Jehovah’s Word Prevails!
“In a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.”—ACTS 19:20.
1. What will be covered in this study of the Bible book Acts of Apostles?
JEHOVAH was opening a door to activity. Especially would Paul, “an apostle to the nations,” spearhead that work. (Romans 11:13) Indeed, our continuing study of Acts of Apostles finds him engaged in thrilling missionary travels.—Acts 16:6–19:41.
2. (a) How did the apostle Paul serve as a divinely inspired penman from about 50 C.E. to 56 C.E.? (b) What happened as God blessed Paul’s ministry and that of others?
2 Paul was also a divinely inspired penman. From about 50 C.E. to 56 C.E., he wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians from Corinth, Galatians from that city or from Syrian Antioch, 1 Corinthians from Ephesus, 2 Corinthians from Macedonia, and Romans from Corinth. And as God blessed Paul’s ministry and that of others, “in a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.”—Acts 19:20.
From Asia to Europe
3. How did Paul and his companions set a fine example in connection with direction by holy spirit?
3 Paul and his associates set a fine example in accepting direction by holy spirit. (16:6-10) Perhaps by audible revelations, dreams, or visions, the spirit prevented them from preaching in the district of Asia and the province of Bithynia, later reached with the good news. (Acts 18:18-21; 1 Peter 1:1, 2) Why did the spirit block earlier entry? Laborers were few, and the spirit was guiding them into more fruitful fields in Europe. So today, if the way is blocked into one territory, Jehovah’s Witnesses preach elsewhere, sure that God’s spirit will lead them to sheeplike ones.
4. What was the response to Paul’s vision of a Macedonian man pleading for help?
4 Paul and his associates then ‘passed by’ Mysia, a region in Asia Minor, as a missionary field. In a vision, however, Paul saw a Macedonian man pleading for help. So the missionaries promptly went to Macedonia, a region of the Balkan Peninsula. Similarly, many Witnesses are directed by holy spirit to serve now where the need for Kingdom proclaimers is great.
5. (a) Why can it be said that Jehovah’s word prevailed in Philippi? (b) In what way are many present-day Witnesses like Lydia?
5 Jehovah’s word prevailed in Macedonia. (16:11-15) Philippi, a colony inhabited mostly by Roman citizens, apparently had few Jews and no synagogue. So the brothers went to “a place of prayer” beside a river outside the city. Among those found there was Lydia, possibly a Jewish proselyte from Thyatira, a city in Asia Minor known for its dyeing industry. She sold purple dye or fabrics and clothes colored with it. After Lydia and her household got baptized, she offered hospitality so earnestly that Luke wrote: “She just made us come.” We are grateful for sisters of that kind today.
A Jailer Becomes a Believer
6. How did demon activity lead to the imprisonment of Paul and Silas at Philippi?
6 Satan must have been enraged over spiritual developments in Philippi, for demonic activity there led to the imprisonment of Paul and Silas. (16:16-24) For days they were followed by a girl who had “a demon of divination” (literally, “a spirit of python”). The demon may have impersonated Pythian Apollo, a god that supposedly killed a serpent named pyʹthon. The girl brought her masters much gain by practicing the art of prediction. Why, she may have told farmers when to plant, maidens when to marry, and miners where to look for gold! She kept following the brothers and crying out: “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who are publishing to you the way of salvation.” The demon may have made her say this to make it seem that her predictions were divinely inspired, but demons have no right to make proclamations about Jehovah and his provision for salvation. When Paul got tired of the harassment, he expelled the demon in Jesus’ name. Their business ruined, the girl’s masters dragged Paul and Silas into the marketplace, where they were beaten with rods. (2 Corinthians 11:25) Then they were jailed and their feet put in stocks. Such devices could be adjusted so as to force one’s legs apart, causing great pain.
7. For whom and how did the imprisonment of Paul and Silas at Philippi lead to blessings?
7 This imprisonment led to blessings for the jailer and his family. (16:25-40) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and praising God in song, sure that he was with them. (Psalm 42:8) Suddenly, an earthquake threw open the doors and loosened all bonds as fetters became detached from beams or walls. The jailer was fearful of suffering the death penalty because his prisoners had escaped. He was about to commit suicide when Paul called out: “Do not hurt yourself, for we are all here!” Bringing Paul and Silas outside, the jailer asked how he could get saved. “Believe on the Lord Jesus,” was the reply. Upon hearing the word of Jehovah, “he and his were baptized without delay.” What joy that brought about!
8. What action was taken by Philippi’s civil magistrates, and what might be achieved if they acknowledged their error publicly?
8 The next day, civil magistrates sent word to release Paul and Silas. But Paul said: ‘They flogged us uncondemned, men who are Romans, and threw us into prison. Are they throwing us out secretly? Let them come and bring us out.’ If the magistrates acknowledged their error publicly, they might be reluctant to beat and imprison other Christians. Unable to expel Roman citizens, the magistrates came and asked the brothers to leave, but these did so only after encouraging fellow believers. Such interest now moves members of the Governing Body and other traveling representatives to visit and encourage God’s people earth wide.
