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The Scriptorium

Fear and Praise

They work together well. Acts 19.17-22

Ephesus: Acts 19 (4)

Pray Psalm 116.4-6.
Then I called upon the name of the LORD:
“O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!”
Gracious is the LORD, and righteous;
Yes, our God is merciful.
The LORD preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.

Sing Psalm 116.4-6.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God Who Reigns Above)
I called to God, “O Lord, I pray, my soul redeem with favor!”
The Lord is gracious in His way, and righteous is our Savior.
His mercy to the simple flies; He lifted me up to the skies –
I rest in Him forever!

Read Acts 19.1-22; meditate on verses 17-22.

1. How did the people respond to the attack on the sons of Sceva?

2. How did this situation contribute to the progress of the Gospel?

Word about the thrashing of the sons of Sceva provoked fear among the people of Ephesus; but the kind of fear that is necessary for worship, obedience, and discipleship to follow. They feared the name of Jesus (vv. 16, 17), because of the evident power they saw His name could wield. But rather than turn from Jesus in their fear, they turned to Him in worship. Fearing God and loving Him are both essential for full faith.

The public expression of this wave of fear and worship took two forms. First, believers were shaken to forsake many practices which they knew to be not consistent with the faith, but which they had heretofore continued and concealed (vv. 17, 18). Second, magicians brought the tools of their trade together and burned them, thus dramatically declaring a full and final break from their idolatrous and demonic practices (v. 19).

The effect of these two responses was to bolster and spread the Gospel even further (v. 20). Seeing the progress of the faith, Paul considered that he could leave the churches of Ephesus and Asia in the hands of their leaders, and he determined to push on to visit the churches in Greece (v. 21). He sent Timothy and Erastus ahead of him to begin making preparations, while he stayed on in Asia for a while to finalize details there. As it turned out, that was nearly a fatal decision (v. 22).

The deeper the Gospel penetrates the souls of people, the more dramatic are its effects. It’s clear that many people today who confess faith in Jesus Christ are living superficial Christian lives. If it were not so, would we not expect to see more impact of the Gospel in the social, cultural, and moral arenas of life? We might wonder what it will take to drive the Gospel more deeply into the souls of the faithful – and to rattle those who, to this point, have opposed or denied the faith, preferring instead their own forms of “magic arts”. Whatever it takes, it will be a work of the Spirit, and we should pray for it.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“Fearing God and loving Him are both essential for full faith.”

When Jesus was in Bethany having dinner with friends, a woman came in with a flask of very costly oil. And she broke the flask and poured the contents on Jesus’ head to anoint Him and show Him love. With this act of giving some were indignant. Why? Because, they said, she could have sold the oil and given the money to the poor.

What was Jesus’ response to her act of love? He said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial” (Mk. 14.3-8).

The oil and the magic books. Both items are examples of something better to do with our stuff than sell it. One showed love for Him, the other fear of displeasing Him (Acts 19.19).

Giving to God’s work is important, and we do that through tithing from our income. Also, through extra offerings that God lays upon our hearts. But selling and giving isn’t always the right response.

Do we have things in our possession that need to be destroyed? Are there things in our lives that need to be done away with and not passed on to anyone else? And what about sins that cannot be sold or burned? Sins that are not tangible, but dwell in our hearts, nonetheless?

Has enough fear fallen on us that we confess and tell our deeds and turn from them? (Acts 19.18)

And what about ways to show God that we love Him? Do we obey His commands? (Jn. 14.15)
Do we do the works, like the woman of Bethany, that God has prepared beforehand that we should do? (Eph. 2.10)

When we as believers fear God and love Him, and do the works that accompany those faith essentials, Jesus will be magnified, and the word of the Lord will grow mightily and prevail. The Scriptures prove that to be true (Acts 19.17, 20).

For Reflection

1. We’re not saved by works, but we’re not saved without them. Explain.

2. How do fear of God and love for Him work together to strengthen and grow our relationship with Him?

3. “The deeper the Gospel penetrates the souls of people, the more dramatic are its effects.” Has this been your experience? Explain.

The idolaters and magicians were so many in Ephesus that they prepared magicians’ books at a high price, as if these books held the most noble things in life. Upon believing in Christ, they did not sell them, even though there were many who wanted to obtain them, but they burned them. And they did this first so that no one could take part in their soul-destroying ruin, and second so that they could have no profit from it. Ammonius (late 5th-early 6th century), Catena on the Acts of the Apostles 19.18

Pray Psalm 116.7-14.
Thank the Lord for His many blessings and the mercy and grace He supplies in all your times of need.

Sing Psalm 116.7-14.
(Mit Freuden Zart: All Praise to God Who Reigns Above)
Full well the Lord has dealt with me; my soul from death He delivered.
My weeping eyes, my stumbling feet, He has redeemed forever.
Forever I before His face shall walk with those who know His grace,
and dwell with them forever.

Afflicted, I believe His Word, though lying men would undo me.
What shall I render to the Lord for all His blessings to me?
Salvation’s cup I lift above and call upon the God of love
and pay my vows most truly.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website,, and clicking theScriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Acts by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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