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The Seven Sons of a Sceva

Updated on April 29, 2018
Acts 19:11-20
Acts 19:11-20 | Source


Have you ever considered the true power of Jesus? I know the “Sunday School” answer, but I have you really thought about it? I have talked to countless people that think their past is too bad to be forgiven, or that they’ve done too much to be of any use to Jesus now. I fell into that group for a long time. I believe all of us have at some point. Have you ever wondered how your bills were going to get paid? Or how you were going to get out of a certain mess you created? Again, I believe we all have, and that is the place that we generally do not understand how big and powerful our God is. We see it clearly once we make it through the difficult time. That is how He grows us in faith. He knows we are weak and untrusting. It is not a good quality, but He is a Good Father and understands. He reveals to us how big He is. He did that in a story in the Book of Acts. It is one of my favorite stories. It is about the Sons of a Sceva. If you don’t know how powerful our Lord is now, I pray after you read this that you will have a better understanding.

Acts 19:11-20

11 God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them, and the evil spirits went out. 13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”14 Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. (NASB).

The Backdrop

The storied event is a small section in the Book of Acts. The setting of this event is the city of Ephesus, which is in what is now the country of Turkey. Paul had been traveling around preaching the Gospel or “The Way” as it was called at that time. Many people were being converted. God was performing many miracles at the hands of Paul by healing the sick and removing evil spirits, as it says in Acts 19:11. Ephesus was a very superstitious city. When they saw these miracles, they were in awe. Paul received great respect, and the people had great reverence for Paul’s God (Jesus). There were numerous gods worshipped in Ephesus, and sorcery was very common and revered. The people had a fear of spiritual beings such as demons and unclean spirits. Now that you have a little backdrop of what was going on during this time, we can continue with the story of how the Holy Spirit was making His presence known.

City of Ephesus

The Power of Jesus Revealed

Acts 19:11 starts off saying, “God was performing extraordinary Miracles by the hands of Paul so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick and the diseases left them, and evil spirits went out,” (NASB). Think about this verse for a moment. God has so much power over these demons and evil spirits that his presence on a handkerchief ran them away. What does that tell you about God? What does that tell you about the evil spirits? They know the truth. They know God’s power and who God truly is. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (NIV). They don't worship him and don't put their faith in him, but they know who He is. They believe, because for handkerchief to be able to run somebody off, you must believe that there's some power behind it. The handkerchief by itself is nothing. The people of Ephesus, the people that worshipped false gods, which are demons pretending to be gods witnessed these miracles. This didn’t happen in front of a group of believers and they all shared their story. This happened in front of people that had no reason to believe it; unless it was real. This happened in front of pagan sorcerers. The result of the miracles through Paul and the beating by the possessed man led the sorcerers of the city to burn their scrolls, which represents them repenting from their old ways and turning to Jesus. These men made a living using those scrolls and they gave them up that day. The scrolls were worth thousands of dollars. They witnessed a Holy Spirit led, life-changing event and they became believers.

On the other side, we see the Marx Brothers of Pharisees enter the scene in Acts 19:13 attempting to mimic Paul. The Seven Sons of a Sceva were seven literal sons of a Jewish chief priest (sceva). It does not mention the age of these sons, but from the reaction of the people regarding the outcome, who their father was, and that they were going place to place exorcising demons we can assume that they were men of adult age. Exorcism was taken seriously, and not considered child’s play. With that said, and an understanding of who these 7 men are, we move on to the painful lesson from God. Acts 19:13 sets the stage and tells us, “But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Acts 19:14 continues, “7 sons of one Sceva a Jewish Chief priests were doing this.” Seven men took on one man with a demon or multiple demons inside him. This is that point in all our lives where God just needs to remind us who we are, and who He is. Acts 19:15 says, “and the evil spirit answered and said to them I recognize Jesus and I know about Paul but who are you?” As a side note, if that doesn't prove spiritual warfare then I don't know what would. God’s word is the truth. God’s word tells us about demons and evil spirits that can possess people. It is important that we understand our enemy exists. The greatest lie ever perpetrated on man was making him believe Satan never existed. If we fail to see the enemy, then we fail to see the perils and dangers that surround us and that will consume us without the protection of God. The enemy we are dealing with is powerful. We must be cautious not to give him too much power while at the same time never underestimating our opponent. We need God to defeat him. We cannot on our own as we see with the seven sons. The demon-possessed man attacks the seven exorcists. Acts 19:16 says, “and the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpower them so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded,” (NASB).

