"I MUST VISIT ROME ALSO"
Key Verse: 19:21
"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.'"
The main stop on Paul's Third Missionary Journey was Ephesus. Paul often visited major cities, and so also, Ephesus was one of the principle cities in the Roman Empire, with over a quarter of a million people. It's greatest claim to fame was the magnificent temple of Artemis, which was listed as one of the seven wonders of the world. From today's passage we find that it was a city full of demon possession, sorcery and Pagan worship. It was also a corrupt city, with possible prostitution at Artemis' temple and greedy businessmen. When Paul entered the stronghold of Satan, God equipped him to perform miracles and cast out demons. This is one of the unique features of Paul's ministry in Ephesus.
Paul stayed in Ephesus for over two years, holding daily Bible discussions and in this way all the people in the whole province heard of the gospel. If we read the book of Ephesians, we find that the church in Ephesus grew to be a strong and exemplary church. As we meditate upon today's passage, let us learn from the Ephesian church's example. And let's pray to find what application we can have from Paul's vision, "I must visit Rome also."
Part 1. The Work of the Holy Spirit in Ephesus (1-16)
Look at verse 1-2 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."
How could there be disciples who had never heard of the Holy Spirit? Like Apollos in the last chapter, these men had only met John. As Jewish men, they traveled to Jerusalem for the annual festivals. At some time, they must have visited John while they were there, and been baptized by him. John's baptism symbolized repentance. He warned the people to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. But John's most important mission was to point the people to Jesus.
Look at verse 4. 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." John's Baptism was a Baptism of repentance. This prepared the way for people to accept Jesus' message (Lk 7:29-30). He told the people to believe in the one coming after him. When John saw Jesus, he said, "Look the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
These 12 men seem never to have met Jesus, but only to have heard John's message about him. So they knew some things correctly, but their understanding was very limited and they had no personal relationship with Jesus. They had not even heard that there was a Holy Spirit. So Paul baptized them into the name of the Lord Jesus, and immediately the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
By accepting Jesus we gain access to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, but he is willing to dwell with us. Jesus pointed out in Luke 11 that our fathers always want to give us good things. He then proclaimed, "How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" We can think about this a little more, since today is Father's day.
What we find is that the Holy Spirit is not optional. Without the Holy Spirit, these disciples were incomplete and lacked power. Paul's work in Ephesus began by bringing the Holy Spirit. The powerful work of the Holy Spirit was the hallmark of the Ephesus church.
Now look at verse 8. Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. For three months, Paul proclaimed the kingdom of God to his fellow Jews in the synagogue. Paul's message was the kingdom of God. Jews thought that the Messiah would bring the kingdom of God by starting a revolution against Rome. But Paul taught them that God's kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, which we enter when we accept Jesus Christ as our King.
Paul could understand them because he was himself once a self-ambitious man. He was a Pharisee, who was convinced that Christianity was a cult. So he persecuted the Church mercilessly. He thought he was advancing God's kingdom, but in reality, he was trying to be his own king and make a name for himself. But when Jesus appeared to him, Paul realized that he was a sinner and that Jesus is the true King. Finally he understood the kingdom of God. The Risen Christ forgave his sins and he became a changed man who worked for the kingdom of God and preached the kingdom of God.
The message of the kingdom of God runs throughout the Bible and is still as relevant today. In a month, we will attend the Summer Bible conference. It's title is "You Kingdom Come." Let's pray to have a zeal for God’s kingdom through the conference, and also to bring young people into the kingdom of God.
Let's read the people's response in verses 9 and 10. 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. 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.
Some Jews began to oppose Paul, with slanders and insults. They heckled him and tried to discourage those who listen. In this environment, Paul could no longer teach effectively, so he had to move. But he did not quit. Instead he took the disciples with him and went to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This represents a shift in several ways. First, a shift toward disciple making. he took the disciples with him. He took them out of the synagogue, which had become a bad environment. He began to focus on raising these disciples. Second, a shift toward the Gentiles. He left the synagogue and went to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. Greek culture emphasized education and rhetoric. Many Greek cities had gymnasiums and lecture halls. These secular buildings were available for discussions. Paul's message would be just one voice in this hall. It is not an ideal environment. But Paul saw how God could use it to reach the Gentiles. Paul took advantage of what the government offered, and used it for the gospel.
