Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Acts 19 - In Ephesus

Monday, September 29, 2014 - 'Spirit?'
1 It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. 2 He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. 7 There were in all about twelve men.

Can a person have genuine faith in God, yet not receive the indwelling of the Spirit simply because s/he was unaware of the possibility? Is a person's baptism unacceptable if s/he was not baptized in the 'name of the Lord Jesus'? Is a person not considered properly discipled if even after baptism the officiant neglected to lay hands on the person so that the Spirit could come upon that person? Is Spirit-indwelling under the control of Spirit-filled people who officiate at a person's baptism? Does the Spirit refuse to enter the hearts of those who have faith in God, yet have not been baptized in the name of Jesus and then had hands laid upon them?

These 'twelve' men were disciples of John the baptist, not of Jesus. They had repented and were looking forward to the One who would come, but had not yet heard any news about Jesus being the promised Messiah.  I wonder what prompted Paul to even ask them if they had received the Spirit when they came to believe? Was it obvious that the Spirit was absent from their lives? If so, what would be the signs of having been Spirit-filled? Should we be asking the same question today if we don't see the evidences of the Spirit in other 'believers'?

If a person was baptized in the name of Jesus, would they need to be rebaptized if there was no evidence of the Spirit, or would they merely need to have 'hands laid upon them'? Can someone be saved without having received the laying on of hands and thus the indwelling of the Spirit (Rom. 8:9)?

It is common to assume that the life and teachings of Jesus were so awesome that his reputation would have easily have spread throughout the whole then known world, but it obviously hadn't. The message of John had spread, but not the gospel of Jesus. That seems odd, since John's preaching was relatively brief in comparison to the ministry of Jesus. John merely proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, Jesus was the Messiah and performed many incredible miracles. How, then, would the former be known, but not the latter?  

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 'Schooled'
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 people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. 11 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.

Paul again gave the synagogue a chance to hear his gospel. There comes a time when it is essential to just shake the dust off your sandals and move on. In this case, Paul did not move to another city, but into a school. This was an important methodological change. Instead of persistently trying to get unopened minds to consider his gospel, he took those who were open and taught them. in other words, he moved from preaching the gospel to unreasonable minds to teaching the gospel to those who wanted to hear his reasons.

The result for this shift in methods was that within two years everyone in Asia had heard Paul's message. In the past he had presented a simple, reasoned defense for his gospel and left when folks didn't want to hear anything more from him. Those who had accepted Paul's gospel had only received the gist of his truth and that had to be grasped in the midst of much contentiousness which didn't give folks much encouragement to share the gospel.

On the other hand, in Ephesus, Paul thoroughly discipled his students which fully prepared them to share the gospel far and wide. He had multiplied his efforts by discipling others rather than by attempting to be the sole spokesman for the gospel. It is one thing to have 'heard' a truth that resonates with the spirit, but it is quite another to have learned it well enough to teach others. Preaching may awaken folks to truth, but teaching prepares folks to live out the truth. Preaching assumed that others will merely be listeners. Teaching encourages others to question and apply what they are hearing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - 'The Name'
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 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 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. 19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; 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 point in this story seems to be that the ability to work miracles isn't based on saying the right words. There isn't any formula. Even using the name of Jesus isn't the 'access code'. There isn't any power in His 'name' when the heart isn't one with His 'person'.

Evil is personified in this chapter, confirming the belief that demon possession is real. Evil spirits are more powerful than human beings and can 'overpower' us at anytime - unless God prevents them from acting. The message being that no one, regardless of how good their motives may be, should take the name of Jesus lightly. We can assume that the evil spirits didn't bother with the exorcists when they performed their usual rituals, but only became incensed with the Jewish exorcists when they attempted to use the name of Jesus.

The author of these verses wanted us to see that both Jesus and Paul had divine authority, while these others did not. In comparison to the miracles performed by Paul, the magic of others appeared as nothing.

Thursday, October 2, 2014 - '
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. 23 About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a 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 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 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 will even be dethroned from her magnificence.”

Friday, October 3, 2014 - '
28 When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 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 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 reason they had come together. 33 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!

Saturday, October 4, 2014 - '
35 After quieting the crowd, 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 So, since 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 events, since there is no real cause for it, and in this connection we will be unable to account for this disorderly gathering.” 41 After saying this he dismissed the assembly.