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
The questions before us: I will work my way through them one by one. I am not sure how long it will take.
How could the Word of the Lord spread all over the province when Paul stayed in Ephesus for all that time?
Yes that may seem a little odd that despite Paul staying on in Ephesus for over two years the Word of the Lord spread all over the province. How can that be? Well remember Luke has already made it clear to us that while he has focused on Peter and Paul as the key apostles spreading the Word, others were involved too. And remember too that the Book of Acts is premised on Acts 1:8 – You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem AND Judea AND Samaria AND to the outer most parts of the earth.
Furthermore, take note of the location of Ephesus. It is well positioned as a communication hub between Asia Minor and Europe. As result of its location and the Greek culture of the time, it was most likely to have been a nest for new ideas and teaching and then a springboard for those same ideas to be taken beyond its city limits to the hinterland around it. Given the delight of the Greeks to discuss religion and philosophy and the Jewish links with Jerusalem, Paul’s teaching would potentially spread all over the Roman world as well. Especially throughout the Province of Asia where it was located.
Did God only do miracles through Paul and not the other disciples?
See my note above. The notion of us all being witnesses is inherent in Luke’s writings. Luke is merely using Peter and Paul as examples of what all the disciples were doing. Add to that Jesus statement: “Greater things will you do than these because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) The spread and the impact of the Gospel is based on this.
The idea of articles of clothing that had touched Paul’s skin somehow seems talisman-ish to me. It opens up a window on Christian ministry that seems flakey. Please comment.
Yes I must admit that I have felt this idea to be a little strange in the past. But Luke did write these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So let’s start from that position. This event is recorded in the Bible. So as someone has questioned below – did this really happen or is it just legend? Because Luke wrote it, having thoroughly researched the events that happened, I would come down on the side of saying yes it really happened. Now one could argue perhaps it is just coincidence. Well that is true but it has been written as inspired by the Holy Spirit. So let’s for the moment assume it happened and God was behind it.
Then we must ask is what Luke wrote meant to be descriptive or prescriptive? Descriptive in the sense that Luke is describing (or telling) simply what happened. Prescriptive in the sense this is an example for us to follow, meant to be something we should put into practice too. Be careful! Anything that we do is not something we do in our own strength. We can only “do” miracles because we are connected to Jesus, the Vine. Jesus gave us the pattern: He only did that which the Father told him. As I have told you before, I love the story of Elisha who goes into the Shunamite’s dead son’s room and LIES ON THE BODY. Did Elisha come up with that idea? I don’t think so. Jewish law said, “don’t touch a dead body”. If you did you would make yourself unclean and nullify any power you thought you might have had. No! Note the source. Elisha prayed first and then lay down on the boy. (2 Kings 4:33) We have to assume Elisha was told to do that by God after he prayed. Similarly we are to assume the idea of taking handkerchiefs and other things that had Paul had touched initially came from God.
But hang on a moment. To then take such a practice and make it normative is not wise. Then it becomes talisman-ish as the question suggested. Meaning we take the object or the practice and make it prescriptive. Not wise. The power is in God not the object. If it were otherwise we would have the First Church of the Lying Down (which I coined in another Gem). It is the same principle which ultimately led to the loss of the Ark of the Covenant to the Philistines when the Israelites treated the Ark has magic – having the power in and of itself. Be careful if you start thinking that way. You are headed for a fall. It is always and forever God’s power which heals, not you nor anything you are holding. You can read the story in 1 Samuel chapters 4 to 7.
Is it true that evil spirits can come out as result of the use of things touched by an apostle?
Can that happen at the hands of modern day prophets and ministers of the Word and not just those considered Apostles?
Given the truth of the priesthood of all believers, the answer has to be yes. We are all to be carriers of the Holy Spirit. He is within you if you are a true Christ-follower or a child of God. That is the point of the Book of Acts. The work of the Holy Spirit is not finished. He lives on in those He inhabits. You are to be His witnesses not just by what you say but also by what you do. Take Christ to a needy world with His power. We Christians need to show and tell, not just tell.
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power.1 Corinthians 2:4
Are there Apostles today and who are they?
The word “apostle” just simply means “a sent one”. One sent on a mission by God or given a mandate or authority by God. I would say that missionaries are certainly sent ones in the true sense of the word. But the same applies to anyone who has been appointed by God and given His mandate to minister His Presence. Thus it logically must apply to those who have been given one of the ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11-12. If God has given the gift of the ministry of any one of those giftings – apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher – then it stands to reason that it comes with God’s power to enable them to do the work. Including His supernatural power or enabling. Ultimately God has given to us all, all His authority to go and make disciples of all nations (ethnē – people groups). So if you are longing to be an apostle and hankering after authority, wait n God for the power first and then go and disciple the nations.
Do you think Brian Tamaki is an apostle? What sort of bishop is he?
No I don’t think Brian Tamaki is an apostle or a bishop in the way in which it is used in the New Testament. Nor is he even a teacher of God’s truth given the things he teaches and says. He is not speaking for God. What sort of bishop is he? A self-appointed one.
I think that is a good point to leave these questions for today. We will continue with your questions in the next Gem.
When we proclaim ourselves “victims”, it is a handy way to avoid taking responsibility for our actions.A R Bernard
The Church needs to get back to me show and tell, not just tell.Bill Johnson
When we proclaim ourselves “bishop” that does not make us one nor enable or empower us to speak for God.Ian Vail
There is nothing noble in being superior to some person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.Ernest Hemingway
To lead from the heart is courageous. To lead from the ego is dangerous!Rick Godwin
You can hate anyone you want, but you can’t blame it on God!Ian Vail