Why Counterfeits Are More Dangerous Than Competitors



Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 19:17–22

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. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 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. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.


Let’s back up a minute and cover the matter about which today’s text is responding:

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.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 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. (Acts 19:13–16)

The word of this power encounter got around quickly and frightened the Jews and Greeks in Ephesus. Note these Jews and Greeks were believers in Jesus. So why would they be afraid? Because they, too, were guilty of dabbling in these practices.

So what would the modern-day equivalent look like? It would be easy to compare what they were doing to the zodiac, tarot cards, or reading books about your horoscope. I don’t think so. Here’s my take: I think these followers of Jesus were creating some first-century version of what we today might call the Word of Faith movement or the Prosperity Gospel.

If they operated within another religion entirely it might not be such a big deal. The trouble is they were using the name of Jesus in a way foreign to the person of Jesus. In my judgment, this is what prosperity theology does. Prosperity theology is a belief that power and financial blessing are the will of God for Christians and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth and prosperity. 

Bottom line: misusing the name of Jesus. Wasn’t there a major commandment about that?

The name of Jesus is powerful, but it is not magic. The name of Jesus inspires awe and humble submission. After all, before it’s all said and done, every knee will bow to the name of Jesus.

That’s what happened that day in Ephesus. The Holy Spirit convicted them of using the name of Jesus for their own gain and brought them to a place of bowing to the name of Jesus. It led to a demonstrative repentance of burning entire libraries of books dedicated to these false religious practices.

Books that purport to be Christian but really aren’t pose far more danger than books about other religions or sorcery or anything else. In other words, it’s not Christianity’s competitors we need to be worried about, but its counterfeits.

Beware of using the name of Jesus and those who make a living of it. It’s a thriving business with a flourishing economy, and it’s close enough to the real thing to be quite deceptive. (Did you pick up on how much money those books were worth in today’s text? 50,000 drachmas. That’s a day’s wages times 50,000 days or 137 years.)

To be sure, Jesus loves prosperity, but prosperity on his terms and in the way of his kingdom. 

I’ll say a bit more on this in the afterword in today’s podcast (which is another way of saying today’s audio recording). And good news for those of you who do not listen. Those after-words are being transcribed and captured in our Wake-Up Call Facebook Page each day (special thanks to Farm Team member Maggie Slusher). You can find it in the “Featured Posts” section at the top of the page. 


Father, we want prosperity and yet we want it according to your will and ways. I confess I am so prone to seek prosperity on my own terms and in my own ways and, worse, I try to bring you into the service of my own self-interested and self-designed prosperity gospel. I want to trust you more. You own the cattle on a thousand hills. And you own the hills. More than the cattle and the hills, Lord, I want you. I receive your prosperity and I release my own efforts to prosper myself. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen. 


Do you see the greater danger of counterfeit Christianity? Do you see the difference between the prosperity gospel and the gospel of prosperity?


Today we will sing “Seek Ye First” (hymn 341) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here. 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

Subscribe to get this in your inbox daily and please share this link with friends.


Share today's Wake-Up Call!


WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

4 Responses

  1. I agree fully that the so-called Word of Faith/ prosperity gospel/name it and claim it, false doctrines are a dangerous way that Satan has seduced the faithful. It can easily be refuted by sharing what St. John wrote in his first epistle, chapter 2:15-17, where he warns the Church not to lust after the things of this world. It’s clearly a false gospel. But in my opinion, this recent hermeneutic that allows scriptures to be twisted in an effort to show that God now celebrates what had been interpreted previously for several millennium as sin, is even more damaging to the goal of humanity’s restoration into the full image of God. Clearly, Satan’s goal of trying to mislead, divide or destroy Christ’s Church, is an ongoing battle. And if we, the called out people of God expect to overcome in this battle for the souls of humanity, we’ll have to embrace, proclaim, and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. Therefore, doctrine of the Priesthood of all believers must be given more than lip-service. Dependance on the clergy caste alone, just won’t cut it.

  2. JD: Verse 11 says: “This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” It doesn’t say that all the Jews and Greeks became believers. Indeed, verse 9 says: “Some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way.”

    Therefore, your statement, “Note these Jews and Greeks were believers in Jesus,” seems inaccurate. They all “heard the word of the Lord,” and many believed but many didn’t.

    1. In the Gospels, Jesus warned His followers to beware of false prophets. That’s a warning that Christians seem to ignore today. Almost anybody who says he or she is a Christian minister and starts a church or buys radio or TV time (regardless of what they teach) is honored and respected. We know false prophets exist, but we hesitate to point them out because if we do so we will be called judgmental and unloving by both Christians and non-Christians. We need to learn to boldly yet humbly speak the truth in love. JD, today’s Wake-Up Call is a good example of that. Thank you.

  3. I witnessed a small church in Georgia that started with some very dedicated people and my daughter and her husband would work and would go to schools on Sunday and set up equipment for service.They did not hear the words . As time went by they realized on many occasions that the pastor was more of a showman than a true Godly Pastor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *