Skip Heitzig - Acts 18:23-19:22
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Father, thank you for just the incredible moments we've already shared, pouring out praise to you. Those are the words. We pour out our praise to you only because you're worthy. And some of us so far this week have had a difficult time. We've had challenging experiences. And so, to come in the middle of a week, to be dowst in praise and worship, to be revitalized and refreshed by the word of God, the scriptures, the promises, to get our bearings once again is such a beautiful gift for us. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord, we live in a country where we have the freedom to worship our God. And Father, we pray that as we continue now to worship by not saying things or singing, but by at this point listening to what you want to say through your word to us. We worship in that way Father. We pray, Lord, that you would use this time to direct us, to direct our steps, to answer questions, to solidify, Lord, things we've been wrestling with. We're your children, you are our Father, Jesus is our Savior. The Holy Spirit lives inside each one of us who believes. And on top of that, we get the fellowship of one another. Thank you for these gifts. In Jesus', name Amen.
A couple of centuries ago, a French diplomat by the name of Alexis de Tocqueville came to our country and he noticed that it was a culture rooted in biblical truth at that time. It was a nation that had its roots in the Bible, and it was tethered affixed to the Christian religion, as he called it, in his writings and his observation. It was a remarkable thing, this experiment in democracy as the Europeans called America. An experiment in democracy. But that diplomat noticed that we were tied to the Christian religion. Now the question is, how did that happen? How did a civilization so many miles away from the original happenings in Jerusalem, how did that happen that on the other side of the world you have a nation, a civilization, where churches abound, where the Bible is taught, where we are free to worship our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, how did that happen? It happened because the one who began the movement, Jesus himself, told his disciples, and they decided to actually do it, go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
And so, they did that. In the Book of Acts, in chapter one verse eight, if you remember, that's our anchor verse, that's the outline of the book. It was Jesus who said to them, "You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Al Sumaria, and to the uttermost parts of the Earth". A few years after that, a man by the name of Saul of Tarsus, a Jewish rabbi, was radically converted on his way to put out that movement. Imagine if Saul would have been successful and he doused the movement that was starting to move out of Jerusalem, Judaism, Al Sumaria, and go north into Damascus. We may never be here doing what we're doing. But he wasn't successful, because it was God's plan that the gospel go into all the world. Interestingly and ironically, one of the chief carriers of that message was that Saul of Tarsus who became Paul the Apostle.
And we see him on the move. He has made one missionary journey, he came back to Jerusalem, then Antioch where they sent him. Did another round, went back to Jerusalem and Antioch where they sent him. Now he's on trip number three. Before he gets on trip number three, at the end of journey number two, he has been in Corinth. And he moves from Corinth 350 miles to the west to the city of Ephesus. Corinth, as we already told you, was one of the chief cities of the ancient world on the trade routes. And it was the chief city of that southwestern part of Greece, that landmass known as, if you remember, the Peloponnesian peninsula. I'd just like to say it. Or the Peloponnesus.
It was almost an island, but because there was that narrow isthmus that connected one part with the other, it was a peninsula. Paul had been in Corinth, he had spent 18 months there. He gets aboard a ship and he goes 350 miles, I'm sorry I said west, to the east to Ephesus. One of the most frequented trips in the ancient world by boat was the trip from Corinth to Ephesus. You could always make sure, it would be easy to find a caravan route or a boat going there because they did it all the time. It was on the trade routes by sea.
So he goes from one area to another area from Archae, southwest Greece, over to Asia Minor. To the area known as Ionian, which was southwest Anatolia later, which later on today is modern day Turkey. He goes to Ephesus. It is the center and chief commercial city of that region with a population of about 250,000 people. It was known as the market place of Asia, the marketplace of Asia Minor.
Paul goes there, goes to a synagogue because that's what he does, right? He first goes into a synagogue. Every city he goes into, finds a Jewish synagogue. If there's not one, he'll go down to the river where a few Jews are congregating like he did when he came to Philapi. But he goes into a synagogue. What's weird about this time in Ephesus, they like what they hear. And they invite him to stay. Now usually, he goes and they don't like what they hear, they don't invite him to stay, they kick him out. This time he's in Ephesus, he goes into the synagogue and they go, "Wow, come back again. Tell us more." And then he says, "Well, I can't. I've got to leave."
And so, he wants to go to Jerusalem and then back to Antioch, but he says, "I'll be back. Lord willing, I'm coming back to Ephesus," because he's never had this kind of reception in a synagogue. So now on his third missionary journey he goes back to Ephesus. In the meantime, he's been in Ephesus, he leaves, he goes toward Jerusalem, and then back to Antioch after the end of his second missionary journey. In the meantime, this strange cat, this strange guy by the name of Apollos shows up in Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla, thankfully, are there. Been well taught and trained by Paul. And they are disciplers. So they're listening because Apollos was a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt. A brilliant man, quite an orator.
