EXTRAORDINARY MIRACLES

Acts 19:11,12 – God kept releasing a flow of extraordinary miracles through the hands of Paul. Because of this, people took Paul’s handkerchiefs and articles of clothing, even pieces of cloth that had touched his skin, laying them on the bodies of the sick, and diseases and demons left them and they were healed.

“Miracles of no ordinary kind, i. e. extraordinary miracles.” This is what Adam Clarke said about the astounding outpouring in Ephesus. Luke had seen all sorts of miracles in his travels with the Apostle Paul but what they were seeing in Ephesus was unprecedented. Nothing like this had ever been seen by Luke before. Obviously the Lord had big plans for the church in Ephesus. I find it quite interesting the way these miracles were described. Luke said that pieces of cloth that had been part of clothing worn by Paul were sent out to the sick and the afflicted. Apparently the anointing that was flowing from Paul was collecting in his clothes. How else could you explain what was happening here? This is reminiscent of the garment that Jesus wore. Often times people would touch the fringe of the Lord’s clothing and healing would flow into their bodies.

Next, Luke describes the effect these clothes had on demons. Apparently, these clothes would be attached to individuals being tormented by evil spirits. The result would be that the spirits would leave and the people would be made whole.

What Luke was describing was a regional outpouring of the Holy Spirit characterized by signs, wonders, and miracles. It started with twelve men in a Bible study and progressed to daily meetings in a rented facility. After two years of these daily meetings there appears to have been an explosion of miracles that effected all of Turkey.

Is it possible for these types of things to happen in our modern world? Maybe we need more of a focus on saturation in the Holy Spirit if we are to see outbreaks of the power of God. Think about what happened here; daily meetings with Paul for two years. Maybe that is why unprecedented things began to happen. In our modern world of social media and smartphones it wouldn’t take much for our world to be turned upside down. Unprecedented miracles would surely get the attention of the world. Maybe its time for another outbreak of signs, wonders, and miracles.

TONGUES AND PROPHESY

Acts 19:5-7 – When they understood this, they were baptized into the authority of Jesus, the Anointed One. And when Paul laid his hands on each of the twelve, the Holy Spirit manifested and they immediately spoke in tongues and prophesied.

This passage gives us great insight to the secret power of the early church. Rather than a formal creed, Paul introduced this group of young Christians to the power of the gospel. Paul taught that our faith couldn’t rest on words only, it must be initiated and sustained by the power of God. 1 Cor.2:4,5 – “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” The Passion Notes described what happened when Paul laid his hands on these young believers.

“The Aramaic is “They spoke tongue by tongue and gushed out prophecies.” The impartation of the Holy Spirit and his gifts are here being transferred from Paul to these believers.”

So from Paul’s perspective it was essential for Christians to be filled with power. Because of this Paul emphasized the Baptism in the Holy Spirit characterized by speaking in tongues and prophesying. Here is a description from the Expositor’s Commentary.

“Despite their being known as disciples, Paul preached Jesus to the men as he would to any Jew. “John’s baptism,” he said, “was a baptism of repentance” that pointed beyond itself and the Baptist to “the one coming after him”–that is, to Jesus. So on their acceptance of Jesus as the focus of Christian faith, they were baptized “into the name of the Lord Jesus.” Then Paul laid his hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit and evidenced the same signs of the Spirit’s presence as the first believers did at Pentecost–namely, tongues and prophecy. Doubtless in Paul’s mind they were not rebaptized but baptized into Christ once and for all.”

Water baptism is really a picture or glimpse into a powerful spiritual reality. Water used in baptism pictures the Holy Spirit and immersion describes total immersion into God Himself. The world today is in great need of the power of God. Great programs and ministries or great singing and preaching can never change the nature of a fallen being. Only an encounter with the power of God can do that.

TONGUES, PROPHESY, AND MIRACLES

Acts 19:6,7 – And when Paul laid his hands on each of the twelve, the Holy Spirit manifested and they immediately spoke in tongues and prophesied.

Acts 19:10,11 – Every day for over two years, he taught them in the lecture hall of Tyrannus, which resulted in everyone living in the province of Asia, Jews and non-Jews, hearing the prophetic word of the Lord. God kept releasing a flow of extraordinary miracles through the hands of Paul.

The prayer language is seen all throughout the book of Acts. At the birthing of the church in Ephesus Paul lays his hands on twelve men who all began to speak in tongues and prophesy. There is a close connection to the prayer language and the other vocal gifts. Here are some comments from the Passion Notes on this passage.

