The Word was growing mightily
Pastor A. W. Tozer, who was called a prophet of the 21st century, stated in his book "That Incredible Christian": ‘Today's churches are filled with weak Christians. They need to be entertained with something interesting to come to church. ... Therefore, they can only stay at a morally and spiritually weak level. They barely hold on to a faith they themselves do not understand well with feeble hands.’ What is the cause? Just as a salesman emphasizes only the advantages of his product and hides the disadvantages, an imbalanced evangelist only talks about the positive aspects, hiding the negative ones (Tozer). We are being deceived by a false gospel. Emphasizing the natural way without teaching the path of suffering, in other words, emphasizing the promised land without the wilderness, as if there were no death, is a fake gospel. We live in a world where false gospel thrives. Such false truths are being proclaimed from the pulpit. The church is nurturing weak Christians who want to be served rather than serve, making their hearts too comfortable.
We must become saints filled with real truth. Our Victory Presbyterian Church must become a church filled with real Word. To achieve this, what should we do? In today's passage, Acts 19:20, the Bible says: "In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power." Today, under the title "The Power of the Word," I would like to receive three lessons on how the power of the Word can manifest in our church.
First, in order for the power of the Word to manifest in our church, all of us must listen to the Lord's Word.
Look at Acts 19:10: " This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks." In Acts 18:19-21, when Paul visited Ephesus just before going up to Jerusalem at the end of his second missionary journey, the Jews showed a very positive reaction to Paul's message and asked him to stay longer. At that time, Paul refused the request, promising that if God gave him the opportunity, he would come back. In today's passage Acts 19:1, Paul came back to Ephesus as God had given him the chance. For three months, Paul intensely taught about the kingdom of God in the synagogue of Ephesus (v. 8). At that time, some people hardened their hearts and did not obey. They even blasphemed Paul's message in front of the crowd (v. 9). They not only did not believe in the Word Paul proclaimed but also hardened their hearts. This shows that their spiritual state was in a state of irreparable stubborn unbelief. In such a state, they came out aggressively. They slandered Paul's gospel in front of people. So, Paul set apart the believers and lectured at the lecture hall of Tyrannus every day for two years (v. 10). Western manuscripts indicate that the time when Paul intensively lectured at the lecture hall of Tyrannus was from the fifth hour to the tenth hour (from 11 AM to 4 PM) (Metzger). This well reflects the cultural custom of the Asia Minor region. From 11 AM to 4 PM was essentially a time to avoid the heat and take a nap or rest. They used this break time to concentrate on learning God's Word from Paul (Yoo). As a result, whether they were Jews or Greeks living in Asia, they all heard the word of the Lord (v. 10). Here, Asia refers to the region of Asia extending along the western coast of the Anatolian Peninsula, bounded by Bithynia to the north, Galatia to the east, and Lycaonia to the south (J.A. Harrill). At that time, the population of Ephesus alone was nearly 250,000, and if we add up the populations of the surrounding areas, the number would be much larger. This indicates how many people heard the Word of God in the lecture hall of Tyrannus (Yoo).
Here, the "spread of the Word" refers to the regional dissemination of the Word, resulting in a large number of people hearing the gospel and accepting Jesus as their Savior and Lord. In other words, "growing words" means an increase in the number of believers and a growing faith. However, we must not forget that even within the spread of the Word, there are some who may harden their hearts and not obey the Word. They may adopt an aggressive attitude of slandering the Word. In other words, God's Word divides those who hear it into two groups: those who not only hear and believe but also obey the Word, and those who hear but do not believe and disobey. We must become people who hear God's Word and obey it. Therefore, the power of the Word must manifest in our church.
Second, in order for the power of the Word to manifest in our church, we must exalt the name of Jesus.