And in the synagogue, this Jewish man with a pagan name, very articulate, very brilliant stands up, and he preaches the gospel sort of. Up till the baptism of John, he believed that the Jews believed in the messiah and that John was the forerunner and predicted that Jesus would come, but that's all he knew. He didn't know that Jesus had come. He didn't know that Jesus had died, that he had risen from the dead, that he was coming again. All of that he didn't know. He only knew the story of Jesus up to John the Baptist.
But here's what I like about him, he shared what he knew. He didn't know much, but what he knew, he shared, and he shared it well. Aquila and Priscilla heard him, and they taught him the way of the Lord more accurately. They filled in the gaps, they told them about Jesus' death on the cross, his Resurrection, his coming again.
So he leaves Ephesus and goes to Corinth. If you don't mind, I'm going to skip back just a little bit into chapter 18 to set the story as we get into chapter 19. In verse 23, which it begins now, his third missionary journey, after he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of glacier phrygia in order strengthening all the disciples. So he's beginning his third journey already. Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born in Alexandria, an eloquent man, and the word indicates not only was he able to speak, but he had a brilliant mind. He was able to brilliantly articulate, is the idea. An eloquent man and mighty in the scripture, or learned in the scripture. That is the Old Testament. Scriptures came to Ephesus.
This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord and being fervent in spirit. Boy, when you get somebody who has a bright mind, a brilliant intellect, but also fervent in spirit and just pours themselves into it, you have a dynamic guy. And that's this guy. Being fervent in spirit, he spoke and he taught accurately the things of the Lord. Though, here's the caveat, he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue.
When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. So interesting mix, interesting character. Jewish, pagan name, Greek name, Apollonius, shortened to Apollos from Alexandria, Egypt shows up in Ephesus. Messianic, sort of, part way. Believes in Jesus, kind of. But he's articulate, he's brilliant, he's passionate.
Aquila and Priscilla said, "Man, this guy's a gold mine. He can preach. If he only knew the truth, he'd be awesome. Let's tell him the real truth, the whole truth, the rest of the truth." So they did. Now nothing can stop this guy.
Now let me just fill in something else I started on last time. I mentioned a little bit about Alexandria, Egypt and it was the source of a lot of different things. And I mentioned that there was one time a library in Alexandria, Egypt that was considered the best and largest in the world at the time. It had hundreds of thousands of volumes burned to the ground after Caesar Augustus invaded the area.
Alexandria, Egypt had intellectual wealth, not just because it had a library, but it had great thinkers and great projects that came from Alexandria, Egypt. It had a Jewish community, I told you about that last week. I won't repeat myself, but one of the great Greek thinkers named Euclid, you've probably heard of his name. Euclid, the mathematician, called the "Father of Geometry" came from Alexandria.
It was known for its learned people. There was also a version of the Bible, a translation from the Hebrew into Greek known as the Septuagint version. Septuagint meaning 70, because 70 people translated the Old Testament Hebrew text into Greek. So it was known for learning, it was known for being articulate, it was known for a classical style of Greek, and the Septuagint version was finished in that city around 132 BC.
I bring all that up because when you go through the New Testament books, you come to the book of Hebrews, and the question is, who wrote the book of Hebrews? And the answer is, we don't know. It doesn't say Paul, it doesn't give a name at all. But it's interesting that the Greek language used in the book of Hebrews is a classical style Greek, very different from Paul's writings. Very, very different from John's writings. John was a little more colloquial kind of country easy to understand Greek. In fact, if you ever take Greek, my Greek professor first took us through first John then the Gospel of John because it's easier to understand.
Hebrews is a whole different style, a classical style. And it prolifically quotes the Old Testament. So somebody who was mighty in the scriptures wrote Hebrews, and the version that is used throughout the book of Hebrews is the Septuagint version. Which leads me to believe, this is only my personal opinion based on what I just said, that it was Apollos that wrote the book. I believe he's the author of the book. I can't prove it, I may be wrong, we'll get to heaven and you can all laugh at me. Boy, were you wrong. But you may disagree, but I'd be interested to find out who you think wrote it.
It's easy to say Paul wrote it, but there's no indication that he wrote it. He might have just decided to write a different style of Greek and a completely different writing style than he was used to. That is possible and some believe that. I happen to believe, I lean to, at least it's as good as explanation as any, that Apollos wrote the book.
