Fifty Days of Prayer | Day 34

PRAYING FOR CHURCH PLANTING THROUGH THE BOOK OF ACTS

Luke intentionally shows parallels between the ministries of Peter and John and that of Paul. It helps to underscore the continuity of the apostles and their message. In Acts 8 Philip brought the gospel to the Samaritans. In Acts 19 Apollos had previously preached in Ephesus. Following Philip's ministry Peter and John came to find the disciples without the Holy Spirit. They lay hands on them and they receive the Spirit. Paul's experience in 19:1-10 was the same. As a result, Peter and John gain the attention of Simon the magician. Paul's ministry encourages a group of itinerant Jewish exorcists to attempt to use Jesus' name. Because of their attempt to use Jesus' name (like a magical spell) they experience no authority over the demon. The possessed man "mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded" (19:16).

Word of this encounter would spread "And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled" (19:17). Also, as it turns out, there were many believers in the city who still had not renounced their former magic practices. This confronted their sin and moved man of those "who had practiced magic arts [to bring] their books together and [burn] them in the sight of all" (19:19). The Lord used this improper use of Jesus' name to purify the church. The gospel is powerful but not in the way that magic is powerful. Jesus' name is not a spell to be invoked but a message to proclaim. So we pray for spiritual encounters that glorify the name of Christ by purifying those who follow Jesus.

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
— Acts 19:11-20