Luke tells us in Acts 19:14, “Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this”, that is exorcising demons in Jesus’ name, without actually following Him (v13).
Verse 15: “But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?’” This is kind of funny. Is that okay? I hope so. This is quite the response from this demon to these impostors. The ESV translates these Greek words kind of backwards. It should be, “Yeah, I’ve heard of Jesus. And I’m well-acquainted with Paul. But who are you?” They were name-dropping Jesus and Paul, but they had no true authority. They weren’t truly servants of Jesus Christ.
Verses 16-17 tells us, “And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.” In this case, it was the will of God that the name of Christ coming from the mouths of unbelievers would not drive out this particular demon. And the end result was that the name of Jesus was glorified. The Lord didn’t allow the gospel of Jesus to be diluted by these false professors. It was now clear that there was something special about the message Paul brought.
Verses 18-19: “Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all.” Look at the immediate change in the lives of these converts. They took what they now knew God hates, and they publicly destroyed it. And there’s more to this:
Luke informs us in verse 19 that “they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.” Commentaries vary on how much this is worth today, but it’s thousands of dollars. Thousands of dollars in books burned for the glory of Christ. They could’ve sold their books and kept the money, but they didn’t want anybody to have these demonic tools.
This is the kind of discipleship that the Christian is called to. What have you been pleased to sacrifice for the name of Christ? Some have had to quit their jobs. Some have lost lifelong relationships. But those who have been redeemed by the Savior and know Him deeply “count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8).