If there had been a large church building, Paul would probably have gone there. But God does not need a building to work. I remember my visit to Hong Kong. There is one UBF center in the heart of the city and it is not near Hong Kong University. The University is crowded. So where can people study the Bible? When I visited the university, I saw a large room that school provided for socializing. UBF Bible teachers always arrive early in the morning to get the tables first, and all day they are used for Bible Study. It looked like the school had given UBF half of the room. Despite distractions and people walking by, the teachers even sing and study deeply. I think Paul had such an experience, and understood that God can work in many environments.
To all who came to the lecture hall, Paul proclaimed the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the coming of the kingdom of God. But he did not preach one-sidedly. Verse 9 says that he held daily discussions. He started a Bible school and encouraged comments and questions. Some listeners must have presented the ideas of scholars of the day. Then Paul shared with them the truth of the gospel. Sometimes there may have been strong debates, or philosophical tangents. But Paul was patient and ready to discussed the gospel with anyone and answer any question. In the end, only the gospel remained in people's hearts as the absolute truth of God that stands forever. Paul's daily discussions in the lecture hall are similar to 1:1 Bible study, where students bring all kinds of different ideas and sometimes seem to miss the point and get lost on tangential issues. We can learn from Paul who did not impose his view but rather patiently held daily discussions for two years.
In this way, Paul raised up many committed disciples. Many people came to the lecture hall. Those who heard the gospel shared it with others. The gospel spread by word of mouth. In the course of two years, all people in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. Paul could perform miracles and speak boldly. But this did not guarantee success. The secret to his success was his hard work. Even Paul was successful because he worked hard. If he was the most fruitful missionary, it is because he worked harder than all of then (1Cor 15:10). Effective evangelism is rooted in devotion to God's word and to raising disciples. It is not easy for anyone to spend several hours a day in Bible study. It requires self-denial and constant meditation on the word of God. It is not easy to meet the same people daily and to teach them again and again. It requires the patient endurance of the Holy Spirit. Still, devotion to Bible study and disciple raising is God's how the word of God spread.
Paul was not only an effective speaker. Through the Holy Spirit, God supported his message with many miraculous signs. Look at verses 11-12. "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 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." As Paul preached the kingdom of God in this stronghold of sorcery and demonic power, God used miraculous signs to authenticate his message.
But look at verse 13. There were some people who missed the point. In particular, there seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who went around driving out evil spirits. Luke 11:19 indicates that some Jewish people did drive out demons. These seven sons of Sceva saw how Paul drove out evil spirits through Jesus' name, so they thought to try it too. In verse 13 they said, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out." They had the right name. In chapter 3, when Peter gave the crippled man the name of Jesus, he began to walk. But these sons of Sceva didn't know Jesus, just his name. They qualified it, in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches." They copied Paul's technique, but didn't copy his faith and didn't recognize the role of the Holy Spirit.
How did it turn out? Let's read verse 15-16. [One day] the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" 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.
Imagine their surprise and fear when, one day, the evil spirit talked back. This was no mere mental illness. The demon was real. He said, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Demons know about Jesus and tremble at his name. One Garisean man was tormented by thousands of demons. He was wild. But not one of his demons could withstand Jesus voice of command. Demons know about Jesus. And this demon knew about Paul. Perhaps he had been warned about Paul from his demon friends. "Watch out for Paul. He's got faith. I was driven out of a girl just by an apron that had touched him!" Many homeless demons had asked if they could stay with him a couple of days. But this demon had never heard of the great Seven Sons of Sceva, the Chief Priest. The seven men became afraid. 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. It was humiliating. Seven men beaten up by one.
The sons of Sceva looked strong but they were not equipped to fight a spiritual battle. Ep 6:12 explains, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God". This armor is truth, righteousness, readiness, faith, salvation and the Spirit. But the Sons of Sceva had none of these. They were as naked and powerless as the demon left them.
If anyone out there is planning to perform an exorcism this afternoon, these words are very applicable. Probably we are not. But there are still important lessons in these verses, because we battle demons not just with exorcisms, but whenever we preach the name of Jesus and whenever we resist temptations. The first lesson is that we are fighting a spiritual battle against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Sometimes demon possession can be passed off as mental illness, and demonic temptations as simply our own desires. But we see here that demons are real and unless we are properly equipped, Satan can give us a beating us as easily as he did the seven sons of Sceva. Surely we can remember many times when we failed because we depended on our own strength rather than the armor of God.
