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Accept No Substitutes



Acts 19:11-16
11And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. 13Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all4 of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

The Story: This episode provides a bit of comic relief from the excitement of the fast-spreading Gospel. Like Simon in Acts 8, these sons of Sceva were just looking for some “edge” for themselves, something to bring a little more glitz and bang to their exorcising business. The comic part is not that they get drubbed by the evil spirit for their self-serving attempt to “horn in” on the name of Jesus. The comic part is the evil spirit itself, the devil’s representative on earth. Remember: The Gospel has been going forward everywhere, on all fronts, with almost no resistance from the devil, so it seems. The demon in the little girl in Philippi? Toast! Jesus has the devil on a leash (Matt. 12:22-29), and the more Paul and the others preach and make converts, the angrier the devil gets. He cannot do anything to stop the spread of the Gospel. He’s looking bad in front of his hosts. But when these opportunistic exorcists try to make some purchase with the name of Jesus, the Lord gives one of the devil’s minions some leash, and he whacks these guys a good one. Can you hear the devil moaning? I’m hearing roars of laughter in the courts of heaven.

The Structure
: The ongoing work of Christ continues amid a ferocious spiritual warfare, and Luke doesn’t want us to forget this. He could have reminded us in some more fantastic way – complete with spinning heads, projectile vomiting, and things that go bump in the night. But why lead us to think the devil has any power to terrorize? Why not remind us with a vignette highlighting the haplessness of the devil and his cause? Well done, Luke.

Spiritual warfare is serious business, but they who believe in Jesus know how to handle the devil and his ilk. How would you counsel a new believer to prepare both to recognize and fight the good fight in our spiritual warfare?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Ephesus to All Asia



Acts 19:8-10
8And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

The Story: Paul picked up where he left off, taking the Gospel to the synagogue, speaking boldly, reasoning, and persuading people concerning Christ and His Kingdom. For three months in Ephesus he carried on this ministry, but then certain influential people had had enough. Paul considered that he’d done all he could in this synagogue, so when some began to speak evil of the faith, he took his followers to a new venue. Whether Paul rented this hall or it was given to him for his use is not clear. We note the Gospel does not require some “sacred space” in order to flourish and bear fruit. For two years Paul taught the Word of the Lord – as he will remind the Ephesians in chapter 20, “the whole counsel of God” concerning Christ and His Kingdom. He also put the church in order, ordaining elders and probably deacons, and arranging for pastors to watch over the churches in Ephesus and beyond. We don’t read about this, but the fact that elders from these churches came to Paul in Acts 20 suggests strongly that they all knew the apostle. The truth took hold, began to spread, and before long all Asia – the southwest part of what is today Turkey – had heard the Gospel. Paul didn’t do all this work himself. Those who heard him understood that they, too, were to be witnesses to Christ, and so they were. The seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 are part of the impact of Paul’s – and later John’s – ministry in Ephesus. The ongoing work goes on!

The Structure
: Churches require sound teaching in order to flourish. But they also require a certain order, and the New Testament spells that order out clearly. We ignore God’s preferred order for His churches to our detriment.

How confident are you that your church’s order – the way its members are cared for and taught – is what the New Testament recommends?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Back to Ephesus



Acts 19:1-7
1And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7There were about twelve men in all.

The Story: Apollos, Priscilla, and Aquila departing for Corinth left a vacuum of leadership in Ephesus. Some believers were there, but not many. Perhaps the three determined they’d done all they could for now? Paul may have had Ephesus in his sights from the beginning of his third missionary journey, for we don’t hear much about any stops along the way. When he arrives he find a dozen or so men, true believers, but not well trained. They seem to be stuck about where Apollos was, trusting in John the Baptist’s word about Jesus. We note that Paul took the time to discern the state of their faith. He gave them credit for true faith but then took them further into the work of Christ and the Spirit. This is what good teachers do, build on foundations, discover and lengthen base lines, cultivate seedlings, check on the state of things and go forward from there. These twelve men became the nucleus of a revival in southeast Asia Minor. From Ephesus the Gospel would radiate throughout the region as the Spirit convicted, converted, filled, equipped, and sent people into all the surrounding area. First Paul, then Priscilla and Aquila, then Apollos, then Paul again: The Kingdom progresses by stages under the skilled hands of “master builders” (1 Cor. 3:5-10). Patience, persistence, and faith are the keys to the ongoing work of Christ.

