Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 5
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|his is the fifth message introducing this marvelous book. We are looking at the life of Paul in that first phrase Ephesians 1:1. It says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Turn to Acts 18 as we prepare to get into his Third Missionary Journey.|
Paul: The Missionary – Part 4
This is the fifth message introducing this marvelous book. We are looking at the life of Paul in that first phrase Ephesians 1:1. It says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and who are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Turn to Acts 18 as we prepare to get into his Third Missionary Journey.
Over and over again, we try to bring it out in our preaching and in our messages to show you that the Christian life is not you and me living like Jesus. You can’t do it. I can’t do it. To prove that, get up in the morning and say, “Lord, I am going to be like you today. I am going to love my brother.” God will put a brother in your life by noon that you didn’t know existed, and you are going to be crying out, “Lord, I can’t.” He is going to say, “That’s right. I never said you could. I can, and I always said I would.” We have to die to ourselves. It is daily going to the cross, mortifying the deeds of our flesh, then letting Jesus be Jesus in us. When you do that, you become a minister at that moment, and you also become a missionary. You are giving Him first place in your life. That is how you show you are a seeker of Him. All of these things have to do with the same thing. Once you do that, the adventure begins.
You know, I wish I could just share every day about the adventure of walking with Jesus. You who are walking with Him know what I am talking about. You’re planning your way, and God is directing your step. Isn’t it wonderful? My whole life is an adventure. You know, I don’t know how to balance my checkbook, but with Him in it, oh, it is just tremendous. You wake up on Monday morning, get up and say, “Lord, I am willing to walk with you. I am seeking you. I give you first place in my life, my thoughts, my mind. Whatever you want to do, You just do it in and through me.” Then the adventure begins. God uses you to touch other people’s lives. The experiences begin to happen.
Years ago in my preaching, I used other people’s illustrations. Finally one day, I was praying, and the Lord so convicted me. He said, “Wayne, why are you always quoting from somebody else? Why don’t you let me give you the experiences that they have had. Let me give you your own testimony as you walk with Me.” How exciting it becomes when it is your walk with Jesus.
Well, Paul was a man. He is an apostle, that’s right. Don’t ever think that the will of God is only for the apostles. We’ve already gone over that. Don’t ever think that God doesn’t walk with us. Don’t ever think that He only walked with those apostles that were back there in the New Testament. In one sense, we are not anything like the original apostles. In another sense we are all sent forth from God. We have a commission, and we have a mission. God wants to do things in and through our lives.
So far, we have been looking at his adventures in the First and Second Missionary Journeys. We saw him as a man, but now we are looking at him as a missionary. This is message number three in that topic.
Well, on the First Missionary Journey, to refresh your memory, Paul encountered great hostility. That is something that sometimes a believer doesn’t look out for. Even though we are not going to be treated possibly like Paul was, 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us that if you seek to live a godly life, you will be persecuted. That is part of it. Welcome to the normal Christian life. He leaves Antioch of Syria, which is his home base, and goes over to Cyprus. When they get to Paphos, which is on the western side of the island of Cyprus, they run into a man by the name of Elymas who was a magician. He was not a believer, and he tried everything to stop the proconsul, the governor of that area, from coming to know Christ. Paul looks at him, prays and the man is struck blind. The proconsul becomes a believer. That’s the first place that they went.
They leave Cyprus, sail over to Asia Minor, to the southern coast there to Pamphylia. There Paul had to take a great hurt in his life as John Mark defected. John Mark bailed out and went back to Jerusalem. We don’t know why, except in his Second Missionary Journey, we realize how serious it was. It says when he stood apart, it was aphistemi, which meant he willingly withstood himself from Paul. Now why, we don’t know. I have a thought. He was from Jerusalem. He couldn’t handle the message of grace that Paul was preaching to the Gentiles. As a matter of fact, as soon as he leaves, after the first missionary journey, the council of Jerusalem is set up. It could have been that John Mark was a part of all that. We just don’t know. That’s all conjecture. When he gets to Antioch of Pisidia he is run out of town. Antioch was up in the inland part of Asia Minor. Remember Asia Minor is modern day Turkey. That may help you in your geography. That was a great reception! Even though there were many believers, he had to leave. He gets into Iconium, and there they had to flee. He gets to Lystra, and Paul and the apostles were attacked by an angry mob and were stoned by the fierceness of the crowd.
