Opposition in Ephesus

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Acts 19:1-41, Luke 3:16, Ephesians 6:12

Back in college, I had a creative writing professor who talked a lot about taking the Lord’s name in vain. That might seem strange. But this was a private Christian university, so it wasn’t uncommon for us to dive into spiritual themes in the middle of a conversation about internal rhymes. Since English majors can have colorful language, the subject of profanity often came up during writing workshops—especially if our workshop took place right after chapel. 

Students held very different beliefs about what you should or shouldn’t say in a piece of poetry. But what our professor wanted us to understand was that taking the Lord’s name in vain was about more than using or not using a specific word or name, even though it’s true that words have power. It was more about heart posture and behaviors stemming from our beliefs about who God is. 

We see this happening with the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19. These men were exorcists, someone who casts out demonic spirits (v.13). Since this passage is the only one in Scripture where we see these seven men mentioned, we don’t know their track record when it comes to their practice. But we do know it doesn’t work here. Not when they try to illegitimately evoke the name of Jesus. “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul—but who are you?” says the possessed man (v.15). This verse makes me shudder! 

What we have is a case of people using the Lord’s name in vain. After these exorcists witness Paul’s power, they want to capitalize on it, but the very spirits that they try to call out dismantle their strategy by calling them phonies. Because they didn’t have faith in Jesus Himself, their attempts were just a mockery and the evil spirits saw that. 

In this story, God makes it clear: simply using the name of Jesus isn’t enough to step into His power. You also have to believe in Him. You have to be transformed by Him. During this era of Christianity, it was in the testimony of lives transformed by Jesus that we see true power over darkness, Paul’s testimony being one of the most memorable. It was “in this way the word of the Lord spread and prevailed” (v.20). The same is true of our testimonies today.

Thinking back on those creative writing workshops, I’m so glad our professor took the time to not just teach us about words but also address our hearts. Are we using Jesus to further our own goals or ideas? Are we doing things in the name of God that are dishonoring Him? I know I’ve done this in the past. I pray we’re challenged and inspired today to not just acknowledge the power of Jesus’s name, but to have true faith and trust in Him.

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43 thoughts on "Opposition in Ephesus"

  1. Sarah Morrison says: