In preaching this series I have had to make some decisions regarding sometimes skipping chapters and different events. I skipped chapter 18 altogether because most of its lessons are much of what we have already seen. From the time Paul is on Mars Hill to this episode in Ephesus actually would show that Paul ended his second missionary journey and was now on his third. In this particular time of his ministry he is seeing a lot of miracles in his life even to the point of people taking clothes from him and people are being healed.
There are always the questions that do our existence. What do you want? Where Are You? Why? In this case, the passage has a very important question: Who are you? What makes this question significant in this case is that it does not come from someone we would expect. Paul is not preaching and they are not quoting Jesus. The question comes from a demon possessed man. It is a question leveled at the seven sons of Sceva from a demon. It was a question of recognition.. The demon knew who Jesus was and he knew who Paul was but he had no clue who they were. It was like he was saying: “In my masters kingdom we have a top ten most wanted and on that list Jesus is number one and Paul is near the top, but guys you are not even mentioned in our kingdom at all.” The demon was saying that he didn’t even know they were a threat and then demonstrates how little he is concerned about them by beating them up and stripping them naked.
In Jesus teaching and life we see him warn us about this form the other direction. The sermon on them mount tells us that people would cast out demons but Christ would not know them. It seems that in the spiritual realm who knows you is important. For eternal life, it takes Jesus knowing you and to be effective for the kingdom of God, the forces of hell should know you. The question then comes in light of all this – Who Are YOU!
It is not an easy question to answer. Some people think the label Christian is enough. They wear it proudly as they fail to show any real love for God, love for neighbor or any concern for moving the gospel of Jesus Christ forward. Sorry, you can call yourself something but if you don’t show the character of God working in your life and the effort to have devotion to be obedient to God by actual obedience I think the label does not fit. As my middle child once said: “It takes more to be a Christian than a t-shirt.”
I know others who are guilty of the same thing the sons of Sceva did. Using Jesus’ name like a magic word which it is not. They had no respect for the authority it invokes when you do that. You have to be under Christ’s authority to call on it. Other’s just start shouting verses of Scripture at the Devil. I remind people who the devil himself quoted Scripture to Jesus when he tempted him. Sorry this is not magic, it is about relationship that builds character. It is about understanding that the only two things that make life worth living are fearing God and being obedient to him. It is not about magic tricks to help you control your personal circumstances.
In the end others, learned this lesson and burned their books of witchcraft. The value was about 5000 days wages at that time. Those that watched the Sons of Sceva fail also heard the real power of the name of Jesus and those that genuinely serve him. In the end they realized what they were doing was no better than what the sons of Sceva were doing and they gave it up. For us these many years later, the question still remains. How would you react if the enemy asked: “Who are you?”