God’s Power on Display
Paul in Ephesus
 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples.  And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”  And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.”  And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.”  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.  There were about twelve men in all.  And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.  But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.  This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
The Sons of Sceva
 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul,  so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.  Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.”  Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this.  But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?”  And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.  And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.  Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices.  And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.  So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
A Riot at Ephesus
 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.”  And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.  About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.  For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen.  These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.  And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.  And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel.  But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him.  And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater.  Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.  Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd.  But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”  And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky?  Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash.  For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.  If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another.  But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly.  For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.”  And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly. (ESV)
- We pick up the story this morning as the Apostle Paul embarks on his 3rd missionary journey, and our story centers in one location — the city of Ephesus
- Paul had been there before, and he is now returning
- He will stay in Ephesus all together about 3 years
- Paul was a tentmaker, literally was in the trade of making tents for people, to support himself as he ministered to others
- The city of Ephesus, located in modern day Turkey, was the cultural and intellectual center of the West
- It was one of the largest cities in the Roman empire
- It was known for its philosophers and thinkers, for its arts and natural hot baths, for its pagan worship of Artemis, the supposed goddess of fertility
- It boasted one of the largest libraries in the known world, as books and intellectual pursuits were cherished by the people
- And as we will see, it was deeply enslaved to practices of the occult and magic and the dark arts, to which the gospel will come, and bring light where there is darkness, and cleanse people from their enslavement to magic, from the pseudo and false to the light and truth of Christ
I. God’s Power to Save (verses 1-7)
- Paul passes through the inland country and made his way to Ephesus
- He would end up staying in Ephesus about 3 years in total
- This cosmopolitan city, with its bustling port and its philosophers and arts community became a major ministry hub for Paul’s gospel ministry over his numerous missionary travels
- The next two chapters in Acts concern themselves with activity in this busy city
- This was a leading city, an influential city, and God sent Paul there to bear significant influence, as we will see in this text today
- In verse 1 we read that Paul made his way to Ephesus, and there he encountered about 12 impressive men.
- Luke calls them disciples
- And disciples they were, but apparently disciples of John, but not of Jesus
- Paul clarifies John’s baptism. It was a baptism of repentance, anticipating Christ
- Though John the Baptist proclaimed his message in the New Testament, the new covenant had not yet begun at that time.
- John’s baptism, a baptism of repentance and preparation, should not be confused with the new covenant, which was inaugurated by Christ and by His blood sacrifice on the cross
- Paul shares with them the work of Christ His death, burial and resurrection. And in hearing the gospel, they believed and were baptized and the Holy Spirit fell on them just as He did at Pentecost
- God saving by His power these 12 or so men put an exclamation point on the fact that this powerful gospel was going to every type of person, religious or irreligious, and redeeming them from their sins
- God’s kingdom is being built, one powerful conversion at a time! And the gospel of God is still powerful to save. As you witness, as you speak, as you pray, the same power that saved these 12 can also save today. We can have confident hope in the power of God and His Word to save!
II. God’s Power to Cleanse (verses 8-20)
- Paul is teaching demonstrably, reasoning and persuading regularly.
- For a period of 3 months he is daily teaching in the synagogue, “reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God (verse 8).”
- There were some who would not believe, and began being vocal about their opposition to Christ and His church, so eventually Paul and his companions withdrew from the synagogue because of their unbelief
- He took up daily teaching in the hall of Tyrannus for 2 years
- The result of the teaching of the Word? “All the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (verse 10).”
- The name of Christ was exalted (verse 17)
- Many who were now believers came and confessed their practice of the dark arts
- So convinced by the power of God that they saw in the miracles of Paul, and in the preaching of His Word, that their eyes were opened to see the false power of a dark enemy, that they publicly burned their magic books
- God’s great gospel was cleansing them of their enslavement to powers of darkness
- “The Word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily (verse 20)”
- The gospel spread through the witness of the Word and the witness of His people living under His control!
III. God’s Power to Illuminate (verses 21-41)
- Paul’s persistent preaching and teaching of the Word of God caused many to disbelieve in the supposed deity of Artemis, their beloved goddess of the city
- Demetrius successfully stirred up his fellow artisans saying that Paul’s teaching was causing so many to disbelieve in Artemis that their very livelihoods was at stake
- The town clerk skillfully disbanded the crowd that gathered
- The power of God through the teaching of His Word exposed the lie of false gods
- Persecution came as a result
- God illuminates darkness, infringes upon unrighteousness, and people don’t always like it
- Reminder: The power is not in us, it is in God and His Word
- Let the Spirit of God cleanse our hearts afresh!
Questions for Discussion/Application:
- Re-read the text, Acts 19. What initial observations and insights do you have from reading this text?
- When you see the miracles that took place in verses 11-20, and the word of God advancing mightily–how does that encourage you regarding our mission to continue to proclaim Christ today?
- How would you like to grow in terms of your heart for the lost?
- How would you like to grow in terms of befriending and reaching out to those who don’t know Christ?
- On Palm Sunday, who do you think you want to hand out an Easter flower to (We will be distributing these after the service)?
- When the gospel goes forth, that doesn’t necessarily make circumstances easier for believers. What can we learn from the events of the end of chapter 19 (verses 21-41).
- Consider taking time to pray that God would continue to cultivate in us, hearts of compassion for the lost. Consider praying also specifically for lost friends, neighbors and relatives you know.