Ephesus: A People Like Us–Part 2
Ephesians Lesson #002
October 7, 2018
“Our Father, we’re thankful that we have Your Word. Your Word is alive and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It is Your Word that is our means of spiritual growth. Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth.”
“Your Word is the very thinking of Christ. As Paul said, “… we have the mind of Christ.” This is because “In the beginning was the Word”—the LOGOS—“and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Son of God.”
“Father, it is Your communication to us. It is Your spoken Word as well from the first chapter of Genesis, “And God said …” You have spoken everything into existence through Your omnipotence and through Your omniscience.
“Father as we reflect upon how distinctive You are and what a contrast it is to the religions of men today, we pray that it may strengthen our own understanding and confidence in You and in Your Word and in the vital significance of living a consistent Christian life, thinking biblically.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Acts 19. We are beginning a new series in Ephesians, “The Wealth and the Walk of the Believer.” We’re looking at the background. This is the second part of our introduction to Ephesians where we’re going back to Acts 19 when Paul first went to Ephesus, his short initial visit at the end of his second journey, and then a longer time there somewhere between 2½ to 3 years at the beginning of his third missionary journey.
Last time we looked at the background at the end of Acts 18, describing first of all his short first visit. Then second, we looked at the two episodes that are highlighted by Luke.
The question should be, why are these here? I tried to answer that because the first leads to the second. As I thought about this more this week and went back and read it some more, I recognized that one of the distinctives between Apollos and the twelve disciples of John was one of information. The question is, why does the Holy Spirit come upon those twelve when just prior to that Apollos—who also understood the baptism message of John the Baptist—why doesn’t the Holy Spirit come upon him?
I think I understand the answer. Apollos knew more than they did. They had heard of the baptism of John. They had heard John’s initial message to “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand;” they had been baptized. But they probably departed Jerusalem before Jesus showed up. They had no knowledge of Jesus as the Messiah.
Whereas Apollos had knowledge of Jesus the Lord, but he had left Jerusalem before the crucifixion. So he had an incomplete gospel. He knew Jesus was the Messiah, but he didn’t know that He had died, was buried or had been raised from the dead.
That sets the stage at the end of Acts 18 for what happens at the beginning of Acts 19 when these twelve believe in Jesus as their Savior. Then Paul talks to them about the difference between the baptism of repentance—which was related to the kingdom coming to Israel—and the baptism or identification with the Lord Jesus Christ in ritual water baptism, which depicted that important issue of identification with Christ: being “in Him,” which is foundational to the first half of the epistle to the Ephesians.
We studied the background: the cultural conflict in Ephesus was one that is not dissimilar from what we face. With the exception of the Jewish culture there, that was around 10% of the population, it was a population that was mired in both mysticism and magic, as well as idolatry.
The belief in the monotheist God of Israel, Who is the God of Christianity, was to set them apart from that culture. It brought conflict between the Jews as monotheists and the Ephesians as polytheists, and it also would set apart the Christians. It had an impact that hit them where we all hate to be hit, and that is deep in our pocketbooks and our bank account. As a result of that, it generated a violent and heated response and reaction.
Just to remind us here is a map. Ephesus is located here on the western coast of what was the Province of Asia. This area is now modern Turkey, but the Romans referred to this area as the Province of Asia. This is a map of Paul’s first and second missionary journeys, where he first came for just a brief time, may be just a few days because he was on his way to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Tabernacles.
In this slide we have the third missionary journey. After going to Jerusalem, he went back to his home church in Antioch. Then he retraced his steps to the main churches in southern Galatia, and then he came to Ephesus, where he set up shop and ministered and taught for the next 2½ to 3 years.
Ephesus was a rather large city, the third largest city in the Roman Empire. It was quite cosmopolitan because it was right on the coast of the Aegean. The harbor at that time came all the way up into the city, which is not true today because it has silted in, but it was the western end of a major trade route that brought trade goods from the Far East, as well as from what we today refer to as Russia and the Islamic Republics of the former Soviet Union.
