Summary: The difference between miracles and magic is revealed to the seven sons of Sceva and all of Ephesus.
I’ve been asking a question, leading up to this sermon for the past few months, it’s simply this, do you believe in the supernatural. It seems like a strange question to ask of Christians after all we pray to a God we can’t see, we believe in life after death, we believe in miracles, we believe in all of the good things that come from the supernatural realm where God reigns, but do we believe in the bad things because the Bible clearly states that we have an enemy who exists in that unseen, but very real area. Look at our key passage for today, “Acts 19:11-20, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
This passage is a story of the kinds of confrontations that happen when events in the supernatural realm spill over into ours. Look at what was going on here. Verse 11 says that “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” Look at that phrase, “extraordinary miracles” I’ve seen a few miracles in my time and I thought all of them were extraordinary, but Luke says here that these were extraordinary miracles, I think what he is saying is that it wasn’t just a rare occurrence, but that it was happening all the time. Isn’t it good to know that we serve and know the same God? We serve a God who works miracles. Notice I wrote that in the present tense. The same God who empowered Paul and who worked miracles back then, is the same God who walks with us today. Just like He answered Paul’s prayer back then, He can and will answer our prayers today, but we have to pray with faith. Too many times we act like God has somehow changed. We pray if it’s God’s will, as an out clause, just in case the answer is no. We pray for God to work through the doctors, as if that is the only way that He can or will show up. But our God works in the unseen world and He can and does do things that can not be explained any other way. I have seen God heal in ways that shock the doctors, He doesn’t do it often, when He does it’s a miracle and our job is not to ask why or how but to say thank-you. We serve a God who still works miracles, but we need to pray and live as if we believe that.
The reality of our God is what sets us apart from every other belief system, our God is real and He shows up in history. Look at what the definition of a miracle is, miracle: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs. That is the definition of a miracle, it’s when God shows up in our lives.
Evidently when Paul arrived in Ephesus, God was showing up, a lot. It’s not just that Luke tells us that but look at the impact on the people around Paul. This is going to tell us as much about them as it does about God. It says that people wanted his handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him. God’s power was manifested so powerfully in Paul that people wanted things that had touched him. Understand that these would be the pieces of cloth that he either wore around his head as a sweatband or that he would tie around his waist to hold his clothes together when working. They were scrapes of clothe that normally would be discarded but since they had touched Paul they were now considered valuable, because people wanted to have access to the power that he had. They thought if they could just have the clothes that had touched him then maybe the miracle working power would come with them. They thought the power was in the scrapes, that somehow it was coming out of Paul, but the power was from God, it’s not because of what he was wearing but because of who he knew.