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Darkness V’s Darkness


Darkness Vs Darkness.

Text:  Acts 19:13-20 

Paul is at Ephesus, and his ministry has been greatly blessed. V11   But in Ephesus, FALSE RELIGION was big business!  To illustrate that, Luke now tells us about the strange incident of the Seven Sons of Sceva.

Darkness V’s Darkness

Darkness Depicted.  V13-14

One of the superstitions that they held was that every sickness was caused by an evil spirit, and the remedy was get that evil spirit out. Professional exorcists had a steady trade, quack therapy for sick people who wanted to get better, and would try anything to be cured. The seven sons of Sceva had an additional unique selling point. The superstitious belief was that these evil spirits had a name, which revealed their characteristics, so the exorcist pretended to have some secret knowledge, – lists of names that were more powerful than the name of that particular type of demon.  When the exorcist intoned the more powerful name, the demon would take fright and depart.  Now, Sceva, the father of these boys, was a Jewish priest,, and among pagans it was thought that Jewish people, and their priests knew the most powerful NAME of all, the name of the Lord God of Israel. These Jews were crafty enough to use it as a way to make a living as exorcists.  They were ‘vagabonds’ in the every sense of the word, although the Greek text suggests that they were ‘wandering Jews, travelling around, selling their superstition; religious snake-oil salesmen of the worst kind.  

At Ephesus they heard of or met Paul, or they learned of his reputation, – and they attributed the miraculous healings to Paul.  (It was God who did them, not Paul! V11). They decided to jump on the bandwagon and try to get a bit of Paul’s success, and charge a fee, by ‘healing people in the Name of Jesus.’    Let’s see how that worked out for them.

Darkness Divided. V14-16

The Bar-Sceva brothers brought their ‘patient’ into a house – and the exorcism began, and in the process of the ‘therapy’ they called upon the evil spirit to leave the man, in the name of the Lord Jesus. took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth… Look at the language here:-

  • The dissembling command. We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth… The brothers commanded the evil spirit to leave in the name of ‘the Lord Jesus who Paul preaches…’. There’s no doubt that they thought Paul was simply one of them, another shyster with a magic name.  They were about to be put right on that account.  
  • The demon’s reply. v15 The evil spirit actually spoke back to them.  It’s an interesting reply.  He said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know’ (AV). In Greek though the word ‘know’ is different in each case. (τον ιησουν γινωσκω και τον παυλον επισταμαι.).  ‘I know’ Jesus is much stronger than the word ‘know’ when applied to Paul. OR,  I know and recognise and acknowledge Jesus, and I know about Paul.  – But who are you?  Their bluff was called by their own dark practices.
  • The dreadful result. 16 The evil spirit attacked them, presumably the poor man who was suffering, and who had come for this treatment, went berserk, and with supernatural strength, he leapt upon the exorcists, physically attacked them, ripped the garments from then, and they fled from the house, wounded and shamed.

The forces of darkness are actually turning on each other.  Think how self-destructive the evil of this world is. It continually devours itself.  

Darkness Defeated. V17-19  

Now, why would Luke include a strange incident like this in the narrative of Acts?  Maybe it’s just the eternal truth that the Light of God always overcomes the darkness of the evil of this world. John 8:12   Let’s see the immediate, and rather paradoxical results of this inter-nicene conflict, and how God used it to let the light shine:-

  • The Gospel was widely publicised.  And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus.  The entire population of Ephesus heard about this strange incident.  It would have been a topic of conversation in all the public areas.  
  • Deep conviction gripped the population. and fear fell on them all, There was a fear that came upon the population.  This was a fear of God that struck the the fear of judgment into their hearts.  This was conviction leading to repentance and conversion and city-wide revival.  It was like the widespread conviction that has accompanied every revival. 
  • Many who were convicted believed and repented. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.  Conviction of sin is never a nice experience.  You are terrified by the prospect of God’s judgment day, of being cast into the Lake of Fire for ever and ever.  Conviction of sin is a massive burden upon the sinner’s back.  But it is necessary for conversion.   2 Corinthians 7:9-11  Of those who were convicted of their sins, many believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and repented of their sins – they were converted!  They publicly testified to the huge changes that had occurred in their lives upon conversion.  
  • They made a complete break!  19 There was no going back for these repentant sinners.  They brought their books of spells and names and publicly burned them. They came with their piles of books and as each one got to the fire they would toss the books on, book after book, – aggressively trowing them into the fire.  Greek word burned (κατέκαιον). = burned them up (κατά). The imperfect is graphic, describing them as throwing book after book on the pyre.  When a sinner is converted, he should be encouraged to burn his bridges. 1 Corinthians 6:11 
  • There was a financial cost.  and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.    The burning of the books, the turning away from sin was a costly business, but turn away we must.
  • The Lord Jesus was glorified in Ephesus.  When souls are saved, the glory goes to God, for it is never the word of man.  V17.  

There’s a kind of parentheses inserted in verse 20, where we read a commentary by Luke upon these events. V20  People started to read and talk about the Bible, the Word of God, and it became the main topic of conversation and debate in the city.  The revival at Ephesus has taken a huge leap forward.  Not everyone will be happy about that.  As I’ve said before – there will be riots!

© Bob McEvoy May 2021

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