So you are seeing right now what it is like to be on an adventure with Jesus. You are light, and you are in a world of darkness. There is going to be conflict. That is the normal Christian life.
Well, in all of it, God opened a great door. Look in Acts 14:27 as he ends up that journey. He gives a report to the church, and look what he tells them about that journey. Now, this is just the way it is. You are treated by hostility and yet, at the same time, God is doing a great work. The man who is a believer does not major on the persecution. He majors on what God is doing in and through his life. In verse 27 it says, “And when they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them [now watch] and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” God opened the door wide open. Paul walked through it, and now he brings his report back to the church at Antioch in Syria. That’s his First Missionary Journey.
On his Second Missionary Journey, he starts off immediately with a sharp disagreement. I know this must have really hurt him. Barnabas, his best friend, the one who goes along with him, his companion, has an argument with him. Barnabas wants to take John Mark, but Paul, being the theologian, will not do it. Barnabas, being the encourager, I guess, wants to help John Mark. But Paul will not go along with him. It says there is a sharp disagreement. The word means “provoked” is kind of like the sharp disagreements you have with your wife at times. I am sure you don’t do that. It was a provoking type of thing. As a matter of fact, it was so bad they had to split company. Paul went with Silas and Barnabas took John Mark, departed company and went in different directions. You know that must have hurt Paul.
Not only that, he also runs into a change of direction. He tries to go up in Bithynia and tries and tries and tries. The imperfect tense is used there. He comes down and tries to get into Asia. He tries and tries and tries, but God won’t let him. God put a squeeze play on him and pops him up to Troas. He gets to Troas, has the Macedonian vision and guess what? He goes in an entirely opposite direction than what he had planned. He ends up in Macedonia, the northern country above Greece. It sits right on top of Greece. He gets over to Macedonia and Neapolis. Of course, you know the story there as the Philippian church was born and many other great and wonderful things happened. That was the southern part of Europe. We have Christianity in America today because Paul obeyed that vision in Troas.
In chapter 17 we find a vigorous defense. One of the things that excites me is when you are walking with Jesus, the Spirit within you becomes sensitized to the things in the world around you. Wherever you are, you begin to become sensitive, whether it’s at the gas station, at the restaurant or downtown. Wherever you are, you begin to see, not through your eyes, but through His eyes. The Spirit within you becomes troubled when you see sin abounding everywhere you go. Paul was there at Athens waiting on Timothy and Silas, not bothering anybody. He is just looking around, and the Spirit within him was troubled. Therefore, he goes up to Areopagus, which is Mars Hill, gets up on that big rock and defends the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Timothy and Silas do not make it to Athens. They meet him in Corinth. If they had come to Athens and they couldn’t find him, all they would have had to do was listen for the roar of the crowds. I mean, wherever Paul was, something was going on. He was either in jail, in a riot, in a fight, being stoned, or being robbed. Something was going on. He couldn’t sit still in Athens.
That is just the way it is. Don’t you love that? When you are filled with the Spirit of God you can’t sit still when you see sin around you. You can’t sit still when you see things around you and people living in darkness. God’s Spirit within you becomes troubled about what you see and gives you that boldness to speak out for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Well, we also find him over in Corinth when he finally meets Timothy and Silas. This is in Acts 18:1-17, and this brings us up to where we are going to start in this study. We find him having an assuring declaration. Look in 18:9-10. It says, “And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” Listen, to be surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ is an adventure to which nothing can compare.
Can I ask you a question before we get started? Are you living out that adventure in your life? Could I ask you what happened in your life last week, what God did on Monday, and what God did on Tuesday? Did you walk with Him? Did you talk with Him? I mean, this is the normal Christian life, folks. It is not just coming to church on Sundays. It is living in the vitality of a living, resurrected Christ. It is an adventure beyond measure to those who will say “Yes” to Him and just let Him lead them through life.
