Jesus verses Satan November 25 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Acts 18:23–20:6

Spiritual Adversity; Paul's Third Missionary Journey

According to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (2018), which produces a Christian World-Wide Database, “an average of 160,000 Christians are martyred for their faith per year.” The Voice of the Martyrs organization chronicles the daily persecutions of Christians all over the world. We should remember these people, pray for their families, be willing to help, or join them in their spiritual battles when necessary.

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

The first place Paul and Silas travel to is Galatia and Phrygia, where the Holy Spirit prevented them from going in their second missionary journey. We don’t know the exact reason, but 1Thessalonians 2:18 gives us a clue. In this letter, Paul states that Satan hindered him and his companions from visiting Thessalonica in Asia Minor (Turkey). This area was a hot bed of demonic activity; Revelation 2:13 describes it as the place of Satan’s throne, his seat of power on earth. Here, there was great idolatry and wickedness. Perhaps Paul and Silas were delayed from going to Galatia because spiritual warfare was being waged there. On Paul's third missionary journey, however, he and his companions are allowed to evangelize the people in this area for two years.

A lesson we might take away from this story is that we should be flexible with God’s plans, even if we do not understand them; the Lord may be protecting us from evil or have other designs for us.

Those in the military tell us that battles are not won by single efforts but by team efforts. Many of the heroes do not come home. In Ephesus, Priscilla and Aquila, a Christian couple, are also involved in spiritual ministry. Ephesus is an area of idol worship and sexual carelessness. Priscilla and Aquila help disciple Apollos, who is a Christian from Alexandria, Egypt. He joins their team. Apollos is an 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). When Apollos wants to go to Corinth, they encourage him. He becomes such an competent defender of the faith before the Jews, that he is a great help to the Corinthian church.

Paul and Silas come to Ephesus and face spiritual adversity. When Paul speaks in the synagogue, some of the attendees publicly malign his teachings. Because of this resistance, Paul leaves the synagogue and holds discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. He does this for two years and also heals diseases and casts out demons. When the seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, attempt to do the same, the demons attack them. The residents of Ephesus practice forms of black magic, but when people turn to the LORD, they publicly burn everything related to their evil arts.

Do we face spiritual battles today? Yes! Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus,

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. 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, (Ephesians 6:11-12, NIV).

How do we fight against the devil? Should we cast out demons? Although there are classes on how to cast out demons, we should take a warning from Acts 19 and know this practice is extremely dangerous. We should not underestimate the power of the devil and his demons. There were some that even Jesus’ disciples could not cast out (Matthew 17:15-20). Instead, we are commanded to “put on the full armor of God, so that [we] will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, NIV). What is the armor of God? We will learn more about it when we come to our Ephesians Bible study, but this link is a helpful explanation.

When Paul and Silas lead a great number of people to the LORD, it hurts the silversmith and idol making trades; fewer idols are being purchased. Because of this, the craftsmen incite the people of Ephesus against Paul and Silas on behalf of their fertility goddess, Artemis. Paul's traveling companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, are mistakenly dragged in front of the crowd. The people create such a disturbance that the town clerk has to settle them down. When he finds there is no justifiable reason to keep them, however, he dismisses the crowd and lets the men go free. God is 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 (2Timothy 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). We 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 we true believers in Christ? (more...) If so, God is our defense in times of adversity.

Focus Verse

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

Watch a video of Paul's third missionary journey here. Start at 2:03:45 and end at 2:14:19

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A Look Ahead: While Paul is on his third missionary journey he hears of serious divisions in the church of Corinth. Some churches today have the same problem. Paul urges them to Be Sober-Minded. Read what this means and how it helps in our Next Lesson.

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