The Sons of Sceva
And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or 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. 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.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 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. 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. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
A Riot at Ephesus
Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly. (ESV)
- Naked and ashamed
In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote that we battle “against the spiritual forces of evil” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan is real. Demons are real. The battle is real. However, Jesus is Lord over everything, even dark spiritual forces. The demons actually know that (James 2:19)! This truth is powerfully demonstrated in the text. Those who seek to confront dark spiritual forces in their own power and for their own personal gain will only be left naked and ashamed. Apart from Jesus, we have no power over or protection from demons.
- Jesus, idols & riots
Because the Gospel proclaims the absolute lordship of Jesus over everything, it always draws a line and brings division (Luke 12:51). It doesn’t just call us to believe something privately in our hearts. It calls all people everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30). Some believe and repent, while others dig in their heels. In this text, the transformation taking place in the city turned people away from idolatry, which was a lucrative business. In other words, Christianity was hurting the bottom line of those who profited from idolatry. Consequently, those who lost business stirred up a riot in an effort to intimidate the Christians.
- Unavoidable conflict
Conflict is a constant theme throughout the book of Acts. It always arises because of preaching and teaching the Gospel. This conflict is not initiated by the Church. Rather, the rebellious world reacts to the Gospel with disdain, opposition, intimidation, and sometimes riots. This kind of conflict is unavoidable. Many of us have been taught to avoid all conflict at any cost. We assume that a lack of conflict is the greatest sign of Christian maturity. The book of Acts invites us to rethink how we understand and relate to Gospel conflict.
- Why were the sons of Sceva powerless against the evil spirit in this text?
- What do you think motivated the riots at Ephesus? To what were the people truly devoted?
- How do you relate to conflict? What is the difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict? What will avoiding conflict cost you?
Call to Worship
My Rock and My Fortress
Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
who trains my hands for war,
and my fingers for battle;
he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
who subdues peoples under me.
O LORD, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow. (ESV)
Prayer of Confession
Almighty God, You have raised Jesus from death to life, and crowned Him Lord of all. We confess that we have not bowed before Him, or acknowledged His rule in our lives. We have gone along with the ways of the world, and failed to give Him glory. Forgive us and raise us from sin, that we may be Your faithful people, obeying the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ, who rules the world and is head of the Church, His Body. In His name we pray, amen.
Heavenly Father, we grieve this week to hear the news of the war that Russia has brought upon Ukraine. This is evil. We confess, Father, that apart from You, our hearts are only evil, yet we praise You for Your grace to bring us salvation and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. By the power that rose Jesus from the dead, we implore You to act to bring this chaotic and evil war to an end.
Be with the people of Ukraine. Move amongst the nations that they might come together to pursue justice and come to the aid of Ukraine. Hear the prayers of the Ukrainian people. Be a mighty refuge and come to their rescue. Strengthen and embolden the pastors and Church that still gathers in this war zone and let their gospel message be full of power to save sinners.
Stop Vladimir Putin, humbling him by the power of Your gospel. Cause him to fear Your holy name and regenerate his heart that he might not pursue evil but rather pursue Your praise. If this is not in Your will, we ask that You strike his hand to stop this evil man. There are many tyrants in the world at this moment who think they are a god, doing what they please at the expense of people who are made in Your image. Remove them from their office as a means of grace and restore peace to the nations. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; yet when You utter your voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
Family Discipleship Weekly Resources
Family Discipleship Weekly Resources are tools for families to use to help connect Sunday’s sermon to the rest of your week, fostering conversations and habits of worship.