Paul is in Ephesus and prays for twelve disciples who need the fullness of the Spirit, seven Jewish exorcists get pummeled, a demonstration erupts because of the goddess Artemis and Paul’s monotheism and the gospel. The fifth “panel” is in this chapter. Also see the ministry timeline set in a convenient table.
As I write in every introduction:
The translation and commentary are mine, just so I can learn. I also offer quick word studies. If you would like to see the verses in many translations, please go to biblegateway.com. And if you would like to study Greek with a short lexicon, go to biblehub.com, and click on the interlinear tab.
At the end of each passage and this post, I offer observations for discipleship. How can we apply these truths to our lives?
Links are provided for further study.
Paul and the Twelve Disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19:1-12)
1 And so it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul traveled through the upper regions and came to Ephesus and found certain disciples. 2 He said to them, “Have you received the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They replied to him, “We have not at all heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 Then Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul put his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, they began to speak in Spirit-inspired languages and to prophesy. 7 They were about twelve men in total.
This is Pentecost for John the Baptist’s followers in Acts 19:1-7; the Jerusalem / Judean Pentecost was in Acts 2:1-4; the Samaritan Pentecost happened in Acts 8:14-17; Paul’s Personal Pentecost was in Acts 9:17; The Gentile Pentecost happened in Acts 10:44-48. The Pentecost that launched the others was in Jerusalem / Judea.
As promised, here is Paul’s ministry timeline table:
|Winter 51-52||Paul in Antioch||Acts 18:22|
|Apollos in Ephesus||Acts 18:23-25|
|Spring / Summer 52||Paul in Galatia and Phrygia||Acts 18:22; 19:1; cf. 1 Cor 16:1|
|Apollos in Corinth||Acts 18:27; 19:1; 1 Cor 3:6|
|Late Summer 52||Paul arrives in Ephesus||Acts 19:1|
|Three-month ministry in synagogue||Acts 19:8|
|Conversion [my term: infilling] of disciples of John the Baptist||Acts 19:1-7|
|Teaching in hall of Tyrannus for two years||Acts 19:9-10|
|Winter 52-53||Consolidation and growth of the church in Ephesus||Acts 19:20|
|Mission to other cities in the province of Asia||Acts 19:10|
|Spring 53||Epaphras establishes churches in Colossae, Hierapolis, Laodicea||Col. 1:7; 4:12|
|Summer 53||Apollos from Corinth to Ephesus||1 Cor 16:12|
|Paul writes “Previous Letter” to Corinth||1 Cor 5:9|
|Spring 54||Chloe’s people from Corinth to Ephesus||1 Cor 1:11|
|Timothy from Ephesus to Corinth||1 Cor 4:17|
|Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus from Corinth to Ephesus with letter||1 Cor 16:17; 7:1|
|Paul writes 1 Corinthians, plans to stay in Ephesus||1 Cor 16:8
|Until Pentecost (2 June), then goes to Macedonia and Corinth and Jerusalem||1 Cor 16:3, 5-6; Acts 19:21|
|Early Summer 54||Timothy returns from Corinth to Ephesus, Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia||Acts 19:22|
|Summer 54||Paul’s second visit to Corinth, returns to Ephesus||2 Cor 13:2|
|Titus to Corinth with “Severe Letter”||2 Cor 2:4, 13|
|Riot in Ephesus caused by the guild of the silversmiths||Acts 19:23-41|
|Paul suffers afflictions in the Province of Asia||2 Cor 1:8|
|Spring 55||Paul to Troas||2 Cor 2:12|
|Paul to Macedonia||Acts 20:1; 2 Cor 2:13|
|Schnabel, pp. 793-93|
In 18:21, Paul said to the Ephesians that he would return to them, God willing. It looks like God’s plan for Paul led him to go back to Ephesus. Surrender your plans to him. Let him guide you. He knows best.
“disciples”: they are believers in and followers of Jesus. Whenever “disciples” is mentioned in Acts, it refers to Christians. But these particular ones did not enjoy all the benefits that Jesus offers to them (and us).
The noun is mathētēs (singular and pronounced mah-they-tayss), and it is used 261 times in the NT, though many of them are duplicates in the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. BDAG says of the noun (1) “one who engages in learning through instruction from another, pupil, apprentice”; (2) “one who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or a particular set of views, disciple, adherent.”
“upper regions”: he traveled through southern Galatia, where he had been in his first and second missionary journeys. He won many converts and turned them into disciples.
“received the Holy Spirit”: You cannot be a believing disciple of Jesus without the Spirit drawing and living in you. However, their baptism was incomplete and even obsolete. These disciples had not yet received the fullness and empowerment of the Spirit, but only enough of the Spirit to be disciples, even when they were not aware of the details and what was happening in their hearts. As we shall see in 6, the fullness and empowerment included prayer languages and prophecy.
“believed”: The verb is pisteuō (pronounced pea-stew-oh), and it is used 241 times. It means to “believe, be convinced of something.” In a more specific definition it goes in a direction: “to have faith in Christ or God” (Mounce p. 61). Believing (verb) and faith (noun) is very important to God. It is the language of heaven. We live on earth and by faith see the invisible world where God is. We must believe he exists; then we must exercise our faith to believe he loves us and intends to save us. We must have saving faith by trusting in Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
Forsaking All, I Trust Him.
Here it is connected to “saved.”
Let’s discuss the verb believe and the noun faith more deeply. It is the language of the kingdom of God. It is how God expects us to relate to him. It is the opposite of doubt, which is manifested in whining and complaining and fear. Instead, faith is, first, a gift that God has distributed to everyone (Rom. 12:3). Second, it is directional (Rom. 10:9-11; Acts 20:21). We cannot rightly have faith in faith. It must be faith in God through Christ. Third, faith in Christ is different from faith in one’s ability to follow God on one’s own. It is different from keeping hundreds of religious laws and rules. This is one of Luke’s main themes in Acts, culminating in the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and Paul’s ministry for the rest of Acts. Faith in Jesus over faith in law keeping. Fourth, there is faith as a set of beliefs and doctrines, which are built on Scripture (Acts 6:7). Fifth, there is also a surge of faith that is poured out and transmitted through the Spirit when people need it most (1 Cor. 12:9). It is one of the nine charismata or manifestations of grace (1 Cor 12:7-11). Sixth, one can build faith and starve doubt by feasting on Scripture and the words about Christ (Rom. 10:17).
