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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 27, 2006
Living in the Power of God
Please turn in your Bibles to Acts 19:11 this morning as we expand on what we went over briefly last week. In this chapter Paul has started on his third missionary journey and has reached the city of Ephesus which is a port city on the Aegean Sea in the province of Asia. He had been their previously for a very short time at the end of his second missionary journey. This time he is there for lengthy period of time. He spent three months speaking out boldly and reasoning in the synagogue about the kingdom of God, but after some of the Jews became hardened and began speaking evil of the Way he turned to the Gentiles and concentrated his ministry with them speaking at the School of Tyrannus for 2 years. This was a private school that Paul rented for part of each day so that he could teach about Jesus Christ to whoever would come. Verse 10 tells us that this ministry was effective so that all who lived in the province of Asia, but Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord from those who had been taught by Paul
As we move to verse 11, Luke gives us some additional details about the ministry that Paul had in that city and then contrasts the power of God working through Paul with the failure of religious rituals resulting in fear among the unbelievers and greater holiness among the believers.
God’s Miracles through Paul (11-12)
Verses 11 & 12 tells us “11 And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 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.”
Our text says that these were “extraordinary miracles.” That is quite a statement to make considering that miracles by definition are things that are beyond what is ordinary. These were uncommon demonstrations of God’s power for they were taking place without Paul even having to be there. Though many miracles did take place during the first century, almost always Jesus, an apostle or a prophet was present when it occurred. Even with Peter in Acts 5 the people were still placed so that his shadow would fall across the sick. In this case we find that even objects that were carried from Paul to the sick person would bring about healing or the casting out of the demon. The only similar miracles were Jesus’ healing the official’s son in John 4 and the Centurion’s servant in Luke 7. In both cases Jesus healed them without ever even seeing them.
God’s mercy to the Ephesians was great. The many miracles added weight to the things Paul was teaching about Jesus and the kingdom of God. Some have claimed that God is still doing the same today while others wonder why the same things are not being done today.
Are Such Miracles for Today?
What is the answer to those claims and that question? God can do anything He wants anyway He desires in keeping with His own character, and at times He extends His mercy and grace with His hand of direct intervention into the lives of people being clearly evidenced, However, the fact is that He is not working in the same way now as He was during the first century. Why not? The reason is simply that there no apostles in the present age. In the book of Acts such miracles are specifically attributed as coming through the apostles (Acts 2:23; 5:12). Paul specifically states in 2 Cor. 12:12 that the “signs, wonders and miracles” performed through him were the signs of a true apostle. Why do we not have apostles in this age? Remember that an apostle is someone sent with authority and an apostle of Jesus had to be an eye witness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21-22). That restricted the pool of those who could have been apostles to a very small number of men all of whom died by the end of the first century. Paul was included as an apostle because of his personal encounter with the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus in Acts 9 and he was directly commissioned by Jesus for the ministries that he performed. It was apostolic authority which was authenticated by the miracles God did through them that enabled them to establish the church and write the Scriptures (cf. Eph. 2:20; 4:11f; 2 Pet. 1:16-20; etc.).
In addition, Miracles themselves were not “normal” events even then and what God was doing through Paul is marked as being “extra-ordinary.” To claim that such things are or should be normal at the present time is inconsistent with God’s working as seen throughout Biblical history.
The miracles performed by Paul in Ephesus also attracted the attention of those that wanted to do the same things, but did not have the power of God to do so. Luke gives an example of this in verses 13-17.
Jewish Exorcists Overpowered (13-17)
13 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.” 14 And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 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. 17 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.
This is a great contrast between the power of God working through Paul and the failure of those who perform religious rituals as was done by the Jewish exorcists. They even attempted to cast out the demons by using Jesus’ name as an incantation. An incantation is using words as if they have magical powers in themselves. That is a common practice of not only the occult and cults but also misguided and ignorant Christians. Their efforts fail resulting in the demon in the man enabling him to attack and defeat all seven. They are beat up and flee without their clothes.
