Friday, February 3, 2017


For the week beginning Sunday February 5, 2017

(Paul ministers in Ephesus)
Acts 19:1-20

   Acts chapter 19 marks the beginning of Paul’s third missionary journey. Here in this chapter, Luke chronicles the start of that mission, which was earmarked to raise money for the Mother Church at Jerusalem, that had fallen on hard times due to the famine that had been foretold by the prophet Agabus a few years earlier (Acts 11:27-28). This, prophesy, has now suddenly come to pass and Paul was calling upon the Christian network of believers to pitch in and do their part in the relief effort.
    Paul sets out on this mission with a visit to the difficult cult city of Ephesus, a stronghold for the worshipers of the idol god “Artemis”, whose headquarters was there. Artemis, or, “Diana” as she was sometimes called, was housed in a temple so large, that it was considered to be one of the seven great wonders of the ancient world. A large part of Ephesus’ wealth came from the sightseers and worshipers who came from all over the world to see this magnificent and very imposing edifice. 
    Upon arriving in town, Paul comes across a group of twelve men, who were believers, or “Adherents of the Way”. Like Apollos, these men were believers of CHRIST who had not yet received, or even heard of, the HOLY SPIRIT. They were, up until this point, as many of us are, even today, “incomplete Christians”. They had accepted the ideology of CHRIST, and even confessed with their lips, but like Apollos before them, they knew only of John’s baptism with water, and knew not of CHRIST’s baptism with the HOLY SPIRIT. They had accepted CHRIST in principle, but not in spirit, and therefore, they were not yet “saved”.
    After becoming acquainted with these men, Paul must have sensed something was lacking in their behavior. This prompted him to ask if they had received the HOLY SPIRIT when they believed. And again, like Apollos, before them, once they heard the “Way” of GOD explained more clearly by Paul, immediately, they accepted CHRIST in their hearts, and were baptized in the HOLY SPIRIT.
    In order to encourage, and give witness to some of the idol worshipping populace of Ephesus, who must have witnessed this event, GOD caused these men to prophesy and, to speak in tongues (various languages) to the foreigners who had come to the city to see and worship Artemis, so that they too might also believe and turn to CHRIST JESUS for salvation.
    This passage of Scripture should serve as a reminder to us, that everyone we see in church, who claim to be Christians, may very well, not be saved, even those who may believe themselves that they are saved. Remember Apollos was in the synagogue preaching CHRIST boldly, “before” Priscilla and Aquila, brought him to salvation in CHRIST (Acts 18:24-26).
    GOD gave mankind the ability to know when we love something or someone. When we love, we are willing to do anything and everything for that love, and still, feel as though we haven’t done enough. When you have truly received salvation, you are willing to do anything and everything to please GOD.
    No distance is too great, no amount is too much, and no labor is too taxing, in our service to GOD. We feel   unconditional, unlimited love for the SAVIOR, and that, my fellow Christians, is how you know that you are truly saved, and are indeed, “a complete Christian”.
    When we don’t put a limit on our love for CHRIST and each other, as CHRIST, through HIS suffering, never put a limit on HIS love for us, we are then showing, through our behavior, that we are really “saved” and are operating according to GOD’s perspective of salvation, not man’s. And by JESUS not coming down from the cross, HE demonstrated that HIS love for us has no limit, and that HE too was dedicated to operating under GOD’s perspective also.
    Paul continued to minister in Ephesus and he went to the synagogue and preached and taught boldly for the next three months. He argued persuasively within the Jewish temple and convinced many to convert their thinking to the doctrine of Christology. However, some still continued to reject his message and publically spoke against CHRIST to the masses.
    And so Paul took the believers with him and begin to teach at the lecture hall of a man named Tyrannus, who was most likely a Jewish Rabbi, for the next two years. There Paul enlightened people throughout the province of Asia, both Jews and Gentiles, about the Gospel of CHRIST. GOD even gave him power to do unusual miracles among the people, even to the point where handkerchiefs and clothe that had touched his skin were being used to heal the sick and remove evil spirits from those who were demon possessed.
    Now there was a group of Jews who were traveling from town to town, supposedly casting out evil spirits by using witchcraft and incantations. However, it is a well-known fact that satan will not cast out his own help, and so we know that these men were not of GOD, but were of the evil forces of the devil. They were trying to offset Paul’s wonderful work, by deceiving the believers and new Christian converts who had began to follow Paul’s teachings about CHRIST.
    These seven sons of a priest named Sceva, tried to endear themselves to the Christian Church movement by appearing to work with Paul, even using the name of JESUS in their chants. In fact, they made up an incantation that went like this; “I command you by JESUS, whom Paul preaches, to come out!”
    However, when they tried to use this incantation on a man who was possessed by an evil spirit, GOD caused their trickery to backfire on them, as HE caused the evil spirit to speak to the seven men saying, “I know JESUS, and I know Paul. But who are you?” Suddenly the demon leaped from the possessed man and attacked the sons of Sceva with such force that they fled from the house naked and badly injured (vs.16).
    The news of what happened to the sons of Sceva spread quickly throughout all of Ephesus. The whole city shook in fear, Jews and Gentiles, and many confessed their evil practices of witchcraft and incantations, and they actually burned all of the self-help books that they had bought seeking to learn of ways, other than the Word of GOD, to solve their problems. The value of the books burned totaled in the millions of dollars by today’s standards, and the Word of GOD spread everywhere in Ephesus, and had a powerful effect on its citizens (Vs.17-20).
Acts 19:21-41

