Paul ran into strong demonic opposition when he went to Ephesus (Acts 19). The pagan goddess Artemis was worshipped there. The people there were Asiatic and thus animists who were really worshipping demons. She was a widely worshipped deity whose temple in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. She was recognized by her followers as the greatest power in the universe. She was seen as savior, lord and queen and was worshipped by many long festivals. ‘Missionaries’ were sent out to spread her message. This cult was very influential and very rich.
Of course the power behind Artemis was demonic, and those who promoted her worship knew it. They used those powers to help her reputation, and therefore theirs as well, grow and expand. She was recognized as the goddess over the underworld and the one with authority over all demons. In fact, these demons who served her were given Jewish, Egyptian and Greek names. The ‘magic’ she had, the supernatural power over natural forces, was demonic.
Because of Artemis, Ephesus became the main center for pagan demonic worship in all Asia Minor. Because of its key place in Asia Minor, geographically as well as culturally, Paul visited Ephesus at least twice (Acts 18:19-21; 19:1 – 20:1). Eventually the center ofearly Christianity moved from Jerusalem to Ephesus, then later to Rome itself. John and Mary lived in Ephesus. Because of its importance, Satan and his forces did all they could to oppose this. That is why spiritual warfare came to a head at Ephesus, as can be seen in the book of Acts as well as the epistle to the Ephesians, which was a circular letter read in all the churches in the area.
Luke records several of these power encounters between God and Satan during Paul’s first visit to Ephesus.
A power encounter is a crisis point occurring in the on-going spiritual warfare between God and Satan. Paul was bringing the kingdom of light into Satan’s kingdom of darkness. Satan was doing all he could to keep the area under his control. God gave Paul the ability to show God’s greater power by doing “signs, wonders and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:12; Romans 15:19). Towards the end of Paul’s time there, God worked in a special way through Paul to show the people the power of Paul’s God and message.
LESSON FOR TODAY: Again we see that in cultures today which don’t have a Christian heritage or much of a gospel witness God still, many times, uses physical healing and, deliverance from demonic influence and even dreams to show His power and bring others to His truth.
LESSONS FOR TODAY: This is not a standard way to evangelize or to do deliverance. In fact, Paul probably wasn’t aware of it when this began. Perhaps helpers or others took these cloths and gave them to needy friends. God honored their faith and used this to verify His power through His servant Paul. Of course it wasn’t Paul who healed, only God. But this validated Paul’s claims to have the best and right power with him. It was a necessary first step to gain a hearing so Paul could spread the good news of Jesus Christ. We must not get involved in objects that seem to have supernatural power for our full faith and attention must only be on God Himself. These things are counterfeit, even superstitions, good luck charms, etc., are to be totally avoided.
(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.)