Paul faced some of his stiffest spiritual opposition in Ephesus (Acts 19). Through a series of power encounters he showed God’s strength is greater than Satan’s might. Many left their false idols and turned to Jesus. We have already seen several lessons and principles from his time there, but there are two more important applications we should make.
Those who merchandized Artemis in Ephesus made a good profit by selling amulets and charms that claimed to have power to heal. Many of the illnesses were demonic, as were the ‘cures.’ Demons would be the cause of illnesses, then stop when the ‘cures’ were used making it seem like they worked, thus deceiving people into thinking the amulets and charms had power to heal.
LESSON FOR TODAY: Satan can cause illness: crippled limbs (Luke 13:11), Paul’s thorn in the flesh (eye disease? – II Corinthians 12:7), muteness (sometimes dumbness, too – Matthew 9:32-33; 12:22; Mark 9:17-18,24-25), blindness (Matthew 12:22), seizures (Mark 1:26; 9:17-18,20,22,25; Matthew 17:15,18; Luke 9:39), deafness (Mark 9:17-18,20,25), sores (skin cancer?) (Job 2:7), boils and other painful afflictions (Psalm 78:49 – the plagues in Egypt were demon-caused), physical torments of all kinds (Revelation 9:5,10), painful illness (Job2:7-8), and even death (Job 1:19). Since he can cause these things he can seem to ‘heal’ them by stopping what he did/does to cause them in the first place. Only God can heal, but Satan can counterfeit that by making it seem like he heals.
If the God Paul preached was greater than Satan and the demons who worked through Artemis, then everyone assumed He would be able to do what they did and heal people. “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” (Acts 19:11-12). These free articles of Paul’s worked much, much better than Satan’s counterfeits.
A final lesson concerns what happened when Paul left Ephesus. This extended time there turned out to be Paul’s last freedom of movement for some time. From Ephesus he went to Jerusalem (Acts 21) where he was falsely charged and arrested (Acts 22). He spent the next several years in prison, finally being transferred to Rome (Acts 23-28) where the book of Acts ends. Paul was eventually released to travel some more, but his health had been broken and the brunt of the load of ministry which he had carried was now spread to many new evangelists and missionaries. Paul was again arrested and this time put to death in Rome. But during his travels and imprisonment he wrote letters to churches to stay in touch. We can learn much about spiritual warfare from these letters.
LESSON FOR TODAY: It must have been very frustrating for Paul to have to write letters to people and places he wanted to see in person. No doubt he wondered what purpose God would ever have in that. However that is what God used to form the majority of the New Testament and its teaching. Were Paul free to visit these places in person, millions of Christians for two thousand years would not have had these priceless letters and their teachings. God always has a purpose in what He does. When things don’t seem to make sense to you trust that God knows what He is doing (Romans 8:28).
(If I can answer questions or offer personal counsel, or if you would like a free copy of my Spiritual Warfare Handbook, email me at Jerry@ChristianTrainingOrganization.org or download it from http://sw.christiantrainingonline.org/. My next book, Spiritual Warfare in the Bible, which is a more advanced treatment of spiritual warfare, is also available there for free.)