Paul’s next stop in Ephesus (Acts 19:1) seemed to display an extra measure of God’s power. It appears that on this third missionary journey God used special demonstrations of power to authenticate His messages and ministers (Acts 19:11).
The first story is theologically interesting since it appears Paul encounters some disciples that believed yet had not receive the Holy Spirit when they first believed (Acts 19:2, 6). The brief interpretation is that this new faith movement needed authenticity and consistency; basically evidence that the movement of Christ was united in both Jerusalem and Ephesus. But these disciples were not already Christians (since all Christians receive the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion, 1 Corinthians 12:13).
These believers were followers (disciples) of John (Acts 19:3), which means they were Old Testament seekers but did not fully understand the Christian faith. Their answer to Paul’s question about receiving the Holy Spirit revealed they were not yet fully Christians. They had not yet received Christian baptism (having been baptized only “into John’s baptism”) which was further evidenced that they were not Christians.
Acts 19:8-10 summarizes the events in Ephesus, the results being that in over two years all the people who lived in the province of Asia heard the gospel (Acts 19:10, 17).
Let’s look at some of the miraculous stuff that happened:
- God worked with such power that pieces of cloth, like a handkerchief that had touch Paul brought healing and deliverance from demons (Acts 19:12).
- There is the funny story of the seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva (Acts 19:13, 14) who was an exorcist. The demon says that he knows Jesus and knows Paul, but who are you (Acts 19:15). What a slap in the face. The last we see of these sons is flying through the door one by one naked and bleeding (Acts 19:16). Too funny.
- People were getting right with God, many believers publicly burning their tools of sorcery (Acts 19:18, 19).
It is almost as if God was showing off! God demonstrated His power in several ways:
God made the Holy Spirit obvious: knowledge of the Old Testament did not help because the Holy Spirit did not take up residence in believers until Pentecost (Acts 2:4). Before that the Spirit did not mark salvation but He did empower people for certain tasks.
God made obvious the blessings of true discipleship: Paul began to disciple people daily (Acts 19:9), and the fruit produced was that the whole region heard the gospel (Acts 19:10). A few well trained soldiers in God’s service is more effective than hundreds of people who have never been discipled.
God made His ambassador obvious: He used the ordinary to do extraordinary things. Attention was brought to Paul because he could be trusted to bring attention to Christ.
God made His power over the occult obvious: with all the magical incantations, witches, wizards and sorcery in Ephesus, God broke through and they began to understand the idea of spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-18).
God made true repentance obvious: God convicted the city of their error (John 16:8) and the people responded in a practical way (Acts 19:18, 19), producing fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).
Application: How do you see God moving through your life? Is there anything that needs to be exposed and eliminated, confessed and repented of? Are you being discipled, daily through your Bible reading and quiet time, or with another man on a regular basis? What prevents you from finding another man to ask if he would like to read and study the Bible each week? The greatest power that God has demonstrated today is the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives. People cannot change on their own, how often do men fall back into the same old rut? Christ walks with us, and put other men in our pathway to help strengthen us along the journey.