Acts 19:11-20 - Formula or Faith

Acts 19:11-20 – Formula or Faith
Diving Deeper Lesson Outline for Acts

The title is drawn from the sons of Scevas’ attempt to cast out a demon in the name of Jesus.
Our text today describes not a process that is performed correctly or not, but describes an authority that either one has or does not have.


What the Bible says about demons:
2 Peter 2:4 - For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment;
Jude 1:6 - And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;

Demons are angels who rebelled with Satan and were cast out of heaven.

Matthew 8:28-29 - And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?”

Demons can talk.

Matthew 8:29 - …O Son of God?
Mark 1:34 - And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Luke 4:41 - And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.
James 2:19 - You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

Demons knew who the incarnate Jesus was and know who God is – remember, they’re from heaven.

Mark 5:9 - And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.

Demons have names – makes sense because angles have names.

Matthew 9:34 - But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”
Matthew 12:24 - But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”

Demons are underlings for the prince of demons – Satan.

Matthew 9:33 - And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.”
Matthew 17:18 - And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.

Demons can bring sickness to humans and casting out the demon can bring healing.

Luke 11:17-18 - “…Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul.

Demons will not work against each other.

What the Bible says about Christians interactions with demons:
Ephesians 2:1- 5 - And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.

Christians are not servants of Satan or demons – we are alive in Christ.

POI – An implication drawn from an understanding of demons’ relationship with Christians, is that all the possessions spoken of in the Bible involve unbelievers.
Christians, as John MacArthur puts it, cannot be possessed because possession denotes ownership and Christians are owned by and alive in Christ!

1 Corinthians 10:20-21 - No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons

Christians can fellowship with demons.

Acts 5:3-4 - But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
James 3:15 - This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.

Christians can succumb to the temptations of demons thereby acting worldly and unwise!


Acts 19:13-16 - 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.” 14 Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15 But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus • I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 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.

What is going on here:
Exorcist, in verse 13, appears only here in the entire Bible.
The word means one who employs a formula of conjuration for expelling demons.
Adjure, in verse 13, appears only twice in the Bible.
It means to force to take an oath or put under an oath.
The son’s of Sceva were manufacturing a formula to exorcise a demon by attempting to force the demon to submit to an oath empowered by the authority and name of Jesus.
(Cite Modern Ritual Exorcism Examples - See Bottom of Lesson)
Other than the Son’s ability to recognize a demon possession, the result of their exorcism was a complete failure.
The demon even taunted them, expressing the fact that the Sons were a bunch of unknowns.
And then humiliated them by sending them out naked and wounded.

Why the failure:
The demon’s taunting also reveals an important truth.
The “who are you” statement denotes that the Sons and their formula had absolutely no authority whatsoever.
They were anonymous both in reputation and authority.
Is the right authority based on the knowledge of a correct formula?
Jesus has some insight into this for us.

Matthew 17:16-20 - And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith.

So the failure both for the Sons’ of Sceva and the disciples can be attributed to faith.
The Sons’ of Sceva had none and the disciples had too little.
So we learn here that it is not formula but faith that provides victory over demons and their oppression.

But not just faith:
Matthew 15:22, 25-28 - And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

The woman’s faith was greater than that of the disciples in Matthew 17:16-20.
But her faith was only the conduit through which the power and authority of Jesus could flow.
And so great was Jesus’ power and authority he didn’t even need to be in the direct vicinity of the demon to cast it out.
And the woman needed no exorcism ritual to heal her son.
She needed only unhindered, unwavering saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But not just the authority and power of Jesus:
Matthew 12:28 - But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

It is also the power of the Holy Spirit.

A final word on the counterfeit authority of men and their formulas:
Matthew 7:22 - On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

The question, I believe, is sincere; they believed they had actually cast out demons.
Satan made fools out of them; he led them (the wordly & unwise) to believe they had cast out demons.
The problem was that it was all Satan’s trickery & man’s bogus formula, but no faith.
We learned already that Satan and his demons would not fight against themselves.
But he did, and still does, lead the world to believe that “workers of lawlessness” perform successful exorcisms.
It serves Satan’s purpose to deceive the world.

POI - And God's word speaks plainly about the "workers of lawlessness".
They, the unsaved, cannot sit on the fence; they are either with God or against Him.
Matthew 12:27a-28 - And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
1 John 3:8a - Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.

Jesus makes clear, if it is not by the Spirit of God, then it is Satan!
John makes clear, you either abide in Christ or you are of the devil.

John MacArthur on how Satan works:
How are the unsaved manipulated by satan?
Now, Satan rules men usually two ways, and these are very general. There may be others, but these are just two general thoughts. First of all, he rules men by virtue of their understanding. "The natural man understandeth not the things of God." So the natural man, the man without Christ, without God, is left with only the information which is available to him apart from God. And that really makes up all of the information that Satan uses and can use, even though some of it is God's proof. And so Satan rules the understanding. In fact, is says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that, "The God of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not." Satan blinds the mind. That is, he rules the understanding.