    Later on Paul was compelled by the HOLY SPIRIT to leave Ephesus and go over to Macedonia and Achaia before returning back to Jerusalem, and after that, to Rome. He sent Timothy and Erastus on ahead to Macedonia and he lingered a little while longer in the province of Asia, perhaps wrapping up some unfinished business there.
    I mentioned earlier in this study, the name of the Greek goddess, Artemus, who was extremely popular in first century Ephesus. Now, about this time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus surrounding this idol god who had a huge impact on the economy of the city. The impact of Paul’s preaching and teaching had cut deeply into the income that the city and certain of its people generated from the sales of Artemis-related books and paraphernalia.
    One person, who made a very good living by manufacturing hand-made small replicas of the statue of Artemis and her shrine, was a man named Demetrius, a leading silversmith in Ephesus. Demetrius called an emergency meeting of all the craftsmen and others who were employed in related trades of Artemis paraphernalia, and addressed them with his concerns (Vs.25-27).

“Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business.  But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!” (NLT)

    This statement by Demetrius riled up the group, who were themselves, deeply under the influence of the demon who resided in the shrine of Artemis, and they begin to chant her praise of “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”. After they worked themselves up into a frenzy, they stormed down to the amphitheater, dragging two of Paul’s friends, Gaius and Aristarchus with them. Paul tried to go in behind them but a group of believers held him back, fearing for his safety.
    There was so much confusion inside the amphitheater that many people didn’t really know why they were there. Some were shouting one thing and some another, but they were all, in reality under the influence of the demon in Artemis. A man named Alexander was pushed forward by some of the Jews to try to explain what was going on, but when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they again started chanting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
    This passage (Vs.23-41) is important, not only because of what it says, but also because of what it implies. The implications here suggest the power and influence of the satanic demons in Ephesus, and how the shrine of Artemis was, quite literally, the heart of this Luciferic stronghold.
    Finally the mayor of Ephesus entered and quieted the crowd. When he begins to speak he gives us, the reader, a better insight into idol god Artemis and her origins in the religious culture of Ephesus. In fact, in verses 35-41, the mayor not only educates us on the origins of Artemis, but he also gives us insight into the Roman government’s deep distain for civil disturbances within the Roman Empire. Here’s what the mayor had to say;

 “Citizens of Ephesus, Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven.  Since this is an undeniable fact, you should stay calm and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess.
If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a case against them, the courts are in session and the officials can hear the case at once. Let them make formal charges.  And if there are complaints about other matters, they can be settled in a legal assembly.  I am afraid we are in danger of being charged with rioting by the Roman government, since there is no cause for all this commotion. And if Rome demands an explanation, we won’t know what to say.” (NLT)

    Even though the mayor himself is also under the influence of Artemis, he is also equally under the fear of his superiors who govern the Roman Empire (Caesar). He was able to disperse the angry crowd and send them away, and for now, the city was quiet, and the Christian Church movement was again, sailing along, full speed ahead, as the power of GOD (the HOLY SPIRIT), WHO is sovereign over all, kept it moving.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

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