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​Acts 19
Part V

The Prevailing Word
Acts 19:13-20

In two years and three months every person, who could choose to believe, heard the Word of the Lord. That is an amazing feat, especially since Paul was in Ephesus every day at the school of Tyrannus.

That is not to say every person believed the Word of the Lord. In the first three months we saw some reject the word that Paul was presenting in the synagogue. Instead of believing, some became obstinate and spoke evil of what Paul was presenting. 

God calls, not everyone answers.

Acts 19:13
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.

“Vagabond Judeans” basically means wandering. There is a theme in an old Queen song that says, “Any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me.” The theme runs throughout the entire song. The song is Bohemian Rhapsody.1 

What the song is saying and what verse thirteen is saying is that there is no core, no real foundation. However the world is blowing this day, this week, this month is how I blow, how I act. You see this attitude many times in the life of a politician. No core “beliefs,” but they have the latest opinion polls. Any way the wind blows…

We adjure you…” Adjure means to urge or request. Then, “by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Are they claiming the authority given to those who follow Jesus? Are they commanding the power in that name? No, of course not! They are not even sure who this Jesus is. They just know it is a name Paul uses and it worked. Maybe it is magic. Paul is using a spell, and this is the incantation. What exactly was their rationale? I do not know. But it is clear to see they have no idea about the power and authority God has given in the name of Jesus Christ.

Besides, our year is now 2022. We are sane, logical, intelligent human beings. Old superstitions2  like evil spirits or exorcists are long gone. Now we have science. If you want an exorcist call Hollywood or wait until Halloween, I am sure you will be able to find an exorcist or two toward the end of October.

Science has laid the world bare before our eyes, and now, as rational adults we can put “devil spirits,” “evil spirits” and the like behind us. Yes, some believe in ghosts, but they are more like Casper. They are relatives that have gone on before us and now look over us to help when they can. Any way the wind blows…

When the Word of God is believed that individual knows there are devil spirits possessing people in this world. These devil spirits have a twofold goal. First, to be the enemy of all things righteous and two, to distort God’s Word and to turn people away from receiving God’s Word of love and deliverance. (Acts 13:10)

Acts 19:14
And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.

What came to my mind was a saying I shared with you from the Talmud in an earlier teaching, “Anyone who does not teach his son a trade, it is as though he has taught him thievery.” The sons of the chief priest of the synagogue in Ephesus tried to steal the authority in the name of Jesus Christ. They either witnessed Paul using this authority or heard of Paul using this authority and tried to steal its power and authority. But God and Jesus Christ know with whom they have shared this power and authority, it is with the adopted children of God (Ephesians 1:5). It is not magic, it is not a formula, it is a manifestation of God’s gift of holy spirit.

Acts 19:15
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?

Jesus I know,” know is the Greek word ginoskoHelps Word-studies on ginosko, “ginṓskō – properly, to know, especially through personal experience (first-hand acquaintance).” Had this devil spirit personally met Jesus during his earthly ministry? That is what the use of the word ginosko implies. If it had met Jesus, it was to be cast out!

“Paul I know,” know is the Greek word epistamai. Helps Word-studies on epistamai, “epístamai (from epí, which intensifies and hístēmi, "stand” properly, standing upon, referring to gaining knowledge by prolonged acquaintance.”4

The devil spirit knew of Paul, but there had not been a personal encounter yet. Then came the devil spirit’s question, “who are you?”

Casting out a devil spirit is not a magic formula. It is not a spell or an incantation. There were Judean exorcists in the first century. They used what they thought were incantations to bind a spirit.

“The Dead Sea Scrolls include several exorcism incantations and formulae, mostly directed against disease-causing demons. The Dead Sea Scrolls Psalms collection in particular has “four songs for the charming of demons with music.” People who fell under the influence of false prophets and mediums were thought to also require the exorcism of possessing evil spirits…”

Casting out a devil spirit requires God’s gift of holy spirit and the operation of the manifestation of discerning of spirits. That gift of holy spirit is the believers power base and seat of authority to use the name of Jesus Christ. Believers do not conduct a psychological evaluation. They do not analyze the situation from acquired knowledge. They operate the manifestation of discerning of spirits, revelation from God for that specific situation.

Judean exorcists thought they could find an incantation to cast out a devil spirit. Some thought using a powerful name to bind the spirit would force it to obey. The sons of Sceva found out the hard way you need more than the name of Jesus to stand against a devil spirit.

Ephesians 1:19-23
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

How much power did it take to raise Jesus Christ from the dead?
How much power did it take to raise Jesus Christ from the dead with a new eternal body?
How much power did it take to ascend Jesus Christ to the right hand of God?

This is the power that works in a child of God!
God in Christ and Christ in the individual.

It is the “exceeding greatness” of God’s power that works in you. The Greek word for exceeding is huperballo. Huper is the prefix, and it means above and beyond. Ballo means to throw with precision and accuracy. The greatness of the power that works in a believer goes above and beyond whatever the situation confronting that believer. Need a mountain moved? If this is what God has said is the need, then the power working in you goes beyond whatever power is required to move that mountain. If a devil spirit confronts a child of God or obstructs a believer, the power in that believer goes beyond whatever power is required to handle the situation.

