Acts Part 18

Notes on Acts

Part Eighteen




Read 19:11-20.


Extraordinary miracles were performed by the apostle. There are many disciples that teach that miracles no longer occur today. They argue that they were necessary during the earthly ministry of Jesus and during the apostolic era in order to prove the truth of the gospel message. Others, such as Pentecostal believers, teach that miracles happen today in equal measure as they did in those days. The Pentecostal position must be untrue since it is obvious, through simple observation, that any so-called miracles being promoted today pale in comparison to what was wrought through Peter and Paul. However, the first position has no biblical support. There are no biblical passages that teach that miracles have ceased. Rather, the argument from the cessasionists[1] is founded upon reason alone.


The truth is in-between. Miracles are recorded throughout church history, albeit sparingly and rarely. This ought not to be considered unusual, since even biblical history shows that miracles did not often happen. Moreover, the miracles that have been witnessed are not of the same magnitude as that of Jesus, nor the apostles. Hence, we may pray for supernatural intervention and be open to the laying on of hands (the means by which many miracles take place in the NT) and even expect to receive a blessing! Our God is still in the miracle-working business! On the other hand, we need to be on guard against so-called miracle-workers who will even sell physical items, promising that they will bring healing, prosperity, etc. These are charlatans because there are no apostle Pauls among us today and, even if there were, they wouldn’t be selling handkerchiefs!


The seven sons of Sceva were full time exorcists. This shows that demonic possession was a far greater occurrence then than in the modern era. One wonders how these exorcists were able to expel demons since they had neither the authority of Christ nor his apostles. Although they miserably failed in this instance, it is hard to imagine them failing all the time, otherwise no one would ever use their services. A possible explanation is that they were never successful and that is why they kept travelling around – to find new gullible victims to pay for their services.


Their failure shows that it is not enough to use the name of Jesus, as if the verbal sounding of his name has some kind of magical power. Rather, the reality of faith in Him must be present in the one who would combat forces of evil. This is because it is a matter of authority. And, authority is only granted to the genuine follower of Christ in this age.


“Though they may have fooled the gullible Ephesians, these would-be exorcists could not fool the demon. He knew that they did not have any power over him. Speaking through the voice of his human victim, the evil spirit scornfully said to them, ‘I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’ He knew very well who Jesus was, and was aware that Paul had received supernatural power over the demonic realm from Him. By demanding from the exorcists ‘who are you?’ the demon challenged their authority over him.


The exorcists, of course, had neither the right to use the name of Jesus nor the power to command demons, so the demon attacked them viciously. With the supernatural strength that sometimes accompanies demon possession (Mark 5:3-4), the man in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdues all seven of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of the house naked and wounded. Battered, defrocked, and humiliated, they beat a hasty and ignominious retreat.”[2]


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.[3]


“The tremendous reality of the name (encompassing all that is true about Him) of Jesus was evident to everyone. They recognized that He was no one to trifle with but someone before whom to bow in faith. Shaken by what had happened and recognizing the futility of pagan magic, many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. Thus they displayed the turning from sin that marks genuine repentance. Praxeis (practices) here refers to their secret magical spells, which were generally believed to be rendered useless if they were divulged.”[4]


And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. [5]


We are accustomed to buying books from Barnes & Noble, Walmart, or Amazon for a relatively inexpensive price. This is because tens of thousands (or more!) of these books are printed on machines. But books had to be written by hand 2,000 years ago, and this would have been a long, time-consuming process, and even the writing materials (papyrus, vellum, etc.) were costly. Books were expensive! “Fifty thousand pieces of silver” is equivalent to four million dollars today! One might think that the books could have been sold and then the money used to help the poor or to grow the kingdom. But they did not sell them because they were books of lies. Truth is more important to God than practical money concerns. And, it was more important to these fledgling believers. Burning these books was a powerful testimony to the disdain that they had for the lies of incantations and magic.


So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. [6]


It is the word of the Lord that increased and prevailed. This ought to be our goal. We do not need to build ourselves up or seek to magnify our ministry. Just proclaim the word of the Lord and there is power inherent in it. God will increase his own word. We only need to follow Paul’s example and speak it out.


Read 19:21-41.


“In 19:21 we see that it was in his spirit that Paul purposed to go to Jerusalem. Because the Lord the Spirit dwelt in Paul’s spirit (2 Tim. 4:22; Rom. 8:10-11), he must have purposed according to the leading of the Lord the Spirit. Paul’s human spirit was regenerated by the Spirit of God (john 3:6) and indwelt by the Lord the Spirit. Paul’s spirit witnessed with the Spirit (Rom. 8:16), and in his spirit he worshipped God and served Him (John 4:24; Rom. 1:9).”[7]


The account of the uproar in Ephesus is well explained by Luke and requires little explanation. “The image which fell down from heaven,” in reference to the statue of Artemis, is uncertain. There is only speculation that a meteor was seen to have fallen to the earth, retrieved, and then carved into a statue of the goddess.


The idolatrous activity of Ephesus reminds me [CR] of the idol in the Philippines called “Santo Nino.” This translates to “The Boy Saint” and is supposed to represent Jesus as a two or three year old. The statue has the very young Jesus dressed in a royal, flamboyant gown covered with jewels, and a crown on his head. Although there was a rumor that the statue was just found buried in the ground, the correct history has been known all along. That is, Magellan had brought the statue from Europe to the Philippines in 1521 and gave it as a gift to Humabon, the ruler of Cebu island. Humabon, his queen, and about 500 of his cohorts, all received the Catholic faith. The statue has been worshipped by the Filipino people for five centuries. I was a witness to this at the “Festival of Santo Nino” in Cebu on my trip there in 1994. They marched through the streets with the statue being carried on a platform by several priests. People were falling down before it on their knees and worshipping it. Even more than in the West, the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines is full of raw idolatry.


Read 20:1-17.


Again, Luke’s account is easy to understand. The only question that comes up on occasion is whether Eutychus had actually died. Paul, saying that, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him,” has been interpreted by some to imply that he had not died but they only thought that he died. MacArthur’s comments clarify this:


“Luke declares that Eutychus was dead. As a physician (Col. 4:14), he was obviously able to determine that. The shocking event broke up the meeting and the stunned believers gathered around Eutychus’s body. The tragedy, however, was shortly to be turned to triumph. Paul went down with the rest and fell upon him and after embracing him, he said, ‘Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.’ That Paul fell upon him, embracing him is reminiscent of Elijah (I Kings 17:1) and Elisha (2Kings 4:340. The apostle’s statement that ‘his life is in him’ does not mean that Eutychus had not died but that his life had been restored.”[8]


Read 20:17-38.


Paul addresses the Ephesian elders and encourages them. Among many other things, he says:


And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. [9]


Although these words of encouragement were addressed to the elders, they apply to all believers. The word of God’s grace is able to build us up! Not only build us up, but to give us an inheritance! We need to be reminded that whereas eternal life is a gift for those who are unworthy, inheriting the kingdom is for those who are worthy. It is a reward for the overcomers. There is a difference between a gift and a reward. A gift is completely undeserved and is based solely upon the grace of the giver. A reward is earned for good work. Grace is still involved because none of our works, in themselves, have merit because they are tainted. Still, the Lord will graciously grant a reward for the overcomers and this reward is inheriting the kingdom.


And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage,[10]


Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.[11]


Only those who are sanctified will inherit the kingdom. It is the word of God’s grace that will sanctify us. If we neglect God’s word, our sanctification will be severely limited and we will find it difficult, if not impossible, to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.


Paul says to you: “I commend you to God and the word of his grace which is able to build you up and give you the inheritance.”




[1] So called because they believed that the supernatural gifts have ceased.

[2] John MacArthur, TMNTC on Acts, Vol. 2, 176.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 19:17). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, 177.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 19:19). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 19:20). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] Witness Lee, Life-Study of Acts Message 51.

[8] MacArthur, 204.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 20:32–33). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 20:34–35). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Col 3:23–24). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.