Hello and welcome to Lechem Panim. As always, it is good to have you with us. If you’ve been following us in our study of the book of Acts, you’ll remember that Paul (now on his third missionary journey) has come back to the city of Ephesus. And it says in…
Acts 19:8 (ESV)-- 8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.
Reasoning & Persuading-- So for three months it says he is reasoning and persuading. Now those two words (reasoning & persuading) keep cropping up in and throughout the book of Acts. And the first one (διαλέγομαι) simply means reasoning; it’s where we get dialectic or dialogue; [it’s a back-and-forth, question-and-answer-type thing.] And the second word (πείθω) simply means to persuade or convince. Well, what was he reasoning and persuading them about? Verse 8: about the kingdom of God. Now what does that mean? Well, he no doubt focused not on explaining the inner workings of the coming Kingdom of God, but rather on how people could gain access to that kingdom. Because fast forward to the last two verses of the book of Acts, which find Paul in Rome, where it says…
Acts 28:30-31 (ESV)-- 30 He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Rising Opposition-- You see, at the center of all of it is the teaching about the nature and person of Jesus Christ; who is is, what He came to do, and how in Him we can have eternal life. It is only in Him that we can have access to the Kingdom of Heaven. And so Paul’s focus is on teaching the Word, expounding what it says about Christ, and defending the Christian faith. Now unfortunately (as always happens eventually) some harden themselves against Paul and what he is preaching. It says in…
Acts 19:9 (ESV)-- 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
Hardening to Hardened-- So these particular Jews from the synagogue became stubborn (or hardened, your translation might say). By the way (just a side note) the word in the Greek here for hardened/stubborn is in the imperfect tense. And so once this is an ongoing process by which they slowly became more and more hardened. It didn’t happen all at once; no, it was progressive. They had slowly but surely hardened themselves against Jesus Christ and gradually grew in their rejection of the Gospel until eventually their hearts were like rocks and they vehemently refused to believe. Now unfortunately they were not content to merely passively and respectfully disagree. No, as Jesus said, darkness cannot abide the light. And so we see that they begin speaking evil of the Way, which was the name given to early Christianity. In Matthew and Mark this same word (κακολογέω) is actually translated “they cursed”. So it is a vicious attack aimed at the Way. And this was no doubt because Christians were proclaiming that the Way to the Kingdom of Heaven was through Jesus Christ and Him alone. They weren’t “a” Way. No, they were THE Way. They knew and proclaimed that there is only one way to salvation. And that is a message that still (even today) invites the curse of the world, but is the message the Church still needs to proclaim. However, here (as we’ve said) it invites the curses of these unbelievers who are cursing the Way in front of the whole multitude (your translation may saying congregation, which isn’t wrong; just keep in mind we’re not talking just the church congregation; the word (πλῆθος, from which we get our word plethora) is literally used to describe [a multitude, crowd, great number, assemblage.]
Tyrannus-- Now you can imagine how disrupting it must have been for Paul to be preaching in the synagogue and have these hardened Jews stand up and literally curse him, his message, his Lord, and the disciples. And so understandably this forces Paul to withdraw from the synagogue, which he does. And it says he took the disciples with him. And so he moves his teaching ministry to a local schoolhouse; the teaching hall of Tyrannus. Now we don’t know too much about this guy. His name literally mean tyrant. I’m sure many of you had teachers who were called tyrants, but most likely not because that was their name. And hopefully that wasn’t a reflection on this guys’ teaching style. But you know, I’d love to know more about this guy’s parents. Pretty cruel to actually give that name to your child. But nonetheless, he appears to have been a teacher of some renown; and Paul uses his school to carry on the teaching ministry of the Church; and thus this is the first Christian church in a school. And thankfully, there have been many since then. Some of you may have attended a church started in a school. Or (as I did) a school born out of a church (which my kids do now as well). Now some might say “Well, isn’t Paul here allowing the church to become unequally yoked with this Tyrannus” guys? But the answer is of course no; because they weren’t sharing philosophies or becoming yoked in their beliefs. They were simply sharing a building. And it’s perfectly fine to meet almost anywhere as long as the church keeps the purity of its identity and doctrine, which of course they were doing.