It is the exceeding greatness of God’s power that works in you as God’s child. It is a treasure in an earthen vessel.

Ephesians 1:19
and [so that you will begin to know] what the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His [active, spiritual] power is in us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of His mighty strength.
Amplified Bible

God has put all under the feet of Jesus Christ. Therefore, as a member of his Body, these things are also under your feet.

Acts 19:16
And 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.

In the world evil spirits prevail because the one they obey, their lord and master, is the god of this world. There is no power, under man’s control or invented by man that will overpower an evil spirit. Every time a natural man, meaning a man without holy spirit, confronts a devil spirit he can expect to flee “naked and wounded.” It is only a child of God, a member of the Body of Christ, that can stand against a devil spirit, for that person walks in the exceeding greatness of the power of God.

I want you to consider this devil spirit and then remember what you have considered. Was he hesitant to exercise his authority? Was his stand a bold one? What about his power? Why did this devil spirit prevail in the situation?

Acts 19:17
And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

Acts 19:17
The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored.
  New Living Testament

Acts 19:17
All the Jews and Greeks living in the city of Ephesus heard about this. All of them were filled with awe for the name of the Lord Jesus and began to speak very highly about it.
God’s Word Translation

The Greek word, phobos, translated fear can also be translated reverence, or respect, or awe. I think this context calls for the word fear to be handled as awe or reverence. You would translate it fear if it was in reference to the devil spirit, but it is used in reference to the Lord and his name being magnified.

Everyone knew what happened. The sons of Sceva could not handle this devil spirit. How does this bring honor to the Lord? Because even the devil spirit acknowledged Jesus and recognized the authority of Paul. But the sons of Sceva were beat up and sent running for their lives. Verse seventeen states that, “all the Judeans and Gentiles living in the city of Ephesus heard about this…”

The Greek word phobos should be translated reverence or awe in this verse since it is referring to the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 19:18
And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.

The grammar does not give a clear statement as to when these people believed. Are these people who believed because of this incident, or are they people who had believed prior to this incident? I think is it a combination of both.

Acts 19:18
Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done.
New International Version

Acts 19:18
many also of those who did believe were coming, confessing, and declaring their acts,
Young’s Literal Translation

The word confessed is ekomologeo in the Greek. This compound Greek word consists of ek which means out from, and homo which means the same, and logos which in this context means saying. Ek is used to intensify that they all said the same thing. What did they say? They are saying they are coming out of this junk, they are done with it, and they are turning to the Lord Jesus, the one they are magnifying.

Acts 19:19
Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

The phrase “curious arts” in the Greek is periergos and means meddling, another form of this word is translated busybody. They would spend a lot of their time casting spells or using incantations to get things accomplished, instead of spending the time to simply do what needed to be done. Like a busybody, they were interfering in things that were none of their business.

Your neighbor hurt his toe, “oh, oh, I have an incantation to heal big toes. Is it your big toe that’s hurt? Maybe it would work faster on a smaller toe.” Another neighbor jumps in, “If you think it’s possessed with an evil spirit, I have a spell to bind evil spirits.” They would pray to their little statues or emblems of their god, this very aspect will be coming up soon in Ephesus.

They had books or scrolls of these incantations and spells. The incident with the sons of Sceva woke up some of the Ephesians to a greater spiritual reality. Who am I following and why? They brought all these spells and incantations together, threw them into one big pile and set them on fire. 

Book Burners! Book Burners! Censorship! Freedom of Speech! 
Or whatever they would be screaming in the first century.
Just because an accusation is scandalous, does not make it true or accurate. 

Was anyone forced to burn their books or scrolls? No.
Did Paul tell those who believed to burn everything? No.
Are these not their parchments, books, and scrolls? Yes.
Can they not choose to do with their property as they desire? Yes.

These parchments were valued at fifty thousand pieces of silver. Everyone in Ephesus did not believe the preaching of Paul, they could have recouped some of their money wasted on these things. I am sure there would have been buyers. But they did not do that, rather than spread the spiritual infection, they took these things out of circulation. They cauterized the infection.

Acts 19:20
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

The Greek word for mightily is kratos, which means exerted power or influence.
The Greek word for grew is auxano, which is growth from within without compulsion.
The Greek word translated God is kurios, which means Lord.
The Greek word for prevailed is ischuo, which means strength, power, or vigor.

Now, let’s consider what this verse is saying to us. Our first issue is a simple principle, the words within the verse must agree with one another, thy must be in harmony with one another. Kratos, as exerted power does not fit with auxano. The moon reaches forth each day forcing the oceans of the world to move in and out. We call this action the tides. That is an example of this word kratos as exerted power, it is a force. The oceans have no choice, they are compelled, they are forced to move in and out. The Greek word auxano demands the word force not be used. You cannot compel or force auxano growth. Auxano growth begins in the seed.

Auxano growth is used of a plant. Can you force a plant to grow? Over fertilize it and it dies. Over water it and it dies. Expose it to intense light and it dies. You can influence a plant to grow by providing the proper nutrition and the proper amount of water and light, but you cannot force it to grow bigger or quicker. It is within the plants nature to grow and reach its potential. That growth will come step by step, or stage by stage. This is auxano growth. 

Auxano growth is a growth without compulsion, without force. If it has the correct nutrition then it is within the nature of the thing to grow, like a plant. Auxano growth is also used of a child. Consider the same things about forcing a plant to grow and now apply them to the growth of a child. Proper nutrition produces growth in a child. A child also has a mind, it too needs nourishment to grow along with the child’s physical development. This growth will come stage by stage. We call them growth spurts. Children have their growth spurts when their body is ready, there is no set time.

Now, consider that we are children of God. Seeing the world around us through spiritual eyes is new and vastly different for each person who believes. Many things we have learned in the world were designed by the Adversary to sidetrack us and hinder us from believing what God has declared. That is what those who believed in the city of Ephesus are learning.

Place kratos and auxano together in this verse and we have, the Word of the Lord influences growth without compulsion. But we still need more clarity. There is a greater depth to this verse than simply saying the Word of the Lord influences growth.

Verse 17 shows us how the incident with the sons of Sceva brought reverence to the Lord and people believed and magnified the Lord. Then many who believed brought things contrary to the Word of the Lord and burned them in front of everyone. No fear! No intimidation! Exercising their individual rights to own or not own property. This is auxano growth.

Notice it says many, it does not say all. This is also auxano growth. 

Now we can see why Paul did not order believers to get rid of those scrolls and books, you cannot force auxano growth. It is the nature of a child of God to grow in his holy spirit and to grow spiritually in his mind.

Ephesians 4:22-24
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.

A child of God needs to put off the former conversation. The Greek word is anastrophe, and it means manner of life or conduct. What was your former lifestyle? 

Ephesians 2:2-3
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature [physisthe children of wrath, even as others.

Conversation is again your manner of life, your conduct. In Ephesians 4 it is a noun, and in Ephesians 2 the verb form is used. We may not have used spells and incantations, but our lives before we heard the Word of the Lord was according to the course of this world. We were by “nature” the children of wrath. Then we heard the Word of the Lord and God gave us a new “nature,” if we believed.

We also need to see those things in our old nature that stand opposed to the Word of the Lord and have our own bonfire. No one can make that determination for another person. Each person must make their own decision, that is auxano growth. This is what believers did in Ephesus with their bonfire. Why? Because they saw the weakness and the corruption of their spells and incantations. They saw their reliance upon a false god. 

Now they can put on the new man, the thoughts, logic, attitudes of the God in Christ in them, which was created in righteousness and true holiness. The more each believer sets aside the things of the world, the former things, the greater the opportunity for auxano growth.

With influence from the Word of the Lord, the child of God experiences auxano growth. 


Hebrews 4:12
Certainly, the Word of God is living and powerfully active and sharper than every double-edged sword, even penetrating to the dividing between soul and spirit and also between joints and marrow, and it is able to judge between the thoughts and intentions of the heart.6 
Working Translation

With influence from the Word of the Lord, the child of God experiences auxano growth and can prevailed.

Remember the devil spirit I asked you to consider. He prevailed over the seven sons of Sceva. The Greek word in Acts 19:16 is ischuo. The devil spirit was strong, confident, sure of himself, unafraid as he acted. He knew and understood his position in the world, and he exercised his authority, he prevailed.

How confident, empowered, and strong should the child of God be as he walks forth in his new spiritual nature? The prevailing Word of the Lord is the living and believed Word in the mind of a believer.

The Greek word in Acts 19:20 for prevailed is also ischuo. The only difference grammatically between the two uses of this verb is the tense. The devil spirit prevailing is in the aorist tense. A one-time event in the past. Why use the aorist tense? Because the next encounter may be with a child of God, in which case, the devil spirit will not prevail. 

The tense in Acts 19:20 is the imperfect tense. The imperfect is a tense of continual or repeated action, meaning the child of God will continue to prevail and even prevail more as more auxano growth occurs.

Acts 19:20
So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

What prevailed? 

The Word of the Lord in the minds of the believers as they walked forth in the power of God’s gift of holy spirit. 

What does that mean?

It means they walked forth in the love of God.

Ephesians 5:2 
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

It means they walked forth in Light. 

Ephesians 5:8 
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:

It means they walked forth circumspectly. 

Ephesians 5:15-16
 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

They walked forth in power, confidently and giving thanks always for all things unto God, even their Father, in the name of their Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20). 

Ephesians 6:10
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power [kratos] of his might [ischuo].

  1. lyrics to queen's bohemian rhapsody youtube - Yahoo Video Search Results
  2. Superstition Definition & Meaning |
  3. Strong's Greek: 1097. γινώσκω (ginóskó) -- to come to know, recognize, perceive (
  5. Jewish Exorcism | My Jewish Learning
  6. Copyright © 2013 by Walter J. Cummins. All rights reserved.

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A Journey through the Book of Acts