Beware of Formulas
Today I wish I had the first century gift of apostles like Peter and Paul. A friend is in surgery this morning removing cancer so that it doesn’t spread any further, and two others will be having surgery soon. I wish I could just give them a handkerchief or sweatband, like the Apostle Paul did in Ephesus, and they would be instantaneously healed.
Now I’ve heard those who claim to be apostles like Peter and Paul today, but before we put ourselves under their authority or give them our money in exchange for a piece of their clothing, we need to let the Holy Spirit teach us about the difference between the Apostle Paul’s authentic apostolic signs and wonders and the formulaic trick the sons of Sceva attempted.
“Now God was doing not the usual mighty divine acts through Paul’s hands. He was doing extraordinary miracles, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons when carried away from Paul’s skin to the sick, the diseases left them and evil spirits came out.
Now when some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those having evil spirits saying, ‘I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches’ (There were seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva doing this), the evil spirit responded, ‘Jesus, I know, and Paul I’m acquainted with, but who are you?’ And the possessed man leaped on them, dominated and overpowered them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. This became known to all those living in Ephesus, both Jews and Gentiles; and fear fell upon them all; and the Name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.” Acts 19:11-17
When we track Luke’s narrative, we discover that he is placing the unique apostolic power of Paul on the same level as Peter’s (cf. Acts 5:15), and both men’s power reflects the power of Jesus during His earthly ministry (Lk. 4:40-41). As Luke paints the picture of Paul’s healing power at this time in Ephesus he stresses that something highly unusual is going on. Not even Peter or Paul could always heal like this, and when Luke shows the failure of the seven sons of Sceva, he challenges us to totally reject the rituals, spells, names, and formulas used by those practicing the dark arts.
For Paul the Name of Jesus is not some secret code that if he says it just right gives him power. The Apostle has a personal relationship with Jesus and the miracles and exorcisms are successful because God sovereignly and freely chooses in this idolatrous city to reveal His power—a power far greater than the goddess Artemis. Notice also that no money is exchanged.
LORD, I do pray for all three of my friends again today and ask that you will touch their bodies with your power and grace and destroy this cancer. Thank you that though I don’t have Peter and Paul’s apostolic gifts, like all your children I can ask you for glimpses of your Kingdom where your healing power touches the bodies of my friends.
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