I want to expand this week briefly on the nature of overt spiritual warfare. The issue of battling demons is one that causes fear for some people while others are quite intrigued by it looking for ways they can be personally involved in chasing demons away. Neither of those positions are what God wants us to do for both of them play into the hands of our adversary. What I want to do is quickly show you the reality of spiritual warfare and the simple, but direct commands God has given us concerning it so that we are neither fearful nor caught up in it.
First, spiritual warfare is the reality of life. We cannot see demons or angels but they are around us and they are involved in an worldwide conflict. In Daniel 10:10f an angel tells Daniel that he had been sent to answer Daniel’s prayer, but he had been delayed for 21 days by the “prince of Persia” until Michael came to help him. Our adversary, the devil, is called the “prince of the power of the air” in Ephesians 2:2 and the “god of this world” who has “blinded the minds of the unbelieving” in 2 Cor. 4:4. 1 Peter 5:8 says he “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour”. In Ephesians 6 Paul is very direct about spiritual warfare stating in verse 12 that “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.].” Add to this that Satan is a supernatural being that “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) and there is reason that people fear him.
Satan is a real being who has a host of fallen angels, demons, that follow him. He has organized them into various ranks and together they are actively seeking to usurp the rule of God not only in the lives of individual men and women but throughout the universe. If we were to face him with only our own abilities to defend us, then all of us should be afraid. No human is as smart or powerful as either he or his legions of demons.
However, no Christian ever faces Satan or any demon alone. For the believer, he is like a bully on a playground who wants to intimidate us, but all we have to remember is that our big brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, is always standing with us. The apostle John said it this way, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them [spirits that do not confess Jesus]; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 Jn. 4:4). Even for the unbeliever their fear is misplaced. Jesus said in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” The only one that can do that is God and just before the Great White Throne Judgement in Revelation 20, He will be casting Satan and all the demons into eternal Hell. The Christian has nothing to fear for God’s perfect love casts out all fear for those that love Him (1 John 4:18).
So how then should the Christian to respond to spiritual warfare? First, never allow yourself to be intimidated even if the manifestation of the demonic is dramatic. Certainly there is a natural fear response when you face something that is unknown to you and obvious supernatural, yet even then you can have great peace. Diane and I have both had experiences in the past with the overtly demonic. I had a woman in my office that exhibited classic symptoms of being demonized. She was frothing at the mouth and had several different voices coming from within her talking to each other. Admittedly, it is a strange experience to watch an individual have conversations with other beings within her, but I can’t tell you when I had a greater sense of peace. When the demonic is overtly expressed it is very clear who belongs to who and there is great comfort and peace in knowing you are on the Lord’s side.
James 4:7 gives us our direction very succinctly, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” The key element in this verse is not resisting the devil, it is submitting to God. When you submit yourself to obey God you are resisting the devil, and when you do that, the bully shows himself to be the coward that he is and will flee. Those who try to resist the devil without submitting to God put themselves at great risk.
Let me add here that those that want to have some kind of “deliverance” ministry and hunt down demons and cast them out of people are at even greater risk. They may well end up like these Jewish exorcists or worse. Why? First, there are no Biblical passages which command or direction believers to go out chasing demons. Even in those passages in which a demon is cast out it is simply something the occurred in the course of ministry and not something that was specifically pursued. In other words, neither Jesus nor any of the apostles went out hunting for demons and demonized people. They simply encountered them in the course of ministry and then dealt with them appropriately.
Second, Jude tells us about false teachers that “reject authority and revile angelic majesties” instead of following the example of “Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” Jude goes on in verse 10 to say, “But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed.” Jesus talked about these same types of people in Matthew 7:22,23 who will say “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” 23 ‘And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” These kinds of people are around today. They follow the same practices as the Jewish exorcists in Acts 19. They do not truly know God or His power, but they seek to manipulate Him by formulas and rituals. How sad that they will spend eternity in the same place as those supernatural beings they thought they could control. God resists the proud including those that want to take on spiritual warfare in their own power.
