Acts 19:11 -16
Today there is major abuse of the accounts of miracles in Acts of the Apostles. Some opportunists send out TV programs, healing cloths, glossy brochures that feature pictures of an “evangelist” praying over a pile of letters or in some beautiful spot, or using an appealing picture. They will send you “blessed or anointed handkerchiefs” they have prayed over or that have been dipped in the Jordan River. But they ask you for your money gift in return. Do you see this in scripture? No! Paul was not selling handkerchiefs or aprons. They were “borrowing” them and applying them to the sick. And God at this special time in Church history, being patient and full of grace, met these people at their own level with genuine miracles. Luke mentions in verse 10 that everyone in Asia (the area around modern Turkey ) “heard the word of the Lord.” The gospel was advancing and miracles were evident. Some were direct through the apostles and some indirect thorough handkerchiefs, garment and even Peter’s shadow.
MIRACLES AND EXORCISMS TODAY?
The Bible records many miracles in both the Old and New Testament. Moses. Elijah, Elisha were used to bring miracles in the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus, Stephen, Philip, Peter, Paul healed the sick and cast out demons. Church history records the healings that occurred through the Church that is God’s people. But it also records the extreme fanaticism that caused so much damage to the Church and the cause of Christ.
The modern “healing and miracle” movement, or “signs and wonders,” has had some fanaticism and false doctrine. The Charismatic movement has produced some fine Christian people but on the other hand it has produced a “Charismania” making people and churches gift centered, causing movements to be built around the gifts and resulting in many weird people and doctrines. They focus on gifts and not the Giver. This has lead to many extreme situations, caused the death of some, confused others, split families, friends and Churches. Some have suffered disgraceful abuse in the hands of such people. But making allowance for heresies and fanaticism, which we do not endorse, it is still true that God sometimes miraculously intervenes to heal the sick. It was certainly not God’s will for people to be sick, sickness is a result of the Fall of Adam. God included it in His plan. Christians get sick and die just like any other people. And doctors and medicines are not wrong. Some have had life long illnesses because of the Fall. God does heal people today, He uses human means. We hear of many miracles today. Many godly leaders had given testimony or written in a positive way of God’s miraculous healings today. Men like John Wesley, Hudson Taylor, A. B. Simpson, A. J. Gordon, Dr. Raymond Edman of Wheaton , Jonathan Goforth, a Presbyterian minister, Dr. W. B. Riley Baptist Pastor. Merrill F. Unger, Pastor Hsi, of the China Inland Mission, and numerous others can have testified how people were delivered from demon possession. In my own ministry over the years I (some times accompanied by the elders of our church) have prayed for the sick and they were healed. I have also been involved in seeing a number of people delivered from demons and get saved. Some have even been healed when the Holy Spirit came to indwell them at salvation and a demon that caused illness has had to leave. However, I would not call myself a healer or exorcist or have I any special gift. I don’t know why God heals some people and not others. I must be honest here and keep my integrity. I have not seen nor do I know of any one who can heal at will or cast out demons as swiftly as Christ and the apostles. At the same time I am aware that there are diversities of gifts by the Holy Spirit named in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. I do believe that God can give miracles, when He chooses, how He chooses and where He chooses to do so and He may or may not use a believer in the process. The problem we encounter is how often He does them. On missionary had experienced a certain gift once. He went to Dr. M. L. Jones many years later concerned because he had only used the gift once. The old doctor said, “Who said how often we should use them.”
The signs and wonders movement has turned out to be the signs and blunders movement. The false claims have caused much embarrassment to the church. Many have left the faith because of false claims of healings and miracles. Books have been written for and against miracles. Research into faith healers, miracle workers and healers has exposed their lies and false claims. However that does not mean God does not heal today or perform miracles today. I do not believe anyone can heal at will today as Christ and the apostles did. But there are many examples of God hearing the prayers of his saints to heal people and He has healed. Pastors and elders have been called upon to pray for the sick and God has healed. This is divine healing not faith healing. In faith healing if a person does not receive healing they are told they did not have enough faith. This can cause psychological and spiritual damage. We should pray for the sick and ask God to intervene in situations but we must trust him to do so and not make false claims.
Vs11 “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and evil spirits went out of them.” These unusual miracles proved that Paul was God’s messenger. These special miracles were unusual not of an ordinary kind. There are different words used in the Greek for miracles. Here the word is “dunamis” from which we get our word dynamite. It means “an act of power”. God wrought special powers by the hands of Paul. He was exercising his gift of apostleship.
