There are a number of cults that employ this methodology. A couple of years ago there was a certain teacher who was able to persuade some Christians to believe that which they had firmly rejected previously. He was able to convince some by means of a seminar, which bombarded the audience with endless ideas and assumptions, which were not proven, but which, they were told, they would understand later. Some were convinced, not because they were shown the truth from Scripture, and in the calm of their own study and meditation accepted it, but because of a kind of circuit overload, which caused them to cease thinking about it. Pauls teaching was the opposite. He taught in smaller doses, and there was time in-between to think it over. So that when men or women believed his teaching it was because it conformed to the teaching of the Scriptures and the Spirit of God bore witness to its truthfulness.
13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists,439who 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 recognize440Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you? 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued both441of 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. 18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices.44219 And many of those who practiced magic443brought 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.
After his encounter with the 12 disciples upon his arrival at Ephesus (19:1-7), Paul began to minister in the synagogue at Ephesus. His topic was the kingdom of God (verse 8). I would think that Paul began with the Old Testament prophecies pertaining to the kingdom, showing over a period of time how Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled these, and then going on to disclose those aspects of the kingdom which were revealed by Jesus, or to the apostles by the Holy Spirit.
A look at the map would indicate that Macedonia and Achaia were hardly on Pauls way to Jerusalem. For that matter, Jerusalem was hardly on Pauls way to Rome. Paul was in Ephesus, and so traveling to Jerusalem via Macedonia and Achaia would require him to go north and then to double back, past Ephesus to Jerusalem. Rome would then require him to go Northwest. There were reasons for this itinerary. Paul was planning to go to Jerusalem via Macedonia and Achaia so that he could take a collection from these churches to the poor saints in Jerusalem. The apostles in Jerusalem had urged Paul to remember the poor, and this was something which he was more than happy to do:
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,446and 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 Artemis447be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship should even be dethroned from her magnificence. 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,448dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Pauls traveling companions from Macedonia.
Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God (Acts 20:26-27).
The thing which impresses me about Pauls teaching in the synagogue is how long he taught there before it became necessary to move to another location. It strongly implies that Paul established his case, over a period of time, as opposed to his stating the same case repeatedly. This is consistent with Pauls approach elsewhere. For example, in Berea, Paul taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and the people had all week to search the Scriptures and to think about it. This is the exact opposite approach to that of brainwashing. Brainwashing attempts to weaken the critical facilities of the audience, wearing them down, physically and mentally, until they just dont care to think critically any more.
The city of Ephesus really began to take not of the gospel now. The gospel was being proclaimed by Paul and others. The power of God and the gospel was being demonstrated through the signs and wonders performed by or through Paul. And the power of the gospel was now evident in the lives of the Christians, who renounced their evil deeds and permanently put off their magical practices. The saints were beginning to become salty, and the difference was noted. And so it was that the word of the Lord grew mightily and was prevailing (19:20).
(2) Pauls preaching is contrary to the practice of idolatry and is greatly damaging our business (verse 26).Paul preached that there was but one God, and that He alone was the Creator of all things. Idols are but a creation of men, and are not gods at all. This preaching was being widely accepted, and as a result, the idol sales were down, and so were their profits.
(3) Our trade may not only suffer, but it may fall into disrepute.Not unlike the abortionists, who make money off of the sin and sorrow of their clients, and off of the death of the innocent, these idol-makers do not wish to be looked down upon, and their trade to become a matter of ill-repute. Once a part of the upper echelons of Ephesian society, these craftsmen are now looking little different than the Jewish exorcists. If magic falls from favor, and the books which teach the art of magic are burned, then what will people think of the idol-makers?
What a contrast one could see between Paul and the sons of Sceva and all like them. Paul worked with his own hands, and ministered freely to men. These exorcists undoubtedly charged a substantial fee for their services, living off of the misery of those to whom they ministered. In the case of Paul, the power of God was at work through him, even when he did not seem to be aware of it. Even things which came into contact with Paul were instruments of deliverance and healing. On the other hand, as hard as these exorcists worked at using the names of Jesus and Paul, they were not successful.
