Ephesus (in Turkey) was a centre of power (magic power, political power, religious power), and Paul’s ministry demonstrated that the power of the name of the Lord Jesus was stronger than all of them. This power was strong to heal (in ways that hadn’t happened before, with handkerchiefs and cloths that had touched Paul’s skin somehow bringing healing power to the sick. Acts 19:11-12) It was stronger than exorcists who thought they could just add the name of Jesus to their repertoire of magic charms, only to discover that the demon they were addressing on this occasion respected Jesus and Paul but had no respect for them. (Acts 19:13-16) People saw these unusual signs and came to believe in God as a result, as was demonstrated by them burning their letters and charms as a sign of their repentance and renunciation of occult practices. (Acts 19:17-20)
God’s power is not magic, however. Magic attempts to gain power without paying the price of humble submission to God. God’s power has dominion over magic (as is seen by the burning of the costly magic books and the confession and renunciation by those who had been practising magic.) What these verses do clearly teach us is that we serve an omnipotent God whose power is often visibly demonstrated in our midst as stepping-stones towards faith.
Jesus Himself told His disciples, ‘believe on the evidence of the works themselves’ (John 14:11); signs are given to stir our faith and open our eyes to the might and power of God. He went on to say, ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.’ (John 14:12-14) Paul’s ministry in Ephesus was an outworking of those words and a fulfilment of those promises, with the result that ‘the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.’ (Acts 19:20) Can the same be said of our ministry in Goldthorpe? If not, why not?