Acts 19:1-22 (NLT)
Paul’s Third Missionary Journey
1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers. 2 “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.
“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
3 “Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.
And they replied, “The baptism of John.”
These Ephesian disciples had only a basic understanding of the Messiah Jesus and His ministry, only what could be gained through the message of John the Baptist. They were in the same place as Apollos before Aquila and Priscilla explained the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-26). They could have received John’s baptism from the hands of John himself; or perhaps from some of John’s disciples who continued on in his ministry after John’s death.
4 Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.”
5 As soon as they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 Then when Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in other tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
Let me look at my own life. Is there a conspicuous presence of the Holy Spirit? Is there an obvious power of the Lord Jesus at work in me? Do I shine as a witness for Christ? Oh, God, let this be a genuine cry of my heart!
Paul Ministers in Ephesus
8 Then Paul went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months, arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. 9 But some became stubborn, rejecting his message and publicly speaking against the Way. So Paul left the synagogue and took the believers with him. Then he held daily discussions at the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for the next two years, so that people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the word of the Lord.
It seems likely that Tyrannus lectured there in the cooler morning hours, leaving the hall to Paul afterward. Paul may have worked his trade in the morning to support himself, and then taught in the afternoon. One can readily see that two years’ worth of Paul’s teaching and discussion would have a pervasive effect.
11 God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. 12 When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled.
13 A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. 15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.
Because the seven sons of Sceva had no real relationship with Jesus, they had no spiritual power against the evil spirit. They left the encounter naked and wounded. It was dangerous for them to take the reality of spiritual warfare lightly.
from Lord, Who Are You? The Story of Paul and the Early Church,
by Mark Link, S.J.
Roving exorcists were common in Paul’s day, especially in places like Ephesus, where magic and superstitions were widespread. In his Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare refers to Ephesus as the city of “dark-working sorcerers,” “soul-killing witches,” and “prating mountebanks.”
Ancients used the term “Ephesus Writings” to refer to magical papyri or to magical formulas to be placed in lockets and worn around the neck. Archaeologists have found papyri scrolls that contain a number of exorcist rites.
17 The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. 18 Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. 19 A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire.
Apparently, before the sons of Sceva incident, many believers did not know they were involved in the demonic. They saw their actions in a far more innocent light, until they knew the reality of demonic activity. The sons of Sceva incident also prompted Christians to renounce any remaining connection to the demonic. They renounced the demonic by confessing and by burning their magic books, disregarding whatever value such items may have had.
The value of the books was several million dollars. 20 So the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect.
A wonderful result!
21 Afterward Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem. “And after that,” he said, “I must go on to Rome!” 22 He sent his two assistants, Timothy and Erastus, ahead to Macedonia while he stayed awhile longer in the province of Asia.
It is only by the merest hint that Luke gives us an indication here of something which is filled out in Paul’s letters. He tells us that Paul purposed to go to Jerusalem. The church in Jerusalem was poor; and Paul aimed to take a collection from all his Gentile churches as a contribution to it. We find references to this collection in 1 Corinthians 16:1 ff; 2 Corinthians 9:1 ff; Romans 15:25-26. Paul pressed on with this scheme for two reasons. First, he wished in the most practical way to emphasize the unity of the Church. He wished to demonstrate that they belonged to the body of Christ and that when one part of the body suffered all must help. In other words, he wished to take them away from a merely congregational outlook and to give them a vision of the one universal Church of which they were part. Second, he wished to teach them practical Christian charity. Doubtless when they heard of the privations of Jerusalem they felt sorry. He wished to teach them that sympathy must be translated into action. These two lessons are as valid today as ever they were.
HERE is a familiar old hymn, “We’ve a story to tell to the nations,” but to a lovely new tune by Cindy Berry! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!