CLAIM: Luke records, “God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out” (Acts 19:11-12).
RESPONSE: These handkerchiefs and aprons were likely “sweat rags” that you wrapped around your head or waist in such a hot climate. This was a way to demonstrate Paul’s authority as an apostle (2 Cor. 12:12; Rom. 15:18-19). Luke even states that these were “extraordinary” miracles. Why did God use this method of miracles in Ephesus?
God must have specially worked through Paul’s garments because he was in Ephesus, where occult practice was common. Since this was the case, God must have wanted to show his superiority over these practices by giving Paul unique powers over the occult. God used this so powerfully for evangelistic purposes (v.17) in a place that was terribly oppressed by occult bondage (vv.18-20). Elsewhere, we see precedent for God’s miraculous working in this way. For instance, Jesus healed people through his garments (Lk. 8:44), and Peter healed people through his shadow (Acts 5:15). God can use the simplest objects (or people!) to accomplish his work.
This whole section of miracles stands in contrast to the magic seen in the seven sons of Sceva, which Luke contrasts in the subsequent verses (v.13ff).