Friday 02 June 2017

Bible Book:

“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul.” (v. 11)

Acts 19:1-20 Friday 2 June 2017

Psalm: Psalm 18:1-19


Omitted from our lectionary this week is an account of Paul'stravels in between his mission in Corinth and that in Ephesus. Hecalled briefly at Ephesus and promised to return in due course, Godwilling (Acts 18:19-21). Today's passage gives anaccount of his eventual return to Ephesus, after journeying aroundAsia Minor (Acts 18:22-23).

Ephesus was in Asia Minor and, like Corinth, was known for itscommerce. But it was also an important religious centre of theGraeco-Roman world, home to the impressive Temple of Artemis, oneof the seven wonders of the world. Artemis (or Diana in Romanmythology) was the virgin huntress, goddess of the moon and inEphesus was associated with a local fertility goddess. Perhapsbecause she was linked to the moon, her cult included the practiceof all kinds of magic and superstition, which Paul encountered onthis visit.

Following his usual practice, he went first to the synagogue,but as in Corinth, he soon encountered opposition and moved insteadto a secular lecture hall, where he seems to have evangelised bydiscussion rather than lecture.

The authentic Christian life is lived by drawing power from Godthrough Jesus Christ, rather than acting in one's own power. Thispassage offers two vignettes which dramatise this truth. First Paulencountered the would-be disciples who have only received Baptisminto the movement established by John the Baptist (verses 2-3). AsPaul explained to them John's Baptism, although approved by God,was simply a human act designed to prepare seekers to encounterJesus Christ. Baptism into Jesus Christ is an act of God mediatedthrough the apostle, and authenticated as such by the presence ofGod in the action of the Holy Spirit (verses 4-6).

The other people acting in their own human power are the sevenitinerant Jewish exorcists; in their very words of exorcism theyadmit that they themselves do not proclaim Jesus as Paul does(verse 13) Their humiliation and failure (verse 16) completelydiscredited human power in the community of Ephesus seems to haveinitiated a mass conversion and repudiation of pagan magicalpractices (verses 17-19).

Since both Baptism and exorcism or healing are distinctivelyapostolic acts of liberation, this passage serves to endorse Paul'sstatus as an authentic apostle, demonstrating the redemptiveconsequences of acting humbly in the power of God, rather thanseeking acclaim for personal human power.

To Ponder

  • Have you ever encountered somebody who is doing good and worthythings, but clearly either in the strength of, or for the sake of,their own power, rather than God's? Have you ever been thatperson?
  • What are the signs that somebody is authentically drawing theirstrength from the power of God?
  • What practices do you need in your own life to ensure that youare drawing from the wellspring of God's power, rather than tryingto rely on your own strength?
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