“He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.”
Today’s passage covers the pioneering of Ephesus, which was the focal point of Paul’s third missionary journey. In Ephesus God used Paul’s daily Bible studies with the disciples as the power source to advance the kingdom of God, and in the process planted world mission vision in Paul’s heart.
Part I. Paul’s daily Bible study with the disciples (1-10)
In the previous passage, Paul set out from Antioch and traveled from place to place strengthening the disciples. His eventual destination was the city of Ephesus. Paul had been in Ephesus earlier and had promised to return if it were God’s will. Now, he was making good on that promise. When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he found 12 disciples. We learned that these disciples were probably disciples of Apollos. They had received John’s baptism; the baptism of repentance, but had not received the Holy Spirit. Look at verses 4-6. “4Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them…” The disciples were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. As mentioned, they had been Apollos’ disciples. And now, it seems they were they were Paul’s disciples. But really, when it comes right down to it, they were Jesus’ disciples. The important point to consider here is that: Jesus is Lord of the disciples. This means that disciples must come to know Jesus and learn from him and ultimately obey him. This is the reason God gives us the Holy Spirit when we believe. It is to enable us to obey Jesus as Lord. I think most of us know the meaning of WWJD: “What would Jesus do?” In addition, at our last conference, many of us learned WWDD: “What would disciples do?” Here we learn that there should be a perfect match between the two. In other words, what we do as Jesus disciples should be exactly what Jesus did, and what he continued to do.
Now that the disciples had received the Holy Spirit, they needed to grow up. Let’s think about how Paul helped them. Look at verses 8-9. “8Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.” At first, Paul spoke the words of God in the Synagogue, but some became obstinate and refused to believe. When they didn’t repent, they publically maligned they way and probably gave a bad influence to the disciples. So Paul left them. He began having Bible study with his disciples in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. Although these Bible studies were held in a lecture hall, they were not one sided. Paul prepared an environment where the disciples could openly discuss the words of God. Let me ask you a question. Would you rather listen to a teacher lecture or have a class discussion? Most people would rather have a class discussion. I can imagine that the disciples might have been the same. Maybe for their Bible studies they took turns serving refreshments and health snacks; like strawberries or watermelon, peanut butter cookies or yogurt covered raisins. I don’t know how healthy peanut butter cookies are, but I like them. Sometimes I was a little jealous of the women missionary’s Bible study, because whenever you walk by the room when they’re studying you can always hear them laughing and talking loudly. And usually afterwards, if you come by the center at the right time, they leave some of their leftover snacks. They have leftover snacks! Like this, I think the disciples were experiencing joyful times of fellowship in the Lord.
But there was something even more notable about these Bible studies. What was it? It was that they were daily. What does daily mean? Daily means every day! Through daily Bible study they could receive daily guidance through the words of God. They could make a daily decision to obey Jesus and to guard their heart and mind from the deceptive messages of this world. In this way the disciples could grow up continually. Also, let’s look at verse 10. “10This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” The disciple kept daily Bible study for a period of two years. They did not keep it for a day, a few days, a few weeks or months and then take a short vacation and try again. This was very important. Through keeping daily Bible study for a sustained period of time, the disciples were able to experience the lasting transforming power of God’s words. Then, eventually they were even able to teach God’s words to others. In fact, they taught God’s words so diligently and so effectively that all the Jews and Greeks living in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
In Downey UBF we have a daily bread meeting at 5:30am every morning. A certain shepherd has been coming to that meeting daily for a period of, I believe, more than two years. Once he shared with me that at first he could only read the Bible passage and the daily bread booklet and pray. But eventually, he could start writing his own testimonies and was even able to renew his life of mission to teach the Bible to others. Recently, he also shared that he was completing messages in less time and with less effort than before. Personally I really wanted to follow him, but I had little power to make it to these meetings daily for a sustained period of time. Actually, this is a very shameful thing for me to share. So I pray that although I am weak I may simply obey Jesus and come to this meeting every day.
