And the evil spirit answered…
— Acts 19:15
Yesterday we saw how seven exorcists attempted to add the name of Jesus to their repertoire of magical incantations. As the story unfolds in Acts 19, we find that the seven sons of Sceva had a major confrontation — an unsuccessful one — with a demon-possessed man in Ephesus. As noted earlier, these exorcists saw Paul successfully using the name of Jesus to exercise authority over demons. Hoping to expel demons from a man in Ephesus, they added the name of Jesus to their list of magical names, even though they had no personal relationship with Jesus.
According to Acts 19:15, their attempt was futile. In fact, the verse says that the demon indwelling the man challenged them: “And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?”
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The actual structure of the Greek text says, “And answering, the evil spirit said…” The Greek tense tells us this was not a single answer; rather, the demon spirit that possessed the man verbally responded to each attempt the seven exorcists made to drive it out. Thus, the spirit was answering each time they tried to use a new magical name, spell, or incantation to drive it out. This, of course, tells us that evil spirits have intelligence and the ability to speak and even to converse.
This ability of evil spirits to speak is evident in the four gospels and in the book of Acts. A study of the Scriptures makes it clear that demon spirits are intelligent:
- They can possess specific information about things, places, or people.
- They can know the names of people.
- They have the ability to indwell a human being and engage that person’s vocal apparatus to terrorize others, to blaspheme, to challenge, to make requests, and to scream, shriek, and cry out.
Vivid examples of evil spirits possessing intelligence and having the ability to speak can be found in Matthew 8:29 and Mark 5:7-12, where we read about the demoniac of Gadara. This tortured man was indwelt by a legion of demons that demonstrated both intelligence and the ability to speak. Mark 1:23-25 relates another example of this phenomenon. In this instance, evil spirits in a man spoke so freely that Jesus had to command them to stop talking and be silent.
Then in Mark 1:34, we are told that many sick people and those possessed with demons gathered to be healed and delivered by Jesus. The evil spirits referred to in this verse were so fluid in speech that Jesus actually had to forbid them to speak so they wouldn’t reveal who He was before the time. These are just a few New Testament examples demonstrating that demons have both intelligence and the ability to use the vocal organs of the person in whom they dwell.
Going back to Acts 19:15, we read that this man had an “evil spirit.” All demons are evil, but the word “evil” in this verse is the word poneros. If used in connection with animals, the word poneros depicts ferocious, savage, and dangerous beasts. Likewise, when this Greek word is used to describe spirits that indwell people, these spirits are ferocious, savage, dangerous, and malicious to those in whom they dwell and bring harm and danger to those who are in close proximity to them.
First, the evil spirits often create harmful and self-injuring behavior. The New Testament has many examples of such savageness. One example is found in Luke 9:37-39, where Luke tells us of a boy who periodically experienced demonic attacks that were injurious. Luke described it like this: “And, lo, a spirit taketh him, and he suddenly crieth out; and it teareth him that he foameth again, and bruising him hardly departeth from him” (v. 39). Matthew related the same account in Matthew 17:14 and 15, adding that the evil spirit would hurl the boy into fire and water. This was ferocious, savage, dangerous, and malicious treatment by the demon spirit against the one it possessed.
Another example is found in Mark 5:5, where we find the demoniac of Gadara, who was continually wandering in the mountains and among the tombs, crying out and “cutting himself with stones.” He continually wandered around that isolated region, crying out in pain and agony while slicing his body with sharp stones — and it was all the result of the “evil spirits” that indwelt him. It is no wonder that these spirits are called poneros in the Greek, for they truly are evil.
But this description of the destructive impact of demonic control in a person’s life should not cause us any fear. In my years of ministry, I have occasionally found myself in a confrontation with a demonized person. Just like the stories referred to in the Bible, I have heard demons speak, and I have seen them exercise physical power beyond human ability. But in each case, I have also seen them wilt and shrink when the name of Jesus is employed against them. We must remember that Jesus taught, “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils…” (Mark 16:17).
If you really know Jesus as your Lord and Savior — if you are in Christ — you can be sure that you have authority over demonic powers in the power of His name. Unlike the exorcists who used magic and incantations to manipulate the spirit realm and failed, you are empowered by the Holy Spirit, and you are given the name of Jesus to take authority over and to cast out demons. You are empowered by the Spirit of God and have real God-given authority in the spirit realm!
I am so thankful that the Bible clearly shows us that demonic powers shrink back at the name of Jesus. In fact, spirits are so fearful of that name that James 2:19 says demons “tremble” in the presence of faith and the name of Jesus. The word “tremble” is the Greek word phrisso, which means to bristle, as when the hairs stand up on a person’s neck when he is suddenly “spooked” or startled by an unexpected noise, etc.
This means that even though demons may have intelligence to speak and power to be able to put forth superhuman strength, none of that helps them when they find themselves in the presence of a believer exercising his authority by faith in the name of Jesus. That prospect sends them into shock, panic, and dismay. Figuratively, it causes the hair to stand up on their necks. It terrifies them!
As a believer, you have the Holy Spirit living in you and you have the name of Jesus Christ to use at your disposal. That means you are in a position to make demons tremble! And it doesn’t stop there. You also have the power to cast them out in Jesus’ name, just as promised by Christ in Mark 16:17.
So the next time you find yourself in the presence of evil, don’t you shrink back in fear. Release your faith and lift your voice to take authority over the devil’s strategies in the name of Jesus — and as you do, you’ll send those evil, malevolent powers scurrying away in terror! Then as you release the peace and the love of God in Jesus’ name, His power will go into operation to calm those who had been adversely affected by that demonic oppression and turn that situation completely around according to God’s purposes and to His glory!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I am inspired and thankful to learn I have authority that is given to me because of my relationship with Jesus Christ and His matchless name that He has entrusted to me. When I encounter situations where demonic power is present, I thank You for giving me the boldness to take authority and to expel those powers in Jesus’ name!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. The devil is minor compared to the awesome power of Christ that indwells me. When I speak the name of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, the spirit-realm listens and obeys. I am in Christ, and Christ is in me. When I speak in Jesus’ name against demon powers, it is like Christ is speaking through me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever had an experience with demonic intelligence like Acts 19:15 depicts? When was that experience, and what happened?
- What did you learn from today’s Sparkling Gem that you never knew about demons and our authority over them? This is a very important subject for Christians, so we need to know what the Bible teaches (see Ephesians 6:10-18)!
- Have you ever had an experience binding or casting out a demon spirit? When did that happen? What was the result?