Text: Acts 19:8 – 41
Proposition: The early church was referred to as The Way referring to the way to live, the way to faith, the way to a permanent relationship with God through Jesus.
Introduction: I saw an amazing program this week on the research being done to discover the causes of Alzheimer’s disease. They have made a startling connection between it and diabetes to the point that they began to refer to Alzheimer’s as Type 3 diabetes. The brain needs insulin to process with it’s neurotransmitters. This discovery in turn prompted the realization that the food we eat has a direct connection to the way our bodies produce and distribute insulin. Then they made a correlation between the processed food industry which began to grow through the late 1950’s and has continued to take greater and greater market share in the way we eat. The rise of processed foods exactly parallels the rise in the incidence of diabetes and in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. From this we begin to not only correlate food to disease but we begin to change what we buy in terms of food. The food industry won’t like the change, they will resist it even if it means disease is ignored because of profit margins. The reason I tell you all this is because it is like a modern day parable of what took place with the exposing of the reality of sin, it’s devastating effects, the remedy for that in Christ Jesus and the resistance that remedy can expect. Have a look at Acts 19 with me.
I. There Is a Way That Proclaims The Way.
Of all the terms the early church in Ephesus could use to describe themselves they chose the phrase, ‘The Way’. Twice in verses 9 and 23 it is used to describe this growing, vibrant body of Christ. The Way refers to a manner of thinking, feeling and deciding, literally that’s how the Greek term The Way’ translates. They believed that Jesus is the Way. It’s not that He showed them the way but rather He became the Way. He didn’t point to where righteousness could be found, He took them to the very place and on the cross became The Way. Through death He showed The Way and then by His resurrection He proved He was The Way. Look what verse 8 says about Paul, “He went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.” The process was to make people think, to pull forward their understanding which would engage their emotion, but that is not the stopping place. From here he called them to decision, to choice about Jesus Christ. He called them to some form of response, a repentance that had feet, a belief in Jesus that had arms and hands and voice. The reaction in the synagogue against this was significant. Paul withdrew to a place where he could teach without interference. Verse 9 tells us that for the next two years Paul reasoned with the disciples, pouring into them, shaping them. He spent more time in Ephesus that in any other place, laying a foundation of teaching that would strengthen the church even as it shook the town.
II. When The Way is Proclaimed the Effect is Pronounced.
A pronounced effect is an evident effect you’ll see in either a positive or negative reaction. God began to do miracles through Paul, Luke describes these as ‘unusual miracles’. The power of God was used in inanimate objects to bring about healing and demonic deliverance “so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.” It was a series of unusual miracles that accompanied the proclamation of the gospel and it had a pronounced effect. Some tried to copy the power of casting out demons by using the name of Paul like a magic spell but the end was to run head on into the power of evil. When people heard about the way these seven sons of the Jewish chief priest Sceva had been stripped of their clothes and been beaten, barely escaping from a demon possessed man, they saw the power that was being dismantled by the proclamation of the gospel. When you see the power of evil being overcome by the power of Christ the effect is pronounced. Look at verse 17, “This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.” When you read the next verses you begin to see what the town of Ephesus was really like, what its underside looked like. It was why Paul spent almost three years there. This was the taking over of an enemy stronghold. People began to come and confess their sin, speaking out loud about the garbage they had been tangled up in. Then this, “… many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.” There was a revolution of repentance happening in Ephesus, the powers of wickedness that had been built up over hundreds of years were now being torn down under the proclamation of The Way, Jesus Christ. The effect is pronounced, lives are set free, repentance has feet, fire consumes the places that had imprisoned them. The word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed as the people actively began to pursue life in Christ. At the peak of this victory look what happens next.
Paul, who has served here for almost three years, is being given a call to leave. He sends Timothy and Erastus on to Greece and Corinth. Many believe that he gave them a letter called 1st Corinthians to take with them, preparing the way for his second visit to Corinth. When the cause of the disease is exposed, sin, the cure identified, Christ Jesus, then resistance will increase. The silver smiths see a decline in their sales as more and more people became Christians. They were losing market share and the response was to create a riot that almost enveloped Paul and would have killed him had it done so. In the next chapter we will see Paul go to Greece and then on to Corinth. It’s here he will write the epistle to the Romans, and then make his way back to again speak with the elders of Ephesus, one last time. Paul tirelessly proclaimed the Way, the effect was always evident.