Acts 18:18-Ch. 19 Chapter Study
The journey began with the split between Paul & Barnabas.
Barnabas & John Mark went to Cyprus where they had a fruitful time of encouraging the churches they’d already planted & starting many more.
Acts follows Paul & Silas because Luke the author was part of their team; joined them on this 2nd trip.
Paul & Silas left Antioch & traveled NW, coming in the back way to Derbe & Lystra. The last 2 cities they’d reached on their 1st trip.
When Paul tried to press into the other regions of Asia the Spirit of God closed the doors & they were hurried along to the western coast of Asia.
Then Paul has a vision of the work God was calling them to in Greece, so they set sail.
They planted churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, & Corinth.
Then Paul knew it was time to return home to Antioch.
18So Paul still remained a good while.
Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila
His employers while in Corinth.
were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.
The only vow we know about that involves hair was a Nazarite vow.
We won’t go into the details of it now.
Suffice it to say it marked special dedication to the Lord for a set period of time.
During the vow, the hair was not allowed to be cut, as an outward sign of complete dedication to God.
The Nazarite vow was the Jewish way of showing whole-hearted devotion to God.
Because the early church was comprised of so many Jews, the Nazarite vow became a common way for Christians to show their new relationship with God through faith in Christ.
Why Paul had taken a Nazarite vow isn’t clear, but it’s possible that he’d done so as a way to forestall the complaints & criticism of his Jewish opponents that he was seeking to weaken Judaism through his emphasis on salvation by grace through faith alone.
It would be pretty hard to say Paul didn’t care about the law if he was himself living one of it’s most demanding requirements – the Nazarite vow.
Now that he was heading home, he no longer needed to keep the vow, so when he reached the port of Cenchrea to take ship, he cut his hair to a more conventional hairstyle.
19And he came to Ephesus,
On the western coast of Asia Minor. [Show map]
and left them there;
Aquila & Priscilla.
but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
Since his ship was doing some trade there at the major port of Ephesus & he had a few days before they’d set sail, he used them well by heading to the local synagogue & doing his thing.
20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 21 but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus. 22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch.
His home church.
But before he went to Antioch, he landed at Caesarea on the west coast of Israel, then went to Jerusalem to celebrate one of the annual feasts.
This completes Paul’s 2nd missionary tour. The 3rd commences in the very next verse.
23 After he had spent some time there,
In Antioch -
he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.
Piecing the timeline of Paul’s life together with clues Luke gives, scholars believer Paul spent from the Summer of 52 to the Spring of 53 at Antioch before taking off on his 3rd trip.
Galatia & Phrygia was the same area he’d worked in before.
It included Derbe & Lystra, Iconium, & Pisidian Antioch.
Whether or not he was able this time to move into the areas that had been closed on the 2nd trip isn’t stated.
Because no new cities are mentioned, we may infer Paul merely visited the churches he’d already planted, but was more focused on heading west toward the large population centers of Western Asia.
Now the scene shifts to someone else . . .
24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
Apollos was an interesting figure. We learn just enough about him here to set him apart as someone uniquely anointed by God as a preacher & teacher.
Paul refers to him in 1 Corinthians as a notable figure in the Church.
But his story is an interesting mixture revelation & mystery.
It seems he knew the basics of the Gospel & was effective in sharing them, but he didn’t have the full story & it took the husband & wife team of Aquila & Priscilla to fill him in.
Apollos was from the North African city of Alexandria, one of the ancient world’s foremost centers of scholarship.
Located on the Nile delta, it was the 2nd largest city in the Roman Empire
It was famous for its lighthouse, a museum, & the Great Library which housed nearly ¾’s of a million scrolls & books.
1/3 of the population was Jewish.
The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures was done there in the 3rd Century BC.
The famous Jewish scholar Philo was born & raised there.
Philo wedded Greek philosophy with the Jewish worldview & provided many of the seed thoughts both Jewish & Christian apologists later used when defending their faith before Roman rulers.
This was Apollos’ hometown.
To be called eloquent & mighty in the Scriptures in Alexandria really meant something.
So Apollos was one of those ministers who bore a unique anointing to build up the Body of Christ in a large scale way.
But before Aquila & Priscilla got a hold of him, the only baptism he knew was the baptism of John, meaning a water baptism of repentance.
His Gospel message was only half of the whole – understanding that Jesus had come as Savior to die for our sins.
He didn’t understand the second part of it, that His resurrection means a new life and the baptism of the Holy Spirit that infuses the believer to walk in the power of a changed life.
When Aquila & Priscilla shared the fullness of the Spirit with him, it transformed his ministry and made him even more effective.
