July 26, 2017
WOFCF Bible Explosion
Evangelism, Empowering and Equipping (Acts 19:1-10) – Part 1 of 3
Our text records the establishing of the church in Ephesus. In Paul’s day, it was a city of about 200,000, noted as a center for magic arts and especially for its Temple of Artemis, a multi-breasted goddess. This temple was the largest building in the world at that time, as long as a football field, known as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It was four times the size of the Parthenon in Athens. God opened the door for Paul into this stronghold of Satan, so that the church was established and “the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing” (19:20). In fact, “all who lived in Asia [western Turkey] heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (19:10). It was probably during this period that the seven churches of & 3 were established. There must be evangelizing, empowering, and equipping. The church must be preaching the gospel, it must be empowered through God’s Spirit, and pastor-teachers must be equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. All three were happening in Ephesus.
Point #1 To establish and extend the church, there must be evangelizing.
Fulfilling his earlier promise to return to Ephesus if God willed (18:21), Paul returned about a year later, after Apollos had left for Corinth. He found about 12 men whom Luke describes as “disciples” (19:1), who had “believed” (19:2). But as Paul talked with them, he discerned that something was not quite right. Finally (we are given only a brief summary) Paul asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” The men replied that they had not even heard that there was a Holy Spirit. But since they were disciples of John the Baptist, and since John clearly taught that the Messiah would baptize His followers with the Holy Spirit (), probably they meant that they had not heard that the Holy Spirit had been given in the sense that John had predicted.
So Paul explained to them that the one of whom John prophesied had come, namely, Jesus. No doubt he told them of His death on the cross as the substitute for sinners, of His resurrection from the dead, and of His ascension into heaven. When they heard the gospel, they believed in Christ and were baptized as a confession of their faith. Then Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying (19:6). Then Paul went into the synagogue and spoke out boldly for three months, until an opposition group forced him to take the disciples and meet in the school of Tyrannus, where he taught them extensively, resulting in the further spreading of the gospel (19:8-10).
Point #2 Some who need to be evangelized already believe and are in the church
You’re saying, “What? If they already believe and are in the church, aren’t they saved?” Not necessarily! The question is, What do they believe? These men believed in the message of John the Baptist, but they had not heard how Jesus had fulfilled John’s preaching. Even though Luke calls them “disciples” (19:1), it is clear that they were not disciples of Jesus. In a similar way, there are many in evangelical churches today who believe in God, and perhaps even believe in Jesus in some general sort of way, but who are not truly saved. If you asked them, “Are you a Christian?” they would answer, “Of course I am! I’m not a Hindu or an atheist!” But in spite of their answer, they are not truly saved.
How can you tell? One way is to look for signs of spiritual life. We are not told why Paul asked them whether they received the Holy Spirit when they believed, but probably he sensed that something didn’t quite seem right. Maybe they didn’t understand spiritual truth as he talked about it (). Maybe the fruit of the Spirit was not evident in their attitudes and behavior (). But Paul sensed something that led him to ask a diagnostic question to determine where these men were really at spiritually: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
Sometimes you will be talking with someone who claims to believe in Christ and who has been in the church for years, but you sense that something isn’t right. The two analytical questions that determine where the person is at spiritually: “Do you know for sure that when you die you will be with God in heaven?” And, “If God were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’ what would you say?” Their answers will reveal what they are trusting in for eternal life. A person must believe that Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, paid the penalty for sin that we deserve when He died on the cross. And that person must personally receive God’s gift of eternal life by trusting in what Christ did for him on the cross. Any trust in human goodness, even if coupled with faith in Christ, reveals that the person does not understand the gospel and has not trusted in Christ alone for salvation.
Point #3 When the Gospel is rightly proclaimed, it draws a line that divides people
Paul set something of a personal record here, in that he lasted for three months in the synagogue before opposition forced him out! He was “reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God” (19:8). Paul not only lectured, but also responded to their questions and challenges. He took them to the Scriptures to show that Jesus Christ is the promised Savior and King. “The kingdom of God” refers to more than the future millennial reign of Christ. It refers to the realm where Jesus is King or Lord. It encompasses all that is entailed in a life of “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” ().
Whenever you make it clear that human goodness and works have no merit toward salvation, and that Jesus Christ is the rightful King and Lord of all, some will respond in faith, but others will become hardened and disobedient, and speak evil of God’s way of salvation (19:9). Often those who oppose the most are those who are most religious. They take pride in their religion! How dare you suggest that they are sinners! How can you possibly say that they are not good enough to get into heaven? Every religion, except biblical Christianity, appeals to people’s pride by promoting a salvation through human goodness. But the gospel, rightly proclaimed, says that there are none good enough for heaven. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The only way that sinners can be justified is “as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (). That message divides people!