“John’s baptism”: “baptism” is immersion. John could have been called “John the Immerser” or “John the Dipper.” In Acts 18:24-28, Apollos was in Ephesus and taught people only about the baptism of John. Then Priscilla and Aquila updated his knowledge of being baptized in Jesus’s name and the fulness of the Spirit. It is likely these Ephesian disciples were taught by Apollos and also needed to be updated. So is it then probable that Apollos was filled with the Spirit, as these Ephesian disciples were?
John served his generation, but anyone least in the kingdom of God is greater than he (Matt. 11:11). In other words, John’s mission was to announce the coming one (Jesus) and his kingdom, but now a new era has dawned. People who enter into God’s kingdom are ipso facto greater than John and his message.
And these deficient disciples would have heard of the Holy Spirit if they were paying attention: “John replied, saying to all of them, ‘I baptize you with water. But someone more powerful than I is coming, whose sandal straps I am not big enough to loosen! He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire!’” (Luke 3:16).
John the Baptist’s ministry of baptism to repentance was incomplete; now these disciples had to baptized in the name of Jesus, which goes farther and deeper than repentance. Repentance is the beginning of the lifelong journey. Now these incomplete disciples had to be empowered with the fullness of the Spirit, with evidence of manifested speaking gifts—prophecy and “Spirit-inspired languages.”
So where did these disciples get baptized? In Judea and the River Jordan to the East by John? If so, then they were baptized twenty-five years earlier. It is more likely that John’s disciples were still baptizing, and they may have gone farther north (Bruce, comment on v. 3). If so, then maybe his disciples did not preach about the Holy Spirit.
“people”: this was the Jewish people, and no doubt these twelve disciples were Messianic Jews.
“believe” see v. 2 for more comments.
“the name of the Lord Jesus”: “name”: this noun stands in for the person—a living, real person. You carry your father’s name. If he is dysfunctional, his name is a disadvantage. If he is functional and impacting society for the better, then his name is an advantage. In Jesus’s case, he has the highest status in the universe, under the Father (Col. 1:15-20). He is exalted above every principality and power (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). His character is perfection itself. His authority and power are absolute, under the Father. In his name you are seated in the heavenly places with Christ (Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1). Now down here on earth you walk and live as an ambassador in his name, in his stead, for he is no longer living on earth, so you have to represent him down here. We are his ambassadors who stand in for his name (2 Cor. 5:20). The good news is that he did not leave you without power and authority. He gave you his. Now you represent him in his name—his person, power and authority. Therefore under his authority we have his full authority to preach the gospel and set people free from bondages and satanic spirits and heal them of diseases.
Let’s look at being baptized in Jesus’s name (only).
Some Pentecostals claim this verse to believe in Jesus alone, and the Father and Spirit are some sort of manifestation of him. So they should be baptized only in Jesus’s name. Error.
Verse 5 teaches us that Ephesian disciples had been baptized by John presumably in the name of Elohim or the Name or the God of Judaism. Paul saw this as incomplete. There was a new Savior, the Messiah, and his name is Jesus. These disciples had to be baptized “in name of the Lord Jesus.”
Consider Acts 2:38 and Peter’s first time preaching. He is simply highlighting Jesus’s vindication in the face of his Jewish persecutors. It’s irony. You put him to death in your ignorance, when you thought you were doing God a favor. Well, God raised him from the dead. Now be baptized in his name!
People washed in public baths. No doubt the new converts were baptized there, immediately. They were baptizing extra-devout Jews, many of whom were pilgrims. They already knew about Elohim and YHWH (whom they reverently called the Name). Would Peter have said, “Be baptized in the name of Elohim!”? Or baptized in the Name!”? They already knew that. Instead, Peter preached boldly the name of Jesus, the “new sheriff” in town, the new path of salvation. Other baptisms in the name of the God of Israel, as they understood the term, were inadequate.
Let’s look at other situations in which people were baptized in the name of Jesus.
Acts 8:12-16 says that the Samaritans believed Philip’s preaching the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus, and they were baptized simply (or only) “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” The reason for their being baptized in this name only? They too were in the confines of Israel, and they already knew about Elohim or YHWH (or the Name, as they reverently substituted it for the divine name). Philip was emboldened to proclaim the name of Jesus, the new Savior, the new and fuller revelation about God and the way of salvation. They were to be baptized in his name, and not merely the name of Elohim or the Name. Then they were immersed or baptized in the Spirit.
Acts 10:48 says that Peter ordered God-fearing Gentile Cornelius and his household to be baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Peter says nothing about Elohim or the Name. Cornelius already knew about his God. Instead, Peter had to drive home the point that Jesus was the only and new way of salvation.
Here are passages in which people were baptized, but not mentioning any name, but they probably were baptized in the name of Jesus.
Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:38)
Saul (Acts 9:18)
Lydia and her household and friends (Acts 16:15)
Philippian jailer and his household (Acts 16:33)
Crispus the synagogue leader, his household, and many Corinthians (Acts 18:8).
So what is the point? We must not make a massive doctrine out of being baptized in the name of Jesus only. These people were not going to be baptized in the name of Elohim or the Name (YHWH). Jesus was the newest, the only and fullest Savior. Salvation was through him alone. The “Jesus only” believers are shortsighted because they fail to understand the cultural and religious contexts.
“baptized”: let’s discuss this important element in salvation further. Faith and trust were sparked in their hearts. And then they were water baptized. Conversion first. Water baptism second. Water does not save, but Jesus does. Salvation goes beyond initial justification or initially being declared righteous. It involves one’s whole life. And being water-baptized for the washing away of sins means that water symbolically washes away one’s sins.
“hands”: Renewalists believe that the power of God can be transmitted through the hands. Never discount this simple act (Mark 5:30).
“came upon”: there is nothing complicated about this verb and preposition. The Spirit came upon them from the outside to empower them with manifested gifts, as the Spirit penetrated their spirits and souls.
“began to speak”: the Greek verb is in the imperfect tense, which denotes incomplete or “imperfected” action. In other words, Paul saw them speaking over a period of time.
“Spirit-inspired languages”: it is an expanded translation, because the Greek noun is glōssa, which means both “language” and the physical organ in the mouth called a “tongue.” The meaning of both “language” and “tongue” existed in Elizabethan and Jacobean English, but in modern English, we normally do not call a “language” a “tongue.” So I translated it in a modern way, just so we can be clear.
