Acts 19


“While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 19:1-5

Paul In Ephesus

When it comes to the Holy Spirit and identifying if a person possesses Him or not, apart from the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, there is no physical way of knowing. And so, what Luke records here is Paul asking that very question, do you possess the Holy Spirit?

Luke tells us that from Corinth, Paul went onto Ephesus where he met a group of disciples and asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit.

Remember from last time that Apollos knew a lot about the Scriptures, he taught about Jesus but he hadn’t been taught about this new baptism for the forgiveness of sins. And so Priscilla and Aquila took him to their home and taught him the way of the Lord more clearly.

Here in Ephesus, we find some people who had been taught by Apollos prior to the time he had been taught the way of the Lord more perfectly.

Luke calls them ‘disciples of Christ’ simply because Apollos ‘taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John,’ Acts 18:25.

And so Paul asked them if they have received the Holy Spirit and they answered by saying they did not even know there was a Holy Spirit. So Paul goes ahead and asks another question, ‘what baptism did they receive?’

A failure to know about any gift of the Holy Spirit whatsoever would truly point out a flaw in the instructions they had received, so Paul asked, ‘into what then were you baptized?’

Paul had to ask that question because they having been baptized in John’s baptism would not have presented a problem when that baptism was valid ‘prior’ to the death of the Lord.

John told people to repent, be baptized, and believe on the Christ who would follow him and as we all know Jesus did come, He died, was buried, and then resurrected.

But before He ascended back to heaven He clearly commanded everyone to believe and be baptised, Mark 16:16-17. And in Acts 2 we see people being obedient to those commands, Acts 2:38.

In other words, for those who would be Christians, belief in Jesus would come ‘before’ they have repented and been baptised under the authority of His name for the remission of sins.

I know of some groups who only baptise in Jesus’ Name and not in ‘the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ as Jesus commanded, Matthew 28:19, however, when we look at the footnote for that verse, we discover the word ‘into’.

In other words, we are baptised in the Names of Jesus, that is, by His authority, but we are baptised into, the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that is we are baptised into a relationship with the Godhead, Romans 6:1-3.

There are not many baptisms for a person to receive to be saved, the Bible only knows of one, Ephesians 4:4-6. People need to ask themselves was their baptism, the one baptism which Paul speaks of here. Because if it’s not, they need to do what these people did next.

“On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.” Acts 19:5-7

Luke tells that these disciples were re-baptized under the authority of Christ, Mark 16:16. And so the apostle Paul then laid his hands on the twelve of them and they received miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit which enabled them to speak in languages they had never studied and they proclaimed God’s will.

True baptism reflects a person’s understanding that this ordinance pictures the burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Romans 6:3-4 / Colossians 2:12. In other words, the sinner is buried in and raised from the water, just as the Lord was buried and then raised from the dead.

If a person has submitted to baptism for some purpose other than that which is supplied in the Bible then in reality they have not obeyed the Lord.

Baptism is never defined as ‘an outward sign of an inward grace’ as some like to say. Baptism is not a mere representation of redemption for those already received. The purpose of baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, Acts 2:38. Or as Luke tells us ‘to have sins washed away’, Acts 22:16.

Baptism according to Romans 6:3-4 and Galatians 3:26-27, places a person ‘into Christ’ or His ‘body’, 1 Corinthians 12:13. And it is at this point that a person is saved according to, Mark 16:16 / 1 Peter 3:21.

Although they would have received the ‘gift’ of the Holy Spirit at their baptism, Acts 2:38, here they received the ‘gifts’ of the Holy Spirit. As we have seen time and time again through the Book of Acts, these twelve men could only speak in tongues, that is, known languages that they had never studied or learned and prophecy because Paul, being an apostle, laid his hands on them to bestow the gifts upon them.

And so after re-baptising the twelve men and passing on the miraculous gifts of the Spirit Paul leaves them and goes into a synagogue.

“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.” Acts 19:8-10

Luke tells us that Paul entered the synagogue to boldly teach the Jews about the Gospel. Remember, Paul had already taught in this synagogue in Ephesus and had been urged to teach further in Acts 18:19-21.

