THE WORD OF THE LORD GREW IN POWER
Key verse: 19:20
“In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
At this conference we learned the hope of God. Today, in the last message, we want to think about how to put the hope of God into practice when we go back to our mission field. So we are looking at a passage from the book of Acts, that’s about Paul’s missionary work in a city named Ephesus. God used this church to influence many lives, to powerfully change the city and the region, and to lay a foundation for mission in Rome. So this passage reveals the hope of God for the word of the Lord to spread widely and grow in power. That’s a really great hope. In last night’s message by Sh. John Park Jr., we saw how Jesus wants to expand our vision to see the hope of God for the whole world . Now let’s pray to learn to carry out our personal vision for evangelizing the world.
First, “There he found some disciples...” (1-7).
Look at verse 1a. “While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus.” Apostle Paul was now well into his third missionary journey. Paul was obeying Jesus’ calling upon his life, to be a witness of the Risen Christ and to build up the church of God in the cities of the Roman Empire. Now he wound up in Ephesus, one of the key cities of the territory of Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey. Paul had briefly been to Ephesus once during his second missionary journey, but he was there for only short time (Acts 18:19). Now he had time to do some deeper work of God.
Look at verses 1b-2. “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.’” When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he found some disciples. Paul thought that they were disciples of Jesus and began to ask them questions. They told Paul that they had not received the Holy Spirit and had not even heard of such a thing. “So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’ ‘John's baptism,’ they replied” (3). These spiritually young disciples understood repentance from John’s baptism. Their baptism from John helped them to understand their need for God’s salvation. However, they were ignorant about Christ and had no assurance of God’s salvation.
Paul gave them the message of Jesus. 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 into the name of the Lord Jesus” (4, 5). These twelve readily accepted Paul as their Bible teacher. It’s because their hearts were open to God. Though they were lacking the important point, they were really good because they were faithful to the word of God they did receive; they had borne fruit of repentance. When God’s word revealed the life of Jesus – his birth, life, and ministry; his sufferings on the cross; his death and resurrection – these young men heard very clearly the words of life. By God’s grace, they were baptized into the name of Jesus Christ (Ro 6:3-5).
After this, Paul placed his hands on them and the Holy Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (6,7). Just like the first believers at Pentecost, who became the leaders of the first church, they displayed the signs of having received the Holy Spirit by speaking in tongues. It was a demonstration of the power that only Jesus’ name can bring. These twelve men were the first known disciples in Ephesus and were destined to become the first leaders in the Ephesian Church.
Paul was so lucky, right? How would you like to find twelve ready-to-go disciples for your ministry? Typically, Paul labored at planting the word of God like a seed. And then he spent much time trying to make these seeds grow. But this time he did not have to start from scratch. It is the same for us. Sometimes we fish a Bible student from the campus and start from ‘ground zero’ in Bible study – Genesis 1:1. Other times, another student who is much more prepared comes in some other way. Anyway, it’s all the same work of God. As servants do the work of God, there are both sowers and reapers, but it is God who makes things grow. Paul later wrote, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow” (2Co 3:6, 7). We can always have a fruitful ministry because God is always working through our prayerful efforts, even to prepare twelve disciples. May God bless you to find twelve prepared disciples! And until then, may God bless you to see God’s hope in whoever he sends and serve them wholeheartedly.
Second, Bible teaching in the synagogue, and then in the lecture hall.
After finding twelve disciples, how did Paul begin to build the work of God in Ephesus? Verse 8 says, “Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” As you may know, Paul always started preaching the gospel in any new city in its synagogue. He understood that the Jews had a right to hear the gospel first, as they were God’s chosen people. Also, the synagogue was the environment that God had prepared for spreading the good news. Jesus himself had taught in the synagogues. Verse 8 says that in the synagogue, Paul spoke boldly and argued persuasively. Apostle Paul gave his best, laboring passionately to plant faith in Jesus.
