The Power of the Word of God and the Works of God — Acts 19:8-20

We have been singing the Christmas carols and it sounds like the arrival of the infant is so sweet and tender and gentle.  The angels are proclaiming “Peace on earth and good will to men;” yet God is born into a world where the forces of evil battle desperately against the kingdom of God.

God has placed each of us in our own sphere of darkness in order to bring the light of the gospel to those around us.  For the Apostle Paul, that sphere of darkness we will study today is the city of Ephesus – a city dominated by satanic and demonic activity;  A city known for the temple of Artemis and for all of its magical and occult practices; A city where God is going to demonstrate that the power of His Word and of His Works can be victorious in radically changing lives and rescuing people from the bondage of their life of futility.

THE PROCLAMATION OF THE WORD OF THE LORD AND THE MAGNIFICATION OF THE NAME OF THE LORD PRODUCE POWERFUL RESULTS

I.   (:8-10)  THE POWER OF THE WORD OF GOD – THE PROCLAMATION OF THE WORD OF THE LORD DESPITE MALICIOUS OPPOSITION PRODUCES POWERFUL RESULTS

A.  (:8)  Evangelism of the Jews In the Synagogue

And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

            1.  The Meeting Venue – “he entered the synagogue

Had started out in this same venue on his previous short visit (18:19-20) – Haven’t we been down this road before?  Doesn’t it lead to opposition and persecution?  But also it has been proven effective

2.  The Moxie / Boldness – “speaking out boldly

No substitute for courage and aggressive ministry; if you are passive you will accomplish nothing;

Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”

3.  The Ministry Timeframe – “for three months

4.  The Methodology – “reasoning and persuading

Plenty of opportunity for interaction; not just a one-way communication; not afraid to entertain objections; recognizing that people must go through a process to come to an understanding of the truth

5.  The Message – “about the kingdom of God

Bock: Jesus as the Messiah who fulfills promise

What systematic, confrontational evangelism are we performing?

B.  (:9)  Malicious Opposition

But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude,

Bock: speaks of stubbornness when it comes to emotions; used regarding Pharaoh (Exod. 8:15; 9:35) and of the people in the wilderness (Deut. 2:30); (Heb. 3:8, 13, 15; 4:7; Rom. 9:18) . . .  The threefold response of hardening, unbelief, and speaking evil indicates complete rejection of Paul’s message.

Imperfect Passive  – would speak to the balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility

There is a way which God has established for us to live – Apollos – 18:25 the way of the Lord

Not just a set of beliefs – but involves how to live; the way to God, to salvation, to heaven; through the narrow gate and down the narrow road

Prov. 16:25  “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”

John 14:4-6  Jesus is the Way

C.  (:10)  Evangelism and Edification of the Gentiles In the Lecture Hall of Tyrannus

he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this took place for two years,

Name Tyrannus = despot or tyrant

Longenecker: the name must have been a nickname given by the man’s students [if he was a philosopher] or tenants [if he rented out the hall]

Barclay: One Greek manuscript says that Paul taught in that hall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. . .  In the Ionian cities all work stopped at 11 a.m. and did not begin again until the late afternoon because of the heat. . . What Paul must have done was to work all morning and all evening at his trade and teach in the midday hours.

Think of how much content Paul would have been able to communicate in such a dedicated period of time

D.  (:10b)  Powerful Results

so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Kent: Probably at this time occurred the founding of the churches at Colosse, Hierapolis, and the seven cities of Revelation 2-3.  Also wrote several letters to the church at Corinth

Paul stayed in Ephesus but others went out and started church in outlying areas; focus is on people hearing the Word of God – Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God

II.  (:11-20)  THE POWER OF THE WORKS OF GOD – THE MAGNIFICATION OF THE NAME OF THE LORD BY SPECIAL DIVINE MIRACLES PRODUCES POWERFUL RESULTS

A.  (:11-12)  Special Divine Miracles: Healing and Exorcising

And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 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.

Special, remarkable miracles according to Dr. Luke – miracles not of the ordinary kind;

not some phony counterfeit miracles; these were the real deal; contrasted with the superstitious magical practices of the times

We should not expect that God would continue to act in this way as common practice throughout the church age; they were unusual even for the apostolic times

Demon possession distinguished from illness

Cf. healings associated with touching the cloak of Jesus (Luke 8:44) and coming in contact with Peter’s shadow (Acts 5:15)

Bruce: the sweat-rags being used for tying round his head and the aprons for tying round his waist while he was engaged in his tent-making

Barclay: In those days everyone believed that illness and disease, and especially mental illness, were due to evil spirits who settled in a man.  Exorcism was a regular trade.  If the exorcist knew the name of a more powerful spirit than that which had taken up residence in the afflicted person. By speaking that name he could overpower the evil spirit and make him depart.