The second thing that Satan dominates in the unregenerate man is the will. He rules the understanding and the will. Though he cannot make the will act, he can certainly force it. Though he cannot make you do something, he can certainly draw you into that by temptation. John 8:44, "Jesus said to the Pharisees, "The lusts of your father, you will do." And their father, of course, was the devil. Satan then dominates men by controlling the information that they have and by controlling the will that they exercise.

POI – Why didn’t Satan make it appear that the Son’s of Sceva were successful in their exorcism?
Certainly that would have helped his cause and make Paul look less authoritative.
Jesus, in His authority and by the Spirit, put the kibosh on them for His purposes.
So what is the nature of Jesus’ authority with regard to demons and Satan?


Christ’s mission and goal:
1 John 3:8b - The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Hebrews 2:14 - Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…

These verses are self-explanatory.

How was this mission accomplished?
Mark 1:27 - And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”
Luke 4:36 - And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!”
John 10:21 - Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”
Mark 1:34b - And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
Luke 10:17 - The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”
Matthew 12:28 - I by the Spirit of God cast out demons.
Matthew 8:16a - That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word

Jesus has absolute authority over demons.
He casts them out by the Spirit of God.
This power is demonstrated and manifested via His spoken word.
So this mission was accomplished by Christ’s God given, Spirit bathed authority and word.

POI – Jesus authority over demons parallels, in Acts, the Apostles ability to heal.
Both Jesus casting and the Apostles healing were instant and complete.
There was no question about the sickness or possession and there was no doubt about the healing or casting.
The results were instantly visible to all.

How this relates to our interactions with demons:
Ephesians 6:12 - For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

As previously mentioned, demons can influence us so we must wrestle against them.
Paul goes on to say we are to face the enemy via exorcism? WHAT!! (not really)
What does Paul tell us to do?

What John MacArthur Says about the wrestling match:
It is the power of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit that cast out demons. Now you answer me this question. Where does the spirit of Christ live? Then whom do I need to cast out demons? I don't need any other humans. For a Christian to get rid of the problem of demons is as simple as the area of confession and holiness, just that simple.

The power to wrestle demons is resident in every believer. You are sufficient to take care of the responsibility of your spiritual life. The demon is gone when the spirit of God's in control.

If there's sin in your life, willing, willful, protracted, unconfessed, unrepented of sin, you have given place to Satan.

So it is not formula but faith that is authoritative.
Satan benefits from deceiving the world into thinking men can formulate an authentic authority.
However, this authority is counterfiet.
Christ's authority is genuine and Christ came to destroy the work of the devil.
Christ smashes satan's scheming with His truth, power and Spirit infused word.
And this power resides within every believer.

Exorcism Rituals (Wikipedia):
The person performing the exorcism, known as an exorcist, is often a member of the church, or an individual thought to be graced with special powers or skills. The exorcist may use prayers, and religious material, such as set formulas, gestures, symbols, icons, amulets, etc.. The exorcist often invokes God, Jesus and/or several different angels and archangels to intervene with the exorcism.
In general, possessed persons are not regarded as evil in themselves, nor wholly responsible for their actions. Therefore, practitioners regard exorcism as more of a cure than a punishment. The mainstream rituals usually take this into account, making sure that there is no violence to the possessed, only that they be tied down if there is potential for violence

Example 1 (Wikipedia & How Stuff Works):
Catholic exorcism is still one of the most rigid and organized of all existing exorcism rituals. Solemn exorcisms, according to the Canon law of the church, can be exercised only by an ordained priest (or higher prelate), with the express permission of the local bishop, and only after a careful medical examination to exclude the possibility of mental illness.

To perform the rite, the exorcist dresses in his surplice and purple stole. The ritual of exorcism is mostly a series of prayers, statements and appeals. These prayers are loosely broken down into the "imploring formula," in which the priest asks God to free the subject from the devil ("God, whose nature is ever merciful and forgiving, accept our prayer that this servant of yours, bound by the fetters of sin, may be pardoned by your loving kindness"), and the "imperative formula," in which the priest demands in the name of God that the devil leave the subject's body ("Depart, then, impious one, depart, accursed one, depart with all your deceits, for God has willed that man should be His temple"). In addition to these recitations, the priest takes certain actions at particular times during the rite: He sprinkles holy water on everyone in the room, lays his hands on the subject, makes the sign of the cross both on himself and on the subject and touches the subject with a Catholic relic (usually an object associated with a saint).

Example 2 (Augustine’s Exorcism website):
Augustine's Exorcism Formula is for difficult cases, when outside influences, larger than the individual, bring misfortune and bad luck into the life. Many times this happens because a curse or hex has been set down. Under these conditions, an ordinary purification ritual is not enough and you will need our much stronger Exorcism Ritual. At Augustine's we have the recipe for a 7 Power Incense formula that was used by the Catholic Church, experts in performing exorcisms. It is comprised of Asafoetida Herb, Van Van Root, Dragon's Blood Root and other ingredients. It is the strongest exorcism material we know of. This we combine with a special XXX Triple Strength Bath and Exorcism Root Oil and a specially dressed and prepared candle to enhance the power of the exorcism. But more important than this, we tell you the time it will be most effective!