In this context, four questions are inevitably raised. For them (and a fifth one) and the possible answers, please click on:
For now, here are only the questions:
First, is receiving the Holy Spirit a necessary ingredient for salvation?
Second, is a Spirit-inspired language a necessary condition for salvation?
Third, are you saying those who have been born again are not baptized and immersed in the Spirit and are therefore second-class Christians?
Fourth, is the Spirit-inspired language the necessary sign of the baptism-immersion in the Spirit?
“prophesy”: It is not clear what kind of prophecy was spoken here, but here is the three-dimensional function of prophecy, according to 1 Cor 14:3:
Edify, exhort, and comfort (KJV)
Edification, exhortation, and comfort (NKJV)
Strengthen, encourage, and comfort (NIV)
Strengthening, encouragement, and consolation (NET)
Edification, exhortation, and consolation (NASB)
Grow in the Lord, encouraging, and comforting (NLT)
Strength, encouragement, and comfort (NCV)
Helped, encouraged, and made to feel better (CEV)
Upbuilding, encouragement, and consolation (ESV)
Grow, be strong, and experience his presence with you (MSG)
However, let no one shrink and restrict the prophets’ ministry to just preaching a sermon, however good that may be. 1 Cor. 14:24-25 says that prophecy lays bare the secrets of hearts, so that people fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is with you!” Ordinary preaching, however anointed, does not exactly produce that reaction, normally. However, once you see prophets in action, as they lay bare the secrets, it is stunning. They “read your mail,” even though they never met you. Here is one example pulled from thin air. Imagine that your mother is in the hospital, and you need to gather the church to pray for her, but you have not yet asked for prayer. The prophet picks you out of a large audience and says, “I see … a woman … your mother … her name is Jane … she’s in the hospital… you must call the church to pray for her. Do it now!” He did not know by normal communication about your mother, for you told no one. That’s why he told you to gather the church to pray. That’s just one mild, typical example, which I have seen many times and have received from prophets occasionally.
Yes, Renewalists believe that prophecy is for today.
For systematic theology:
“twelve”: We should not make a big thing about the number twelve in this verse, but it is an interesting number because in Acts 1 the twelve apostles were established. So maybe we should make a big deal out of this number!
In Acts, Luke links receiving prayer languages with being filled with the Spirit in three explicit paradigmatic or exemplary instances, and one clearly implied paradigmatic and exemplary instance.
See this link:
Here in Ephesus, twelve disciples believed in the Messiah, but knew only the baptism of John (19:1-7). And, as expected, it is important to understand the same biblical truths. First, the twelve men were called “disciples,” and in every instance in Acts this refers to believers in the Messiah Jesus. And Paul even called them believers (Acts 19:2). Second, they received the fullness of the Spirit and spoke in their prayer languages. Third, therefore salvation and the infilling of the Spirit are two distinct acts of God.
These cases are paradigmatic and exemplary because they illustrate that converts to the Jesus Movement or the Way had also to be filled with power and fire and this speaking gift.
However, Paul’s experience proves that Luke does not have to explicitly link the fullness of the Spirit and prayer languages every single time. Paul received the fulness of the Spirit, but his prayer language is not mentioned at that time (Acts 9:17-18). But we know that he used this gift very often (1 Cor. 14:18).
Luke expects us to fill his omissions with the power of the Spirit because the entire sweep or context of his book is charismatic. It is similar to his omitting water baptism in key places. Often he does say that new converts got baptized: Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 35-38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:14-15, 31-33; 18:8; 19:5), Yet in other cases water baptism is not brought up for new converts: Acts 9:42; 11:21; 13:12, 48; 14:1; 17:12, 34. It may seem surprising, but during Paul’s and Barnabas’s first missionary journey, but Luke does not record even one water baptism, even he records many conversions, but we can be sure that water baptisms took place because this was standard practice. Luke asks us to fill in the gaps. This is why I have nicknamed him Luke “the Omitter” or “the Condenser.”
Keener: “That about twelve receive the Spirit (19:7) might recall the original Twelve in Jerusalem, showing geographic and temporal continuity in the work of the Spirit. God’s people in every place need the Spirit for mission (1:8; 2:39); deficiency in this empowerment requires correction (8:15-16; 19:2-6)” (p. 479).
However, Polhill warns against any symbolism with the number twelve (comment on v. 7).
You can do as you please with the number.
GrowApp for Acts 19:1-7
A.. In Acts 18:21, Paul said he would return to Ephesus, God willing. It looks like God willed for him to return. How about your plans? Have you surrendered them to God? Do you trust that he will get you to his goal?
B.. Twelve disciples were filled with the Spirit. How have you been filled with the Spirit, during your discipleship with Jesus?
Paul Proclaims the Kingdom of God (Acts 19:8-12)
8 He went into the synagogue and boldly proclaimed, dialoguing persuasively about the kingdom of God for three months. 9 When certain ones were hardened and disbelieved and spoke abusively about the Way in front of the people, he left them and took away the disciples, and each day dialogued in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This happened for two years, so that everyone living in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
11 God did no ordinary miracles through Paul’s hands, 12 so that when facecloths or the aprons were carried away from his body upon the sick, their diseases left, and evil spirits went out.
Paul went to the synagogue first (see Rom. 1:16) and spoke for three months. The synagogue attendees were open to this message.
“boldly proclaiming”: This clause comes from one Greek verb parrēsiazomai (pronounced pah-rray-see-ah-zoh-my), and it combines boldness and speech. No doubt he told them that law keeping was no longer important, but faith in Jesus is what matters.
Please, please, don’t shrink away when you encounter opposition. Jesus was bold when the Pharisees and teachers of the law challenged him. He answered their questions and challenged them right back (Mark 2:6; 2:16; 7:1-5; 8:31; 9:14; 10:33; 11:18, 27-28; 14:1, etc.). People over-interpret his silence before his accusers during his trial (Matt. 27:12-14; Mark 14:60-61; 15:4-5; John 19:8-9). These interpreters don’t take into account that he was destined to give up his life, although he could have asked the Father for twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53).
If you find yourself timid before opposition, you can pray every day for the inner strength and anointing and power to stand and not to flag or fold during satanic and broken human attacks. I pray this almost every day, and it works! It’s okay to answer back in the anointing of the Spirit.
You know the Spirit is flowing through you when you have boldness. God has not given you a spirit of fear or timidity (2 Tim. 1:7).
