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(Acts 19:8–20) Burning Bridges . . . Killing Spiders

(Acts 19:8–20) Burning Bridges . . . Killing Spiders

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Acts
Ref: Acts 19:8–20

Charles Spurgeon said, The Bible is like a lion: you don't defend it, you just let it loose. In Acts chapter 19, that happens, and transformation in the lives of people is incredible, and the assault upon the kingdom of darkness is undeniable!



Acts 19:8-20

Charles Haddon Spurgeon once remarked, “The Bible is like a lion; you don’t defend it, you just let it loose.”  In Acts, chapter 19, we discover a scene in which the word of God is simply let loose.  The transformation in the lives of people is incredible; the assault upon the kingdom of darkness is undeniable.

Ephesus was a city given over to the occult, totally mesmerized by magical spells and charms.  It was a city where superstition and the dark arts found a home.  It would be the place where the power of God’s kingdom would invade and disarm the power of Satan.  One author called Ephesus the Dark Castle of Asia Minor.

 Let’s rejoin the invasion of this Dark Castle and the ongoing adventure of a warrior named Paul.  We left off with verse 8 in Acts, chapter 19.

Verses 8-10 give us the first aspect of Paul's teaching.

Acts 19:8.  And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 

You may remember from Ephesians, chapter 6 that the armor worn by the believer to engage in spiritual battle is armor that includes one offensive weapon . . . the only offensive weapon; it is the sword of the Spirit . . .the word of God.

In Hebrews 4:12 we’re told that the word of God is alive and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.

In Revelation 2:16 the sword is the mouth of the Sovereign Lord who comes to judge His enemies. 

Paul assaults the Dark Castle by swinging the sword, the revelation of God.

The teaching by Paul is continuous.  The imperfect tense is used to refer to Paul teaching in an ongoing fashion.  At every opportunity he has in the synagogue he teaches, showing, as he has done in the past, that the One prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures is indeed Jesus Christ.

His teaching was not only continuous but it was also courageous.  Verse 8 tells us that he taught boldly.  The hallmark of Paul’s preaching was that it was uncompromisingly confrontational; he held back nothing out of fear of rejection or hostility.  Whether his nation believed him or not, he told them the truth.  As long as he had an open ear, he taught.

Now notice 9.  But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples.

The word here translated “hardened” is sklhrunw which is used in the New Testament to refer to the heart that is hardened against God.   Hebrews 13:8 warns the person who hears the gospel, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  In chapter 4 verse 7, he repeats the warning, “Today if you hear His voice do not harden your hearts.”  When the truth of the gospel is heard and repeatedly rejected, the heart becomes hardened and the gospel message becomes like an arrow shot against a stone wall.

A letter was written to the editor of a daily newspaper.  I thought it was a perfect illustration of a man who had hardened his heart to the gospel;  he wrote, “After hearing an evangelist preach on the radio, viewing him on television and reading reports and letters concerning his mission, I am heartily sick of the type of religion that insists my soul and everyone else’s needs saving.  I have never felt that I was lost, nor do I feel that I daily wallow in the mire of sin, although repetitive preaching insists that I do.  Give me a practical religion that teaches gentleness and tolerance, that acknowledges no barrier of creed, that teaches children of goodness instead of sin.  If in order to save my soul I must accept such a philosophy as I have recently heard preached, I prefer to remain damned forever."

So Paul packs up his books and lesson outlines and leaves the synagogue.  Verse 9 tells us he moves into the school or hall of Tyrannus.  

Notice  9b he  reasoned daily in the school of Tyrannus.

We don’t know anything about this man Tyrannus other than he was a teacher known by his nickname,Tyrannus, evidently a nickname given to him by his students.  Translated it simply meant, “The Tyrant.”  Maybe you had a teacher like him!!

The western text adds that Paul taught daily from the fifth hour to the tenth.  That is, from 11 am to 4 pm.  This was when the people of Ephesus took their midday break.  Their workday began at 7, broke at 11 and the continued from 4 until around 9:30 at night.

So Paul uses this open time as an opportunity to lecture and teach.

Notice verse 10.  And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

Imagine, five hours a day, six days a week, 52 weeks a year for 2 years  - over 3,000 hours of teaching.  He saturated the disciples with truth.

Do use your imagination with me.  If you never missed a Sunday sermon and I preached 30 minute sermons - use your imagination – you would only hear the word taught 26 hours in a year's time.  That's thirty minutes times 52 Sundays.  In other words, to sit under the ministry of the word for 3,000 hours as the Ephesians did, would take you more than 100 years.  It would take you 115 years to get what the Ephesians needed in order to stand fast against the wiles of the Devil.