When he left to head west to Achaia, the region of Corinth, the Christian in Ephesus sent letters of introduction with him verifying his usefulness as a teacher & preacher.
1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus.
Ephesus was an important port on the Western coast of the Roman province of Asia; what today we call Asia Minor, the modern nation of Turkey. [show map]
It was founded as a Greek colony & became the Roman capital of Asia.
In the mid-first century when Paul was there, the city had a population of between 4 & 500,000!
Its prominence rested on 2 pillars – it was a center of trade & pagan religion.
Ephesus was the door into the riches of Asia for both Rome & Greece.
But by the 1st century, the city was fighting a losing battle with the river it sat at the mouth of.
Lumbering & overgrazing inland stripped the land of its cover, filling the streams and river with silt which kept clogging Ephesus’ harbor.
Large scale attempts at dredging only delayed the inevitable.
Today, the ruins of Ephesus lie 7 miles from the Aegean shore.
The other mainstay of Ephesian wealth & prominence was it’s temple to the goddess Artemis, whom the Romans called ‘Diana.’
Her temple in Ephesus was one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.
It was 4 times the size of the Parthenon in Athens, and stood until 263 AD when it was sacked by the Goths.
Artemis was thought to be an extremely powerful goddess of fertility.
People traveled form all over the Roman world to worship at her temple.
With the loss of revenue from Ephesus’ harbor, the city looked more & more to the income made off the pilgrims who came to worship. [Pictures]
And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
These believers are called “disciples”, a label Luke uses exclusively for followers of Christ.
So they were born again, but Paul sensed they lacked something.
So he asked them to explain their faith; what exactly did they believe in.
When they said nothing of the Holy Spirit, he clarified that point specifically, & they said that they had no idea what he was referring to.
These were Apollos’ converts, before Aquila & Priscilla had had a chance to fill him in on the role & ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
All they’d known was Apollos’ baptizing them in a baptism of repentance referred to in 18:25.
4 Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.
Paul filled them in – Jesus didn’t just die for sins; He rose again from the dead to give them a new life.
The Holy Spirit comes to create that new life, & to give them the power to see their lives conformed to the very image of Jesus.
There’s one more thing to learn from what Paul did with these disciples in Ephesus . . .
They were re-baptized.
Though they’d been baptized not long before by Apollos, when they came to a realization that faith in Christ meant more than they’d previously grasped, they got dunked again.
[Apply to re-baptism & being baptized as a child]
7 Now the men were about twelve in all.
Paul’s work in Ephesus is one of the most successful of his entire career.
He ends up spending a total of about 3 years in Ephesus & thousands will come to faith.
These will launch out from Ephesus & carry the Gospel to all of Asia, leading tens of thousands to faith.
Take careful note of how many he started with – a dozen.
A dozen, Spirit-filled men & women.
But then the whole thing began about 20 years before with a dozen.
God doesn’t NEED a lot – just a few who will surrender completely to Him.
8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.
“Reasoning & persuading” – this is the way Luke described Paul’s method in Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, & Corinth. [17:2, 17 18:4, 14]
We spent some time examining Paul’s method of teaching & preaching when he first went to Thessalonica, so we won’t go into it tonight, other than to say in this post-modern age with its knee-jerk devotion to skepticism, we need to hold fast to the reality that Truth is objective & knowable.
In Ephesus, as in most other places, not everyone did listen to Paul openly & honestly, so . . .
9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.
As had happened everywhere Paul had been, though he began his teaching in the synagogue, the opposition of unbelieving Jews became so settled, he eventually had to leave.
After 3 full months of spelling out the Gospel, proving Jesus is Messiah, it was obvious all who were going to come to faith had done so.
All that was left were opponents who’d become so virulent in their opposition, they were blaspheming.
Paul realized his preaching had become pearls before swine, so he left the synagogue to pursue a ministry of edifying the young believers.
2 years pass in which they church becomes so strong, the entire province is reached, with churches planted in all the surrounding cities.
Ephesus became so hot in the middle of the day they shut everything down & rested from about 11 to 2.
Many Bible scholars think Paul rented the School of Tyrannus during this 3 hour mid-day break & held Bible lessons.
It was common for larger cities to have rented halls where philosophers & teachers could hold classes.
This school was probably one of those rented halls where a teacher nicknamed “The Tyrant” by his students, held classes during the rest of the day.
A bit later we’ll read Paul worked as a tentmaker in Ephesus so he would have been busy during work hours & probably taught during the mid-day siesta.
11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.
We’ll be looking at this passage on Sunday.
13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”
Demon possession was a major problem in the ancient world, just as it is today, though in our country, most people don’t recognize it for what it is.