I showed you a few pictures, and here’s one that shows the harbor area at the end of this main road. This was all a harbor; now they’re some five or six miles away from the harbor.
There’s nothing left of the Temple of Artemis, which was known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Slide 8 Skipped
The main thing that I wanted to emphasize last time and reiterate today is this issue of our identification with Christ. This is foundational to understanding the Christian life. It is foundational for understanding what Paul is communicating in Ephesus, and it starts with understanding these two areas of eternal realities that are true for every believer.
At the cross, we are saved simply by faith in Christ. Nothing more, nothing less. We simply believe. Over 95 times the apostle John uses that verb in his Gospel. He never says believe and repent, he never says believe and turn away from your sins, he never says believe and be baptized, he never says believe and do good works. It is simply faith alone in Christ alone.
At the instant that we are saved, a number of things happen, one of which is that we are identified with Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection. We are placed “in Christ.” This is our position in Christ, sometimes called Positional Truth. We are immediately identified with Him. Romans 6:3–6 talks about this, that we are baptized. That word baptism, literally means to immerse, but it came to be used figuratively or metaphorically to picture identification with something.
When John the Baptist talked about being baptized for repentance for the kingdom, it’s being identified with the kingdom message and being prepared for the coming of that literal, geophysical, messianic kingdom coming to Israel.
That was not the baptism for the Church Age believer, but it foreshadowed it, for he said he baptized with water, but the One who would come after him would baptize by means of the Spirit and by means of fire.
Jesus baptizes by means of the Spirit. He uses God the Holy Spirit to sanctify us positionally, to make as new creatures in Christ, set apart in terms of our position and our identity in Christ to serve the Lord for eternity.
This is at the root of our spiritual life. In Romans 6, Paul says it is this act that we don’t feel, we don’t experience, it happens instantly at salvation at faith in Christ, and that it is at that moment that the tyranny, the power of the sin nature is broken.
It had never happened before in earlier dispensations because only in the Church Age do we have the baptism by the Holy Spirit—that is the distinctive of the Church Age. And that is the foundation for understanding everything that the New Testament teaches about the spiritual life of the Church Age believer.
This is an eternal reality, but it is not always our experience, because in our experience, we are commanded to walk by means of the Spirit, Galatians 5:16. As part of that, God the Holy Spirit will fill us with His Word, if we are studying His Word, if we are learning his Word. If we are abiding in His Word, then that gives God the Holy Spirit the tools to use to sanctify us, or mature us spiritually as we walk by the Spirit.
But we sin, and when we sin, when we let the sin nature take control, then we are no longer walking by the Spirit, we’re walking according to the sin nature, and we are walking like an unbeliever in darkness.
The way to recover then is to confess our sin. When we confess sin, we are instantly restored to that position where we are walking in the light, walking by the Spirit, and being filled by the Holy Spirit. It is an active position of relationship, enjoying that privilege of our intimacy with God the Father.
This next part of Acts 19 is a significant section. After talking about the foundation of the spiritual life and the Christian life and emphasizing that in the first two things that Luke emphasizes with Apollos and then the twelve disciples of John the Baptist, then we have a reference to the miracles of Paul.
Miracles by the apostles and those who were their associates, as their representatives, were designed to authenticate and validate their claims to be from God. Paul is given this ability for these miracles, but the miracles come from God, and we read about that in Acts 19:11–12.
We read about the first confrontation with these itinerant Jewish exorcists who are the sons of Sceva, who is an apostate Jewish priest, because he is dabbling in the occult, witchcraft, and magic.
The second confrontation occurs with the idolaters who are worshiping Diana. Now, think about this conceptually a little bit. We see in the first part an emphasis on who we are in Christ, and in the second part what happens when we are walking with the Lord. There will be confrontation. That basically is the same thing that Paul is covering in the two parts of Ephesians. The first part is dealing with our wealth in Christ.
I think there is an interesting background to that because as we study about the worship of not Diana, but Artemis of the Ephesians, and this talked a little bit more about her, but in Artemis and in the Artemision, which is the term for the temple to Artemis there in Ephesus.