Sons of a Sceva

Depiction of the fight with the possessed man
Depiction of the fight with the possessed man | Source

After Action Review

When I was in the army we always had “after action reviews” (AAR) whether it was in training or after real missions. These were used to determine what went well and what went wrong, and how we can be better the next time. It is hard not to be amused by this even though there’s nothing funny about demons or spiritual warfare. Arrogance will leave a person broken and alone. The arrogance in using the name of Jesus, whom they did not know, to glorify themselves ended disastrously. In summary, seven adult men went into a house to take care of one man and not only did the one man beat up all seven but also took their clothes. The strength of the enemy is real and should not be underestimated. Just like the U.S. underestimated the strength of the Vietnamese or the Soviet underestimation of the strength of the Afghans. These seven men, left to their own accord, had no power against this demon-possessed man. In short, we do not have power over them without the name of Jesus. The name of Jesus is our power, because of the power behind the name. These men went in there on their own and got humiliated. Do you remember the first verse of this passage? It said God was performing extraordinary Miracles at the hand of Paul that a handkerchief or apron were carried from his body to the sick, and diseases left them, and evil spirits went out. This same evil spirit that beat up 7 grown men is the same evil spirit that runs away from a handkerchief that had been blessed by Jesus.

Let us go ahead and squash all these lies that we have been told our entire life that Jesus was weak or that he was this little pacifist guy. You know this image. Hippie Jesus or floating on a cloud Jesus. Do not forget the overly misused quote to turn the other cheek. This “little runt” Jesus is and was as tough as they come. He is the tough guy on the block that doesn't have to prove himself. Just his presence or the thought of him coming around scares off His enemy. His enemy is our enemy. They know Him, and they are afraid of Him. They continually lie to us to make us think that they are not afraid of Him, or that He is not strong enough, or He is not good enough to protect and defend us. We need Jesus because we are not going to win this battle alone. This is a war, hence the reason it is called “spiritual warfare”. Jesus is all that we need. Scripture proves it in Acts chapter 19, and that is one of many examples. Let Jesus be your strength. Let the Holy Spirit guide you, and you will have all the power you need to overcome whatever the world puts against you. Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

Sorcerers Repent

Sorcerers repent by burning their scrolls, and turning to Jesus
Sorcerers repent by burning their scrolls, and turning to Jesus | Source

The All-Powerful Jesus Loves You

When I began Digging into this scripture it really brought to life how powerful our God is. I questioned so many things. I used the word “how” more than I can remember. The question isn’t “how”; it is “why”. Why not put all your eggs in one basket? Why not have the confidence that the creator of all, can handle all? Why don’t we surrender to Jesus, and let Him handle the situation when we know we can’t do it anyway? I pray this article helped you understand the power of Jesus and who He really is and not the worldly image we have been told. Mostly, I pray that if you do not have a relationship with Jesus right now that you come to have a relationship with him. He loves you, and He is waiting for you. There is nothing you have done that His power cannot overcome or forgive. In fact, you are already forgiven. Repent, by turning from your old ways and make God the direction of your new way. The gift is waiting for you to accept it. All you must do is ask Him, talk to Him, and tell Him you are ready for a different life; a life eternally with God, our Father. Romans 10:9 says, "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved," (NASB). If you prayed that, I would love to know. Feel free to message me or ask me anything. I will do all I can to guide you to your next step. God bless all of you.

I Want to Hear From You

Thank you again for taking the time to read my article. Have you read this story before? Did you learn anything new from the story, or did God reveal anything to you through the story? I would love to hear your thoughts. I welcome any questions, comments, or suggestions. Have a blessed day.


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