In Acts 19: 13-17. Several people tries to drive out demons by using Jesus's name.

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.

However, Disciples encountered similar situation earlier. In Mark 9: 38-41:

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

How should I understand this? Was this group of people who drove out demons by using Jesus's name any different from the ones that were beaten severely for it?

4 Answers 4


Notice that in the Mark case, Jesus is saying, "Don't forbid them from casting out demons," whereas in Acts 19, it is the demons themselves who are unwilling to be cast out by someone who may use the name of Jesus, but who seems to be trifiling with things they shouldn't be. In the case of Mark, it would be humans resisting, in the case of Acts, it is demons.

In the case of the passage in Mark, the question was one of association. As answered in another question, the focus is as much on institution as anything else. Here, Jesus simply said something to the effect of 'Just because they aren't attending your church doesn't mean they can't do something in my name.'

In the Acts passage, we have someone attempting to cast out demons who is clearly unworthy to do so. The name of Jesus is being invoked as a talisman of sorts - a magic set of syllables that some one is trying to utter in order to gain control. When this unworthy person attempts to cast out the demon, the demons are the ones who realize the would-be exorcist as a person who may know the name of Jesus, but not really be one of his. When the demons say to the sons of Sceva, "I know Jesus" they are admitting that Jesus has power over them. When they say, "I know of Paul," it is because they have heard that Paul is one who correctly uses the power of Christ. These demons know that Jesus is working through Paul, much to their consternation. But it is one thing to say a name, and another to understand the one through whom power comes. These sons of Sceva apparently know the words, but not the Christ.

The demons are aware of this - and they pounce.

I would argue the Acts 19 passage should also be read in light of Acts 8. In Acts 8, a sorcerer named Simon sought to control demons and harness the power of the Spirit for personal gain. He even offered Peter money to learn.

18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money 19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Peter reacts harshly saying this power of Christ is not something that can simply be bought or sold. He says:

20 ... “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.

When fighting the demons, Paul says in Ephesians 6 that

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

Notice how the fighter is to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Notice that we taken on armor - a defense, not an offense.

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Finally note, the only offensive weapon we have is the Word of God, nothing of our own:

17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

In other words, Simon, this Jesus' power isn't a game. There are real forces at work that aren't of your control. There is, however, a Jesus who is in control, at whose name demons cringe. You are not in control - He is. Sons of Sceva, let him fight, for as it says in 2 Chronicles 16:9

9 For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war. ”

In other words, if you are going to fight demons, make sure you realize how the demons are actually defeated.


According to John Darbys Synopsis of the New Testament, these men were non-Christians, who attempted to use the name of Christ as a sort if magic word.

Not only were they operating without the power of the Holy Spirit, their use was a mockery of Christ's Holy Name. As such, they would not have the power necessary to stand against demons.

Certain Jews desired to avail themselves of it for their own self-interest; and devoid of faith, they use the name of "Jesus whom Paul preached" as though it had been a kind of charm. But the evil spirit, whose power was as true and real in its way as that of the Lord which he was forced to acknowledge when it was in exercise, knew very well that here it was not so, that there was neither faith nor power. "Jesus I know," said he, "and who Paul is I know; but who are ye?" And the man who was possessed attacked and wounded them. Striking testimony to the action of the enemy, but at the same time to that superior force. to the reality of that intervention of God. which was carried into effect by means of Paul. Now, when God shews Himself, conscience always shews itself; and the power of the enemy over it is manifested and ceases. The Jews and Greeks are filled with fear, and many who became Christians brought the proofs of their sorceries.


I don't really see a discrepancy here. On these two occassions the Bible describes someone attempting to cast out a demon. In one case the person succeeded and in the other case the person failed. There could be any number of reasons why they had different outcomes. Exactly what does it take to successfully cast out a demon? I don't know.

Jesus told his followers to preach the Gospel, and the Bible discusses many times that people did this. Sometimes those they were preaching to were converted, sometimes they were not. Is this a discrepancy? No, it's just different outcomes in a complex situation.

The Old Testament describes many times that kings of Israel went to war. Sometimes they won and sometimes they lost. Etc.


My take on this is that the bible says let God be true and every man be a lair. It also says that God is not a man that He should lie.It also says we as Christians can do anything in His name. With this in mind, I know whatever we ask in His name... It shall be done to the glory of God. The bible also says we are not to test God. So if we do something to test His greatness then He is not obliged to make it so. We are His creation and not the other way around, We can never dictate terms to our Lord and maker for He alone will have His way.

The Bible also says that faith as small as a mustard seed can move mountains....The mountain is a challenge or a problem. Everyone has their own challenges and for others it could be possession. The book of Hebrews says it is impossible to please God without faith. Therefore why would he answer a prayer or request that is not pleasing to Him. We need to have faith to please Him. Faith that He can do what we ask and much more abundantly than what we can imagine.

  • 1
    Welcome to C.SE, and when you get the chance, I invite you to check out our tour. While I appreciate that you are seeming to indicate that the difference is faith, this answer is a bit unclear about its relation to the question. Additionally, and not to be mean but we are less interested in what 'you' think than what groups of people think.. Additionally, identifying your tradition would help. I do look forward to more answers, however, and genuinely invite you to check out what we do here. Jul 24, 2013 at 14:55

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