“Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth . . . And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:13–15, AV)
Many years ago, we purchased a home in Bartlett Illinois. It just so happened that when we were supposed to close on the house, I was in Germany and could not leave to go home for the closing. So, I had a document legally drafted called a limited power of attorney, so my wife could act on my behalf in the closing. Thus, she would act and make decisions in my name, in accordance with my will and instructions.
As believers, we often make the statement in our prayers, “In the name of Jesus. Amen.” As believers it is not just prayer that we are to do in the name of Jesus, but we are to do everything in our Christian walk in the name of Jesus as well. Here in this passage, we see the powerlessness of invoking the name of Jesus in an empty way.
Luke records a host of incidents in Ephesus while Paul was ministering there. The Lord performed many great miracles through Paul by healing the sick and lame, and delivering people from afflicting demons (v11-12). Some Jewish exorcists saw what Paul was doing and how he did it, and decide to mimic Paul’s actions (v13). The Jewish exorcists’ effort to deliver a man from a demon failed miserably. Luke records that “the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded” (v16).
Why did these Jewish exorcists fail? They had invoked the name of Jesus just as Paul did. So, what went wrong? There are two basic problems in their approach. First, they were not believers in Christ. The Scriptures are very clear on this. Our power for waging battle in the Spiritual realm comes from an abiding relationship with the Lord (see John 15:1-11). This means that only those whom Christ has saved can effectively invoke the name of Jesus and do such a work as these Jewish exorcists undertook.
Secondly, they sought to invoke the name of the Lord as a vain incantation. Apparently, they had heard Paul use these words or something similar in his performance of miracles and believed that they could say the same things with similar results. We often use the phrase, “in Jesus’s name,” as sort of a tag line at the end of our prayers. However, we need to realize that this is not some magical phrase, but represents a much deeper theological truth for our life and ministry.
To serve or pray in the “name of Jesus,” characterizes the nature of our relationship with Christ and our authority to minister for Christ. To do something in the name of another implies that you are doing what the other person desires. As mentioned earlier, in legal matters, people often give a limited power of attorney to another person. The power of attorney is that which gives another the ability to transact business as the grantor’s representative. The limited power of attorney gives another the power to conduct only the business directed by the grantor in the way the grantor has directed. Similarly, when we invoke the name of Jesus, it implies that He has conferred power to us to execute that which is in accordance with His will in the way He directs.
This has broad implications for us. It means that we must be endeavoring to walk with Jesus, fully surrendered to His will. We realize that the basis of our walk, ministry, and prayer in the name of Jesus, is our unique abiding relationship with Him. Without this, we can do nothing.