(2) Paul wrote 1 Corinthians from Ephesus (cf. 1 Cor. 16:8).(3) The epistle to the Ephesians was written to the Ephesian church (cf. Ephesians 1:1). (4) The church at Ephesus was one of the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 1:4), to which specific words of admonition from the Lord were given (Revelation 1:11; 2:1-7). (5) Timothy (1 Timothy 1:3) was sent there by Paul, and thus 1 Timothy concerns the life and conduct of the church there in Ephesus.
Before we look at this response, however, let us make sure that we understand the connection between the power of God through Paul, the powerless defeat of the sons of Sceva, and the wide-spread turning from magical practices by the Ephesian saints. Nowhere in our text are the sons of Sceva called magicians, nor is their practice described as magical. Previously, we were told that Elymas (also called Bar-Jesus) was Jew, a false prophet, and a magician (Acts 13:6). Simon, of Acts chapter 8, was also a magician (8:9, 11), although he is not identified as a Jew. He was, most likely, a Samaritan, and thus a half-Jew.
11 And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons437were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.
It was Gods time for the evangelization of Asia, and it all seems to have started from the city of Ephesus.
17. Avoiding Spiritual Compromise (Exodus 32:1-35)
Luke does not mean for us to conclude that every single person living in Asia had heard the gospel, but he does mean that the entire area was canvassed with the word. And so it was that Paul could say,
16. Obeying The Big Ten (Exodus 20:1-17)
1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week let each one of you put aside and save, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. 3 And when I arrive, whomever you may approve, I shall send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me. 5 But I shall come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; 6 and perhaps I shall stay with you, or even spend the winter, that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. 8 But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid; for he is doing the Lords work, as I also am. 11 Let no one therefore despise him. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren. 12 But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity (1 Corinthians 16:1-12; see also 2 Corinthians 8:1-15).
If these Jewish exorcists were attempting to copy the ministry of Paul, they ended up being a very clear contrast to it. And in his rebellion against authority, this demon served the cause of Christ by testifying to the power of the Gospel in contrast to the counterfeit ministry of the sons of Sceva, and others like them. We have already been told that the gospel had gone forth from Ephesus to all of Asia, and now it would seem that this incident was one means which God used to spread the word. News of this incident spread abroad, serving to contrast the power of God at work through Paul with the counterfeit power of the exorcists. All of Ephesus heard of the exposure of the exorcists, and they feared God, so that His name was magnified. He would not be used by men, as though he were subject to the rules of magic.
And recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we might go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised. They only asked us to remember the poorthe very thing I also was eager to do (Galatians 2:9-10).
The rebuke and benediction of the town clerk(vv 35-41)
If the Ephesian church was the launching place for the evangelization of Asia, it is important for several other reasons as well. Let me mention several reasons for the importance of this church.
18. Gods Presence: Dangerous, but Essential (Exodus 33:1-17)
The gospel had been proclaimed in Asia, and not only this but God bore witness to His word through many signs and wonders and miracles, as he worked through the apostle Paul. No one else is said to have worked such miracles, but Paul did, even unintentionally. We are not told of all the miracles accomplished at the hand of Paul, but we are told that some miracles happened in some secondary fashion. Handkerchiefs or aprons which Paul had touched were taken to those who were sick or demon possessed and they were made whole (verse 12). The aprons which were taken seem to have been Pauls work aprons. Can you imagine him coming to work at his tentmaking in the morning, looking about for his apron, and saying to himself, Now where did I put that apron ? They were hauling off anything which Paul touched, and when the infirmed came in contact with these items, they were delivered. As usual, these signs and wonders were accomplished to validate and underscore the words which Paul was speakingthe words of the Gospel.438
The story of the evangelization of Ephesus does not begin in chapter 19, or even in chapter 18 of the Book of Acts. It started with the ministry of John the Baptist, whose teaching had produced a number of converts, men and women who looked for the Messiah, promised by the Old Testament prophets, who was His forerunner. Apollos (Acts 18:24-28) and the 12 disciples (Acts 19:1-7) were among those who believed in the Savior to come, and who must have spoken to others of their (Old Testament) faith.
