Acts 19:15
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
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(15) Jesus I know, and Paul I know . . .—Better, Jesus I acknowledge. The two verbs are different in the Greek, the one implying recognition of authority, the latter, as colloquially used, though originally it had a stronger meaning, a more familiar acquaintance. The possessed man, identifying himself, as the Gadarene did, with the demon, stood in awe of the Name of Jesus, when uttered by a man like St. Paul; but who were these seven pretenders, that they should usurp authority over him?



Acts 19:15

These exorcists had no personal union with Jesus. To them He was only ‘Jesus whom Paul preached.’ They spoke His name tentatively, as an experiment, and imitatively. To command ‘in the name of Jesus’ was an appeal to Jesus to glorify His name and exert His power, and so when the speaker had no real faith in the name or the power, there was no answer, because there was really no appeal.

I. The only power which can cast out the evil spirits is the name of Jesus.

That is a commonplace of Christian belief. But it is often held in a dangerously narrow way and leads to most unwise pitting of the Gospel against other modes of bettering and elevating men, instead of recognising them as allies. Earnest Christian workers are tempted to forget Jesus’ own word: ‘He that is not against us is for us.’ There is no need to disparage other agencies because we believe that it is the Gospel which is ‘the power of God unto salvation.’ Many of the popular philanthropic movements of the day, many of its curbing and enlightening forces, many of its revolutionary social ideas, are really in their essence and historically in their origin, profoundly Christian, and are the application of the principles inherent in ‘the Name’ to the evils of society. No doubt many of their eager apostles are non-Christian or even anti-Christian, but though some of them have tried violently to pluck up the plant by the root from the soil in which it first flowered, much of that soil still adheres to it, and it will not live long if torn from its native ‘habitat.’

It is not narrowness or hostility to non-Christian efforts to cast out the demons from humanity, but only the declaration of a truth which is taught by the consideration of what is the difference between all other such efforts and Christianity, and is confirmed by experience, if we maintain that, whatever good results may follow from these other influences, it is the powers lodged in the Name of Jesus, and these alone which can, radically and completely, conquer and eject the demons from a single soul, and emancipate society from their tyranny.

For consider that the Gospel which proclaims Jesus as the Saviour is the only thing which deals with the deepest fact in our natures, the fact of sin; gives a personal Deliverer from its power; communicates a new life of which the very essence is righteousness, and which brings with it new motives, new impulses, and new powers.

Contrast with this the inadequate diagnosis of the disease and the consequent imperfection of the remedy which other physicians of the world’s sickness present. Most of them only aim at repressing outward acts. None of them touch more than a part of the whole dreadful circumference of the dark orb of evil. Law restrains actions. Ethics proclaims principles which it has no power to realise. It shows men a shining height, but leaves them lame and grovelling in the mire. Education casts out the demon of ignorance, and makes the demons whom it does not cast out more polite and perilous. It brings its own evils in its train. Every kind of crop has weeds which spring with it. The social and political changes, which are eagerly preached now, will do much; but one thing, which is the all-important thing, they will not do, they will not change the nature of the individuals who make up the community. And till that nature is changed any form of society will produce its own growth of evils. A Christless democracy will be as bad as, if not worse than, a Christless monarchy or aristocracy. If the bricks remain the same, it does not much matter into what shape you build them.

These would-be exorcists but irritated the demons by their vain attempts at ejecting them, and it is sometimes the case that efforts to cure social diseases only result in exacerbating them. If one hole in a Dutch dyke is stopped up, more pressure is thrown on another weak point and a leak will soon appear there. There is but one Name that casts a spell over all the ills that flesh is heir to. There is but one Saviour of society-Jesus who saves from sin through His death, and by participation in His life delivers men from that life of self which is the parent of all the evils from which society vainly strives to be delivered by any power but His.

II. That Name must be spoken by believing men if it is to put forth its full power.

These exorcists had no faith. All that they knew of Jesus was that He was the one ‘whom Paul preached.’ Even the name of Jesus is spoiled and is powerless on the lips of one who repeats it, parrot-like, because he has seen its power when it came flame-like from the fiery lips of some man of earnest convictions.

In all regions, and especially in the matter of art or literature, imitators are poor creatures, and men are quick to detect the difference between the original and the copy. The copyists generally imitate the weak points, and seldom get nearer than the imitation of external and trivial peculiarities. It is more feasible to reproduce the ‘contortions of the Sibyl’ than to catch her ‘inspiration.’

This absence or feebleness of personal faith is the explanation of much failure in so-called Christian work. No doubt there may be other causes for the want of success, but after all allowance is made for these, it still remains true that the chief reason why the Gospel message is often proclaimed without casting out demons is that it is proclaimed with faltering faith, tentatively and without assured confidence in its power, or imitatively, with but little, if any, inward experience of the magic of its spell. The demons have ears quick to discriminate between Paul’s fiery accents and the cold repetition of them. Incomparably the most powerful agency which any man can employ in producing conviction in others is the utterance of his own intense conviction. ‘If you wish me to weep, your own tears must flow,’ said the Roman poet. Other factors may powerfully aid the exorcising power of the word spoken by faith, and no wise man will disparage these, but they are powerless without faith and it is powerful without them.

Consider the effect of that personal faith on the speaker-in bringing all his force to bear on his words; in endowing him for a time with many of the subsidiary qualities which make our words winged and weighty; in lifting to a height of self-oblivion, which itself is magnetic.

Consider its effect on the hearers-how it bows hearts as trees are bent before a rushing wind.

Consider its effect in bringing into action God’s own power. Of the man, all aflame with Christian convictions and speaking them with the confidence and urgency which become them and him, it may truly be said, ‘It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.’

Here then we have laid bare the secret of success and a cause of failure, in Christian enterprise. Here we see, as in a concrete example, the truth exemplified, which all who long for the emancipation of demon-ridden humanity would be wise to lay to heart, and thereby to be saved from much eager travelling on a road that leads nowhither, and much futile expenditure of effort and sympathy, and many disappointments. It is as true to-day as it was long ago in Ephesus, that the evil spirits ‘feel the Infant’s hand from far Judea’s land,’ and are forced to confess, ‘Jesus we know and Paul we know’; but to other would-be exorcists their answer is, ‘Who are ye?’ ‘When a strong man armed keepeth his house, his goods are in peace.’ There is but ‘One stronger than he who can come upon him, and having overcome him, can take from him all his armour wherein he trusted and divide the spoils,’ and that is the Christ, at whose name, faithfully spoken, ‘the devils fear and fly.’

19:13-20 It was common, especially among the Jews, for persons to profess or to try to cast out evil spirits. If we resist the devil by faith in Christ, he will flee from us; but if we think to resist him by the using of Christ's name, or his works, as a spell or charm, Satan will prevail against us. Where there is true sorrow for sin, there will be free confession of sin to God in every prayer and to man whom we have offended, when the case requires it. Surely if the word of God prevailed among us, many lewd, infidel, and wicked books would be burned by their possessors. Will not these Ephesian converts rise up in judgement against professors, who traffic in such works for the sake of gain, or allow themselves to possess them? If we desire to be in earnest in the great work of salvation, every pursuit and enjoyment must be given up which hinders the effect of the gospel upon the mind, or loosens its hold upon the heart.Jesus I know - His power to cast out devils I know. Compare Matthew 8:29.

Paul I know - Paul's power to cast out devils, Acts . Acts 19:12.

But who are ye? - What power have you over evil spirits? By what right do you attempt to expel them? The meaning is, "You belong neither to Jesus nor Paul, and you have no right or authority to at tempt to work miracles in the name of either."

15. the evil spirit answered, Jesus I know—"recognize."

and Paul I know—"know intimately," in contrast to them, whom he altogether disowns.

but who are ye?

