NEWS FLASH: God Glorified by Evil Spirit's Victory!
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, â€œI adjure you by the Jesus, whom Paul proclaims.â€ Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, â€œJesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?â€ 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. Acts 19:11-17
The main point of this little story is probably that one must have a direct relationship with Jesus Christ in order to enjoy the benefits won by the power of his name. In fact, Luke is saying this in a rather scary wayâ€”if you claim said benefits without actually having said relationship, you could be in serious trouble.
But what's this about Jesus receiving praise after the success of the demon in resisting exorcism? That seems a bit odd....
What greater victory could an evil spirit claim for the forces of darkness than what happens in this passage? A single demon-inflicted man overpowers seven men who try to cast him out in the name of Jesus! Surely this will strike fear in the hearts of men everywhere, so that the power of demons will be magnified!
But what does the text say? "And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled." Not a word was said about the prowess of the evil spirit, but glory went to Christ instead. Why is this? Is it because the residents of Ephesus saw the name of the Lord Jesus triumph over the evil spirit in a miraculous display of strength? No. Even though the evil spirit won the victory over the seven sons of Sceva, the name of the Lord was extolled. Sure, the Ephesians had seen Paul call on the name of Jesus to exorcise demons, but that's not what Luke records here. Luke records the demon successfully resisting exorcism in the name of Jesus. Yet Christ still gets the glory. Huh??
I think the answer lies with the aforementioned main point of the textâ€”that the power of Jesus' name is only available to those who have relationship with him by faith. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. The flip side of that coin is that Jesus won't defend you if you're not one of his sheep.
Unbeliever, try to invoke his name to ward off evil spirits, and they'll laugh at you and beat you down. The lesson you should learn from this is not that evil spirits are mighty (which is indeed true), but that Jesus isn't messing around when he says that you must know him in order to be saved. He's not just a name to be used like a talismanâ€”he's the Lord of All Things, and when you don't take him seriously, he doesn't play nice.
So the Lord is glorified by the power of evil spiritsâ€”the power that God permits to be exercised in order to display the stark necessity of faith in Christ.