“dialoguing”: it is the verb dialegomai (pronounced dee-ah-leh-goh-my), and it means how I translated it. NAS translates it as “reasoning.” Perfect. Please feel free to discuss Scripture with people and dialogue with those who may not know it or have a deficient understanding of it.
“persuading”: it comes verb peithō (pronounced pay-thoh), and it means Paul was winning converts, as we see in the next verse.
“kingdom of God”: Jesus preached this phrase all the time. What does it mean? Jesus spoke often about the kingdom of God. He ushered it in, and at the birth of the church in Acts 2 it is now about to expand beyond Israel. It is for everyone who receives him into their hearts and becomes his followers. When that happens, they enter into his light; receive clarity; enjoy an intimate relationship with the Father through Christ and the Spirit; live a consecrated life through his resurrection power and in the Spirit and by his power. And so the kingdom makes all the difference in the world—by creating a new world, a new kingdom, he creates a new you, a new life.
1 Introducing the Kingdom of God (begin a ten-part series)
Paul spent about two years preaching the kingdom, so that everyone heard about it. Please don’t believe that early apostolic community skipped over this important teaching. They did not. Luke simply has a different focus in his overall narrative. Also, Bruce notes that Luke emphasized the death and resurrection of Jesus as two aspects of the kingdom (comment on v. 8). True, and the kingdom of God will challenge pagan religions and Satan, too, as we are about to learn, in the next two major sections.
“hardened”: it comes from the verb sklērunō (pronounced sklay-roo-noh), and it can be translated as “stubborn” or “obstinate.”
“Way”: it comes from the noun hodos (pronounced hoh-dohss). It means the “path” or “road.” In Greece today, it is the standard word for street (and road), and you will see street signs with “od.” or St. with the name of the street. John the Baptist, through the OT prophet Malachi, launched the idea: “Prepare the way (hodos) of the Lord!” (Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23). Jesus said the road (hodos) to life is narrow (Matt. 7:14). And Jesus said he is the way (hodos), the truth, and the life (John 14:16). He is the road way to God.
“disciples”: these are converts Paul won for the Messiah. See v. 1 for a closer look.
“dialogued”: it is dialegomai again, and see v. 8 for a closer look.
Tyrannus (if he was the lecturer) no doubt delivered his lectures early in the morning. At 11:00 a.m. public activity came to a stop in the cities of Ionia (as many others parts of the Mediterranean world), and Lake and Cadbury [two commentators on Acts] are no doubt right in saying that more people would be asleep at 1:00 p.m. [13:00] than at 1:00 a.m. But Paul, after spending the early hours at his tentmaking (cf. 20:34), devoted the burden and heat of the day to his more important and more exhausting business, and must have conveyed something of this own energy and zeal to his hearers, who had followed him from the synagogue to this lecture hall, for they were prepared to forgo their own siesta to listen to Paul. (comment on v. 9)
I chose that long excerpt because I like how it shows Paul being a hard worker, even at his regular employment and then preaching. How about American pastors (or any pastor)?
“everyone in Asia”: this may be hyperbolic (Acts 17:6; 19:27; 24:5), but not by much (or it may not be hyperbolic). When Paul finally arrives in Jerusalem, Jews will accuse of turning Asia and the world upside down (21:27-29; see 24:19) (HT: Peterson, p. 533, note 28 and Keener, p. 472). The gospel did spread widely (Col. 1:23) and in the region (see 1 Cor. 16:19; 1 Pet. 1:1; Rev. 2-3). “From cosmopolitan Ephesus Paul could send out more indigenous local workers to reach the surrounding region (cf. Acts 19:10; Col. 1:7; 4:12-13). Paul’s contacts with other churches continued during this time (1 Cor. 5:9; 16:1, 17-18; 2 Cor. 11:28; 12:14; 13:1)” (Keener, ibid.)
“word”: it is the versatile noun logos (pronounced loh-gohss). It is rich and full of meaning. It always has built into it rationality and reason. It has spawned all sorts of English words that end in –log-, like theology or biology, or have the log– stem in them, like logic.
I have repeated these comments throughout the entire commentary. Though certain Renewalists may not like to hear it, there is a rational side to the Word of God, and a moment’s thought proves it. The words you’re reading right now are placed in meaningful and logical and rational order. The Bible is also written in that way. If it weren’t, then it would be nonsense and confusing, and we couldn’t understand the gibberish. Even your prophecies have to make logical and rational sense on some level. Your Bible studies and Sunday morning sermons have to, also. Paul’s brief speech to the Gentiles, below, also has Bible-based logic and rational argumentation built into it. People need to be ministered to in this way. God gave us minds and brains and expects us to use them. Your preaching cannot always be flashy and shrieky and so outlandishly entertaining that people are not fed in the long term. Movements like that don’t last over the years without the Word. I have observed this from firsthand experience in certain sectors of the Renewal Movement.
People have the deepest need to receive solid teaching. Never become so outlandishly supernatural and entertaining that you neglect the reasonable and rational side of preaching the gospel and teaching the Bible. Yes, the book of Acts is very charismatic, but it is also very orderly and rational and logical.
On the other side of the word word, people get so intellectual that they build up an exclusive Christian caste of intelligentsia that believe they alone can teach and understand the Word. Not true. Just study Scripture with Bible helps and walk in the Spirit, as they did in Acts. Combining Word and Spirit is the balanced life.
“no ordinary”: The phrasing is known as a litotes (pronounced lih-toh-tees), or an understatement that expresses the affirmative by a negative! Luke likes litotes: Acts 12:18; 14:17, 28; 15:2; 17:4, 12, 27; 19:11, 23; 20:12; 21:39; 26:19; 27:20; 28:2.
Here it means “extraordinary” miracles, which are described in the next verse. Though the verse does not say “signs and wonders,” this is what is meant here. The Greek noun dunamis (pronounced doo-nah-mees) is used here. Signs and wonders happening right before one’s eyes is awe-inspiring. It inspired everyone, not just believers. Renewalists believe they still happen today.
For a nearly complete list of miracles, signs and wonders in the New Testament and a theology of them, see the post:
“hands”: Renewalists believe that God’s power can be transmitted through the hands. See v. 5 for a closer look.
Magical spells try to manipulate God, but miracles done in the name of Jesus are accomplished by God through the power of the Spirit. A human like Paul is just a vessel.
