God bless you in the exalted name of Jesus Christ, which we have been given the right to use (Mark 16:15-18).
Not everyone has the right to use the name of Jesus Christ. It’s limited to family members (Ephesians 3:14-15), believing family members. Jesus told the twelve in Mark 16:17-18 that certain signs would follow them that believe. One of those signs was that in his name believers would cast out devils. However, “in his name” means more than just saying the words, “in the name of Jesus Christ. It encompasses doing something he has authorized and doing it by his authority in his place.
Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists [exorkistēs], took upon them [epicheireō, to put the hand to or attempt] to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure [horkizō] you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. 14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, [the Greek reads a high priest] which did so.
The first thing it mentions about these wandering or itinerant Jews is that they were “exorcists.” They practiced exorcisms as a profession and went from city to city, pretending with charms and spells to cure those who were thought to be possessed. An exorcist is one who seeks to expel evil spirits or malignant influences by oaths, adjurations, religious incantations and/or solemn ceremonies. However, all the adjuring, imploring, and begging does not cause the evil spirits to leave. Having no real authority over the spirits, these exorcists resorted to their formulas of spells, charms, incantations, and magical names to try to coax evil spirits to cooperate with them.
Acts 19:13 is the only place exorkistēs, the Greek word translated exorcist, is used in the New Testament. The verb form, exorkizō, is only found in Matthew 26:63. It’s a compound word of the preposition “ek” completely out from, and the verb, horkizō, to adjure or put under a strict oath. The preposition intensifies the verb. The use of exorkizō in Matthew 26:62-63 shows how the intensity of the high priest’s indignation of Jesus escalated as he tried to administer an oath to Jesus. The occurrence of both exorkistēs and horkizō in Acts 19:13 emphasizes the diabolical enchantments that were used and were characteristic of these counterfeit healers.
They called themselves exorcists, because they used forms of adjuration, and magical arts. They built a reputation upon these magic arts, by wickedly attributing their practice to Solomon. Josephus says that Solomon composed charms by which diseases were cured, and devils driven out so as never to return; and that these operations continued common among the Jews to his time (Antiquities). Christ seems to refer to this in Matthew 12:24-27 after being accused of it himself. He responds by asking, “And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?” This seems to indicate that the practice of exorcism had been practiced among the Jews for some time. It also tells us that devil spirits of higher rank can exercise some control over those of lower rank in the kingdom of darkness.
Acts 19:14 says Sceva was a Jew and chief of the priests. There is no record that a “chief of the priests” of the Jews ever lived in Ephesus. The Greek texts read “a high priest.” I agree with those scholars who believe this indicates that Sceva was a renegade Jew who had forsaken his Jewish roots and had become involved in the worship of Artemis at Ephesus. Therefore, he was, or had been at some time, a high priest in the worship of Artemis, Diana. He had seven sons and trained them in the practice of exorcism.
In contrast to these seven sons of Sceva, Jesus cast out spirits with the power and authority with which he spoke and healed all manner of sickness and disease (Matthew 8:16). He gave the twelve the power to do the same (Matthew 10:1) and then commanded them to get after it (Matthew 10:8). Casting out evil spirits is not done not by repeating the magic words “in the name of Jesus Christ.” It is done as an official agent or representative of Jesus Christ, in and by the authority he delegated on his brethren who act in his stead.
The casting out of evil spirits is a working of a miracle. Working miracles is not learned by repeating what we have seen others do. Working miracles is accomplished by doing whatever God says with believing. We have been given the power and authority to use the name of Jesus Christ to accomplish God’s will and bring deliverance to God’s people.
These seven sons of Sceva had apparently observed Paul successfully using the name of Jesus to deliver people from devil spirits and thought they would add it to their repertoire of magical incantations. However, they had no right to use the name. They had no personal relationship with Jesus, and no position in the family. (Remember, they were called “Jews” in verse 13 not Gentiles or members of the church of God.) Although they had hoped to use it to expel evil spirits from a certain man in Ephesus, they were not successful and according to Acts 19:15, their attempt was not only futile; it backfired on them. (More on that tomorrow.)
We don’t practice exorcism or any other magical art. We walk in the steps of Jesus Christ and manifest holy spirit to bring God’s Word to pass. So, let’s get busy, and provide deliverance to those who seek it. Why not? We’re God’s best and certainly God blessed.