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The Book of Acts Series

Acts, Chapter 19

 

John Baugh

January, 2010

Acts 19 (New American Standard Bible)

Significant events in Acts, Chapter 19

 

Key events in Acts - Chapter 19

 

1 – Paul comes to Ephesus

Giving the Holy Spirit to the twelve disciples through Baptism in Jesus Christ

 

2 – Paul preaches in the synagogue for three months

Paul leaves the synagogue to teach in the school of Tyrannus

Paul teaches there for two years.

Miracles in Ephesus

 

3 – Jewish Exorcists attempt to use the name of Jesus and Paul.

Practice of magic in Ephesus lessens

 

4 – Paul proposes to go to Jerusalem and Rome

 

5 - Paul sends Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia and stays in Asia

 

6 - The Silversmith Riots in Ephesus

 

Paul at Ephesus

 

1It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples.  2He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."  3And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" And they said, "Into John's baptism." 4Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus."

 

 5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  6And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.  7There were in all about twelve men.

 

After visiting the churches of Galatia and Phrygia, Paul came to Ephesus just as he had promised at the close of his second journey.

 

From Chapter 18 of Acts – verse 19-21

 

\18Paul, having remained many days longer, took leave of the brethren and put out to sea for Syria, and with him were Priscilla and Aquila In Cenchrea he had his hair cut, for he was keeping a vow. 19They came to Ephesus, and he left them there Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20When they asked him to stay for a longer time, he did not consent, 21but taking leave of them and saying, "I will return to you again if God wills," he set sail from Ephesus.

 

In chapter 19, Luke records his return. When he arrives in Ephesus, he finds some disciples. Luke does not identify the disciples, but from their exchange with Paul, it is reasonable to assume they have heard the message of Apollos concerning John. When he encounters these believers, Paul questions if they have received the Holy Spirit and they tell him they do not know about the Holy Spirit, eventually telling him that they know about John’s Baptism and nothing else.

 

2He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" And they said to him, "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."  3And he said, "Into what then were you baptized?" And they said, "Into John's baptism." (Acts 19:2-3)

 

Evidently Paul heard these disciples speaking about Jesus and thought they were Christians when he first met them. But, as he watched them, he must have observed that something was missing, and so he asks "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"

 

These people knew something about Jesus, but as was the case with Apollos, their knowledge was incomplete - something was missing. Perhaps Paul saw that there was no joy in their lives, or peace, certainty or power and so he asked them, "Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?"

 

The disciples answered that they had never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. John clearly taught the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had come upon Jesus when John baptized him, and he certainly knew of this and taught it. They likely meant, "We have never heard that the Holy Spirit is now given, that he has come, as John (and Jesus) announced that he would." Paul, understanding that, asks them, "What were you baptized into?" And they replied, "Into John's baptism." It was clear then to Paul what the problem was. They were halfway Christians. They had come as far as repentance and forgiveness of sins, but they knew nothing about the work of the Holy Spirit. So he begins to instruct them:

 

4Paul said, "John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus."

 

5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  6And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying.  7There were in all about twelve men.

 

Certainly Paul said more in his instruction than Luke recorded in his short summary. Paul likely told them about the death of Jesus, and what that accomplished with respect to the old life they had been living; and then about the resurrection which made available to them a risen life, a different kind of life, and then about the coming of the Holy Spirit who would make all this real in their experience continuously, moment by moment, day after day. After he instructed them in this way, they were then re-baptized in the name of Jesus.

 

When these disciples were baptized the Spirit came into their lives. They believed on Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. Luke mentions two gifts that they received. They spoke in tongues and began prophesying.

 

The first of the gifts they received was speaking in tongues. This is one of the gifts of the Spirit Paul lists in 1st Corinthians 12. It is very natural that it would be given on this particular occasion, for, as Paul tells writes 1st Corinthians 14, the gift of tongues is designed especially as a witness to unbelieving Jews and these disciples were Jews who worshiped in the synagogue in Ephesus.

 

Along with the gift of tongues was also given the gift of prophesying. This is the ability to open and expound the Scriptures in power and truth. The word prophet comes from two Greek words: pro phaino. Phaino means "to cause to shine" or "to make shine," and pro means "before." So a prophet is one who stands before the Word of God and causes it to shine, who illuminates people's lives with the power and truth of the Scriptures. These twelve new Christians of Ephesus began to prophecy as the Spirit illumined their minds.

 

They saw great truth in the Scriptures and began to declare it in power. This immediately was a sign to the apostle that they had moved into the full-orbed experience of the Christian life.

