The growing of the word of the Lord
- W. Tozer, who was called a prophet of the 21st century, stated in his book "That Incredible Christian," ‘Today's churches are filled with feeble Christians. They must be entertained with something interesting to come to church. ... Therefore, they remain at a weak level, both morally and spiritually. They are barely holding on to a faith they don't even understand well with feeble hands" (Internet). What is the cause? Similar to a salesperson who highlights only the positive aspects of their product and hides the negatives, unbalanced evangelists hide the negative aspects and talk only about the positive, and we fall into a false gospel. It is like emphasizing the promised land without the wilderness, or highlighting only the resurrection without the cross. This is a false gospel. We live in a world where fake truths prevail, and such false truths are proclaimed from church pulpits, nurturing weak Christians who seek comfort rather than service.
We need to become genuine disciples filled with true truth. Our church needs to become a church filled with true words. How can we achieve this? In today's passage, Acts 19:20, the Bible says, "So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed." With this passage as the central theme, I would like to receive three teachings on how the prevailing of the word can manifest in our church under the title "The growing of the word of the Lord."
First, for the growing of the word of the Lord in our church, all of us must listen to the Word of the Lord.
Look at Acts 19:10 - "This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord." If we look at Acts 18:19-21, before going up to Jerusalem at the end of his second missionary journey, Paul visited Ephesus, where he had preached during his first missionary journey. The Jews there responded positively to Paul's message, showing a favorable reaction and requesting him to stay longer. Paul refused but promised to return if God granted him the opportunity, which he did in fulfillment of that promise (19:1). In Acts 19:8, Paul spent three months teaching intensively in the synagogue about the kingdom of God. During this time, some people stubbornly resisted and blasphemed the message in front of the crowd (v. 9). They not only did not believe in Paul's proclaimed word but also hardened their hearts. This reveals their spiritually irrecoverable state of stubborn unbelief. In this state, they came out aggressively, attacking Paul's gospel in public. Therefore, Paul set apart the disciples and lectured daily at the Hall of Tyrannus for two years (v. 10). The Western text tradition indicates that Paul's focused teaching time at the Hall of Tyrannus was from the fifth hour to the tenth hour (around 11 AM to 4 PM) (Metzger). This well reflects the cultural custom of the Asia Minor region, where the time from 11 AM to 4 PM was essentially a period for avoiding the heat, taking a nap, or having a break. Utilizing this break time, both Jews and Greeks earnestly learned God's word from Paul (Yoo). As a result, those living in Asia, whether Jews or Greeks, heard the word of the Lord (v. 10). "Asia" here refers to the region along the western coast of Anatolia, which includes areas beyond Ephesus, such as northern Bithynia, eastern Galatia, and southern Lycia, bordered by the Aegean Sea (J.A. Harrill). Even though Ephesus itself had a population of around 250,000, considering the population of the surrounding areas, the numbers would have been much larger. This indicates how many people heard God's word at the Hall of Tyrannus (Yoo).
The term "the growing of the word of the Lord" in this context refers to the geographical spread of the word of the Lord, with a large number of people hearing the gospel and accepting Jesus as their Savior and Lord. In other words, the growing word of the Lord mean growing numbers of believers and growing faith. However, it is crucial to remember that even in the midst of the growing of the word, there are some who may harden their hearts and resist obedience to the word. These are people who may take an aggressive stance against the word, attacking it. In other words, in the face of God's word, there are two types of people: those who hear and believe, obedient to the word, and those who hear but do not believe, disobedient to the word. We must become people who hear God's word and obey it. Therefore, the growing of the word of the Lord needs to manifest in our church.
Second, for the growing of the word of the Lord in our church, the name of Jesus must be exalted.
Look at Acts 19:17 - "When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor." The background of Acts 19:11-17, informs us of the remarkable miracles of God through Paul's hands. Verse 11 states: "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul." This demonstrates that Paul's ministry involved the ministry of both word and power, much like the ministry of Jesus. The powerful effects of the word, demonstrated through healing and casting out demons, were compelling to many Asians, leading them to bow in awe (Yoo). This signifies the establishment of God's kingdom through the testimony of Paul's words, liberating people from the dominion of Satan and demons. Another incident that occurred in this context is the shameful experience of the seven sons of Sceva (vv. 13-16). Some Jews were traveling around attempting to cast out demons professionally, and among them, the specific ones mentioned are the seven sons of Sceva (Sceva is introduced as a chief priest in the passage). They tried to exorcise demons using the name of Jesus, whom Paul preached (v. 13). However, the demons confronted them, saying, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?" (v. 15). The demons genuinely know who believes and who does not. They also know who the true believers are. Therefore, those who do not want to be the object of demonic mockery or attack must be genuine in their faith in Jesus Christ (Park). After the possessed man leaped on the seven sons of Sceva, overpowered them (v. 16), they fled from the house battered and naked. When the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus learned of this event, they were filled with fear. Of course, this fear was a reverent fear and respect for God. In the end, through this incident, God exalted the name of Jesus before all these people.
What does "the growing of the word of the Lord" mean here? It refers to the manifestation of God's power, resulting in the exaltation of the name of the Lord Jesus. However, through whom did this power manifest? It manifested through Paul, a man of faith and fear whom even the demons acknowledged (vv. 13-16). Seeing that the demons acknowledged Paul's faith as genuine (v. 15), it is evident that they were afraid. Particularly, because the true believer Paul was accompanied by Jesus, the demons had to be afraid. For the prevailing of the word to manifest in our church, the name of our Lord Jesus must be exalted.
Third and last, for the growing of the word of the Lord in our church, all of us must repent.
Look at Acts 19:18: "Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done." 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 had already believed came and openly confessed what they had done (v. 18). Here, "what they had done" refers to the magical and sorcerous practices they continued even after believing in Jesus, as a result of Paul's ministry (Yoo). It's similar to some Korean Christians who, even after believing in Jesus, continue practices like consulting fortunetellers, getting face readings, and seeking advice from shamans. This indicates that although outwardly they believed in Jesus, their lives were still repeating the shameful practices of their past (Yoo). The individuals mentioned in verse 19 represent a transformation arising from professional magicians who had not yet believed in the Lord. Many of them brought books related to magic and burned them publicly before everyone. This was an act of openly rejecting and confessing the false content in the books related to magic. The value of the burned books was estimated to be fifty thousand pieces of silver. Considering that one piece of silver was equivalent to a day's wages, similar to a Danish mark, the value of the burned books amounted to an enormous sum of fifty thousand days' wages (Yoo).
What does "the growing of the word of the Lord" mean here? It is when the name of the Lord Jesus is glorified, and believers, acknowledging and abandoning the shameful sins they have not yet let go of, openly confess them. Additionally, the prevailing of the word involves unbelievers repenting and returning to the Lord as a result of the exaltation of the name of the Lord Jesus. May the history of such prevailing of the word take place in our church.
Our church must become a church where the Lord's word grows and prevails. What does this mean? It means overcoming the battle within ourselves through the Lord's word, abandoning sinful and old habits. Moreover, as a result of the Lord's word, there should be a transformation where people, just like those who did not believe but abandoned their magical professions and returned to the Lord, turn to the Lord. We must listen to the Lord's word so that we can triumph in the struggle against the forces of Satan. We need to experience the power of His word. We should witness the exaltation of the name of the Lord. In the process of repenting for our sins, we must live a victorious life through the word of the Lord.
Desiring to live by the power of His word,