Well, instead of talking about what Paul experienced as we get into this Third Missionary Journey, let’s turn the direction a little bit. Let’s look at how others were affected. We have been talking about how Paul was affected and what he experienced. To keep our interest up, and it is kind of tough wading through these journeys, let’s just look and see how people were blessed because Paul was obedient to do what God told him to do.
Remember in Luke 5:1-11 when Jesus had come down to the Sea of Galilee to the Lake of Gennesaret? People were surrounding Him. He asked Simon, “Can I borrow your boat?” He pushed Himself out a little from the land, and He taught the people. When He finished, His lesson really began. He looked over at Simon, and He said, “Simon, put out your nets into the deep water if you want to catch some fish.” Now, Simon Peter was a fisherman, and he knew you didn’t fish in the deep water. He knew that you didn’t fish in the daytime. You especially did not do all of this in front of a crowd. Simon said, “Well, Lord, we fished all night long. We have fished.” Everybody knew he knew how to fish. “But we have caught nothing.”
But then Simon does what God knew he would do. Even with a little bit of reluctance, he said, you know, “but nevertheless, at your word, we will put down the nets.” What happened? The nets broke. I don’t know how that works. Somehow they got so many fish, they had to call their partners. Their partners came over. Their boats almost sunk. Simon Peter saw all of that and he said, “Depart from me. I am a sinful man, Oh, Lord.” The Lord Jesus told him, “Now, listen. From this point on, you follow me, and I will cause you to catch men.” In other words, if you will obey me, there are going to be people around you that are going to be affected as a result of your obedience.
That is a promise to every one of us today. Maybe it won’t happen like it did with Paul. Maybe it won’t happen like it did with the disciples. But if I say, “Yes” to the Lord Jesus Christ, things are going to happen in my life. One of the things I can count on is people are going to get saved because of my willingness to do what God has told me to do. Eternal results will come out of me if I just say “Yes” to whatever the will of God is in my life. That little Greek word, “you will catch men” doesn’t mean anything to people that aren’t fishermen. If you are a fisherman, it is going to grab you. It means to catch them alive and keep them alive. Now, what does that mean to a person that is not a fisherman? Nothing. What does it mean to a fisherman? A fisherman catches a fish and what does he do?
They have this catch and release system now. I don’t do that. I catch and keep because I like to eat fish. In this program you catch the fish and throw him up on the bank. What does the fish do? It breathes deeply and flips and flops everywhere. What’s he doing? He’s trying to get back in the water. Man, you have pulled him out of the water. He can’t breathe. They breathe differently than we do. Well, you leave him on the bank 15 minutes and what does he do? Flop, flop. You leave him there 20 minutes and what does he do? You leave him there 25 minutes and what does he do? He, what? Dies! That’s right.
Now what did Jesus say? You are not going to catch fish that are going to die. That is like any work that man does of his own flesh. It will look alive for a while, but it’s going to die. You can do your own thing. Do it your way. You go on and do it your way, and whatever it is, the results will die. When you do what God tells you to do, you’ll catch men alive, and they’ll stay alive. One day in glory, you are going to see the results of your obedience to Jesus.
Some of you are saying, “Well, this is getting a little complicated. I thought church was just one hour on Sunday. That’s all I’ve got.” Well, if that is all you’ve got, friend, you might as well stay home and watch television. That is not Christianity. Christianity is a person, relating to that person, surrendering to that person, walking with that person, being used by that person. It’s God touching a lost world with the light of Jesus in the gospel in your life. That is what I want you to see in Paul this time.
Instead of looking at what happens to Paul, let’s think about those people that are going to be blessed because Paul was willing to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. Well, we are going to go to Ephesus first. Look in Acts 18:23. He has now left Antioch of Syria where he was in verse 22. It says, “And having spent some time there, he departed and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.” Wherever Paul went, he would encourage the brethren. He has already been there once.
Now, where is Galatia and Phrygia? Remember, Antioch of Syria is over in Syria. When you come up by land, you come up over the upper regions of Asia Minor, or modern day Turkey. That is Galatia and Phrygia. Acts 18:24-28 talk about Apollos and how he goes before Paul to Ephesus. Look at 19:1. It says, “And it came about that while Apollos was in Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper country, came to Ephesus, and found some disciples.” The upper country mentioned in that verse is Galatia and Phrygia. He comes on down.