There were some who made a career out of exorcising the possessed, specialists they were; demonectomists.
Ancient exorcisms were effected by getting the demon to give up its name, then invoking a superior name to take command of it & dismiss it.
Jews were known to be especially good at demoectomies, because as worshippers of the true God, they had the Scriptures and the revealed names of God.
Here we read of traveling Jewish exorcists, who came into contact with Paul at Ephesus.
When they saw the ease with which demons were dispensed with through his ministry, they too it as a powerful new tool in their exorcism bag of tricks.
Problem is, it was a tool that had to be used by the right person and they weren’t it!
14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.
They were Jewish exorcists.
They thought that their lineage as priests gave them a corner on spiritual power.
They thought using Paul’s formula for exorcism coupled to their family line would be a powerful one-two punch that would send the demons running.
Well, running in store, only it won’t be the demon who’s doing it.
15 And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?” 16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
These 7 sons of Sceva didn’t get the outcome they were hoping for.
Jesus’ name isn’t some incantation or spell to be waved in the air,
His name isn’t a magic device one manipulates to get what one wants.
It isn’t a token, a charm, or a mandala.
The only person who can rightly use Jesus’ name is one to whom He gives it & who understands what it means – a follower of Christ, someone who’s been born again.
So the demon said to them, “Jesus I know all about and Paul I’m familiar with but who are YOU!”
Enraged & moved by the demon, the man leapt on them & beat them to a bloody pulp.
This display of super-human strength by a demon-possessed person isn’t unusual.
It is a regular evidence of some who’s possessed.
In Mark 5 we read about a demon-possessed man who broke the iron chains used to restrain him.
I’ve seen a demon-possessed woman who was barely restrained by 6 full-grown men while being ministered to.
She was set free but it was messy & tiring.
What this passage ought to teach us is that there’s real power & authority in Christ and can be wielded by those who are born again and duly authorized by God to enter spiritual battle.
But those who aren’t ought to stay clear & not get involved.
17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. 19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
The news of what happened to Sceva’s sons spread like wild fire.
The result was a deepened reverence for the Name of Jesus.
The Ephesians realized a new day had dawned unlike anything they’d known.
Their previous pursuit of spiritual power through the occult was revealed as the tawdry & dangerous thing it really was.
So they came in open & forthright repentance, bringing their occultic materials to be burned.
Paul doesn’t identify those bringing their stuff as either believers or the lost because it was both.
Christians had come to realize following Jesus means complete surrender to His Lordship while the lost were coming to a faith in Jesus that wanted to separate itself from all that had marked a futile past.
Luke puts the value of occultic material burned at 50,000 pieces of silver, about a half million dollars!
This tells us a couple things about the revival that took place in Ephesus, all sparked by the tragedy that befell Sceva’s sons –
1) The Ephesian interest in spiritual things was widespread & serious!
Their investment in occultic materials was huge, revealing just how committed they were.
2) Their commitment to Christ as Savior & Lord was also deep & serious!
I want to encourage you to follow their example.
Is there something in your life, home, closet, car, trunk, glove compartment, garage, filing cabinet, under the bed, drawer, you’d be embarrassed for Jesus to see?
He already does. Get rid of it! Don’t sell it on Ebay for some other poor soul to stumble over.
Burn it, break it, trash it.
Is there some occult thing, some symbol or emblem of evil sitting around that is dedicated to the demonic? Excise it!
21 When these things were accomplished, Paul purposed in the Spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time.
Paul has now been in Ephesus for about 2½ years and begins to make plans for moving on.
Before heading back to Jerusalem, he’ll head west to Greece & check on the churches he’d planted on the previous trip.
Then, after returning to Jerusalem, his plan was to head to Rome.
In preparation for heading over to Greece, he sent his assistants Timothy & Erastus on ahead to get things ready.
Luke ends v. 22 by saying Paul then stayed more time in Ephesus, which added to the 2½ years he’s already spent comes to about the 3 years most scholars think Paul spent there.
23 And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way.
This is the 2nd time in this chapter the Christian Faith is referred to as “the Way.”
5 times in Acts, Luke refers to it by this term.
From the way he uses it, it’s clear this is a, maybe THE label by which the Christian Faith was identified.
During Paul’s last months in Ephesus, the revival that had resulted in thousands coming to faith in Christ resulted in a major backlash n the part of those who resisted the Gospel.
24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. 25 He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. 26 Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. 27 So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.”
Not only were the Ephesians turning from the occult as they came to faith in Christ, they were turning their backs on the pagan gods & goddesses.