This is one of the largest banks; this is Fort Knox in Asia and in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Dio Chrysostom says that there was more money banked there, and in the ancient world, the temple served as the bank, because they believed that the gods watched over it, and who’s going to risk angering the gods by breaking in and stealing of the money that is there.
This is also part of the background and the motivation for the riot that takes place in Ephesus, because it threatens the whole economy, the banking, and all of these different aspects of Ephesian life.
When Paul writes to the Ephesians later, he will talk not about their physical, economic wealth, but about their riches in Christ. So there’s sort of an allusion there, a contrast to what was commonly believed in Ephesus.
In this section, we’re looking at the culture of Ephesus, the culture of this unbelieving pagan people that are living here in Ephesus. This is always the confrontation with biblical truth, with the divine viewpoint.
The Bible represents God’s view of reality. He defines reality. He is the creator of reality, the creator of the heavens, the earth, and the seas and all that is in them, so He defines reality. He defines truth, and man in fallen nature wants to redefine that and worship something else, ultimately worshiping his own intelligence and his own his own made up gods and goddesses.
We see that Paul is confronting culture at two levels here. One is a culture that is very prone to the occult. It is prone to magic and witchcraft. In fact, archaeologists have uncovered a number of Papyri that give all sorts of incantations, rituals and occult practices that came from Ephesus.
It’s important to understand that; it supports what’s going on in the story.
On the other hand, we have a confrontation with the false religion that’s there, and there were many different temples there, not just the temple to Diana, but that was the main one. They were known far and wide, as this indicates in the text.
Artemis of the Ephesians is known throughout the ancient world. A great fame. She brings them prosperity. I talked last time about her as representing a fertility theme, which is common.
We can translate that to us in terms of prosperity. It was all about bringing prosperity. That’s why they emphasize this whole aspect of fertility. It’s basically a culture that is rooted in agriculture, so the fertility of the crops, as well as having children, all of this is important to having a happy and prosperous life.
You have this cultural conflict, because in both instances, Paul’s teaching of the word comes head-to-head with these deeply embedded beliefs of their culture. And that happens all the time.
Let me give you an understanding of what I mean by culture. Culture in this sense is the combination of beliefs and practices which determines how a group of people conduct their lives. That’s a pretty simple definition.
There are all kinds of different cultures. You have one culture in your home. If you have a Korean, well, probably not Korean because most of them are Christian. But if you have some Asian living next door to you that’s not Christian—they’re Buddhist—their culture in their home is different from the culture in your home. If you have a Moslem neighbor, the culture in their home is different from the culture in your home.
If you have someone living on the other side of you who is ethnic French, and they have just moved here, we had that situation when we first moved here, their culture will be different than your culture.
Homes have different cultures; families have different cultures. It’s based on their belief system and on their values and on how they conduct their lives.
Businesses have cultures. You’ve all worked, I’m sure, for different companies, different businesses and each group you work for has a different culture. Each city has a different culture. Each state has a different culture, and every nation has a different culture.
At the root of culture are the religious beliefs. Beliefs foundationally that relate to ultimate reality. It is those beliefs in what philosophers refer to as metaphysics, what we would refer to as religion or belief in God that shapes everything else.
We never talk about those things because that’s not part of our secular culture, but that is what shapes things. When we have these scenarios as we’ve had this last week with this hostile opposition between two views of political reality, what they are focusing on is what’s above the water line.
If you think about the imagery, I’ve used this in slides before, of an iceberg where 9/10 is below the surface. What’s above the surface is just, for example, in this confrontation, whether or not to approve Judge Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. But nobody’s talking about the fact that those views, that opposition that’s taking place is ultimately grounded on religious presuppositions, views about God and views about reality.
And what we see in Ephesus is this kind of confrontation taking place. The above the waterline issue has to do with miracles that will heal people. Part of that would be casting out demons by the exorcist. This was popular, this was common, and people were superstitious; they were mired in mysticism and early proto-Gnostic beliefs.
