Reading through the Bible together
Ephesus was perhaps the fourth largest city in the Roman Empire, right after Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch. The Ephesian arena could hold 25,000 people. The patron goddess was Diana, and her temple was huge with 127 pillars of marble. It was believed that the idol of Diana fell down from heaven (v.35). The city was the business capital of Asia Minor, and was rife with spiritualism. When I visited Ephesus, I was amazed. I walked for hours, viewing street after street of excavated ruins. I saw the large library, the arena, the marketplace, the public toilets along the main thoroughfares! Looking down, I saw the road that led to the seaport, and left to where people assembled, I marveled that God could primarily use one man to turn that entire region to Christ, starting with the deeply pagan city of Ephesus.
Paul had gone by the city on his way to Jerusalem, but could not stay (Acts 18:18-21). He promised to return. When he did, he found there some disciples of John the Baptist who knew almost nothing of Jesus Christ. When Paul told them about the Savior, His ministry, His death and resurrection, and His promise of the Holy Spirit, they accepted it all with their whole hearts. Immediately they began to speak in other languages and prophesied (vv.1-7), just like what happened at Pentecost some 20 years before.
As in previous cities, the Jews turned against Paul. His entire ministry in Ephesus took over two years, and all who dwelt in that area of Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus (v.10).
This cosmopolitan center was steeped in spiritualism. But where the power of Satan is most obvious, the power of God is most clearly demonstrated. The sick were healed, and when the sons of an apostate Jewish priest tried to use Paul’s power, they were overcome by the demon they were trying to expel. This led the believers to completely cut off ties with spiritualism, burning their books on magic. “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (v.20).
What does it take to be such an instrument of God, as Paul was in Ephesus? Perhaps we should start with Paul’s question to the initial disciples: Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? (v.2). In other words, is Jesus truly real in your life? The only source of power is Jesus, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Why is that? Jesus is the One who defeated the powers of darkness. Accepting all that Jesus is and teaches is also accepting the same power that He offers. Paul understood this truth and lived it.
Ron E. M. Clouzet
NAD Evangelism Institute Director
Professor of Ministry and Theology
Seminary, Andrews University