Real demonic powers are at work in the world today – Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus about the need to put on the whole armor of God – Ephes. 6:10-12

so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

B.  (:13-16)  Counterfeit Attempts Exposed, Wounded, Defeated, Humiliated

But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Bruce: It is possible that Sceva actually belonged to one of the Jewish  chief priestly families, but more probably “Jewish Chief Priest” was his own designation of himself, set out on a placard”

Cf. American tele-evangelists who plead for money and then promise to send you some handkerchief they have prayed over and blessed; like invoking a Christian form of Abracadabra

Rabbit’s foot syndrome – Alladin’s Genie – trying to manipulate God to produce effects that will benefit us; efficacy of the power of the name of Jesus is not mechanical where we can just call upon it and control its power; nor can it be used in some second hand fashion as if by association with the godly some of the power of the Lord rubs off and can be harnessed

Children can’t just piggyback on the faith of their parents – Jesus will say: “I knew your Mom and I knew your Dad … but I never knew you in terms of you having a faith relationship”

Mike Fogerson — Illustration:

A Basketball in my hands is worth $30, in the hands of Kobe Bryant $24.8 Million/year

[These figures don’t take into account endorsements, etc.]
A football in my hands is worth $25, in the hands of Aaron Rogers $7.3 Million/year
A baseball bat in my hands is worth $70, in the hands of Prince Fielder $15.5 Mill./year
A steering wheel in my hands is worth $50, in the hands of Jeff Gordon $27 Mill./year
The name of Jesus on the lips of a person who doesn’t believe/faith. . . weak.
The name of Jesus from the lips of a believer who has sold out to Jesus. . . powerful

Wiersbe: God enabled Paul to perform “special miracles” because Ephesus was a center for the occult (Acts 19:18-19), and Paul was demonstrating God’s power right in Satan’s territory.  But keep in mind that wherever God’s people minister the truth, Satan sends a counterfeit to oppose the work.  Jesus taught this truth in His parable of the tares (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43).  Peter experienced it in Samaria (Acts 8:9ff); and Paul experienced it at Paphos (Acts 13:4-12).  Satan imitates whatever God’s people are doing, because he knows that the unsaved world cannot tell the difference (2 Cor. 11:13-15). . .  Had this exorcism succeeded, it would have discredited the name of Jesus Christ and the ministry of the church in Ephesus.

Longenecker: The name of Jesus, like an unfamiliar weapon misused, exploded in their hands; and they were taught a lesson about the danger of using the name of Jesus in their dabbling in the supernatural.

Does the devil know your name?  Apparently he was aware of both the activity of Jesus and of Paul – those who were characterized by 2 key identifiers:

–  they went around proclaiming the Word of God

– they performed the Works of God in a way that magnified the Name of God

Are we doing enough to get the devil’s attention?

C.  (:17-20)  Powerful Results

And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.  Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.

1.  Awareness of the Power of God

2.  Fear of God

Also fear of dabbling in a spiritual realm where demonic activity is real and is spooky

3.  Glorifying the Name of the Lord Jesus

MacArthur: Even the unsaved began to recognize something stupendous about the Name of Jesus. That’s exactly what God wanted. What a name! The Name at which every knee should bow. Well, the Name of Jesus was magnified and people saw with awe and with a sense of terror that that name was not to be trifled with. Beloved, that is true. Every time I hear somebody take the name of Jesus in vain, I just kind of cringe. That’s not a name to trifle with. And those people saw that.

Psalm 70:4 “Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; And let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God be magnified.’”

4.  Confessing and Repenting of Sinful Practices

When Jesus is magnified, sin is dealt with in a decisive manner

5.  Continuation of the Cycle of the Growing Power of the Word of God

Deliverance from occult practices

Drachma, silver coin – represented one fourth of a day’s wages

What are the strongholds of today?

–          Various forms of Sexual addiction

–          Homosexuality with its claim to be natural and irreversible

–          Drug and alcohol addiction

–          Addiction to entertainment in various forms

Bock: These believers are described through the use of a perfect-tense participle . . . highlighting the enduring nature of their faith.

Barclay: Nothing can more definitely show the reality of the change than that in superstition-ridden Ephesus they were willing to burn the books and the charms which were so profitable to them.  They are an example to us.  They made the cleanest of clean cuts, even though it meant abandoning the things that were their livelihood.  It is all too true that many of us hate our sins but either we cannot leave them at all or we do so with a lingering and backward look.  There are times when only the clean and the final break will suffice.

 

Bruce: According to magical theory, the potency of a spell is bound up with its secrecy; if it be divulged, it becomes ineffective.  So these converted magicians renounced their imagined power by rendering their spells inoperative.

Toussaint: With this sixth “progress report” Luke brought another section of his book to a conclusion (cf. 2:47; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5; 28:30-31).

CONCLUSION: Application to Christmas

Christ came:

–          To proclaim the Word of the Lord:

  • Heb. 1:1-2God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”
  • John 3:34  For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God.” – Jesus came down from heaven; from above; and accurately proclaims the word of God

–          To magnify the Name of the Lord:

  • John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
  • John 17:4  I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”

–          With Powerful Results

We are called to go and do likewise

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