In this passage Luke tells us of the wonders and marvels that came about in Ephesus and the surrounding area when Paul arrived there. The narrative begins in 19:8-10 in which Luke tells us that Paul spoke persuasively in the synagogue for a period of three months. In this period, many, possibly most of his hearers came to follow Jesus Christ. I say this because in verse 9 Luke uses the words, “but some of them” which strongly implies a minority, became “obstinate” and refused to believe. After this, Paul, as was his custom, took the message to the gentile population, with the result that everyone in the region heard the message of the Lord.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. (19:11-12)
Once again, we are reminded of all that had happened in Samaria after Peter was called upon to make a dramatic demonstration of the Holy Spirit coming upon the population in chapter 8, in this community where Paul did the same thing in the previous passage.
In vv. 13-16 we have a curious account of some Jews attempting to drive out demons in the name, “of the Jesus whom Paul preaches” (19:13). It doesn’t appear from Luke’s wording that these men were followers of Christ who were working with the power of the Spirit, for the demons in question caused them to be badly beaten, and when the people heard this they came to recognize that the name of Jesus was not a name to be tossed around lightly, and it was held in the highest respect thereafter; God was not messing around in Ephesus.
Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. (19:18-20)
Jewish sorcerers were not uncommon in gentile lands, and they, according to historians, had a reputation for effective incantations. Here we see that after the incident mentioned above, many people including a number of sorcerers came to sincere repentance and were willing to divorce themselves entirely from their past lives. In our text these sorcerers actually burned their scrolls with a combined worth of 50,000 days’ wages, an astronomical sum. In the Roman world, scrolls were very expensive, and scrolls with magical incantations and formulas were very highly prized, and these guys were so moved to repentance that they destroyed a fortune.
Indeed, God was not messing around in Ephesus.
Paul’s work in Ephesus was about complete; he made arrangements to move on, but with so many amazing things taking place there, the Evil One was about to make his move… See you next time!