Acts, Lesson 21: Paul Still in Ephesus–Healing through Paul’s Facecloths and Work Aprons

Work Aprons (610x351)Paul Still in Ephesus–Healing through Paul’s Facecloths and Work Aprons

By Pr Rich Futrell

Paul Serving as Evangelist and Pastor 

Read Acts 19:8

  • In Ephesus, where does Paul first go?


  • How long does he stay preaching and teaching there?


  • What does this say about the resistance that Paul first experienced there?


Read Acts 19:9-10

  • To whom does Luke point for the reason why someone doesn’t believe in Jesus?


  • What does Paul do?


  • Who leaves with him?


  • What is the result of Paul being able to say in Ephesus for over two years?


“All the residents of Asia”: Paul’s lengthy stay in Ephesus eventually led to many Christians congregations being formed in Asia Minor. Among those were congregations at Colossae, Laodicea, Hierapolis, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia (Colossians 1:2, 4:13; Revelation 1:11).

Paul’s work at Ephesus was his longest missionary stay. When we add his “three months” of preaching and teaching in the synagogue there (Acts 19:8), his work at Ephesus extended for more than two years, into a third calendar year (Acts 20:31). The closest we can calculate is that Paul was in Ephesus during part of 53 AD and finished his work there sometime in 55 AD. While there, he wrote his first letter to the congregation at Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:8).


God’s Extraordinary Miracles through Paul’s Facecloths and Work Aprons

Read Acts 19:11-12

It’s easy for us to take in God working miracles through people, for we find many examples of that in Scripture. What we don’t see as often is God working miracles through physical objects. But that is what we see take place in these two verses.

  • Whom does Luke credit for the miracles in these two verses?


  • How was God choosing to do such miracles?


Excursus: God Working Through the Physical

In Acts 19:11-12, God worked the miracle of physical and spiritual healing through “facecloths and work aprons that had touched [Paul’s] skin.” Yet, Luke doesn’t tell us why God chose to do this in Ephesus. Perhaps, God worked those miracles because the Ephesians had a fascination with exorcisms and magic and God wanted to draw them away from that to the Gospel.

In Romans, Paul tells us what God was doing when He chose to perform such miracles:

I dare not speak of anything except what Christ has done through me in bringing Gentiles to obedience. By word and deed, by miraculous signs and wonderful proofs, and by the power of God’s Spirit, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem as far as Illyricum [Romans 15:18-19].

We know that God’s use of “facecloths and work aprons that had touched [Paul’s] skin” wasn’t the only time that He had worked miracles through physical, created matter. We also see God working such miracles elsewhere in Scripture.

Numbers 21:8-9: Then the LORD told Moses, “Make a snake out of brass and mount it on a pole. Anyone who has been bitten and who looks at it will live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and put it to a pole. If a person who had been bitten by a poisonous serpent looked to the serpent, he lived.

2 King 13:20-21: Later, Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite marauders used to invade the country in the spring of the year. Once, while some Israelites were burying a man, they saw some marauders, so they threw the body into Elisha’s tomb. But when the body touched Elisha’s bones, he came to life and stood up on his feet.

Matthew 14:34-36: They [Jesus and His disciples] crossed over [the Sea of Galilee] and came ashore at Gennesaret. When the people there recognized Jesus, they sent word throughout that region and brought to him everyone who was sick. They begged him to let them touch the tassel of his garment, and all who touched it were healed. [See also Luke 8:43-45]

Mark 5:25-29: Now there was a woman who had been suffering from chronic bleeding for twelve years…. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his robe, because she was thinking, “If I can just touch his robe, I’ll be healed.” At once, her bleeding stopped and she sensed in her body that she was cured of her affliction.

Mark 6:12-13: So they [the Twelve] went and preached that all should repent. They cast out many demons and anointed many who were sick with oil, healing them.

John 9:1-7: As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who was blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that caused him to be born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This happened so that God’s work might be displayed in him. We must do the works of him who sent me while it is day, for the night is approaching when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

After saying this, Jesus spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he smeared the mud on the man’s eyes and told him, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went away and washed, and came back seeing.


  • Jesus used mud to heal a blind man. Who’s work was displayed when the blind man was healed?


  • What was Jesus alluding to, before he healed the man, when He said, “The night is approaching… [and] I am the light of the world?”


  • Thus, what were such healings pointing toward?


God’s use of created, physical matter for our salvation

Referring back to the snake on the pole [Numbers 21:8-9], Jesus told Nicodemus: “I assure you: unless a person is born of water [physical] and Spirit [spiritual], he cannot enter the kingdom of God…. Just as Moses lifted up the snake [physical] in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him [spiritual] may have eternal life” (John 3:5, 14-15).

  • God healing through snake on the pole pointed to what ultimate healing that God would work?


  • What part of creation did Jesus point toward as a way for spiritual birth [from spiritual death to spiritual life]?