 

It is interesting that one of these gifts was designed for unbelievers (tongues) and the other for believers (prophesy). Paul writes this 1st Corinthians 14. The gift of tongues, he says, is for unbelievers, but the gift of prophecy is for believers (1 Corinthians 14:22).

 

Here in the community in Ephesus both groups were present: The unbelieving Jews who still refused to accept the truth of the Scriptures about Jesus, and those who had become Christians, who, with Priscilla and Aquila, were rejoicing in all that the Lord had given them and who needed this exercise of the gift of prophecy.

 

When these twelve people were filled, and the Holy Spirit had come upon them, they demonstrated the fact by their possession of these gifts of the Spirit. Therefore no apostle could ever again ask them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" There was a difference about their lives. They obviously were now filled with new power and strength. It came when they believed in Jesus.

 

 8And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.  9But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.  10This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

 

As always, Paul went to the synagogue and spoke there concerning the kingdom of God.

At first it was welcomed. In fact, the Jews here had made Paul welcome during his previous visit to Ephesus and had invited him to come back. And so he returned, as he promised, and for three months, every Sabbath day, he reasoned with them out of the Scriptures about the kingdom of God.

 

But some of them resisted Paul’s teaching and opposed Paul. When this happened, he withdrew from teaching in the synagogue, taking the disciples with him. They moved into rented quarters, the hall of Tyrannus. This probably was one of the lecture rooms which the Greek teachers employed to teach philosophy and various other subjects of the arts and culture of the day. Paul rented it, according to some ancient authorities and a few translations of Acts, from eleven o'clock in the morning until four in the afternoon.

 

That was the time in Ephesus when all were taking a siesta. They closed up their shops, went home and had a leisurely meal, took a nap, worked around the garden and refreshed before returning to work. In Ephesus at that time, the working day began at about seven in the morning. The shops closed at eleven and everyone went home until four when the shops reopened and business went on until about nine-thirty at night. This was their normal day. Evidently the Apostle Paul made tents during the morning hours to support himself. But at eleven o'clock he came to the hall of Tyrannus and lectured for five hours every day for two years.

 

Five hours a day, six days a week, fifty-two weeks a year for two years, adds up to 3,120 hours of lecturing.

 

The content of those lectures was likely the great truths contained in the letters he eventually wrote to the churches scattered around that part of the world. TO have had the opportunity to receive schooling from Paul for such an extended period of time would have been a true blessing!

 

It was during this time of daily training (disciple making) by Paul that the church at Colossi was begun by Epaphras and Philemon, who carried the gospel up the Lycus valley into the cities there. Others who would have heard Paul’s teaching likely founded the churches to which John later wrote his letters in the book of Revelation -- Smyrna and Sardis and Thyatira and Pergamum and Philadelphia and Laodicea. All of those cities are in the general area of Paul’s teaching in Ephesus.

 

Luke also reports that the word Paul shared was confirmed by signs:

 

 11God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. (Acts 19: 11-12 NASV)

 

Luke reports that the miracles were "extraordinary."

 

Others attempt to use Jesus’ name “who Paul preaches”

 

13But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, "I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches." 14Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this.  15And the evil spirit answered and said to them, "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?"  16And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

 

The seven sons of Sceva were a part of the family of a Jewish high priest, who apparently earned their living across the region “from place to place”, as exorcists.  When they saw the work Paul was doing, they attempted to employ the names of Jesus and Paul as some kind of magic formula by saying "I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."

 

Apparently they were fooling around with powers they did not understand. What happened to them as they attempted to do his was that the man they were trying to heal (it is interesting that Dr. Luke carefully distinguishes between the man and the evil spirit who possessed him), was under the control of an evil spirit. The spirit led him and empowered him to challenge these seven sons and to take them all on single-handed. To imagine the result of the encounter is almost humorous when the exorcists went screaming out of the house with their clothes torn half off, bloody and wounded, as this man drove them out of the house?

 

It is interesting that the evil spirit was angered by this use of the name of Jesus, and it is interesting what he said in response to this adjuration. The spirit said "Jesus I recognize ..." (using a word that means, "I know him with a deep, instinctive, innate knowledge – a respect."), "and I know about Paul ...," (i.e., I know his name, I know who he is. I don't know him as well as I know Jesus, but know about him.),

 

"...but who are you?"

 

That was the signal for his attack upon them and their ridiculous escape from the violence of the spirit possessed man.

 

 17This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.

 

This incident, perhaps because of the humor involved, became known all over Ephesus and both Jews and Greeks heard about it. It was impressive. And the result was that the name of Jesus was magnified.

 

Luke now continues with the two things that take place:

 

18Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.  20So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.