The Structure
: The movement of preachers, evangelists, and pastors throughout the book of Acts and the New Testament fascinates me. Over and over we see people arriving to take up or continue a work, going forward to new places, or launching out to begin some new effort. God is orchestrating the progress of His Kingdom, using faithful servants and witnesses from all walks of life.

In what ways is your church “in the flow” of God’s Kingdom work in our day?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
God's Timing



Acts 18:24-28
24Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

The Story: How timely that Priscilla and Aquila should have been left in Ephesus. We don’t know anything more about Apollos than what we read here. He was steeped in the Old Testament, eloquent, and a believer in Jesus as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. But that’s all he knew. Still, he preached this message fervently, believing John’s witness concerning Jesus, but not knowing anything beyond that. He was a true man of faith, already preaching Jesus, though he knew only part of the truth of the Good News. Knowing part of the truth is not the same as knowing a half-truth. But Priscilla and Aquila recognized his faith and stepped up to bring him to a fuller understanding. They filled in the gaps of Jesus’ life and work, which, for Apollos, only served to cause more of the pieces of the Old Testament puzzle to fall into their place in the story of redemption. Apollos seems to have been looking for a place to serve, and as he learned about the Gospel taking root in Corinth and elsewhere, he longed to go there, perhaps because he may have been trained in Greek culture and literature in Alexandria. The believers in Ephesus wrote him a letter of recommendation, and Priscilla and Aquila may have gone with him, in order to introduce him to the believers, before continuing on to Rome (Rom. 16:3), which had been their home (Acts 18:2). Apollos was well received and effective in his ministry among the churches Paul had started in Greece. The emergence of evangelists and teachers like Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos is further evidence that this is a work of God, and not just some personality cult organized around Peter or Paul or anyone else.

The Structure
: Jesus had said He would build His Church (Matt. 16:18), and in the book of Acts we’re getting a good look at the ways He carries out this commitment. A strong unity exists among the churches of the Lord during this period, and this makes it possible for people like those mentioned in this chapter to be available as the Lord leads to serve in various places, if only for limited periods of time. The Spirit of God is supervising and energizing this work, and not even the gates of hell can prevail against it, much less the Jews or the Romans.

Do you have a sense that God is calling you to some specific area of ministry? Are you as prepared for this as you should be? Talk with a pastor or church leader to help you figure out how to get to where God is leading you in His service.

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Ministering As He Goes



Acts 18:18-23
18After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. At Cenchreae he had cut his hair, for he was under a vow. 19And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20When they asked him to stay for a longer period, he declined. 21But on taking leave of them he said, “I will return to you if God wills,” and he set sail from Ephesus. 22When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch. 23After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

The Story: God had called Paul to be a minister of the Gospel, and Paul took that call very seriously. Even as he takes his journey back to Antioch – the end of his second missionary journey – Paul is ministering all along the way. First stop, Cenchreae, from where he would take his leave by ship to Syria. He took a vow here and shaved his head, doubtless in order to gain entry with the Jewish community there. Next stop, Ephesus, and a little seed-sowing in the synagogue before probably finding a new ship to continue his journey. Paul was encouraged by the response at Ephesus, so, since he could not remain himself, he left Priscilla and Aquila to dig the soil, tend the sown seeds, and water any emerging seedlings of faith. By so doing Paul not only kept the work going in Ephesus, but he strengthened the role of two of his companions – a move that would soon reap benefits for the Kingdom. His next stop was Caesarea. From there he made a quick journey to Jerusalem to “greet the church” and probably make a report on his journey. Then back home to Antioch, continuing his ministry there in his home church. “After spending some time there” Paul begins his third missionary journey, heading out overland to visit and strengthen the churches he and Barnabas had birthed on an earlier journey.

