In Paul’s proclamation of the gospel at Ephesus, the Spirit of God moved in power. As Paul preached, God moved in a miraculous way and enabled him to perform miracles. I haven’t heard too many sermons on Acts 19:11-12 but this ‘powerful’ demonstration had widespread impact.
Genuine faith has its counterfeit counterparts. When Moses performed miracles in Egypt, the magicians of the country mimicked these encounters. Pharaoh’s heart hardened, probably assuming, “if my gods’ powers can alter nature, why should I submit to Yahweh?” In Acts 8 as Philip performed many miracles, Simon (the Sorcerer) made a profession of faith, was baptized but then betrayed his heart’s true condition by offering funds to Peter and John to gain their ‘power.’
Here in Acts 19 some Jews tried to imitate Paul and access the dynamic power of the Spirit. As they invoked authority over the demonic, an evil spirit called their bluff. “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”
Talk about being called out! The demons knew Jesus and had encountered His sovereign power throughout His gospel ministry. Now they were encountering Paul, one of Christ’s appointed leaders, as he became an instrument in the hands of God. But who were these ‘false leaders,’ these Jewish workers who were trying to add the power of the Holy Spirit to their roster of abilities?
I recall a preacher years ago dealing with this text in a sermon entitled, “Known in Hell!” He queried us as listeners on that occasion as to whether or not we were known by the demonic powers because of our engagement in spiritual warfare. So how would you answer that question? Are you engaged in spiritual warfare? Have you ‘taken any ground’ in the name of Christ as you have boldly proclaimed the message of salvation?
So what did these ‘presumptive power’ users gain in their quest for new spiritual energy? The man controlled by this evil spirit manifested power and physically trounced them. As they ran out of the house naked and bleeding the news of this encounter spread. How did it advance the gospel? Luke, historical author of this early volume of early church history declares, “the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour. Many Christ followers were convicted into confession. Their dabbling into the world of evil was never justified, but this encounter had embedded the ‘fear of God’ into their hearts.
I wonder what lasting impact this encounter had on the church at Ephesus. It should come as no surprise to us that Paul writes Ephesians 6:10-20 – “…Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…..”