Does the name of Jesus have magical powers?

Author: BibleAsk Team

In ancient times, certain names were thought to have special magical powers. The use of the name of Jesus for the same purpose was attempted by the seven sons of Sceva at Ephesus who tried to cast a demon believing that the name of Jesus has some magical power (Acts 19:13-16). But when they failed, they realized that Jesus’ name itself didn’t possess unusual powers.

Names reflect the character of a person

There is much more to the name than its pronounciation. Names reflect the nature of its holder. In the OT, the Hebrew word for “name,” was used also for “character” (Jer. 14:7, 21), and could be equal to the person himself (Ps. 18:49). The name of God represented who He is. He is the “I am” (Exodus 3:13–15) which means: the eternal, self-existing One (John 8:58).

But the Jews failed to revere God and were satisfied with revering His name. They felt that “Yahweh” was too sacred a name to pronounce. So, they substituted it with “Adonai,” “My Lord,” or “Elohim.” The divine name Yahweh was reserved as a secret and known only to the high priest, and with time its true pronunciation was forgotten. Sadly, the Jews revered the name of God but rejected His own Son.

Not only God’s character was represented by His name, people were also represented by their names. The Lord changed the names of some of His children when their characters changed. Abram’s name meaning high father, was changed to Abraham meaning the father of a multitude (Genesis 17:5). Jacob’s name meaning supplanter was also changed to Israel meaning having power with God (Genesis 32:28). And Jesus changed Simon’s name meaning God has heard, to Peter meaning the rock (John 1:42).

In the NT, the concept of names representing the character of a person is likewise seen for the Greek word for “name” (onoma) can mean “person” (Acts 1:15; Rev. 3:4; 11:18).

Not magic but faith

Although some of the eye witnesses for the miracles that Jesus’ disciples did in His name, may have thought that these miracles were performed through a magical name, the disciples themselves did not use the name of Jesus that way. Instead they declared that healing and saving power were done through faith in the person of Jesus Christ. To them the faith of a person was clearly tied to his receiving the miracle (Hebrews 11:6).

In the book of Acts, the author associates the name of Jesus with both salvation and supernatural works of healing and casting out devils (Acts 3:6; 4:10, 12, 17, 18; 16:18; Mark 9:38; Luke 10:17). Peter showed that there was no magic involved in the miracles that he performed in Jesus’ Name (Acts 3) but rather submission to Him as His disciple.

And this same power of Christ is available to all through a living faith in Him (Luke 18:27). Such faith accepts Christ’s teachings and yields to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit (James 2:14-26). This faith produces good fruits in the life of its holder (Galatians 5:22,23). Thus, genuine faith does not rest on mere confession of Jesus’ Name.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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