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The Mission: Passionately Serve Our Great God (Acts 19)

Acts: The Mission of the Church  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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SLIDE: Acts: The Mission
SLIDE: Ephesus (video will auto start when you flip to this slide)
AUTO-SLIDE: Sermon Title (should pop up 5 seconds after video ends)

Background Info

I hope that video helps Ancient Ephesus come to life for us as we study Acts 19 this morning. Archaeology is exciting because remains give us a lot of insight into cultural details which help Scripture become even more real.
Only about 18% of the ancient ruins have been uncovered, leaving another 82% of ancient Ephesus buried! It was a huge city with a population somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 people lying on the Western tip of Turkey. It was a beautiful, wealthy, and sophisticated city.
During Caesar Agustus’ rule, Ephesus rose to it’s position of glory. Later, Emperor Tiberuis’ opened a business district in the city around 43 BC, which was only about 10 years before Paul arrived. Ephesus flourished because, through it’s port, commerce flowed to Asia.
Ephesus was viewed as the capitol of Asia and it was free to operate however it pleased without Roman interference. According to some sources, Ephesus was second to only Rome in commerce and culture until it was destroyed sometime between 220 and 300 AD.
It seems likely Paul would have left Jerusalem in the spring of 52 AD traveled to Antioch which was a 5 week journey, and according to Acts 18:23, he “spent some time there.” Paul would have most likely arrived in Ephesus in 53 AD and remained there for two to three years.
I really wanted to cover all of Acts 19 in one message because our chapter highlights six events which give a big picture of what God was doing in Ephesus and Asia. Believers were passionately serving our mighty and amazing God!
Second, all six events reveal a great spiritual war in Ephesus. In each event the Holy Spirit fought evil spirits causing the Gospel to rapidly spread across Asia in a very short time period through excited, new Christians.
Some of you will appreciate this… all week long as I preparing this message kept hearing this movie line in my head, “Hello, Mrs Par? This is Karie. Weird things are happening!” Weird things took place all over Ephesus as spiritual warfare was raging.
The first Spiritual battle was the...

The Missing Spirit (19:1-7, Eph 4:30, Gal 5:16-20)

recorded in...
Acts 19:1–7 (ESV)
1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
Upon entering Ephesus, Paul encountered about 12 men who truly thought they were Jesus’ disciples. They had even been baptized! Paul was quite aware of his role as a teacher because he often came upon people who knew almost nothing about Jesus and knew almost nothing about living life just like Jesus lived, so Paul, accustomed to asking good questions, probed a bit. He asked a very important question in v 2, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
It is really interesting that these disciples of John, did not know about the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist himself witnessed the Spirit descending on Jesus and in Luke 3:16 prophesied that the Spirit would descend and baptize believers with the Spirit and with fire. John’s disciples should have known these things.
Paul clearly believed several things are true about the Holy Spirit:
Salvation and baptism of the Holy Spirit occur at the same time without exception. The Spirit is a seal, recieved at the time of salvation and is the only source of a believer’s regeneration.
Paul knew these men had not repented or believed in Jesus’ and His forgiveness of sins. Without the Spirit, these 12 men were doomed to eternity in hell. We need to know that Spirit baptism is required for eternal life. When Paul wrote the Ephesians 4:30 a few years later, he reminded them of this...
Ephesians 4:30 (ESV) 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
On the day of redemption, God himself will not accept a person who does not have the Holy Spirit. Paul was greatly concerned for these men’s eternal lives!
Paul believed something else. His question contains another very important concept. Christians can clearly tell when the Holy Spirit indwells us. (repeat)
I have a homework task for you when you re-read this section this week… use the internet to search for when the words, “the Spirit of God came” are used in the Bible. You will discover that time and time again when the Spirit arrived, mighty things happened. People, possessed the Spirit, always clearly know that God was with them. At the moment of salvation, a person is instantly changed. That person clearly knows something is different. Ephesian 5:18-21 tell us that the Spirit possessed can say “no” to sin. Sinful thoughts can be repelled, and a new believer will be able to speak differently, act differently, and view life differently.
Galatians 5:17 tell us that the Spirit works just as mightily now as He ever has… “the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, (the Spirit) keep(s) you from doing the (sinful) things you want to do.
Moving back to our text, these 12 men completed spiritual rituals, but those rituals didn’t save them. Compare what happened and how they felt when these men truly repented of their sin in Acts 19:5-6. Verse 5 begins with the words, “On hearing this...” Sometimes hearing means doing/believing. Other times when someone “heard” the text also records that a person did not act on what they had heard. In verses 5 and 6, these 12 men “heard,” but they obeyed by faith. Paul never would have baptized them if they had not repented of their sin and believed that Jesus was the Christ. Verse 5....
they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.
Salvation, Baptism, Spirit indwelling, Spirit empowerment all happened in a quick, immediate chain of events. None of those men could ever doubt salvation from that point on. Their lives were remarkably different!
Spiritual Battle #2 in our text is...