Well, he leaves Ephesus and goes to Corinth. Well, let's read it. We'll finish it out. I don't want to do all the talking, let the Bible talk. When he desired, verse 27 of chapter 18, when he desired to cross Achae or to Achae, that's the region where Corinth is, the brethren wrote exhorting the disciples to receive him. And when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace.
Now he has the whole picture, now he goes to Corinth and teaches them. Remember, he's mighty in the scripture, he's going to be able to piece all those messianic scriptures together. For, and I love this, he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the scriptures that Jesus is the Christ. Why did he leave Ephesus and why did he go to Corinth in Achae? According to Paul, to water the seed that Paul planted there first Corinthians chapter one, he writes to the Corinthians. And he said, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase."
So he goes there, he is he's amazing, he's brilliant, he can vigorously refute publicly the Jews. I love it when somebody is so apt in debate and has a biblical perspective is willing to debate somebody publicly. I have a friend who is a scientists from MIT, lives in Arizona, has come to Albuquerque. I've invited him a couple of times. He refutes evolution scientifically. And he loves to come, but he says, "My conditions are this. I want to find somebody in your community, some scientists, some brilliant person who will debate me publicly. I want a public debate, strongest skeptic, strongest evolutionists, but he has to be willing to debate me publicly." And he goes, "Just to give him the favor, I will give him my evidence and my manuscript before the debate so he knows what I'm going to say."
So I invited him here, he spoke to the church. But I couldn't find somebody to publicly debate him. Well it's interesting that Apollos gets to Corinth, publicly, vigorously refutes those who would come against the messianic standpoint, and he does it vigorously. Well obviously, he made an impact on the Corinthians. So much so, that Paul writes to them and he goes, "How is it that some of you say I'm of Paul, I am of Apollos, I'm of Cephus, I'm of Christ. Remember that scripture? That's because Apollos was brilliant and made an impact. Paul planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase, but he made such an impact that people were willing to divide the body of Christ following a person rather than Christ.
I could explain more, but I don't want to get too much into detail. However, I'll just say this, this could have become a problem between Paul and Apollos, and yet it never did. By the time we get to the very end of first Corinthians, the same letter that Paul is penning that writes about Apollos, he mentions him again. And he said that after Apollos left and joined with Paul, though you invited him to come back, decided not to go. He's not going back to Corinth.
He says, "But I urged him to go." Now, that's fascinating to me. So probably the conversation went like this. "Paul, I'm not going, man. They're trying to pit you and I against each other. They're dividing up into little camps. I'm of Paul, I'm of Cephus, I don't want to add to that." And Paul said, "No Apollos, you have a great gift. You should use it. Don't let the sin of the people keep you back from exercising the gift that God has for you." So I see just a beautiful synergy, spiritually speaking, and a beautiful way of serving one another, not competing but complimenting one another between Paul and Apollos.
Now we get to chapter 19 where we were trying to get along. And it happened while Apollos was at Corinth. That Paul, having passed through the upper regions came to Ephesus. Now, he came back and he said he wanted to go back there. And finding some disciples, he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."
You ought to know a little bit about Ephesus. Ephesus, as I mentioned, is the chief commercial port of that area, 250,000 people. But it was most commonly known for a certain temple. Now, there was a lot of temples in there, but Ephesus was called The Guardian of the Temple of Artemis or The Temple of Diana. Artemis is the Greek name, Diana is the Roman name. And because the temple was there, and I'll tell you a little bit about this temple later on in this text, massive. Four times bigger than the Parthenon in Athens. If you've ever seen that, four times larger. It was one of the imperial cults in existence in the Roman Empire. And it was right outside of Ephesus.
Diana was the goddess of the hunt. She was also the protector of young girls, she was called. She was sort of a patron goddess of motherhood, I'll explain a little more about that in the verses ahead. But when young girls got married, they took a lock of their hair and their maiden garment and offered it in the temple of Diana hoping that she would protect them and take care of them and help them birth children.
Paul goes there. It's a superstitious city, there's lots of different kind of worship that goes on there, but a very noteworthy city. It becomes his base of operations for the next three years, two and 1/2 to three years. Remember I said that Corinth he stayed longer than any other city, except for one and that was Ephesus? So he stays here a long time.
Jesus said you will go from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the uttermost parts of the earth. That's the book of Acts. Paul makes Ephesus his new Jerusalem. This now becomes the center, the base of operations for his third journey. And I'll tell you why that's important. He's going to use this to reach that whole region. And he does that through Bible study in the same place. He just raises up people who will go, like little embers out of the fire. And it lights it up in different areas around this region. You'll see it.
So he comes, comes to Ephesus, set up operations, he's going to be there a while. And he said to these disciples, these believers, remember this is his first time he's been there, he now finds believers. Aquila and Priscilla have been there. But also who else? Apollos, right? So watch this. So he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We haven't heard so much whether there is the Holy Spirit." And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism." That's the baptism of repentance.
Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized you with the baptism of repentance saying to the people that they should believe on him who would come after him that is on Christ, Jesus." When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on him, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. Now the men were about 12 in all.
What's happening here? Who are these men? What's going on? Let me give you a couple of explanations and I'll let you figure it out or decide on your own. One possibility, these were believers in a sense, that is they were converts, early converts, of Apollos of Alexandria. Apollos of Alexandria knew only part of the gospel. He only knew the gospel up to John the Baptist. So he was baptizing people, and that was John's baptism, that's all he knew until Aquila and Priscilla filled him in, right? So it could be that they were getting baptized, but this John's baptism looking forward to Jesus who had come. Aquila and Priscilla go, "Dude, he came." Christian baptism doesn't look forward to Jesus coming, it looks back to the fact that he came, died, buried, and rose. That's what Christian baptism identifies with, his death, his burial, his Resurrection.
So they were baptized only in John's baptism. They get re-baptized, by the way, the only case we find in the scripture where somebody gets re-baptized. And that's because they were converts of Apollos, early converts.
A second explanation, and this would be the explanation more of the Pentecostal churches is that Paul gets to Ephesus and notices that something is lacking in these early Christians walk in Ephesus. There is power lacking. And so he asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit because there is something amiss in your life?" "We don't even know what that is."
And so, he prayed for them, they were baptized in the name of Jesus, and he prayed for them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. They now had a new dynamic a new power. So I'm going to let you sort those things out. There is an ongoing in-house debate among brothers and sisters as to which is the preferred interpretation, have fun with it.
Verse eight. And he went into the synagogue, remember, they like him in the synagogue. Right? Back in chapter 18. Look at verse 19 of chapter 18. He came to Ephesus, this is missionary journey number two, and left them there. But he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. When they asked him to stay longer time with them, he did not consent. Remember, he said, "I'm leaving," went to Jerusalem. Now he's back, now he goes back to the synagogue where they invited him. They were receptive. And he spoke boldly for three months. He's never had that kind of an audience in a Jewish synagogue ever.
Reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the Kingdom of God. These Jewish people in the synagogue are getting saved. He's persuasive, but there's always one of those lurking around. But when some were hardened did not believe, but spoke evil of "the way", remember, that's it's called in the Book of Acts. Christianity five times is called "the way." Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, the light following Jesus is the way." It's the only way.
When they spoke evil of the way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples reasoning daily in the School of Tyrannus. And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
He's in the synagogue until he wans't. He's in the synagogue until their soft hearts became so hardened because the leaders evidently saw such fruit converting to Jesus that they said, "Dude, you're done. You're out of here." So he left, left the synagogue, left the organized religion, and started teaching, discipling, and preaching in a place called the School of Tyrannus. A secular place. A non-religious environment. That's where the church really took root, that's where it really started. It's sort of like when we came to town. We started in the lakes apartments and then we went to the far north cinema theater. That was our School of Tyrannas.
Now in ancient times, in this region especially, in the Ionian cities especially, because of the weather conditions, people would work from early morning till 11 o'clock in the morning and then quit. Have a break from from 11:00 to about 4:00 in the afternoon, a five hour break. Then they would resume work into evening. And that's because it was the heat of the day. They still do that in a lot of areas. So that's sort of like the midday siesta. So this is the Ephesian siesta.
So in keeping with that, Paul saw an opportunity. "Hey, Tyrannas, whoever that is, we'll get to that in a minute. "Tyrannas doesn't work after 11:00 and won't work again till 4:00." So he works something out with Tyrannas so he could use his classroom for five hours to teach the word of God. And it was a great opportunity for two years. Cool, huh?
Now we don't know who Tyrannas was, we don't have any other extra-biblical literature, but he was obviously an educator, school of Tyrannas. He was probably a philosopher or a rhetorician, teaching guys to reason and speak. But his name is interesting. Tyrannas means death spot, or tyrant. You're thinking I thought it meant dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex. No, that sort of plays off the word.
Tyrannas means death spot or tyrant. Now, one wonders in hearing that where he got that name. Did his parents really name him tyrant? Or perhaps that's a nickname that his students gave him. "That guy's a tyrant." He could have earned that name. Either way, Paul is using his classroom for a couple of years, that secular environment turning it into something spiritual.
And it says, verse 10, "And this continued for two years", watch this, "so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus. Both Jews and Greeks." How? Did all of Asia? Now Asia meaning Asia Minor, that area. That Ionian area. That's Asia. That region called Asia or Asia Minor, all of it heard the word of God. Well, he just systematically taught the word of God week after week, month after month, year after year for two years. Longest ministry in his missionary endeavors.