Chapter 19 is not the definitive chapter of Acts when it comes to a description of the ministry of Paul at Ephesus. This chapter focuses on three major events: (1) the meeting of the 12 disciples and their coming to faith in Jesus as the Messiah, receiving baptism as an evidence of their faith, and being baptized by the Spirit as an evidence of Gods reception of them into His church (verses 1-7). (2) The ministry of Paul in the synagogue and then the school of Tyrannus (verses 8-20). (3) The uprising in Ephesus, as a result of the opposition of Demetrius (verses 23-41). A great deal of information concerning the ministry of Paul at Ephesus will be supplied in chapter 20, when Paul calls for the Ephesian elders and gives them his parting words of instruction and admonition, based upon the fact that he will not see them again.
30 And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him. 31 And also some of the Asiarchs449who 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
While there was great confusion among the masses who joined in, not knowing what cause they were for or against (verses 29, 32), there was some careful orchestration taking place behind the scenes. It was Paul whom they really wanted to arrest and to run out of town (or worse), but they were only able to seize Gaius and Aristarchus on their way to the theater (verse 29). These men were companions of Paul, and thus they would have to do, at least for the time being.
If there was a connection between the miracles performed in conjunction with the ministry of Paul, the exposure of the sons of Sceva, and the renouncing of magic by the saints in Ephesus, I believe there is also a connection with the riot instigated by Demetrius. The name-dropping of the sons of Sceva is a form of magic, but so is idolatry. Idols are fashioned by men, in the form which men want them. Idols represent what men value and want most. In essence, idols represent what men choose to worship. Idols are worshipped in such a way that they will produce for men what they want. Thus there are idols for everything men desire material prosperity, power, victory in war, safety at sea, rain, good crops, and so on. Idolatry is the worship of a certain god which is intended to result in that which the god is designed to control and to provide. Idolatry is but one of many forms of magic. And so, if the people of Ephesus have come to see the futility of magic, they have also come to see the futility of idolatry. It was not just Pauls preaching, then, that threatened the business of the idol-making industry, it was the practice of the Christians and its impact on the whole city which was threatening their business.
These verses are an excellent illustration of the guidance of God. Paul has a plan in mind, which is fully in accordance with biblical principle and the encouragement of the Jerusalem apostles. But God is going to modify the plan, as later developments in Acts will reveal. And with respect to Pauls visit to Rome, he will surely go there, but in a way very different from that which he might have expected. He will get there by means of a near riot in Jerusalem, legal charges made against him, and an appeal to Caesar. How Gods ways are beyond our thoughts and expectations. Paul will arrive in Rome, under military guard, and that city will never be the same for it. Luke now proceeds to inform us of the events which precipitated Pauls departure from Ephesus and ultimately his arrival at Rome. Just as Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51, 53), so Paul has set his face toward Jerusalem, and ultimately Rome.
This was all these craftsmen needed to hear. Paul was threatening their livelihood, their trade, and their pride. It was really self-interest that moved these men into action, just as it has so often been the case, whether for the employee or for the employer, whether for the union or for management. But the chant which they took up had to sound more religious, more paganly pious. And so they shouted, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! (verse 28). This was a cry rooted in rage and anger, not in love or devotion. But it was a cry which caught the attention and motivated others to join in. It was like saluting the flag (at least in days gone by) or eating apple pie. It was the civic thing to do in Ephesus.
And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me (Acts 20:22-23).
There were a number of exorcists practicing in Ephesus, but Luke draws our attention to one family in particulara Jewish chief priestly family (verse 14). This man, Sceva, had seven sons who were exorcists. At least two of them were involved in attempting to exorcise a particular man in Ephesus. Luke computer hackers who had just learned the password of a giant mainframe computer system, these men had discovered the power of the name of Jesus. This is the Jesus who, as Jews, they refused to accept as Messiah, but they were not reluctant to use His name in order to cast out demons. They did not use the name of Jesus as Paul did, for they did not know Him personally or belong to Him, as Paul did. Thus, they sought to exorcise the man by the name of the Jesus Paul preached (verse 13).
all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:10).