“They spoke tongue by tongue and gushed out prophecies.” The impartation of the Holy Spirit and his gifts are here being transferred from Paul to these believers. Jesus taught that when the Holy Spirit comes upon us, it is to impart power for our lives and ministries.”

Paul spent two years teaching these new believers and the growing church in Ephesus. The power and gifts of the Spirit increased through those daily saturation meetings. The whole region was impacted. Here are the Passion Notes on Acts 19:10,11.

“This “school of ministry” exploded as many came to hear Paul and then went out to preach, expanding the reach of the gospel into all the “province of Asia” (Asia Minor). The province of Asia would have covered no less than one-third of Turkey. Many multitudes heard the gospel in the two-year period when Paul taught in Ephesus. The teaching of the apostles resulted in the expansion of God’s kingdom realm.”

I believe an emphasis of the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit is desperately needed and I also believe there will be an increased restoration of these gifts in the days ahead. In vs.11 Luke described unusual miracles breaking out in Ephesus. Maybe that is what it will take to break open this generation to the gospel, unusual miracles. I say its time to focus on the power of the Spirit. Speak in tongues for extended times, soak in worship music, meditate on scripture. Before you know it unusual miracles will begin to follow after you.

THE ANOINTING AND THE SPIRIT OF PROPHESY

Acts 19:6 – And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

I think many Christians have a narrow understanding of the gift of prophesy. Many think that prophesy is always predictive, declaring the future plans of the Lord. Certainly prophecy can be that but the gift of prophesy in the New Testament includes other things, specifically it includes magnifying or worshipping the Lord supernaturally. One example is in today’s verse. The disciples in Ephesus who were baptized in the Holy Spirit responded the same way those in Cornelius’s house did in Acts 10. When they were filled with the Spirit they prophesied, most likely worshipping the Lord by the Spirit. Similarly, at Cornelius’s house, the new believers spoke in tongues and magnified the Lord. This is exactly what the Spirit has always done, specifically in the life of David. David wrote his Psalms by the Spirit of prophesy. David’s Psalms were supernatural, a great display of the Spirit of prophesy. Here is a description from the Life in the Spirit Commentary.

“The immediate consequences of this Spirit-baptism are charismatic manifestations of tongues and prophecy The phrase “and prophesied” must not be assumed to indicate an additional sign. It stands parallel to the phrase “praising God” in Acts 10:46. Prophetic activity is realized in the last days (cf. the events of Pentecost, which shows a close relationship between speaking in tongues and prophesying via Joel 2). Similar to the disciples at Pentecost and Caesarea, these people at Ephesus speak in tongues and give inspired praise to God after receiving the Pentecostal power of the Spirit. Like earlier outpourings of the Spirit, the initial evidence of the charismatic experience of the Ephesian believers is speaking in tongues. Paul instructs, baptizes, and lays hands on them, but through the sovereign action of the prophetic Spirit they are endowed with power for ministry.”

This gift helps us understand supernatural worship. I think that when the Holy Spirit falls on us and we experience the power of His presence, as we yield to His presence we then experience worshipping the Lord in our heavenly language and also worshipping spontaneously in our own language. That supernatural worship is one example of the Spirit of prophesy. Understanding and yielding to this gift in private and public worship changes everything.

PAUL, EPHESUS, AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Acts 19:8 ¶ And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.

Paul had a mission in Ephesus, to plant a church that would effect all of Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). He knew the key to Asia Minor was Ephesus, a major city in that day that was known for its idolatry and moral depravity (it’s funny but those things always go together). Paul gathered a small group of believers and got them baptized in the Holy Spirit. Next he began to have daily meetings. Can you imagine, for the next two years Paul met with the church daily (tradition says from 11-4) preaching on the kingdom of God. What does that mean, preaching the kingdom of God? Here is how John Piper describes it.

“Since God’s purpose for the world is to save a people for himself and renew the world for that people, his kingly rule implies a saving and a redeeming activity on their behalf. This is why the coming of the kingdom in the New Testament is called good news.

In and through Jesus, God, the king, is coming in a way — a new way — into the world to establish his saving rule. First, in the hearts of his people and in their relationships by triumphing over sin, Satan, and death. Then by the exercise of his reign, gathering a people for himself in congregations that live as citizens of a new allegiance of the kingdom — not of this world. Then Christ comes a second time and completes the reign by establishing a new heavens and a new earth.”

So the message of the kingdom deals with a spiritual kingdom ruled by King Jesus Himself. The message of this kingdom is redemption. This includes the work of the cross and the Holy Spirit. Our sins are forgiven through the power of the blood of Jesus poured out at the cross. We are made alive to this kingdom life by the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Remember what Paul said in Romans 14:17 “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.

