Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)
Apostle Paul traveled through the interior regions until he reached Ephesus, on the coast, where he found several believers.
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” he asked them.
“No,” they replied, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
“Then what baptism did you experience?” he asked.
And they replied, “The baptism of John.”
Apostle Paul said, “John’s baptism called for repentance from sin. But John himself told the people to believe in the one who would come later, meaning Jesus.” (Acts 19:4)
As soon as they heard this, they were willing to being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Their hearts were fully open, and Paul started baptized them. When Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them. They spoke in other tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. God was with Apostle Paul, and God poured the Holy Spirit on them through Apostle Paul.
The people in Ephesus witnessed God’s power, and they heard Apostle Paul and his message. Apostle Paul also went to the synagogue and preached boldly for the next three months. But some became stubborn rejecting his message and publicly speaking against Paul’s message. This is not unusual. Again and again, when God’s message was preached, Satan came in and spread the seeds of doubts in the minds of the people. Those who were weak in faith and who were still clinging to the world while treasuring in their heart were easily choked by the desires about and passions of the world, although they heard and understood the God’s message, i.e., the Truth.
So Apostle Paul left the synagogue, which was a Godly behavior – neither confrontational nor arguing back. Yes, Apostle Paul could have argued back and won over those who were opposed Him. Based on my experience, winning over those who opposed Gospel was not necessarily best to both me and the opponents. Winning over the opponents was more likely winning a battle, but winning a battle did not lead to the final victory that I wanted to achieve -- destroy the satanic power and save the souls of the opponents. Here is my personal experience: I wanted to share the most precious gift of salvation with my dear friend, who was really sharp and intelligent person. One day, there was a pretty good opportunity to share my faith with him. Then it soon became an intellectual discussion while taking a position. Thus, it was almost ended up a serious debate, in which I actually won over him. At last, my friend admitted his defeat of the heated debate about the Truth and Gospel. Then he immediately stated, “Yes, you won, but I will not never be a Christian forever.” What a sad moment, I thought that I was doing a good thing – convincing him logically because he presented his logic about the correctness of his position. However, soon he realized that his logic was flaw out of the debate. His defeat emotionally hurt him, and this feeling went deep into his heart. We need to be sensitive to other’s feeling when we present the Truth and Salvation. We have to constantly hear God’s voice in every moment so that we can be led by God, not by our own knowledge. What God wants is to manifest ourselves as a disciple of Jesus, who loves sinners including my dear, and highly intellectual friend. Apostle Paul should have done a excellent job by reflecting Jesus and His loving heart.
As Apostle Paul left the Synagogue, the believers did follow him. Apostle Paul, thus, could continue teach and nature them for the next two years. God blessed Apostle Paul and the people in Ephesus. The group of the believers grew both in number and spiritually while having deeper understanding and starting to have an intimate relationship with God. Soon the group of people mature in Christ could be confined in one place. They started outreaching people by inviting people throughout the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks, who heard the word of the Lord. What a beautiful scene it was, which God dearly loved!
God blessed Paul even more. God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled. Again, these miracles were not unusual, when God’s mighty hand was in action. However, some emulated the power of God without really knowing and experiencing God.
A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” (Acts 19:13b) Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. So far, it worked well. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered. Surely, they did not truly know Jesus and the power of Jesus. They were an easy prey to Satan. The imitators were overpowered, and physically beaten till they fled naked and battered.
The above story quickly spread all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored (Acts 19:17b) God used every opportunity to raise up His people and expand His kingdom on earth. The above rather ignorant and prideful act made them hurt, but it actually made God’s name praised with solemn fear.
God did not stop there. Out of this event, God made many believers who confessed their sins and turned around from their sinful acts. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars. The whole city was sanctified. As a result, the message about the Lord spread widely and had a powerful effect. (Acts 19:20)
God’s wisdom is beyond reach of comprehension of any human beings ever lived on earth. God’s plan is perfect that could have not been stirred by Satan. Satan has been defeated again and again, and had to experience the final defeat at the cross as Jesus died for us. This is the assurance. Satan always and continuously is making plots against us by derailing us from the sanctification journey after being saved in the name of Jesus Christ. One thing that we can absolutely sure is that all Satan’s plans, without exception, will surely fail. We are in the mighty and loving hand of God. The mighty and loving hand always protects us all circumstances. Yes, sometimes, we are bitten by Satan while putting us a bitter situation that we cannot even describe with our own words. Especially, if this bitter defeat finds us when we dedicate everything that we have with all our hearts and minds to God and His kingdom, we are very easy to be discouraged because we are mere humans. At this moment, we have to fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, because soon and surely we will come out victoriously in God’s hand. Amen.
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:18)