The Fear of God & Evangelism

Acts 19:13-20 NIV - 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. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

Acts 13:9-12 NLT - Saul, also known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and he looked the sorcerer in the eye. 10 Then he said, “You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? 11 Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” Instantly mist and darkness came over the man’s eyes, and he began groping around begging for someone to take his hand and lead him. 12 When the governor saw what had happened, he became a believer, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

While nobody in modern times possesses the same apostolic authority as the Apostle Paul, consider how his dealings with Elymas the Sorcerer in Acts 13 may apply today.  Faith in God should mean faith in God’s continuing ability to intervene supernaturally.  In the instance of this false religious practitioner directly opposing Paul and attempting to prevent someone else from receiving the gospel, Paul discerned the punishment of God was now merited upon Elymas.  By intervening once Paul spoke the judgment, God used the incident to open the eyes of an unbeliever to the doctrine of Christ.  While descriptive more than prescriptive for the church today, I believe God still has the prerogative to assist evangelism by intervening in a way that provokes a genuine awe, respect, and fear of Him.  The evangelistic benefit is evident also.  In various mission fields around the world, such openness to supernatural reality makes the fear of God more effective evangelistically than perhaps in places like America.  

In Acts 13, this rare instance describes a false prophet directly opposing the apostle who is engaged in evangelism.  The Book of Acts demonstrates times in which provoking unbelievers to faith in Christ was most efficiently accomplished by a healthy fear of God.  The thing to remember is that God proved fully capable of pouring out the right “dose” of whatever was needed to provoke evangelism.  It would be presumptive for us to simply declare a curse or judgment of God on someone simply because we are being provoked.  Pray for the discernment to know when God is being provoked to pour out a punishment instead, and seek to understand if and when doing so will further His purposes.  The evangelization of souls is our business.  God’s judgment in supernatural intervention is His business.  There is no reason for God to intervene supernaturally if you are experiencing little opposition to furthering the gospel.  Perhaps He may intervene if we are sharing the Good News, but who is really opposing our Christian witness (Acts 13) or perverting our witness (Acts 19)?  If we are actively witnessing, testifying, and evangelizing, then we may pray to discern if God will supernaturally intervene to help us as we face the voices of opposition and perversion.  The key is to be actively witnessing and evangelizing.  Who is opposing or perverting your witness to others?  How might God best intervene (supernaturally) to help you minister to the lost?