Ministry to the Sick, the Diseased, and Those With Evil Spirits
So that from his [Paul’s] body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
— Acts 19:12
We saw in yesterday’s Sparkling Gem that the Bible explicitly tells us that Paul experienced a level of God’s power that had been previously unknown to him when he came to the city of Ephesus, resulting in dramatic healings and deliverances of all sorts. Today we’re going to examine the types of supernatural occurrences that accompanied that flow of supernatural power.
In Acts 19:12, there is a specific list regarding the various categories of people who were healed and delivered as a result of the divine invasion of power that accompanied Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. It says, “So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.”
To gain a better understanding of these three categories of people, let’s consider the Greek words in this verse for “sick,” “diseases,” and “evil spirits.” In the Greek text, these are three very different words that tell very different stories about the various categories of infirmed people that were changed as a result of the Holy Spirit’s manifested power.
First, Acts 19:12 refers to the “sick.” This is the Greek word astheneo, which is a word that generally describes a person who is frail in health. This word astheneo commonly referred to people who were so physically weak that they were unable to travel — in this case, to the location where Paul was teaching the Word of God. It carried the idea of those who were feeble, fragile, faint, incapacitated, disabled, or simply in such poor health that it would be unthinkable to transport them. Their condition was so delicate that they would most likely be shut-ins or homebound.
Second, the word “diseases” is used, translated from a Greek word that has a very different meaning than the one translated “sick.” Actually, the word translated “diseases” can actually be considered an amplification of the word “sick” (astheneo), providing even greater insight into the frail condition of these people who were homebound because of their conditions. That Greek word translated “diseases” is nosos, an old word with a long and interesting history.
In ancient Greek literature, the word nosos was specifically used to describe illnesses caused by invisible entities, such as demons. In fact, nearly every time the word nosos was used in connection with illness, it was understood that the sickness was spirit-inflicted. The word portrayed people who were tormented physically or mentally; people who were afflicted by an unseen entity; or those who were vexed with lunacy or madness. The ancient view was that these individuals had been ruthlessly subjected to cruel treatment by spirits and were therefore “dis-eased” people.
The word nosos was also used to describe plagues that were attributed to demonically inspired disasters or physical terminal illnesses for which medical science had no known remedy. If it was a nosos plague sent to an entire city or region, the ancients believed it was a scourge of demon spirits that simply had to run its course because none of their natural efforts could stop it. Medical attempts to treat a nosos illness were considered futile because nosos was a type of sick- ness or demonic attack beyond help and r
Whether the manifestation of nosos was terminal cancer, some other deadly illness, or a spirit-inflicted mental madness, people of that day assumed that someone with a nosos disease had no hope of recuperation. Every time the word nosos was used, it described what the ancient Greeks believed to be an unalterable, irreversible, incurable, permanent condition.
Due to the multiplicity of dark pagan religions that flourished in Ephesus, the city was a fertile breeding ground for demonic activity. The religion of Artemis, the supreme goddess of the city, as well as the many other alternative forms of pagan worship, all involved worshipers in occult rituals and supernatural activities that could have caused people to fall under the influence of evil spirits. It should therefore come as no surprise that many people in this city were tormented with untreatable, spirit-inflicted sickness that came upon them as a result of curses, spells, and magic.
However, as we read in Acts 19:12, when Paul’s garments were laid on them, “…The dis- eases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” The wording in Acts 19:12 makes it clear that the elimination of these diseases was linked to the departure of evil spirits. The moment victims were freed of evil spirits, they were freed of the sicknesses the evil spirits had caused, confirming that the diseases were spirit-induced. The verse says that the diseases “departed” — translated from the Greek word apallasso, which means to be set free, to be changed, to be radically transformed, or to be liberated or unfettered from something.
It is significant that the word apallasso is used in this verse, because it was actually a First Century medical term that described people who had been completely cured of a disease. This term never denoted a temporary cure — only a permanent one. Thus, we know that when the divine power that operated in Paul’s ministry touched these afflicted people, they were perma- nently freed of the sickness and oppression that had relentlessly tormented them.
Acts 19:12 also states that the diseases left when “the evil spirits went out” of them. To understand the significance of this statement, we must first take a closer look at the word “evil” in connection with “evil spirits.” The word “evil” is the word poneros, a well-known word that describes something that is foul, vile, malicious, malevolent, malignant, hostile, and vicious. In the Bible, it is often used to depict actions, laws, or people whose behavior is opposed to the righteous nature of God. For example, God’s nature is righteous, good, holy, and pure, but the word poneros would depict something that is unrighteous, wicked, unholy, and impure.