Magical Handkerchiefs (19:11-12)

Ephesus, like Corinth was sin city. Ephesus was a city firmly under Satan’s control.
In John Bunyan’s book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Christian and Faithful see before them a town they must enter because the Holy Way passes through it. It is an ancient town named Vanity Fair which quite aptly describes Ephesus
In Vanity Fair, merchandise is bought and sold year round such "as houses, lands, trades, places, honors, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms, lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, as whores, bawds, wives, husbands, children, masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver, gold, pearls, precious stones, and what not." At all times, one can see "jugglings, cheats, games, plays, fools, apes, knaves, rogues, thefts, murders, adulteries, false-swearers, and that of a blood-red color."
Historian’s accounts indicate that Ephesus was similar to Vanity fair. All manner of wickedness was commonplace in the city and evil spirits had been at the root of the problem. Our text also tells us that God used magical handkerchiefs to wage spiritual warfare on the evil spirits that plagued that city...
Acts 19:11–12 (ESV) 11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.
In those days tradesmen typically wore aprons. Some aprons functioned as tool belts and would have protected their clothes from dirt and grime. Other times, aprons and handkerchiefs functioned like today’s sweat and shop towels. Whenever Paul touched handkerchiefs or aprons, even when the dirtiest things on a person’s body had touched Paul and a sick person diseases left and evil spirits came out of them.
We need to know that..
God makes even the dirtiest things useful for his kingdom! God makes unclean things holy and extremely powerful and useful to Him! The Spirit cannot touch our lives without impacting the world around us!
The handkerchiefs and aprons were not what was impacting the community for Christ, spiritual trinkets were not transforming the community, it was the power of the Spirit. Believers who live passionately for Christ impact the world for Christ. It is a natural thing.
Spiritual Battle #3...

Seven Frightened Magicians (19:13-20)

