AUTHENTICATING MIRACLES (ACTS 19:11-16). When our Lord performed miracles, He usually had at least three purposes in mind: (1) to show His compassion and meet human needs; (2) to teach a spiritual truth; and (3) to present His credentials as the Messiah. The apostles followed this same pattern and their ability to perform miracles was one of their proofs of apostolic authority. Luke notes that the healing with handkerchiefs and aprons are “extraordinary miracles.”
Demonic opposition from demons arose three times in Paul’s ministry: Bar Jesus, Philippian girl and Sceva’s seven sons. Paul was demonstrating God’s power right in Satan’s territory so it is not surprising to find counterfeits to oppose God’s work.
Jewish priests could have cast out demons, but it was unusual for them to use the name of Jesus Christ. The seven unsaved sons of Sceva were using Christ’s name to cast out demons, but one day were rebuked and overpowered by an evil spirit. Had these exorcisms continued the name of Jesus Christ and the ministry of Paul and the church would have been discredited.
REVIVAL IN EPHESUS (ACTS 19:17-20). The result of this incident was a revival in Ephesus. People feared the Lord and the many who believed “kept coming . . . kept confessing . . . kept showing.” These believers had not made a clean break with sin and were still practicing their magic, but the Lord had dealt with them. Again, God overruled evil for good.
The total value of the magical books and spells that the Ephesian saints burned amounted to the total salaries of 150 men working for a whole year or one man for 123 years! The people did not count the cost but repented and turned from their sins. Many a city and home needs a book-burning.
PAUL’S PLANS (ACTS 19:21-22). Paul sends Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia. Timothy goes to Corinth (1 Corinthians 4:17). Afterwards Paul wrote a painful letter to the Corinthian church instead of going to them, thus giving credence to their charge of his fickleness (2 Corinthians 1:17-2:4).
It was while Paul was at Ephesus that he formed his plan to visit Rome and Spain (Romans 15:24-28). That trip would have to wait, however, until he had made a tour of Macedonia and Achaia and had gone to Jerusalem. His letter to Corinth reveals that one of the reasons for going to Jerusalem was to deliver the collection from the churches (1 Corinthians 16:1-3; cf. Acts 24:17).
Verse 21 literally reads: “Paul purposed in the spirit.” It’s difficult to know whether this refers to his spirit or the Holy Spirit. In either case, the two should be in harmony, and nothing here indicates that Paul was planning contrary to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In fact, he writes in Romans 15:31-32:
Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.