Bible Study from Calvary Chapel Newberg
with Tom Fuller
Firing on All Cylinders
Chapter 19 could be called the High Point in Paul?s ministry. In this chapter he goes to the place he may have wanted to go way back at the beginning: Ephesus. God confirms his authority as an apostle by healing, his reputation as an apostle through mention by demons, vindication of his ministry through a two year stint teaching theology at a local lecture hall, and even the victory of his ministry over the forces in Ephesus, the biggest riot yet. Paul spent about three years in Ephesus, from 53 to 56 A.D. It was the capital of the Roman province of Asia (modern day Turkey). Ephesus had been a commercial trading center, but timber overharvesting and overgrazing of the land had filled the rivers with silt and ruined much of their trading business. Instead, Ephesus relied on tourism, especially pilgrimages visiting the temple of Artemis. The temple also served as a bank where merchants and even kings could ?deposit? money for safekeeping.
In a way, Luke shows in this one chapter, Paul hitting on all cylinders. The signs of his apostleship are confirmed, and the same impediments to the gospel that have plagued him in prior places now fall away.
1 ? 7 Apostolic Affirmation I
Remember Apollos? He too had been taught by disciples of John the Baptist, and his knowledge of Jesus was incomplete. Something in their life let Paul know the Holy Spirit wasn?t actively filling them, so he inquires as to their understanding of the Spirit, when they know nothing about Him, then he probes deeper to find out they aren?t even believers yet! John, he explains, was preparing the way for someone greater.
This could be recorded to show Paul?s Apostolic authority. The Spirit was given in several different ways and this is not intended as a how-to manual but as a recorded history of what happened.
8 ? 10 Jewish Intransigence
Paul had promised to come back and visit this synagogue in chapter 18, so here he makes good on it. As before, the Jews receive him, but when push comes to shove, some not only reject Jesus and Paul but talk against ?The Way? (a common expression of early Christianity). Before, Paul has had to make a public display, but now he simply takes the believers, and rents a hall (like he did in Corinth). It?s a quieter Paul we meet, almost like the turmoil he experienced with the Jews has taught him to ignore, rather than incite. And it?s a different strategy. Rather than just travelling to the cities, Paul stays in one place and they come to him.
Notice the phrase ?stubborn and continued in unbelief.? Unbelief is an action that must be maintained. You may think that you choose to ignore the claims of Jesus, but in fact you must actively maintain that pushing away.
11 ? 12 Apostolic Affirmation II
A lot of present day charlatans claim their kerchiefs can heal, but note that only Peter (whose shadow healed in Acts 5:15), Jesus, (whose robe healed in Mark 6:5) and Paul had this power given to them. The focus of our lives should not be what tricks we can perform, but to see the lives of the people we touch drawn towards Jesus.
I think perhaps Luke included this not to ?show off? Paul, but to set the stage for what happens next. Those that do not know God are impressed by a spiritual magic show. They think all power is the same. If Paul can heal with handkerchiefs then if I ?heal? by calling on magic, then it?s all the same thing. Oh, nothing could be further from the truth. It was not Paul that cast out evil spirits, but Jesus?that?s an important distinction.
Satan comes only to ?steal, kill, and destroy? (John 10:10). In fact, his name ?Satan? means adversary in Hebrew. As we?ll see next, anything done by a power outside of Jesus (though claiming to use his name) results in nothing but problems.
13 ? 20 Victory over Satanic Opposition
You can?t wield the name of Jesus as a magical talisman. He is not a good luck charm or a way to ward off evil. He is Lord of all. Satan cannot stand in his presence but he can in yours unless Jesus fills you!
Josephus recorded all the names of the priests from until the time of the destruction of the temple. Sceva is not among them.
Knowing about Jesus is not the same as knowing him.
Ephesus was a center for black magic and the occult. People would create magical formulas to give them happiness, wealth, and success in marriage. The books were worth several million dollars.
It?s no wonder this happened. People began to realize the difference between their superstitious beliefs and dabbling in the occult, and serving the living God. Satan would like nothing better than to keep a hold on us by keeping us involved in things that are opposed to God. More and more today people are getting caught up in magic by calling it ?spiritual.? It?s very dangerous.
21 ? 22 A Clear Vision
?Paul from this point on is focused on getting to Rome, the HQ for the empire that dominated his world. The more he went on it seemed the clear the vision got for Paul as to his ultimate destination?witnessing to an emperor and then death. The more we serve God, and are tested and tried by hard times, the more ready we are to take on the really tough missions, and be ready to suffer the consequences.
Timothy would later become the senior pastor at Ephesus.
23 ? 27 When God Comes up against the almighty dollar
Artemis was the goddess of fertility. The goddess was of a woman with many breasts. The Festival of Artemis had wild orgies and carousing. Eventually the gospel will begin to affect the culture, and that?s where Paul got into hot water. You can talk religion all you want, but touch my wallet and ?them?s fightin? words!?
Demetrius was a union organizer, a chief of the guild that built Artemis statues. At the bottom was greed, but it?s hard to get a bunch of people excited about greed. Instead he appealed to their nationalistic pride in ?their? goddess. Thus nationalism, materialism, and religious fervor combined for the perfect storm.
28 ? 41 Quieted Public Opposition
The crowd went to Mount Pion, which could seat 25,000 in its open-air auditorium. Notice that Paul now had friends in high places. Alexandar may have been one pushed forward by the Jews to distance Judaism from Christianity.
The ?sacred stone that fell from the sky? refers to a meteorite that fell on Ephesus which they put into the temple as ?proof? of the power of Artemis.
The ?mayor? of Ephesus worries that they might lose their status as a ?free? city, able to elect their own leaders.
Paul was not a ?temple robber? or committer of sacrilege against Artemis, they had not denounced Artemis in any way, if it was an economic issue, it would be for civil courts to decide. Otherwise there was a regular citizen assembly, like a town council, that they could attend.
If they had allowed a riot then Rome would have declared martial law, removed the public officials and taken away a lot of civil liberties.
Notice that Paul seems unconcerned. He is not running, he is not fighting. He is ready to make a defense of the gospel but will take whatever comes?now that?s peace in the face of a storm!
What happens when we are firing on all cylinders like Paul? Let?s look over his ministry at Ephesus again:
Affirmation of your calling (all Asia heard the word)
Calm in the face of opposition (the riot)
Victory over the forces of darkness (demons thrown out)
The name of Jesus revered (vs 20)
Increased clarity of vision and direction (going to Rome)
Witnessing others become more dedicated to Jesus (books burned)
Now that?s not to say that everything goes great?in fact the events in this chapter are quite disturbing, but it is really comforting to see God working strongly through you more than he has to work on you.
Where do we get our security?
Money, power (no matter the source or the consequences), civil authority, patriotism? The needs are good, and all involve our sense of security?that our environment will not harm us but help us to do well. The problem is, that none of those things outside of a life dedicated to the Lord, will actually afford lasting security.
What happens when we recognize who God really is, and who Jesus is?
We move away from evil, put ourselves completely in His hands and find peace and clarity. No matter what storms swirl around us, we are secure. If not, we are actually at the mercy of another lord, the one who feigns help, but actually comes to steal, kill, and destroy.