What is the point of the many miracles in the Scripture? What is the design of the Lord in the recording of so many, throughout biblical history? OK – perhaps that’s too big a subject for one 800 word blog post, so let’s limit our questions to this account in Acts 19:11-20.
Now 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. (Vs. 11-12)
My first observation is the word ‘unusual.’ This really is a dramatic statement. By definition miracles are not ordinary. They are extraordinary and unusual acts of God. God suspends the natural laws, and we see a miracle. Yet Luke tells us that these miracles were unusual. This is a significant emphasis.
But also note the source of these miracles. Though Luke tells us that they were by the hands of Paul, he earlier says that “God worked.” So it was Paul who was the means of God’s work in these highly unusual miracles.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2:10)
This tells us that when made a believer in Christ, God has work for us to do – His work – but we are to do it. No one else is appointed to these good works but whom God intended.
From where did this authority come?
So when the 7 sons of Sceva tried to do Paul’s works – it was the relationship to God which mattered. The demons knew who Paul was, by virtue of his appointed effectual works. And all demons know of the living God, and tremble (James 2:19).
This is reminiscent of Simon the Sorcerer (Acts 8:9-24) who thought it was all a matter of money. In Christ’s upper room discourse we read a bit of the relationship our Lord has with his children, and some of the benefits.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
These charlatans thought that they could call out Paul and Jesus’ names like some magic spell and that they would be all the more powerful.
How often do we claim authority which we have not received? Do we ever think we have permission to act apart from Christ and his specific instruction?
The grace of God abounds to his children.
Beloved, our Lord is not evil in any way. He is merciful to all, and with his children he shows himself especially gracious (1 Tim. 4:10) – but let us never presume upon our Lord because he is slow to become angry.
We should with great reverence hold our Lord’s name. “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” Actually what they did was to break the 3rd commandment in taking the name of the Lord in vain. Sometimes God punishes such infractions by the means of another, such as this demon.
Interesting how God uses a demon prevailing over these 7 vagabond priests to bring men and women to repentance. And just why did this demon prevail? It did so because the only one to whom the demon must obey is God, and those whom He designates. And God is not compelled by any to do anything.
Mercy abounds in the hand of the Lord – no doubt some of those punished like this were among those who got their magic books and burned them. When God is exalted like this (Acts 19:18-19), we see that men confess their sin and repent even to the point of financial hurt.
So what it the conclusion of the matter?
The unusual miracles God was doing at Paul’s hands, to what purpose were they? All for the great glory of God. In every way let us be careful to not only esteem his name and person, but even to extol him to the highest position before all people, nations and languages! (Dan. 4:1-37)