Now (like I said) we know nothing about Tyrannus other than he was likely a philosopher who (like any successful philosopher of his time) started a school and was teaching others his philosophy. And he seems to have done pretty well; and people are coming to hear him. But the school was available during the day. And at this point let me share with you something very interesting. [There’s an ancient Greek manuscript that adds the fact that Paul taught in this hall of Tyrannus from the 5th to the 10th hour. Now that would be from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Five hours.] And notice how verse 9 tells us how often he did this. How often? Daily. That’s a pretty heavy schedule to do in addition to your leather-making business. There’s no way he could have kept that up for long! But look at verse 10…
Acts 19:10a (ESV)-- 10 This continued for two years,
Scheduled Teaching-- So for two years, five hours a day, seven days a week, Paul is teaching the Ephesian Church. That is how dedicated Paul was to the ministry of the Word; how important he saw it was for people to get deeply (and I mean deeply) ingrained in the Word of God. Now let me expound that just a little bit more because that reality is further enhanced when we know a little more about Ephesus; because Ephesus (like all the Ionian cities) had a very interesting schedule. Everybody would work until 11:00am and then stop, and then would pick up work again at 4:00pm. Can anyone guess why? The heat; the absolutely oppressive heat. People would sleep mid-day, then get up at 4:00 and work into the night/early morning. [In fact, one Asian writer says there’s more people awake in Ephesus at 1:00 a.m. then there are at 1:00 p.m.]. So what would happen was Tyrannus would teach in his school in the mornings and probably resume for a bit in the evening. And so the time available to Paul was 11:00-4:00. And so he takes that time slot and uses it to deliver 730 five-hour sermons over the course of two years. Let me say that again; 730 five-hour sermons over the course of two years.
Their Commitment-- Now that tells us two things. First, it shows us the level of commitment Paul had to this ministry. He took advantage of whatever opportunity God gave him to preach the word of God. But you know, it also tells us something of the tremendous commitment of these early Christians; because keep in mind they were giving up sleep to hear Paul preach. Not only that, but they were sitting there in that lecture hall cooking in the heat, just so that they might come to know “the Way” more fully. We here in the Seattle/Renton area complain of our yearly heat wave (and yes it is unpleasant). Some churches even shut down; and some for justifiable reasons (such as keeping watch over the elderly who might try to come when they shouldn’t). But nevertheless, I want you to see how hungry these Christians were to hear the Word of God. I don’t know if I’ve ever been THAT hungry for the word of God. But these Christians were. And that is what made ministry in Ephesus so explosive; because God always meets with those Christians who devote themselves as students of His word. May we also be that hungry.
Now was this the only time that Paul taught? No. As unbelievable as it might seem, he is also leading evening Bible studies. Don’t believe me? Look at what he says to the Ephesian elders in…
Acts 20:20 (ESV)-- …I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,
Acts 20:31 (ESV)-- 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.
Paul’s Schedule-- And that three years includes the two years, the three months, and a little extra time. Now let me tell you what this looked like for Paul in terms of schedule. He’d make tents till 11:00am, teach till 4:00pm, make tents till 8:00pm, then teach till 1am or 2am; go to bed, get up, and repeat. And in light of that I want you to look at chapter 20, verse 27, because I promise you you will never look at this verse the same way again. To those Ephesian elders he is preparing to leave in charge he says…
Acts 20:27 (ESV)-- 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
The Fruit-- Boy, he sure did. He wasn’t exaggerating. He really did declare unto them the whole counsel of God. And do you know what the result was; what the result of one man setting himself to proclaiming the Word of God that fervently was? Verse 10…
Acts 19:10 (ESV)-- 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
7 Churches of Revelation-- How incredible is that! And you know what else we discover when we dig a little deeper? [All seven of the churches in Revelation 2 and 3 were most likely founded during these two years.] All of them. And so [at least six other churches] were born out of the ministry of this mighty minister of the Word of God. Now how did all of this happen? By spreading out all over Asia Minor trying to make sure everybody hears at least a basic presentation of the Gospel? No. It came by teaching the Word of God; making disciples who were deeply ingrained in their faith; and those disciples naturally reproduced themselves all over Asia Minor. And when Paul eventually left Ephesus, he left it strong and filled with elders ready to become pastors, to whom he entrusted the ministry of the Word…
Burning Hearts-- Now let me make one more comment about the evening Bible studies Paul had. Because I want you to picture this mighty man of God (after a long day of tent-making and teaching) coming to your door. You say, “Would he do that?” Absolutely. That is what he did. Why? Because Paul had the heart of a shepherd. He cared about people. His heart burned for every person to know the Light of God’s Word. Let me ask you something? Is your heart burning like that for anyone else to know what you know; to experience what you have experienced? Are you willing to give of your time, to give of your sleep, to become uncomfortable so that somebody may come to understand the Word of God and the Gospel more deeply? Who are you doing that for? If you don’t have anybody, then I implore you to find somebody. Somewhere out there (and probably not far from you) there is someone waiting for you to help guide them into knowing God’s Word and walking with Jesus Christ. Let us be faithful to find those people and pour into them the full counsel of God. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.