The gospel was being preached but the completeness of the message was lacking. At Ephesus, Paul encountered disciples who not only had not received the Holy Spirit, but they were unaware of His existence.
These disciplines shares with Paul that they were baptized with John’s baptism.
Paul took the time to correct the incomplete and faulty knowledge they had of salvation. John’s role he explained was to preach repentance and belief in he One who was to come, Jesus.
The disciples were then baptized in the Name of Jesus and Paul laid hands on them, welcoming the Holy Spirit. As a result of receiving the Holy Spirit, the disciples began to speak in other languages and to prophesy (Acts 19:6).
Paul’s Growth in Dealing with Opposition
Paul spoke in the synagogue at Ephesus over a period of 3 months, trying to convince the people of the message. However they would not listen. Scripture tells us some of them became hardened and slandered the Way in front of the people leading Paul to withdraw from them and meeting separately with the disciples conducting discussions every day with then job the hall of Tyrannus. This, we are told, went on for 2 years. All of Asia heard the message about Jesus Christ in that time.
I find this account to be a remarkable display of God’s work in the heart of Paul. If you read Acts 18, you will see Paul responding to contempt for the word quite differently. There, he retreated from the Corinthian Jews, but he relieved himself of any responsibility regarding them. We see Paul removing himself from the mockers here as well, but he continued teaching and his ministry was fruitful, reaching both Jews and Greeks.
The Message Prevails Against Evil Spirits, Acts 19:11-20
Do you ever think the years following Jesus’ resurrection must have been quite a time to be alive? I do sometimes. I read about the miracles and the conversions that Luke records in this book and am simply astonished by the work that took place in order for the message to go forward and to continue to save long after Christ rose from the grave.
This segment of Scripture takes me there. In Acts 19:11-12, we read that the Lord used Paul so powerfully that his garments or anything that touched his skin were sufficient to heal the sick and make whole those who were possessed by evil spirits.
That is an amazing testimony to the power of God!
And as is often the case, some attempted to harness and use this power for their own benefit. In our passage, this was done by Jewish exorcists. They attempted to use the power of the name of Jesus to perform exorcism.
Ironically since they themselves did not believe in the name of Jesus, they commanded the evil spirits from a removed position and authority:
The text reads:
“I command you by the Jesus that Paul peaches!”
Huh? Is this not the most pathetic use of the name of Christ the you’ve read in scripture?
Well, scripture goes on to say:
“The evil spirit answered them, “I know Jesus, and I recognize Paul–but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowering them all, and prevailed against them, so that they ran out of that house naked and wounded.” Acts 19:15-16
Well, there you have it! Clearly the evil spirits realized this was a pathetic attempt at the use of the name of Christ.
However, the incident served a purpose. The news spread and great fear seized the people and the name of the Lord was magnified. It’s clear that this act caused those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ to praise Him, and for those who had not became believers as a result. Among the believers, those who once practiced magic turned from their ways, burning their books and destroying their silver idols.
In this way the Lord’s message flourished and prevailed.” Acts 19:20
The Riot in Ephesus, Acts 19:21-41
Paul is on the move again. And as is the pattern with his travels, trouble follows closely.
Demetrius, a silversmith who worked closely with the local craftsmen, brought them all together and presented to them, that as a result of Paul’s teaching their livelihood was in jeopardy. They made silver shrines of Arthemia.
Demetrius incited the men against Paul not only by insinuating that Paul’s teachings about Jesus would dry up their businesses, but that by his teaching Paul would also bring contempt against their goddess Artemis. Where these accusations made separately would perhaps not carry enough weight to attack believers, together they sent the men into massive confusion and an uproar against Paul and his disciples.
The men attacked some of Paul’s companions…but Paul was absent at the time. And, under the counsel and strong urge of the disciples near and far, he did not go before the people.
Luke goes on to say that some of the rioters were not even sure why they were protesting. The official interrupted the crowd and saw right through the confusion that was taking place. He ordered Demetrius and the craftsmen to bring charges against Paul if they had any. Otherwise, they needed to dissipate.
Application to Us
We grow over time and as we mature in the Lord, we are growing closer to the image of Christ in us.
The Lord’s name has power, but it isn’t a magic spell. Ever hear people say “just invoke the name of Jesus” and they say this to just about everyone, regardless of their faith in Christ or not? Well, it doesn’t quite work that way. Worse yet, the Lord’s name cannot be used to further the workings of the evil one. In this case it was magic and exorcism. In our context, it can be to cheat, lie and steal.
The Lord will see His purposes through. While the exorcists meant to use the Lord’s name in vain, we see God using the incident to magnify the name of Jesus, inflict reverent fear in the hearts of all who knew and bring souls to repentance in Jesus. This event served to continue the ministry of the gospel that Paul began in Ephesus.
We must be cautious and wise. The disciples cautioned Paul not to deliver himself to a rioting crowd. This is sage advice. While we will encounter opposition and will at times face great trials for the cause of Christ, we don’t seek them. Christians don’t have a martyr complex. We don’t go seeking to be killed. This chapter, to me, showed that caution is sometimes needed, even as we preach and teach the message about Jesus. The difference between boldness and unwise judgment as I see it here is simple: boldly proclaim Christ if we find ourselves in the midst of a situation, even if it is to our physical treatment; yet not to place ourselves in undue trials.
- How did you respond to the evil spirit rejecting the men who came to him? How did this speak to you concerning the use of Jesus’ name?