The overt manifestations of the demonic are actually the easier aspects of spiritual warfare for the Christian to handle. When your enemy is obvious then you are more alert to his evil efforts and you prepare yourself properly. It is when the enemy comes disguised as an angel of light that you set your weapons and armor aside and are then vulnerable to his schemes. That is why it is so important to follow Paul’s commands in Ephesians 6:10-18 regarding the armor of God.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 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.] 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil [one.] 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. . .”.
Spiritual warfare really does boil down to James 4:7. “Submit to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” If you want more information on this subject, I suggest you get Warren Wiesrbe’s book, The Strategy of Satan. I also have a 12 week series on Ephesians 6:10-18 on audio cassette that can be ordered through the church office.
As can be imagined, the story of what happened to these Jewish exorcists spread quickly resulting in a clear understanding that this Jesus that Paul was proclaiming was not only very powerful, but could not be manipulated. That would be a cause of fear for the pagan Gentiles since this meant there was now another God they would have to deal with. It would be a cause of fear for the Jews because they had rejected Paul’s message that Jesus was the Messiah, yet here was evidence that this Jesus was not someone they should offend. Verses 18-20 recounts the results among those that did believe.
The Pursuit of Righteousness (18-20)
18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19 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. 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
The story caused those who professed faith to be more serious about it. Many of them up to that point had kept one foot in their old ways including keeping their books that explained how to tap into magical powers, i.e. the demonic powers of their paganism. When they see the obvious difference between the power of God as demonstrated by Paul and the failure of the efforts of rituals of magic, they repent resulting in a radical change. Those who had been involved in demonic practices brought their books which contained their formulas and secret rites and burned them. The value of them, listed here as 50,000 pieces of silver would be tremendous. The average worker earned one silver coin per day, so the value of these books was 50,000 days of labor.
This brings up an important issue for our own time. How many Christians are living now as these Ephesians had been then. They made professions of faith but in their ignorance they are trying to keep one foot in the world and their past practices. When you understood the true nature of God you turn away from your former foolishness. If you are a professed Christian, then you need to turn away from every practice that is not God honoring and dependent upon Him. If you were involved in occultic practices, then turn away from them and destroy all of the things related to those practices – fetishes, books, ouija boards, tarot cards, palm readings, astrology charts, etc. If you were part of a false religion or cult, then it is time to turn away from all the practices related to them. That would include home altars, pictures, idols, books, devotionals, rosary beads, prayer wheels, audio recordings, music, etc. If you were involved in worldly practices, then if you have not stopped already, then you need to stop participating in them. That can include all sorts of things including the types of books and magazines you read, the music you listen to, your entertainment and recreation choices, drinking, drugs, etc. In short, any ungodly practice. The Christian is to be holy (1 Peter. 1:16). You cannot mix the worship of the true God with the practices of paganism, the occult, false religions, cults or worldliness. If you are not seeing the power of God in your own life both in making you more like Christ and using you to advance His kingdom, then consider if one of the reasons may be that you are still continuing in some of your old practices instead of trusting in the Lord.
The power of God is far greater than anything man or demons can produce. But the power of God is not for sale nor can it be manipulated in any manner, for it is not an entity in itself. The power of God is the ability of God to accomplish His will through any means He desires. The amazing thing is that God desires to work through those who humble themselves before Him. He turns sinners into saints and then works through them to accomplish things far beyond their abilities with results that are eternal in nature, not just temporal. If you want to see the power of God working through you, then start by being humble and then learn to obey Him by trusting Him to accomplish what He wants through you.
Paul’s Future Plans (21-22)
In verses 21 & 22 Luke tells us what Paul still had on his heart to accomplish in the future.
21 Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
In short, Paul desired to complete his plan of going back to the areas he had previously been in order to strengthen the disciples. He would then return to Jerusalem before going on to Rome. He sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia to prepare the way while he stayed in Ephesus awhile longer. Luke adds this here to show the true reasons why Paul eventually left Ephesus. It was not because of the event we are told about starting in verse 23.
The Ephesian Uproar (23-41)
Its Cause (23-27)
23 And about that time there arose no small disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen; 25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar [trades,] and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. 26 “And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods [at all.] 27 “And not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship should even be dethroned from her magnificence.”