So they would go spend money, a lot of money, to pay these exorcists to cast out demons and deliver them from demons. Not unlike what goes on in a lot of so-called deliverance ministries in some branches of evangelicalism. It doesn’t have anything to do with the Bible, it has a lot to do with synthesis with certain pagan views about demonism and about exorcism. We will get into those as we go forward.
We see in this culture clash how biblical truth changes culture. I want to think about what we know, just superficially, about Ephesus.
This is a pagan city that is focused on one of the greatest temples, largest temple, in the ancient world that has an incredible amount of wealth and brings in a tourist trade that is unbelievable, that is the heart of the economy and the prosperity of this city. The people are mired in the darkness of paganism, polytheism, and mysticism.
This is in roughly AD 60. Paul probably went there first about AD 59 and comes back from AD 60–62; or came in AD 58 and is there from AD 60–62, or 63.
What happens after Paul leaves? He’s had a tremendous impact. We read in this chapter that the gospel goes through out all of Asia and everything that happens and that Paul teaches is known throughout the Roman province of Asia. The world is turned upside down and inside out by the gospel message. It changed things.
Toward the end of the story, around the fifth and sixth century AD, we find that one of the major early Ecumenical Church Councils takes place in Ephesus because Ephesus has now been completely converted and impacted by Christianity. It has changed the way they think, it has changed the way they live, and it has transformed the culture.
See the war that we have in our society is often labeled other things, but the real battle in this culture is the battle between biblical truth and biblical culture and pagan culture.
Pagan culture is manifested a lot of different ways. It is not about forms of racism, it is not about forms of sexism, it is not any of the other negative “isms” in the culture.
It is a battle between biblical truth—which should transform every one of us, conforming us to the image of Christ—and battles of various forms of pagan thought that have infected and corrupted every single person, because we’re all born spiritually dead.
I want to give you a little historical overview of what had happened in the Greek culture that had shaped Ephesus. Prior to the introduction of Christianity, going back about 600 years, Greek philosophers had made a break with the polytheistic mysticism of their predecessors.
They had made a break from this religious mythology, which dominated pagan thought, and in its place they did something that no one else had ever done, that we know of. They developed a systematized approach to reason, rationality, and logic. This is what transformed Greek culture.
The story of Greek philosophy is a story of attempting to provide a rational explanation for creation—for what they saw, what they experienced on a day-to-day level. And this was done either first through the various attempts to what’s called the pre-Socratics, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Anaxagoras up to the explosive impact of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and this transformed Greek culture. But it really didn’t provide an answer.
Let me put up a chart that I’ve used many times to explain this.
The issue in life is how do we know what we know? That was a question that the Greeks were asking, but it wasn’t a question that other cultures asked.
In fact, Herodotus, who is known as the Father of history—he’s not; Moses was—who was almost some thousand years after Moses. But he traveled to Egypt, and when he came back from Egypt, he said they’re really odd. They don’t want to investigate. They just accept things the way they are.
There’s no one in Egypt who ever wonders why it is that the Nile floods every year.
The Nile is the foundation of their economy, but nobody’s trying to figure out why it floods every year, and the flooding of the Nile every year is the whole source of their economy, so no one is even thinking about it.
No one sought to explain why things happen the way they did until the Greeks came along. And they begin to develop answers that were based on reason. They believed that the universe was rational and could be understood through human reason.
This is the issue of knowledge. What this chart does is to contrast independent or autonomous systems of knowledge or perception versus divine viewpoint, what the Bible teaches.
There are three columns we’re going to look at. One is the name of the system. The second is its starting point, and the third is its methodology.
The first is known as rationalism, sometimes idealism. This is the thinking of Plato. The starting point is that there are innate ideas within every one of us, and we need to unpack those using logic. That’s the method. But it’s an independent use of logic and reason, and ultimately, it’s faith-based because it’s faith in human ability to think and to properly understand and interpret what he is thinking about.
That went bankrupt in the ancient world. In the modern world that was the view of Descartes and others, and that also went bankrupt.
Empiricism replaced it: that we learn from the things that we observe, from our sense perception. External experience became the basis for scientific method, but it too is based on faith in human ability to properly interpret what we experience. It also used the rigorous use of logic and reason.
