THE BOOK OF ACTS
ACTS chapter Nineteen
PAUL OBSERVES A FEAST IN JERUSALEM
AND CONCLUDES HIS SECOND MISSIONARY
Paul stayed in Corinth for good while indeed, but the time
came for him to move on again. He sailed to go to Syria, but
first came to Ephesus. He brought with him Priscilla and Aquila.
He had shorn his head in Cenchrea; for he had a vow.
Cenchrea was the eastern sea port of Corinth. The vow was
probably the Nazarite vow of Numbers 6. We must remember that
there was a transition of Old Testament and New Testament. The
Temple still stood in Jerusalem. The priesthood still functioned.
It was not wrong for Christians to observe Old Testament rites
such as the Nazarite vow, and even Temple rituals and Temple
sacrifices. We shall come to Temple rituals observed by some in
the Christian church in a later chapter of Acts. But we also need
to remember that no Christian was obliged to observe any of those
Ephesus was a celebrated city in Ionia, Asia Minor, about
forty miles south of Smyrna. It was chiefly famous for the temple
of Diana. In the time of the Romans it was the metropolis of
Asia. The Jews, according to Josephus, the Jewish historian of
the first century A.D., were numerous in that city
As was Paul's custom he entered the synagogue and reasoned
with the Jews concerning the Scriptures. They were willing to
listen to what he had to say and wanted to hear more, they wanted
Paul to stay around for a while, but he was not about to do
so this time. He said goodbye to them saying, "I must by all
means observe this feast that is coming in Jerusalem; but I will
return again to you, if it is God's will."
Some believe the feast that Paul was wanting to observe at
Jerusalem was the Passover, but we cannot be sure what feast it
was, for Luke does not get specific in recording exactly which
feast it was. Observing God's festivals of Leviticus 23 was very
much still the custom and tradition of the Church of God during
apostolic times. Jesus observed the festivals as we saw from the
four Gospel records. They truly are God's feasts as clearly
stated in Leviticus 23.
Paul landed at Caesarea and went up to Jerusalem, observed
the festival and visited the church at the same time. He then
departed from Jerusalem and returned to his home base, the city
of Antioch in Syria. (Acts 18: 18-22).
PAUL'S THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY
Paul once more spent some time in Antioch, the length of
time we are not told. Then he departed again and went over the
areas of Galatia and Phrygia to once more strengthen spiritually
the brethren in the churches there.
Now Luke tells us about something that was going on back in
Ephesus, where Aquila and Prescilla had been left by Paul when he
only departed for Jerusalem. A certain Jew by the name of
Apollos, comes on the scene. He was born in the city of
Alexandria, a celebrated city in Egypt, founded by Alexander the
Great. You may want to read about that city in some of the Bible
Apollos, had been instructed in "the way of the Lord" - that
is he had certain knowledge of the things concerning the Messiah.
He was fervent in attitude of mind, he spoke and taught very
diligently the things of the Lord, but he was only familiar with
the baptism of John the baptist. He was then "not up to date" as
we might say. But he went to the synagogue and spoke very boldly
what truth he did know. Quila and Prescilla met him there and
then took him privately and expounded the way of God and the
Messiah more perfectly to him.
Apollos was led to think that he should go to Achaia, so the
brethren at Ephesus wrote a letter exhorting the disciples there
to receive him. And they indeed did so. Apollos was a great
blessing to them, for in visiting there he helped them
tremendously in spiritual matters, helping all who had believed
through grace. And it is said he mightily convinced the Jews,
right out in a public way, showing from the Scriptures, that
Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. We are told nothing else about
this man and the work he did in any specific way. Paul does
mention him in his letter to the Corinthians, as one that had
gained such popularity and "fame" shall we say, that some were
making him as a kind of "cult" leader for themselves, while
others made other apostles their "cult" leader, which Paul said
was wrong for them all to do (1 Cor.1:10-13). Paul said he
planted the Gospel seeds and Apollos watered, but it was God
behind it all anyway, and it was God who gave the increase (1
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed over to Ephesus
(Acts 19:1). We are never told if Paul and Apollos ever met.