And it says, "All of Asia heard the word of the Lord." Now Paul from Ephesus writes first Corinthians. And in the end of that book, chapter 15, chapter 16 of that book, he says this. He says, "I'm going to tarry in Ephesus for a while. I'm staying here, I see good fruit for", Listen to what he said, "For a great and effective door has been opened unto me, and there are many adversaries." That's a direct quote, 1 Corinthians 16. What did he mean? A great and effective door open to me? He probably meant I get to use this guy's classroom every day. I'm going to do it as long as I can do it. He had it for two years.
Now out of that sprung other churches. The Church of Colossi was founded during that time. Paul never even went to Colossi when he wrote the letter to the Colossians. But a church started there. How? People from that region came to Ephesus, heard Paul, went back. The church in Laodicea, in fact, the seven letters to the seven churches you know about in Revelation 2 and 3, that's a circle of churches around the area of Ephesus. They probably all were influenced by Paul preaching in this School of Tyrannas, sending these people out to those areas instead of himself going to those areas. An interesting style of evangelism.
We have a little bit of a problem. I just want to make it known to you. In verse 10, it says "They continued for two years," which would lead you to conclude Paul spent how many years in Ephesus? Two years. The problem is later on in Acts chapter 20, he says that I was in Ephesus for three years. So was Luke wrong or was Paul wrong? Or maybe they're both right. You say how do you figure? Well, go down a few verses down to verse 22. "So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered with him or to him, Timothy and Erastus. But he himself stayed in Asia for a time." So he's in the School of Tyrannas for two years, plus the three months he has been in the synagogue, plus the extra time that he stayed in Ephesus somewhere doing something. It adds up to three years. Makes sense?
Now verse 11, "Now God worked unusual miracles by the hand of Paul so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them." I love the way Luke pens this. He does not say, "And Paul worked unusual miracles." Because he didn't. First of all, he knew Paul. He knew Paul couldn't work any miracles. He's just a guy. And so, notice the wording, "God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul." That's how God works.
God is looking around for hands to use. Romans 12:1, "I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." How about, "Wake up every morning God, take my hands and use them. Let my hands be your hands. Work your work through my hands, my feet, my mouth, my life. Here's my body. Whatever you have for me today, Lord, I'm yours." God is looking around for hands to use, mouths to use.
The scripture says, "The eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the entire earth that he might show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal or dedicated or perfect toward him." God's just looking for people to use. Will he use you? Will he find you? He'll work his works through you.
It's interesting in verse 12, he says, "unusual miracles in verse 11." I want to show you how unusual a miracle. Don't picture Paul just standing over somebody kind of quivering his hand going, "Yay, I say into thee, be healed." He didn't do that. Now that's weird, but this is weirder, weirder than even that. It's says, "So even handkerchiefs", the word means sweat bands. It's what guys like Paul who were tent makers in the heat of the day would wear on their head that would soak up their sweat. And it says aprons, that's what workers put over their bodies to rub their hands on. It got miree and gnarly and greasy, dirty. So Paul would throw his sweatband or apron and the Lord would use that to heal somebody.
Now because of this scripture, over the years people have said, "Now that is unusual and that is weird, maybe I can get weirder than that." And they have, but they've gotten so weird they've become unscriptural, un-biblical. They have taken this idea to an extreme, and they will have their healing ministry. And they say, "Brother, I'm sending you this apron or this handkerchief." I've seen it. I've gotten handkerchiefs in the mail with a hand print drawn on it, really by a machine, but they say, "I placed my hand here. And I drew my hand so that you can place my hand on your head this handkerchief and you'll be healed." Weird, right?
It gets even weirder because the letter does skip. "As I was thinking of you this week, my heart went out to you and I started praying for you." Now this guy doesn't know me. I've never heard of him. I got things like this 30 years ago and I've kept them just to prove how weird some Christians can get. I have a file called scams, and that's in it. And so you take this thing, and you pray this prayer, and you place this magical handkerchief on, and you supposedly will get healed. But part of the deal is if you really want to claim you're healing, you'll show it by a seed faith offering to this ministry. In other words, "Give us money for this stupid handkerchief because we've got to defray the cost of this crazy thing, and God will heal you." Oh I'll restrain myself.
I've never heard anybody saying, "Hey, here's a smelly sweatband that I had in my garage. Let me just give this to you, place this on you." I'd like to see him try that. That would be more closer to the biblical text. They won't do that. Then, verse 13, then, "Some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists", see, it gets really weird, "took it upon themselves to call on the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits saying, "We exorcise you." Now look at the spelling, it's not we exercise you, he's not saying do 20 push and 15 jumping jack. "Come on, exercise. Get into it, good exercise." It's exorcists to cast out.