Now this is Plato and Aristotle, basically, but guess what? Ultimately you realize that neither human reason independent of God, nor human experience independent of God can provide the ultimate answers.
As a result of what happened during this time in Greece, they developed some nomenclature to describe this. One of the terms that they used was the term LOGOS.
LOGOS can be translated a number of different ways. It can be translated as “word,” it can be translated with the idea of reason or thought. It can refer to things. It became a central feature in Greek philosophical thinking. Part of the mind which was called the NOUS—this is an Anaxagoras’ contribution—but it came to develop and is the root of the word that we use, “logic.”
We have this computer in our head, and they finally decided that there are certain rules for thinking accurately and communicating accurately about what goes on, but because we live in a corrupt world and we’re all sinners, there were those that came along, and began to use logic and reason to pervert this.
The problem with reason and experience or rationalism and experience, is that we learn a lot of things through reason and through experience, but apart from divine revelation we can’t truly understand. So there’s always going to be a break down whenever thought is developed that is independent of divine revelation.
Through the abuse of logic, they created skepticism. You can’t really know the truth, you can’t really find the meaning to life, you can’t really find happiness. Once you destroy people’s confidence in being able to find answers to the deep questions of life, they can’t live that way.
So they have to believe something in spite of their logic or reason, which in this case is wrong, and so they just sort of leap to an answer. They have intuitive flashes of knowledge and information: “I just know it’s true.” “How do you know it’s true?” “Well, I just believe it.”
Just believing apart from corroborating evidence is no basis for truth. That’s at the very foundation of what was going on last week in this trial. Whether something happened to Dr. Ford or not, we will never know. But the issue in our civilization is that if we’re going to make an accusation, then it has to be backed by corroborating evidence. No matter how deeply and profoundly I believe something to be true. It is only true if there is corroborating evidence.
Acts 1:3, Jesus appeared to the disciples in resurrection body with many convincing proofs. In the Old Testament any charge or accusation against anyone had to be confirmed by two or three witnesses. Otherwise, the penalty of the crime would be brought against the person who made the false accusation. That is the foundation for our whole legal system. It is based on an understanding of reason properly used and logic.
We saw a great example of it in two fields this week: One was the articulation of her position by Sen. Collins on Friday. I don’t agree with everything she said in there, but it was an example of a rational reasoned response. On the other side of the aisle you have a Harvard law professor, Alan Dershowitz, who is a committed Democrat and a liberal, and he has argued in several pieces the last couple of weeks for the exact same conclusion. Kavanaugh was not his selection; that was not his choice, but he argued that on the basis of law and his use of logic and reason, that he must be confirmed.
What happens in the culture? Many in the culture have given themselves over to mysticism. The influence of the New Age movement back in the 80’s has borne the fruit of “it’s true if I believe it.” If somebody makes the claim, it’s true. They don’t need any corroborating evidence. This is the root of anarchy.
This is the same kind of thing that we’re saying in Acts 19. We have, as the ancient Greeks did, gone through this cycle. It happens in different cultures, but it’s always the same. Reason falls apart without being grounded on revelation. Empiricism falls apart without being grounded on revelation. That leads to skepticism, which is replaced by mysticism.
That’s where the Greco Roman culture was in the first century. Mysticism rejects logic and rejects reason. You can’t reason with people who have rejected reason and truth as viable options.
What do they do? They just throw temper tantrums. We see an example of this in the second part of Acts 19. This riot in Ephesus because of the loss of income due to the fact that Christianity has so radically impacted the culture, that people weren’t buying the little superstitious silver trinkets anymore—the little statues of Diana and the little images of the temple—so is hurting their pocketbook, and it’s impacting the economics of the culture.
In contrast to these other views, you have revelation. God reveals truth. I’ve used this example many times: you go to Adam and Eve in the garden, and what do you find? You find God putting them in the garden, they’re in perfect environment. They’re in perfect environment outside, they’re in perfect environment on the inside, but God still needs to give them information. They just don’t have innate ideas to tell them what’s right and what’s wrong.
