false teaching

Sacred Handkerchief?

I warned about sacred objects in a previous article. But what about Acts 19:11, 12? That passage records that people were being healed by handkerchiefs and aprons (likely, sweatbands and work aprons) that had merely touched the apostle Paul.

My take is that this does not resemble (or endorse) what happens with so-called sacred objects these days. Acts 19 says nothing to indicate that Paul decided to produce and market sacred objects or that he personally invoked some sort of spiritual power into these pieces of cloth.

It seems more like a case in which the Lord took over in this very pagan city of Ephesus and flashed around some real power—distinguishing his power and that of his apostles from the pagan/occult/phony religious teaching and teachers there. Acts 19:11 says that Paul performed “extraordinary miracles.” Surely different from what the citizens were used to seeing. Ephesus was no doubt full of occult frauds, like the sons of Sceva in verses 13ff. The demon in that account knew that the so-called exorcists didn’t really belong to Jesus, that they were just tossing out his name as one of their magic words. The demon actually knew who Jesus was—and knew that Paul was legit. But the demon had nothing to fear from these seven guys, and so used his poor victim to beat them up. (What a deep, dark, and funny account!)

Verses 17-20 say that the Ephesians were forced to take notice. And those who decided to believe in the Lord even trashed the valuable sorcery materials they had accumulated.

These days, individuals (of various religions and no religion) declare something to be sacred or try to make it become sacred by going through some sort of sorcery ritual, supposedly invoking God’s (or “divine”) power into it. Unfortunately, naive Christians get caught up in the general idea too—adopting pagan items or practices and attempting to Christianize them (ex: tarot cards, Ouija board, labyrinth, mantra meditation).

And then there are today’s phony evangelists operating under the cover of Christianity. They seem to have an endless supply of “prayer cloths,” paper “Persian prayer rugs,” or pictures of a blinking Jesus. That is, Jesus blinks if you stare into the eyes properly. Oh, and send in a donation within three days or something bad might happen.

To dig in a bit more, see this “Nothing Sacred” article.

The Acts 19 event with the handkerchief also brings to mind the account of King Saul and the witch of Endor. Check out this post and the link within it to the late Dr. Jack Cottrell’s explanation.


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