Up till Paul’s arrival, when pilgrims came from all over to Ephesus to worship Diana, they returned home with a memento of their trip, a souvenir – a small model of Diana’s temple made of silver.
You see, what gave Ephesus a leg up on all the other temples to Diana in the ancient world was that they had a black meteorite their myths said Zeus had thrown down to them from Mt. Olympus.
This meteorite was said to be special to Diana & was imbued with special power that filled her temple with power.
Remember, Ephesus’ economy was based on 2 things; the harbor & the worship of Diana.
Since the harbor was silting up, the city leaders knew Ephesus’ livelihood was increasingly dependent on the viability of Diana’s temple as a draw to tourists & religious pilgrims.
The Gospel had become a serious threat to the livelihood of a whole group of people who profited off Diana’s temple.
When pilgrims now visited Ephesus, they heard Paul’s message and converted, carrying home the Gospel instead of one of the silver Diana temple souvenirs.
Demetrius knew the downturn in the market for his little shrines was due to the Gospel & spelled out to all those who made a living off Diana where it would end if they didn’t do something about it.
28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” 29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions.
These silver-workers & other religious profiteers who were riled up weren’t at all interested in maintaining the integrity of worship for poor Diana.
They only cared about one thing = their wallets!
A decline of interest in Diana meant a drop in their income.
Making a pretense of religious zeal, they started a riot & rushed to the theater, the only place large enough to hold them all. The theater at Ephesus could seat 25,000!
The pagans of Ephesus left the Church alone until the transformation of lives affected their income, then they raised a ruckus.
This is the way it often is.
Today we’re told that it’s fine to believe whatever you want, just so long as you keep it to yourself and don’t do or say anything that might effect the behavior of others.
But true faith does effect our choices.
And when we’re living in faith, the moral excellence of our lives is going to attract & win others, who will also live differently.
And eventually, social change will result.
As has happened again & again à when revival takes place,
· the poor are taken care of,
· sin is resisted & put down,
· slavery is abolished,
· the sick are attended to,
· and injustice is righted.
Those who grow rich off sin loose their foothold, but so be it.
30 And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. 31 Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater.
Paul wasn’t timid or worried.
He well knew you cannot reason with a violent mob.
But to see such a vast crowd gathered over the power of the Gospel seemed like a dream come true.
He saw this as a great way to preach to his largest crowd ever!
But cooler heads prevailed and talked him out of it.
Note that some of the civil officials were among those who talked Paul out of his desire to preach to the packed seats.
32 Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.
As typical in riots, many of those who got caught up in it had no idea what was really going on.
They simply were caught up in the excitement of the moment and found themselves being carried along the streets & into the theater.
Do you remember the riots that ensued after the Rodney King verdict?
Large sections of LA were burned & looted, but most of those caught up in the melee had no idea what they were participating in.
They simply saw an opportunity to let out some anger & to enrich themselves at another’s expense, and joined in.
So it goes with the crowd; a herd mentality takes over at times and people do things for no rational reason.
33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”
Paul mentions an “Alexander” in both of his letters to Timothy in the NT, which were written while Tim was pastoring the Ephesian church
Paul said Alexander had made shipwreck of the faith & had done Paul much harm
This is probably the same guy mentioned here.
The unbelieving Jews knew how close anti-Semitism ran to the surface among Gentiles & saw in this riot against the Christians the potential for another outbreak of persecution against them
So in order to prevent it & to focus the violence solely upon the Christians, they put Alexander forward to be their spokesman.
Having been a Christian who’d renounced Christ, they figured he’d be able to divert the mob & send them after those they hated – the followers of Christ.
But someone shouted out that Alexander was a Jew & soon the crowd was shouting out their allegiance to Diana.
They weren’t going to allow a man they knew despised their goddess to speak to them.
35 And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said:
This was the person who called city meetings to order.
When he called for silence, the crowd knew they needed to obey or they might fear retribution at the hands of the officials.
“Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus? 36 Therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess.
The clerk said Ephesus’ reputation as the guardian of the worship of Diana was a well known fact and not endangered by the arrival of a new religion.
Nothing Paul or the Christians had done or said was in any way illegal or blasphemous.
38 Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another.
If there’s a just cause, a legal case, for the silver workers to pursue against Paul and his friends, the courts were the place to take it – not the streets. Mob justice is never true justice.
39 But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. 40 For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
Above all things, Rome demanded public peace & order.
Riots like this were not only frowned on, if any damage or harm was done to person or property, those guilty were treated severely.
And if the riot was bad enough, the civil rulers were called in and punished.
It was after all, their duty to keep order. If they couldn’t do their job, they paid dearly.