God says, “I’ve given you all the trees in the garden to eat, from except one; you can’t eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil for the day that you do, you will die instantly.”
They could’ve never figured that out on the use of reason alone. They could’ve never figure that out on the use of experience, because once they just ate of the tree, they’re spiritually dead. They had to be informed of that by God.
God’s revelation gives us the framework for being able to interpret what we reason through and to interpret our experience, and it rejects mysticism from the get-go because mysticism is grounded in irrationalism. What Christianity brought to Western Europe was a foundation for reason and rationality, because in the beginning was the LOGOS.
What’s interesting here is at the same time that the Greeks have developed reason and rationality, then they departed from it because it didn’t really answer their problems, so they were all mired in mysticism by the time of the first century.
During this period the Jewish community, the rabbis, had developed a new term, a new word, that is not used in the New Testament, but is the Aramaic translation of the word LOGOS. It’s the word MEMRA.
This whole doctrine related to MEMRA has been uncovered in the last 20 or 30 years. There is a lot I could say about it, but it’s not germane to what we’re talking about, but part of the rabbinical concept of MEMRA, which paralleled very closely to John’s teaching about the LOGOS in John 1, is that the MEMRA was the revelation of God.
In fact, they thought that when the Scripture says “and the word of the Lord came to me” they would translate “the word of the Lord” as MEMRA and treated the MEMRA as a second person in the Godhead. Fascinating, the parallels.
They’re saying that when the word of the Lord came to them—as we often see in the Old Testament, the Angel of the Lord would come and bring revelation. That’s how they were understanding it, that this is a person bringing God’s message to them, and it would be the Second Person of the Trinity. They understood that at the heart of the concept of revelation, the concept of word is the concept of reason.
What rescued the bankruptcy of Athens, the philosophy, the autonomous philosophy of the Greeks from the garbage heap of history, and what transformed Western civilization was the rational God of the Old Testament who is a God of reason, a God of logic, and a God who gives meaning.
As a result of that there is a sure and certain hope, and that changes culture. There is a lot of talk today, a lot of blame to Europeans, to European culture, and to white people. Just automatically blamed. It’s silly. It’s a failure to understand history from the divine view.
Every Western European would be just as pagan as any Eastern Asian, any African, or any Indian in the Western Hemisphere if it were not for what Paul did in Ephesus and in Rome. He transformed the culture by bringing biblical truth to the culture, and that is what made Western civilization, Western civilization.
If it were not for Christianity all of the Nordic races would still be worshiping Oden and Thor. All of the Celts would be worshiping their various gods and still warring with each other. All of the other tribes the Goths in the Visigoths and all of the others would still be worshiping their myriad gods.
But it was the gospel that came into Europe under the apostle Paul, and it was true for all of Europe, what was true for the Thessalonians. 1 Thessalonians 1:9 says that they turned to God from idols and served the living and true God. That’s what transformed the culture, and that’s why these confrontations in Acts 19 are so important.
The Bible and the truth of Christianity is always going to divide people. Jesus said that. He came to bring a sword. It will always divide people because there are those that will respond to the grace of God, trust in Christ as Savior and pursue spiritual growth and let their thinking be transformed by the truth of Scripture.
And there are those who are going to be like the Jews, not only in Ephesus, but also at Philippi and Thessalonica, Corinth, and other places, and they are “… hardened; they did not believe, but spoke evil of the way.” Luke refers to Christianity throughout most of Acts as “the Way.” The disciples withdrew, and they meet daily in the school of Tyrannus.
This goes on, we were told “for two years.”
Then we see how God authenticated the teaching of Paul through these miracles. There’s a contrast between the miracles of Scripture and the pseudo-miracles and the magic of paganism, and it became very clear to people what happened.
I’ve taken so much time going through the background of that but it’s so important for understanding this, and it’s so important for understanding how and why Paul develops Ephesians the way he does.
Romans and Ephesians are some of the most exemplary pieces of literature that demonstrate rigorous logic. and we have to understand that, and break it down. We will just have time to run through this first confrontation.