We exorcise you by the Jesus, whom Paul preaches. And there were seven sons of Scavaz, a Jewish chief priest who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?" "Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded."
In Ephesus I failed to mention, it was the center of temple worship of Diana and several temples. If you go there today, you can see some of the ruins of this temple of Diana and other temples, many of them in that city. It was also a center of occultism because of the pagan worship. Demon possession, demonology, and there was at that time and unfortunately still is today a fascination, even an obsession with demons and demonology. I know some Christian ministries that just have an obsession over a deliverance.
I remember when we first started this church, I got a phone call one day from somebody and it was just kind of a long pause. I said, "Hello," and then no answer. "Hello?" And then finally, the person on the other and said, "Do you deliver?" And I immediately thought he thinks we're a pizza parlor, right? I said, "Well no, I think the pizza place is a couple doors down. I can give you the", "No, do you deliver from demons?" I said, "Well, the Lord can deliver anyone from demons." So yes, there is the power of the Lord to deliver, but I don't have a deliverance ministry. That's Jesus' ministry, not mine.
But some become very obsessed with it. There was that in this area. Now, it says that this was a chief priest. What does that mean? Well, Sceva may have been indeed a chief priest. That doesn't mean he was a high priest because we have all the names in antiquity of the Jewish high priest, this isn't one of them. So he was not a Jewish high priest with residents in Jerusalem or an office in Jerusalem. He wasn't even from the family of the high priesthood, because we know again who their names are.
He could have been a priest who got weird and distracted by casting demons out, or he wasn't a priest at all, but he claimed that he was a chief priest. I bring that up because if you remember a few chapters back in Samaria were Philip went, there was a guy named Simon the magician, Simon Magas. And it says, "Who claimed that he was something great." He wasn't great, but he thought he was great and he claimed he was great. This guy could have claimed to be chief priests, but maybe he wasn't. Or maybe he was, those are the options.
But there were seven sons of this Jewish chief priest named Sceva who did so. So there they are casting demons out. Now, it wasn't that unusual actually. 2000 years ago to read of Jewish exorcists. Do you remember in the gospels, and here's a case out of Luke chapter 10, where the Jewish leadership accused Jesus. They knew he cast demons out, he had authority over nature, over evil spirits. And they said, "Well, he casts demons out by the power of Beezlebub," the devil himself. And Jesus said, "Listen, a house divided against itself cannot stand. If I cast out Satan or demons by the power of Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?"
A reference to the fact that there was an interest and inordinate, I might add, interest in this. And this of that same vein. But notice, they don't have a relationship with Jesus, they're preaching that Jesus whom Paul preaches. No relationship personally to him. Now you and I could take authority over the spiritual realm in the name of Jesus, it's different. We know him. And he gave us that permission to do so, but they didn't know him. They saw this simply as a verbal incantation. "Hey, that Paul uses the name of Jesus, and he does these weird miracles. He puts sweatbands on people, so let's use that name."
The response is telling. The demons say, "Well Jesus, I know, literally Jesus I recognize. And Paul I am acquainted with", that's the literal rendering, "but who are you?" You see, if you're going to talk to the devil and you don't have a relationship with Jesus, you are fair game. You're dead meat. Man, that's a vulnerable place to be. To confront evil itself, the epitome, the quintessential being of all evil in the name of Jesus, and you don't have a relationship with him? So torn up and naked they fled. They streaked out of the house, down the street of Ephesus they go. "Who are those naked dudes?" "Oh, those are guys that just had it all wrong."
What fascinates me is we know Jesus and we know Paul. Is your name known in hell? Are demons afraid of your walk with the Lord? Or would they say to you, "So." It's just a fascinating thing that you could be used of God and you could be doing such damage to the enemy, and I love to say that let's make the devil mad. Let's make him mad. Come on, let's just do something that'll just tick him off. Saving souls is one, preaching the gospel, discipling makes him mad. Love it. Love to know that I'm pleasing God and making the devil mad. Is your name known in hell? Paul's was. Jesus' certainly was.
"This became known," verse 7, "to all the Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus. And fear fell on them all." Phabas is the Greek word, phobia. They were scared. "And the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Hallelujah. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds." Now look at the result of this. It backfired on the devil. The devil tried to get victory, it backfired, made him mad.
Also, "Many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled 50,000 pieces of silver." Man, 50,000 pieces of silver. I don't know exactly what currency they're measuring. If this was the ancient Greek Drachma, then it would be the equivalent of 138 years of a working man's wage. That's an expensive bonfire. Gets you fired up, doesn't it?