Look at Acts 19:17: " This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified." By examining the background of Acts 19:11-17, we can see that God's remarkable miracles occurred through the hands of Paul. Particularly, take a look at verse 11: " God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul." This indicates that Paul's ministry was a ministry of both Word and power, much like the ministry of Jesus. The reason so many Asians were able to be inclined was because the power of the Word manifested through the healing of diseases and the casting out of demons (Yoo). This indicates that there was a work of ushering in the kingdom of God through the proclamation of the Lord's Word, simultaneously liberating people from the dominion of Satan and demons. Another event that took place here is the humiliation of the seven sons of Sceva (vv. 13-16). Some Jews were going around trying to exorcise evil spirits, and among those specifically mentioned were the seven sons of Sceva (who was introduced as a chief priest in the passage). They attempted to cast out a demon by invoking the name of Jesus preached by Paul (v. 13), but the demon responded, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?" (v. 15). The demon knew very well who did not truly believe and who did. And the demon also knew very well who a genuine believer was. Therefore, those who do not want to be a laughingstock, or a prey of demons must truly believe in Jesus Christ (Park). Afterward, the possessed man overpowered the seven sons of Sceva and beat them, causing them to flee the house naked (v. 16). Once the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus learned about this, they were filled with awe (of course, this awe was a reverent fear and respect for God). Ultimately, God exalted the name of the Lord Jesus before all these people through this event.
What does the word of the Lord growing mightily mean here? It signifies the manifestation of God's power, resulting in the exaltation of the name of Jesus. Now, through whom did this power manifest? It manifested through Paul, who had a faith that even demons knew and feared (vv. 13-16). When the demons said they knew Paul, it indicates that since Paul's faith was genuine, the demons had no choice but to be afraid. Especially because both Paul, a true believer, and Jesus were present together, the demons had no choice but to be terrified. For the power of the Word to manifest in our Victory Presbyterian Church, the name of our Lord Jesus must be exalted.
Third and last, in order for the power of the Word to manifest in our church, all of us must confess.
Look at Acts 19:18: " Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices." When God exalted the name of the Lord Jesus in this way, remarkable transformations occurred among both believers and unbelievers (vv. 18-19). Those who believed in Jesus came and confessed openly about what they had done. Here, what they had done refers to the magical and sorcerous practices they had continued to engage in even after believing in Jesus through Paul's ministry (Yoo). It's similar to some Korean Christians who, after believing in Jesus, still engage in practices like fortunetelling, face reading, and fortune telling. This indicates that while they outwardly believe in Jesus, their lives are still stuck in the shameful practices of their past (Yoo). The transformations were not limited to those who believed in Jesus, but also occurred among the professional sorcerers who had not yet believed in the Lord. They brought their books related to sorcery and burned them in front of everyone. This was a public rejection of the contents contained in those books and a confession of their falsehood. It's reported that the value of the burned books amounted to fifty thousand pieces of silver. A single piece of silver was worth a day's wage, equivalent to one drachma. Scholars estimate that the value of the books burned at that time was an enormous amount equivalent to 50,000 days' wages.
What does the word of the Lord growing mightily mean here? It means confessing and renouncing the shameful sins that we, as believers in Jesus, still cling to. Additionally, it means that through the exaltation of the name of our Lord Jesus, even unbelievers repent and turn back to the Lord. We pray for the occurrence of such work of the the Lord’s word growing mightitly in our Victory Presbyterian Church.
Victory Presbyterian Church must become a church where the Word of the Lord prevails. What does this mean? Through the Word of the Lord, we must achieve victory in our personal battles, letting go of sinful old habits. Additionally, just as sorcerers who didn't believe turned away from their sorcerous professions and returned to the Lord through the Word of the Lord, there should be workds of those who didn't believe in Jesus turning back to the Lord. We must listen to the Word of the Lord in order to fight against the forces of Satan and emerge victorious. We must experience the power of the Word of the Lord. We should witness the exaltation of the name of the Lord. Living a life where we confess our sins and triumph through the Word is what we should strive for. Victory!
Wishing to live by the power of the Word,