Asia is not the Asia we know of today. That will confuse you when you see it in Scripture. Asia was the far western region of Asia Minor in which Ephesus is found. In other words, Ephesus is on the western coast of Turkey or at that time, Asia Minor. It was one of the most important cities in Asia Minor. It was also one of the most Satanically controlled cities of all the places that Paul goes to. That’s important to remember. It is at Ephesus that we find the basis of his writing the book of Ephesians, so you want to pay attention now.
We are in Ephesus. When we get to Ephesians, some of the things he says in Ephesians have a whole lot to do with what we understand about it right now. He has been there once before. Go back in Acts 18:19, and it says, “And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.” Verse 20 says, “And when they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, but taking leave of them and saying, ‘I will return to you again….’” Look at the next phrase. If you have a New American Standard, what does it say? “‘if God.” “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” In other words, Paul was saying, “I don’t have my own agenda. I am on His, and whatever He wills, that is what I’ll do. I’d like to come back, but I’ll follow Him. He may or may not let me.” So he set sail from Ephesus.
Well, we see him fulfilling that desire in Acts 19:1. God must have willed because he goes back to Ephesus. Paul continuously walked by the instruction and leading of the Holy Spirit of God. Evidently a great work was done in Ephesus. The time that Paul spent there was very credible because there were leaders who grew up out of that venture. We see in Acts 20.:7 while Paul was in Miletus on his Third Journey that he calls the elders of Ephesus to come and meet with him. “Elders” is plural in that verse, “Church” is singular. So evidently in that church at Ephesus there were many men who had been raised up and trained probably by Paul or others. They were very obviously the means by which we see the successful work that was done in Ephesus.
Most people think Paul wrote 1 Corinthians while he was there. Look at 1 Corinthians 16 for just a second. It seems to indicate that he was in Ephesus when he wrote the first letter. They think he wrote 2 Corinthians from Macedonia. That is his next stop on his Third Missionary Journey. In 16:8 he says, “But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” So it seems to indicate that not only was there a great work there, but there were many adversaries that came against him. Paul wrote the first letter to the church at Corinth from Ephesus.
It was Timothy that Paul left at Ephesus to help the people. We find that in 1 Timothy 1:3. We find that in his last imprisonment. In 2 Timothy 4:12, he sends Tychicus to Ephesus to help them and to instruct them. He had a burden to see them grow up in the Lord. In 2 Timothy 1:16-18, we find that Onesiphorus greatly ministered to Paul while he was in Ephesus. He had so much trouble and so much adversity. A man by the name of Onesiphorus really ministered to him. We find Ephesus mentioned there. There is one more mention of Ephesus. Do you know where it is? In Revelation 2:1 we find the church at Ephesus. It is the first church that Jesus told the apostle John many years later to write. Guess what they had done after all the time that Paul had spent with them. He says in verse 4, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” So in all the things we look at Ephesus, remember how they ended up. Remember, it is not how you start, it’s how you finish that matters to God. They started well, but in the end of it, they walked away from their first love.
Well, how were the people blessed by Paul being in Ephesus? In Acts 19:11-21 we find several things. You may put it under this heading: God did many miracles through Paul when he got to Ephesus. There were two kinds of miracles. Remember, these are pagan people. They walk in darkness. They have no light. Here is Paul coming to them with the word, the gospel of God. Okay, first of all we have the miracle of new birth. Let’s go back to 19:1. Look at the last part of the verse. Paul “came to Ephesus, and found some [What?] disciples.” Now, if you ever study Scripture, find out whose disciples they were, because “disciples” is an important word. Verse 2 says, “and he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said to him, ‘No, we have not heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’” Verse 3 continues, “And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ And they said, ‘Into John’s baptism.’” Now, who does that tell you they were disciples of? John the Baptist.
