Acts 19:8-20 Ephesus: Nitty Gritty Church Work

NOTE: These provided notes are not the totality of what is spoken in our worship service and are intended to be used with the audio of the sermon. Not everything in these notes are a full exposition of the text. They are a guide for assisting in listening to the spoken word.

Acts 19:8-20

Ephesus: Nitty Gritty Church Work

The work of the kingdom is challenging.

There is no such thing as neutrality in life. One is either 1) in the kingdom and working to advance it against the undercurrent of spiritual and physical opposition, or 2) they are in the kingdom and victims of the current and they waver between going with the flow and guilt that they are not fighting harder or 3) they are just in the current of the curse and happily and mindlessly spiraling toward the end of all things and not a hope of rescue.

I chose to say the work of the kingdom is “challenging” rather than “impossible” because Jesus told us that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). If following Jesus is “choking us out” or we find it “impossible” then we may not be following Jesus.

Following Jesus is challenging and requires us to rest properly but by all means use that rest to expend stored energy in the challenging labor of engaging domains with the gospel of the kingdom, making disciples, establishing outposts of the kingdom and multiplying those outposts to all nations. The Great Commission should give missional direction to every one of our lives.

Jesus did let us know that the work would be challenging because he said that we would have trouble in the world system but to take heart because he had overcome the world (John 16:33). Because he has overcome, it would be challenging, challenging but not impossible.

But this challenge is not to chew us up and spit us out. This challenge is opportunity for us to expend ourselves and watch Jesus make it “easy” and “light” by making the work go forward and causing us to not wear out like the Israelite’s clothing during their 40 years of wandering.

We’ve been taught to preserve ourselves.

Jesus taught us to expend ourselves. “He who loses his life for my sake finds it” (Luke 9:24).

We don’t need to tell the current generations to “take a rest” on the kingdom. Current generations wear themselves out entertaining themselves to death and seeking to make themselves better to death, but few are losing their lives for the sake of the kingdom and finding that he lifts them up on wings like eagles.

This is important because the examples we have in the bible (and in past church history) conflict with our experience of an exceptionally easy, entertainment rich, retreat filled life that rarely ever requires the miraculous sustaining of and advance of the cause entrusted to our care.

This is important because we are presented with Paul…an ordinary, hard working, business owning, preaching apostle who worked like an ox but was sustained and supported the full measure of his days with strong health and exceptional joy.

In our text today, we are going to see Paul hard at work and yet sustained and victorious by God’s grace in the “nitty gritty church work of Ephesus”.

What do we see? What does it mean?

Laboring for the kingdom v. 8-10

Paul began at the synagogue.

Spoke boldly about the kingdom of God

Reasoned about the kingdom of God

Persuaded about the kingdom of God

When stubbornness set in and speaking evil of the church began, Paul and the disciples the “hall of Tyrannus” (literally “tyrant”).

The name of the Greek rhetorician of Ephesus in whose lecture room Paul

delivered discourses daily for two years (Acts 19:9). Perhaps Paul and he occupied the same room at different hours. He may have been a convert.[1]

Note the footnote at the end of verse 9. Some manuscripts add the time frame of Paul’s teaching as being from the 5th hour to the 10th hour (11-4).

“The work day in Ephesus began at 7, broke at 11, and continued from 4 until about 9:30.”[2] 11-4 was their mid-day siesta.

Acts 20:34 “…these hands ministered to my necessities.”

“Paul paid his own way and taught 5 hours a day, six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for two years – 3,120 hours of lecture. This is equivalent to 130 days of lecturing continuously for twenty-four hours a day.”[3]

Result? All the residents of Asia (modern day Turkey) heard the word of the Lord (Jews and Greeks…all ethnicities)

How do we obey?

  1. Mitchell Jolly has to bring his life under the life shaping command to disciple the nations in every detail. Mission-centric living.


  1. I need to continue to grow my work ethic.


  1. I need to Sabbath appropriately. And by appropriately, I mean rest, but don’t live life on constant rest rejecting hard work because it taxes me to the point of actually needing Jesus to multiply loaves and fishes.

