Holy Spirit Revival
In Acts chapter nineteen we read that when Paul arrived in Ephesus and began preaching about Jesus being the Savior, a large group of Ephesians believed in Jesus, repented of their sins and changed their whole way of living. Let’s read the story in Acts.
“The name of Jesus was held in high honor to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus. And many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A large number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas (a vast sum -fifty thousand pieces of silver). In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (Acts 19:17b-20)
This revival in Ephesus was a red hot Holy Spirit revival. Nothing lukewarm about it! When the people of Ephesus believed in Jesus they completely made a break with the way they had been living their lives in the past. We see here in Acts 19 that in mass these new Christians publically confessed that what they had been doing was wrong, - the very way they had been making their living had been wrong. But now they knew better and were willing to change!
Since Jesus is the only Way, they needed to reject this false way, this occult power that wasn’t of God. They couldn’t follow Jesus and follow the occult too! It was clear they had to make a choice. So a large crowd of excited new believers brought their idols and scrolls and secret formulas- the tools of their trade, and together they threw all of these expensive items into a huge bonfire in the middle of town for everyone to see. What a scene – so many Ephesians publically rejecting their professions and their livelihoods. So many new believers willingly renouncing the power of sorcery and burning their valuable magical items . Nothing like this had ever happened before! All of Ephesus was astir!
In the secular records of the time we read that Ephesus had the reputation of being a major center for the popular magical practices. It was also the center of worship of the goddess Diana. In fact the ruins of the temple of the goddess Diana in Ephesus are listed as one of the ancient wonders of the world. It would appear that many of the new Ephesian believers had been earning a good living by practicing magic, casting spells and making magic potions. And now they were giving up their lucrative professions as magicians to follow Jesus.
These new Christians might lose money while they were finding another line of work, but that didn’t matter! They might not make as much money in the future learning another trade, but they didn’t care. Money didn’t matter! Security didn’t count! They would sacrifice it all in order to follow Jesus, the Pearl of great price! A real revival was happening!
The impact that Paul and these Christians had on the people who lived in the surrounding countryside was significant. The news of the huge bonfire in Ephesus spread and many other people were throwing away their idols and coming to Jesus. Christianity was spreading throughout Asia and southern Europe! Scripture says: “All who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 19:10b)
Paul stayed and preached in Ephesus for several years and God blessed his ministry and blessed the new believers in Ephesus with many miracles and healings. Let’s listen to how Scripture tells it. “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul. So that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.” (Acts 19:11-12) I like to believe that God drew near to the Ephesian believers and to Paul because they drew near to Him.
But whenever the kingdom of God is advancing, persecution from Satan is sure to follow. And it didn’t take long for persecution to show up in Ephesus. Thousands of Ephesians were turning from idol worship and following Christ. Real revival was changing the fabric of the Ephesian economy. When part of a culture is changed, everything is affected. And people don’t like change, especially when it affects their money or their power. “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10) So there was anger in Ephesus. The craftsmen and silversmiths were upset that all of these new Christians were no longer hiring them to make more idols. With so many thousands becoming Christian, their businesses in Ephesus were being affected. Let’s hear what Scripture says about this.
“About this time there arose a great commotion about the Way (Christianity). For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called the craftsmen together and said: ‘Men you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned many people, saying that these idols are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is our trade in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.’” (Acts19:23-27)
The angry craftsmen ran through the streets spreading fears and stirring up the crowds. Soon a furious mob began shouting, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians’ and a riot began. More crowds joined in and accused Paul and the Christians in Ephesus of starting an illegal new religion and undermining their goddess Diana. Finally after a day of rioting, the city clerk was able to calm the unruly crowd, but Paul had to leave Ephesus to avoid more trouble.
Before Paul had come to Ephesus he had started a Christian church in Corinth and he had been attacked and taken to court and later driven out of that city. And then after the riots drove him out of Ephesus he went to Macedonia to preach. And there were more plots against him there and the persecutions continued. Wherever Paul preached and people believed in Jesus, persecution and trouble were sure to follow. Jesus had warned us of persecution. It is just part of the territory.
Are we sometimes jealous when we hear about the healings and the conversions that accompanied Paul on his missionary journeys into Greece and Asia? When we read the book of Acts we are struck with the fact that the Holy Spirit moved with great power through all of the churches. Don’t we sometimes wish that we could see that kind of power in our churches today?
But along with the Holy Spirit power comes the many persecutions. There was always a price to pay and those early Christians were willing to pay it. Are we willing to pay the price? Most of the early Christians in that day were also willing to give up their safety, their money and their reputations to follow Jesus. What are we willing to give up?