Now, be real careful. Some people take these Scriptures and just go crazy with them. This is the final mention of the outline of Acts that is given in chapter 1. If you will just go back and look at it, this is a very simple book. People have made it quite different. Look at Acts 1:7-8. The outline is right here. The book will follow the flow of that outline all the way through. It says in Verse 8, “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” Now what is this? This is the inauguration of the new covenant. Listen, the Holy Spirit does not baptize you. Do you understand that? There is no baptism of the Holy Spirit. What did it say in the gospels? John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water, but there is one who comes after me of whom I am not worthy to tie his shoe laces. He will baptize you with fire.” Is that the Holy Spirit he is talking about? No, he is talking about Jesus. In Acts you are seeing the fulfillment of this. It was prophesied way back in the minor prophets. This was the day the new covenant was going to be inaugurated. It is an historical event. You see, the Holy Spirit becomes the means by which you are baptized. In other words, you are baptized with water. You are baptized with the Holy Spirit. If you know Jesus, you had to be baptized with the Holy Spirit. That is the mark on you that you have received Jesus Christ into your life. I don’t why in the world some people have made this another doctrine, as if there is a second blessing. It is not in Scripture, folks.
Well, he gives you the outline. He says, “and you shall be My witnesses [Where?] both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” In chapters 2 through 7, you’ve got Jerusalem and Judea. In chapter 8, you’ve got Samaria. In chapter 11, Peter gives his report concerning the Gentiles who are receiving the Holy Spirit. Remember, when the Holy Spirit came, the prophet Joel says that it is going to be a mark of judgment against Israel. They have rejected Christ as their Messiah. They will see the Holy Spirit come upon believers. Now you have in chapter 19 these disciples of John the Baptist in the far remote part of western Turkey. How in the world did they get over there? I don’t know, but they are there. As a result of this the Holy Spirit now has come upon believers. This is the last time the outline is mentioned in the book of Acts. The gospel spreads now throughout all of the earth.
So what is happening to these men here? Well, he goes in verse 4 says, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized into [the Greek word there is “into,” not “in”] the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.” Now, folks say today, “Well, now if you get saved, you’ve got to speak in tongues.” No. This is a fulfillment of what they said was going to take place back then. Just as the Jews received it and the tongues came upon them, so did the Gentiles. By the way, it wasn’t so much the speaking in tongues as in the hearing of the tongues. This allowed the people to hear the gospel of the Lord Jesus in their own language.
The word “tongues” is not some unknown ecstatic language. The word “tongues” is glossa, and it comes from the word that means languages, understandable languages. Only the King James Version points this out in 1 Corinthians. The Corinthian people were in a pagan cult outside of town. They would work themselves up emotionally and begin speaking in ecstatic tongues. The King James says “unknown.” Good job. What they were doing was cursing Jesus and didn’t even know it. They claimed it was the same gift as what happened at Pentecost. I hear people all the time saying, “Oh, Lord, give us another Pentecost.” What in the world for? The first one is good enough. Let’s just live in the beautiful blessing of what that was. What was it? It was the beginning, the inauguration of the new covenant, a historical event that was prophesied in the Old Testament by our Lord Jesus Himself.
So what is happening here? These guys are getting saved, folks. John the Baptist said, “You better repent, repent, repent.” He had bugs hanging out of his teeth and was wearing an animal skin over himself. There’s no telling what this guy looked like. He was saying, “Repent, for the day is coming, and the day is at hand.” So the people would repent. Jesus hadn’t even come yet. Jesus came, died, and promised the Holy Spirit. These guys, all they were doing was trying to repent, trying to repent, trying to repent. Paul told them about the name of Jesus, and they were baptized into His name. With what? With the Holy Spirit. How do you know? They spoke in tongues, and they prophesied. So the prophesy was fulfilled.
So what we are seeing here are folks getting reborn. We are seeing them come and find new birth in the Lord Jesus Christ. You are not the apostle Paul; I am not the apostle Paul. It won’t happen to us quite like that because we are living a few generations later. I want to tell you something though. There’s one thing you can count on until Jesus comes back. When you walk in the adventure of being filled with the Spirit of God, you will see people saved as a result of that lifestyle. Now, don’t get hung up; I’m not telling you how to do it.