This shows us what Paul’s plan was in Ephesus, to preach Christ and harvest souls who had been bound by idolatry and sinful behavior and to provide an atmosphere for them to saturate in the presence of the Holy Spirit until their lives radiated the beauty of the kingdom of God. This is what church is intended to be, a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit that impacts the city that church is in.

SPEAK IN TONGUES AND PROPHESY

Acts 19:1,2 – And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”

This description of the birth of the church in Ephesus is critical in understanding the purpose and the power of the Christian life and the Christian church. Christianity is not a creed or a system that we espouse, it is a dynamic life birthed and empowered in us through the Holy Spirit. In this chapter of the book of Acts we see the church in Ephesus birthed after an outpouring of the Spirit on twelve Christians. Paul laid his hands on them and prayed when he realized they had never been baptized in the Holy Spirit. When Paul laid his hands on them they began to speak in tongues and prophesy. This was the birthing of the power source in these twelve Christians that shook all of Asia Minor with thousands of converts and many churches that were birthed. Today’s world is no different. I feel like asking that same question to many churches and even pastors today, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit after you believed?” Our churches need to be baptized in His presence if we are going to effect our world today. Here are some comments from the Life in the Spirit Commentary on this passage.

“Paul perceives their need for the anointing and asks, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”. This question deals with their experience of the Spirit… Paul’s question does not deal with their receiving the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. From the time the Ephesian twelve were converted, they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, as all Christians are. Thus, the question is not about receiving the Spirit in salvation, but about what is basic to Luke–Acts and to the immediate context, namely, the Spirit’s anointing with power subsequent to the experience of salvation… Paul recognizes, therefore, that the Ephesian twelve are lacking in regard to the charismatic gift of the Spirit…..”

Are you lacking the power of the Spirit in your life? The immersion or baptism in the Spirit is something that happens again and again in our lives. If you are thirsty and feel powerless find a place where the Spirit is moving and camp out, you too will speak in tongues and prophesy.

SPECIAL MIRACLES

Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 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.

Acts 19:11,12

This is a very unusual verse of scripture, it has always been very special to me. Miracles, by their very nature are special, but Luke is describing another level of unusual. Dick Mills spoke of this verse saying, “A miracle is always special, so what does Luke mean here when he speaks of special miracles? Other versions of the Bible translate this word as “unusual”, “extraordinary”, or “uncommon”. Since by definition a miracle is always something unusual, extraordinary, or uncommon, this verse is almost a play on words: “God wrought ‘special specials’, ‘extraordinary extraordinaries’, ‘unusual unusuals’ by the hands of Paul”.

What made these miracles special? Mills goes on to say that it had something to do with where these miracles happened. They happened in Ephesus, along with Corinth, one of the most depraved of all the cities at that time. Today we would think of San Francisco, Las Vegas, or New Orleans, in those days it was Corinth and Ephesus. Brother Mills continues by saying, ” There is a spiritual isometric that states, …’where sin abounds, grace did much more abound’. The greater the sin, the greater the need of a Saviour.”

In the same way, great troubles, and great problems provide the atmosphere for these “special miracles”. Maybe you are facing insurmountable odds in your circumstances of life, rejoice, it is time for one of God’s “special miracles”.

The climate for these kinds of miracles is described best by the word, saturation. Paul was conducting daily meetings for two years in Ephesus. In that atmosphere created by spiritual saturation, these special miracles began to appear. Maybe you are in a season where only a special miracle will do, if that is the case, take desperate action. Saturate in God’s Word, saturate in His Presence praying in the Holy Spirit, create a miracle atmosphere through worship, and then, get ready. I think a season of special specials and unusual unusuals is headed your way

HAVE YOU RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT SINCE YOU BELIEVED?

Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.

This story, about the planting of the church in Ephesus, is classic. Paul had just asked these young disciples this question,”have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed”. These newly converted, non-Spirit filled Christians had no clue about the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They weren’t sure what Paul was talking about but they were sure going to find out. Paul laid his hands on them and then it happened, these baby Christians began to speak in tongues and prophesy. Wow! Is it really that easy? Can anyone speak in tongues? I think there is a lot of confusion in today’s church about praying in tongues. Often, scripture that applies to tongues and interpretation of tongues are thrown out there to quench the use of the prayer language. This is part of the reason today’s Christians are largely without power in their lives. Here are some thoughts from the Fire Bible about being filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues.