“facecloths”: it is usually translated as “handkerchiefs,” but I like this option. They were sweat rags which were used to wipe a worker’s face.
“aprons”: Paul used this in his work as a leather-worker or tentmaker, but clearly so did other workers in Ephesus, like himself.
“diseases”: it is the noun nosos (pronounced naw-sauce), and BDAG, considered by many to be the authoritative Greek lexicon of the NT, says it means (1) “physical malady, disease, illness”; (2) “moral malady, disease.” In the Greek written long before the NT (and during NT times), it means (1) “sickness, disease, malady” (2) “distress, misery, suffering, sorrow, evil, disease of mind” (Liddell and Scott). Don’t be afraid to pray against diseases of the mind or moral diseases. Pray, and watch God work in your mind or your child’s mind! Here it just means physical diseases.
“carried away from his body”: so people touched Paul with this clothing or cloths and carried them to the sick and demonized, and they were healed and delivered. It is no wonder that the extra-strong believers in the Pentecostal and Renewal Movements do this sort of thing in their own ministries. You can criticize them for their methods, but not for the Scriptural foundation.
“sick”: it is the verb astheneō (pronounced ahss-then-eh-oh), and it means, depending on the context, “be weak, be sick.” The prefix a– is the negation, and the stem sthen– means “strength” or “strong,” so literally it means “unstrong.” NIV translates it in this way, as it appears throughout the NT: sick, weak (most often), lay sick, disabled, feel weak, invalid, sickness, weakened, weakening.
Peterson is right to differentiate between magical powers and God’s miracle-working power:
Paul did not promote himself as a miracle worker, as did Simon Magus (8:9-10) or itinerant Jewish exorcists soon to be mentioned (19:13-15). This was not a manipulative process, designed to capture attention and win disciples. As in 8:9-24 and 13:4-12, Luke distinguishes between Christian miracle-working and the practice of magic in the Greco-Roman world. His purpose is to draw attention to the unique role and status of Peter and Paul in God’s purposes, and to help his readers to differentiate their activity from captivating and misleading alternatives. (Comment on vv. 11-12)
And I believe that Longenecker is right when he notes how God works miracles through items of clothing, which relates to Ephesian culture:
So it need not be thought too strange that just as Paul met his audiences logically and ideologically at a point of common ground in order to lead them on to the good news of salvation in Christ, so at Ephesus he acted in the way here depicted. The virtue, of course, lay not in the materials themselves but in the power of God and the faith of the recipients.
Longenecker continues with his insight:
Luke’s interest throughout this chapter is in emphasizing the supernatural power of the gospel. Therefore he has highlighted these “extraordinary miracles.” Undoubtedly, as well, he included reference to miracles done through Paul’s sweat cloths and work aprons in order to set up a further parallel with the ministries of Jesus and Peter, whose healings took place by touching Jesus’ cloak (Lk. 8:44) and by simply coming under Peter’s shadow. (comment on vv. 11-12).
Be careful of televangelists who turn these unusual miracles into a money-raising gimmick. It seems to be a one-off, to counter all the magical charms of Ephesian culture. If anyone says that he was actually healed by touching a cloth sent by an evangelist, then it was not the cloth or the gimmick, but a reaching out in faith to his loving Father. It is about relationship with him, not an extra-clever ploy.
GrowApp for Acts 19:8-12
A.. Certain opponents were hard of heart and spoke against the Way (of Jesus). Yet here you are, saved and set free. How did your heart soften towards the Lord Jesus? Tell your story.
B.. God worked extraordinary miracles through Paul’s hands and items of clothing. Has God worked miracles in your life, if not by those means then in other ways? Tell your story.
C.. Paul was relentless in boldly proclaiming the gospel. We are not in competition with him, but how has your own ministry been going? Do you have a ministry, big or small? What is it?
Seven Sons of Scaeva Defeated and Ephesians Renounce Occult (Acts 19:13-20)
13 Then certain wandering Jewish exorcists attempted to name the name of the Lord Jesus over those having evil spirits, saying, “I order you by Jesus whom Paul preaches!” 14 Seven sons of a certain Scaeva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 The evil spirit retorted and said to them, “I know Jesus and I am acquainted with Paul, but who are you?” 16 And the man in whom was the evil spirit assaulted them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled naked and wounded from that house.
17 This became known to everyone, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus, and a great awe fell upon everyone, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 Many people who believed were coming and confessing and disclosing their occultic practices. 19 Many practicing occultic magic brought and burned their scrolls in front of everyone. They calculated the amount and came up with 50,000 silver drachmas.
20 And so the word of the Lord mightily increased and prevailed.
This passage is about how the kingdom of God takes down Satanic evil. In the next (long) passage, we see that the kingdom of God opposes false religion. Eventually, Christianity will supplant the religion of Artemis. By the power of the Spirit and miracles, Paul is the one that launched it.
“chief priest”: he was probably not a member of high priestly family, but this title was his own designation, to receive more cachet or a stronger reputation among ordinary people (Bruce, comment on vv. 14-16). Other scholars say he may have been a Jewish chief priest or member of a chief priestly family in a remote way here in Ephesus. Polhill says he may have belonged to a high priestly “circle.” As usual, I agree with Bruce.
The verses that come to mind are Matt. 7:21-23:
21 Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one doing the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? And in your name expel demons? And in your name do many miracles?” 23 And then I’ll declare to them, “I never knew you! Depart from me, you practitioners of lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:21-23)
I can’t say the seven sons fit perfectly in this category of fake disciples, but they come close, to illustrate how miracle workers can go off track.
“attempted”: it could literally be translated as “put their hand to” or “plied their hand to.” It could be translated as “Then certain wandering Jewish exorcists put their hand to naming the name of the Lord Jesus ….” But I can’t go literal all the time.
“having evil spirits”: “Demonized” is not the only verb to express a demonic attack (see Mark 3:22, 30; 7:25; 9:17; Luke 4:33; 7:33; 8:27; Acts 8:7; 16:16; 19:13). But I see no substantive difference between the two verbs and are used interchangeably in Luke 8:27, 36. What is more relevant is the soul of the person being attacked and how deep the attack goes because the person gives the demon access.
“name”: “name the name” could be better translated as “invoke the name.” See v. 5 for a closer look at the word name.