The cause of the conflict was that the trade of the silversmiths in their idols of Artemis (Diana – the fertility goddess) was being threatened by the number of people turning to Christ. This threat was two-fold. First, the direct loss of business because Christians would not buy the idols. Second, the indirect loss of business because Christians were encouraging the pagans to turn away from idolatry. The silversmiths incited the emotions of the other pagans by saying this was threatening the glory of their goddess Artemis.
Its Characteristics (28-34)
28 And when they heard [this] and were filled with rage, they [began] crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 And the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. 30 And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him. 31 And also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater. 32 So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and the majority did not know for what cause they had come together. 33 And some of the crowd concluded [it was] Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a [single] outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
(PICTURES) The silversmiths were successful in inciting the crowd and they rushed into the theater which could hold 25,000 people. It was bedlam which became worse when Alexander, a Jew, was put forward to speak to them. The resulting demonstration lasted for two hours.
Its Calming (35-41)
35 And after quieting the multitude, the town clerk ^said, “Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, and of the [image] which fell down from heaven? 36 “Since then these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash. 37 “For you have brought these men [here] who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 “So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man, the courts are in session and proconsuls are [available]; let them bring charges against one another. 39 “But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly. 40 “For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today’s affair, since there is no [real] cause [for it]; and in this connection we shall be unable to account for this disorderly gathering.” 41 And after saying this he dismissed the assembly.
The town clerk was finally able to restore order. Since he was the official who published the decrees given by the governmental assembly the crowd would have recognized him and assumed him to bringing some government response. He then pointed out both their impropriety and the danger that their demonstration posed to their reputation. He also pointed out the fact that those with such concern could go to the courts. His words were effective and with the crowd finally calm he was able to dismiss them in peace. We need not fear spiritual warfare.
Never be surprised when evil people seek to incite others to do evil, and never be surprised at the foolishness of a mob.
The riot of the Ephesians was actually just another manifestion of the spiritual war Satan wages against God. In this case the effort of the pagan silversmiths to cause Christians problems and even bring violence upon them. Paul had wanted to get involved, but he wisely listed to the advice of the other disciples and some friends of his who were Asiarchs and did not go. (Asiarchs were “deputies of the provincial assembly of Asia” and some of them were also high priests in the cult of emperor worship – see Kistemaker, pp. 701). The plans of Satan and the efforts of the silversmith came to nothing. God is more powerful whether it is working miracles through Paul or ending a riot by His servant, a pagan government official. We can trust him in our lives.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Keep count of how many different times a name for God is used. 2) Talk with your parents about how God protects you from demons.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Why was Paul in Ephesus? What made the miracles there “extraordinary”? How were miracles performed in the first century? What was their purpose? Do miracles occur today? If so, do they occur in the same manner as in the first century? Why or why not? Why did the Jewish exorcists fail? How do we know Satan is a real being? What are demons and how are they organized? What protection does a non-believer have against them? What is the danger of so called “deliverance” ministries? What Bible passages tell a Christian how to respond to overt demonic attack? What Bible passages tell a Christian how to prepare for hidden / disguised demonic attack? The Ephesian Christians repented of their ungodly practices – is there anything in your life for which you should repent ? Are there any ungodly materials (occultic, religious, cultic, wordly) you need to destroy / throw away? What were Paul’s future plans? Why did the pagans in Ephesus get so upset? What does that indicate about Paul’s ministry? What finally calmed them down? How is the power of God seen in that? How have you seen the power of God demonstrated in the live of others? In your own life? What do you need to do in order for God to work through you effectively?
Sermon Notes – August 27, 2006
Living in the Power of God – Acts 19:11-41
God’s Miracles through Paul (vs. 11,12)
Are Such Miracles for Today?
Jewish Exorcists Overpowered (vs. 13-17)
The Christian’s Response
Putting on the Armor of God
The Pursuit of Righteousness (vs. 18-20)
Turning Away from Ungodly Practices
Paul’s Future Plans
The Ephesian Uproar (vs. 23-41)
Its Cause (vs. 23-27)
Its Characteristics (vs. 28-34)
Its Calming (vs. 35-41)
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