Limitations of Spiritual Authority

If something seems to be working, opportunists start jumping on board. Such was the case of some Jews who apparently thought they could perform exorcisms through a magical formula or by simply using the name of Jesus. The seven sons of Sceva (a Jewish high priest) were doing this (see Acts 19:13-14). To their surprise, they got beaten up and run out of the house by a demonized man (see verse 16).

The demon said he knew Jesus and Paul, but not the seven sons of Sceva. The demon didn’t beat them up. The demonized man did. He was able to overpower them because of the adrenaline rush the evil spirit had stimulated within him. It is the same phenomenon that gives people extraordinary strength to lift objects to save people, although in such instances their strength comes from a different spirit.

If a demonized person questions who we are, all we have to say is, “I am a child of God and you can’t touch me” (see 1 John 5:18). All believers, young and old, have the same authority and power over demons, although mature saints may know better how to exercise it. People can get hurt when they misuse or fail to understand the power and authority they have in Christ. We only have the authority to do God’s will. We are operating according to our old nature when we act independently of God. In the flesh we are no match for evil spirits. We will suffer defeat if we operate independently of God, but demons are no match for those who depend on God!

The news of the seven sons getting beat up by a demonized person created fear among the people, but fortunately they turned to Jesus and held His name in honor (see Acts 19:17). Many of the believers openly confessed their evil deeds (see verse 18). Those who were practicing sorcery brought the tools of their practice and burned them (see verse 19). The word of the Lord spread rapidly and grew in power (see verse 20). One of the major thrusts of Early Church evangelism was to free people from demonic influences. That may likely be the case again before the second coming of Christ.

It is human nature to see something work and borrow the method instead of understanding the message behind the method. There are no programs, rituals or formulas that can set anybody free. Who sets people free is Christ, and what sets people free is their response to God in repentance and faith. If God is in it, almost any program will work. It God isn’t in it, then no program will work, no matter how biblical it may appear. But if God is in it, then a good program and strategy will bear more fruit than a bad program or strategy.

A missionary couple once tried to help a demonized man but ended up getting attacked themselves. They explained, “We said out loud that we are children of God and the evil one can’t touch us, but it didn’t work.” The problem was that they said it defensively in fear and not in confident faith with the assurance that they were indeed children of God. Scripture is a not Band-Aid to be placed on sore spots. The couple could have said to the demonized man in confidence, “I know who I am in Christ, and I know the authority and power I have in Him is greater than the disarmed and deceiving spirit that is tormenting you.”

Dr. Neil

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