Bruce: “The closest parallel to the Ephesian exorcists’ misuse of the name of Jesus appears in a magical papyrus belonging to the Bibliothèque Nationale [National Library] in Paris , which contains the adjuration: ‘I adjure you by Jesus, the God of the Hebrews’” (comment on v. 13). Polhill provides another example: “Hail, God of Abraham, hail, God of Isaac, hail, God of Jacob, Jesus Chrestus, Holy Spirit, Son of the Father” (comment on v. 13).
“know”: the verb is ginōskō (pronounced gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard, as in “get”). The verb is so common that it is used 222 times in the NT. (Its cognate epiginōskō, pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh is used 44 times).
“acquainted”: Here are two different Greek verbs, and the second one could also be translated as “recognize.”
“But when they tried to use it [the name of Jesus], like an unfamiliar weapon wrongly handled, it exploded in their hands” (Bruce, comment on vv. 14-16). Perfectly said.
Evil spirits can talk through their human vessels. There are simply too many reliable reports circulating around the church to deny it, particularly when there is a Scriptural foundation.
See my posts about Satan in the area of systematic theology:
Demons recognize Jesus: “Also, demons came out of many, crying out and saying, ‘You are the Son of God! Rebuking them, he would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah (Luke 4:41). Also: “When he [the Gadarene demoniac] saw Jesus, he screamed and fell down before him, and with a loud voice he said, ‘Why are you interfering with us, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you not to torment me!’” (Luke 8:28). “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (James 2:19).
“assaulted”: It comes from the verb ephallomai (pronounced eh-phal-loh-my), and it used only here in the NT. It means to “leap upon” or “jump,” or “assault.” So the man, empowered by the evil spirit, jumped the seven men.
“subdued”: it comes from the verb katakurieuō (pronounced kah-tah-koo-ree-yew-oh), and it means to become master, gain dominion over, subdue” or dominate. It is used here and in Matt. 20:25; Mark 10:42; 1 Pet. 5:3.
“overpowered”: it is the verb ischuō (pronounced ee-skhoo-oh), and it means, depending on the context, “be strong, powerful, win out, prevail” It is clear that the demon-empowered human beat up seven men.
An evil spirit manifested through a human body can overpower and subdue seven men. Always depend on the Spirit and Jesus’s name to have authority over a demon. You don’t have to fear a physical attack.
“name”: you have to know him and live in him, and then his name is authoritative and powerful—more powerful and authoritative than Satan’s name. See v. 5 for a closer look.
“awe”: It is the Greek noun phobos (pronounced foh-bohss). The NT authors like this word, using the verb and noun and adjectives (and emphobos, pronounced as it looks) 151 times. It has a wide range of meanings, depending on the context. Here the supernatural occurrence put the fear of God in the people of Ephesus. It must have happened long before the riot (vv. 29-34), because the crowds were emboldened to run amok.
One more word about the fear of God and the church: when the church “fears” the Lord, it does not cower dread and run away, but they are supposed to feel a reverential awe, which speaks of being inspired by an atmosphere charged with the tangible or felt presence of the Holy Spirit. Awe and intimacy go together with the Creator of the universe.
“name”: see v. 5 for a closer look at this noun.
“was magnified”: it comes from the Greek verb megalunō (pronounced meh-gah-loo-noh), and it is clear that mega– (“great”) is built into it. The Latin equivalent is magnus, so translators often choose “magnify.” Too bad we don’t have in English “greatify”! We can say the longer “render his name great!”
“The news of this incident spread so quickly and filled those who heard it with awe; this name, invoked by Paul and his colleagues with such beneficial effects, was plainly no name to be trifled with” (Bruce comment on v. 17).
“believed” see v. 2 for more comments.
It is amazing that believers could still be involved in the occult. They needed to repent and grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. They were in the balance, being weighed. Recall the Parable of the Sower:
11 “This is the meaning of the parable:
The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path: they heard it; then the devil comes and takes the word from their hearts, so that they might not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rocky ground: they receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root; they believe for a time, but in the time of testing, they fall away. 14 The ones falling among the thorn bushes: they have heard, but as they go, they are choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life, and they do not produce mature fruit. 15 The ones in the good soil: after hearing the word with a truly good heart, they hold on to it and produce fruit by endurance.” (Luke 8:11-15, emphasis added)
These Ephesian believers seemed to have progressed beyond the first type of soil, because they repented. So the devil did not take the seed out of their heart. Good thing! Let’s hope they maintained the fourth type of soil and produced fruit by lasting a long time, by enduring through thick and thin, highs and lows, by running the marathon race, not a 100-meter sprint.
False religions and occultic practices are dangerous spiritually. It can lead to demonic attacks on believers and outright possession for unbelievers. Believers can be demonized or attacked and harassed, but not possessed, because the Holy Spirit occupies their hearts. However, since unbelievers do not have the Holy Spirit occupying their hearts, an evil spirit can move in.
This is now revival in Ephesus. In any case, repentance demands an action. It cannot be just hidden away in the heart. The Ephesians brought out their books and exposed and disclosed them to the open light of the sun and the light of the Son. Sometimes we have to confess and expose our habits and sins, particularly the extra-destructive ones.
“occultic practices”: it comes from one Greek noun praxis (pronounced prahx-ees), and it simply means “practice” “activity,” “function” or “act” or “action,” or “deed.” Even the Book of Acts has the word in its title. The word occultic comes from the context.
“occultic magic”: it is the plural noun of the noun periergos (pronounced peh-ree-air-gohss), and it literally means “peripheral works.” It was out-of-the-ordinary works. I get “occultic magic” from the context.
Notice how the people brought the scrolls personally and voluntarily. No government or school board demanded this act of repentance of them. In the past in America, sometimes people were swept up with book-burning. Don’t. But if you throw some things in your own fireplace, then don’t make a big thing of it. Keep it private. Or, if you don’t burn those things in your fireplace at home, you must still get rid of any and all occultic books and objects.
A drachma was about worth the same as a denarius, the daily wage of an agricultural or city laborer. The amount of 50,000 drachmas was HUGE. Ephesus was steeped in the occult.
Keener is excellent here, criticizing Western non-supernaturalism:
In many cultures, people seek help from whatever spirits can provide them, unless embracing the sharp demands of monotheism. Western missionaries often taught a theological system void of supernatural power, in contrast to local pre-Christian concerns. Once locals reappropriated a Christian conception of signs and wonders, indigenous Christianity often flourished. The relative weakness of supernatural engagement is Western Christianity stems from radical Enlightenment’s bulwark against supernaturalism, not from Western Christianity’s earlier theological heritage. (pp. 477-78)
In other words, when post-Enlightenment Christianity (c. 1600-1800+) took the power of the Spirit away from the gospel, it was too weak to be effective in a world where supernatural (and demonic) beliefs flourished. When supernatural Christianity flourished in those cultures, it flourished and the churches grew.