Second, using the name of Jesus is very different than having a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus proclaimed in Mt 7:21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." To the others Jesus will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' Cultural Christianity is a hindrance to personal faith. Today there are so many cultural Christians, who wear a Cross or who were confirmed or who were baptized once or who went to church at one time because their parents sent them. On campus, I meet many such people. When I ask them, they say that they are Christian. But when I ask them if Jesus rose from the dead, they do not say, "Absolutely." They say, "I don't know" or "that's what I have heard." But we cannot depend upon the name of Jesus whom our parents believe in or the name of Jesus who the preacher believes in. We can only be saved by our personal faith in Jesus. How can we then have personal faith? We must study the Bible sincerely and prayerfully. If you will be like those that met with Paul daily for sincere Bible discussion, eventually the Holy Spirit will come.
Part 2. The Word of the Lord Spread (17-22)
Now look at verse 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.
This event sparked a revival in Ephesus. People suddenly realized that evil spirits were real and dangerous. Yet the evil spirits were afraid of Jesus. The people were all seized with fear and held Jesus' name in high honor. What was the consequence of this outpouring of faith? Let's read verses 18-20. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. 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. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. In what way? Confession and turning away from sin. Looking at verses 18 and 19 we see confession and turning away from sin. In short, there is true repentance. In history, there have been many revivals. They usually started when people sincerely repented. Does Washington UBF need revival? What do you think? I think we do. And I think it will happen when we copy the repentant attitude of the Ephesian church.
Some have argued that we should only confess our sins to God. There is some truth to it. Certainly, we should not pressure people to confess. But look at verse 18. "Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds." These people were already believers. But they had dark secrets in their hearts. But when the fear of God seized them, they voluntarily came forth and confessed their deep sins. Some of their sins were hard to confess because they were so perverse. Or because their sins exposed that their carefully crafted self-image was a sham. Some sins were hard to confess because they had hurt others in the church. They had to come to them and say, I'm sorry that I looked down on you, or I sorry gossiped about your sins or was a busybody about your money problems. But when they shared their tearful LTs, what happened? Did the others look at them as freaks who had just grown two heads? -- "I thought you were a good person, now I know better!" or punch them, "you mean you lied to me?" No, what happened was everyone was encouraged, "And I thought I was the only one with hidden sins!" Then they also confessed their sins and there were no more ugly secrets in the church. This openness is the mark of a healthy church. Jesus proclaimed that everything hidden is meant to be revealed, and that he is the light of the world that exposes our hearts.
I suggest to you that revival begins with one person. If you will this week write a sincere and repentant testimony, rather than a superficial testimony that touches on some small sin while hiding the real sin that burdens you, you can be that person, and we can begin revival.
Repentance begins with confession, but it does not end there. Next there must be the fruit of repentance with changed lives. Look at verse 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.
It is remarkable that former sorcerers had now accepted Jesus. They used to study their magic scrolls day and night. Now they studied the Bible, and found it to be the source of true power. They burned all of their scrolls that they once treasured more than anything. Verse 19 says that When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. A drachma was worth about a days wages. So fifty thousand days wages is a lot of money. Said differently, it is 150 years. You would have to work two lifetimes, from birth, with no vacation, and no weekends to make that much. Why did they burn something so costly? It is because they could not sell it, because it would have made others sin. And they could not just store it away in the attack, because keeping it was a sin and a temptation to go back. But by burning them, they acknowledged that they had decided to follow Jesus and there was no turning back.
It is significant that they burned the scrolls before they calculated the cost. Perhaps, if they had calculated the cost first they may have been tempted to say, “No the cost is too much! We can’t follow Jesus.” The Ephesians give us a clear example of practical repentance. Repentance is not just something we say and never mean to follow through with. Repentance bears fruit with changed lives. Repentance cost us something in this world, but it gives heavenly treasure. Many people have been encouraged by the Ephesian’s practical example of repentance. In early Washington UBF history there were some brothers who loved rebellious punk rock music. But when they heard about what the Ephesians had done, they broke all their expensive records. More recently, a shepherd followed their example. You may also have something that you need to burn. For me, I had to erase certain games and programs that came preinstalled on my computer. I said, “I will not play them anymore.” But when I didn’t want to do my work, I played them again. So I had to erase them.