What was the reaction of the Jews? It says in verse 9a, “But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way.” Paul’s labor of preaching in the synagogue also brought serious problems. The Jews were as inflexible in their unbelief as Paul was inflexible in his sacrificial love to teach his Jewish brothers the truth of God in Jesus Christ. No matter how convincing the truth was, they still would not believe. Their attitude grew malignant and they united themselves to purposely damage and harm the Way movement (followers of Jesus and his teachings). Paul did not just try once and give up. But after 3 months of life-giving preaching, Paul saw that his ministry could not go forward in the synagogue. He could not move the hearts of the Jews.
What did Paul decide to do? It says in verse 9b, “So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.” Paul stopped preaching openly in the synagogue. He realized that he was now not going to establish any ministry with them. Instead, Paul took the disciples (the ones he had originally met) and found a new venue: a Roman lecture hall. It reminds us of the Bible studies we have in meeting rooms on the campuses. There he taught them the Bible daily for two years. What Paul did was very good, because he did not stop due to discouragement. Those who could be taught, he worked with, with the same energy and passion with which he had taught in the synagogue. He taught and discussed, taught and discussed. Paul focused his time and energy on individuals who were open to hear the word of God. They could grow as men of faith.
So we say that Paul’s lectures in the Hall of Tyrannus were aimed primarily at making disciples of Jesus. This is what Jesus said to do in the great commission, as we saw last night. This task could not be done in a few months. For this work of disciple-making, Paul spent every day for two years. To raise disciples of Jesus simply takes time and much word of God. This is the nature of the task. When Jesus called the Twelve disciples, he spent three years with them. Every day he taught them the word of God and allowed the disciples to remain close to him, so they could observe his personal life and learn his spirit. Later, Paul taught this principle of focusing on discipleship to his spiritual son, Timothy, when he told him, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2Ti 2:2). Paul became effective in Ephesus when he focused his time on the twelve disciples.
What was the result of this intense focus on twelve disciples? Look at verse 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.” Even though Paul seemingly only focused on teaching a few disciples deeply, the paradoxical result was that everyone in the region heard the word of the Lord. Paul did not seem to be scattering widely; he did not teach to please the crowd or appeal to unbelievers. He sat in one place and taught the Bible. But God worked through his word when it was preached faithfully. During the two years, the lectures must have drawn many people. Probably, not many of them stayed besides the 12 disciples; there were many “revolving door sheep.” But amazingly, the net effect of Paul’s deep and persistent Bible teaching was that “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the world of the Lord” (10). The influence was so great. This teaches us a strategy of evangelizing the whole world that we can carry out right here and right now. What is it? It is teaching the Bible persistently where we can, to whoever is willing. When we do this, all the students on the New Jersey campuses will hear the word of the Lord.
Third, God confirms his work positively and negatively. (11-16)
What was happening through Paul’s work in Ephesus was not just a human occurrence. It was not just a spread of information. It was the very work of God. God was coworking with Paul, and God himself acted to confirm the work that was being done through Paul. Verses 11-12 say, “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.”
Paul did not go around offering healing services. Rather, these miracles happened after Paul had been faithfully teaching the Bible. It was God’s work to confirm the truth of his word that was preached through Paul. The healings were a physical expression of the spiritual healing that comes through the Gospel. It shows that when we teach the word of God, people don’t just gain knowledge; their souls are eternally saved.
I don’t know if God will do actual miracles of healing through your ministry. Maybe we didn’t teach the Bible long enough yet. But it’s a fact that God also works among us to confirm the truth of his word. God confirms his work through our ministry every time we see a student come up and share the testimony of how Jesus came and changed their life. <We saw that last night through testimonies.> God indeed confirms his word that is preached through his faithful servants, revealing his almighty power. We cannot get this kind of approval from God in a day. It requires commitment and faithfulness. But God is living and God gives it.
This kind of spiritual power cannot be counterfeited. We see that in verses 13-16. The seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were humiliated by an evil spirit when they tried to use the name of Jesus to cast out evil spirits. They wanted to imitate Paul and claim some of the public attention for themselves. However, spiritual power is not about magic words or incantations. It cannot be gained by those with an impure motive. The sons of Sceva showed that they didn’t know Jesus personally; they only referred to him as “the Jesus Paul preaches.” They were powerless when they tried to cast out the demon and they were severely beaten until they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
God also used this event to bring glory to Jesus. Verse 17 both Greeks and Jews alike were seized with fear because of the event of the seven sons of Sceva. They were able to recognize the humiliation of these men as a warning against those who mock the work of God. God’s name cannot be used for our own human glory. The only name that was glorified through this event was the name of Jesus. God works to in all things to glorify his name and the name of Jesus Christ.