We have a problem don’t we.  The solution is to be in the Word much more than you’re in church, right? 

If you think you’re getting enough from my 30 minutes a Sunday, by comparison, you get less in one entire year than the Ephesians got in just one week. So the solution is two-fold:  drive across town to church and open your Bible, and walk across your living room and open your Bible.

Publicly get under the Word.  Privately get into the Word.

So for two years, Paul keeps up an incredibly grueling schedule, as he invades the territory of the magicians, sorcerers and occultists by means of the word of God.

Now verse 11 gives us the second part of Paul’s ministry. The aspect of miraculous healing.    11.   And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, (this is direct healing by Paul’s touch)  12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them (this is indirect healing).

If you don’t understand this ministry and power of healing, both by the hand of Paul and by virtue of contact with his clothing, as a part of Paul’s apostolic authority, you’re more likely to be swayed by the televangelist who tries to sell you a handkerchief that’s been dipped in the Jordan river; and, for a gift of 25 dollars, it’s healing power can be yours.

A church member gave me this letter a few weeks ago.  This guy claims that, if I write for a cross that his ministry has blessed, I’ll be healthy, wealthy, and powerful.  It’s a little cross that says, faith and grace on it.  “In a few days, you will be receiving your beautiful prosperity guiding cross.  It’s called a health, prosperity and happiness cross--it can help you have the life you dream of.”  One testimonial says, “I was sick and was healed.”  Another said, “I was in need of 2,492 dollars for income tax.  God blessed me the next day [with it].”  Now that’s a little tempting!

What does the Bible say?  The scriptures clearly declared that this ministry of healing and signs and wonders was intended by God during this foundational era to accomplish at least two things:

1)  the confirmation of the messenger  (Romans 15)

2)  the authentication of the message          



Hebrews 2:1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, (who were those who literally heard the Lord teach?  The apostolic community)   4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.

The signs and wonders and miracles were intended by God to bear witness to the watching world that the apostles were indeed from God, for only God had the power to heal and resurrect from the dead.

What you need to catch is that Paul’s healing ability perfectly mirrored the healing ability of Jesus Christ, who by the way, according to Acts 2:22 was also authenticated by signs and wonders and miracles.  Remember how Jesus Christ healed?  With his hands?  Yes, but that’s not all.  Remember the woman who had internal hemorrhaging or this “issue of blood?”  She came up behind Jesus and touched the edge of his clothing and was immediately healed.

What’s Paul doing?  He's healing people by His touch and by the touch of His clothing!

The validation of Paul’s ministry was his miracles.  The validation of a man’s ministry today, according to completed scripture, is his adherence to Biblical doctrine (I John 4).

Look at Acts 19 and notice the third element. 

The third element was exorcism - 12b.  and the evil spirits went out.

Luke carefully delineates that healing and exorcism were separate issues.  By the touch of Paul’s clothing, the sick were healed, and any demonized person was freed.

The modern day signs and wonders movement combines the two and claims that demons are causing the sickness.  And so these miracle workers of today are casting out the demon of cancer, the demon of arthritis, and the demon of club feet.  That’s not what this text records for the careful Bible student.

Ladies and gentlemen, sickness is the indiscriminate result of the fall of man; and every one of us will get sick. Eventually, unless we have an accident, every one of us will get sick enough that we die, right?

By the way, exorcism is also another aspect of apostolic authority.

Let me repeat that:  claiming authority over the demonic world was a part of the apostolic ministry, a ministry that mirrored the power of Christ in commanding demons.

There isn’t one verse in the Epistles that gives the believer a model, formula or command to directly order demons to do anything.

We are to resist the devil (I Peter 4:7). 

We are to stand firm against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:24). 

We are to oppose the devil (anthistemi – to take a stand against – and he will flee from you – James 4:7).

There as an incredible amount of confusion, as I said last Lord’s day, simply because the Bible doesn’t offer a model for exorcism; simply because it was the Apostolic community that laid the foundation of the church that had this particular ministry.

There is an exploding industry under the categorical phrase, “Spiritual Warfare” with seminars that teach everything from “binding demons” to “prayerwalking."

The church is becoming as superstitious as the unbelieving world.

Notice how Luke provides the following illustration of superstitious men.

13.  But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.”   14.  And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.