Jehovah’s Word Prevails in Thessalonica and Beroea
9. By what method, still used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, did Paul ‘explain and prove’ that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead?
9 God’s word next prevailed in Thessalonica, Macedonia’s capital and main seaport. (17:1-9) There Paul reasoned with Jews, “explaining and proving” that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. (Paul did so by comparing prophecies with events in fulfillment, as Jehovah’s Witnesses do.) Thus, some Jews, many proselytes, and others became believers. When some jealous Jews formed a mob but were unable to find Paul and Silas, they took Jason and other brothers to the city rulers and accused them of sedition, a false charge still leveled against Jehovah’s people. However, the brothers were released after giving “sufficient security.”
10. In what sense did Jews in Beroea ‘carefully examine’ the Scriptures?
10 Paul and Silas next went to the city of Beroea. (17:10-15) There the Jews ‘carefully examined’ the Scriptures, as Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage people to do today. Those Beroeans did not doubt Paul but did research to prove that Jesus was the Messiah. The result? Many Jews and some Greeks (perhaps proselytes) became believers. When Jews from Thessalonica agitated the masses, the brothers escorted Paul to the coast, where some of his party may have boarded a ship for Piraeus (modern-day Piraiévs), the port city of Athens.
Jehovah’s Word Prevails in Athens
11. (a) How did Paul witness boldly in Athens, but who spoke with him controversially? (b) What did some imply when they spoke of Paul as a “chatterer”?
11 A bold witness was given in Athens. (17:16-21) Because of Paul’s words about Jesus and the resurrection, philosophers spoke with him controversially. Some were Epicureans, who emphasized pleasure. Others were Stoics, stressing self-discipline. ‘What would this chatterer like to say?’ asked some. “Chatterer” (literally, “seedpicker”) implied that Paul was like a bird picking up seeds and doling out bits of knowledge but lacking wisdom. Others said: “He seems to be a publisher of foreign deities.” This was serious, for Socrates lost his life on such a charge. Soon Paul was taken to the Areopagus (Mars’ Hill), possibly where the open-air supreme court met near the Acropolis.
12. (a) What aspects of good public speaking are evident in Paul’s talk on the Areopagus? (b) What points did Paul make regarding God, and with what results?
12 Paul’s talk on the Areopagus was an excellent example of one having an effective introduction, logical development, and convincing argument—as taught in the Theocratic Ministry School of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (17:22-34) He said that the Athenians were more religious than others. Why, they even had an altar “To an Unknown God,” perhaps to avoid slighting any deity! Paul spoke of the Creator who “made out of one man every nation of men” and “decreed the appointed times and the set limits of the dwelling of men,” such as when to uproot the Canaanites. (Genesis 15:13-21; Daniel 2:21; 7:12) This God can be found, “for we are also his progeny,” said Paul, alluding to man’s creation by Jehovah and quoting their poets Aratus and Cleanthes. As God’s progeny, we should not think the perfect Creator is like an idol made by imperfect man. God once overlooked such ignorance but was now telling mankind to repent, for he had set a day to judge people by his Appointee. Since Paul had been “declaring the good news of Jesus,” his audience knew he meant that Christ would be that Judge. (Acts 17:18; John 5:22, 30) Talk of repentance irked the Epicureans, and Greek philosophers could accept remarks about immortality but not death and resurrection. Apparently, like many who now shrug off the good news, some said: ‘We will hear you another time.’ But the judge Dionysius and others became believers.
God’s Word Prevails in Corinth
13. How did Paul sustain himself in the ministry, and what modern-day parallel do we find?
13 Paul went on to Corinth, capital of the province of Achaia. (18:1-11) There he found Aquila and Priscilla, who had come there when Claudius Caesar ordered Jews who were not Roman citizens to leave Rome. To sustain himself in the ministry, Paul made tents with this Christian couple. (1 Corinthians 16:19; 2 Corinthians 11:9) Cutting and sewing stiff goat-hair cloth was hard work. Similarly, Jehovah’s Witnesses provide for their material needs through secular work, but their vocation is the ministry.
14. (a) Faced with persistent opposition by Jews in Corinth, what did Paul do? (b) How was Paul assured that he should remain in Corinth, but how are Jehovah’s people directed today?
14 Corinth’s Jews kept speaking abusively as Paul proclaimed Jesus’ Messiahship. So he shook out his garments to disclaim responsibility toward them and began to hold meetings in the house of Titius Justus, likely a Roman. Many (including the synagogue’s former presiding officer Crispus and his household) became baptized believers. If Jewish antagonism made Paul wonder about remaining in Corinth, doubt vanished when the Lord told him in vision: ‘Have no fear. Keep on speaking, for I am with you and no man will do you injury. I have many people in this city.’ So Paul kept on teaching the word of God there, altogether for a year and six months. Though Jehovah’s people do not now receive visions, both prayer and direction by holy spirit help them to make similar wise decisions affecting Kingdom interests.