This verse ends the fifth of the so-called six “panels” of Acts, each one lasting about five years. Here they are:
1:1 to 6:7
6:8 to 9:31
9:32 to 12:24
12:25 to 16:5
16:6 to 19:20
19:21 to 28:31
Let’s not see this verse as a throwaway summary. God’s word really did grow and prevail mightily. For a close look at word (logos), see v. 10.
GrowApp for Acts 19:13-20
A.. Did you dabble in the things of God before you full got saved and knew him personally? How did your dabbling work out for you? When did you finally and fully convert to Jesus?
B.. Have dabbled in the occult, like horoscopes or Ouija boards or even witchcraft? How did God set you free? Have you thrown out your occultic books and objects?
Paul Resolves to Go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21-22)
21 After this was accomplished, Paul resolved in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem, after going through Macedonia and Achaea, saying, “After I have been there, I must see Rome.” 22 He sent off two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, and he stayed in Asia for a time.
Just as Luke sets his Gospel narrative with Jesus going to Jerusalem as the main goal (Luke 9-19), so Luke now sets his narrative in Acts with Paul going to Jerusalem (19:21-21:15-17). Yet for Luke, Rome was the ultimate goal for Paul (Acts 28).
Further, this passage resembles the roles of Paul’s accusers in Philippi (16:20-21), Thessalonica (17:5-7) and Corinth (18:12-13). Paul was called to suffer persecution (Acts 9:16). But the man would simply not back down. He was like a heavyweight boxer who, when he took a punch, may have had wobbly legs, soon recovered and got back into the ring.
“resolved”: it is in the middle voice, which means Paul’s heart was involved in the decision (HT: Bock, comments on vv. 21-22).
“in the Spirit”: some critics of Paul says he made up his mind in his own human spirit, without consulting the Holy Spirit. So, according to them, his resolve was a “good idea,” and not a “God idea.” But the Greek is the definite article, “the Spirit,” and it does not say “in his spirit.” Also, he knew from the Spirit that he was headed for Rome. Now this is the predictive power of the Spirit. He could not know this on his own. Yet, as we just observed, Paul’s will was involved.
“must”: It comes from the word dei (pronounced day), and in some contexts it denotes a destiny orchestrated by God, as it does here. (Compare the French il faut, “one must” or “it is necessary,” if you know this language.) The Greek verb means: “it is necessary, one must … one ought or should … what one should do” (Shorter Lexicon). In Luke it often means divine necessity; that is, God is leading things: Luke 2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 12:12; 13:16, 33; 15:32; 17:25; 18:1; 19:5; 21:9; 22:37; 24:7; 24:26, 44; Acts 1:16; 1:21; 3:21; 4:12; 5:29; 9:6, 16; 14:22; 16:30; 17:3; 19:21; 20:35; 23:11; 25:10; 27:21; 27:24, 26. Here Paul’s mission is to Rome; his steps were being ordered by the Lord.
“As Jesus sent messengers ahead of him (Luke 9:52a; cf. also Luke 10:1; 19:29; 22:8; perhaps 3:4) once he set his face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), so Paul sends messengers on ahead to prepare his way (19:22). The messengers are Timothy (cf. 1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10-11) and Erastus” (Keener, p. 479). This Erastus may be the same as the one in Rom. 16:23 and served as an aedile in Corinth for one year (ibid.).
GrowApp for Acts 19:21-22
A.. Paul resolved to go to Jerusalem. This was God’s conviction that grew in his heart. Do you have a deep conviction planted there by God? How have you maintained your focus and carried it through to the end?
B.. Or did you give up? If so, do you believe God can restore it?
Anger of the Silversmiths (Acts 19:23-28)
23 At that time not a small disturbance happened about the Way, 24 for a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, by making silver shrines of Artemis, provided no little profit for skilled craftsmen. 25 He brought together the workers in similar things and said, “Men, you know that prosperity is ours from this business! 26 And you observe and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in nearly all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and led astray a large crowd, saying that the gods who come about by the hands do not exist! 27 Not only does this endanger our line of business, to come to be discredited, but also the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be considered worthless, and she herself, whom all of Asia and the world worship, is about to be brought down with her majesty!”
28 When they heard this, they were filled with anger and shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 The city was filled with confusion and together rushed into the theater and grabbed Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. 30 When Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples did not allow him. 31 Even some of the Asiarchs, who were his friends, sent to him urging him not to endanger himself in the theater. 32 So then some were shouting one thing, others another thing, for the assembly was in confusion, and the majority did not know why they had come together. 33 Some members of the crowd advised Alexander, after Jews thrust him forward. Alexander motioned with his hand and intended to give a defense to the people. 34 But when they found out he was Jew, everyone with one voice shouted for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
35 After the town clerk quieted down the crowd, he said, “Men! Ephesians! Who is there among humanity who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the guardian of the great Artemis, who fell from heaven? 36 From these undeniable facts therefore you must quiet down and do nothing reckless! 37 For you brought these men who are neither temple robbers nor have spoken irreverently about our goddess! 38 If therefore Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have some issue, the courts are held and the proconsuls are here, so they can press charges against others. 39 And if you seek something further, it shall be decided in a lawful assembly. 40 For we are risking to be charged with a riot for today’s events, since there is no cause for which we will be able to render an account for this disorderly gathering. 41 After he said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
It is a wonderful description of life in an ancient city—not that riots happened every day. But I can feel the dust and the crowds and the shouting and confusion.
Keener (pp. 487-88) provides a list of local details to show that Luke was not inventing this long pericope (pronounced puh-RIH-koh-pea) or unit or section with no basis in fact.
1.. On other occasions Ephesus aggressively defended the Artemis cult.
2.. Asia Minor’s cities had many riots and much unrest in this period.
3.. Economic concerns for the temple were of special concern in this period (cf. 19:25).
4.. Luke’s titles for Artemis fit local Ephesian usage (19:27, 37).
5.. The silversmiths’ shops (19:24-25) may have been located on the road from the harbor to the theater (or perhaps near the busy market) and (even more likely) were relatively close to the theater (19:29).