Maybe they did, maybe they did not. But we are told that both men
were used mightily in doing God's work.
Paul now again in Ephesus finds certain disciples and says
to them, "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed in
the Messiah?" They replied, "Why, we have not been instructed in
whether there is a Holy Spirit." And when Paul heard that, he
asked with a somewhat puzzled look on his face, "Well then, into
what were you baptized?" Their answer was immediate, "We have
been baptized with John's baptism." Then Paul realized what had
not been instructed to them, and answered, "John truly
baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying to the people,
that they should believe on Him that was to come after himself,
that is on Christ Jesus."
On hearing this there was no question in their minds that
they wanted to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When,
after baptism, Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came
upon them; and they were given the gift of speaking in a
different language as well as speaking under the inspiration of
the Spirit. There were about twelve of those disciple we are
informed (Acts 19:1-7).
We can note here that anyone who had ever been baptized with
John's baptism, did need to be baptized in the name of Jesus.
John's baptism was good up to a certain point only, but only to
lead people to believe on the Him that would come after his
ministry was over - who was Jesus the Christ. We see again the
teaching of the "laying on of hands." We see also in this case,
two gifts of the Spirit given. But other people were baptized,
many, even thousands, where no such gifts were given, at least we
are not told that any gifts of the Spirit were given at that time
of their baptism.
Paul, yes, as his custom was, went into the synagogue, and
for three months spoke very boldly, disputing and persuading the
things concerning the Kingdom of God. Some became hardened and
began to speak evil of "the way" that Paul was teaching, and they
influenced others, quite a large group, and so Paul departed from
them, and took the disciples with him. He went to dispute in a
school owned by a man called Tyrannus. Paul continued teaching
and disputing in this school for two years. So successful was he
that just about all in Asia Minor heard the word of the Lord
Jesus in some way, both Jews and Greeks (Acts 19:9-10).
A SPECIAL MIRACLE BY PAUL
It was also at this time that God did special miracles by
the hands of Paul. He sent out handkerchiefs or small aprons to
the sick and they were healed every one of them, and those that
were possessed of demons, were released form their power, as the
demons withdrew from them (verse 11).
It is important to note in this, that Luke wrote God "did
SPECIAL miracles by the hands of Paul." This was a special
miracle for that time and for a certain duration only. The
account in Acts as well as the whole New Testament says nothing
about Paul doing this miracle for the rest of his life. We can
also note that nothing is said about those handkerchiefs being
anointed with oil.
I mention all this because some think this miracle done by
Paul was something the Church of God was doing as a whole, or
that the Church of God today should be doing this. It was NOT
something all the church apostles or elders of the church back in
Paul's day were doing. It is said God did this special miracle by
Paul, and no one else is recorded as being able to perform this
This is clearly NOT an example for the Church of God as a
whole to try to duplicate today. We are instructed in James 5
what is to be the GENERAL practice for the healing of the sick in
the Church of God. That instruction is for the sick to call for
the elderS (more than one) to come and pray for the sick, and to
anoint them with oil. If for some reason no elders can come (i.e.
say distance being a factor), then disciples of Christ should
mention their sickness to other disciples and have them pray for
them (James 5:16).
USING JESUS' NAME INCORRECTLY
Some vagabond Jews, ones who travelled from town to town
casting out demons, tried to add some more power to their
undertaking. They were not disciples of Christ. They knew or had
seen what Paul could do by using the name of Jesus, so they
thought they would try a little "Paul to Jesus incarnation" -
they said, "I command you by Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come
Seven sons of a leading priest called Sceva, were trying
this incarnation on a man possessed by and evil spirit, and the
spirit replied, "I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you
fellows?" And the man leaped on them and attacked them with such
violent strength that they fled from the house, naked and badly
injured (Acts 19: 13-16).
Those unbelieving Jews were just trying to see if the power
used by Paul could be used by them. They thought they could
enlarge their popularity and prestige if more instant miracle
power could be had by the name of Jesus. Their hearts were not at
all in the right place, they were as we say, "trying to cash in
on a good deal." And of course they could not fool God in heaven
for one second.