 

Changes started with the believers, who began to clean up their own lives, who came and divulged their hidden practices, confessed what they were doing in private. Obviously these were relatively new Christians and perhaps they had never thought that anything was wrong with these practices. But as they sat under the teaching of the apostle and saw the kingdom of God and how God longs to set people free, they began to see that what they had been doing -- the astrology, the reliance on horoscopes, the belief in the influence of the stars, and all their other superstitious practices -- had held them in bondage. They began to confess all this and therefore to be free from their bondage.

 

And these changes precipitated another movement. The pagans around them in the city began to take a second look at their own practices. Many of them who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them when they became Christians under the influence and power of the gospel, and thus they were set free from their own deadly delusion.

 

The new believers surrendered all their occult literature. Luke reports it was a costly thing to do. As they totaled up the value of these books, and the various paraphernalia that was brought to be burned, it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver, which was a tremendous sum in those days. Their giving these things up was more than a financial yielding. It meant that these people were changing the total pattern of their lives, as they saw that they could no longer practice the occult and live as Christians too.

 

In Ephesus, Paul and the other Christians, by the power of the truth, broke through the deception of the occult. Luke says, "The word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailed." In other words, Ephesus was shaken to its core.

 

Paul proposes going to Jerusalem:

 

 21Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome."  22And having sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

 

At this time there were three things which occupied the apostle's heart and moved him to take this action:

 

1 – He knew he must care for the new Christians who had come to Christ in Macedonia and Greece -- in Thessalonica and Beroea and Philippi, in Athens and Corinth.

 

2 – He had a desire to penetrate to the very center of the Roman empire and culture with the claims of Christ, to plant the gospel in the fullness of its power in the very capital, in Rome itself. "After I've been to Jerusalem," he said, "I must see Rome."

 

About this, Dr. G. Campbell Morgan wrote: "That's not the 'must' of the tourist; that's the 'must' of the missionary."

 

When he thought of Rome, Paul longed to help the Christians who were already there and to instruct them. From Corinth, Paul takes the time to write his great epistle to these Roman Christians in an effort to help them since he is hindered from getting there.

 

3 – Luke mentions Jerusalem, but does not discuss Paul’s concern and his heart’s desire to help the famine-stricken saints of the church at Jerusalem. At this time a great famine has descended upon Judea. Paul knew the Christians in Jerusalem were hungry, and he longed to be able to help them, so he sent Timothy and Erastus into Macedonia. Luke does not tell us why, but from one of Paul's letters we learn the reason was to tell the churches there about the need of the Christians in Jerusalem, and to collect an offering for them in advance, so that, when the apostle came, he could send it or take it to Jerusalem. This is discussed in Chapter 16 of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

 

1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 3When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me. (1 Corinthians 16:1-4 NASV)

 

Then he reminds these Corinthians,

 

5But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; 6and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. 7For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. 8But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (1 Corinthians 16:5-9 NASV)

 

It was Paul’s plan to stay in Ephesus until the day of Pentecost, but his mind was soon changed. Luke tells us now, in Acts l9, what caused him to alter these plans:

 

 23About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. 24For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen;  25these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, "Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.  26"You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. 27"Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence."  

 

The silversmiths at Ephesus had organized themselves into a trade union to control their work. And they found that Paul’s ministry and the changes I the Church brought about by a growth in The Way (Christianity) was hitting them hard in the most sensitive part of the human anatomy -- their pocketbook.

 

The silversmiths of Ephesus earned their living making little silver souvenirs of the goddess Artemis. After Paul’s arrival;, they found their business tremendously diminished because so many people were becoming Christians that nobody wanted their shrines anymore. One of them, Demetrius, cared nothing for the spiritual welfare of the hundreds who had become Christians. He saw only the loss of his profits.

 

The lack of revenue (profit) was what stirred up these silversmiths. They were disturbed by their loss of income. However, Demetrius incited the mob in Ephesus to violence through another emotionally loaded charge against Paul. His charge was that the religion of the city was threatened, that Artemis, the goddess the city worshipped, was insulted by this loss of income and was in danger of losing her stature in the eyes of the world.

 

Artemis was the goddess enshrined in the great temple outside Ephesus, Her temple was known as one of the seven great wonders of the world.

 

She may have been carved from a meteorite, because, later on, the town clerk reports that her image had fallen from the sky. According to some of the copies that have been excavated in archeological digs, she was the figure of a many-breasted woman, enshrined as the goddess representing Mother.

 

The silversmiths knew exactly what emotional issues would arouse the people of Ephesus. The season when the riots began was the time of year when Ephesus gave itself over to a whole month of feasting, revelry, and debauchery centering on the worship of Artemis. The festival was called the "Artemision." It had the characteristics of the Mardis Gras in New Orleans. The city was packed with people who had come for this special occasion.

