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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
August 20, 2006
Ministry in Ephesus, Part 1
Acts 18:23 – 19:20
In our last study of Acts we left Paul in Antioch after the completion of his second missionary journey. This would have been about 52 A.D. Turn to Acts 18:23 where we pick up his story again as the Third Missionary Journey begins.
Ministry in Galatia & Phrygia (18:23)
23 And having spent some time [there,] he departed and passed successively through the Galatian region and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.
Paul remains in Antioch for an undetermined amount of time. As he had done following his first missionary journey he would have reported to them the various experience he had in seeing God work in these new places (Acts 14:27). The first missionary journey had opened up the interior of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) to the gospel for Jew and Gentile alike. The second missionary journey opened up Macedonia and Greece to the gospel. We can also safely assume that Paul continued to teach and strengthen the disciples there in Antioch.
Eventually Paul wants to go through these areas again to see how the disciples are doing and strengthen them in their faith. So it is that his third missionary journey began. He followed the same path as at the start of his second missionary journey traveling through the regions of Galatia and Phrygia. Then instead of heading northwest toward Mysia, the Lord permitted him to head west to Ephesus.
Ministry in Ephesus (18:24-19:41)
Luke gives us some detail in Acts 18:24-28 on what had been happening in Ephesus during this time. Recall from our last study that Paul had gone to Ephesus, but only preached in the synagogue there once before leaving for Jerusalem and then on to Antioch. Though Paul did not stay, he did leave Aquila and Priscilla in that city. They would lay a foundation for the gospel there.
The Ministry of Apollos (18:24-28)
Mighty in Scriptures (24-26a)
24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue.
Apollos is originally from the city of Alexandria which is located on the north coast of Egypt. It had a large number of Jews there and was known during ancient times as a city of great learning. It boasted the largest library of the ancient world. It was there that a body of seventy devout Jews translated the Hebrews scriptures into Greek – the Septuagint. It is obvious from Apollos’ ability to speak out boldly that he is well educated in both the Scriptures and in public discourse. He is also marked as a man that was fervent in spirit. He is the type of man that any church would like to have ministering in their midst. Though Apollos was powerfully teaching what he knew about Jesus, all he was familiar with was the teachings of John the Baptist.
It would not have been long before Priscilla and Aquila would have heard about him and met him. The question then would have been what should they do with him? A similar question still arises in ministry when you are trying to deal with people. What do you do with people who are obviously zealous for the Lord and have great abilities, but they also show that they are ignorant? Priscilla and Aquila set a pattern to follow in such situations.
Was Taught More Accurately (26b)
But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
After Priscilla and Aquila hear Apollos they meet with him privately and instruct him beyond the teachings of John. They did not correct him in public because he was not teaching anything that was blasphemous. That would have demanded a public rebuke. They also avoided correcting him in public because they would not have wanted to undermine his future ministry. Apollos would not have been saying anything that was not true, for John did teach the truth about being prepared for the coming of the Messiah. If they had openly corrected Apollos it would have given the impression to the Jews that he was an ignorant man not worth listening to. By taking him aside and teaching him privately they helped Apollos to become even more effective in ministry.
While blasphemy and serious doctrinal error may need to be rebuked publically, a person that is innocently ignorant should be dealt with by private instruction that they may become more effective in ministry. I say “innocently ignorant” because there are those that purposefully do not want to know the truth and are not teachable. The willfully ignorant and unteachable will need to be publically corrected. Apollos was teachable and became a mighty preacher of the gospel in Ephesus and other cities verses 27 & 28 tell us.
Went to Achaia (27,28)
27 And when he wanted to go across to Achaia, the brethren encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him; and when he had arrived, he helped greatly those who had believed through grace; 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
We are not told how long Apollos stayed in Ephesus, but eventually he wanted to go across the Agean sea to Achaia (southern Greece). Because of his good ministry among them, the brethren in Ephesus encourage him in this desire. When Apollos arrives he proves to be a great help to the believers there and also in powerfully refuting the Jews in public by showing by the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah / Christ.
What a wonderful phrase is used in verse 27 to describe the church community there, “those who had believed through grace.” Salvation is from God’s grace. It is an undeserved gift received. You become a child of God through Jesus Christ by the will of God and not by the will of the flesh, the will of man or blood ancestry (John 1:12,13). That is why all praise is due to Him.
