Incantation Is Not Faith and Godliness
Having arrived in Ephesus, Paul made his way to the synagogue where he promised to return so many months prior. We are told that he preached in the synagogue for three months, which was much longer than he was generally allowed to preach in other synagogues, which speaks well of the Ephesian Jews. And Paul was “reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” This is a significant statement. We recall that usually Luke writes that Paul sought to persuade the people, Jews and Gentiles alike, that Jesus was the Christ, but here he persuades them about matters concerning the kingdom of God. Is it not obvious then that the two are the same, that to preach the kingdom of God is to preach that Jesus is the Christ which is to preach the kingdom of God? The kingdom is Christ’s kingdom and he is the king, and he is the king because he is the Messiah, God’s anointed One, sent to redeem and save his people. And not only is he king but also lawgiver and judge, or as we usually say, prophet, priest, and king. There is no kingdom without Christ, and Christ shall never be without his kingdom. And then we read that, as usual, some Jews resented Paul’s teaching so that he leaves the synagogue and, this time, sets up his own lecture series in the “hall of Tyrannus” where he continued for two years. All total, Paul spent more time in Ephesus than elsewhere such that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks,” understanding that “Asia” means “Asia Minor.”
We then have the amusing story of seven Jewish exorcists who thought to use the name of Jesus as a kind of incantation to ward off evil spirits; after all, it worked for Paul. But when they sought to cast a demon out of some poor man, the demon responded, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” Thereupon the man whom the demon possessed leaped on them and so routed these seven men that they fled the house naked and wounded – and most assuredly humiliated.
But the name of Jesus is not a magic spell one uses, even for good. Yes, “there is power in the name,” but only for those who believe in that name and carry that name in all sincerity and faithfulness, in holiness and godliness. And even if a handkerchief of Paul could heal someone, it wasn’t because it belonged to Paul, or because the handkerchief was magic; it was because of the One whom Paul worshiped, adored, and gave his life to serve. “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you,” the demon said. May we live such lives for Jesus that even demons know our names.