed that eople listened) 

    Guess I am off to use my "Sceva Meter" which I already had to do once this a.m. Love that analogy

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