Luke 10:19 “Behold, I give unto you power…over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”
Christians are powerless because they fail to claim what they already have in Christ. This is either through neglect, ignorance, or unbelief. Paul had no such hesitations because he was completely “sold” on God. The fact is, we have no excuse to be just like Paul.
(16) And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:
(17) The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation.
Christ always denied testimony from unclean spirits. Why such spirits felt compelled to testify of Him is not entirely clear. Some of it may have been mockery. Some of it may have been an attempt to make it look like Christ and the unclean spirits were somehow together. At any rate, Christ has always made it clear that no one comes to the Father but by Him.
In this passage, this demon-possessed young lady followed Paul and Silas around, proclaiming who they were and what they were about. She did it for days, and Paul and Silas patiently endured her (16:18). No doubt she was a distraction. More than that, she was causing confusion.
She did her work for gain. Paul and Silas did not and did not want that reputation by association with her. She was also a worshipper of demons. The phrase “spirit of divination” in verse 16 is the Greek word Puthōn, or python. It is a reference to the oracle of Delphi and its surrounding region. Paul and Silas did not need the locals to think that Christ and this python spirit were in any way associated.
In response to this constant harassment, the apostle finally said to the spirit: “I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” (v. 18). And it did – not because of Paul, but because he called on the Lord. The evil spirit had to comply. Again, not because of Paul, but because of the authority of Jesus Christ. Paul acted under Christ’s authority and was always in complete submission to it.
How can we have such power?
Obviously we can’t simply run around claiming Jesus’ name like it’s some sort of magic charm and cast demons out. The results can be catastrophic (Acts 19:13-16).
Even the disciples struggled with the question: how can we have such power over the forces of evil (Matthew 17:15-21)?
So, what’s the answer?
First, we need a pure relationship with Christ. Paul continually kept his body under God’s authority so that he could remain a pure channel of God’s power (1 Corinthians 9:27).
We also need a direct claim to Christ’s authority. The vagabond Jews in Acts 19 tried to cast out a powerful demon on the name of “Jesus whom Paul preached.” That won’t even impress a human, never mind a demonic spirit!
Our motives need to be focused on giving all the glory to God. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). That’s not an option. It’s a requirement. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your own lusts” (James 4:3). God judges the motives as well as the results. If there is anything in our desire for greater power through prayer that smacks of self-glory, our prayers will be hindered.
Most importantly, we need a clear and dedicated faith like Paul’s. In Matthew 17 the disciples tried to cast a demon out of a man’s young son, but failed. Christ rebuked them for their unbelief and reminded them that “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…nothing shall be impossible to you.” It’s an interesting turn of phrase. Whenever we refer to this passage and the others like it, we always interject faith “the size” of a mustard seed. While that’s part of the picture, it’s not the whole illustration, and not necessarily the focal point. Whenever Christ used this illustration the emphasis was on what the mustard seed became.
Mark 4:31 It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:
Mark 4:32 But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.
It starts out tiny, but eventually outclasses all the other herbs in terms of size. Our faith needs to be like that. It might start out small, but it needs to flourish because the more it grows, the more powerful it becomes. It’s not meant to stay a seed. It’s meant to grow! How do we grow our faith? By the water of the Word and by trusting Christ day by day for everything. You trust Him for grace in one thing, He gives you grace to trust Him for even bigger things. He gives grace for grace.
If we grow our faith like a grain of mustard seed grows, Christ promises that before too long, we’ll be moving mountains! Who doesn’t want that kind of prayer life?