We will never see the supernatural if we never push beyond the natural.

Extraordinary (GK: outside of the common) miracles through an ordinary hard working servant v. 11-12

As though a miracle is not already extraordinary, Luke explains the miracles that happen here at Ephesus as extraordinary.

“Handkerchiefs” (soudarion – sweat cloth )and “aprons” (simikinthion – apron worn by a worker/artisan) that had touched Paul were carried away and used to heal the sick and release people from demonic activity.

This account and similar ones have suffered disgraceful abuse in the hands of opportunists who either unintentionally misuse the text or who misuses it to their advantage.

“Paul was not selling his handkerchiefs or socks or aprons to the local faithful. They were borrowing them and applying them to the sick. And God, at this critical juncture in the church’s history, being a God of incredible patience and grace, met these people on their own level with bona fide miracles, accommodating himself to their uninstructed faith…The full meaning of these miracles ties in with God’s view of Paul’s costly, determined labor for Christ.”[4]

These sweat cloths and aprons were… “Symbols which God chose to employ in order to underscore the characteristic of the apostle which made him a channel of the power of God. In the same way, Moses’ rod was a symbol. Cast on the ground, the rod became a serpent; lifted over the waters it rolled them back. There was nothing magical about the rod itself; it was the symbol of something about Moses which God honored. So these sweatbands and trade aprons were symbols of the honest, dignified humility of heart, the servant-character which manifested and released the power of God.”[5]

How do we obey?

  1. Expend yourself for the kingdom and let God decide when and how to multiply loaves and fishes. If he does, give him praise and enjoy the fruit. If he does not then keep laboring.


  1. Don’t presume to be the carrier of some miracle. Notice that others carried Paul’s sweat cloths and aprons away and applied them to see what Paul’s God may do. Just execute your work in your domain, make disciples and let Jesus get his miracle power on.

Spiritual darkness imitates and fights back v. 13-16

Ephesus was a spiritual hotbed of activity and the work of dealing in the occult and ghosts and spirits was quite lucrative.

The use of “names” known to have power over spiritual entities was common, so adding the name of Jesus may increase business.

A crew of seven sons of a Jewish high priests who were operating their exorcist business decide to try “Jesus” out on some folks with evil spirits.

The evil spirits recognize Jesus and Paul, but have no clue about these opportunists and beats them up.

There is no resolution to this story regarding the seven or the man oppressed. We don’t know what became of the ghost hunters and what became of the demonized man. The Holy Spirit resolves it in verse 17 for his church though.

We just know the enemy hit back using fools trying to imitate the power of the kingdom and it didn’t work.

How do we obey?

  1. Believe spiritual warfare is real and expect it against you and your work.


  1. Spiritual warfare can be overt like this or covert and sneaky.


  1. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14).


  1. Take authority, rebuke lies in your mind and lies in the culture. Speak the truth. Live the truth out.

Satan’s tactics end up working against the dominion of darkness and they produce conviction and repentance in the church as a response v. 17-19

Isaiah 54:17 “…no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed…”

This story became known to all.

Fear fell on everyone.

The name of Jesus was “extolled”.

Disciples were convicted of their sin and confessed their practices.

Disciples who were still practicing the occult brought their books and such to be burned…the equivalent to 135 years wages (“drachma…silver coin…days wage).

How do we obey?

  1. Live in the confidence that if we are doing God’s work and operating in his way, we are unbeatable.
  1. Don’t be deterred by the enemy’s attacks.

The kingdom grows v. 20

The word increased and prevailed mightily!

How do we obey?

  1. Receive the victory of the advance of the kingdom and enjoy it.
  1. Worship the King!

[1]  Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[2] R. Kent. Hughes, Preaching the Word, vol. Acts (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 255.

[3] Ibid., 255.

[4] Ibid., 256

[5] Ray C. Stedman, Growth of the Body: (Santa Ana, CA: Vision House Publishers, 1976), 160-161.



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