If you remember our last post, we saw many things beginning to happen and that verse 10 says that, “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” It was during this time that the church at Colossi was founded by Epaphras and Philemon, who carried the gospel up the Lycus valley into the cities there. Others, like Trophimus and Tychicus, who were young men from this province, were involved in preaching to other cities of the region. They may have been the founders of the churches that John later wrote his letters in the book of Revelation—Smyrna and Sardis and Thyatira and Pergamum and Philadelphia and Laodicea, all of which are in this area and were started by these Christians, largely unnamed and unknown, who heard the Apostle Paul proclaiming this fantastically revolutionary truth in the hall of Tyrannus in Ephesus. What power there is in the Word of God! In addition, Luke tells us the word was confirmed by signs:
“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 19:11-12
Underline the word “extraordinary.” They had cloths that Paul touched, and when they laid those cloths on the sick: the recovered! Extraordinaire!
Don’t think that there was anything magical about this! There was no value inherent in the cloth. In fact, we can be easily misled by the translation here. It was very difficult for the translators to put this in terms that would be meaningful to us in the western world, because these weren’t handkerchiefs or aprons in the usual sense. They weren’t little cloths that Paul used to blow his nose with or aprons that you wear in the kitchen. The handkerchiefs were literally sweatbands. The word actually means “sweat.” They were bands of cloth which he bound around his head as he worked at making tents, to keep the sweat from running down into his eyes. In other words, they were associated with the labor, the toil he went through to make the gospel available. The aprons were made of leather. He wore them while making tents, not while fixing his meals. These were the things used for these miracles. Again, this isn’t an attempt to support the practice of many faith healers of today who claim to do this kind of thing. They anoint cloths and mail them around the country—for a fee of course. That’s superstition; hocus pocus; a form of magic. This isn’t what Luke is talking about at all.
These are symbols which God chose to use in order to underscore the characteristic of the apostle which made him a channel, a vessel, of the power of God—just like Moses’ rod. Cast it on the ground and it became a serpent, and another time when lifted it over the water, and the water turned to blood, and another time the water was drawn back. There was nothing magical about the rod itself; it was a symbol of something about Moses which God honored. So these sweatbands and trade aprons were symbols of the honest, dignified labor of the apostle, his labor of love and humbleness of heart, his servant-character which he manifested and which released the power of God. This is what God means by this—that it is through a man whose heart is so utterly committed that he is ready to invest hard, diligent labor in making the gospel available, and who is humble at heart, willing to stoop to a lowly trade, that the power of God is released.
(I send out messages like this to about 70 people each morning. If you are interested, let me know. However, you can also find these messages at: Thought For The Day)