 

Demetrius called on the silversmiths and other craft guildsman to riot against Paul and the disciples by appealing to the loss of business they would see if growth in the Way continued. In his appeal, he said,

 

“Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.  26"You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. 27"Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence." (Acts 19: 25-27 NASV)

 

He indicated that Paul was turning people away from worship of the goddess Artemis. He was telling people that a likeness of her “made with hands” (made by the silversmith guildsmen) was useless and that in addition to a loss of trade (the real reason) that Paul’s teachings would dethrone her from her pedestal of worship.

 

The Riot

 

28When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"  29The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia.

 

Luke now reports that the crowd, excited by a false emotional issue, quickly became a mob. They surged into the theater taking Gaius and Aristarchus (Paul’s traveling companions) with them.

 

If you visit the site of Ephesus today you find that this theater has been excavated. It is the only sizable part of the city which that stands. It was a huge theater, able to seat about twenty thousand people, so this was a large mob. These people were very responsive to this appeal, although Luke writes as if there were many in the mob who did not know what it was all about (probably typical of many mob crowds).

 

30And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him.  31Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater.

 

Paul (with typical bravery) wanted to go in and speak to the mob, but his friends recognized that the mood of the crowd was ugly. Even the Asiarchs, the political rulers of the province of Asia, who were responsible to the Romans and were friends of Paul, were concerned and sent word to him not to venture into the theater.

 

It is interesting that Paul had made friends among these rulers. They understood and were impressed by the message of Christ. Though Luke does not say they were Christians, nevertheless they tried to protect Paul from this wild and raging mob. Luke then goes on to show how impossible it would have been for Paul to have done anything to quiet them:

 

32So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.  33Some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly. 34But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"  

 

What Luke reports here is a wild mob that has no argument other than simply to chant, over and over again (in ignorance of why they were together) a slogan which had aroused their pride, fed their egos and their emotions.

 

Luke indicates that the Jews who were there were very concerned, probably because they had lived in Ephesus for many years and were known to be opposed to the worship of idols. They had a synagogue there and had made it clear that they were not idol worshipers and did not approve the practice, but they had no effect upon the populace. It is reasonable to assume they were afraid that they might be implicated in this disturbance and so they drafted Alexander, who was also a Jew, to stand up and explain their attitude and to make clear that they were not the ones who had prompted the riot.

 

This may be the same Alexander to whom Paul refers in his letter to Timothy, who had become, by the time Paul wrote, the bishop of the church at Ephesus. Paul said, "Beware of Alexander the coppersmith who did me great harm," (2 Timothy 4:14).

 

Luke tells us the crowd refuses to hear Alexander and drowns out his words with a chant they continue for more than two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" Their chant was finally quieted by the town clerk, whose office in those Greek cities corresponded to that of mayor. Luke reports what happened:

 

35After quieting the crowd, the town clerk said, "Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the image which fell down from heaven? 36"So, since these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash.

 

37"For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38"So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man, the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; let them bring charges against one another. 39"But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly. 40"For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today's events, since there is no real cause for it, and in this connection we will be unable to account for this disorderly gathering."

 

41After saying this he dismissed the assembly.

 

This town clerk, whose name is not given to us, is an admirable politician and orator. He intervenes at precisely the right moment. The crowd, having exhausted itself with its senseless roaring of the chant for two hours now, was probably inclined to listen at last. So he stands up to speak, setting forth three logical points.

 

1 - "Yes, Artemis is great; therefore there is no need to shout.

 

2 - We can count on her to defend herself, so why worry?

 

3 - Nobody is going to be able to overthrow a goddess as great as ours, so we don't need all this commotion.

 

4 - "The men that you are charging have really done nothing provocative. They have not blasphemed the goddess; no such charge has been brought against them.

Why should you handle this matter any differently than through ordinary channels? The courts are open, and if that doesn't satisfy you, the legislature is available. The normal channels of protest are open to you, so why don't you use them?

 

5 - And "We are seriously in danger of losing the freedom of this city as a result of this indiscretion."

 

The clerk certainly knew that the Romans would tolerate anything except civil disorder. If an unexplained riot occurred they were in danger of losing their status as a free city, unencumbered by Roman rule.

 

Apparently the clerk had nothing more in mind than that which would normally concern a politician - keeping the peace. He really did not care about the issues. He did not want to examine them. He wanted only to keep everything orderly. So he did everything he could to defuse the situation.

 

The final sentence of this story can be found in the first verse of Chapter 20:

 

1After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia.

 

Copyright © 2010, by ToBeLikeHim Ministries

 

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