I remember another shepherd’s testimony of how he had images on his hard drive. He had repented of looking at them, but didn’t want to erase them, because they took time to download. Then he repented and erased them. Someone else may have bad movies like “American Pie” or it may be anything that tempts us and we need to get rid of. Even credit cards or fashion. It depends on the person. One man was in an immoral relationship. But he could not burn his scrolls and follow Jesus. He said it was too costly. So he was stuck. Of course, if he had repented and sought Jesus forgiveness, God would surely give him better things and treasure in heaven. That man is not a fool who looses what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose.
Now lets read verse 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.'" When Paul saw God's work, he did not say my work is done, now I can enjoy. Instead, seeing that Ephesus had been fully pioneered, it was time to move on. He decided to go to Jerusalem, and then to Rome -- to the heart of Judaism, then to the heart of the Gentile world. It was because of Paul's desire for both the Jew and then to the Gentile, that they might be united as one church. Also, verses 21 and 22 don’t give Paul’s reasons, but from Romans 15:24-27 we learn Paul was first sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia to collect an offering, which he wanted to bring with him to the Jerusalem church before going to Rome. In this way, Paul wanted the Gentiles to acknowledge their spiritual debt to the Jews, and he wanted the Jews to embrace the Gentiles with world mission vision. Paul wanted to unite the Christian church and inspire it to march forward for the sake of world mission. Personally, he decided to visit Rome. Paul said, "I must visit Rome also" (21). Rome was the center of the world. From the work at Ephesus, Paul found a vision for the same thing to happen in Rome. Paul believed that God would conquer Rome with the gospel as he had done in Ephesus. Rome was a sinful influence on the world with its gladiator rings and orgies. But Paul had a vision that if Rome were to repent, it could be a city on a hill for the whole world. Perhaps Paul believed that God's kingdom would come on earth in his lifetime. Although it actually took 200 years, his vision was correct. Rome was changed and brought the gospel to all of Europe. Paul’s vision was the fruit of his lifetime obedience to the Holy Spirit. When we obey God's leading and give our hearts to one-to-one Bible study and disciple raising, God will lead us to have a great vision for world mission.
Paul was a missionary in many places, but he had a big, lifetime vision that he was working towards, of bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth and changing the whole Roman Empire. It seemed crazy but God did it. Really, it seems just as crazy for us to pray for America to be a holy nation, given the state of our society. But God can do it. We also need a life-time vision. We thought Missionary Moses and Sarah were ready to retire, but they have new vision, “We must go to Latin America also.” Today, we send out two Missionaries to a country that does not allow the gospel to be preached. So we have to send them secretly. They could remain comfortably in America, but they said, “We must go to ___ also.”
As we pray for the evangelization of Muslim countries and communist countries, including North Korea, may God help each of us give our hearts to one-to-one Bible study until we each have God's vision for world mission.
Part 3, Greedy Men Oppose the Gospel (23-41)
As God's work was flourishing and Paul was burning with world mission vision, the devil did not sit back. He attacked God's work through a man who loved money more than truth. Look at verses 23-27. About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty."
Men have no excuse to worship idols which are obviously nothing. Especially, the craftsmen who make the idols have no excuse because they know where the idols came from and how they made them. None-the-less, all the world worshipped idols and so we can at least have understand their ignorance. But Demetrius was no longer ignorant. He had heard Paul’s message, “Man-made gods are no gods at all.” So he has to think about whether that makes sense. Although Paul was obviously right, he instead only thought about, what will happen to my business, if people stop buying my shrines? So he called together many business men who made a good income off of the temple. The temple drove the tourism economy of the city. Not just idol makers and temple prostitutes and priests were affected. But also T-shirt salesmen and hot-dog vendors. What would happen if people stopped coming to their wonder of the ancient world?
These men were a sad contrast to those who burned their scrolls. These men could not give up their sinful occupations and follow Jesus. They only worried about their money. It is sad. Perhaps business men would feel similarly if a revival came to Las Vegas and all their sinful businesses suffered. Despite the opposition of these men, God protected the Ephesian church by friends in the government (verse 31) and the wisdom of the city clerk.
In this passage lets learn three things. First, God wants us to live the Christian life by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we ask, he gives the Holy Spirit to us. Second, where there is devotion to the word of God and to disciple training, there will be a great work of God. Third, God's vision is for the evangelization of the whole world in our generation. We can have this great vision when we commit our lives to God's work. May God help each of us to serve him daily until we can say like St. Paul, "I must visit Rome also."