My name is Bruno Aussant and I come from France. As you know, the capital of France is Paris. People like Paris. Everybody wants to visit Paris because it is a city of art, fashion and perfumes. But it is especially a romantic city where young couples like to spend their honeymoon. They kiss under the Eiffel Tower saying: “Darling, I love you!” In a certain way the city of Ephesus was similar to Paris. It was also a romantic city. It was the honeymoon spot for Anthony and Cleopatra. But I am not here to talk about honeymoons but to talk about the powerful work of God in Ephesus.
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.”
God blessed Apostle Paul’s ministry in Ephesus abundantly. What was the secret of his great spiritual success? We want to know this secret in order to learn how to serve God’s work and see a great work of God in Europe. May God give us Apostle Paul’s wisdom and vision.
I. Paul’s Intensive Bible Study With the Twelve Disciples (1-10)
Look at verse 1a. Apostle Paul was now on his third mission journey. “After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and travelled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples. […] He took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus.” (Acts 18:23; 19:1b) Ephesus was a prosperous city, located on the trade route between Rome and the East. It was an important market place. Many merchants came from all parts of the world to trade. The city was cosmopolitan and multicultural. There were many rich people there. The dream of all young students in Ephesus was to be rich, in order to buy “Diesel” jeans or nice horses or a beautiful house. They wanted to enjoy life. Their motto was: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1Cor. 15:32) They drank a lot and gave their bodies over to sexual pleasures. Prostitution was widespread in Ephesus. In their Coliseum, people enjoyed many games like gladiator fights. In Ephesus there were also numerous philosophies and different kinds of ideas. This made people very proud of their intelligence. Ephesus was also the center of the worship of Artemis, called Aphrodite by Greeks and Diana by Romans, the goddess of beauty and fertility. People who lived in Ephesus were absolutely dominated by this idolatrous and corrupt environment. There were even displays of sorcery and occultism. It was people’s life style in Ephesus. It seemed that it was impossible to plant the word of God in this citadel of Satan. But Apostle Paul challenged the immoral and idolatrous Ephesus, and engaged in a fierce spiritual battle. How? Did he gather Christian armies to attack the city and take possession of it? No. Paul engaged in battle with a powerful spiritual weapon: the Gospel of Christ.
Look at verses 1b-7. When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he found some disciples. In speaking with them, Paul realized that they were too serious. They never laughed, even when Paul told a joke. Paul discovered they had no joy. He 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.” He asked, “Then what baptism did you receive? “John’s baptism,” they replied. They lived ascetic lives and everyday they repented of their sins by beating their chest. They fasted several times a week and tried to live a pure life, but they had no joy, peace and freedom. So Paul preached the message of salvation in Jesus to them: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1) When they heard this good news of salvation in Jesus Christ, they were filled with joy. Then Paul placed his hands on them and prayed for the Holy Spirit to come upon them. When they were filled with the Holy Spirit, they praised God for the first time: “Hallelujah! Glory to God! Glory to Jesus, the horn of salvation!” They were born again! Wow! In this way, Paul had a good start in his ministry in Ephesus.
Look at verses 8-9a. Paul was greatly encouraged. He had a vision to evangelize all Ephesus. As usual, Paul entered the synagogue once a week and spoke boldly with passion and enthusiasm for three months arguing persuasively about the Kingdom of God. But unexpectedly, some of the listeners became obstinate and refused to believe, perhaps they decided not to believe. Not only this, they publicly maligned the Way. They poisoned the hearts and mind of the people. Even the faith of the twelve disciples was swayed by the opposition. What did Paul do in this critical moment? Look at verses 9b-10a. “He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years…” The gospel cannot be changed in any situation, but the method can be changed according to each mission field. Paul realized that the traditional method did not work, so he changed the strategy drastically. Paul left them and focused on those who had spiritual desire. He had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. People had a fixed idea that the word of God had to be preached only in the synagogue, but Paul rented the lecture hall of Tyrannus. The Tyrannus school was a place where philosophers and speakers came to teach. In the morning, the rooms of this school were therefore used for lessons of philosophy and during the warmth of day, from 11am-4pm, they were empty and people had a work break. Paul took advantage of this time. Because of this, it was the perfect place and time for Bible study.
As we see in the previous chapters, Paul was a lay missionary, a tentmaker. (20:34-35) He worked in the morning, to support his needs and those of his companions and then went to the hall of Tyrannus after his job. After work many people like to relax by drinking beer or going to a fitness club or having a siesta. However, as soon as Paul was done with his work, he ran to the lecture hall of Tyrannus and held Bible discussions for several hours. Thus far Paul proclaimed the message of the gospel one-sidedly and publicly, but then he realized that it did not work. So he adopted the Socratic method: questions-and-answers based on the word of God. Paul did not preach, rather, he encouraged all the participants to take part in Bible study very positively. People like to talk. That is why Paul used this method for Bible study. Many people participated in these meetings including the twelve disciples who grew stronger in the word of God.
