God bless you in the name of Jesus Christ, through whom Paul knew he could do all things (Philippians 4:13).
Yesterday we looked at what special miracles God wrought by the hands of Paul. Today we will explore verse 12 and discover how these special miracles happened.
We saw yesterday that God met these new converts at the point of their believing. Because they believed that objects could transmit power, they believed that if they could take home a piece of clothing that had touched Paul’s skin, they would “take home a piece of the power” that operated in his ministry. Verse 12 tells us how those “special miracles” happened
So that [hōste] from his [Paul’s] body [chrōs, skin] were brought unto the sick [astheneō] handkerchiefs [soudarion] or aprons [simikinthion], and the diseases [nosos] departed [apallassō] from them, and the evil [ponēros] spirits went out [ekporeuomai] of them.
Hōste is a conjunction connecting a cause to a necessary effect. Verse 11 gives us the cause, and verse 12 gives us the effect: Hōste emphasizes the result (the combined, end-accomplishment). The result involved then is the combination of both elements underscoring the inevitable effect of the paired elements. Verse 11 tells us what happened and verse 12 tells us how it did.
These handkerchiefs or aprons were thought to carry the healing power of Paul to those who couldn’t come to him. “Handkerchiefs” is the Greek word soudarion, which was used of a napkin or head cloth for the dead. It occurs only 4 times in the New Testament (Luke 19:20, John 11:44; 20:7; Acts 19:12). Luke 19:20 simply says, the man laid up his pound in a napkin, but the parallel account in Matthew 20:18 says he “digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money” (i.e. he buried it). John 11:44 refers to the napkin placed on Lazarus’ face when he was buried. John 20:7 refers to the napkin that was placed on the head of Jesus in the sepulchre.
Seeing that the first three dealt with burial, it is likely that the handkerchiefs in Acts 19:12 were similar napkins used to anoint the dying for burial. Perhaps it was napkins removed after Paul delivered people with terminal illness who had these items placed on them. Paul may have also raised people from the dead and removed their headcloths. Paul’s handling of these items was directly linked to the healing of people on whom he had laid his hands. Therefore, the Ephesian believers took those same items out to do the same on others who needed it.
“Aprons” is the Greek word, simikinthion, which were aprons worn by artisans as they plied their trade. This is its only occurrence in the New Testament. The Dictionary of Antiquities defined simikinthion as a narrow apron, or linen covering, which workmen and servants were accustomed to wear. We know Paul was a craftsman (Acts 18:3; 20:34-35) and servant of Jesus Christ so this kind of attire may well be what he wore when ministering in Ephesus.
These handkerchiefs or aprons were among the items used in the special miracles used on the sick, diseased, and spirit inflicted people. “Sick,” is the Greek word astheneō, which means weak or feeble. When used of one’s health, it usually referred to people who were so physically weak or sick that they were unable to travel on their own. It carried the idea of those who were incapacitated, disabled, or whose condition was so delicate that they would most likely be shut-ins or homebound.
Next, the word “diseases” is used. The Greek word translated “diseases” is nosos, which meant a chronic (persisting) disease, typically an incurable ailment. It’s an old word with a long and interesting history. In secular Greek literature, the word nosos was specifically used to describe sickness that was spirit-inflicted. These people, tormented physically or mentally; were vexed with lunacy, madness and all kinds of physical ailments. The ancient view was that these individuals had been ruthlessly subjected to cruel treatment by spirits and were therefore ill at ease or “dis-eased” people.
The word nosos was also used to describe plagues and disasters attributed to evil spirits and terminal physical illnesses for which medical science had no known remedy. If it was a nosos plague sent to an entire area, the ancients believed it was a scourge of devil spirits that simply had to run its course because none of their natural efforts could arrest it. Medical attempts to treat a nosos illness were considered futile because nosos was a type of sickness or spiritual attack beyond help and recovery. The ancient Greeks believed “nosos” were unchangeable, irreversible, incurable, permanent conditions.
Ephesus was a hotbed of goddess worship and a fertile breeding ground for devilish activity. Because of the predominance of occult rituals and supernatural activities many people in Ephesus were tormented with untreatable, spirit-inflicted sickness that came upon them as a result of curses, spells, and magic. However, when Paul’s garments were laid on them, “The diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” The elimination of these diseases was linked to the departure of evil spirits. The moment victims were freed of evil spirits, they were freed of the afflictions the evil spirits had caused.
It says that the diseases “departed.” That’s the Greek word apallassō, which means to be set free, to be changed, to be radically transformed, or to be released, liberated or unfettered from something. It was a first century medical term that described people who had been completely cured of a disease. When the divine power that operated in Paul’s ministry touched these afflicted people, they were permanently freed of the sickness and oppression that had relentlessly tormented them.
Finally, Acts 19:12 also states that the diseases left when “the evil spirits went out” of them. The word “evil” is the word ponēros, which emphasizes the harassing aspect of evil. It’s evil that disturbs or bothers persistently or relentlessly torments with troubles or cares. It’s evil that troubles by repeated attacks or intimidates and coerces with persistent demands or threats. It goes on to say that the evil spirits “went out” of them. The phrase “went out” is a translation of the Greek word ekporeuomai which is a strengthened form of the root word, poreuomai. It means to make, force, or cause the evil spirits to leave. It could have easily been translated evicted, ousted, thrown out, expelled or forcibly removed.
God’s power came in and the evil spirits went out, and the diseases or afflictions caused by those spirits left with them. These cures were permanent. Once touched by Paul or his clothes, the sick and diseased were liberated and set free. Not all sickness and disease are spirit-induced, but certainly some are. We should be willing to consider that if medical treatment does not help, there may be a spiritual root to the physical problem.
We are so thankful for our good doctors. We should likewise be thankful for our experienced brothers and sisters who know how to minister the power of God to those who cannot get relief by medical means. The power of God has never changed; it is still operating and flowing from the throne of God. It is still healing the sick; and it is still expelling evil spirits from human beings. We must learn to be increasingly sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading so we can know what ailments are simply physical problems and which are spirit-induced. Then, once we know, we can deal with the situation by the spirit and take the actions God leads us to take to help bring healing and freedom!
God knows what kind of powerful demonstrations are needed to reach the unique group of people to which we minister. I would love to be surprised at the extraordinary things God might work through my hands. If He did it through Paul, He can do it through us. Why not? We’re God’s best and certainly God blessed.