15. What happened when Paul was taken before Proconsul Gallio?
15 Jews led Paul to Proconsul Junius Gallio. (18:12-17) They implied that Paul was proselytizing illegally—a false charge Greek clerics now make against Jehovah’s Witnesses. Gallio was aware that Paul was not guilty of villainy and that Jews cared little about the welfare of Rome and its law, so he drove them away. When onlookers beat Sosthenes, the synagogue’s new presiding officer, Gallio did not interfere, perhaps thinking that the apparent leader of mob action against Paul was getting what he deserved.
16. Why was it acceptable for Paul to have his hair clipped short in connection with a vow?
16 Paul sailed from the Aegean port of Cenchreae to Ephesus, a city in Asia Minor. (18:18-22) Before that trip ‘he had the hair of his head clipped short, for he had a vow.’ It is not said whether Paul made the vow before becoming Jesus’ follower or if this was the start or the end of the vowed period. Christians are not under the Law, but it was God-given and holy, and there was nothing sinful about such a vow. (Romans 6:14; 7:6, 12; Galatians 5:18) In Ephesus, Paul reasoned with the Jews, promising to return if God was willing. (That promise was fulfilled later.) His return to Syrian Antioch ended his second missionary tour.
Jehovah’s Word Prevails in Ephesus
17. Regarding baptism, what instruction did Apollos and some others need?
17 Paul soon began his third missionary trip (c. 52-56 C.E.). (18:23–19:7) Meanwhile in Ephesus, Apollos taught about Jesus but knew only of John’s baptism in symbol of repentance for sins against the Law covenant. Priscilla and Aquila “expounded the way of God more correctly to him,” likely explaining that being baptized as Jesus was included a person’s undergoing water immersion and receiving the outpoured holy spirit. After baptism with holy spirit occurred at Pentecost 33 C.E., anyone baptized with John’s baptism needed to be rebaptized in Jesus’ name. (Matthew 3:11, 16; Acts 2:38) Later in Ephesus, about 12 Jewish men who had undergone John’s baptism “got baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” in the only rebaptism recorded in the Scriptures. When Paul laid his hands upon them, they received holy spirit and two miraculous indications of heavenly acceptance—speaking with tongues and prophesying.
18. Where did Paul witness while in Ephesus, and with what results?
18 Paul was certainly kept busy in Ephesus, a city of some 300,000 residents. (19:8-10) Its temple of the goddess Artemis was one of the ancient world’s seven wonders, and its theater could seat 25,000. In the synagogue, Paul ‘used persuasion’ by presenting convincing arguments but withdrew when some spoke abusively about The Way, or manner of life based on faith in Christ. For two years, Paul spoke daily in the school auditorium of Tyrannus, and “the word” spread throughout the district of Asia.
19. What took place in Ephesus that caused ‘Jehovah’s word to keep growing and prevailing’ there?
19 God showed approval of Paul’s activity by enabling him to perform cures and expel demons. (19:11-20) But the seven sons of the chief priest Sceva failed to expel a demon by the use of Jesus’ name because they did not represent God and Christ. They were even wounded by the demon-possessed man! This made people fearful, and “the name of the Lord Jesus went on being magnified.” Those who became believers denounced their occult practices and publicly burned their books that apparently contained incantations and magic formulas. “Thus,” wrote Luke, “in a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.” Today, too, God’s servants help to free people from demonism.—Deuteronomy 18:10-12.
Religious Intolerance Does Not Succeed
20. Why did the silversmiths of Ephesus foment a riot, and how was it ended?
20 Jehovah’s Witnesses have often faced angry mobs, and so did Christians in Ephesus. (19:21-41) As believers multiplied, Demetrius and other silversmiths lost money because fewer people bought their silver shrines of the many-breasted fertility goddess Artemis. Incited by Demetrius, a mob took Paul’s associates Gaius and Aristarchus into the theater, but the disciples did not let Paul go inside. Even some commissioners of festivals and games pleaded that he not take that risk. For about two hours, the mob shouted: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Finally, the city recorder (who headed the municipal government) said that the craftsmen could present their charges to a proconsul, authorized to make judicial decisions, or their case might be decided in “a regular assembly” of citizens. Otherwise, Rome could charge those in this irregular assembly with rioting. With that, he dismissed them.
21. In what way did God bless Paul’s work, and how does he bless that of Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
21 God helped Paul to face various trials and blessed his efforts to help people reject religious error and embrace the truth. (Compare Jeremiah 1:9, 10.) How thankful we are that our heavenly Father similarly blesses our work! Thus, now as in the first century, ‘the word of Jehovah is growing and prevailing.’
How Would You Answer?
□ What example did Paul set in accepting direction by holy spirit?
□ By what method, still used by Jehovah’s servants, did Paul ‘explain and prove’ matters?
□ What parallel is there between responses to Paul’s speech on the Areopagus and the preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses?
□ How did Paul sustain himself in the ministry, and what modern-day parallel does this have?
□ As he did with Paul’s work, how has God blessed the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses today?
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
Jehovah’s word prevailed in
2. and 3. Athens
4. and 6. Ephesus
Photo No. 4: Manley Studios