Note here as well the long term effect of the ministry of Aquila and Priscilla. We know that they hosted a church in their home (1 Cor. 16:19) and that they eventually returned to Rome (Rom. 16:3), but they are never noted as being public speakers or those that are out front in ministry. They appear to be people who serve in the background and train and support others, like Apollos, who do the public speaking. They serve as an example and important reminder that every ministry in the church, including those that are behind the scenes, are important. They key human factor that enabled Apollos to become a powerful preacher was the discipleship he received from Aquila and Priscilla.
This passage also solves the question of how a woman can bring doctrinal understanding and correction to a group of ignorant people without violating her God given position and role. She is to find a man that is teachable that has ability and instruct him privately so that he can then do the public teaching. There is no good justification for a woman taking on the role of being a public Bible teacher of men or mixed groups. A woman that insists on doing that is proud and outside the stated will of God (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3-16; 1 Tim. 2:9-15)
The Ministry of Paul (19:1-41)
In chapter 19 we pick up the story of Paul again as he travels from the east and finally arrives in Ephesus.
To The Disciples of John (1-7)
Discovering Their Beliefs (1-3)
Acts 19:1a “And it came about that while Apollos was at Corinth,” Luke tells us that the specific location in Achaia that Apollos is ministering is Corinth. We talked about that city a couple of weeks ago when we studied Paul’s ministry there in the first part of Acts 18.
1b Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found some disciples, 2 and he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they [said] to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”
Paul now comes into Ephesus from the east and meets disciples of John the Baptist. Perhaps Apollos had been part of this group or these were some that Apollos had taught prior to hearing the rest of the story of Jesus from Aquilla and Priscilla. For whatever reason they are still unaware of the rest of the gospel message. They had limited knowledge about Jesus and what He had done. They had no knowledge that the Holy Spirit had now come and had a new ministry among men. They were unaware of the birth of the church. [Textual note: they are not saying they did not know there was a Holy Spirit, but that they did not know He had come].
Declaring Jesus (4,5)
Paul now gives them further explanation of the gospel.
4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 And when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
When these disciples understood the rest of the story they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is the only specific statement of those baptized by John also being Baptized in the name of Jesus, but it was probably the normal practice. We can safely assume that some of the devout Jews that were baptized on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) had been previously baptized into John’s baptism of repentance.
This answers a question that is often brought up by those who were baptized prior to coming to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Should they be baptized again? They answer is yes. Any baptism that occurs prior to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is simply a religious ritual, and regardless of any meaning that is claimed, it does not meet the commandment of Jesus that his followers identify themselves with His death, burial and resurrection through personal water baptism (Mt. 28:29 cf Rom. 6). These disciples of John did not hesitate to get baptized again as soon as they heard the truth. Likewise, there is no reason for anyone to hesitate to obey this command once they have heard it. (Since has now been declared to you, if you have not been baptized since your personal profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, then you need to be. Don’t put it off any longer for disobedience in one area of your spiritual life will always lead to additional disobedience in other areas of your life).
Imparting the Holy Spirit (6,7)
Verses 6 & 7 tell us what happened next.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they [began] speaking with tongues and prophesying. 7 And there were in all about twelve men.
Paul lays hands on them and the Holy Spirit comes upon them resulting in them speaking in tongues and prophesying. This is another transition in the book of Acts. Those that would have been considered Old Testament saints now also make the transition to be included in the New Covenant. The previous transitions were the extensions of the church outward both geographically and in distance from Judaism. The Samaritans were physically located next to Judea and also shared many of the same religious ideas and rituals. The Gentiles were far from Judea physically and were estranged from the God of Israel.
We have covered this before but it bears repeating that while “speaking in tongues” could be evidence of the “baptism” by the Spirit or the “filling” of the Holy Spirit, it is not “the” evidence of either. There are many other ways in which the Holy Spirit manifested Himself throughout Acts and the New Testament. A Christian is baptized by the Holy Spirit only once and that is when they are saved (1 Cor. 12:13). Believers are commanded to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18) which occurs many times. To be filled with the Spirit is to submit to the Spirit and be controlled by Him. Throughout Acts the most common manifestation of being filled with the Spirit is being bold in proclaiming and living out the gospel. 1 Cor. 12:4-11 specifically lists out nine different gifts that are manifestations of the Spirit and then lists four more in verse 28 while stating in verse 30 that all do not speak with tongues. Those that claim that all Christians should speak in tongues and / or that doing that is the proof of baptism by the Holy Spirit are woefully ignorant of what the Scriptures say about the subject.
