Setting

Paul started his third missionary journey by visiting Galatia and Phrygia to strengthen the churches in those regions. While this was happening, Apollos conducted a ministry in Ephesus, where he received kind instructions from Aquila and Priscilla. Afterwards, he went to Achaia, helped the believers there, and preached Jesus Christ with great power. At this time, Paul came to Ephesus to begin his evangelistic effort. In the last lesson, we learned how he met some disciples who had not yet received the baptism into Christ as well as the gift of the Holy Spirit. In this lesson, we will study God’s mighty works in Ephesus through Paul.

Key Verse

(19:20)

Did You Know...?

1. Practiced magic (19:19): “Ephesus was the home of all sorts of magic and superstition, and the phrase ‘Ephesian writings’ (Ephesia grammata) was common in antiquity for documents containing spells and magical formulae…. [ref]
2. Erastus (19:22) was one of Paul’s companion at Ephesus.
3. Diana (19:24): “so called by the Romans; called Artemis by the Greeks, the ‘great’ goddess worshiped among heathen nations under various modifications. Her most noted temple was that at Ephesus. It was built outside the city walls, and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. ‘First and last it was the work of 220 years; built of shining marble; 342 feet long by 164 feet broad; supported by a forest of columns, each 56 feet high; a sacred museum of masterpieces of sculpture and painting. At the centre, hidden by curtains, within a gorgeous shrine, stood the very ancient image of the goddess, on wood or ebony reputed to have fallen from the sky. Behind the shrine was a treasury, where, as in ‘the safest bank in Asia,’ nations and kings stored their most precious things.” [ref]
4. The officials of Asia (19:31): Also known as the “Asiarchs,” these were “members of the noblest and wealthiest families of the province of Asia and were bound together in a league for promoting the cult of the emperor and Rome.” [ref] They were “annually appointed to preside over the religious festivals and games in the various cities of proconsular Asia.” [ref]
5. City clerk (19:35): “The secretary of the city who published the decisions of the civic assembly. He was the most important local official and the chief executive officer of the assembly, acting as go-between for Ephesus and the Roman authorities.” [ref]

Outline

  • The Gospel Preached in Ephesus and Heard throughout Asia
    (19:8-10)
  • God Worked Mighty Miracles through Paul
    (19:11-12)
  • The Seven Sons of Sceva
    (19:14-20)
  • Paul’s Plans
    (19:21-22)
  • The Riot at Ephesus
    (19:23-41)

General Analysis

  • 1.

    Luke summed up Paul’s ministry in Ephesus this way: “the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (19:20). In what ways were the evangelical work in Ephesus very powerful?

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    Paul preached daily while he was in Ephesus. As a result, all in Asia, including both Jews and Greeks, heard the gospel (9-10). At this time, God also performed some marvelous miracles through Paul, and these miracles became so well known that even exorcists tried to cast out evil spirits in the name of Jesus. The incident of the seven sons of Sceva invoked great fear on all the Ephesians and many who practiced magic came to the Lord. The Lord’s work was so powerful that the silvermakers for the shrines for Diana became desperate and caused an uproar.

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Segment Analysis

  • 19:8-10

    1.

    Where did Paul preach in Ephesus?

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    For the first 3 months, Paul preached in the synagogue. But when some at the synagogue resisted the gospel, Paul departed from them and reasoned daily in the school of Tyrannus for two years.

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  • 2.

    What was the result of Paul’s preaching?

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    All who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

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  • 19:11-12

    3.

    Paul’s preaching was not just in word, but also with God’s power (1Cor 2:4; 4:20; 1Thess 1:5). How did God demonstrate His power through Paul?

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    See 19:11-12. The great miracles that God performed through Paul fulfilled Jesus’ prophesy in Jn 14:12.

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  • 19:13-20

    4.

    Even exorcists tried to perform exorcism in the name of Jesus. What does this tell you?

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    These exorcists, as well as many others, must have marveled at the mighty miracles that Paul had performed in the name of Jesus. They recognized the great power in the name of Jesus and tried to imitate Paul.

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  • 5.

    What happened to the sons of Sceva when they tried to exorcise in the name of the Lord Jesus?

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    See 19:15-17. They were not able to cast out the evil spirit. Instead, they were cast out by the evil spirit.