Remember Ephesus was a great religious center and full of all types of religious demons. The great goddess Diana was there, and he worship connected with it was satanic to its roots. Now in order to meet that kind of opposition God granted to Paul special powers.
The handkerchiefs and aprons were actually sweat cloths. Paul had used them at work as a tentmaker in the warm climate. While he was working he was perspiring. He would use these cloths, these handkerchiefs and aprons, to wipe his brow. They were actually dirty. They had perspiration form his body on them. People would come and pick up these dirty cloths and would be healed of their diseases. In that area the mystery religions used white garments and emphasized that they must be clean and white. God was rebuking the heathen for their demonic beliefs and used dirty, sweaty cloths to heal people.
This special power was granted to Paul. This is the only instance of such an occurrence we read about. It is wrong for preachers and religions today to send out cloths or handkerchiefs and claim they have special powers. Paul was not selling his handkerchiefs or aprons. Modern healers make money form peoples misfortunes and illness. Avoid such things, such people or religions. Paul worked hard making tents not taking people money form them because they were healed by him or his cloths.
Diseases were healed and demons evil spirits went out of them when they picked up these sweaty, dirty cloths of Paul.
JEWISH EXORCISTS AND THE SEVEN SONS OF SCEVA
Exorcism was a common trade, and the best exorcists were thought to know the names of the most powerful spirits. We see this being mimicked in the “signs and wonders” movement today. They some claim to e able to tell you the name of your guardian angel or the name of a demon over a city, a place or in a person. Often this is power lust and “me-ism” they get high on this deception. Simon Magus desired such power and was willing to pay for it. Many people would love some power and for those who desire power or want noticed this mystical way is deceptive. It was commonly believed that the Jewish priests had access to the secret name of the God of Israel and its pronunciation. This was supposed to give them special power over the spirit world. These renegade Jewish exorcists wanted to add the name Jesus to their incantations.
In some Christian circles today they talk a lot about “power encounters” however when you examine their claims and boasts cities have no changed much after they have gone up onto the high places of a city and had a power encounter with demons to cast them out of their city. Actually in the case of my own city on many occasions the situation became worse. The claim of modern Christians to have power over disease and demons is spurious. The demonstration of divine power in Acts was unmistakable.
Vs 13 “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call on the name of the Lord Jesus over these who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches.” These were charlatans. They tried to duplicate the miracles. They were desirous to show they had power over demons.
Vs 14 “Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest, who did so.” Sceva, had assumed the name of chief priest as their was no such high priest on record.
Vs 15 “And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” The evil spirit recognized these exorcists had no authority over him and rejected their attempt to expel him form his victim. Christ and the apostles had the power to cast out demons. In recent years there are many who believe they have cast out demons but this is not so. We need to come to the Lord Jesus and ask Him to cast them out. We do not have that power. When a person becomes a Christian and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in them any demons who had been resident must leave. The Holy Spirit will not dwell in the same body that a demon is in. We never find any believers possessed by demons after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
Vs 16 “Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded.” Their attempt at exorcism backfired. They were full of terror, humiliated and hurt and greatly embarrassed. Confusion reigned among the dark powers, now divided. Jesus said, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25 ). The word and work of God was causing confusion among the enemies of God.
“Vs 17 “This became known both by all Jews and Greeks dwelling inEphesus ; and fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.” The whole city heard and it caused the name of Jesus to be spread through the entire pagan city. Ephesus was shaken by this.
THE LORD JESUS WAS HONOURED IN THE ENEMIES DEFEAT
Today the false healing and exorcisms have brought dishonour upon the lord Jesus. When God does it there is honour given to him and people hear about it and know it is true. We even find a number in our text who practiced sorcery but then became believers.
Vs 18 “And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds.”
Vs 19 “Also, many of these who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value to them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.” The books of secret magic spells were destroyed by burning them. Magic was widespread in Ephesus . This showed true repentance by the magicians who used them. They could not easily resume the practice of their former lives. This is an astonishing amount of money. It was the wages of 50,000 men for one day. In our early ministry we saw some of the new Christians burned their music records, their books of sorcery, put their drugs down the toilet, and the men believed they had let their hair grow long as a sign of rebellion and had it cut off. Do we need to burn some of our books, do we need to get rid of some of our filthy music, do we need to turn of the television more often, and do we need to stop watching certain movies, reading certain magazines?
Vs 20 “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” The Word of God grew in the power of the Spirit. The believers got themselves right with God and He moved in blessing.