Notice in this passage that the Holy Spirit came after they were baptized and Paul laid hands on them. We have previously seen in Acts 8 that the Holy Spirit came after the Samaritans believed and were baptized and Peter & John laid hands on them. However, Acts 10 records that Cornelius and the gentiles who were with him received the Holy Spirit while Peter was still preaching. They were baptized after that. In Acts 9 we find that Saul also received the Holy Spirit before he was baptized. As Jesus said in John 3:8, the Holy Spirit comes when He wishes. There is no formula or ritual that controls Him – not baptism, not laying on of hands or anything else. Remember from Acts 8 that this was a lesson that Simon the Magician learned the hard way.
In the Synagogues (8-9)
After ministering to these disciples of John, Paul continued into Ephesus and began his normal course of ministry.
8 And he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading [them] about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.
Remember from Acts 18:20 that the Jews had asked Paul on his first trip to Ephesus to stay longer and speak to them. Paul now spends 3 months speaking in the synagogue seeking to explain to them the kingdom of God. The Ephesian Jews behaved better than those of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium and Thessalonica in that they listed to Paul for so long, but eventually they also rejected his message. Like Pharaoh of old, they became hardened against the truth and then became disobedient to God’s commands which resulted in them publically speaking evil of the gospel. Luke uses the phrase “the Way” to describe the gospel here. That is a good designation because the gospel is “the way of the Lord” for Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.”
Paul now repeats the pattern he has followed in so many other places. He has given the Jews the first opportunity, but since they have rejected it, he turns to focus his attention on the Gentiles. He does this by no longer going to the Synagogue, but by going instead to the school of Tyrannus. We are to be patient with people in telling them the gospel, but neither are we to beat our heads against a wall with those who are stubborn. If they reject the message, we are to move on and concentrate on other people.
This was a private school with a lecture hall. The name of the school comes from either the owner or the main teacher. Some Greek manuscripts add that Paul taught there “from the fifth to the tenth hour” (11 A.M. to 4 P.M.). This would be the period of time when most people in the ancient world would have had their noon meal and then rested before going back to work in the evening when it was cooler. This also meant that this is when most people would be available to come hear Paul teach.
Christians still follow the same principal of trying to offer teaching when most people would be available. In our own culture, since most people work during the day, this means we put a priority on weekend and evening Bible studies. Other studies are then added for those whose work or responsibilities would keep them away on evening or weekends.
In the School of Tyrannus for Two Years (10)
Verse 10 adds, “And this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” Acts 20:31 tells us that Paul’s total ministry time in Ephesus was 3 years and for two of those years he taught used the school of Tyrannus as his major center for teaching. His ministry was effective for this verse tells us that the result was that both Jews and Greeks throughout Asia heard the word of the Lord. The reference to Asia here is the province that makes up the western part of modern Turkey.
This shows once again that the church is not a building, but the people that follow the Lord. Facilities are a means to an end and not the end itself. While there are some missionaries and church planters that seem to have the idea that if they build it, then people will come, that idea is never seen in the Scriptures. We find in the Bible that churches, that is the people of God in a local area, met in all sorts of places including Synagogues, houses, meeting halls, public buildings and outdoors. That does not mean it is wrong for a church to own buildings, but is a reminder that people, not buildings are what is important. Churches purchase property and build facilities for their own convenience in meeting together and carrying out various ministries. Buildings are a means to the end of fulfilling the Biblical commands to meet together to encourage one another in love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24,25) and build up the body of Christ to maturity (Eph. 4:12-16).
Through Miracles (11-20)
Miracles by Hands of Paul (11-12)
Verses 11 & 12 tells us that Paul’s ministry was not limited to just teaching. “11 And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.”
There were many miracles performed by Paul in Ephesus. These added weight to the things he was teaching. They also attracted the attention of those that wanted to do the same things, but did not have the power of God to do so. An example of this is given in verses 13-17.
