The Power of Paul’s Preaching
Robert Wurtz II
Moreover you see and hear, that not only at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are no gods, which are made with hands: So that not only this our craft is in danger of ruin; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana will be despised, and her magnificence will be destroyed, whom all of Asia and the world worships. (Act 19:26-27)
Demetrius is expounding the effects of Paul’s preaching at Ephesus. He was hostile over it, and was trying to incite an uproar among the unbelievers. It is interesting to note that the Jews had long ago established a synagogue at Ephesus, and undoubtedly would have (at least in theory) detested idols and pagan practices; nevertheless, their presence had no meaningful effect as compared to Paul’s preaching. Ponder that fact for a moment. A synagogue in years was unable to do what one man had done in mere months. With this fact in mind I wish to consider the power of Paul’s preaching.
I have no doubt that one of the great needs in our times is to rediscover what exactly Paul preached. Men have come along and dissected his teaching, debated his doctrines, and distorted his message. What did the man preach? The Holy Spirit has gone to great lengths to make sure we put it all together, but somehow we have missed it in the main stream.
Benjamin Franklin one said, “Either write something worth reading, or do something worth writing about.” Paul did both. In fact, he is without question one of the most famous men who ever lived. His writings are on the pages of the New Testament epistles, and his deeds are recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. Much of what we know of him is found in narratives such as our passage above. Other important information he provides in his letters. Taken together we find a man whose bodily presence was weak and his speech contemptible; nevertheless, this Paul persuaded and turned away many people from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to the power of God.
Aiming At the Heart
The Lord Jesus talked about salt that had lost its savour as being effectively worthless. Salt that is ineffective is trod under foot. This is what was happening in Ephesus with the Synagogue. Here were people that knew God’s word, but they were not preaching it, or not preaching it effectively. Paul was different. His preaching had such an effect that he was nearly killed by angry mobs on numerous occasions. Understand that he was not trying to start a riot on these occasions, anybody can do that. All you have to do if spout off a bunch of reckless, inflammatory statements. This is not what Paul was doing. He was preaching repentance from sin, and that the people needed to bring forth proof of their repentance. He was opening the eyes of those who were blinded by the Devil- with a view to turning them from him and his ways. He reasoned with men and women, of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. As did Felix, many people would have trembled. Some may have even told Paul he was crazy as did Agrippa. Many, according to Demetrius, forsook their life of sin. Nevertheless, this was the effect of a man’s preaching (as the old timers would say) who aimed the word not over their heads; not at their feet, but directly at their hearts.
Paul understood something that we, must likewise understand, if we, the churches of God, are to ever be effective in ministry. We have to agree with the Holy Spirit in our preaching. If we do, He will back the words with conviction of sin. If we do not, He has little to go on but impressions He can make upon the conscience in other ways. God has ordained that people be changed by “the foolishness of preaching.” Why? Because even the weakest and most despised measures are able to affect change when the Holy Spirit is directly involved. Paul’s message matched the Holy Spirit’s mission; And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:8) He has not come to give us goose bumps or esoteric feelings of a presence; He has come to convince, convict, reprove the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come.
When Paul was before Festus, Felix, and Agrippa, he told these men exactly what he had been preaching since he was born again. He was on the road to Rome to die under Nero, but wanted the world to know, for all ages, what he preached. Luke recorded his words, under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for our example and learning. I would encourage the reader to examine carefully Acts 18-28, especially his answers before Felix, Festus and Agrippa. There he spells it all out in black and white.
A Final Message
When Paul had gone before Nero and was about to be (by tradition) beheaded, he sent a final message to Timothy, who was also a leader at Ephesus. He wrote:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2Timothy 4:1-5)
Paul is passing his methodology (modus operandi) to Timothy. In fact, he is charging him before God to do it. Paul is saying, in effect, “Do what I do… preach like I preach… say the kind of things that I would say.” Why? Because that is what agrees with the mission of the Holy Spirit. Compare these passages, Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine… and again… And when He (Paracletos/Comforter/Holy Spirit) is come, He will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. (John 16:8) Here, the Spirit, the Word and Paul agree. He wants Timothy to agree as well, and carry on the pattern. Understand that these are Paul’s last words. This is his death bed confession. His words here, as I understand it, would be admissible in a court of law as evidence. He is telling us what is most dear to his heart- the most important thing.