Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul … (verses 8-11)
Paul’s ministry in the city of Ephesus extending over a period of two years, which is the longest settled stint of any for Paul in the whole book of Acts. The kingdom was significantly advancing. Indeed, Ephesus became a staging ground for the extension of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the region. And it was happening in a number of different ways. Here’s what I notice:
· Paul taught the good news of Jesus daily. It was a simple, straightforward, yet compelling, practice. He’d begun in the Jewish synagogue, lingering there for three months, “arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God” (verse 8 ). When opposition arose, he simply changed venues, moving to the lecture hall of Tyrannus, engaging there in daily discussions with the disciples. His ministry had a huge impact, extending outward to the surrounding community. In fact, it produced a remarkable effect: “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord” (verse 10). That’s stunningly effective teaching, indeed!
· The Lord worked signs and wonders through Paul. The words of Jesus, taught daily in the lecture hall, were being combined with Jesus’ ongoing works – “extraordinary miracles,” as Luke describes them (verse 11). Imagine, handkerchiefs or aprons which had merely been handled by Paul, were subsequently carried away to entirely different locations, being used as instruments of healing and release for those suffering illness or demon-possession. Such events couldn’t help but give extra “punch” to Paul’s teaching! The powerful ministry of Jesus was demonstrated in these lives.
· Power encounters with evil put further spotlight on Jesus. A Jewish chief priest named Sceva had seven sons who’d heard enough teaching and testimonial about Jesus’s powerful name that they decided to magically coopt that name for themselves in their own practice of exorcism. They commanded evil spirits to come out “in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches” (verse 13). The result was disastrous. The evil spirit, speaking through its human victim, declared it knew Jesus and Paul well, but didn’t recognize these seven sons at all. The possessed man viciously attacked all seven, causing them to flee, bloodied and naked and severely shaken. The word spread. Awareness of Jesus’ name grew larger yet.
· Public repentance demonstrated deep transformation of lives. Occult practices were rife in Ephesus. Those who had decisively come to faith in Jesus renounced their past involvements, bringing together the paraphernalia of their sorcery and holding a huge public bonfire. Collectively, what went up in flames was valued at the equivalent of 50,000 days’ wages! That smoking pile of ash spoke volumes about the radical redirection of lives touched by Jesus.
In all of these ways the name of Jesus was exalted. More and more came to faith. Transformation continued. The kingdom advanced.The Lord was at work.
Oh, to see such forward movement in my own community – the powerful intervention of the Lord. Yet Paul, for his part, had a simple, daily commitment. He taught. He declared the goodness of Jesus and the power of the Gospel. I wonder if some days, even for him, the work seemed ordinary. But he kept on.
And the effect was remarkable.
Lord Jesus, may your name be highly exalted in my life, whether in big ways or small. I commit myself again to the work you have given me. Use it for your glory.
Reflect: What work has the Lord assigned you in his kingdom, whether big or small? Embrace it afresh. What prayer has he placed on your heart regarding work only he can accomplish? Renew the prayer.