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  • 6.

    Why was the evil spirit not afraid of them?

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    1. They did not believe in Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior, for they called Jesus “the Jesus whom Paul preaches” (19:13). They simply invoked the name of Jesus as if the invocation itself would produce some magical power. But God has given the ability to cast out demons only to believers (Mk 16:17), not just to anyone who invokes the name of Jesus.
    2. They probably had some ulterior motive in trying to exorcise the evil spirit, whether it was for financial gain for to win people’s respect. Misusing the name of Jesus for personal interests certainly would not please God. Knowing that God was not with these self-made exorcists, the evil spirit had no fear of them. (Casting out of evil spirits in the name of the Lord Jesus is not a profit-making business or a means for self-promotion. It should be done out of faith in Christ as well as compassion for the demon-possessed.)

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  • 7.

    What can we learn from this story about the name of the Lord Jesus?

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    1. It carries great power when called upon by those who believe in Him.
    2. It is not to be called on carelessly or for personal use.
    3. It is to be revered and magnified.

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  • 8a.

    What impact did this incident have on the people?

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    See 19:18-19.

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  • 8b.

    Why did it have such an impact?

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    What happened to the sons of Sceva taught everyone at least two things:
    1. The name of Jesus Christ is to be honored. Only with true faith can a person be worthy to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.
    2. Believers must lead God-fearing lives. Mere profession of Jesus’ name is not enough. Faith must be accompanied by a life that pleases God. A believer cannot possibly call on the name of Christ but continue to live in sin as if God doesn’t know it. If even the evil spirit could tell false believers from true believers, how could any believer hide their secret sins from God?
    These realizations made the people confess their wicked deeds and renounce their sorcery.

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  • 9.

    Are there some hidden things in your life that might be of great value to you, but now need to completely renounced before God?

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  • 19:21-22

    10.

    What did Paul resolve in the Spirit to do?

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    By the movement of the Holy Spirit, Paul planned to go to Jerusalem after passing through Macedonia and Achaia. He also intended to go to Rome after that.

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  • 19:23-41

    11a.

    What motivated Demetrius to instigate the commotion? Was he concerned about their goddess Diana?

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    Demetrius tried to solicit support from his fellow tradesmen by bring up the name of Diana. But he was more concerned about the loss in profit if people stopped buying the silver shrines he made (19:24-25). The temple of Diana was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. It’s not hard to imagine how lucrative Demetrius’ trade must have been.

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  • 11b.

    In what ways do some people today resist or even oppose the gospel because their personal interest is at stake?

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  • 12.

    What does Demetrius’ anxiety tell you about the effect of Paul’s ministry?

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    Paul’s ministry must have had a great impact on the city of Ephesus and all of Asia, as indeed it had (cf. 19:17-20), for it to have seriously affected such a huge market as that of Demetrius’ profitable business.

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  • 13.

    Why did all the people rush into the theater?

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    Most of them simply followed the crowd to proclai.m the greatness of Diana, but they were actually confused and didn’t know the reason for the gathering.

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  • 14.

    How can we infer that the situation was very dangerous for Paul?

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    Because Demetrius had used the name of their revered goddess to stir up the emotion of all the people, the crowd was almost out of control. They had seized Paul’s travel companions, and the disciples would not allow Paul to go into the crowd. Even some of the officials sent a message to plead with Paul not to venture into the theater. The actions of the crowd and the great concern of Paul’s brethren and friends tell us that Paul’s safety was at great risk. After all, Demetrius’ complaint was against Paul and his missionary activities. If Paul were to appear on the scene at this time, and if the crowd found out that Paul was the target of their fury, they would have certainly turned violent.

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  • 15.

    Why do you think the Jews put Alexander forward before the crowd, and why did the crowd shout him down?

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    The Jews were probably afraid that the crowd might turn against them as a result of this incident, since the Jews abhorred idolatry. Therefore, they might have hoped to win over the public by having their spokesman, Alexander, make a public statement in their defense and declare that they had nothing to do with Paul or the Christians. But when the crowd learned that Alexander was a Jew, their religious sentiment and fury were stirred up even more.

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  • 16.

    How did the riot finally end?

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    See 19:35-41.

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