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Muscular Christianity! Acts 18:8-12

29/04/2021

Muscular Christianity.

Text:  Acts 19:8-12

When Luke records Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, he does so in four vignettes of conflict.  Those 12 disciples comprised the first of those cameos, – Paul’s conflict with error, and now we have the second of those, his conflict with the synagogue.  The third is a conflict with pagan necromancers, and the fourth with those who made a living from false religion. Let’s return now to conflict two, that eventual and inevitable move from the synagogue to the lecture hall.

Image by kropekk_pl from Pixabay

1 The Occasion for Legitimate Separation.  V8-9 

As usual, when Paul went to a new town or city, he would go first to the synagogue and preach the gospel to the Jews.  After all, the good news was for the Jew first.  Romans 1:16  On his first, short visit to Ephesus, on the way to Jerusalem and Antioch, he had been well received in the synagogue there.  Acts 19:19-21  He must have been welcome when he returned, for he taught there for a period of three months.  There’s no mention here of the leaders of the synagogue plotting against him, as in Corinth.  Look at the incident as it’s recorded here:-

  • The hard-hearted infidels.  Some of those who heard the Gospel simply became hardened to it and refused to believe.  And not content with their own disbelief, they spoke out to discourage others from coming to Christ.  See here 
  • Their wicked tactics.  They hadn’t forbidden him from preaching.  They were more subtle than that, – they stood up themselves before the gathered congregation and ‘spoke evil of the way.’  They preached against Christianity.  They drove him out of the synagogue, not by banning him, but by deliberately opposing what he taught.  Isn’t that what was happening here?  
  • Paul’s reaction.  Paul left the synagogue, because he could not continue in fellowship with them.  He took with him the Christian disciples, preserving them from the malign influence of these hardened unbelievers, and bringing them together into a new assembly.

So, there’s a question that arises here for us, and not one we can deal with in this kind of sermon… WHEN DO WE TAKE THE DECISION TO WALK AWAY?  Paul’s departure from the synagogue in Ephesus was a separation, – it was NOT a schism, for there was a very good reason for it!  The believers separated themselves because of the attack on true biblical doctrine, and to protect the soul from the ungodly influence there. I had to do that too! 2 Corinthians 6:16-18  

2 The Obligation for Tenacity.  V9b -10  

I hope to illustrate for you, Paul’s indefatigable tenacity in doing the Lord’s work.    Let’s see how… 9b disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.  If Paul is teaching in the School Hall of Tyrannus, where was Tyrannus?  It’s highly unlikely that this was his real name, what mother would name her child, ‘Tyrant!’ Isn’t it highly likely that it was a nickname, given to him by the students, because of his tyrannical teaching methods!  Hardly the description of an obliging character who would cancel his philosophy classes to lend his schoolhouse to a Jewish rabbi.  But we get a clue to the mystery in one of the ancient Greek Texts, where there is a little addition to the RT used in the AV and NKJV.  It’s quoted in most of the reformed commentaries too,  and it reads, ‘Disputing daily in the school of Tyrannus from the fifth to the tenth hour.’  That makes sense!  And it tells us a lot about Paul!

  • It tells us that Paul was working while others were sleeping.  The working day in Ephesus began at 7am, and continued through to 11am, when the heat became unbearable.  Work ceased and the city fell quiet until 4pm, when work would recommence and work would then end at 9.30pm, when the workers could have a meal and a rest.  When Paul should have been sleeping, resting through the long Ephesian siesta period, he was at the lecture hall, preaching and teaching and disputing.  Paul would be tired and too hot, but every day, six days a week, for two years solid, he taught.  Someone calculated that he must have taught for 3120 hours of lecturing.    
  • It tells us that Paul had enthusiastic students.  Like their professor, these students would have given up their rest period every day to discover more of the things of God!
  • It tells us that Paul was working while others were working!  Not only was Paul keeping up a teaching schedule that would shame any modern Bible college curriculum, but during the working hours he was also earning his living!  Determined that his teaching ministry would be no burden to anyone. Cf Acts 20:33-35 

So Paul is doing his full days work, six days a week, and teaching for five hours every day for two years!  So, why did he do it?  What drives Paul is the Love of God that he had experienced in Christ!  

3 The Outcome of Paul’s Work. V11-12 

Now having said all that, Paul’s labour, and his tenacity and his faithfulness is rewarded.    

  • Geographically and culturally!  Paul’s ministry in the synagogue was three months, in the lecture hall it lasted two years, and in Acts 20 he tells us he was at Ephesus for three years.  Commentators think that he must have spent around nine months in the hinterland, preaching around the area, so all those who lived in the province of Asia heard the gospel.  We do know that others were active in the region as well, for Epaphras was in Colossae – Colossians 1:7  And being in the Lecture Hall, not only Jews and proselytes could hear the Good News, but Gentiles as well.
  • Miraculously!  These were the days of the Apostles, and in those formative days of the church some very special miracles and signs were pointing men and women to Christ.  Note though it wasn’t Paul that was doing these miracles, it was God!  These solid, stained sweaty garments had no miraculous powers in themselves, but perhaps as symbols of the faithfulness and the sacrificial service of the apostle, they pointed to the God whom he served, and in whom they could find help in times of need.  
  • Victoriously! Luke adds here that the gospel spreading across the land had a huge spiritual effect upon the land.  Evil spirits were driven out.   Psalm 66:3-4 

So, Paul’s second ‘dispute’ at Ephesus, his departure from the Jewish Synagogue and establishing of the Christian assembly is fruitful, and the kingdom of God in Ephesus is expanded once more, and to God be all the glory.  

© Bob McEvoy May 2021

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