Because he did these miracles, and because there were people that would even come up and without Paul’s knowledge—that shows that God’s the One that’s doing the work, not Paul. The magic isn’t in the handkerchiefs; these were just the bandannas and the rags that he used in his tent-making business. People would touch them, but it is God’s grace, it is God’s power that was healing people.
Acts 19:12 “… the diseases left them, and the evil spirits went out of them.”
That’s an important word because in this episode we’re dealing with those who are demon possessed. If you want to get my book on spiritual warfare, I go through the details there, but first of all there’s a debate over what demon possession is.
Demon possession doesn’t mean you are possessed in the sense of ownership by Satan. You will hear a lot of people teach it that way, and these are people who do not understand and have not exegeted the Greek, the language that expresses this in Scripture. It is not about ownership. It is about the residence of the demon inside of a person.
You have language like the word I’ve underlined here “to go out of them.” Go back and do an analysis of all of the demon possession stories in the Gospels. You’ll have a demon who is in somebody and Jesus doesn’t use the word, here we have the word “exorcism.”
Exorcism is not what God or Christ or the apostles did. Exorcism is what the pagans did. The word’s only really used here of these pagan magicians, these apostate Jews.
In the Gospels, the word that is used exclusively is the word EKBALLO: to cast out. Well, if you’re going to cast out: if I’m standing here, if I’m going to throw the ball out of the church, what can you say for certain? That I have to be inside the church to throw it out of the church. So to cast the demon out, it has to be inside.
Well, that’s also clear from other language that when Jesus, for example, cast the demons out of the men at Gadara, they went into the pigs. And the word there is the word EISERCHOMI, which means to enter into or go into something, so it’s inside of them.
So it came out, EXERCHOMAI, and goes into. It is cast out, EKBALLO. So it is very clear the demon possession isn’t about ownership; demon possession is about the internal residence of the demon inside of somebody, so that they can control certain bodily functions and other things.
This cannot happen to a believer, and the reason it can’t is because we have been sanctified by God the Holy Spirit who has made our body a temple.
Now there are two different words that are translated in relation to temple. There is the word HIEROS and the word NAOS. The word HEIROS would describe the entire temple complex. All of the outer courtyards, the courtyard of the Gentiles, the courtyard of the women, all of these things.
But the inner Holy of Holies is described by the word NAOS. That is where the Shekinah of God dwelt. We are made the NAOS of God, of the Holy Spirit. You cannot have the presence of evil, of a demonic presence inside of the NAOS. That excludes demon possession from a Christian.
Now we can be demon influenced, and demon influence is simply thinking like the devil thinks. So when we’re arrogant, we’re demon influenced. When we are mired in mysticism or in polytheism, we’re being demon influenced. Whenever we’re thinking on the basis of the sin nature and self-absorption and narcissism, we’re under demon influence. We’re thinking like Satan would have us to think. His original sin was that of arrogance.
These evil spirits were cast out. Now these itinerant Jewish exorcists came along, and they “call on the name of Jesus over those who had evil spirits.” Acts 19:13.
They’ve heard Paul, they go, “Wow! That’s a good idea. We haven’t heard that incantation before.” So they’re using the name of Jesus like it’s just another magic charm. But when they come along, they say, “ ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ ”
This is the EXORKIZO, which I said was only used of pagan practices. It is never used in the Gospels of what Jesus and the disciples did.
These fake exorcists come along, and they get quite a surprise. And “… there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.” Acts 19:14.
And the evil spirit talks back to them. They’d probably never had that happen before. The evil spirit is taunting them, mocking them, and making fun of them. He says, “Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?” Acts 19:15.
It is interesting here because “Jesus I know” uses the word GINOSKO, and that indicates a more in-depth experiential knowledge. These demons know exactly who Jesus was. They had experience with Jesus for eternity. They knew who he was.
“Paul I know” is a different word. This is the word EPISTAMAI. This is where we get our word “epistemology,” the study of knowledge. It’s coming to understand something, “I’ve heard some things about this Paul. I’ve come to understand who he is, but who are you?”