But he left for the feast in Jerusalem and he promised to return and teach some more if it was God’s will. And so what we see here is that it was God’s will for him to return and teach some more.

But on this occasion, he reasoned with them for three months and persuaded them about matters concerning the kingdom of God. And as usual, we have those who will listen and those who won’t.

It’s all about free will, God is not going to make a person believe. People need to realise that our Lord never destroys the will, but sweetly inclines us, and makes us willing in the day of His power, Revelation 22:17.

It’s not that God is not willing to save us, it’s because people are not willing to come to Him to accept that salvation, Matthew 23:37 / John 5:40.

And these Jews who Paul is preaching to are the very same. Some of them became hard-hearted and chose against the way of salvation and so Paul withdrew with the disciples to continue teaching in the school of Tyrannus. And that is where he continued to instruct anyone who would listen over the space of some two years.

Now what some do at a Bible school is very similar to what Paul was doing because the effects of Paul’s teaching radiated out throughout all of Asia.

And so, Paul who had previously been forbidden to preach in Asia now got to see much fruit born for God in that region. In fact, many believe his teaching helped to establish the seven churches to whom Christ wrote, Revelation 2-3.

But even though Paul was a great preacher of the word of God, He always remembered whose Name holds the power, the Name of Jesus. And what Luke records next is a powerful lesson that we must never forget.

“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [One day] the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” Acts 19:11-16

Luke says that God caused some great miracles to be worked through Paul. Even to the point where pieces of cloth, like a handkerchief or apron, which had touched his body could be placed on the body of the sick and diseases or evil spirits went out.

And Luke says that there were some wandering Jewish exorcists, who apparently had previously been unsuccessful in casting out demons, who tried to capitalize on the power of God they had seen at work through Paul. Particularly, the seven sons of Sceva who attempted to cast out an evil spirit by calling on the name of Jesus’ whom Paul preached.

And so the spirit recognized both Jesus and Paul and asked, ‘who are you?’ And then the spirit caused the possessed man to leap on, overpower and strip them so that they ran away wounded and naked.

And that’s a powerful lesson we can learn right there, our name cannot save anyone, our name doesn’t frighten people or demons. But make no mistake about it, all hell is terribly afraid of Jesus’ Name and that’s because our name hasn’t been exalted, Jesus’ Name has.

Our name isn’t above all other names, Jesus’ Name is. People are not going to bow down when they see us, but they will bow down to Jesus. People are not going to confess our name before the Father, but they will confess Jesus’ Name before Him, Philippians 2:9-11.

But there is another important point we need to raise here. The use of Jesus’ Name in our prayers and our words is not some magic formula that God acts upon. It’s not the ‘name’ of Jesus that works mechanically over the powers, the name is not the ‘key’ of some sort.

It is not because we know of His Name but because we know Him and more importantly we are known by Him, John 10:27. Many people only know the Name of Jesus, they don’t know Jesus as a person, Matthew 7:22-23. All they are interested in is the power and not the relationship.

Everyone both present and past will have to conclude that there really is only One king and His Name is Jesus. He’s the One who is ruler over all, He’s the One who possesses authority overall. Even the evil spirit knew this and they only feared the Name of Jesus.

And so after asking ‘Who are you’? The evil spirit beat up some Jewish men who were trying to misuse the power of Christ.

“When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. “After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.” He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.” Acts 19:17-22

Luke tells us that since an irreverent use of the name of Jesus brought on this attack by the evil spirit which we looked at last time, both Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus were moved to reverent awe for the authority of Jesus.

When we see Jesus in His proper light, we can’t help but be in awe, in awe of His holiness and righteousness. And when we see Jesus like that we are going to bow down and recognise His authority.

Notice what they did when they submitted to Christ, they repented and their repentance is very visible in the fact that many Christians, along with others who submitted to the authority of Christ, confessed their previous evil deeds and involvement in the magical arts, Ephesians 4:31 / Colossians 3:7-8 / 1 Peter 2:1 / 1 John 1:9.