When the Greek word poneros is used in connection with animals, it often depicts animals that are savage, wild, vicious, and dangerous. Such beasts are so dangerous that they pose a risk of death to those near them. Similarly, when the word poneros is connected to the word spirits to form the phrase “evil spirits,” as is found in Acts 19:12, we know that these spirits created havoc and destruction, were malicious to those in whom they dwelt, and brought harm and danger to anyone nearby. This may explain why severe demoniacs lived far from population centers, such as the two demon-possessed men in Matthew 8:28 who lived in a remote region of the Gadarenes.
Acts 19:12 goes on to say that when the power operating through Paul’s clothing or hands touched the diseased, the evil spirits “went out” of them. The phrase “went out” comes from the Greek word ekporeuomai, a compound of the words ek and poreuomai. The word ek means out, as in to go out, to leave, or to go away. The word poreuomai means to journey, as in to leave one place and go to another. When the two words are compounded, the new word ekporeuomai implies an even stronger meaning. It gives the impression that when Paul’s garments touched those who had “evil spirits,” the anointing transmitted from his garments to them caused the evil spirits so much anguish and torment that they swiftly went out of the afflicted like those who are evicted, ousted, thrown out, or forcibly removed.
God’s power came in and the evil spirits swiftly went out — and when they departed, the physical and mental afflictions caused by those spirits left with them. The evil spirits were literally ejected or evicted, just as an unwanted person would be ejected or evicted from a house. One expositor states that the word ekporeuomai actually gives the impression that these evil spirits escaped from the anointing operating through Paul. And when they left, the cure was permanent. Once touched by Paul or his clothes, the sick and diseased were liberated and set free.
One may not conclude from this text that all sickness and disease are spirit-induced. However, it leaves open the possibility that some who are tormented with agonizing physical and mental conditions that medical science cannot help may be suffering from afflictions that are not natural but rather are the result of an evil spiritual entity. At least we should be open to consider that if medical treatment does not help, there may be a spiritual root to the physical problem.
In this case, not only is a good doctor needed, but also an experienced pastor or minister who knows how to administer the power of God to those who cannot get relief by medical means. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever — and since He healed those in Acts 19:12, He is more than willing to help those who come to Him for help today. The power of God has never changed — it is still operating and flowing from Heaven; it is still healing the sick; and it is still evicting evil entities from human beings. We must learn to be increasingly sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading so we can know what ailments are simply physical problems and which are spirit-inflicted. Then once we know, we can deal with the situation by the Spirit and take the actions He leads us to take to help bring healing and freedom!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You for opening the eyes of my understanding today as I’ve read about the various types of sicknesses and diseases that were healed during Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. I think I’ve made the mistake of thinking everything could be treated with medicine, but it is clear from this Sparkling Gem that some afflictions are spirit-induced and therefore can only be cured with the power of God. I ask You to teach me more about the gifts of the Holy Spirit — particularly the gift of healing. I ask also that You make me an instrument through which Your supernatural power flows to heal those who will never be healed in any other way.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I boldly confess that God uses me as an instrument of healing, deliverance, and freedom for the sick whom medical science has been unable to help. The Holy Spirit resides in me — and with Him are all of His gifts, including the gift of healing and the working of miracles. Father, I embrace the truth that You want Your power to operate in me and through me — and that I should be an extension of Jesus’ ministry to bring healing and freedom to those who need relief. Therefore, I declare that I will yield to You and lay my hands on the sick, expecting You to cause them to recover. I will use my voice to release Your authority and command spirit-inflicted illnesses to go. In Jesus’ name, I will see results and people will be made free, for the glory of God the Father!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever personally witnessed a healing, miracle or deliverance from a spirit-inflicted illness? When was that and what did you observe? How would you describe it to someone else?
- Although these instances are very rare, have you ever encountered a person whom you thought was controlled by evil spirits? When was that? What led you to believe that evil spirits controlled them?
- Have you ever been in an atmosphere so charged with God’s power that you personally witnessed the sick, the diseased, and those with evil spirits be set free? Do you ever witness such demonstrations of power at your church? If not, why not?