It’s easy to think that God is so big and far away that he would not really get personally engaged in what we are doing. But God is willing to work together with those who honor his word and the name of Jesus. So let’s work hard until God confirms our ministry
Fourth, spiritual fruit of Paul’s Bible teaching ministry.
There was yet another result of Paul’s ministry that can only be called the purest kind of spiritual fruit. Look at verses 18 and 19. “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.”
This shows how the gospel leads people to change their lives. People in Ephesus repented of their evil deeds and humbled themselves before God. Interestingly, the people here who are confessing their evil deeds and burning their sorcery scrolls are believers. It seems like they were people who were already Christians but had not fully given up idolatrous practices. Maybe some of us are like that; we are already believers, but there are still some sins and sorceries that we did not want to get rid of. But when the believers in Ephesus saw what God was doing through Paul's ministry, the spiritual world became quite real to them and they were filled with a holy fear. They realized they had to cut off sin in their lives. They came forward, confessed their sins openly, and burned the scrolls that they used to practice sorcery. At that time, they didn’t care about trying to reclaim the money they had previously spent. It says that the total value of the scrolls burned was fifty thousand drachmas. That's something like $5 million in today’s money. We might think that they could have sold their scrolls and at least gotten some money back. But they knew that was not how you deal with sin. Rather, they admitted that the money and time that had spent for those things was utterly wasted. They knew the only way to deal with the idolatry and demonic influences in their lives was to purge them out with extreme prejudice. Let’s pray that we have same holy fear and absolute attitude toward sin.
Ephesus was like the sorcerer’s capital of Asia. When the scrolls were burned, the culture itself underwent an upheaval. A society that was once driven by the use of magical spells to invoke evil powers was now coming out from under its shroud of darkness and superstition. The word of God became much, much more powerful than any fortune-tellers or magic spells or self-improvement mind programming. Now Ephesians lived in the light of Jesus Christ. They found real treasure in Christ and real power in his word. What a beautiful fruit of Paul’s disciple-making Bible teaching! We can only pray that this will happen among us. But it has to start with us. Is it time to have a new start in our lives of faith through burning some of our old scrolls?
Let’s read verse 20 together. “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” What did the word of God do? It spread w-i-d-e-l-y. It GREW in power. This is a real hope of God. We really want to know how the word of the Lord can spread widely and grow in power in our time. How does the word of the Lord spread and grow in power? In this way: When we live as faithful Bible teachers. In this way: when we confess our evil deeds openly and throw away the elements of idolatrous and demon-influenced living. In this way.
Fifth, “After all this had happened....”
Look at verse twenty-one. “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.’” What does it mean, “After all this had happened”? It means that when Paul saw the power of the word of God in Ephesus, he begin to think. When he was successful, he didn’t get complacent and seek to sit down and enjoy the fruit of his labors. Instead, faith and vision grew in his heart. He expanded his view of what was possible in Christ. The meaning behind his utterance, “I must visit Rome also,” is that Paul began to believe it was possible to reach the whole world with the gospel. At that time, the city of Rome seemed unchangeable by the gospel; it was the very heart of the Pagan world system. It was Satan’s throne room. But Paul first experienced the power of the word of God step by step through three mission journeys; and then he began to plan to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. He began to pray to go to Rome. It is very similar to how our UBF coworkers prayed to send the gospel behind the Iron Curtain, to once-impenetrable Soviet Russia. In a much shorter time than anyone expected, the curtain fell and God opened the door. Now the gospel is quite free to take root in the place that was once seen as impenetrable. My own wife, M. Anastasia from Ukraine, is living proof of that.