Mankind has always believed in the spirit world, and they’ve attempted to exercise some form of control over it for their own benefit--whether it’s the witchdoctor and his fire, or the soothsayer and their potions. Perhaps you saw the opening ceremony of the winter Olympics.  You saw the huge summo wrestlers engage in the religious exercise of ridding the games of any evil spirits.  They did their strange looking poses and slapped their hands together supposedly to cleanse the games.

Satan has always delighted in any form of attention given to him and his kingdom.  It proves his existence and distracts mankind from the worship of his conqueror.

So there were these traveling exorcists who exercised control over superstitious people by their formulas and incantations.

One author writes, “First century magicians were syncretists and would borrow terms from any religion that sounded sufficiently strange to be deemed effective.  These Jewish exorcists of Ephesus were only plying their trade.  Paul’s “spell” in Jesus’ name seemed effective for him, so they gave it a try.

Notice 15.  And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”   16.  And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.(Instead of them getting rid of the demon, the demon got rid of them!)  In sudden fury the possessed man leaps upon these exorcists and overpowers them

We can learn two lessons here:

First of all, the name of the Lord Jesus is not some magical incantation to be used against the demonic world.  The name Jesus isn’t some magical charm, some formula for power.  If it were, these men would have been successful.  It is what the name represents, and it is important who you are who mention His name.

Which leads me to the second lesson:

The enemy of the Lord Jesus knows who is truly a follower of Christ and who is only acting the part.

These men fled out of the house, beaten, their clothing ripped off, as well as their spiritual façade.  And the demonized man screaming all the while, “Who do you think you are?”

17. And 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.   18.  Many also of those who had believed (in the past) kept coming (in the present), confessing and disclosing their practices.  

The Development of Truth in the Disciples

Internal results    -admitting


-disclosing – practices *praxis – Secret magic spells which were considered useless if they were divulged.  They were turning from their magic like the Thessalonians turned from idols.


Now notice 19.  And many of those (believers that is)  who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

So there was admitting, confessing, disclosing and now . . .

-forsaking – They burned, literally, their bridges behind them.  They allowed no opportunity for a change of mind. They got rid of that stuff, permanently.

All in all it was worth 50,000 drachmas, or pieces of silver.  Ladies and gentlemen, this bonfire burned, in today’s economy, approximately 9 million dollars worth of sinful junk.

This passage has exposed two kinds of people:

1)  Unbelievers masquerading as if empowered by the Savior  These seven sons of Sceva.  Imposters, out to sucker troubled people and make a fast shekel.

2)  Secondly, this passage exposed believers compromising by involvement with the sinful.  They had come to faith in Christ, but they still had some secret sins with which they needed to deal.

This is the process of sanctification.  This is the demonstration of all things becoming new and old things passing away.   They ended their compromise with Ephesian magic and superstition.

A man went forward to kneel and pray every Sunday after the sermon.  And every Sunday he loudly prayed the same prayer, "Lord, take the cobwebs of sin out of my life."  Sunday after Sunday he did this.  One Sunday the pastor knelt beside the man, and when he once again prayed, "Lord, take the cobwebs of sin out of my life," the pastor prayed aloud, "Yes, Lord, and kill that spider!" 

No spider?  No cobwebs!  "What spiders have I allowed to roam in my heart and mind, my life . . . ?"

Now notice verse 20.  So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.

External fruit     

We saw the living Word magnified – v. 17 (unbelievers feared Him).  And now in verse 20 we see the spoken Word is multiplied as young believers take new steps of commitment.

Two Questions:

1)  What would be disclosed if the demonic world could identify each one of us as believer or imposter?

Who among us would run from this building, exposed as spiritually naked and destitute, having played the part, having acted a lie, who in reality, live a double life. 

2)  What would be forsaken or burned today if the Spirit’s conviction swept through our church?

What would you put in the fire?

-Ungodly romance novels             -Videos

            -Pornographic magazines              -Drugs

            -Alcoholic beverages                    -Horoscopes

            -Psychic telephone numbers          -The television


Anything that draws you away from holiness, purity and godliness and diminishes your testimony of integrity and your hunger for righteousness – that which entices you and tempts you, and silences you -- should be burnd!

I find it fascinating that in this part of Asia the word of God grew and multiplied and prevailed only after the church was purified. 

This was a revival of believers who cleaned out their closets.  They got rid of their secrets.

When the Christian confessed of sin committed behind a closed door, the Word of God was given a greater open door.

Purity in private produced opportunity in public.

Kill the spider, and the tangled cobwebs of sin will cease to enslave you.

Burn your bridges behind you.  The bonfire may be painful and costly, but it will be life-changing.

And the word of God through you will be magnified and multiplied and glorified.

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