As a matter of fact, you may be a housewife. I love to say this. You’ve got kids that are like growths on your legs. I mean, they are just walking around clinging to your legs all day long. You don’t even have time to wash your hair in the morning. Your house looks like a plane has crashed in it. You don’t have time to do anything except quiet squalling kids and try to get clothes washed and get food. You are saying, “How in the world can I walk in the adventure of Jesus and see people saved in my life?” When you are surrendered, God will bring them to your front door if He has to. It may not be hundreds, and it may not be ten, but you are going to see people come to know Christ, somehow, by your life. Whether you are watering or sowing, I don’t know, but as a result of your witness and your life for Christ, somebody is going to get saved. That is the redemptive purpose of why God leaves us on this planet. We are to glorify Him. By us glorifying Him, He reaches others for salvation.
I remember when my wife was at that time in her life when our children were about to drive her nuts. They were at that age. You know, it is a wonderful age, but it also a screaming age. You just want to grab your hair sometimes and pull it out. They were at that age. I remember, my wife really use to have trouble understanding grace. I’ve just watched how God has done a work. She is a good balance for me. I am all grace. She used to be all law. It is good to have both of them together. If I am not careful, I will get into license, and if she’s not careful, she will get into legalism. So we just kind of balance each other.
I remember how she was concerned about how she could be used of God. How could she go out and pass out tracts? I mean, at the Piggly Wiggly, you don’t pass out tracts. You just elbow to get room to get in the line. She wanted to know what do I do to be a part of this?
I remember little Lori. Lori was a tough girl. She could whip most boys in our town. As a matter of fact, she is married now and has children. I can’t believe it. I mean, she is just as sweet as she can be. Lori was a stout woman. She came up to the house and banged on the door one day. She was selling something for the school. Diana invited her in. Diana couldn’t go anywhere, so God just put her on her doorstep. She sat down and talked with her and found out before long that she was a member of a church that talked about Jesus, but didn’t tell you how to relate to Him. As a result Lori realized she was lost. That was what was wrong with her. She did not know Christ personally. My wife led her to the Lord right there in the house.
Did she go out on a missions group? Did she go out on an evangelism team? No, she just said “yes” to Jesus, and Jesus brought her right in the front door. You will find that when you are walking with Jesus, people are going to be touched for salvation. Whether or not you actually lead them or whether or not you are doing the watering and somebody else leads them, you are going to have a role in seeing people being redeemed for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you know what I think is wrong in our century? We have this nominal Christianity. We don’t have a walk with Him. We are not dying to self. As a result, we don’t see people getting saved. I can’t make them get saved, and you can’t. God can when we surrender to Him. That you can count on. Paul saw that in the miracle of the new birth.
There was another miracle that he saw. Look at verse 11. Not only did he see the miracle of new birth, but the people experienced, now watch this carefully, extraordinary miracles. Now, that is important. Look at Verse 11, “And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul.” Now, first of all, Paul was not performing them, God was performing them. Secondly, I want to make sure you understand the word “extraordinary.” If you don’t, you are going to miss something here.
Now this is the beauty of systematic theology. Do you know what that is? That is just verse by verse, verse by verse. We have been on his first journey. What miracle did you see? Only one outside of people getting saved, which to me is the greatest. You saw Elymas being struck blind. That’s it. That’s it. What happened to Paul? Could he stop the devil from getting his people to stone him? No, sir. He got stoned and just about got killed over there in Lystra. Think about the second missionary journey. Any miracles? Not one, except people getting saved. We are on the third missionary journey before we even find anything like what we are going to talk about. That is important.
The word “extraordinary” means “rarely ever happens.” That’s the word in the Greek. Let me show you. In chapter 28, it is used in verse 2. Paul had been shipwrecked at Malta. They were glad to get ashore. They come upon a bunch of barbarians. The word literally is barbarians. Verse 1 says, “And when they had been brought safely through, then we found out that the island was called Malta. And the natives [the word for natives there is the word “barbarians”] showed us [What kind of kindness?] extraordinary kindness.” Now listen, it’s not like a barbarian to show you kindness. That is rarely ever seen, so he chooses to use that word to express the kind of kindness that those natives showed him. Remember that.
When he was doing extraordinary miracles at Ephesus, this was not the norm. This was the abnormal in the sense that God doesn’t normally do these things through an individual. Why would He do that at Ephesus? Because it is the most Satanically infested city of all of Asia Minor. Being a seaport, everything was there. The Temple of Diana. Artemis is the word used. Artemis and Diana are the same thing. It was a pagan-dominated city.
