Acts 19:1-20 provides a powerful template for how to spiritually and numerically blow a church up. This Biblical “bomb building” passage gives three key ingredients to make the biggest boom for Jesus possible in your congregation:
The Nitrogen: Preach the gospel clearly (Acts 19:1-7.)
The Glycerin: Multiply the gospel relationally (Acts 19:8-10.)
And, finally, The Trigger: Live the gospel radically (Acts 19:11-20.)
Let’s take a deeper look at the trigger…
â€œGod 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. Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, â€˜In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.â€™ Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, â€˜Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?â€™ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding. When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A 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. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.â€ Acts 19:11-20
Exorcism was common in these days. Both Jews and Greeks had exorcism practices that they would use every now and again. So, these seven sons of Sceva, who probably had earned a reputation as being effective exorcists, decided to take their exorcism to the next level. Theyâ€™d seen the effectiveness of the apostle Paul as he invoked the Name of Jesus to cast out demons and so they thought theyâ€™d give it a whirl.
The problem was that this was not like the other powerless incantations that the Ephesian pagans used for exorcism. They were playing with the name of Jesus. They were playing out of their league spiritually speaking…and the demon inside this man knew it. I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ve ever said this in any other context but I LOVE what the demon says to the seven sons of Sceva in, what I imagine to be, a Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino type voice, â€œJesus I know and I know about Paul but who are you?â€
You see if you donâ€™t believe in the person of Jesus then there is no power in the Name of Jesus. And these seven sons of Sceva didnâ€™t believe in the person of Jesus so they had no powerâ€¦and soon they had no clothes because the demon possessed man jumped on them, ripped off their clothes and beat them silly.
Two things happened as a result of the seven sons of Sceva getting stripped and ripped by this demon possessed man for abusing the name of Jesus.
First of all, the Name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor among the unbelievers. From that moment on in Ephesus the unbelievers whispered the Name of Jesus in reverent awe. It was nothing to be trifled with and they knew it. This display of divine power, Iâ€™m sure, caused many to put their faith in Jesus.
The second thing that happened was that the secret sins were radically ejected from the lives of the believers. Acts 19 tells us what happened inside the church as a result of the UFC throw down in the Octagon between the demon and the 7 sons of Sceva, â€œMany of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A 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. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.â€
Ephesus was a place where witchcraft and spiritism thrived. Secret incantations were bought and sold to bring good luck and guard one from evil spirits. And they were bought at a high price. It was a thriving business in Ephesus which was a center for the secret arts. It was the Hogwarts of the ancient world and many of the Christians still held on to the charms and incantations of their former life. Up until this point many believers kept this secret sin of witchcraft locked away in their closets at home.
But all that changed. This incident terrified the believers who were still holding on to the Satanic stuff locked up in their closets and so they had, quite literally, a book burning. There were so many Christians that came forward that day with so many scrolls that the value was 50,000 drachmas. A Drachma was a dayâ€™s wages. If a manâ€™s wages is $100/day then 50,000 drachma would be equal to $5,000,000!
As a result, according to Acts 19:20, â€œIn this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.â€
In other words the church blew up. When the church cleansed itself from her secret sins the gospel was unleashed to do its work.
So I have a tough question for you. What Satanic stuff are you hiding in your closet? And, Iâ€™m not talking about burning up all your Harry Potter books. Iâ€™m talking about dealing with those secret areas of your life that are under Satanâ€™s control.
â€¦could be internet porn. There are some reading this who are enslaved to this sin. You think nobody knows but God does. Your secret sin becomes a roadblock, not just between you and God, but from your church blowing up.
â€¦could be anger (this is an area I have to deal with in my life)
â€¦could be gossip
â€¦could be unforgiveness toward a person who hurt you
â€¦what is that sin in your soul that you are keeping locked in the closet of your soul that keeps you under Satanâ€™s bondage
Are you willing to deal with it radically and immediately?
Itâ€™s time for a book burning, or our version of it anyway! It’s time to leave that sin at the foot of the cross, to mortify it, to count yourself dead to it. You may have to nail it to the cross for days, weeks or months before it sticks but keep nailing. Because it is already dead and we are alive in Christ.
If we want our churches to blow up we must live the gospel radically, preach it clearly and multiply it relationally. May the “word of the Lord spread widely and grow in power” in our churches and may it start from the epicenter of our lives fully and radically committed to Christ!