We must be people driven by great hope and vision. In the early 1900’s, in an organization called the Student Volunteer Movement, college students recruited their fellow students and they pledged themselves to obey Jesus’ world mission command by becoming foreign missionaries. They had the watchword, “The evangelization of the world in this generation.” We are now two or three generations beyond them. Did they fail? No, they did not fail! They went to the farthest reaches of the world in their time. The only problem is, the world keeps expanding! They did their generation’s job, and now we have ours. Our generation’s job is bigger than ever. We need more, not less, of the faith that prays to evangelize the world in this generation.
Thank God that many people in UBF have a shared vision to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth, even to impenetrable places like Muslim nations and North Korea. But it cannot be just lip service. How can we really have world mission vision burning in our hearts? How can we believe that the world can be evangelized in our generation, so that we become people driven by this vision? In this way: when we are faithful and persistent in doing small things, teaching the word of God. As Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (Jn 20:17) We are most privileged to study the Bible and know how God wants to work through us. So let’s make a small decision to somehow teach the Bible to the people on the campuses around us, even in the lecture halls of Rutgers and Princeton. In time, through many setbacks and struggles, we can experience some success in ministry; then, when we taste how God works, we can believe in our hearts that he will do greater and greater things. Then we can say with faith, “I must visit the Middle East also.” “I must visit China also.”
Human beings are meant to grow in faith and vision throughout their lives and also to grow in practicing it. That is what Paul did. We should grow in the hope of God throughout our lives, expanding our vision, until we each are used to spread the honor of Jesus’ name to the ends of the earth. When we don’t give up on carrying out the ministry of the word, our lives of mission will certainly have the glorious result we seek. Though Paul was persecuted so much, he never doubted that God wanted to use him preciously through preaching the word. Let’s believe that in this way the word of the Lord will spread widely and grow in power, and do it however we can, knowing that God is with us. Let’s read verse 20 together. “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.”
|25||2010 SBC Closing Message (Philippians 3:1-11) by M. Joseph Sohn ||Joseph||2010.08.25||23251|
|24||THE OUTLINE OF THE WHOLE SCRIPTURES by Nehemiah Kim (Gwangju I,IV) - 05/10/10 ||admin||2010.05.17||23521|
|23||2010 New Year Conference 2nd Day Message (Acts 2:42-47) by M. Joseph Sohn ||Joseph||2010.01.02||23260|
|22||2009 ESBC Closing Message by M. Dr. John Jun: Make Disciples of All Nations ||admin||2009.08.31||24733|
|21||2009 ESBC Main Message VI by Shep. Bruno Aussant: The Word of the Lord Grew in Power ||admin||2009.08.31||24860|
|20||2009 ESBC Main Message V by Shep. Georgi Kumanichliev: The Risen Christ Gives Great Commission ||admin||2009.08.31||19593|
|19||2009 ESBC Main Message IV by Shep. Joachim Dietzel: Jesus Said, It is Finished||admin||2009.08.31||12913|
|18||2009 ESBC Main Message III by Shep. Titus Keller: But Seek His Kingdom ||admin||2009.08.31||12975|
|17||2009 ESBC Main Message II by Shep. Abraham Kaier: Your Sins are Forgiven ||admin||2009.08.31||15082|
|16||2009 ESBC Main Message I by Shep. Eberhard Groß: Jesus, the Spring of Living Water||admin||2009.08.31||13258|
|15||2009 ESBC Opening Message by Shep. Dr. Samuel H Lee: The Hope of God ||admin||2009.08.31||12411|
|14||2009 SBC 1st Day Message(Exodus 19:1-6) by M.Matthew Kim ||kimmatthew||2009.08.03||14321|
|»||2009 SBC 3rd Day Message(Acts 19:1-22) by sh. Jason Perry ||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||12875|
|12||2009 SBC 2nd Day Message(Mt 28:) by 2nd Gen M. John Park Jr. ||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||13056|
|11||2009 SBC 2nd Day Message(John 19:16b-42) by M.Barnabas Moon||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||12732|
|10||2009 SBC 2nd Day morning devotion Message(John 4:1-14) by Dr. Jun Hee Lee||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||13009|
|9||2009 SBC 1st Day Message(Mark 2:1-17) by M.Martin Ahn||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||14407|
|8||2009 EBC 3rd Day Message(John 21:1-25) by Dozie Uzoma ||admin||2009.06.30||12584|
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