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Acts Nineteen

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Acts 19:1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,

Ephesus. Ephesus was the greatest commercial city in Asia Minor, the capital of the province of Asia, with a busy harbor on the western coast. Its ruins are still beautiful and a great tourist attraction today.

Acts 19:2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.

since. A better rendering of this phrase would be “when ye believed.”

believed. These twelve Ephesian disciples were evidently considered disciples of Christ, rather than of John, since Paul recognized they had “believed.” Also, they would surely have been identified specifically as disciples of John had that been the case (compare John 3:22-26). John had, of course, preached that Jesus was the promised Redeemer and the Lamb of God. In some way, possibly through some of John's disciples rather than John himself, they had learned of Jesus and had believed on Him. What they had learned, however, did not include the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and so was deficient, even though it had been enough to bring them salvation. In fact, John himself had been given the authority “to give knowledge of salvation unto His people by the remission of their sins” (Luke 1:77).

not so much as heard. This admission proves that the Ephesian disciples had not heard the message of John directly, since John had certainly preached about the Holy Spirit (e.g., Matthew 3:11; John 1:32-34) and was himself “filled with the Holy Ghost” (Luke 1:15).

Acts 19:3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.

John's baptism. Paul here simply assumed they had been baptized, since they had believed and were disciples. In the New Testament, baptism always immediately followed saving faith, and is then followed by discipleship. This is the only case mentioned in the New Testament of anyone being “rebaptized.” Not even Apollos, who also had known “only the baptism of John” until Aquila and Priscilla gave him further instruction (Acts 18:25-26) needed to be rebaptized. The same was true of the twelve apostles. Presumably the difference was that the Ephesian disciples had been baptized by one or more of John's disciples after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when Christ's disciples first began to baptize “in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38). Also, this was an important new stage in the spread of the gospel, with Ephesus destined to become a center like Antioch and Jerusalem. It was important that the ministry of John be thus tied in with that of Christ once and for all by a manifestation of the Holy Spirit as at Jerusalem and Antioch and in the house of Cornelius.

Acts 19:4 Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

Acts 19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Acts 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

Acts 19:7 And all the men were about twelve.

about twelve. It is perhaps significant that the number was the same as the number of the original apostles. Like the latter at Jerusalem, these became the nucleus of the important church at Ephesus. Very likely, they were “the elders of the church,” to whom Paul spoke with such earnestness on his last trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20:17-38).

Acts 19:8 And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.

Acts 19:9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

Acts 19:10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

two years. Compare Acts 20:31, indicating the Paul actually spent about three years altogether ministering in Ephesus.

dwelt in Asia. Although Paul himself probably did not travel around the province of Asia, many of his Ephesian converts did. It was probably during this period that the “seven churches of Asia” (Revelation 2 and 3), as well as the churches at Colosse and Hierapolis were founded. Paul's letter to the Colossians indicates that he had not actually visited Colosse (note Colossians 1:4; 2:1), but knew all about it. The key role of Ephesus is further indicated by the fact that, according to firm testimony of the early Christians, the Apostle John later became its chief bishop, and that the first of the seven letters sent through him by Christ to the churches was directed to the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7).

Acts 19:11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:

Acts 19:12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

Acts 19:13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.

exorcists. The city of Ephesus was notorious in the ancient world not only for its idols but also for an abundance of magicians and other occultists. Demon possession was common and, therefore, there were also the practitioners of exorcism. The “wandering Jews,” who professed to be able to invoke the supposedly unpronounceable name of the Lord over those possessed, were among them. The seven sons of Sceva (who professed to be a chief priest), were not Christians, but they saw that Paul had been more effective than other exorcists in casting out demons, and so decided that the name of Jesus was itself strong magic.

Acts 19:14 And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.

Acts 19:15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?

Acts 19:16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

Acts 19:17 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

Acts 19:18 And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds.

Acts 19:19 Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

price of them. The value of these books at today's prices would be about a million dollars. This striking verse is a remarkable testimony both to the tremendous prevalence of pagan occultism in Ephesus and also to the wonderful power of the gospel to overcome all this.

Acts 19:20 So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

Acts 19:21 After these things were ended, 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.

Acts 19:22 So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.

Acts 19:23 And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.

Acts 19:24 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;

Acts 19:25 Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.

Acts 19:26 Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:

Acts 19:27 So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.

Diana. Diana (same as Artemis) was not only the goddess of hunting, but was considered—at least in Asia and in many other places around the Graeco/Roman world—to be the “mother goddess” of all nature, much like Gaia, the goddess currently being widely promoted as Mother Earth in the New Age movement. The temple of Diana at Ephesus was so magnificent that it was considered one of the “seven wonders of the world” in ancient times.

Acts 19:28 And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

Acts 19:29 And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.

into the theatre. This same theatre has been excavated, and could have held about 25,000 people. The temple of Diana (Acts 19:27) has also been excavated.

Acts 19:30 And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.

Acts 19:31 And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.

Acts 19:32 Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.

Acts 19:33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.

Acts 19:34 But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

Acts 19:35 And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?

image which fell down. This tradition was derived from the fact that a large meteorite had fallen from the sky into Ephesus. It apparently had a shape which the pagan leaders of Ephesus interpreted as a many-breasted female which they identified as an image of the goddess. Copies of this image thereafter became both commercially and religiously profitable to the Ephesians. Renaissance scholars denied that such an event could ever have happened until other meteorite falls began to be documented in modern times.

Acts 19:36 Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.

Acts 19:37 For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.

Acts 19:38 Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.

Acts 19:39 But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.

Acts 19:40 For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.

Acts 19:41 And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.