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.” Paul had Bible studies in Tyrannus, not weekly like in the synagogue, but daily for 2 years. That meant they had 730 Bible studies all tolled. Wow! 730 Bible studies! This is another secret of Paul’s fruitful ministry in Ephesus: intensive Bible study. It was not Paul’s own idea. Paul learned this from Jesus. Jesus taught the word of God on a daily basis from early morning to late night. Through this intensive Bible study, Jesus’ disciples were changed from mundane people into great spiritual men of God.
Daily Bible study is not easy; it requires much energy and strength. It is impossible to do it on a daily basis out of mere obligation. It is only possible when we have a shepherd heart. When we look at the gospel, we find Jesus was filled with a shepherd heart.
One day after hard work, Jesus and his disciples took a vacation to a solitary place, but many who saw them leave ran on foot and got there ahead of them. What a great burden! The vacation was ruined! However, when Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So out of a shepherd heart, he began teaching them many things. (Mark 6:30-34) Paul learned Jesus’ shepherd heart. In Acts 20:19, Paul confessed, “I served the Lord with great humility and with tears.”
In the beginning, Paul’s Bible study in the lecture hall of Tyrannus seemed absolutely insignificant to many people. It was just “Paul’s Bible Club.” But the word of God worked and grew in the hearts of the participants. This mustard-seed-like Bible study became so famous that “all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” (10b) It was an amazing work without a cell phone, radio, TV, e-mails, or facebook. The gospel was spread throughout the province of Asia from mouth to mouth. Those who had been touched by the word of God spoke about it to their parents, friends, neighbours, and invited them to come to participate in Paul’s Bible study. And in this way, their numbers increased continuously. A great work of the Holy Spirit had been kindled in Ephesus.
II. A Great Spiritual Awakening in Ephesus (11-21)
Look at verses 11-12. God supported Paul’s ministry of the word with extraordinary miracles. The power of God in Paul was so strong 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. During every meal, people watched attentively as Paul wiped his mouth, and as soon as the meal was finished, they fought for Paul’s napkin which was full of traces of sauces and chocolate, and put it over their face to be healed.
Look at verses 13-16. Many people became envious of Paul’s ministry. Among them were seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish chief priest. One day, they were called to heal a demon-possessed man. They gathered around him, raised their hands and shouted together: “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, we command you to come out.” The evil spirit said to 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. These verses teach us that without the help of the Holy Spirit, we cannot copy the ministry of God’s word.
Look at verse 17. When the news of this event was spread throughout the all region, a deep feeling of fear came over them all. Many of them came and openly confessed their evil deeds (18). Those who for two years had refused to believe finally came to the Lord with tears of repentance and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour. It was the work of the Holy Spirit.
This movement of repentance was accompanied by concrete acts. According to 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.” Fifty thousand drachmas is equal to more than 3 million Euros. Idolatry was so serious in Ephesus that many people kept scrolls of sorcery and practiced it in their own houses. At that time, books were handwritten and very expensive. Such a quantity of scrolls shows how much importance people put in these occult practices. But by the grace of God, now they were in this public place and threw their scrolls of sorcery into the fire. They wanted to live a new life in Jesus.
Let’s read verse 20. “In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” The Ephesians considered sorcery and idolatry normal. They thought that it was part of their culture and lifestyle. They had no consciousness of sin. They were tormented by demons. However, when they accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour through intensive Bible study, they realized that they were sinners before God. When they confessed their sins, their sins were forgiven. They were filled with heavenly joy in their hearts. They were liberated from the power of demons, so they were no longer afraid and burned all the scrolls of sorcery. This was a courageous act of faith. It was only possible through the power of God’s word. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and overpowered all kinds of evil forces, and it was a great victory in God.
When we look at the situation in Europe, we can find many similarities with Ephesus. People have so many idols: money, physical appearance, cars, video games, sport, internet. Humanism and immorality have pervaded our daily lives. Sexual immorality has never been stronger than since the advent of internet. Alcohol and drug abuse continues to rise. Violence keeps increasing. Even Christians go away from God and live a compromising life. They have no power to influence the world, but are dominated by the world. The majority of our UBF churches in Europe are house churches consisting of one or two families. Some people may wander: “How can we conquer idolatry and the sin of a whole country since we are so few?” When Paul focused on a few disciples and intensive Bible study, he overcame the sinful Ephesian culture and even all the province of Asia was changed. Likewise, we can overcome European culture through intensive Bible study and disciple-making ministry. We must believe that when even one person is changed, the whole country can be changed as well. We will surely see a great awakening in Europe!