“Then the man with the evil spirit leaps on them, overpowers them and strips them, and they flee from the house naked and wounded.” Acts 19:16
He just basically makes them the laughingstock of Ephesus. All because they’re trying to use magic instead of the true power of God.
Acts 19:17, “This became known both all the Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus, and fear fell on them …”
Now think in terms of Isaiah 6 when Isaiah falls before the presence of God. Think in terms of Moses bowing down at the burning bush. Think in terms of John the apostle on the Isle of Patmos when Jesus appears to him, and he falls down as if dead. This is that kind of fear. This shakes the culture to its foundation.
“… fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord was magnified.” It was made great.
Now there’s a pun going on here because the word for magnified is related to what will be said by the Ephesians in the next episode when they say, “great is Diana of the Ephesians.” And so we see that this is a direct head-on confrontation with the culture.
Acts 19:18, “And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds.”
Now that’s important. They had already believed. It’s a perfect tense in the Greek, meaning it is completed action. They had already believed in the past, but they weren’t growing spiritually, they were still dabbling in the occult. They were still part of their culture. They had not come to understand that they were to live distinct from the culture. Now they do.
Acts 19:19, “… many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them.”
We know from archaeology there were a lot of these scrolls, and they were worth a lot of money, 50,000 pieces of silver. I would suggest that this was probably worth somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000 in today’s market, maybe more. This was expensive.
Sometimes, to obey and follow Christ as a disciple, costs something. We studied that recently in our series on discipleship.
Those “who had practiced magic,”—PRASSO. This is not something like “Oh, they went to fortuneteller or read an astrology column once.” No, they were involved in this to some degree on a regular basis, so they “practice magic.”
This is a weird word. It’s a word that usually refers to somebody who’s meddlesome or a busybody, but when it’s used of things, it refers to something that’s curious. It ought to be translated more like occult, I think today, than the word magic.
The result was that Acts 19:20, “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”
We see here that it is the God who speaks, the God who reasons, who confronts pagan culture. And we are to transform culture. Christianity changes culture. It doesn’t matter whether you’re French, doesn’t matter if you’re Indian, it doesn’t matter if you’re Chinese or Japanese or Hispanic or Anglo-Saxon.
If you’re not thinking according to the Word of God, you’re wrong, and we have to be conformed to Christ, and that only comes by being sanctified by His Word, and that is what brings us together, and that is a sub-theme that runs throughout the epistle to the Ephesians.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to think these things through, to see that the Bible is not just a nice little collection of Sunday School stories, but is profound, and that it confronts culture, it changes culture and transforms.
“The impact of what Paul did here is the root of the transformation that occurred throughout Western civilization, and has benefited us some 19 centuries later in ways we cannot fathom. Without this confrontation we would still be the primitive mystics of the pagans of ancient Europe and Asia and Africa. You have transformed us.
“Father, we need to have a much higher view of Your Word, much higher view of our need to study it, to internalize it, to be saturated with it.
“Father, we pray that as we study these things that we would just be in awe of Who You are as those in Ephesus were awed and struck with fear as they saw Your power worked out through the apostle Paul. That power is still ours, not in doing miracles in that way, not in those specific instances, but in the transformation of our lives.
“Father, we pray that those who are listening, who may have never clearly understood the gospel before would have a clear understanding that salvation is not based on who we are or what we do. We are corrupt and spiritually dead and cannot do anything that pleases or honors You apart from Your grace.
“And that Jesus Christ did it all, so that all that we do is to believe in Him, to trust in Him. In the image of the Old Testament, we just look at the serpent on the pole, that’s all that is necessary. Just look, we glance, we’re doing it because You said to and that is all that is necessary to save us. As we look to Jesus as we receive Him as our Savior, we trust in Him, we have eternal life.
“For the rest of us, we need to learn that we have to deal with the human viewpoint in our souls, and we need to be transformed by the renovation of our minds, according to Your Word.
“We pray that we would rise to that challenge. In Christ’s name, amen.”