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BRUCE C WEARNE, in his look at the Book of Acts, looks at how Paul’s time in Ephesus – a city strongly under the influence of magic and superstition – bore fruit…

And powerful deeds, quite out of the ordinary, God performed through Paul’s hands. Handkerchiefs or aprons that he had touched were taken to those who were sick – diseases left such people and evil spirits came out. There were some itinerant Jewish exorcists who presumed to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, in these words, “I take command over you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” There were seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva who were involved in this. But the evil spirit had an answer for them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” And the man with the evil spirit leaped upon them, strong arming them and overpowering them all, so that they fled from out of that house naked and wounded. This became well-known to all of Ephesus, Jews and Greeks; fear fell upon them all; the name of the Lord Jesus was [henceforth] held in high regard. As well, this was when many who had become believers openly revealed their [magical] practices, and some of those who had practiced magical arts brought their books and burned them so all could see; the estimated value came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. In this way the word of the Lord grew and prevailed mightily. – Acts 19:11-20/transliteration by Bruce C Wearne


BURNING BOOKS: Many in Ephesus burned their books of magic after hearing the Gospel. PICTURE: Roger Weisenstein/


Paul continued to preach. Many involved in that city’s commerce were strongly under the influence of magic and superstition. In time the preaching of the Gospel brought about a change to that.

Paul turned away from the strife-torn synagogue and his weekly routine involved teaching in Tyrannus Hall. He developed a curriculum for teaching Jews and Gentiles about Christ Jesus the Lord in that Gentile-dominated context.

Luke tells us that this initiative proved rather successful. Over two years, the entire region heard that Jesus has brought God’s mercy and refreshment to the world. Luke tells us that the city profoundly changed; a deep-seated spiritual conflict broke out in response to Paul’s message. His concerted teaching efforts reaped a wonderful harvest. The “downstream” impact is described with Paul portrayed in passive terms. This teacher was but one actor in the fabric of Ephesian society. His Tyrannus Hall lectures gained wide attention.

Paul wrote sternly to the church at Corinth when they split into various factions – some were barracking for Paul and others for Apollos. Paul wrote: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you Corinthians believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. In this neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (I Corinthians 3:5-7).

In Ephesus, these roles were reversed. Paul’s work began with 12 disciples of John the Baptist taught by Apollos. Luke is telling us that Paul meant what he wrote. He was not just trying to appear as a humble sort of guy. He had been humbled. He did what he had been called to do and he knew that the results (what Luke describes for us) did not come about because of what he had done. He knew such “growth” could only come by God’s own action. Paul said he was nothing. Or to put it another way: in so far as Paul was anything it was because he was the Lord God’s handiwork. That is the humbling reality. Luke didn’t know everything about Paul; but he was convinced God used this humbled man so Ephesus could witness the mighty works of Christ Jesus.



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