While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 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.”
3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
4 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.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Here again is proof that how and why you are baptized is important. A group of disciples… baptized disciples at that… needed to get baptized ‘again’.
In the opening of chapter 19, we find a group of people in Ephesus who are possibly disciples of Apollos; for he had been teaching John’s baptism. By being baptized in John’s baptism, instead of the name of Jesus, they have been baptized ‘wrong’ and Paul helps them to get baptized ‘right’.
This has always been a wonderful story to explain that even today you can get baptized incorrectly and need to make sure that it’s done right. We need to be all the more sure that the emphasis is on Jesus, grace and unmerited favor from God almighty. But this isn’t an either/or situation. No, you can’t take baptism out of the conversion narratives; no, jumping in the water isn’t enough. You can get wet all day long and not be ‘saved’. Baptism in the name of Jesus is a necessary part of following Christ.
6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.
So, Paul laying on hands implies that he had a miraculous gift to pass on gifts, for they spoke in tongues and prophesied after he touched them. I have nothing new to say here, at this time. Our fellowship has been predominantly influenced by the historical restoration movement manifested almost solely through churches of Christ. Virtually all of our teachings regarding the Holy Spirit come about as the result of legalistic thinking carefully sculpted and tested through years of debate. But when you approach subjects from a legalistic frame of mind you begin to use the scriptures as points of law, which often flies in the face of what the gospel of Christ is all about. In another devotional some time I’d love to talk about this, but for now, notice how baptism in the book of Acts is always in water in the name of Jesus.
8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way.
The Way. I think this is the first time we see this name being used to identify the church.
So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.
The lecture hall of Tyrannus. This might be the first campus ministry.
10 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.
11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 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.
Another example of the amazing miraculous gifts Paul used to spread the supernatural story of our Lord in a supernatural way.
13 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 the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 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.
Ok, this is scary. You have to add the music and right cinematography, but this is scary, funny and wild.
17 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 honor. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 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. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
I heard a sermon years ago called “Fire of the Ephesians”. This is an example of what convicted people will do when they truly get fired up for God. Notice that first they were seized with fear, believing that their sins could have consequences; and then they got as far away from their sin as they could.
21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem…
PART 1: The Journey to Jerusalem. With these five words “decided to go to Jerusalem” one of the greatest odysseys of all times begins. It begins in Paul’s heart as a decision and becomes one of the greatest stories in the bible. Paul is going to march steadfastly to Jerusalem and in nearly every church he visits along the way he is prophetically warned and tearfully begged by brethren, “Don’t do it! Please don’t go there. Don’t go to Jerusalem. You’ll be mistreated. You’ll be beaten. You may die!”
…passing through Macedonia and Achaia.
Remember, he’s still in Ephesus, plotting his trip to Jerusalem. He’s going to go back through the Macedonian churches of Thessalonica and Berea. Corinth was the capital of Achaia and when you read ‘Achaia’ you should probably think ‘Corinth’. This journey is going to begin in earnest in the next chapter.
“After I have been there,” he said, “I must visit Rome also.”
This is the only indication that Paul had confidence he would survive Jerusalem. He’s resolute in his decision to go; he will even say he’s ready to not only suffer, but to die; but he seems to know God has bigger plans for him. Paul probably had a good idea that he had to try to talk to Caesar, because of the prophecy going all the way back to Acts 9 when the Lord told Ananias that Saul would testify before Jews and gentiles and their kings.
22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.
So far, Paul is still in Ephesus, planning his exit.
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way.
I love this! Here it is again: The Way. Band name, I called it.
Only, I didn’t. All the good names are taken, and this name was one of many taken by the church of our Lord two millennia ago.
The first century church was an evolving work in progress. First known in Jerusalem as believers and disciples, the followers of Jesus would eventually be called a sect and in time Christians. Now they’re being called the Way, most likely taken from the teaching that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Light.
This label is following the disciples everywhere as the gospel of Jesus spreads from Ephesus throughout Asia minor.
When you were a kid did you ever watch those epic Italian hero movies with dudes that all looked like Hercules? I remember one movie based on a fifth grade history lesson about Constantinople, which is now modern day Istanbul. This city sits strategically on a skinny bottle neck piece of ground that is both in Europe and Asia.
So when it says that there was a great disturbance about The Way, imagine the gospel has now spread throughout all of what is today, Turkey and down into Syria; towards Iraq and Iran and up towards Russia… and as it spreads, from heart to heart and mouth to mouth it’s only known as the Way of Jesus.
And so far, Luke is only telling us about the gospel spreading throughout the Mediterranean world and Asia Minor. Right about this same time the apostle Thomas heads out to India; again, things I wish the bible talked about! But, that’s the next musical.
The gospel spread as brave men and women preached Jesus, and it was organic and epic and adventurous. They had all kinds of problems. They had all kinds of challenges. They had all kinds of messes. We haven’t even stopped to imagine the kinds of new converts that made up the body of believers in Corinth. Boy are they gonna get a letter from Paul pretty soon!
Everywhere the gospel spread there were great stories and there were great problems. There were errors to correct and misunderstandings. But nothing stopped the spread of the story of Jesus. From that lonely cross outside a tiny city to every capital of the world, the Way… His Way… was becoming known. They really did turn the world upside down.
But for now, back to Ephesus:
24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 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 gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 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.”
Understanding the worship of Dianna, Artemis, is one of the keys to understanding a lot of what Paul will write to Timothy in the coming years. In time Timothy becomes the preacher to Ephesus and eventually the elder. He’s living in the city famous for the worship of Artemis. The temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world:
But much of religion, then, as now, was about commerce. There was prostitution, idol production and a host of other businesses that derived their success from the worship of the gods, and in this case Artemis. And now a strange, foreign religion, the Way preached by Paul, was threatening their bottom line.
28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia…
We’ll talk about these two young men in the next chapter.
…and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.
32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
Only two weeks ago at home in Portland I did one of the most misguided, spontaneous things I’ve ever done in a sermon. I tried to get the church to chant, “Great is Dianna, goddess of the Ephesians!” I’ve had more embarrassing moments, but, needless to say; I won’t do that again. Interactive messages are good some times, but, that didn’t accomplish what I wanted. I wanted to be a little theatrical; but it was just creepy. Thank you Portland for being patient with the old man.
Still, I would like us to imagine the spectacle and drama of that day. How can we get our heads around 2 hours of a crowd shouting something like that?!?!? It would be like 2 hours of a stadium crowd doing Queen’s “We Will Rock You!”
35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, 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? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
TAKE AWAY FOR TODAY:
Make one decision and be relentless about seeing it happen.
God may help; he may alter or magnify your idea. But for your part, let nothing stand in your way. The decision Paul made to go to Jerusalem in many ways changed the world forever. Who knows what ripple effect your decision could create.
You may succeed. You may fail. But be relentless. If you can’t be relentless, can you really say that you’re making an attempt?
Father in heaven,
Please help us especially in our attempt to inspire people all over the world through our show. If it’s your will we ask you to bless beyond our wildest dreams the number of men and women who will share in this experience. We pray that you prepare hearts to accept invitations to go to homes or schools or church buildings or other places where the musical will be broadcast; that they will be open to our message and decide to pursue a relationship with you as never before. We pray that you will instill in the hearts of disciples everywhere an enthusiasm for using our musical as a tool to spread the word. All this to your glory and for the name of the Lord to be remembered forever.
In His name we pray,