We walked off the seaport, and up that road. There would be a shop and an idol, a shop and an idol, a shop and an idol on both sides of the street all the way up to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill there sat the big Temple. The whole city was built around this Satanic symbol of Artemis or the goddess Diana. So therefore, they had to deal with that. Why would God do such extravagant things? It had something to do with where he was and what was going on.
Well, let’s look at it. In verse 12, it was so extravagant. It rarely ever happened: “that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them.” Now, folks, that does not mean when you turn on your television and someone gets on there and says, “If you will send in $1,000, I’ll send you a piece of my apron or handkerchief. Put it on whatever is ailing you, and you will get well.” Who in the world would do that? No, sir. This didn’t happen everywhere he went. It just happened here. Why? I don’t know. Ask God when we get there. I don’t know. It’s extraordinary. It rarely ever happens.
Not only that, it says the evil spirits went out. Demonic spirits were cast out of the people that were there. Were they saved or were they lost? You know where I stand on that. To me they had to be lost to have an evil spirit within them. Let me show you something else. In verses 13-19 it shows you that apparently Paul was the only one who had this kind of authority upon him while he was there in Ephesus. Now, this is important. Who is Paul? He is an apostle of Jesus Christ born out of due season. What authority does he have? The authority every apostle had to do those things which the rest of us don’t have the authority to do. Even with them, it rarely ever occurred. Look at verse 13: “But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, ‘I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.”
Now watch this. To me this is the most humorous thing that happens in all of Paul’s journeys. I don’t have a weird sense of humor, but this just tickles me to death. “And the evil spirit answered [out of this man that was possessed by an evil spirit] and said to them, ‘I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’“ Oh, I love it. They were going around behind Paul trying to mimic and mock what Paul was doing, just like they do today. People send them the money, and they just keep having their big sessions. “We are going to do what Paul did. Oh, Lord, do it again.” Why in the world does He need to do it again. Man, the fresh things that God is doing today are good enough for me. Aren’t they for you?
Well, it says in verse 16, “And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them [the seven sons of Sceva] and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded.” Now, you see, only Paul had the authority over him. They didn’t. They were trying to mimic and mock what only God chooses to do at rare times through the ones He chooses to do it through. It goes on, “And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.” That’s a lot of money. Each one, each drachma, was a day’s wage.
Now, why was this going on? What was God doing? What was the real reason? Look at verse 20. Why don’t we ever go far enough? “So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.” The literal Greek doesn’t really say it quite like that. I think it is important to bring it out. The literal says, “Thus by the might of the Lord, the word increased and showed itself strong.” There are two words that are important. One is the word for might. It’s not dunamis, power, which we always think about. No, sir. It’s kratos, the right and the might. It is manifested in power. It is the word that refers to manifested presence and significance of force or strength. The word of God was being preached. Paul was doing this. God chose to honor it. He showed everybody in that Satanically infested city that it was the word of God that had strength and might and authority over every principality and power.
The word ischus was the word that meant innate strength of something. It refers to something that manifested itself over anything or anyone. In other words, because of the careful consistent clear presentation of the word of God, the gospel of Christ, God took that and manifested the word to where extravagant things happened to the point that people had no doubt that the true God was all over Paul.
If you will go back to verses 8-10, you’ll see what he had been doing now. The rest of the verses just pick out bits and pieces of this. “And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.” Now watch this in verse 10. “And this took place [For how long?] two years so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”
Now here is something you can expect. There are two things you can expect. You can expect miracles, the miracle of new birth. When you start proclaiming the word, living the word, and obeying the will of God, you can expect that. Whether you are the actual one leading them or watering, somehow you are involved in that process. Secondly, you can expect in rare times, extravagant things to happen, but don’t look for them. Don’t make those things the norm. The norm is seeing people come to know Jesus. That’s the key.
I can tell you hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of times that I have seen people respond to the gospel and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord in their life. Now which one are you going to major on? Those things that rarely ever happen, or those things that you can take to the bank? Friend, when you obey Jesus, the people around you are going to be won to Jesus Christ because of your faithfulness.