Acts 18:23–19:41 comment (0)
August 7, 2008
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Acts 18:23–19:41
Explore the Bible
Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
FACING RELIGIOUS PEOPLE
Paul did not stay home long, perhaps just through the winter. Then he began his third missionary trip. It lasted four or five years and covered maybe 2,000 miles. The names of various travel companions appear over the course of the journey. The work was concentrated mainly in the province of Asia Minor, especially Ephesus.
Travel in Galatia and Phrygia (18:23)
As the second journey, the third began as a plan to revisit churches previously established. From Antioch, the apostle Paul went from place to place throughout Galatia and Phrygia (a district in central Asia Minor), strengthening and encouraging believers.
Apollos Meets Aquila and Priscilla (18:24–28)
Information about Apollos sets the stage for Paul’s dealings with John the Baptist’s 12 disciples in Ephesus. Apollos was “instructed in the way of the Lord” and spoke and taught accurately “the story of Jesus,” although he knew “only the baptism of John.” Probably he taught John was the forerunner of the Messiah, John pointed out the Messiah and the Messiah was Jesus of Nazareth.
Apollos also was richly gifted for ministry. Aquila and Priscilla were impressed with his potential but sensed some deficiency in his understanding of the gospel, so they invited him to their home and “explained the way of God to him more accurately.”
Later, Apollos crossed to Corinth with a letter recommending him to the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 3:1–3). His ministry in Corinth, sketched in a single sentence in Acts, was marked by divine favor and power.
Work in Ephesus (19:1–41)
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul came to Ephesus. At Ephesus, he came into contact with certain disciples of John the Baptist. Even though these are called “disciples” (a name commonly used for Christians), their answer to Paul’s question and Paul’s response to their answer imply they were not saved. Their condition does not parallel Apollos’. He was not rebaptized; they were. Apparently they were immersed without becoming true believers.
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” assumes believers normally receive the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. The laying on of hands mentioned here (see also Chapters 8 and 9) in connection with receiving the Spirit seems to have been a symbolic act. The New Testament never commands or teaches it as a requirement for receiving the Spirit. There is no way of knowing whether the tongues were ecstatic speech (as in 1 Cor. 12 and 13) or known languages (as at Pentecost).
For three months, Paul preached fearlessly about the kingdom of God. Some refused to believe and spoke evil of “the Way” but others became disciples.
The Ephesians did their work in the morning hours and rested 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Tyrannus taught school in the morning, and Paul used the lecture hall in the afternoon to teach about Jesus for two years. The gospel spread throughout Asia Minor.
“Special miracles” Paul did (as recorded by Luke) include: Paul’s experience with the “sons of Sceva,” a Jewish priest, the burning of the scrolls of sorcerers, Paul’s plan to visit Rome and the riot of the silversmiths.
Luke described the riot in detail. Demetrius was probably head of the silversmiths’ guild. Artemis (also Diana), the many-breasted goddess of fertility, was the patron of Ephesus. A temple dedicated to her, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, stood in the city below the acropolis.
Economically speaking the city depended on the worship of Artemis and the flow of pilgrims that worship attracted.
The “silver shrines” mentioned were likely small models of the temple pilgrims bought to use for souvenirs, dedicatory gifts and household images. They may also have worn them as charms.
When gospel inroads threatened their business, the smiths stirred up a mob for a public demonstration that Roman authorities quickly quelled. The gospel challenges idolatry, superstition and self-centered economic interests.