After Paul preached the gospel, the disciples of John the Baptist believed,“and when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying” (Acts 19:6). Some would argue that speaking in tongues at the moment in conversion is necessary for true salvation. But it seems that many were saved in the New Testament without this. The thief on the cross, for example. Apollos seems to be another. Oh, and Paul. Just to name a few.
Verses 7 and 8 tells us that “There were about twelve men in all. And he entered the synagogue [in typical Pauline fashion] and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.” It seems that God had been blessing Paul’s labor here, for him to be able to speak for three months about Jesus in a Jewish synagogue without being chased out.
Verse 9: “But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.” Apparently, the Way was what Christianity was known as at the time. Some churches incorporate this in their name today.
So, as Paul normally did, once he faced sharp opposition from the Jews, he would turn to the Gentiles and share the gospel with them.
We see in verse 10 that “this continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” Ephesus was a major city with residents of the other cities in Asia coming in and out. By Paul’s preaching here, God used it to spread the gospel all over Asia.
Luke continues in verses 11-12, “And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and 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.” As always, these signs were used to validate the word of God that Paul was preaching.
We read in verse 13, “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.’” These unbelieving Jews had at least acknowledged the power of Jesus’s name over demons, but they didn’t trust in Him for salvation. As we’ll see, this kind of “belief” in Jesus is meaningless.
They may very well have been successful in casting out demons with Jesus’ name in the past. Maybe the name of Christ is so powerful that regardless of the source, demons flee. Or maybe demons would voluntarily leave to deceive exorcists like these into thinking they were on the right path. Jesus said that there would be some who would say, “did we not…cast out demons in your name” (Matthew 7:22). And Jesus would say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:23).
There are many today who use the name of Jesus, but in vain. How do we know the difference? A few verses earlier in Matthew 7, Jesus speaking of false prophets said, “You will know them by their fruit”. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but the Holy Spirit indwells a true Christian, and He always bears fruit in his life. No Christian is perfect, but no true Christian is without fruit of the Spirit. Sanctification is a requirement to salvation, which the Spirit Himself fulfills.
It’s not enough to acknowledge the name of Jesus. He demands that we lose our lives for Him to find true life (Luke 9:24).