“So Paul entered the synagogue and spoke out fearlessly for three months, addressing and convincing them about the kingdom of God. But when some were stubborn and refused to believe, reviling the Way before the congregation, he left them and took the disciples with him, addressing them every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all who lived in the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.
“God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands, so that when even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his body were brought to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them —Acts 19:8-12
I love that! He “spoke fearlessly . . .” Hey, if you are going to speak the Word of God: Do it Fearlessly. Be uncompromised. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by the scoffers and those who will redicule you or your message. Yes use wisdom and discernment—and faith to receive “just the right” words. Allow the Spirit of God to rise up within you and speak the Truth.
Now the first time Paul came to Ephesus, he found the city in the grip of superstition, fear, demonism, and darkness. It was a city devoted to sex and to religion—in other words it was the San Francisco of the Roman Empire. The great temple of Artemis was there and was as familiar to the people of that day as the Mackinac Bridge is for those of us in Michigan. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Tourists traveled from all over the Roman Empire to see it.
Luke is giving us a fascinating account of how the gospel can reach and affect an entire city, and even its surrounding province, through a relatively small band of Christians. The church has forgotten for a long time that God never wins his battles by majority vote. He always uses a relatively small band of people who, working with a different approach than the world has available, are able in a fantastic way to affect whole cities, whole areas, whole nations by the effectiveness of their witness and the power that is available to them. This is what the church has forgotten and we need so desperately to rediscover, as we are now doing in many ways.
The major problem in Ephesus was that it was a center for witchcraft. Superstition, demonism, and witchcraft held this city in its thrall. A weird mixture of black arts, worship of demons, astrology, occult practices of various kinds, and superstitious fears, had filled this city with priests, magicians, witches, warlocks, and quacks of every description. The inevitable consequence, as always among people who are held in bondage by witchcraft, was that people lived in fear and darkness, indulging their lusts in painful, degrading practices, and were sunken in slavery, in squalor, and in drunken debauchery.
Paul came to that city and assaulted the strongholds of evil with the weapons of spiritual warfare. Remember that it was from this city that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, and in one of those letters he said, “Though we live as human beings, we don’t wage war according to human standards, because the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ” (II Corinthians 10:3-5). And Paul wrote to Ephesus from Rome, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [people aren’t the problem], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens,” (Ephesians 6:12. Don’t just read those words. They underscore Paul’s viewpoint of this great city of Ephesus—that there was a stronghold of darkness which could only be overcome by the weapons of truth and love and righteousness and faith—the weapons of our warfare.
There are all kinds of strongholds like this today. In this account we see what can happen when a church begins to catch on to the power that God has put at its disposal and operates in the way it was intended to operate.
But I want you to notice that he didn’t stand on a hilltop and speak against the powers of evil. No, no. He was involved with the people; he proved the power of God’s Word with his daily activities and employment. He demonstrated this work of God through his speech and behavior. He gave witness to his faith with acts of love and care—and an uncompromised, fearless way of life.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts