ONE OF THE STRANGEST ACCOUNTS in the book of Acts concerns the seven sons of Sceva (Acts 19:11-20).
Paul's ministry in Ephesus lasted some considerable time, perhaps two and a half years, and during that time "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul"(19:11). The result is that various "competitors" tried to keep up with him. By itself, this was not surprising. It has always been so. When God especially empowered Moses to perform miracles before Pharaoh, the magicians of Egypt could reproduce most (though not all) of what he did.
So in Paul's day some Jews steeped in syncretism traveled around, engaging in some kind of deliverance ministry. They had little idea what they were engaged in. When they saw what Paul was doing in the name of Jesus, they started to refer to that name too, as if it were nothing more than some magic talisman: "They would say, 'In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.'" (Acts 19:13).
The seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish priest, were particularly engaged in this operation. One day the evil spirit they were trying to exercise talked back to them: "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" (Acts 19:15). Then the man possessed by this spirit leaped on them and beat up all seven of them.
First, the result of this encounter was entirely beneficial. When the story circulated, many were seized with a healthy fear and an enlarged respect for the name of the Lord Jesus. This was a name so powerful that it could not be treated as a magic formula. This name could not be domesticated. The result was that infatuation with occult practices was curbed. Many confessed their evil deeds, and others brought their occult books and burned them, totaling an enormous value (Acts 19:17-19). "In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power" (Acts 19:20).
Second, the really striking element is the utterance of the evil spirit: "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" One can understand why Jesus would be known among demonic powers. There is no surprise there. But Paul is known too! His ministry had been assaulting the powers of darkness. He was known to be protected and defended by the living Christ — there is no way the demon could have used the possessed man to beat him up. These other characters were another matter; as far as the demon was concerned, they were a bit of a joke, easily ignored, easily subdued and shamed. But Paul was known!
Christians engaging the Enemy will be known not only in the courts of heaven but in the courts of hell.