‘So the Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.’ (Acts 19:20)
There are certain things we look forward to in life, such as going on holiday. But there are other things we don’t look forward to, such as a visit to the dentist. Coming to this chapter, Paul is on his third missionary journey. He has visited many places, seen many people, including many who rejected his message and sought to kill him. How did Paul approach Ephesus? Did he look forward to this visit or fear it?
In the previous chapter, very little is written of Paul completing his second missionary journey (Acts 18:23). Luke also writes very little about places Paul revisited, very little of his time spent in Antioch. It seems Paul’s aim was to get to Ephesus. Luke would have us meet Paul as quickly as possible in Ephesus on his third missionary journey. This is where Paul wants to be. Why? In Paul’s day Ephesus was the fourth largest city; many people lived there, worked there or passed through. It had a port. Much trade went on. This city had one very important building that attracted many people to Ephesus – the temple of the goddess Diana. This was not Paul’s reason to be there, to trade or visit the temple. No, after leaving Corinth, Paul made his way back to Antioch, but made a brief stop at Ephesus. Why?
Paul wanted to continue where he left off on his second missionary journey. Luke tells us much that went on that should encourage us here this morning. It’s about how the Way of God was taken up by the people of Ephesus. ‘So the Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.’ (Acts 19:20), sums up the whole chapter.
Luke gives us several examples of how the Word grew:
In verses 1-7 we see Paul meets a group of twelve men who had repented of their sin, received the teaching of John the Baptist, following in his ways, looking for a Messiah. However, the group did not realise the Messiah had already come; they didn’t know the Lord Jesus Christ. So Paul questions them (verse 2). Christ was preached to them. The men put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. We also need to know we’ve sinned against God, to repent of our sins, to know the Lord Jesus Christ.
In verses 8-10 we read that after Paul had spoken to these men he visited the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months about the kingdom of God. He spoke to them that Jesus was the Messiah. Amazing! In many other places Paul did not have the opportunity to speak to the Jews. Eventually, some began to harden their hearts and spoke out at Paul in an evil way. His response? He could no longer remain in the synagogue and needed to separate from these people. The Lord honoured Paul’s decision (verse 9). God opened up another place by which Paul could speak, where he spoke daily for two years, probably from 11-4 p.m. in the afternoon. The Lord blessed this work (verse 10) so all who dwelt in Asia heard the Word. This is how the Word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
In verses 11-20 God worked unusual miracles by the hand of Paul. Remember, the city of Ephesus was not only given over to superstitions but also to black magic. This involved witchcraft and spells of all kinds. These people had wicked lifestyles. Paul performed amazing miracles. The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. Many came to believe (verse 18). The Word of the Lord grew and prevailed. The Lord Jesus Christ’s name was magnified. People burned their witchcraft books. Their lives had changed, they were now seeking to live for Christ. They had turned away from their former lifestyle. They burnt their witchcraft books even though they were of great monetary value, but of no value to their living now. Here we see repentance – turning from the former lifestyle to Christ.
In verses 24-34 we read that opposition arose, led by Demetrius, a silversmith who made his money making shrines and selling them to those who visited Diana’s temple. However, with Paul preaching, his trade started to decline. He called a meeting (verse 25) of those of a similar occupation and straight away spoke to them about money. He appealed to their desire to make money. In verse 27 Demetrius also appealed to them that the great temple of Diana was also liable to fall too, because of Paul’s preaching. In verse 28 we read of their response; the whole city was brought into uproar and confusion by this meeting of silversmiths. They sought to find Paul but couldn’t. Instead, they found two of his friends. We are then told of Paul’s boldness; he wanted to go into the crowd and speak to the people who were shouting how great Diana was, a crowd which wanted to kill him. More interesting, Luke writes that the officials of Asia sent messages to Paul not to go into the theatre (verse 31). The Word affected not only those who believed but also those who did not believe. Eventually the crowd was quietened by the city clerk.
Lastly, we have the comparison between the way God works and the way Satan works. God worked mightily and changed many lives, whereas this crowd was all in confusion. Friends, we may live in a day and age where we don’t see the work of God in such a way. Let us pray that God’s Word would go forth powerfully, mightily and prevail against all things. Let it change people’s lives so that they come under the reasoning of God’s Word and turn to Him.