I acknowledge that Jesus hath power to command me to go hence; and I know that Paul, as his minister, hath authority over me; but what pretensions have ye to command me now? Though the devil is a liar, and the father of lies, yet none lie to their own disadvantage, but rather to their advantage, as they take it; and Satan may therefore be believed in what he here says, because it is to his disgrace, that, will he, nill he, he is under the command of God, though but signified to him by the least of his ministers or servants.

And the evil spirit answered and said,.... The Alexandrian copy, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, add, "to them"; to the seven sons of Sceva:

Jesus I know; to be the Son of God and Messiah, and own that he has power of dispossessing spirits, of which there were many instances in the days of his flesh:

and Paul I know; and own to be a servant of the most high God, by whom miracles of this kind have been wrought:

but who are ye? you are not the disciples of Jesus, nor the servants of God, but the children of the devil, and have no power over us, but on the other hand are subject to us.

And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
Acts 19:15. But how entirely did that ἐπεχείρησαν fail of success in the very first instance of its application! Bengel well remarks on Acts 19:13 : “Si semel successisset, saepius ausuri fuerant.”

τὸ πνεῦμα] the demon, who had taken possession of the individual consciousness in the man.

By τὸν ʼΙησοῦνἐπίσταμαι he recognises the power of Jesus and of the apostle over him; by ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνες (what sort of men!) ἐστέ he shows his contempt for the presumption of his powerless (not empowered by Jesus and Paul) opponents. ὑμεῖς is with depreciating emphasis placed first.

Acts 19:15. γινώσκωἐπίσταμαι: “I know,” R.V. for both verbs, but for the former “I recognise,” margin, as a distinction is drawn between Paul and Jesus in the formula of adjuration, it is natural to expect a distinction in the reply; γιν. probably denotes a more personal knowledge, ἐπίστ., I know as of a fact. “Jesus I know and about Paul I know,” Rendall; Lightfoot would render “Jesus I acknowledge and Paul I know”: On a Fresh Revision of N. T., p. 60. Wordsworth also, in loco, holds that ἐπίστ. denotes knowledge of a lower degree such as acquaintance with a fact, and compares the distinction between the two verbs in Judges 1:10. ἐπίστ. is only once used in the Gospels, Mark 14:68. But see also Page, in loco, as to the difficulty in making any precise distinction.—ὑμεῖς placed first here in a depreciatory sense, τίνες indicating contempt.

15. And the evil spirit answered and said] The most ancient texts add unto them. They had taken upon them to use the name of Jesus, but the result was far contrary to their wishes and intentions. “Evil spirit” is used for the man in whom the spirit was. Cp. Mark 3:11.

Jesus I know, and Paul I know] The verbs are not the same, though it is hardly possible in a translation to mark the difference. In the first there seems to be intended a recognition and admission of power, in the other a recognition of an appointed ministry thereof. The spirit speaking through the man would intimate: I recognise that Jesus has power over evil spirits, and I know that Paul is a true servant of Jesus, through whom Jesus manifests His power.

but who are ye?] Who are not followers of Jesus, and so are mere pretenders in the use of His name.

Acts 19:15. Τίνες, who) This indicates contempt. [What has it profited thee, if thou knowest so as to be able to relate many things concerning Jesus, or even concerning His true members, if thou thyself art notwithstanding destitute of (saving) power? Who art thou?—V. g.]

Verse 15. - Said unto them for said, A.V. and T.R. Acts 19:15I know - I know (γινώσκω - ὲπίσταμαι)

There is a purpose in using two different words to denote the demon's recognition of the Divine Master and of the human agent, though it is not easy to convey the difference in a translation. It is the difference between an instinctive perception or recognition of a supreme power and the more intimate knowledge of a human agent. A divine mystery would invest Jesus, which the demon would feel, though he could not penetrate it. His knowledge of a man would be greater, in his own estimation at least. The difference may be given roughly, thus: "Jesus I recognize, and Paul I am acquainted with."

Overcame them (κατακυριεύσας)

The best texts read both of them, which would imply that only two of the seven were concerned in the exorcism. Rev., better, mastered, thus giving the force of κύριος, master, in the composition of the verb.

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