In these next few verses, seven sons of a Jewish High Priest named Sceva were considered to be exorcists, but then this guy Paul came on the scene who was a far more powerful exorcist than they were. So the exorcists have a great idea… they think, “We should do what Paul does!” So all seven sons of Sceva came upon a man with an evil spirit and tried to copy Paul’s success. They called out, “We command you to come out by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims!” Boy were they in for a surprise! The evil spirit actually answered them in verse 15...
Acts 19:15–17 (ESV) “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 And this became known to all the residents of Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.
If the Bible isn’t interesting and exciting, I don’t know what is! This isn’t fiction, this is real life stuff! Why would God record this event?
We need to know that...
...unsaved people are not equipped for spiritual warfare. One single man possessed by an evil spirit soundly defeated seven men, causing them to flee for their lives wounded and naked. Messing around with the occult is dangerous! Demonic activity is real.
I love studying Paul’s letters alongside Acts. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians five years later, do you know what he reminded them of? He reminded them of the Sons of Sceva! Paul specifically wrote Eph 6:10-20 to remind them that God was waging spiritual warfare in their city and they needed to be prepared and on guard every moment of every day!
We need to know that only the Holy Spirit can defeat the spiritual forces of darkness that constantly surrounds us, even today.
God gave us a rare glance into the spiritual realm by preserving these events. Christians today are far too ignorant about the spiritual warfare taking place all around us. Evil spirits were not unique to Ephesus. We know from Scripture that unbelieving Israelites were possessed by evil spirits. Israelite kings were possessed by evil spirits including King Saul in 1 Sam 16.
We need to know that evil spirits are not a third world problem! (When someone in the USA hears the words “evil spirits” that person automatically thinks of Africa, remote parts of India, and Myanmar). Evil spirits are also a USA problem and a whole world problem. Ephesus was not a third-world city. It was the second leading city in the Roman Empire! Ephesus contained one of the wonders of the ancient world. Evil spirits are a whole world problem and both Acts 19 and the book of Ephesians were written to wake up the church! The devil wants people’s souls no mater where they live! People all over our own country are possessed by evil spirits. Talk with me about that sometime. Paul’s ministry in Ephesus remind us that....
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 ESV))
Other Scriptures plainly teach that spiritual warfare against evil spirits all over the face of this earth will continue until Christ comes for His church. We must be powered and protected by the the Holy Spirit.
The Bible contains weird and exciting and true, historical records. If the Bible doesn’t excite you, pray about that!
I feel like I have served you a giant-sized steak this morning. You just got an all you can eat, take home meal! This week it is your job to get out your fork and steak knife and cut it up into bite sized pieces! What truth did you hear from God’s Word that you need to really work on? What truth do you need to really pray over? Take time to chew your meat this week so the nutrients don’t go to waste!
I want to draw out three application points that I hope will be useful for us this week.

Passionately Serving Our Great God means...

We are going to step foot in some very dark places this week. We are going to have conversations with people who are deep into other beliefs or maybe who are even possessed by evil spirits...
(AUTO: SHOULD come up 6 sec after previous slide) The Spirit must power our lives! (Jn 15:5)
Remember, Paul was passionate about believers living Spirit empowered lives. Teaching Christians how to live spirit-empowered lives was as important to him as sharing the gospel. Without the Spirit we can do nothing, that is a truth Jn 15:5 teaches us...
John 15:5 (ESV) I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him (Spirit), he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
We should be able to know without a doubt that the Spirit is in us and actively at work through us. We can not be passionate about God without the Spirit’s power.
Passionately serving God means we have to believe...
Spiritual warfare is real! (Eph 6:10-20)
The problem is that we are easily caught up in things we can see and touch, and we cannot see the spiritual world that is currently hidden from us. We have to take scripture by faith and believe spiritual warfare is happening all around us, even in our own country and neighborhoods.
Remember, God’s Spirit was so powerful even handkerchiefs and aprons who touched Paul caused evil spirits all over Ephesus to flee. God’s Spirit is the only thing that gives our lives and meaning and value. We can do nothing of eternal benefit without him.
Passionately serving God means we have to believe...
God is our all-powerful protector!
Paul and believers were untouched by the evil Spirits. The evil spirits know who God’s people are because they recognize the Holy Spirit that resides in us. No harm can come to us unless God allows it. Remember Job? Satan could do nothing to Job without God’s permission. Evil Spirits cannot touch one who is possessed by the Holy Spirit for we are told, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” When we believe that God is our all-powerful protector, we can boldly go into the darkest, most evil places, passionately serving God because He won’t allow evil to befall us unless that harm benefits His kingdom and brings Him glory.
In your bulletin, you will find a song Asaph wrote and then instructed the choirmaster to sing on the temple mount...
Psalm 77:11–14 ESV
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. 12 I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? 14 You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples.
We exist to passionately serve our great God. No other god exists but Him, without Him dark spiritual forces would reign unchecked, but God loved us greatly and acts on that love by guiding and protecting us. Let us serve Him passionately because of this.
Prayer Ideas:
You are great, for only you see unseen things
You cause us to trust you, may you cause us to cling to you for protection in spiritual warfare and that your victories may be great this week!
May we passionately declare your greatness all week long@
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