“The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul—but who are you?”
(Acts 19:15, CSB)
Namedropping is embarrassing. We’ve all witnessed it and cut our eyes, forcing a fake smile, hoping the namedropper doesn’t notice. It’s meant to impress, but when it’s obvious, all it does is fill the room with awkwardness. It’s even worse when the person doesn’t know the individual. This reminds me of the story of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19:11-20.
In the passage’s opening, we see Paul being used mightily by the Spirit of God. Handkerchiefs and aprons touched by Paul were healing the sick and bringing deliverance to the oppressed. When God cast devils out by what would be today’s Kleenex or kitchen towel, heads turned, and people took notice. People started trying to copycat Paul’s ministry, but they didn’t know Jesus. The Bible states, “Now some of the itinerant Jewish exorcist also attempted to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘I command you by the Jesus that Paul preaches’” (19:13). The men were dropping the name of Jesus without knowing Him. I can imagine the evil spirit, like us, cringed when they heard them drop a name without really knowing the person. But the demons would have none of it. They acknowledge Jesus and Paul but attacked the wannabe exorcists leaving them naked.
For Paul, speaking the name of Jesus wasn’t the abracadabra of a parlor trick. It was the declaration of his faith in the finished work of Christ. The sons of Sceva didn’t understand this. John Chrysostom, one of the Early Church Fathers, commented on this passage, saying, “The exorcists said simply, ‘Jesus,’ when they should have said, ‘the Savior of the world, He who rose again.” It was Paul’s faith and understanding of who Jesus was, that unlocked the power of God. Unlike the sons of Sceva, Paul had trusted and surrendered his life to the Lordship of Christ and Jesus worked through him.
Unfortunately, there are many people who know the name Jesus, but do not know Jesus. This is especially true in gospel-saturated areas like the Bible Belt. Almost everyone has heard of the name of Jesus with a church on every corner, but they’ve never come to saving faith in Christ. To experience the power of God in our lives, we must be connected to God through genuine faith in Jesus Christ like Paul. Anything else will leave us lacking, like it did the namedropping seven sons of Sceva.