Jewish Exorcists Overpowered (13-16)
13 But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 And seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
This is quite a contrast between the power of God as seen by miracles done through Paul and failure of the religious rituals done by the Jewish exorcists to achieve the same thing. They even attempted to cast out the demons by using Jesus’ name as an incantation. An incantation is using words as if they have magical powers in themselves. That is a common practice of not only the occult and cults but also misguided and ignorant Christians. The incantations of these seven Jewish exorcists do not work resulting in the demon in the man enabling him to attack and defeat all seven. They are beat up and flee without their clothes. Next week I will expand on this story and the true nature of spiritual warfare. You should know what demons can and cannot do and how God wants you to deal with them. The emphasis this morning though is on the result.
17 And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 18 Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19 And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and [began] burning them in the sight of all; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
As can be imagined, the story of what happened quickly spread resulting in a clear understanding that this Jesus that Paul was proclaiming was not only very powerful, but could not be manipulated. That would be a cause of fear for the pagan Gentiles since this meant there was now another God they would have to deal with. It would be a cause of fear for the Jews because they had rejected Paul’s message that Jesus was the Messiah, yet here was evidence that this Jesus was not someone they should offend. Verses 18-20 recounts the results among those that did believe.
The story caused those who professed faith to be more serious about it. Many of them up to that point had kept one foot in their old ways including keeping their books that explained how to tap into magical powers, i.e. the demonic powers of their paganism. When they see the obvious difference between the power of God as demonstrated by Paul and the failure of the efforts of rituals of magic, the repent and there is a radical change. Those who had been involved in demonic practices brought their books which contained their formulas and secret rites and burned them. The value of them, listed here as 50,000 pieces of silver would be tremendous. The average worker earned one silver coin per day, so the value of these books was 50,000 days of labor.
The power of God is far greater than anything man or demons can produce. But the power of God cannot be bought nor can it be manipulated in any manner for it is not an entity in itself. The power of God is ability of God to accomplish His will through any means He desires. The amazing thing is that God desires to work through those who humble themselves before Him. He turns sinners into saints and then works through them to accomplish things far beyond their abilities with results that are eternal in nature, not just temporal. If you want to see the power of God working through you, then start by being humble, then learn to obey Him by trusting Him to accomplish what He wants through you.
Next week I will expand on this subject and how the power of God enables us to overcome our adversaries including the supernatural ones.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Keep count of how many different times “Ephesus” is mentioned. 2) Talk with your parents about the power of God in you life and their lives.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What would Paul have done while he was in Antioch? Who is Apollos? What were his strengths? Weaknesses? How do you deal with someone who is gifted & sincere but ignorant? Who were Aquila and Priscilla? Where did they come from? What do we learn from their example in Acts 18:26? How can a woman correct ignorance or doctrinal error and still maintain her Biblical role? What happened to Apollos? What do we learn from Paul’s ministry to the disciples of John? What did their speaking in tongues signify? When is a person baptized by the Holy Spirit? Is speaking in tongues the manifestation of this – Why or why not? What is the filling of the spirit? How did the Holy Spirit manifest Himself in people throughout Acts? How did the Jews respond to Paul’s message? How were they alike / different from Jews in other cities Paul had visited? Why did Paul start teaching in the School of Tyrannus? What was it? What was the effect of his ministry there? What kind of miracles did God perform through Paul in Ephesus? What happened to the Jewish exorcists? Why did they fail? How did the people respond? How did the believers respond? Do you still have books from your pervious religion / philosophy? Why? What should you do with them?
Sermon Notes – August 20, 2006
Ministry in Ephesus – Acts 18:23-19:20
Ministry in Galatia & Phrygia (18:23)
Ministry in Ephesus (18:24-19:41
The Ministry of Apollos (18:24-28)
Mighty in Scripture (24-26a)
Was Taught More Accurately (26b)
Went to Achaia (27,28)
The Ministry of Paul (19:1-41)
Working with the Disciples of John (1-7)
Discovering their Beliefs (1-3)
Declaring Jesus (4,5)
Imparting the Holy Spirit (6,7)
Preaching in the Synagogue (8-9)
Teaching in the School of Tyrannus (10)
Performing Miracles (11-12)
Contrasted with Jewish Exorcists (13-16)
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