Ephesus was experiencing revival. In fact, Paul's divine call to that city resulted in the greatest example of a supernatural revival in the Bible. Nowhere else is it recorded that "God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them" (Acts 19:11, 12).
The city of Ephesus was sexual, sensual city devoted to the worship of Diana, the goddess of fertility. Her worship was nothing more than an orgy. Small statues, actually idols, were sold in her honor. The city was taken with sexual immorality and idolatry.
Wherever you find these two sins, you will also find a multitude of demons. And wherever you find demons, you will find those who promise to cast them out...for a good sum of money. In Ephesus, the most famous of those who promised deliverance were seven brothers called "the seven sons of Sceva," described in Acts 19:13-17.
"Then some of the itinerant (vagabond)Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.
And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”
Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified."
The sons of Sceva are described two ways in this story: "vagabond Jews" and "exorcists." They were called "vagabonds" because they moved from city to city in Asia. Much like wandering gypsies, they traveled to anywhere there were demon-possessed people. It is interesting that they were also Jews. There father, Sceva, was a chief priest as well as an exorcist, and he had instructed his seven sons in his skills.
But what were these seven sons doing in Ephesus, so far away from Jerusalem? Apparently their father worked the territory of Jerusalem and didn't need competition from his sons, so they had taken their craft to a region full of demons. It seems they were making a lot of money until a man named Paul came to the city and began healing the sick and casting out devils.
What is an Exorcist?
The Bible also describes these men as "exorcists." This is the only time the word is found in Scripture. Our English word is taken directly from the Greek word "exorkistes." The definitions is "one who expels devils by magic formulas and incantations." In other words, it is someone who casts out devils by the power of Satan himself.
Jesus is never once called an exorcist, although in Jerusalem He was accused casting out devils by the power of Satan. His accuser must have been familiar with the exorcists who cast out devils by Satan's power. Jesus answered the charge by saying, "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?" (Luke 11:19). Jesus might have been talking to Sceva himself!
I have visited missionaries in a country that had witch doctors who were known as powerful exorcists. In a counterfeit of God's true deliverance ministry, these men used witchcraft and sorcery to remove demons and were seemingly successful. They charged large sums of money to cure people; demonic cases were brought in from all over the world, including the United States. The missionaries told me that in such cases, the demons never left, but only turned loose of the person temporarily. Eventually, the demons always took control again.
With all that repeat business, the seven sons of Sceva must have been making a lot of money! (Unfortunately, according to my missionary friends, every time the demons resumed control, the end result was worse. A person could only be "cured" by an exorcist two or three times before they died.)
A Formula They Had Never Used
Things changed for the seven brothers the day a man came to town preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not have to travel to the homes of the demon possessed. He only had to pray over handkerchiefs and aprons and the people at his meetings would take them to the sick and possessed. The sicknesses would leave and the demons would be driven out. the sicknesses did not return and neither did the demons.
Even worse for the seven brothers, this man did not charge anything. The sons of Sceva were losing their market share. No one was calling them for help, and they were running out of money. They had to find out what made Paul so powerful.
Perhaps they visited Paul's meetings. Maybe they talked with those who attended. Some way, they found out Paul used the name of a man: the name of Jesus. They were excited to have discovered this new and more powerful formula. They figured, "If Paul's formula is that powerful, why not mix his formula with ours?" Soon they would have their business back and Paul would have to leave town.
They found a man who had an evil spirit and tried to use their own formula plus the name of Jesus. They said to the demon, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." They tried to mix the name of Jesus with witchcraft. Something had to give. That is a powerful name for a follower of Satan to use!
An Answer They Never Expected
I'm sure the seven brothers were not prepared for what happened next. I wonder if a demon had ever talked back to them before. Well, this one did! The demon had never heard one of his own use the name of Jesus. This demon was probably as surprised to hear the name of Jesus as the seven sons were to hear the name of Jesus as the seven sons were to hear the demon talk to them. The demon's words were very interesting: "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?
What a shocking response! The demon knew Jesus and Paul. That's understandable. But the demon didn't know the seven sons of Sceva. That is amazing! These men worked for Satan and Satan didn't know them. Think about that: Satan knows his enemies, but he doesn't know his own workers. Satan has a hate list, but he does not have a love list.
To Be Known in the Spirit Realm
Jesus also said something about Satan's own, who try to cast out devils in His name. "Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’" (Matthew 7:22, 23). Jesus does not know sinners either. God only has a love list; He does not have a hate list. A sinner is not known in either world! What a chilling thought.
There is only one way to be known in Satan's world and God's world: be born again. Once you become a child of God, you are known in heaven and hell. You are on Satan's hate list and God's love list. Your name is written in the Book of Life. Your name is known in heaven along with the name of the Firstborn, Jesus. You are also known in hell along with the same name, Jesus. The demon said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know."
Be Sure Your Sin Will Find You Out
Oh, the power of one demon! Before the seven sons could reach the front door of the house, the demon jumped on them, tore all their clothes off, and wounded them. Seven men ran from the house naked and wounded being chased by one demon-possessed man. It must have made the papers the next day, because we are told: "This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds....
So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed" (Acts 19:17, 18, 20)
The One Name
Instead of Satan hindering the revival, he actually helped it! Great reverence fell on the people of Ephesus and the name of Jesus was magnified even more. The people who practiced witchcraft brought their books on sorcery into the streets and burned them in front of everyone. The revival continued and God's word prevailed.
Oh, the power of the name of Jesus! Cursing turned into blessing!