God never promised that He would bring us healing or salvation through work aprons, facecloths, or the edge of someone’s clothing. However, we can see in Scripture that God did choose to work miracles, when He wanted to, through such ways. Those miracles were not an end in themselves. For example, we learn from Jesus that the snake on the pole pointed to the salvation that we have in Him.

By God doing such miracles though what was physical, He was training us to be ready to see Him at work when He DID promise to bring His salvation using what was physical, not just the spiritual [Holy Spirit].

Titus 3:5: God saved us, not by works of righteousness that we had done, but because of his mercy, through the washing [physical water] of new birth and renewing of the Holy Spirit [spiritual].

1 Peter 3:21: Corresponding to this [God saving Noah and his family through the flood], baptism [physical water] now saves you, not by removing dirt from the body, but as the pledge of clear conscience [the spiritual] based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • Through what physical matter of creation does God promise to save us and give us spiritual birth?


  • How does God use water to save through baptism? In others words, what is “the pledge of clear conscience”? How does one get a clear conscience?


Romans 6:3-5: Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized [physical water] into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, through baptism, we were [spiritually] buried with him into his death so that, just as the Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have become joined with him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection.

  • What does God do in baptism to give us what Jesus did for our salvation?


  • When will that salvation be fully realized?


Matthew 26:27-28: [While instituting His Supper, Jesus] took a cup, and after giving thanks, and he gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood [physical] of the New Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins [spiritual].”

  • What does Jesus promise to give us in His Supper? For what purpose?


God’s use of the physical for our salvation points us to creation’s renewal

Romans 8:19-23: For the creation is eagerly awaiting God’s children to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility–not willingly, but because of him who subjected it–in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that all creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth up to the present time. And not only that, but we who have the first fruits of the Spirit–we also groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

  • What awaits this fallen creation?


  • When will creation be given a new birth (become the new heaven and earth)?


To save us, Jesus united Himself to created, physical matter, so He would have a physical body. This came about by the Holy Spirit coming upon the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:35). Jesus’ conception came about by the joining of the Holy Spirit to creation (one of Mary’s eggs). Jesus then became a person with a physical body and a soul to save us, spiritually and physically. That’s the point of His incarnation.

God joined Himself to created, physical matter (Jesus’ incarnation) to earn our salvation for both body and soul. And yet, where does God distribute and give us Jesus’ cross-won and resurrected-reality salvation? He does so by joining Himself to that which is physical, where He promises to bring us the salvation that Jesus, in both body and soul, earned for us. And so God the Holy Spirit, through the spoken Word, joins Himself to that which is physical–water, and bread and wine–to save, not just our soul, but also our physical bodies. That’s the point of God using the physical, instead of only the spiritual, for our salvation.

Yet, God’s use of what is physical for our salvation also points forward to the new creation. For if that which is physical is so important that Jesus became incarnate to save us, that God uses what is physical in our salvation, then the fulfillment of salvation must also include that which is physical. And so our salvation’s fulfillment takes place when God brings our risen, sinless, and perfected bodies and unites them to our souls. With that, God will also give us a sinless, perfect creation (the new heaven and earth) for our sinless bodies to inhabit for all eternity.

God using the physical and the spiritual for our salvation is not a mere side note of our salvation–any more than Jesus’ incarnation is a side note of our salvation! It is primary, for it points to the resurrection of the body and our ultimate salvation as physical beings with a body and soul.


Lesson 21, Gods Use of Physical Matter for Our Salvation




The Sons of Sceva

Read Acts 19:13-16

  • What were the sons of Sceva doing?


  • Were they authorized to do what they were doing? If so, by whom?


  • Did they know the Jesus whom Paul proclaimed? If not, then which Jesus were they using to command evil spirits?


  • So, why didn’t such exorcisms work?


Read Acts 19:17-20

  • What two specific results took place because of what happened to the sons of Sceva? (vs.17)


  • What then did some Christians do?


  • What was the big deal about Christians also practicing “magic arts”?


  • What continued to take place with “the word of the Lord?”


Paul’s Future Plans

Read Acts 19:21-22

In the Spirit/spirit: When Luke wrote that Paul “resolved in the Spirit” [ESV] to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome, he could have meant that God the Holy Spirit was directing him to go on such a trip. Yet, Luke could also have meant that Paul was simply making up his mind, with “spirit” referring to his mental, decision-making processes.

Which is it? We can’t say, for the expression “in the spirit” could have either meaning. In Romans 1:9, Paul said, “I serve God in the spirit [of] mine.” Using normal Greek grammar, that was simply the way to say, “I serve God in my spirit.” Paul was serving God with his mental abilities.

If Luke wanted us to know, for certain, that Paul was planning such future travels as simply his choice, Luke could have written that Paul “resolved in the spirit [of] him” that is, his own spirit. If Luke wanted us to know, for certain, that Paul was planning such future travels because the Holy Spirit had brought him to such a decision, Luke could have written that Paul “resolved in the Spirit [of] Holiness” that is, the Holy Spirit. Since Luke does neither, we should not get dogmatic about what “spirit” means in this passage.

  • Where does Paul remain, while still having such future plans?