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Jul 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 17, 2016 – Acts 19:1-20

Miracles and Magic

It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did your receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were your baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”
When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:1-7

Intro: If you didn’t know this already, God isn’t picky when adopting children

God does not look for perfection–or even good “potential”
– Paul told the Corinthian Christians (in effect),
“Look around. Not many of you are geniuses; not many are influential; not many are wealthy or cultured”
• in today’s text we meet some unusual believers and candidates for faith
– verses 1-20 divides neatly into two parts
• first part resolves in verse 10 and the second resolves in verse 20

Paul had just returned to Ephesus

In the previous chapter, Paul was in Ephesus for a brief visit
– they had asked him to stay and this time he does – for three years (Acts 20:31)
• right away, on his return, he found some disciples
• I imagine them hanging out, talking about God, scripture, faith, etc.
◦ but something Paul observed prompted him to ask a question
– Paul had not asked anyone else if they had received the Holy Spirit
• so why did he do it here?
• usually we assume that he noticed a deficiency in their faith
◦ perhaps an obvious missing piece of theology
◦ or a shallowness to their conversation
◦ or maybe it was simply something Paul discerned

He asked, Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?
They answered, No – we haven’t even heard about the Spirit

O course they had heard of the Spirit
– the verb that appears here is the same as in John 9:39

. . . for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

• the disciples Paul met had not heard that the Spirit had been given
◦ this led to Paul’s question about baptism
◦ it was not a mere ritual, but had important associations and meaning
• the problem became clear to Paul when they answered, Into John’s baptism
– remember last week? Apollos was in Ephesus
• and he was also acquainted only with the baptism of John
◦ his teaching was accurate, but not adequate
• perhaps – a popular movement had grown around John in Ephesus
◦ their baptism gave Paul an opportunity to explain the difference
◦ and he did this from John’s own mouth (v. 4 and cf. Mk. 1:8)
◦ it was the difference between a promise given and a promise fulfilled

To be immersed in water is a religious ritual
– to be immersed in the Spirit is to come alive in God (Ro. 6:4)
• it is possible that Paul discerned these disciples were one-dimensional
◦ it is good to know theology, but a deficiency to know only theology
◦ it is good to observe religious rituals, but a deficiency to only observe rituals
◦ the same is true of hospitality, philanthropy, and so on (1 Cor. 13:1-3)
• we can have all this and still Jesus will tell us, You must be born again
– the gift of Jesus is the spiritual dimension of our lives

Their deficiency was immediately remedied

. . . they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus
– this doesn’t look like much on paper
• but remember, Jesus’ name is not merely a name or word or label
◦ the name is the person of Jesus Christ
◦ to say his name is to connect with him in the here and now
• we have already seen apostles calling on the name of Jesus Christ
◦ to heal a crippled man (Acts 3:6) and exorcise a demon (Acts 16:18)
– if you’ve never felt the power of Jesus’ name,
• to call him near (actually, to bring his nearness to awareness)
◦ in times of distress, frustration, uncertainty
◦ and to be soothed and reassured, encouraged and inspired
◦ I hope you do soon

The phenomena of speaking with tongues and prophesying
– as previously in acts, was for verification
• like the experience of the apostes on Pentecost, this was the real deal

What happened next is what we have come to expect
– Paul was no longer welcome in the synagogue
• only here, Paul had enjoyed his longest stretch in any synagogue
– there are two references to what Paul was about
• from the inside, his message was about the kingdom of God (v. 8)
◦ that it had come in Jesus and is here, in this present moment
• from the outside, Paul’s message was about the Way (v. 9)
◦ that is, how his message looked when people lived it
◦ how it changed their lives

So, as I mentioned, the first part of this section resolves in verse 10
the word of the Lord, was extending from Ephesus to all who lived in Asia
• this word is the seed, planted in human hearts
– if it is allowed to grow, it opens people to God

Vv. 11-20, The second part of this section is filled with oddities

11-12 What is an extraordinary miracle?
– are there “ordinary miracles?
• the problem here was that the Ephesians had their own miracles
◦ in fact, the image of their revered goddess had fallen from sky (v. 35)
• this is similar to Moses, who had to deal with Egypt’s magicians (Ex. 7:10-12)
◦ God’s miracle had to prove itself to be superior to their magic
– the cloths and aprons carried from Paul’s body were work-related accessories
• like a tool belt, sweat band or apron that some welders wear
◦ it is rare in scripture (but not unheard of) that an object is used in performing a miracle
• the closest parallel to this instance was during Jesus’ ministry
◦ a woman was healed when she touched the hem of his garment
◦ and it may have been her own magical mindset that drove her to do that

13-16 Now if that were not weird enough, there is the story of seven exorcists
– these men appear in this section like John’s disciples we met in the first section
• they knew just enough to hurt themselves
◦ like knowing how to light a cherry bomb
– again we come to the name of the Lord Jesus
• only here it’s being used specifically for its power
• Paul knew the power of Jesus’ name (Php. 2:9-11)
◦ but Paul also knew Jesus

. . . I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ. (Php. 3:8)

◦ to them, Jesus was only a word for performing magic, an incantation

17-19 What resulted from this bizarre event
– first, word of it spread–and it frightened people
• like when Jesus drove out a legion of demons (Mk. 5:15)
• there was a new respect for name of the Lord Jesus
– the local believers gave up magical practices and destroyed their occultic scrolls

Again as I said, this second section resolves in verse 20
– and like verse 10, it resolves in the word of the Lord
growing mightily and prevailing

Conc: Let’s bring all of this together and see whether we can live any of it

Three big ideas stand out:

  1. The word of the Lord is however we communicate Jesus to others
    – it is drawn from God’s revelation in the Scriptres
    • and it is about Jesus — a word we hear, a word we speak, a word we live
    – the word is the seed that grows in healthy soil
    • and produces the fruit of eternal life (Mk. 13:23)
  2. The Holy Spirit is the mystery of God within our universe
    – not the sort of mystery that astronomy, physics, or biology can unravel
    • but the mystery of God’s transcendent presence
    • God’s life and energy flowing everywhere
    ◦ the living water that flows like a river from those who come to Jesus (Jn. 7:37-39)
    Clark Pinnock put it well, “Spirit mediates the presence of God in creation and enables the creature to participate in God.” “Because he is at the heart of things, it is possible to encounter God in, with and beneath life’s experiences. By the Spirit … God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.”
  3. The name of the Lord Jesus
    – we have been given his name so we can call on him

I was eighteen years old, on my way to class
– switching from station to station, I could not find any music I wanted to hear
• so I turned off the radio and almost heard an audible, “Whew”
• immediately I got the impression that Jesus was right there
◦ as if in the passenger seat riding with me
◦ wanting to have my attention for that moment

Can you begin to imagine the Lord Jesus near you, with you?
– if you try, he may surprise you
• he may come and fill that space you create in your imagination with himself
• otherwise, if he is silent, enjoy the silence with him

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