Summary: What happens when the Gospel is proclaimed in Satan’s territory.
A Study of the Book of Acts
Sermon # 33
“Meeting Satan Head-On”
When Paul came to Ephesus he found a city that was completely in the grip of superstition, fear, demonism and darkness. Here the great temple of Artemis was located (also called Diane), one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World. But this temple is also a seat of great immorality and depravity. The major problem in Ephesus was that is was a center for the practice of magical arts, especially the casting of spells on people and things.
Paul assaulted this stronghold of evil with the weapons of spiritual warfare. It was from this city that Paul wrote the church at Corinth warning, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, (5) casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NKJV) And it was to Ephesus that he wrote from Rome saying, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV) It seems suggestive that Paul’s most complete study of spiritual powers and the battle Christians face comes from this letter to the Ephesians.
When the Gospel Is Proclaimed It will Always Be Met With Opposition.
According to verse twelve, “And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. (9) But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.”
Over a three-month period Paul preached at the synagogue in Ephesus where some were convinced of the truth of the gospel while others became more and more opposed to it. Verse nine reveals that a definite progression in this opposition; First they became “hardened” to his teaching, the word (skeruno) speaks of a heart hardened against God. The fact that this verb is in the imperfect tense shows that the hardening was a process. This “hardening” led them to make a definite decision to “not believe.” The outward manifestation of this hardened unbelief was that they ultimately began to verbally oppose by “speaking evil” of it in public.
Here we have a picture of the Spiritual warfare between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. These Jews chose to allow their hearts to become hardened, resulting in disobedience and then to lie about the truth of God found in Christ Jesus.
When the opposition became strong enough Paul moved his teaching to the school of Tyrannus. Since the name Tyrannus means “tyrant” one wonders if this is the name given to him by his parents or a nickname given him by his students. But whichever is the case, this seems to be a lecture hall that was used to teach Greek philosophy. According to extra-biblical sources Paul arranged to rent it from eleven in the morning until four in the afternoon, which would have been the time in Ephesus when everyone took a siesta. While others knocked off for lunch and a rest, Paul went over to school of Tyrannus and taught.
Paul’s teaching according to verse ten “…. continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.(11) Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, (12) so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.”
To provide incontrovertible evidence that the message was true, God performed extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul. “Luke himself is not content to describe these events as mere ‘miracles’, dynameis, demonstrations of divine power; he adds the adjective tychousas, which is variously translated ‘special’ (AV), ‘singular’ (NEB), ‘remarkable’ (JB) and ‘extraordinary’ (RSV, NIV). He did not regard them as typical, even for ‘miracles.’” [John Stott. The Spirit, The Church, and The World: The Message of Acts. (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1990.) p. 306]
The handkerchiefs mentioned here are literally sweatbands, the word translated here literally means “sweat.”
It is not insignificant that these are associated with labor, the toil Paul went through to make the gospel available. The aprons were leather and he wore it protect his clothing as he worked with the animal skins making tents. The practice of faith healers of today who claim this passage as authority to send out special blessed handkerchiefs to those who send in money, should be greeted with the skepticism they deserve.