The Twelve Disciples19:1-7
21 Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the spirit444to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome445. 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
This particular demon was not impressed. He indeed recognized and reluctantly surrendered to the power of Jesus, and he also acknowledged the power of Jesus at work in Paul, but he did not know these men. Did these men wish to name drop? Fine. But what was their name? The demon was unwilling to be given orders through anyone who wished to try to use the name of Jesus, as Paul did. For the demon, this attempt was like trying to use a stolen credit card, and he was not about to be ordered about by such hucksters. And so the demon, through the demonized man, attacked these Jewish exorcists and beat the badly, sending them fleeing from the house naked and wounded.
Demetrius was the instigator of the disturbance. He was a silversmith, who not only made silver shrines of Artemis, but who brought much business to the craftsmen. When Demetrius spoke, these craftsmen listened, for their livelihood and prosperity were dependent, to some degree, on this man and on his favor. Demetrius called the craftsmen together, in a kind of union meeting (not that all unions or union meetings are evil), seeking their support in ridding their city (and, indeed, all of Asia) of Paul and his preaching. Notice the argument of Demetrius, as outlined by Luke:
You yourselves know, form the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews (Acts 20:18b-19).
And so Paul had purposed to minister to the poor in Jerusalem by taking a collection from Macedonia and Achaia to the needy. When Paul gave his defense before Felix, he said,
HomeActs: Christ at Work Through His Church
8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning433daily in the school of Tyrannus.43410 And this took place for two years,435so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.436
(1) Our prosperity depends upon the business of making idols of Artemis (verse 25).
25 But now, I am going to Jerusalem serving the saints. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 Yes, they were pleased to do so, and they are indebted to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual things, they are indebted to minister to them also in material things. 28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain (Romans 15:25-28).
The waydoes this not suggest a lifestyle, and is this lifestyle not that which threatened the business of the angry men? It is not money which motivates the murder mongers in the abortion clinics, who cater to the self-indulgence of those who want their services? And they are so incensed when their rights are threatened. It was a matter of pride. The pride of these craftsmen would soon be lost, for their trade would be looked down upon. The pride of Ephesus would likewise be lost, for the goddess Artemis and her temple would lose their glory and glamour.
From the series:Acts: Christ at Work Through His Church
Very little is said of the teaching ministry of Paul in this school. The most complete picture of his ministry while at Ephesus is found in chapter 20. For example, we know that he worked with his own hands during his stay in Ephesus, so that he would not be a burden and that he could minister to the material needs of others (Acts 20:33-35). We are told that Pauls ministry while in Ephesus echoed throughout the land, so that Luke can tell us all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord (verse 10). Since Paul stayed in Ephesus and did not seem to travel about (20:18), it would seem that much of the preaching which took place outside the city was done by others, some of whom may be named in Acts 20:4. Although the Spirit had once forbidden the preaching of the word in Asia (Acts 16:6), now the word had been proclaimed throughout Asia. In Gods time, the word of God was proclaimed.
(4) If Artemis continues to lose favor, then her temple will become worthless, and the role of Ephesus as the guardian of her temple will be worthless.
Paul came to Asia on his second missionary journey (so called), but the Holy Spirit forbade them from proclaiming the gospel (Acts 16:6). Paul finally came to Ephesus, but he was intent on reaching Syria (Acts 18:18-21), and so he spent only a short time there. He did, however, leave Priscilla and Aquila behind (18:19), and they must have played a significant part in plowing the soil in preparation for Pauls lengthy stay as recorded in our text. It is here in our text that we will read,
(1) It was here, in Ephesus, that Paul fought the wild beasts (1 Cor. 15:32). Since the context of Pauls words dealt with death and the resurrection from the dead, it would seem that there was very real danger there. He will later tell the Ephesian elders of his difficulties in that city:
Paul sent Timothy and Erastus on ahead, to begin making preparations for the collection. Paul then wrote to the saints in Corinth, encouraging them to make a generous contribution to the needy in Jerusalem:
Pauls ministry in Ephesus was a most successful, but these verses indicate to us that Paul was already planning his next movements and ministries. His plans are those which were purposed in spirit, raising the question as to whether they were only Pauls plans, purposed in his spirit, or whether they were Gods plans, directed by His Spirit. The answer is likely both, as Pauls words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 clearly indicate:
Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings (Acts 24:17).
The Christians of Ephesus understood, and rightly so, that the practice of the sons of Sceva were, in essence, magical. Magic is the manipulation of gods or powers, so that the magician gets what he wants. It was no great mental leap to see that the magic of the sons of Sceva was like the other forms of magic which were so prevalent in Ephesus, and which were so much a part of the lives of Christians. When the power of God prevailed through Paul and the power of magic failed through the sons of Sceva, the Ephesian saints saw their magical practices as anti-Christian, evil, and worthless. They publicly collected their magical books and burned them in the sight of all, as a public testimony of their repentance and obedience. They would not sell these books or give them away because they were evil. Such garbage would only infect others, and so they burned their books, in spite of the fact that they could have brought much money if they were sold.
The attempted addresses of Paul and Alexander(vv. 30-34)
The devious deeds of Demetrius(vv 23-29)
The Uprising at Ephesus19:23-41
Over the three month period of time Paul preached at the synagogue in Ephesus some were convinced of the truth of the gospel, while others became more and more opposed to it. There was a sequence to their growing opposition, which Luke indicates in verse 9. They became gradually hardened to Pauls teaching, and then they became disobedient to it, and finally they began to verbally oppose it in public. It would seem that they began to disrupt Pauls public ministry, much as hecklers disrupt the speeches of political candidates. It became impossible to carry on his teaching in a way that would facilitate good teaching. And so Paul changed his base of operations. He moved from the synagogue to the school house, the school of Tyrannus.
I must admit that the kind of miracles which Luke mentions here sound like a carnival atmosphere. But remember that we are not told this was Pauls emphasis or purpose. He did not throw his handkerchiefs into the crowds, as some would do today. In a somewhat superstitious way, they people grabbed for any article which he had touched. The fact that people were healed is explained, I think, purely in terms of the grace of God. These people, with their pagan background, knew of only this way of being healed, and they acted in a very simple faith, and God in His grace gave them what they sought by faithdeliverance. And so the word was given the divine stamp of authenticity and authority, and many came to faith.
30. The Evangelization of Ephesus (Acts 19:8-41)
The impact of these incidentsthe miracles performed at the hand of Paul, and the failure of the sons of Scevawas even greater on those who had come to faith in Jesus. The response of the saints to these things is described in verses 18 and 19. Some of these believers may have come to faith as a result of these two incidents, but many seem to have already been saved. Although they had come to trust in Jesus as their Savior, they did not see the evil of their magical practices, and they had not yet renounced this as both worthless and evil. As a result of the shaming of the sons of Sceva a great conviction of sin fell upon the saints in Ephesus, causing them to renounce their magical practices and to destroy the magical books which they possessed.
The Jewish Evangelist and the Jewish Exorcists19:8-20
The hand of God was at work through Paul, and there were some who wished to cash in on it. If Paul could accomplish what he did through the name of Jesus, so could theythey thought. There were in Ephesus, as in Israel (see Luke 11:19), Jewish exorcists, who sought to cast out demons through the use of the name of one who had great power. This was a kind of spiritual name dropping, whereby the power of the one named was believed to be able to exorcise demons. Such ministry was hardly to be performed without a fee, and so it appears to be a business, not altogether unlike that business of Acts 16, the business of fortune-telling. This kind of exorcism must have proven effective at least part of the time, but it would not work this time.