The Structure
: We get a glimpse here at the staying power of the Gospel. This was not simply some new religious fad or spiritual movement. It was the work of God, advancing His Kingdom in the lives of men and women and establishing beachheads of faith throughout the Roman world. Many of these churches would continue vital and vibrant for years, even centuries, changing whole societies and cultures according to truth and righteousness of God’s Word. Paul’s sown seeds bore lasting fruit, because God was in the work.

Where might you be able to sow a seed of the Gospel today?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Trouble in Corinth



Acts 18:12-17
12
But when Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews made a united attack on Paul and brought him before the tribunal, 13saying, “This man is persuading people to worship God contrary to the law.” 14But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, “If it were a matter of wrongdoing or vicious crime, O Jews, I would have reason to accept your complaint. 15But since it is a matter of questions about words and names and your own law, see to it yourselves. I refuse to be a judge of these things.” 16And he drove them from the tribunal. 17And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

The Story: It was inevitable. Those who could not silence Paul by reason or reviling decided to turn the implements of government against him. We see this same thing in every age, even our own. Paul was about to explain himself, but Gallio, being a true Roman magistrate, recognized at once that this was a religious matter and should be settled within the religious community. The Romans allowed all kinds of religions in the Empire, as long as devotion to the Emperor was maintained. Each of those religions had their own forms of discipline, and Gallio wasn’t about to get involved. The problem, of course, was that the Jews’ form of discipline had failed. Paul had excommunicated himself, but he was still preaching right next door! So, since they couldn’t get at Paul, why not beat one of their own? Why Sosthenes? Doubtless because he was leaning, if not already supporting, Paul in his mission. That beating seems only to have strengthened Sosthenes in his faith and determination to follow Paul (1 Cor. 1.1).

The Structure
: The opponents of the Gospel cannot win the day by reason. Christians are impervious to slander and reviling (“sticks and stones” and so on). We should not be surprised when the enemies of the Gospel will try to force us into silence through the actions of civil magistrates. But if we’re faithful in praying for our rulers, might we not short-circuit that tactic before it comes into play (1 Tim. 2:1-8)?

Do you pray for those who are in political power over us? Does your church teach and lead you to pray for civil magistrates?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
Moving On



Acts 18:5-11
5When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue. 8Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized. 9And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

The Story: We note that to the Jews Paul preached “Christ” then “Jesus.” Whereas to Gentiles the message was often the reverse. Think about it. The Jews in Corinth seem to have been a bit more cosmopolitan than in Macedonia. They opposed and reviled Paul, but they didn’t whip up a mob. Yet. Paul knows when he’s worn out his welcome, but he doesn’t leave off teaching at the synagogue without a word of warning about the judgment of God. Now he will go among the Gentiles in Corinth, and to symbolize that, he changes residence. This is not a slight to Aquila and Priscilla. Having left the synagogue he needs a place to meet with Gentiles, and so the home of a Gentile is a more likely venue than that of a Jewish couple. Especially – conveniently enough – as his home was right next to the synagogue (in case any Jews might want to wander in). Paul’s leaving shocked the Jewish community as the president of their synagogue went with him, perhaps provoking the further action by the Jews, which we will see in the next section. Paul and Silas arrive from Macedonia, and the team is back to full strength. Many are coming to faith. Paul doubtless began to worry about this, given what had happened in previous cities. But the Lord Jesus appeared to Paul to encourage him in his ministry, which would continue in Corinth for a year and a half.

The Structure: Jesus had many in Corinth who were among His people. They had not all been saved yet, however, and so He willed that Paul should continue seeking those lost sheep until a sufficient number had been gathered to ensure the ongoing work of Christ in Corinth would continue. How did Jesus know those people not yet saved would in fact become His people?

Is it possible that Jesus has “many people” who belong to Him in your community? Is your church as active in seeking them as Paul was in Corinth?

BookJobFor an excellent complement to our study of the book of Acts, order the book The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, by Roland Allen, from our online store.

The Worldview Bible examines the teaching of Scripture according to the Story and Structure of Truth – the Framework of Christian Worldview – using only other Scriptures for illumination. Information about The Framework of Truth is available on this site. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 
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