Reading verse 12 of today’s passage, one might justifiably conclude that Christians are a superstitious lot who believe in magic. It seems that people believed the sweat band and apron Paul wore while working (remember, Paul labored at a trade to support himself) carried Paul’s power to heal-- and that these personal items did in fact seem to have a “magical” effect.
The best explanation I've seen of this admittedly difficult verse is that God met people where they were. But that was because God knew Paul would not leave them thinking that Paul himself possessed some magic power. He knew that Paul would be exceedingly faithful in pointing people to the real source of his power: Jesus Christ.
This line of reasoning is backed up in verses 13-20. When people simply tried to use Jesus’ name as a magical incantation to ward off evil spirits, it didn’t work. And whereas magic is self-centered, the miraculous power of God has a very different result: life change and even moral reform. People gave up practices and possessions that were of great value to them in order that they might be faithful to the word of the Lord.
So the real question comes to be—for us every bit as much as it was for the people of this passage: where do you and I place our trust? Money? Our abilities? People? Our job? Things?
Or Jesus Christ?