Tuesday September 2nd, 2014
Note from Jesus
To understand your verses today from the book of Acts, you need to know two important truths about the city of Ephesus.
The first truth involves disciples of John the Baptist — my cousin and predecessor. John had gained a huge following before I started the primary part of My earthly ministry. Many people were baptized by John as they turned their lives from sin (repented) to get ready for My coming. Many who never heard the full story of My coming and the full good news about Me were baptized (Mark 1:4-8). Paul met a group of these disciples of John in Ephesus. They had a fundamental gap in their understanding: they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit, the Spirit's connection to spiritual rebirth, the gospel, and baptism (John 3:3-7; Acts 2:36-39; Titus 3:3-7). Paul taught the importance of the Spirit:
But you do not live in the flesh. You live in the Spirit, assuming, of course, that the Spirit of God lives inside of you. The truth is that anyone who does not have the Spirit of the Anointed living within does not belong to God.So Paul taught these disciples of John in Ephesus the truth about Me and the Spirit and then baptized them. Paul then laid his hands on them and they received the Spirit in a demonstrable way just as Jews did at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-21; Acts 2:32-39), Samaritans did after Philip's ministry (Acts 8:14-17), and Gentiles had with the conversion of Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:34-48). The Holy Spirit also made clear that John's disciples in Ephesus had become My disciples.
A second issue for faithful discipleship in Ephesus was the challenge of demonic power. Not only was Ephesus one of the world's four largest cities and an important seaport, but this city was also the most important banking center in the Mediterranean world. When you think of banking centers in your world today, you think of financial institutions. However, Ephesus was an important banking center for Asia Minor because of the many temples, the place where money was exchanged, held, and connected to religions. Ephesus was a huge place where eastern cultures, western cultures, and ancient magical spiritual practices collided. Pilgrims came from all over the world to receive healing, to have demons cast out of people they loved, and to connect to spiritual powers of all kinds. In addition to preaching and teaching, Paul did all sorts of miracles showing My power at work through him. The people of Ephesus had to know I was more powerful than the false gods and demons they worshiped.
If Paul's great miracles were not enough to convince them, the confrontation of demons with the sons of Sceva demonstrated that My power was stronger than the demons and could not be manipulated! This story, both humorous and sad, should serve as a reminder to you of what Paul said to the Ephesians when he wrote to them later:
Finally, brothers and sisters, draw your strength and might from God. Put on the full armor of God to protect yourselves from the devil and his evil schemes. We're not waging war against enemies of flesh and blood alone. No, this fight is against tyrants, against authorities, against supernatural powers and demon princes that slither in the darkness of this world, and against wicked spiritual armies that lurk about in heavenly places.I want you to realize today that when I sent the Holy Spirit to you at your conversion, I sent you Our — Father, Son, and Spirit's — presence and power. My victory over sin, death, and demons in the cross and in the resurrection gives you spiritual power. While you live in a world where sin, death, and demons influence many things, these forces no longer have power over you and can no longer control you if you follow Me (Colossians 1:9-13).
Verses to Live
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul's overland journey brought him back to Ephesus. He encountered a group of about a dozen disciples there.
Paul:Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?John's Disciples:We've never heard about the Holy Spirit.Paul:Well then, what kind of ceremonial washing through baptism did you receive?John's Disciples:We received the ritual cleansing of baptism that John taught.Paul:John taught the truth — that people should be baptized with renewed thinking and turn toward God. But he also taught that the people should believe in the One whose way he was preparing, that is, Jesus the Anointed.As soon as they heard this, they were baptized, this time in the name of our Lord Jesus. When Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them in the same way the original disciples experienced at Pentecost: they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
For three months, Paul continued his standard practice: he went week by week to the synagogue, speaking with great confidence, arguing with great persuasiveness, proclaiming the kingdom of God. Once again, some members of the synagogue refused to believe and insulted the Way publicly before the whole synagogue community. Paul withdrew and took those with him who had become disciples. For the next two years, he used the public lecture hall of Tyrannus, presenting the Word of the Lord every day, debating with all who would come. As a result, everyone in the region, whether Jews or Greeks, heard the message. Meanwhile, God did amazing miracles through Paul. People would take a handkerchief or article of clothing that had touched Paul's skin and bring it to their sick friends or relatives, and the patients would be cured of their diseases or released from the evil spirits that oppressed them.
Some itinerant Jewish exorcists noticed Paul's success in this regard, so they tried to use the name of Jesus, the King, in an exorcism they were performing.
Imagine this: There are seven of them, all sons of a Jewish chief priest named Sceva, gathered around a demonized man in a house.
One of the Jewish Exorcists:I command you to depart, by the Jesus proclaimed by Paul!Evil Spirit:Jesus I know. Paul I know. But who are you?Then the man leaps up, attacks them all, rips off their clothing, and beats them so badly that they run out of the house stark naked and covered in bruises.
Word of this strange event spread throughout Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. Everyone was shocked and realized that the name of Jesus was indeed powerful and praiseworthy. As a result, a number of people involved in various occult practices came to faith. They confessed their secret practices and rituals. Some of them had considerable libraries about their magic arts; they piled up their books and burned them publicly. Someone estimated the value of the books to be 50,000 silver coins. Again, word spread, and the message of the Lord overcame resistance and spread powerfully.