Part II. The effects of Paul’s daily Bible study with the disciples (11-41)
The effects of Paul’s daily Bible study with the disciples were many compounding effects. The first effect was that through these Bible studies it was Paul himself who was blessed the most. Look at verses 11-12. “11God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.” So I have a question: If there are extraordinary miracles, does this mean that there are also ordinary miracles? Isn’t that an oxymoron: ordinary miracles? Perhaps, ordinary miracles involve direct touch; such as Paul placing his hands on the disciples for them to receiving the Holy Spirit. Extraordinary miracles, on the other hand, might involve another level of spiritual power completely. Instead of the Spirit being transferred merely by direct means, the Spirit could be transferred by indirect means as well—being carried on articles of clothing, which Paul inadvertently came in contact with. It appears that through having daily Bible studies with the disciples, Paul was so filled up with the Spirit that the Spirit was literally overflowing from within him. Even handkerchiefs and aprons that he had touched were brought to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
The second effect of Paul’s daily Bible studies with the disciples was that copycat ministries arose. Look at verses 13-16. “13Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15(One day) the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” Copycat ministries are based on sensationalism, but lack content. The seven sons of Sceva wanted the glory of Paul’s ministry without the cross. They had no daily Bible studies, but they still wanted to perform miracles in the name of Jesus. Basically, they were pretenders and hired hands, not authentic shepherds. So in time, God exposed them for what they were. They were beaten up and totally humiliated. Their example shows that those without real spiritual power will easily be overcome by evil.
The third effect of Paul’s daily Bible study with the disciples was that the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Look at verses 17-20. “17When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. 18Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. 19A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” What was the evidence that Jesus’ name was held in high honor? To begin with, a powerful repentance movement arose. People came and openly confessed their evil deeds. And they didn’t stop there. They repented practically too, even at great personal cost. When the people of Ephesus fully repented, the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. With nothing more to inhibit God’s word from gaining power within them, they each became like living, breathing,
walking, talking Bibles.
The fourth effect of Paul’s daily Bible studies with the disciples was that God planted world mission vision in Paul’s heart. Look at verses 21-21. “21After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” 22He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.” In some respect, Ephesus was a testing ground for the further work God had in mind for Paul. It was only after seeing God’s work in Ephesus that he made the decision to visit Rome also. In Ephesus Paul experienced the absolute power God’s word to advance the kingdom of God without a limit. Through this, God opened up his spiritual eyes to see God’s greater vision. The vision Paul saw was to not only pioneer Rome, but to pioneer all nations through Rome.
Rome was, so to speak, the superpower nation of that time. The saying all roads lead to Rome could be taken literally, because it was true. All roads did lead to Rome, which was located at the center of the vast Roman Empire. From there Roman influence spread out to the four corners of the world. As a result, Rome was both loved a hated by the nations. People resented Roman imperialism and Roman law, but they esteemed all types of Roman technology, which was easily the most advanced of its time. But God had a plan to use Roman influence, not to spread Roman technology or Roman culture, nor to spread imperialism, capitalism or any other ism, but to spread the word of God.
Today, America is the modern day Rome, simply because America has the most influence on the other nations of the world. The other nations love American technology, American music, American clothing styles, American basketball and any number of other things that are American, especially; they love to speak English—except for the French. At the same time, other nations hate American greed, American sense of entitlement, American war mongering and so on and so forth. But God’s vision for America is not that America would export fast food restaurants or armies or anything else America is famous for, but that America would export the gospel. God’s vision for America is to be the modern day Rome; that through America God would pioneer the entire world.
But first America must go back to the word of God. Unless America is committed to the word of God we will not be able to fulfill God’s great vision. These days many more coworkers are coming to the daily bread words. Let’s pray that many more would join them. Also, we must raise committed disciples of Jesus for America and world mission. Currently many young disciples are growing up in God’s word and are becoming leaders in sharing the words of God on the college campuses. Let’s pray for them to develop absolute faith in the power of God’s word to conquer the entire world with the word of God.
There was one last additional benefit through Paul’s daily Bible study with the disciples. It was persecutions. In verses 23-41 a riot took place in Ephesus. The idol maker Demetrious called together the men of related trades and said, “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” They started a riot and the entire city joined in. At the heart of this riot was the problem of idolatry, especially the love of money. But also there was the problem of the worship of sexual pleasure, since the temple of Artimis in Ephesus was actually a house of prostitution. In the course of the riot there was a lot of shouting and some people didn’t even know why they were there. Through learning of this event, we need to remember that when we teach God’s words, people are automatically convicted of their sinful and idolatrous lifestyles. Many times they can become rebellious. Like the people of Ephesus, they make a lot of noise. But actually they don’t know what they are doing or why they are doing what they are doing. When we see them doing these things, we should not lose sight of God’s vision. Their response does nothing to change the power of God’s word or the faithful advancement of the kingdom of God. It is merely a temporary distraction.
In conclusion although we can see that America has become increasingly idolatrous, and lots of families are broken, the economy is poor and we’re involved in wars in distant lands with no solution in sight, But God’s vision for America still remains. As long as America turns back to the word of God—especially, with young people committing themselves to the power of God’s words, America has absolute hope to be blessed and used by God powerfully once more.
One word: Daily Bible studies will conquer the world.