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The Spirit of the Sons of Sceva

By Watchman | October 9, 2010

Then some of the itinerant [roving or nomadic] Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.  And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”  Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowering them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (Acts 19: 13-16)

     Shame on me!  I’m embarrassed to admit to it, but this story of the seven sons of Sceva has always made me laugh.  The mental image it conjures up never ceases to strike me as funny.  And yet, seen in a more thoughtful light, the warning contained in it is far from amusing.  These men, with no true connection to the Lord, were using His name like a magic talisman, assuming that they had to be taken seriously because they claimed to be servants of God.  As always, the scripture quoted above was not just meant to be a chronicle of an event which took place two thousand years ago, but a lesson to those of us today who need to learn how to discern between true and false ministries, teachings and prophecies.  In an age in which we can, if we choose, be inundated with various Christian teachings via internet, satellite and cable TV, we must learn that not all preaching is equal, and not all “prophets” with enough money to buy weekly space on INSP or the God Network are worthy of being followed.

     My purpose today is not to denigrate any particular preacher or ministry, but merely to sound a warning that we must not blindly accept everything that is said on TV by every man or woman who claims to have received special revelations from God.  Note:  many, many of those you see each day preaching the word  are fine and divinely-gifted ministers of God.  They have brought many souls to salvation, and their work must indeed please their heavenly Father.  TV, radio and crusades have made it possible for millions of people to be introduced to their Lord and Savior who might never have gotten the chance otherwise.  Through the work of some ministries, we are able to delve into the fascinating study of Christianity’s Jewish roots, and to have our souls refreshed by timely words of love or admonishment. Some teach us about what God wants of us as He sets it out in the scriptures; some teach us how to tell others about God’s love, or how to live lives that are pleasing to the Almighty.   However, scattered throughout these worthy ministries are many who excite large followings with fantastic yet questionable displays of what they consider to be “gifts of the Spirit.” 

     The gifts of the Holy Spirit are real and are available to God’s people today.  According to chapter 12 of the first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul lists these as wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, and the gifts of speaking in and interpreting tongues.  Not everyone displays the same gifts; some are in operation most of the time, others are revealed when they are needed by the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  When I hear preachers telling world-wide TV congregations that they cannot have the Holy Spirit within them unless they speak in tongues, I cannot help but immediately think of some of the best and most Godly men I have heard who have wonderous teaching gifts, but do not speak in tongues, or those who’s prophecies have come to pass, yet cannot interpret tongues.  I cannot say with any certainty whether or not the gift of tongues always accompanies what is known as the “baptism in the Holy Spirit.”   I well remember watching one famous TV evangelist telling those in attendance at one of his crusades that the Holy Spirit was about to descend on the auditorium and they would all begin to speak in tongues.  Some, he said, would speak in another language, and some might say “BaBaBaBaBaBaBaBaBaBa”, but either way they would have “spoken in tongues.”  I was distressed when I saw this, since, as I said, I’m not sure if the  baptism of the Holy Spirit comes only through the speaking in tongues; also, I am somewhat skeptical as to whether the repetition of a single syllable constitutes “tongues.”  It was, however, an effective way to immediately raise the emotional level of the meeting, and to convince all present that they had experienced the sudden presence of the Holy Spirit.   A dear friend of mine had the thought that he was trying to produce another Pentecost–which I am not at all certain is possible.    Another prominent member of the TV evangelist fraternity has a terrible track record of publically making dozens of prophecies he claims were given to Him by the Lord, but which never came to pass.  As we have noted before, the Bible’s criteria for a true prophet is that no false prophecies will escape their lips.  Yet this man’s followers number in the millions; with people being drawn to him by a charismatic  manner and a desperate desire to receive a miracle during one of his crusades–crusades in which healings are claimed, but few proven.   Although I believe some miracles may indeed have occurred during these spectacles, because we have a good and loving God who hears our pain and our desperation, the style of many of these miracle-crusade type preachers is one of pride and self-aggrandizement: more in the nature of showmanship than of men of God.   Some claim powers there is absolutely no way to verify.  A good friend and sister in Christ forwarded an e-mail to me that disturbed her (and me as well).  One show was advertising having on a man who could see everyone’s demons. That, of course, makes for sensational TV, but is it a true gift from the Lord?   The person who originally sent it to my friend believed in it absolutely, but I felt a distinct check in my spirit as I read the article.  Can there be a spirit associated with the sons of Sceva which seeks self-gain and glory in the name of Jesus?

     Another disturbing trend today deals with what is known as “prosperity theology.”  Based on a few Bible texts, this newish teaching claims that God intends for all of His people to be well-to-do, and that wealth is a sign of God’s approval and love for us.  Now, Jesus did indeed say that if we asked anything in His name we would receive it.  So did He mean that if we want a new sports car or a mink coat all we have to do is ask God for it in His name?  I don’t think so.  I do not believe that we were ever intended to pray to God for riches of any kind, and I do not believe that Jesus’ ancient Hebrew audiences would have assumed that was the case.  Jesus spoke several times about the difficulties attached to wealth–that as wealth grew, so did the desire to hang onto it.  The best use of money, according to Him, was to give to those who had none.  Yet we have at least half-a-dozen well known preachers who triumphantly point to their jets, their mansions, their cars and their vacation homes as proof that God favors them.  Worse, they mislead their followers by making them believe that God must jump through hoops to bring them whatever they wish for if they pray and believe.  I certainly and heartily believe Paul when he said that “my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phillipians 3:19).  I believe that God knows what we have need of and will supply it as Jesus said in Luke 12.  I believe there is nothing wrong about asking God to help you through a financial crisis and believing He will do so.  But Jesus did say not to worry about these things of the flesh, but to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”   This is to be the real plea that a believer makes to the Lord.  Another thought here is in order:  prosperity theology may make some sense to the American mind, but how do its proponents explain the poverty forced upon Christians in many other nations?  Are the Christians in Islamic nations or in atheist nations like China and N. Korea who lose everything they have–including sometimes their liberty or their lives–because they won’t renounce Jesus,  lacking in their prayers or beliefs?  I think not.  I think some prayers are always answered by God, freely and quickly:  prayers for salvation, for forgiveness, for righteousness.  These people have their answers in abundance!

     As I said earlier, there are many wonderful Christian teachers who do wonderful work for the Lord.  Many do sell books or tapes, but that is necessary:  airtime is expensive and must be paid for; money given to good works must come from those upon who’s hearts God has laid it to make offerings for His glory.   Please, brothers and sisters, please, pray for discernment when you follow any person’s teachings about God.  No matter how personable or suave a leader may be, open your Bibles and study to see if teachings you have not heard before line up with the word of God.   If they do not, reject them.  The spirit of the sons of Sceva still seeks self-glorification.  If an evangelist’s words or actions bring glory to themselves rather than to God, they may well be on their way to becoming one of those poor souls that Jesus said would stand before Him one day saying that they had cast out devils in His name,  yet would be told that He never knew them.





Topics: A Special Word for Today, Kingdom Living | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “The Spirit of the Sons of Sceva”

  1. Susan Says:
    October 10th, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    This is an excellent example of what is so rampant in our society today. your gift is clearly evident as you continue to stand up for Him and what His Word so clearly states.

    May God continue to richly bless you Melissa..In all the ways that count..for His Glory and Honor..

    Maranatha! 🙂

  2. Shirley Says:
    October 11th, 2010 at 11:21 am

    This is straight-forward, honest yet loving advice (or warning) for all who love God and His Word. Thank you for having the courage to write what God has given to you.