- A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD (2)
- BELIEVER'S AUTHORITY (35)
- BIBLICAL PROSPERITY-a Balanced Approach (36)
- BOOK OF ACTS OF THE APOSTLE (45)
- BOOK OF HEBREWS (41)
- BOOK OF REVELATION (35)
- FAITH (23)
- FIRST AND SECOND CORINTHIANS (45)
- FOLLOWING GOD'S PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE (42)
- HOLY SPIRIT (22)
- IN-DEPTH STUDY OF EPHESIANS (19)
- IN-DEPTH STUDY OF THE BOOK OF GALATIANS (21)
- IN DEPTH STUDY OF THE BOOK OF ROMANS (38)
- PROSPERITY (18)
- PROVERBS CHALLENGE (5)
- PROVERBS CHALLENGE 2024 (4)
- STUDY OF ISAIAH (39)
- THE GREAT SHEPHERD (20)
Friday, December 30 2011
Another very interesting bible exposition from the series, last week. One that readily comes to mind is on Vows and Promises. I can recall vividly about the exhortation to pay our vows (promises) if we make any. We also learnt through the text, how God can orchestrate situations for the actualisation of His ordained destiny for our lives. So much about Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos, Paul's faithful co-labourers exhibiting characters worth emulating. This week, we look at Paul's 3rd missionary journey which started from last week's lesson, his encounters at Ephesus (The principal trading centre of Asia) and how God orchestrated the presence of the Jewish Exorcists at the time of Paul's visit to win the souls of erstwhile Magicians to Jesus Christ.
1. PAUL PLANTED, APOLLOS WATERED (1 Cor 3:6) - Acts 19:1
1a. And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth..
Recall Paul's 2nd missionary journey from Athens to Corinth in Acts 18 and Apollos desire to cross over to Achaia in vs 27? (see map). Having planted churches there, our dear Apollos, who now bears the unmistakable marks of a Christian, after his encounter with beloved Priscilla and Aquila proceeded ahead of Paul to Corinth to help the brethren who had believed through grace (Acts 18:27). The lesson here is that if we can humble ourselves and are teachable like Apollos, we will learn the whole gospel and become so effective like Paul and Apollos were in Corinth. See 1 Cor 3:1-9.
1b. ".that Paul, having passed through the upper region (Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Antioch), came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples" [Emphasis Mine]
Recollect that during Paul's 2nd missionary journey (Acts 16:6), they (Paul, Timothy and Silas) were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. Also, in Acts 18:19, it was recorded that Paul did not stay a longer with them at Ephesus when asked to do so. Why? We will see later that this is in accordance with God's divine orchestration.
From Paul's diagnostic questions and the response of the Ephesian disciples we quickly learn what Paul evidently suspects: these persons are not truly regenerate. Luke labels them disciples probably because at first their outward identification with the Christian believers led Paul to take them for true Christians. Does Paul's first question about receiving the Holy Spirit indicate that he sees none of the Spirit's fruit or giftings in their lives? The combination of questions certainly tells us that Paul assumes that saving faith, the reception of the Spirit and Christian baptism converge at conversion. The disciples' response about the Spirit, should probably be taken to mean that they have not heard of the Holy Spirit's contemporary presence (compare John 7:39).
Just like Apollos, the best analogy to these disciples today are nominal, cultural Christians (without power) raised in the liberal theological tradition of the West. These disciples had only been baptized into John's baptism, indicating that their conversion experience was accompanied by the knowledge that a fuller experience with the Holy Spirit would come (Matt.3:11), but without the realization that it had come (Acts 2:1-4).
Also note Paul's corrective action in preaching the complete gospel to the twelve by pointing out the preparatory and therefore partial nature of the baptism of repentance and of John's message pointing to the Messiah who was to come. Just in line with what Aquilla and Priscilla did to Apollos. He did not question the reputation of their teacher; he built on what they already know and got them baptized in the Holy Spirit!
The Jews' reaction - becoming obstinate (literally, "being hardened" or "hardening themselves"; compare Acts 7:51) and refusing to believe (literally, "disobeying") shows the negative effects of rejecting the gospel over a period of time. We cannot remain neutral; we are either softened toward or hardened against an oft-repeated message. Their rejection was expressed in a public maligning of Christianity (the Way). This may mean a formal rejection, since publicly translates a phrase that literally means "before the multitude."
As always, Paul's withdrawal leads to further advance, for he now reasons daily in the lecture room of Tyrannus [AMP]. The Amplified Version has an interesting time reference, "about ten o'clock till three" (Acts 19:9). The Mediterranean "siesta" occurred from the fifth hour (11:00 a.m.) onward, and we know from Acts 20:34 that Paul worked at his trade while in Ephesus. This gives us a picture of a tireless apostle and an eager audience. Each is willing to give up the normal time of rest in order to speak and hear of the kingdom. Only where there is such commitment to teach and such hunger to receive the word of the Lord will there be advances like that portrayed in the next verse. For two years, an entire province hears the gospel (Col 1:7; 2:1; 4:13). The churches of the prison epistles, the letters to Timothy and the book of Revelation are proof of the mission's effect.
Following the resistance by the Holy Spirit to preach in Asia at the start of Paul's 2nd missionary journey, and his refusal to stay longer with them on his way back, I strongly believe that God divinely withheld Paul's prolonged missionary itinerary till the presence of the itinerant Jewish exorcists. The followings will encourage us in our walk with the Lord;
1) In a divine initiative, God wields extraordinary miracles with the spread of the Word of the Lord throughout Asia, a territory that Satan had firmly and manifestly in his grasp. We have met such strategic "power advances" before in Acts: in Jerusalem and its Judean environs, Samaria, and Macedonia (5:16; 8:7; 16:16-18).
2) The authority of the name of the Lord Jesus has been granted only to believers (Mark 16:17). It is not given as a magical phrase calculated to guarantee good or bad results. There is no guarantee of power when it is impulsively uttered, particularly when the situation involves an ecclesiastical or stylized exercise. However, when employed in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit, His might and glory is expected to be manifested. Inherent in the name of Jesus is not only the resource of His authority, but also the fullness of His nature and character. Thus, any prayer offered or ministry attempted in the name of Jesus must be in accord with His nature and purpose.
3) As the evil spirit responded to their attempted exorcism, the power encounter is transformed into demonic manhandling. Neither the exalted Lord Jesus nor Paul is directly involved. Yet the results reveal the unquestioned superiority of Jesus, whom Paul preaches. The demon displayed spiritual insight: he knew both Jesus and Paul (compare Lk 4:34, 41; 8:28), but he did not recognize the magicians.
4) From the mouth of a demon we learn the valuable lesson that Jesus will not allow his name to be reduced to a magical formula (Ex 20:7). Only those with a personal relationship with Christ and who invoke his name in humble faith are in the correct position to see God act to drive out demons.
5) They make the break in word by coming and openly confessing (literally, "confessing and announcing") their evil deeds, their magic practices, possibly revealing the spells themselves. Then they collect books of magic spells and burn them. Their repentance is costly. Fifty thousand pieces of silver, the fees for all the formulas in the books, was thirty-five thousand dollars in today's U.S. currency. The repentance is complete: these believers have removed any temptation to go back to the old life.
6) Despite the oppositions, the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed!
Most times, when we face oppositions or resistance, God is at the background strategizing and turning around the circumstances in our favor. Paul's mission to Ephesus is not without the approval of God. In fact, it shows God at work in the background. Twice (Acts 16: 6-7), they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia and the neighboring regions simply because God has appointed the Jewish Magicians/ Exorcists unto salvation. He (God) also had plans for the twelve disciples to be filled with the Holy Spirit with an evidence of speaking in other tongues - Hallelujah!