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evil jackolantern November 25 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Acts 18:23- 20:6

Spiritual Adversity

It has been about a month since Halloween. For most people in America it is a fun time for dressing up in costumes and going to parties or door to door begging for candy with the phrase “Trick or Treat.” Unfortunately, sometimes the celebrations take a dark malicious turn. In today's lesson we look at the dark side of spiritual adversity - demonic activity.

According to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (2010), which produces a Christian World-Wide Database, and is quoted by christianity.about.com, “an average of 159,960 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith per year.” The Voice of the Martyrs organization chronicles the daily persecutions of Christians around the world. Certainly, Christians are facing spiritual adversity. We should remember these people, pray for the families, and be willing to join in their spiritual battles when necessary.

The book of Acts details early persecutions of the church, but spiritual warfare seems to have been particularly prominent during Paul’s third missionary journey.

The first place Paul and Silas went was to Galatia and Phrygia, where the Holy Spirit had prevented them from going in their second missionary journey. We don’t know the exact reason, but 1Thessalonians 2:18 may give us a clue. In that Scripture it is stated that Satan hindered Paul and his companions from visiting Thessalonica. Asia Minor was a hot bed of Satanic activity. Revelation 2:13 describes this area as the place of Satan’s throne, his seat of power on earth. It was a place of great idolatry and wickedness. Perhaps Paul was delayed from going to Galatia because Satanic warfare was also being waged there. Regardless of the reason for the delay, a lesson to learn is that we must be flexible with God’s plan and program, even if we do not understand it; God may even be protecting us from evil. This time Paul and his companions were allowed to evangelize the people of Asia Minor for two years.

Those in the military tell us that battles are not won by single efforts but by team efforts. In fact, many of the heroes do not come home. Priscilla, Aquila and Apollos joined Paul in spiritual warfare. Priscilla and Aquila were tentmakers like the Apostle Paul. They helped disciple Apollos who was a Christian from Alexandria (Egypt). Apollos was a very effective communicator and a well educated man. “He vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ,” (Acts 18:28, NIV). Priscilla, Aquilla and Apollos helped defend the faith in Ephesus and Corinth. Apparently, Apollos was such an effective communicator that he won the hearts of many in the Corinthian church.

Paul and Silas came to Ephesus and there they faced spiritual adversity. When Paul taught in the synagogue, some of the attendees publicly maligned his teachings. Paul left the synagogue and held discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. He did this for two years and also healed diseases and cast out demons. When the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, tried to do the same, the demons attacked them. The residents of Ephesus also practiced forms of black magic, but people turned to the LORD and burned their fetishes.

Do we face spiritual battles today? Yes! Ephesians 6:12 says,

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places, (NIV).

So, how do we fight against the devil? Should we be casting out demons? Though there are instructional classes on how to cast out demons, we should take a warning from Acts 19 that this practice is extremely dangerous. We should not underestimate the power of the devil and his demons. There were some demons that even Jesus’ disciples could not cast out (Matthew 17:15-20). In Ephesians 6:11 Paul instructed the Ephesians to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil,” (NIV). This is what we should do instead of focusing our attention on exorcism.

When Paul and Silas led a great number of people to the LORD, it hurt the silversmith and idol making trade; fewer idols were being purchased. Because of this, the tradesmen incited the people of Ephesus on behalf of their fertility goddess, Artemis, against Paul and Silas. Their traveling companions, Gaius and Aristarchus were mistakenly dragged in front of the crowd. The people created such a disturbance that the town clerk had to settle them down. When he found out there was no justifiable reason to keep them, however, he dismissed the crowd and let the men go. God was their defense in spiritual adversity, and he will be our defense.

Lessons to live by:

  • All who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
  • The Bible testifies that there is an unseen warfare constantly going on between God’s angels and Satan’s demons (Ephesians 6:11-12). You should therefore “put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil,” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV).
  • Are you a true believer in Christ? (more...) If so, God is your defense in times of adversity.

Today’s memory verses:

Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil, (NIV).”

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