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 honored. 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 19:13-20 NLT
Ephesus was one of the largest and most important cities in the world during the birth of Jesus' church. It was a major banking center. It was a place where the East and the West met and where the Eastern mind and religions mingled with the Western. The practices of pagan religions and "dark arts" (demonic practices) were prevalent in Ephesus. When Paul later wrote his letter to the Ephesians, he emphasized that the people who practiced these "dark arts" are not the enemy, but the demonic and satanic power behind them are.* Luke emphasized in this episode of Paul's ministry that reciting the name of Jesus as a magical incantation had no efficacy. What made Paul's ministry powerful (see yesterday's devotional) was his faith and relationship to Jesus, not any magical practices or words that he said. Jesus has all power, but as Lord, he chooses who uses that power!
Father, I believe that Jesus has all power and as Lord chooses how, and through whom, that power is used. Please give your faithful servants today the power to bless and restore what is broken in people's lives. In addition, dear Father, as you did with the sons of Sceva, reveal those who are charlatans who falsely try to use the name of Jesus and thereby bring dishonor to the message of Christ. We need your power and we need leaders of integrity, dear God, because we want to be partners with you in sharing the unstoppable message of Jesus! I pray this in his mighty name. Amen.