“This event occurs about 25 years after the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Yet, the pattern of these twelve people receiving the fullness of the Holy Spirit is consistent with the pattern seen throughout the book of Acts. (1) They had believed in Jesus and were born again by the Spirit. (2) After they were baptized in water, Paul laid his hands on them and they were baptized in the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit came on them, they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. The book of Acts never presents the outpouring of the Spirit without any outward evidence. Rather, it shows it to be an obvious and identifiable experience that could be verified by the initial physical evidence of speaking in tongues. This practice is a Holy Spirit-inspired way of speaking, praying or praising God by which a Christian speaks in a language they have never learned.”
The prayer language is an intricate part of our Christian faith. It comes out of the deepest part of our lives and enjoys a deep, intimate relationship with the Lord. Our faith is built as we pray in the Spirit and we are filled with the power of God. This supernatural power enables us to live a godly testimony in a dark world and energizes us for powerful ministry to the hurting. Have you received the Holy Spirit like they did in the book of Acts since you believed?

PICKLED

PICKLED

Acts 19:9,10  (Paul)  took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

There are some things in this chapter of the book of Acts that are quite shocking. It says that all of Asia (modern day Turkey) heard the gospel during those two years. Think about it, no television, newspapers, radio, or social media and all of Asia hears the word of God in two years. Obviously news of the meetings in Ephesus spread throughout that region, many came and were touched and brought the message back to their community. It also speaks of unusual miracles. Clothes were taken from Paul’s body; whoever they touched were healed or even delivered from demon activity. It even goes on to say that there was mass repentance in Ephesus; in Ephesus?!  Ephesus was known for its immorality and pagan religious practices. What could have precipitated mass repentance?
The answer can be quite revolutionary. It was those daily meetings. They were meeting from 10-4, according to historians, for two years. The anointing began to increase. The anointing is also transferable or you might say, contagious. Everyone in those meetings were not only mightily affected, they became carriers of the anointing. The city and region were being transformed by the power of spiritual saturation.

If you look at the first few verses of Acts 19, you will see the powerful secret to the power of these meetings. These twelve disciples that met with Paul were all baptized with the Holy Spirit. The baptism in the Holy Spirit is not really emphasized in many churches today, this lack of emphasis is what produces powerless churches. A key to the importance of the Spirit baptism is seen in the word baptism itself. You see the word baptism means to be immersed into a substance. It was the word used for dying fabric, turning a white cloth into a purple cloth. It is also the word used when referring to making a pickle out of a cucumber. The key in fabric and cucumbers is staying immersed into the substance long enough to take on the characteristics of that substance. Once a cucumber stays immersed into vinegar for a set amount of time there is no turning back, that pickle will never be a cucumber again.

As for us, we need to take on the nature of Christ to change us and to effect our world. How do we take on His nature? We have to be immersed into Him. Just once or once in a while is not enough. We have to be immersed (baptized) into His Spirit long enough to experience permanent  transformation. Let the pickling begin!!!

I DIDN’T KNOW

Acts 19:2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” ¶ So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.”

One of the great stories in the New Testament is the founding of the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was well known throughout the Roman Empire for it’s sensuality as well as being the center of their pagan worship. The temple for their goddess Diana was located there. This makes the impact that Paul’s ministry had on this region even more impressive. Actually, Ephesus became a hub of the Christian faith led by two of the greatest pastors of the first century; Paul’s disciple Timothy and none other than the Apostle John. It probably became the largest church of that time period.

It all started with Paul’s question to a bible study attended by twelve me, “Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?”, Paul asked. “We haven’t heard that there is a Holy Spirit”, was their clueless reply. Now these men were already called disciples, they had believed in the Lord and been baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Of course they knew in theory about the Holy Spirit, they just hadn’t known that you could actually be influenced the way Paul was describing by the Spirit. That’s when it happened, Paul laid his hands upon them and the atmosphere in the room changed. They were filled with the Holy Spirit just like the believers on the day of Pentecost. They also began to speak in tongues just like the believers in Jerusalem had experienced. They also began to prophesy. Paul was not shocked by this, this is exactly what he was looking for. He knew for the church to effect the pagan society of Ephesus there needed to be more than just a Christian creed, they needed the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes it feels like we live in Ephesus. Society is immoral and at the same time full of religious beliefs and practices. It also seems as if many Christians have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.

How can we see our ‘Ephesus’ changed? It is really quite simple; we have to receive another season of immersion into the person of the Holy Spirit. You can build large organizations with structure and eloquent preaching; you just can’t change Ephesus.