"So the word of the Lord," verse 20, "So the word of the Lord." I love how that's put. "So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed." That simply means the message about Jesus, the message about who he is and how he can change a life, that message, that word grew mightily and prevailed. "When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the spirit when he had passed through Macedonia and Achae," so he's going backward through Macedonia and Achae, "to go to Jerusalem", again, he'd been there before. To go there again. Saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome." First mention of Paul's desire to see Rome in the Bible. And why is that important to the story? Because the theme of the Book of Acts is how the gospel gets from Jerusalem to Rome.
The gospel goes from Jerusalem to Rome. And because Rome is the center of the world, the center of influence, it's going to go everywhere else. So this Paul guy had a huge vision, and I love people with big vision. He could have said, "Well, you know, Ephesus is about as far as I want to go. I like Tyrannas." He's got big vision. He goes, "No, I'm on the move. I'm going back to Jerusalem. But I'm going to Rome. I want to go to the center of the world. I want to go to New York City of the ancient world. I'm going to Rome."
Well Jesus said, "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." So Paul thought, "OK, I will." And he did that until the day he died. Now, if you don't mind, put a marker here and turn to Romans chapter one.
Are you there? Romans one. It's easy, it's right after Acts. Just go one block over, you're there. Romans 1, verse 13. "Now, I do not want you to be unaware brother," now this is Paul writing to Rome, the Roman Christians. He had never yet been there, but there's Christians there. "I do not want you to be unaware brother and that I often plan to come to you, but was hindered until now. That I might have some fruit among you also just as among the other Gentiles. I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, but to the wise and to the unwise. So as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also."
Did he ever make it to Rome? Of course he made it to Rome. Did he go as he thought he would go? No, he didn't he goes to Jerusalem eventually, gets arrested, gets taken to Cezary, gets put on a couple of different trial, spends two years there. Gets put on a prison ship, goes to Rome as a prisoner, not as the preacher, but as a prisoner. Ends up in jail. We've discussed that on Sunday mornings on weekends, Philippians. Ends up in jail, goes as a prisoner.
By the will of God, Paul wanted to go to Rome. That's an expensive trip to get on a boat and go to Rome. So God, I think he's into economy. He thought, "You know, I'm going to send you to Rome, and I'm going to make your stay in Rome so influential and magnanimous, but I'm going to have the Roman government pay for it." That's how it happened because Paul appealed his case to Caesar, which means the government is now responsible to get him to Rome in front of Caesar. That's how he got to Rome.
OK so, that's Romans one. Now turn over to Romans chapter 15. Stay with me. 15th chapter of the book of Romans. Verse 22. "For this reason, I also have been much hindered from coming to you." He mentioned that at the beginning, says it now at the end. "But now no longer having a place in these parts and having a great desire these many years to come to you", so his state emphasis is winding down. "Whenever our journey to Spain", see, talk about big vision. He wants to go to Rome and then keep going west to the outermost regions of the Roman Empire, which is Spain. It was the edge of the world as they knew it. That's where he wanted to go. "I shall come to you, whenever I journey to Spain," verse 24, "I shall come to you, for I hope to see you on my journey and to be helped on my way there by you. If first, I may enjoy your company for a while, but now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the Saints, for it pleased those from Macedonia and Achae to make a certain contribution for the poor among the Saints who are in Jerusalem. It please them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things."
Look, you got the gospel from them, they gave you spiritual wealth, give back to the material wealth, support them. "Therefore, when I have performed this, this gift of money that I'm going to give them, and have sealed to them this fruit, speaking of that money, I shall go by way of you to Spain. But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ. Now he's writing to whom? Christians. A church. Well, how did the church start in Spain if Paul never started it? Really? We're going to ask that question? We're going to so limit God to think Paul was the only guy who could start a church?
Let me tell you how I think the church started in Rome. You remember what happened on the day of Pentecost in the early part of the Book of Acts? People from all over the world were there for the feast. 3,000 people were saved and baptized from all over the world. They went back home. That's how the church started. From the people who came and got saved on the day of Pentecost and were baptized by Peter went back home. Some of them to Rome, probably aided by Aquila and Priscilla who weren't in Rome until they get kicked out.
And now Paul writes to them, having a desire to come to them, and he will. Now why does he want to go to Jerusalem again? To give a gift. So look a chapter 16. I'm doing this because I want to tie those holes in your reading when you read consecutively through and you don't really have a reference what it's referring to. So he continues to write to the Romans. Verse 1 he says, "I commend you Phoebe, our sister, who is a servant in the church at Centria," which is over by Corinth, "that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the Saints and assist her in whatever business she has need of you. For indeed, she has been a helper of many and to myself also. Great Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ, Jesus who risked their own necks for my life. To whom, not only I give thanks, but also the Church of the Gentiles."
