Saturday, March 11, 2023

2023.03.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 19:11–20

Read Acts 19:11–20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who did what by what means (Acts 19:11)? What are some examples of this (Acts 19:12)? Who tried to do the same (Acts 19:13)? Who were an instance of this (Acts 19:14)? How did the spirit answer (Acts 19:15)? And what did it do, with what result (Acts 19:16)? Who found out about this (Acts 19:17)? With what result to them? And what result to Jesus’s Name? What did many of whom do in Acts 19:18? And what did many others do in Acts 19:19? With what total value? And what ultimate outcome (Acts 19:20)?

How does God demonstrate that it is His power that is at work in the church? Acts 19:11–20 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God has appointed to do powerful spiritual work by means of His Word. 

At the end of Acts 19:10, we read that all who dwelt in Asia had head the word of the Lord Jesus. In the following ten verses, the Spirit tells us how the Lord attested that it was His own power that was going out with the Word in the preaching, and how it was His own power that was convincing hearts of the Word in the hearing.

God’s powerful attestation to the preachingActs 19:11-17. God attested to the truth of Paul’s words by displays of His own power. The miracles in Acts 19:11-12 remind us of what God did earlier, to attest the other apostles’ ministry (cf. Acts 5:12, Acts 5:15–16; cp. Mark 16:20; Acts 14:3; Hebrews 2:3–4). The Scripture plainly tells us that the healings were the Lord’s own attestation to His apostles and their preaching.

The message of the Name of Jesus, the One in Whom the triune God has made Himself most clearly known to us, was new. And God Himself witnessed to its truth with the signs and wonders. Such signs had originally been His own attestation by works to the truth of His words about His own divinity (cf. John 10:25–39). This was especially true of casting out demons. Just as Jesus came to “destroy the works of the devil” (cf. 1 John 3:8), the apostolic preaching of His gospel was attested by many other signs, but especially by the casting out of evil spirits (Acts 19:12c). 

This was well known in the spiritual realm, with evil spirits suffering much defeat before Jesus and Paul (cf. Acts 19:15. These spirits not only knew the Lord Jesus Christ, but even Paul as a true apostle. Here was a man that, by his calling to the office of apostle, and his agency as one through whom the Lord displayed His power over evil spirits, Paul himself became known in the spiritual realm.

And, as a true sign, it was not employable by others (Acts 19:13-14Acts 19:16). If anyone can do it by having enough faith. Or, if it is a gift that others who are not associated with the apostolic ministry can do, then it simply would not work as a sign. 

Your fingerprints would not identify you, if they were not unique to you. But Jesus identified His signs as bearing “God’s fingerprints,’ as it were (cf. Luke 11:20). So, it was not just the power of the signs, but especially the uniqueness of the signs, that testified that this was God’s working. Indeed, the failure of the sons of Sceva seems to have been a primary way by which “the Name of the Lord Jesus was magnified,” as the “this” at the beginning of Acts 19:17 refers to the incident in Acts 19:14-16.

God’s powerful attestation to the hearingActs 19:18-20. Still, the true power was not merely the power by which God caused His Word to be preached, but also the power by which God caused His Word to be heard. There was real repentance of sin (Acts 19:18), specific confessing and telling of specific sins. 

Note that Acts 19:18 says that they confessed and told “their deeds.” This was not just generic sinfulness, but people who told of the specific evil that they had previously done, and how they had rejected and turned from doing those things. The Lord’s power in salvation is attested by believers’ willingness to name specific sins that they have committed and from which they have turned.

This confessing often comes at great cost. Sometimes, people refrain from confessing their sins not out of a wise concern not to cause others to stumble, or a godly concern not to make private matters public, or a kindly concern not to dishonor others who might be brought into their own shame, but simply because the cost feels too high to them. But in Acts 19:19 we see that the power of the Lord Jesus in redeeming the people was displayed in part precisely by their willingness to have their repentance cost them fifty-thousand pieces of silver. The Lord’s power in salvation is attested by our willingness to pay a high price in turning from sin.

Killing sin, however, is something that only the power of the Lord Jesus can accomplish. Apart from Him, we are dead in trespasses and sins. Only by His life in us can we be new creatures who actually walk in good works (cf. Ephesians 2:1–10). Although not as notoriously, people who try to fight sin without actually being united to Christ, will find themselves just as soundly defeated and humiliated as the sons of Sceva were.

Conclusion: signs that don’t continue, and signs that do. 

God’s powerful attestation of the preaching today is its conformity to the whole counsel of God, which is now set down in the Scriptures (cf. Acts 20:20, Acts 20:27). The Scriptures having been completed as the Lord Jesus promised (cf. John 16:12–15), there are not new words from the Lord Jesus. There is no longer need of those miraculous signs. There is only a need to continue heeding that which the apostles spoke and wrote (cf. Hebrews 2:1–4). 

The miraculous demonstration of hearing, however, continues. Those who are saved by grace through faith demonstrate that they are new creatures by walking in good works (cf. Ephesians 2:1–10). All believers should desire to give such evidence of the Lord’s work in them, unto the praise of their Lord and His grace.

Whom are you telling the truth about Jesus? What evidence is there in your own life of a powerful work of the Lord?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your Spirit’s working powerfully in us by Your Word. Forgive us for not attending upon Your Word as much as we should or as eagerly as we should. Forgive us for the smallness of our desire to see Your work glorified in our repentance. Grant that we would, indeed, repent greatly, so that others may see that You have worked greatly, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH467 “Cast Down, O God, the Idols”

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