MORE BECAME BELIEVERS
The story of what happened to those seven sons of Sceva,
spread like wildfire throughout Ephesus, both to Jews and Greeks.
A solemn fear came upon all the people of that city, and the name
of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who became believers
and disciples confessed their sinful practices, often in an open
way. Some who had been practicing various magic rites brought
their instructive incarnation books and burned them in a public
bonfire. The value of all the books was about 50,000 pieces of
silver, which today would have been several million dollars. One
piece of silver was about a day's wage at that time.
So the message of the word of God spread near and far, and
had a very powerful effect on people's lives (Acts 19:17-20).
THE RIOT IN EPHESUS
The Holy Spirit impelled Paul to go to Macedonia and Achia
before returning once more to Jerusalem. And then Paul thought it
would be time to go from there to Rome, which he had not as yet
done. He sent two of his fellow workers in the Gospel, Timothy
and Erastus, on ahead to Macedonia while he stayed for a while
longer in the province of Asia Minor.
But at that time serious trouble developed in Ephesus
concerning "the way" as it was now often called. It began with
Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large manufacturing business,
making silver shrines of the Greek goddess Diana. He employed
many a craftsmen. He called the craftsmen together one day, as
well as other skilled men of related trades, and said to them:
"Fellow tradesmen, you know that our wealth comes from this
trade with the worship of Diana. As you have seen and heard,
this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods
aren't gods at all. And this is happening not only here in
Ephesus but throughout the whole province. Of course I'm not
just talking about the respect we have lost for our trade,
but I also worry that the temple of the great goddess Diana
- this splendid goddess worshipped throughout Asia and all
around the Roman world - will have her prestige
At hearing this fact, it hit them as never before as to what
was happening concerning their goddess Diana. They boiled with
anger and started to shout as loud as they could, "Great is Diana
of the Ephesians!" They shouted more, "Great is the goddess
Diana!" And on and on they went with, "Great is Diana of the
Ephesians!" Soon a crowd gathered around them, then more and more
people, until the whole city was in an uproar and utter confusion
everywhere set in. Then they all rushed to the Amphitheater,
their football stadium of their day. They dragged along with
them, Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul's travelling
companions from Macedonia.
Paul wanted to go after them, to try and rescue his friends,
but many of the disciples prevented him from doing so. Some of
the officials of the area, friends of Paul, also sent messages to
him, begging him not to risk his life being taken by entering the
Inside their stadium all the people were shouting out, some
one thing, some others another thing, the whole place was in
total confusion and bedlam. The fact was that most of the people
there did not know why they were there in the first place, they
followed the crowd, some just looking for an excuse to riot. A
man by the name of Alexander was pushed forward by some of the
Jews, who encouraged him to explain the situation to everyone. He
motioned for silence and then would have made his defence, but
when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they started shouting again
as one voice, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians! Great is Diana of
the Ephesians!" And they kept up those kind of shouting for two
Finally the town mayor was able to appease the people so he
was able to speak.
"Citizens of Ephesus," he said: "Everyone knows that Ephesus
is the official guardian of the great temple of Diana, whose
image fell down to us from heaven. As this is the fact,
you should not be disturbed, no matter what is said. Don't
do anything in a senseless rash way. You have brought these
men here but they really have done no harm to you.
They have stolen nothing from the temple, and they have not
spoken against your goddess. If Demetrius and the craftsmen
with him have a case against these men, the courts are in
session and the judges can hear the case immediately. Let
them go through the legal channels of our city. And if there
are other complaints about other matters they can be brought
before the courts in a legal way. I am afraid we are in
danger of the Roman government charging us with rioting,
since there is no justifiable cause for all this commotion
and disturbance that is taking place here. And if Rome
demands an explanation, we will not know what to tell them."
With this sensible and logical speech the crowd dispersed
and went back to their normal everyday living.
After all this near riot was over Paul called for the
disciples, and exhorted and encourage them, and then said goodbye
and left for Macedonia (Act 19:21-41; 20:1).
While Paul lived in Ephesus most scholars believe he wrote
his TWO epistles to the Church at Corinth - the epistles called 1
Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. We shall in the next chapter, take
a look at the overview of those epistles.
TO BE CONTINUED