Hold on just a moment, I blew it. Not that Chapter 16. Chapter 16 of 1 Corinthians, do you mind? So he's writing to the Romans. Now he's writing to the Corinthians from Ephesus, chapter 16. 1 Corinthians 16. I'm doing this because I want to close on a note. I want you to see it.
Chapter 16, 1 Corinthians. Are you there? OK, that's why we call this a Bible study, you got to do some work too. "Now concerning the collection for the Saints as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also." Now, he's ordering them to give their financial substance to help in the other church. He obviously didn't mind taking offerings, he obviously didn't mind even putting a little bit of pressure on them.
"On the first day," verse two, "of the week," that's when they would meet, Sunday. "Let each one of you lay aside something storing up as he may prosper that there be no collections when I come." In other words, I want you to get this offering together so I can pick it up. "And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters, I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem. But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me," which is what happened. "Now I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia for I am passing through Macedonia." OK?
So he plans to go to Jerusalem after having collected money from the churches that he's founded, started, these wealthy patrons. The church in Jerusalem now is suffering. They lost their jobs because the temple related jobs, they've all been fired because they're against Christ. Now go back to Acts, chapter 19. He says, "I'm going to go to Rome, I must see Rome also." Verse 22, "So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time." He sent these two guys over to do what he said he was going to do. They're going to collect the money. I'm going to come, they're going to do the ground work, the prep work to take the offering so I can take this gift to help that spiritual work in Jerusalem.
You have been recipients of their spiritual blessings, now give them the material. It's not unlike what we're doing on the west side. We're raising money for changed lives on another part of town to spread the gospel. And so, we're not doing it for us so we can have it or enrich ourselves, it's so that we can establish a campus on the west side for the glory of God.
Now here's what's fascinating to me. We had a brother that we have worked with and supported for many years, and he is a man from Macedonia. His name is Slove, he was here this week. And before he left yesterday, he came up to me with $500 in cash and he says, "I want to buy a light bulb. I want this to go to the opening of that west side church. I have been a recipient of spiritual blessings for so long, I want to give to this." And I just thought immediately of what Paul said about the Macedonian churches, how they gave out of their poverty to give to the work of the Lord. And I thought here is the man from Macedonia, it's like a repeat of the biblical text.
Well hopefully this puts it all together in your mind how this worked. Paul was in one place, writing to another place, planning to go to Rome, but he's going to go back to collect the money, then he's going to go to Jerusalem. And as he gets closer and closer to Jerusalem, everybody is going to say, "Don't go to Jerusalem. Don't go there." And he goes, "Well, I'm going." "Don't go there." Because the Holy Spirit tells Paul everywhere he goes, "They're going to beat you up, they're going to chain you, you're going to get arrested if you go to Jerusalem." He goes, "I'm going."
And he goes to Jerusalem. They beat him up, they arrest him, they take him to Cezaria, he eventually goes to Rome, not like he wanted, but as a prisoner. And that happened to be the perfect will of God for the apostle Paul. So it's nice to get the back story, isn't it? It's nice to go behind the scenes and say, "Well, this happened then and then that happened later, and this is why it happened." And piece it all together. I really thought we were going to get through the chapter tonight, but you know my pace.
So Ephesus is an interesting place. It gets more interesting, and we'll see it next time as we pick it up in verse 23 and finish the chapter because a riot takes place and Paul just loves those. He seems to attract them. Father, thank you for this man who just was un-relenting, undaunted by opposition. In fact, it seems the more opposition he got, he thought, "Yep, the devil's mad. We just made him mad again, that must mean I better keep preaching." Even though he himself did get discouraged, he required visions of encouragement from you that he got like in Corinth. Still, what an example of a firebrand for Christ. Of a true apostle. One who took the great commission seriously, could've stayed in a number of places that were quite comfortable, but decided you call them somewhere else. And instead of hanging out at the beach in Cezaria or surfing the waters of Corinth, he went from place to place as an obedient servant. Finally to Rome, which was his heart's desire, in a very different way than he anticipated. And yet, he saw that as the gospel being furthered. He wrote to the Philippians.
Lord, I am just astonished by him. I thank you for the opportunity you've given me to study his life, to go to some of the places he was at. But it's not the name of Paul we want to lift up or consider, it's the one he spoke of and that is the name of Jesus. He's the one we praise, he's the one who saved us from our sins, he's the one who has a plan for the world, to save the world. He's the one who is coming again and will rule and reign forever. So we give Jesus glory. It's in his name we pray, Amen.