25 years ago, God started a new work in France through one Korean missionary. Later, God sent more missionaries. Many French students came and left. It seemed impossible to change the proud French intellectuals strongly rooted in humanism and traditional Christianity. But the missionaries planted the word of God faithfully and courageously in French students. When missionaries persevered, God finally changed typical French students through 1:1 Bible study. Later God established French house churches that co-work with the missionaries. Now, there are growing disciples who have made a decision to dedicate themselves to the French gospel ministry. 20 years ago, I was invited to 1:1 Bible study. I was a typical young French man. I was raised in a lovely family and received traditional Catholic education, but I had no idea about sin. Through 1:1 Bible study, I discovered that I was lost and that I was under God’s wrath. I was a sinner who gave in to sinful desires and I was a man of anger. I had neither hope nor vision. But God put his hope in me. God changed me. When I repented and accepted that Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins, I was liberated from guilt and fatalism and began a new life. But this change was not only for me. Through my change, God gave us vision and hope that many French young people might come to Christ and that France could be changed and be used as a holy nation to bless all European countries and many countries in the world, especially French speaking nations.
Let’s return to the text. By seeing the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in Ephesus, Paul had the vision that the entire world would be evangelized by the gospel of Jesus. Let us see 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.’” Paul believed that God would conquer Rome with the gospel as he had done in Ephesus. Paul was burning with vision to spread the gospel to the whole world through Roman roads. God blessed his vision, and around 250 years later, Rome became a Christian city.
Through this passage, we learned that Paul devoted himself to the Holy Spirit in Ephesus. With the help of the Holy Spirit, he could work hard as a tentmaker, Bible teacher and disciple maker. As a result, Paul could challenge the prevailing godless culture of Ephesians and the Holy Spirit brought a great awakening in all Asia. The awakening in Ephesus was so impressive that it resounded throughout the Christian world. May God give us a challenging spirit and the vision to serve European people with intensive Bible study and disciple-making ministry, so that we will see a great awakening in Europe! Amen!
|25||2010 SBC Closing Message (Philippians 3:1-11) by M. Joseph Sohn ||Joseph||2010.08.25||23267|
|24||THE OUTLINE OF THE WHOLE SCRIPTURES by Nehemiah Kim (Gwangju I,IV) - 05/10/10 ||admin||2010.05.16||23534|
|23||2010 New Year Conference 2nd Day Message (Acts 2:42-47) by M. Joseph Sohn ||Joseph||2010.01.02||23273|
|22||2009 ESBC Closing Message by M. Dr. John Jun: Make Disciples of All Nations ||admin||2009.08.31||24752|
|»||2009 ESBC Main Message VI by Shep. Bruno Aussant: The Word of the Lord Grew in Power ||admin||2009.08.31||24875|
|20||2009 ESBC Main Message V by Shep. Georgi Kumanichliev: The Risen Christ Gives Great Commission ||admin||2009.08.31||19608|
|19||2009 ESBC Main Message IV by Shep. Joachim Dietzel: Jesus Said, It is Finished||admin||2009.08.31||12928|
|18||2009 ESBC Main Message III by Shep. Titus Keller: But Seek His Kingdom ||admin||2009.08.31||12994|
|17||2009 ESBC Main Message II by Shep. Abraham Kaier: Your Sins are Forgiven ||admin||2009.08.31||15100|
|16||2009 ESBC Main Message I by Shep. Eberhard Groß: Jesus, the Spring of Living Water||admin||2009.08.31||13273|
|15||2009 ESBC Opening Message by Shep. Dr. Samuel H Lee: The Hope of God ||admin||2009.08.31||12424|
|14||2009 SBC 1st Day Message(Exodus 19:1-6) by M.Matthew Kim ||kimmatthew||2009.08.03||14340|
|13||2009 SBC 3rd Day Message(Acts 19:1-22) by sh. Jason Perry ||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||12896|
|12||2009 SBC 2nd Day Message(Mt 28:) by 2nd Gen M. John Park Jr. ||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||13070|
|11||2009 SBC 2nd Day Message(John 19:16b-42) by M.Barnabas Moon||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||12753|
|10||2009 SBC 2nd Day morning devotion Message(John 4:1-14) by Dr. Jun Hee Lee||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||13025|
|9||2009 SBC 1st Day Message(Mark 2:1-17) by M.Martin Ahn||livebyfaith||2009.08.02||14421|
|8||2009 EBC 3rd Day Message(John 21:1-25) by Dozie Uzoma ||admin||2009.06.30||12596|
|7||2009 EBC 2nd Day Message(Ezekiel 37:1-14) by Abraham Moses Kim||admin||2009.06.30||13422|
|6||2009 EBC 2nd Day Message1(John 11:1-44) by M.Moses Kim||admin||2009.06.30||12622|