Acts 19

Acts 19: Blood, Sweat, Toil and Tears

I want to remind you of what Evan Roberts, a principal in the Wales revival of 1904, stated as pre-requisites for revival. There were four:

  1. Confess all known sin, receiving forgiveness through the Lord Jesus Christ.
  2. Remove anything from your life you are in doubt about or unsure of.
  3. Be totally yielded and obedient to the Holy Spirit.
  4. Publicly confess the Lord Jesus Christ.

We will see this occur in this story of Paul in Ephesus. In doing so, the church collectively and the believer individually will become what we are called to be – salt and light. We will read of the tremendous impact this would have on the city of Ephesus and the area as God reveals what weapons we possess that are not carnal but mighty in the pulling down of strongholds.  For it would be from Ephesus that Paul would write about these weapons to the church in Corinth. (2 Cor. 10)  also ( Ephesians 6)

Our story continues in Acts 19 following the conversion of Apollos when he receives the Holy Spirit and now is in Corinth. Paul travels to Ephesus.

Ephesus was the most important city in western Asia Minor( now Turkey). It had a harbor that in those days opened into the Cayster River which was a tributary of the Aegean Sea. It was a major intersection for major trade routes and was a commercial center. It also boasted one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, the temple of Diana. (Greek –Artemis)  Paul would make Ephesus a center for evangelism. Because of the number of people who traveled through here and then into all other parts of the known world, it was a natural conduit for spreading the Gospel.

Upon arrival, Paul finds some ‘disciples’  and asked them-‘did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’   ( Verse 2) There was evidently something about this group of 12 men that Paul discerned that led him to question their salvation. Do not be confused by the use of the word-‘disciple.’ A disciple was a learner. In John 6:66, we read: “ From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” A person who is saved, does not quit believing. John wrote in I John 4- “ They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” The Good Shepherd does not lose any of His Sheep. If they stray, He will leave the 99 to go after the one.

In this case,  we have those who have not been taught the Gospel. These men have not been saved, because they have not received the Holy Spirit. The time of transitions in the book of Acts is not normal times. They did not have the New Testament. The Apostles were given unique gifts to be used in this time of transitions before the complete revelation of Gods’ will  we now have in the New Testament. For we know that now when a person believes, the Holy Spirit comes immediately. There is not a period of time after a profession of faith where there is a separate coming of the Holy Spirit. Belief in the Jesus Christ brings the Holy Spirit. There is not a separate occasion. These men, like Apollos, did not know Jesus had come, gone to the cross and been resurrected. They had not heard the Holy Spirit had come at Pentecost. Matthew Henry says, ‘ they were on the front porch of salvation, but had not gone into the house.’ They needed the Holy Spirit to open that door.

Upon further investigation, Paul learns they had been baptized with John’s baptism. The baptism of repentance. The soils of their heart were prepared to receive the incorruptible seed, the Word of God. Truly the Gospel message is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. Upon hearing the Gospel message, these men believed.

Paul would later write: “ Now brothers I want to remind you of the Gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this Gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly  to the Word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain.” ( I Cor. 15:1-2)

Paul then goes on the explain the specific Gospel message of how Christ died for our sins according to Scriptures, that He was buried and raised on the third day, according to Scriptures and then the Lord appeared to Peter, the twelve, James his brother and over 500 at one time.

Now again as occurred on the Day of Pentecost and in Caesarea with the Gentiles at Cornelius’ house( Acts 10) we see the same experience of the gift of tongues to confirm the doctrine of the Gospel, Paul and the disciples and other believers were preaching and teaching.

Whenever a person is saved, and the Holy Spirit comes into one’s life to seal and indwell and never depart, the Spirit also brings gifts to each believer. Here are two gifts given to these men:  the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy.  The gift of tongues is often the source of controversy. We cannot deny it is a gift of the Spirit. However, to avoid confusion and controversy, Paul says in I Corinthians 14; only two or three are to speak in tongues , one at a time and someone must interpret. Paul also said tongues are a sign to unbelievers. Prophecy is for believers. Prophecy is the ability to declare the truth in power. It builds up, instructs, enlightens and illuminates the believer. Peter said: “ We have a more sure word of prophecy which shines light in a dark place.” ( 2 Peter 1:19)  Paul said of these two gifts, the gift of prophecy was more important.

One other thought about tongues.  In Acts 2, the tongues the believers spoke in on the Day of Pentecost were in known languages. I Corinthians 13, mentions two tongues- the tongues of men, known languages; and the tongues of angels, unknown languages. Paul not only states that prophecy is greater than the gift of tongues, he says love is greatest of all.

Verses 8 & 9 tells of Paul’s efforts in the synagogue where he spoke boldly for three months. Notice in the KJV it describes Paul’s preaching and teaching as-“ disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.”Obviously these to whom Paul was preaching had wrong ideas about the kingdom of God. Paul was a master in the art of persuasion by disputing, using logic, and reason. They debated and Paul showed himself a workman who needed not to be ashamed rightly dividing the Word of God. Some believed and some did not and after three months in the synagogue, Paul moves to a lecture hall in Tyrannus. Here he would spend two years to widely diverse group of residents and travelers, both Jewish and Gentile. Tradition tells us Paul taught for up to 5 hours per day in the assembly halls.

Paul was preaching the Gospel, making disciples and teaching them to observe the teachings of the Lord Jesus.  We are told God did extraordinary miracles by the hand of Paul. Remember Paul is explaining and arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. Here is the spiritual battle that is going on in the heavenly, spiritual realm that is spilling over into the physical realm. It is the Kingdom of God being opposed by the kingdom of darkness under the rule of satan.

But as Paul later wrote – our weapons are not carnal or weapons of this world, they are mighty to the pulling down of strongholds. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10  ‘ we demolish arguments and imaginations that set themselves  up against the knowledge of God. We take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.’ God then performs an extraordinary miracle of healing through of all things- Paul’s handkerchiefs. These were literally sweat bands Paul used when working as a tent maker to keep the sweat out of his eyes. They had the power, the power of God to heal, just as the woman who touched the hem of the Lord Jesus’ robe was healed.

Truly the Gospel was being spread and the enemy conquered through blood, sweat, toil and tears. God works in mysterious ways.

Ephesus was a city in the grip of demonism, superstition, fear and darkness. It had become a center for witchcraft, astrology, and occult practices. It was filled with every kind of magician, witch, warlock and con artists.

God , in His wisdom, sometimes uses extraordinary measures and miracles to defeat the enemy. As we have said before of this transitional time- these are not ordinary times but extraordinary times.  Like the rod of Moses was used by God to perform miracles; so were the handkerchiefs of Paul used to perform miracles that defeated the works of the enemy. If God can use a stick and a sweat band, He can certainly use us when we surrender to the Lord completely and become empty of self- we can become channels for Gods’ blessings also.

Now some of these con-men saw the power of this new religion and tried to appropriate those powers by using the name of Jesus and the name of Paul to cast out spirits and perform miracles. The enemy quite often through history has used a false alliance with the Christian cause. The result is interesting. Attempting to use the name of Jesus and the name of Paul to cast out an evil spirit shows the frustration of an enemy who knows he is defeated.  The plan backfires and the man with the evil spirit attacks the sons of Sceva who are falsely using the name of the Lord Jesus and overpowers them – beating them severely and they run from the house bleeding and naked (Acts 19:16)

Do you see what is happening to a defeated, overpowered foe? There is in-fighting among the enemy. Jesus said- ‘ a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.’ ( Matthew 12)  The kingdom of darkness is overcome and defeated by the Kingdom of light. It is crumbling from within against the mighty weapons of God.

Satan manipulates men by 2 means:

  1. Influence one’s mind. (As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.) The natural man cannot understand spiritual truths for he does not have the Holy Spirit with which to discern these truths. He is blinded to the truth and a veil is put over his mind by the enemy that can only be removed by faith in the Lord Jesus.
  2. The enemy exerts influence over one’s will also through temptation. He cannot force anyone to do his bidding, but he can influence man’s will and thus his actions through temptation. Temptation comes from two sources: externally- the world society in which we live and internally- through our sinful old nature.

When a person gets saved, his or her old nature is crucified with Christ so that we no longer have to serve Sin. Sin is no longer our master.

Now we have a new nature indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit and through a study of the Word of God our minds can and will be transformed and not conformed to the world’s hedonistic lifestyle and philosophy. In addition we now have the mighty weapons of prayer and God’s word to take captive thoughts and ideas that would influence our mind.

“ When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed  now came to openly CONFESS THEIR EVIL DEEDS.  A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way, the Word of the Lord  spread widely and grew in power.” (Acts 19: 17-20)

Revival was coming to Ephesus and Asia and as Evan Roberts observed the four pre-requisites were taking place:

  • They confessed all known sin and received forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
  • They removed anything in their life they were in doubt of or unsure of. ( They burned their occult books and scrolls.)
  • They yielded and obeyed the Holy Spirit.
  • They confessed the Lord Jesus publicly.

Dr. Luke writes: ‘in this way, the Word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.’ The power of the Word of God is released in and through the life of a believer when they obey the Word of God.

Revival, true revival, starts when Christians clean up their own lives. When God’s people turn from their wicked ways, and humble themselves and call out to God, then He will hear and them and take action to heal our land.( 2 Chronicles 7)

So Paul leaves Ephesus with a church established there. He leaves with people who are now indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit. Whose changed lives and actions are salt and light in a dark and decaying city.

Don’t miss what happens and why it happens after Paul leaves. The pagans in the city began to take a second look at their own practices. They watch the changed lives of many who they more than likely knew personally. They see them burn these valuable books and scrolls and turn from the lies of those books to the truth of the Word of God which has set them free.

In the light these believers shed, these unbelievers come to examine their lives. When believers and the church begins to straighten out and clean up their lives, and act and live as God intended mankind to live- the world will begin to take note and see itself and what is wrong and desire what we have.

When I first got saved and began to go to church and AA meetings, my life began to change almost immediately.  My wife was the first to notice, then my family. But gradually as it became apparent this was not a short term change, a turning over of a new life or self-discipline- I began to get calls and visits from old drinking buddies who begin to see the futility of their lives and want something different.  They asked me how I quit drinking. And I told them the ‘ good news’ about the truth that will set one free not only from the sin and sins but sets one free to be all that God intended for us to be.

We can make a difference in the community in which we live; in the lives of those around us who are in darkness and held captive in strongholds. We have the truth that will set them free. We are to be the light to lead them out of darkness.

Now we must take note and be on guard for when our lives began to impact our community, the change will bring adversity. Notice what happened in Ephesus when the community of unbelievers whose trade is in sin and vice began to feel the economic impact of those who no longer indulge in sin. Demetrius, the silversmith, sees a drop in sales of his souvenir shrines. Sin is big business and loss of revenue will not be taken lightly.  A riot ensues and only the threat of arrest by the city clerk causes the crowd to disperse.

So we can expect battles. But we are more than conquerors.

Our victory and salvation has been secured by the blood of Jesus.

Many of us are the result of those who have sown prayers with tears. For those who sow in tears will reap in joy.

We are to make every effort- to fight the good fight – to work, to toil while there is still time.

We are in a battle and sacrifice is called for- that is why there will always be in every war- blood, sweat, toil and tears.