Miracles vs Magic
God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled. A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.
The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honoured. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.Acts 19:11-20
As I promised you we will now turn our attention to Acts 19:11-20 – Miracles vs Magic. Don’t you think it is interesting that this passage is prefaced by verses 9 and 10?
Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia— both Jews and Greeks—heard the word of the Lord.Acts 19:9-10
As my Greek professor used to say – nothing is a throw-away verse in the Word of God. It is all important.
Curious isn’t it that Paul should be having such an effect when he stays in one place for two years and ministers to both Jews and Greeks. Ephesus was strategically placed for the Word of God to spread. Not only geographically but also in terms of the cultural centre that it was. Given the nature of Greek culture and their desire to discuss everything intellectual, Paul’s move to the lecture hall of Tyrannus was also strategic. But of course, the city was filled with all kinds of cults and isms and everything in between. Luke’s remarkable statement that people heard the Word of the LORD all over the province of Asia indicates how strategic the move was. But all that success now leads into the passage that is before us today. Now the opposition reacts and seeks to discredit all that Paul was doing. Made easy when the city of Ephesus and its surrounding region was so steeped in idol worship and idolatry and so open to the magic of the evil world.
This should not surprise us. It has happened to you before has it not? Think back to your decision to be baptized. Didn’t you find opposition arose as a result of that decision. If it didn’t, the opposition would have come after your baptism. Certainly over the intervening years since God called us into work with Wycliffe June 8th 1981 and sealed the deal in the months that followed, we would often feel as though we were clinging to a swinging pendulum between moves of God and moves from the opposition. That friends is life. Nothing is to be taken for granted. God allows the opposition to test the depth of your commitment. It has been my experience in all our years with Wycliffe that you certainly know when you are doing right for the Kingdom of God. My best contributions to the cause of Christ and Bible translation have always met with concerted and concentrated opposition. Moving into the Rongkong area any positive response was always met by spiritual opposition. Losing our visas and having to leave were tumultuous years. Returning to New Zealand and picking up the Director’s role, creating God’s Awesome Book, the Effective Senders Seminar, and the Effective Prayers Seminar (in particular; I wonder why), Gems, Nuggets and now Deeper Bible predictably stirs up the opposition. When you step out and participate in God’s plan for your life expect resistance. But also learn to push through the obstacles and opposition in order to realize the full potential of what God has called you to do.
This passage before us is just another example of the opposition that comes when God’s people step out in faith. That is the way Luke has written the Book of Acts. There is a battle going on; opposition always arises after great gains for the kingdom. Many times it arises from within the body of Christ; those times hurt the most. We expect opposition from the enemy of our souls (or we should do). It should come as no surprise. But when it comes from those who are believers it takes an added measure of grace and backbone. In this current passage before us the opposition comes from a predictable source. This has all the signs of a classic power encounter.
Take the time to read it through a number of times in different translations and do you own pondering. Write down your questions; send them to me if you wish. Let’s pay careful attention to all that Luke has written for our benefit about these events in Ephesus. There is help and encouragement in this for those of us living in the 21st Century.
Look at the detail but look at the big picture view as well – micro and macro as I teach people in Deeper Bible.
Send your questions to me as they arise.
They tried to bury us but they didn’t know we were seeds.Mexican Proverb
If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.John Irving
The church that will change your life is the one that challenges you to grow rather than affirms you as you are!Ian Vail
Life must be enjoyed under IMPERFECT circumstances. Things will NEVER settle down until they pack dirt over your coffin!Rick Godwin
The unwillingness to try is worse than any failure.Ian Vail
Don’t cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress over the future, it hasn’t arrived. Live in the present and make the most of every day.Nicky Gumbel
The church needs to get back to more show and tell; not just tell.Bill Johnson