Paul is in Ephesus, and the Holy Spirit is mightily working through him. Upon entering the city, Paul comes across a group of seekers who know little about Jesus but much more about John the Baptist. Paul teaches them and ministers to them; ultimately he baptizes them in the name of Jesus Christ. Then it happens, upon receiving this watery sacrament from Paul, twelve Ephesian men are spectacularly filled with Pentecostal fire. Just like the Jews in Jerusalem in Acts 2, these twelve Ephesian men receive the supernatural gifts of tongues and immediately go into their city prophesying in behalf of the risen Christ. (Acts 19:1-7)
But this is just one of many spectacular stories which can be told by Luke. The Holy Spirit is specially and visibly active during this ministerial season, and Luke gives the following summary:
Acts 19:11–12 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so 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.
So successful is Paul, that unbelieving exorcists began invoking the name of Jesus in their magical rituals. Like an entrepreneur stealing someone’s not copyrighted property, they hope to cash in on this Jesus-trend. However, they are not very successful:
Acts 19:13-16 Then 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.” Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Clearly, Paul is in a league of his own; the Spirit that flows through him is far superior than anything the Ephesians are witnessing from the dark side. Therefore, many come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Some come through Paul’s teaching in the synagogue, some through his heralding in the public square, but many are brought to faith through his spectacular signs and wonders. But bottom line, Ephesus is being turned upside down by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Revival hits this metropolis, and what is the result?
Acts 19:17-20 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled. Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
They residents of Ephesus fear God. They find a holy reverence for the Almighty God which they formerly did not possess.
They confess their sins to the Lord and one another. They hide not their transgressions but look to the Lord for forgiveness. In addition, they divulge their practices to their brothers and sisters seeking aid and accountability.
Following their internal fear and their external confession, these new converts hold a Christian bonfire. They gather their books on the occult and burn them. Permanently, these implements of the dark side are removed from their presence. No longer will these spiritual books harm them, their children, or their community. These books were incredibly valuable. They could have been sold for 50,000 pieces of silver. But cost was nothing when it came to holiness. These Ephesian believers valued sweet communion and sanctification more than they did silver and gold. Zealously, they purged the evil from their midst.
And as a result, the Word of God spread and the number of converts increased. God was pleased to expand his church in the midst of such a fearfully zealous and pure community.
So the question needs to be asked, “Are we as serious about making progress in sanctification as were these new Ephesian believers?” And to this a follow up question, “What should we incarcerate that we may struggle with it no longer?” Let us flee from sin. Let us make no provision to walk in the flesh. Let us cut off arms and pluck out eyes. Let us remove the leaven from our midst. Let us set nothing wicked before our eyes. And perhaps, we should have a Christian bonfire in the upcoming days.