Their repentance was further illustrated in the fact that books costing some 50,000 pieces of silver were publicly thrown into a pile and burned. And so from that point forward, the Gospel grew in a great way and conquered the hearts of many in the region.

And it was at the end of this great period of growth, that Luke tells us that Paul mapped out plans to go through Macedonia and Achaia on the way to Jerusalem.

Paul eventually wants to go to Rome and so he sent Timothy and Erastus on to Macedonia while he personally stayed in Asia.

Luke continues his report to Theophilus, and he tells us that while all that confessing and repentance is taking place, while the church is growing, he goes on to tell us about a riot in the city of Ephesus.

The Riot In Ephesus

“About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty. When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Acts 19:23-27

Luke tells us that while Timothy and Erastus were away, a man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made shrines of Diana, or Artemis, began to stir people up against Christianity. He called together the other members of his craft, reminding them that their wealth came from making silver idols.

He truthfully reported that Paul’s preaching had impacted people in Ephesus and throughout Asia. He said that Paul had declared idols made with hands were not gods, to the point of destroying their business and causing Diana to fall into disrepute.

And so his words enraged the mob and they began to shout, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’ We can understand why these people were upset. Imagine if you had a successful business and someone came along and more or less put your business at risk?

His business was more precious than truth, his business was more precious than his soul. When push comes to shove, it’s only when we seriously search our hearts, will we find out what is more important in our life, Matthew 19:16-24.

These idols makers were more concerned about their temporary riches than they were concerned about the true eternal riches which can only be found in Christ Jesus.

Paul said to the church in Philippi, ‘for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,’ Philippians 1:21, these idol makers said, ‘for them to live is making money from idols and to die is tragic’.

And so everyone in Ephesus is upset that this apostle named Paul whom they thought was trying to ruin their business but in all reality, he was trying to save their souls.

“Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s travelling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theatre. Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theatre. The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defence before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Acts 19:27-34

They were so offended by such a message that Luke says the whole city came together to see what was happening.

And along the way, they seized two Macedonian travel companions of Paul, Gaius and Aristarchus but Paul wanted to go to the people, but the brethren wouldn’t allow it. Even some of the Asian officials who were his friends also pleaded with him not to enter the theatre.

Interestingly, Luke says, ‘that many in the crowd didn’t even know why they were there’. It’s also interesting when we speak to some who profess to be Christians about why they attend a certain ‘church’.

Some say that they like the preacher, and some say they have always gone to ‘church’. Some say they enjoy listening to the band that helps them in their worship.

Worship that is accepted by God is a privilege unique to the Christian. Peter tells us that it’s not a right to worship God because we are permitted to offer acceptable worship only by the grace of God, 1 Peter 2:4-5.

And it is disheartening when children of God deliberately reject this privilege and stay away from the public assembly which God has ordained for His glory and our good.

Some people in Ephesus didn’t even know why they were in that theatre and now Ephesus is in an uproar and when some Jews singled out Alexander to make a defence and the people found out he was a Jew, the crowd shouted, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!

“The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Men of Ephesus, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.” Acts 19:35-41

After two hours of shouting Luke tells that the city clerk silenced the crowd and appealed for a reason and a lawful approach to the matter.

Here was a man who knew how to reason even with a mob, he said, no one could deny Ephesus was the guardian of Diana and he proposed that Demetrius and his colleagues make their case before the authorities. That is if they had a case in the first place.

And when the facts were presented, he recognised that the disciples didn’t steal from the temples and they didn’t blaspheme their goddess.

And so when he realised they had done nothing wrong, he warned the mob that such an assembly might be questioned by the Roman government and had no choice but to quietly dismiss the crowd.

It’s amazing just how quickly a chaotic situation can be made calm when people are willing to reason together. So many church fights and splits and personal agendas would be laid to rest if people would only reason together, Isaiah 1:18.

Reasoning together involves more than one person, reasoning together, means just that, we reason together. In other words, we respectfully listen to what each other is saying, think about what we are both saying and weigh it up with what the scriptures teach, that’s reasoning together.

And when we do that, the result will always be the same, we can part company quietly and without any further fuss.

Go To Acts 20


"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."