In our study of Acts chapter nineteen, we look at the start of Paul's third missionary journey and the spread of the gospel in the province of Asia. This chapter demonstrates the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in the ministry at Ephesus.
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples
Apollos (who we met in chapter 18) had been in Ephesus but had now moved on to Corinth as Paul arrived in Ephesus. Ephesus was an important commercial city as well as a hub of satanic worship. It would be in what is today known as the modern nation of Turkey. We see here that although most of the city was filled with pagans, Paul did find some that believed in Jesus.
and Paul asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?' They answered, 'No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.'
So, when Paul found this group of believers, he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit and they said that they had not even heard that the Spirit existed. How sad this must have made Paul as he realized that life and faith were hollow without the power of the Holy Spirit in us. These people had knowledge of Jesus but not the power to do anything with that knowledge. We each should ask ourselves this same question; Got the Spirit?
So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?' 'John's baptism,' they replied. Paul said, 'John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.'
So, these people only knew about repentance and not about living in power. Paul reminded them that John had called people to believe in Jesus not to follow himself.
On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
The men were baptized and received the Holy Spirit. We notice that, when that happened, God's power was immediately displayed as "they spoke in tongues and prophesied". When you are working and walking in the Spirit, God does amazing things. For some it may be these two examples but for others it may be in some other form. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12, there are many ways that the Spirit is displayed but they are all important for building up the body of believers.
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
As was the pattern in the ministry, Paul went into the local synagogue and boldly proclaimed the gospel. He did this for three months before the people simply refused to believe. Paul dusted off his sandals and left the building (just as Jesus had told the disciples to do when He sent them out two by two)! He and the disciples went to a local school (the lecture hall at Tyrannus) and had daily discussions. God had made this possible as the school took a siesta (break during the heat of the day) that lasted two or three hours. It was during this time that they would gather and have daily discussions about their walk in Christ.
This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
God did a real work here as we see that in two years time all of the province heard the Word. The news probably spread pretty fast when people started to be healed by simply taking a handkerchief to them. The handkerchief that it is talking about would have been a rag that Paul wiped the sweat off of his forehead with as he worked. This is the only occasion where God did this through Paul and the evil spirits fled from these sweat rags.
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, 'In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.
When some Jews saw what God was doing through Paul, they decided that they could do the same thing by using the name of Paul. This is a good example of people trying to walk under the umbrella of another's anointing. The problem with this is that it forgets the main thing which is that all gifts (anointings) come from God and are given by His grace to those He chooses. We cannot live on someone else's faith and walk our personal walk with the Lord.
Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day, the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?' Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
Now, Paul gives us an example of what happens when a person tries to live on someone else's faith. The sons of the high priest did not know Jesus yet were trying to harness the power of God. It did not work for them and it will not work for us. The man with the demon ended up beating the seven men and they must have been embarassed as they ran out naked and bloody. It is a strong warning for us as well in that, if we do not want similar results, we must have the right relationship with the Father through the Son so we can be empowered of the Spirit. Then and only then, will the evil spirits be cast out.
When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.
When the word got out that the demons knew Jesus and retreated at His name, the people lifted up the name of Jesus in honor. The power of God was demonstrated and people began to fear Him and that is why God empowers his people to do miraculous things. He does not want us to use our spiritual gifts like a magic show as everything must be done for His glory and not our own.
Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
Fear causes change in people and, when they saw what was happening, they turned from their evil ways (repented) and even burned the detestable things that were a part of their job. These people that practiced sorcery earned their living that way but they gave it up and even burned their scrolls which were the tools they used to make a living. When people saw genuine repentance and obedience, word spread rapidly! This same pattern is true for us today as, when we come to Christ, we are also called to openly confess our sins and to turn from them (repent) even if that is how we earn a living. The Lord takes care of His own!
After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. 'After I have been there,' he said, 'I must visit Rome also.' He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.
So, Paul got the ministry started in Ephesus and prepared to go to Jerusalem and Rome. Paul was great at turning hearts to God and moving on to the next area that didn't have Christians. He often passed through areas where he had started a work just to check in on them and to encourage them. In this case, he sent a couple of helpers on ahead to check on things.
About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.
It is interesting to note here that following Jesus is called "the Way". First of all, that can remind us that there were no denominations of Christ as He was and is "the Way" and you either follow Him or you don't. Second, it can remind us that Jesus is the ONLY way to a right relationship with God and avoiding eternal punishment for disobedience. No matter what the world says today, we are not all going to get to heaven in our own way. There is One who can get us there and that is Jesus!
A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen.
So, because of God's work through Paul, people's lives were being changed and they turned away from idols and therefore didn't buy these statues from this man. This hit him and others in the pocketbook and so he decided to put a stop to the spread of the Way. The grace and forgiveness that Paul was sharing with the people was available to Demetrius as well but he could not see it because of the money that was involved. This is an example of what Jesus was talking about, in Matthew 6:24, when he said "You cannot serve both God and Money". If you choose money, then you will eventually come to learn the same lesson that Solomon learned in Ecclesiastes.
He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: 'Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.'
So, Demetrius is not happy with just rejecting the gospel himself; now, he must convince others to resist God as well. He not only uses the issue of money to raise opposition to Paul but he also appeals to them to protect their goddess. He fears that she will be "robbed of her divine majesty" but does not see how ridiculous that is. If she was a goddess, then why would she need a mere man to defend her majesty? Sadly, the same sort of thing happens today with us as Christians. We get into our minds that we have to defend God and His word but the simple fact of the matter is that God is the Creator and Sustainer of all and He can take care of Himself. We are to simply proclaim His word and let Him work in the hearts of men.
When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!' Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater.
Demetrius was successful in getting the workmen stirred up and causing a riot. While they were shouting to lift up their god, in their hearts was the issue of money. So, they seized Paul's companions and drug them into court. This is what Jesus was saying when He told us that we, as Christians would be persecuted. It happened in Ephesus with the early church; it happens in many countries today and it will continue to happen and get worse until Jesus comes back to get us.
Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.
When Paul saw his companions being seized, he wanted to help defend them but those around him wanted to protect him. Whether Paul was correct in agreeing to stay away from the theater I do not know. Maybe God used those around him to preserve his life or maybe an opportunity to display God's power was missed. The ability to know God's will for us in any situation comes from the Holy Spirit.
The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: 'Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!'
The riot is happening in the theater and, as usually happens, many of the people involved didn't even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander forward to speak on their behalf and to make it known that Paul and his followers were not a part of them. They did not want to get the blame for what Paul and the disciples were doing but, when the crowd found out that Alexander was a Jew, they shouted him down and did not listen to his defense of the Jews. It seems like this sort of riot happens even today when people stand up and try to tell the truth of Jesus Christ. The simple fact is that many men love the darkness and their homemade gods and they will try to drown out the message of salvation through Jesus Christ.
The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: 'Men of Ephesus, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash.'
The city official calmed the crowd by reminding them of the fame of their city. The city was actually quite proud of their idolatry and was famous for it. We may say that it is just crazy for a city to be proud of its sin but the same thing is as true today as it was back then. There are cities that are even nicknamed "sin city" but, just as God worked in Ephesus, He can do a major work in our sin cities as well.
You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly.
The city clerk realized that the Christians had not done anything wrong and that it was Demetrius that was causing the riot. He reminded the people that they had courts to handle matters such as this between men.
'As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today's events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.' After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
What a turn of events and an example of how God takes care of his own. Not only did God turn away the anger of this mob seeking to harm his people, but He used this clerk to convict the hearts of the rioters as well.