Acts 19 1-22 Contrasting Miracle Workers

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

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. 10 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.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.”14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

Contrasting Miracle Workers

I am a firm believer that there is more to this world than the physical.  Our minds are so complex that some atheists believe that a spiritual world has emerged from the complexity of evolution.  However, I think that such a view does not do justice to the nature of the spiritual realm.

If there is a supernatural element to life, it might be accessed in various ways.  People of different faiths have supernatural experiences and miracles happen in other religions.  However, just because supernatural events happen in other faiths, it does not mean that they point to the truth.  We live in a world of good and evil and just because a religion does a good act that transcends the physical, it does not mean that it is ultimately good.

Paul performed miracles in the course of his day-to-day.  His primary calling was to serve Jesus, talk to the Gentiles and see them reconciled to God through Jesus.  The motives of other miracle-workers in the Book of Acts is less noble.  Some perform miracles for money, others perform miracles for status, some perform miracles because they are enslaved.

A group of Jews found that using the name of Jesus allowed them to perform miracles.  However, this group did not have the foundational relationship with Jesus that the Apostles have.  When the demons that they are up against realise this, they attack the Jewish miracle-workers.  This shows the primacy of the position of the Apostles.  Without a relationship with Jesus, we are playing with forces beyond our control.  With Jesus, we should expect safety and security when we encounter the supernatural.

Prayer

Father, first let us be more aware of the world as you see it.  Let us see that the physical world that is immediate to our senses is the tip of the iceberg of reality.  Help us to life more aware of the spiritual underpinnings and origins of this world.  Let us know when the supernatural is to break through and let us ask for miracles with confidence.

Questions

  1. Which city was the focus of this passage?
  2. Why did Jewish miracle workers get beaten up?
  3. What does the fact that Paul and the Apostles did not get beaten up teach us about Christianity and the supernatural?
  4. How aware are you of the spiritual realities that operate beyond the five senses?
  5. How can you see more supernatural living in your life?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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