6.. Whereas the term translated town clerk had a wide semantic range, it was the precise designation for Ephesus’s city clerk (19:35)
Then Keener concludes:
By the standards of Paul own list of sufferings (1 Cor 4:9-13; 2 Cor 4:8-12; 6:4-10; 11:23-27), Luke’s account is fairly mild; he does not recount the half of Paul’s troubles! Given Luke’s apologetic concerns [to show Christianity does not start troubles or riots], it is far more likely that he toned down the repercussions of the incident than that he created it. Despite Luke’s concise survey of most of Paul’s two years in Ephesus and decision to focus on a particularly dramatic scene, he is well aware that Paul faced prior opposition there (20:19). (p. 488).
In other words, Luke’s account is briefer than Paul’s records, even though Luke was aware of Paul’s suffering. An historian can be accurate and condense his account. Recall my nickname for Luke: “the Omitter” or “Condenser.”
This section may be alluded to in 2 Cor. 1:8-11:
8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Cor. 1:8-11, NIV).
“not a small”: this means a massive disturbance. The phrasing is known as a litotes (pronounced lih-toh-tees), or an understatement that expresses the affirmative by a negative! Luke likes litotes: Acts 12:18; 14:17, 28; 15:2; 17:4, 12, 27; 19:11, 23; 20:12; 21:39; 26:19; 27:20; 28:2.
“no little profit”: Another litotes. It is a keen insight of Luke that Demetrius ignited the riot because of money.
Apparently, Paul was winning many converts in Ephesus because Demetrius and his guild (so to speak) saw a drop-off or a rapid decline in their business.
You will have to look up online an article about Artemis and the temple in Ephesus. It was huge. “It was supported by 127 pillars, each of them sixty feet [18.3m] high and was adorned by Praxiteles and other great sculptors of antiquity” (Bruce, comment on v. 23). In its width and length, it is estimated to be 425 by 225 feet (129.5 by 68.5m) or 377 by 197 feet (130 by 70m) and built on a platform of 420 by 240 feet (128 by 73m).
Paul was preaching monotheism. Later in his farewell address to the Ephesians, he said he proclaimed the full counsel of God (Acts 20:20, 27). Renewalists must proclaim the entire Word, not just hopes and dreams or love or empathy. Moral law must be factored in.
Paul is taking down idols and manmade things, including temples, just as Stephen did in his bold discourse in front of the Jewish temple, It is a theme in Acts.
41 And they made a calf in those days and brought sacrifices to the idol and began to celebrate the works of their hands” (Acts 7:41).
48 However, the Most High does not live in things made with hands, just as the prophet says:
49 Heaven is my throne,
And earth is the footstool for my feet;
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
Or which place for my rest?
50 For did not my hand make all of these things?” [Is. 66:1-2] (Acts 7:48-50)
Paul is preaching to the Athenians, where there is the beautiful temple to Athena on the acropolis and other beautiful temples on lower levels.
24 God who made the universe and everything in it, he is Lord of heaven and earth, and he does not live in handmade temples; 25 neither is he tended by human hands, as if he needed something. He gave everyone life and breath and everything. (Acts 17:24-25)
All pagan temples and shrines and church buildings throughout all human history will be wiped out at the Second Coming, for the church will be his holy dwelling place.
Since the church replaces the OT temple, then how much more does the church replace all temples, particularly the pagan ones!
Bock in on target:
For Demetrius, the threat is economic, cultural, and religious … For Luke, the battle Paul wages is not a political one with Rome but a worldview that takes people captive into empty idolatry. The battle is real, as Pliny the younger (Ep. 10.96) in about AD 112 records how Rome’s strong suppression of Christianity in another part of the empire (Bithynia) led to the reoccupation of abandoned temples and in the revival of participation in festivals … Both sides see the Way as part of a cultural and religious war about divinity. (comment on vv. 25-27)
The theater could hold 24-25,000. You can look it up online. It is still visible but broken down.
Give Demetrius credit: he knew what was at stake, because as the centuries rolled on, the religion of Artemis declined, and Christianity rose. He must have seen a decline right before his eyes.
Shouting the same words for two hours shows a crowd that was struck by a mania. Don’t forget that Ephesus was steeped in the occult. I have no doubt that a territorial demonic spirit whipped people up. It was not about to give up its hold of a key city like Ephesus (Dan. 10:13, 20).
“filled”: this is either a satanic infilling or a human infilling. It is the opposite or counterfeit of the Spirit’s infilling, which brings peace.
“together”: The Greek adverb is a compound, homothumadon (pronounced hoh-moh-thoo-mah-dawn). The first half is hom– and means “same,” and the second half is related to thum-, which means spirit and soul and heart, a lively spirit, much like a lion or hero in battle (in NT Greek it can be translated as “wrath,” even). It appears eleven times, and ten only in Acts (1:14; 2:46; 4:24; 5:12; 7:57; 8:6; 12:20; 15:25; 18:12; 19:29), and once in Paul (Rom. 15:6). Being united in spirit, whether for good or evil, is powerful. Unite for the good, which is the gospel.
“Gaius and Aristarchus”: In Acts 20:4, Gaius comes from Derbe, and in that verse Aristarchus is said to come from Thessalonica. Aristarchus also appears in Acts 27:2; Col. 4:10; Phm. 24. Scholars conjecture that Luke’s source for this riot episode comes from these two men (or one of them).
One has to admire Paul’s willingness to rush into danger, particularly when Demetrius had mentioned him by name. And one has to admire the disciples for holding him back. Discretion and prudence is the better part of valor, yes a cliché, but a true one.
In v. 30 I translated the Greek noun dēmos (pronounced day-moss) as “assembly” because in my own study of inscriptions many years ago, it often meant “assembly.” But you can go for “crowd,” if you wish.
The Asiarchs were high up in society—ruling magistrates over Asia in fact. It is unclear how they were friends of Paul, unless he preached the gospel to them, and they said yes. Nice thought. Let’s hold on to it.
“That such men were friendly to Paul suggests that imperial policy at this time was not hostile to Christianity, and that more educated classes did not share the antipathy to Paul by the more superstitious rank and file” (Bruce, comment on vv. 30-31). Remember the original dedicatee to the book of Acts: Theophilus. He was either a high-level Roman or Greek.
It is an accurate description of a mob, before social media. Once again it could be that a demonic spirit over Ephesus was behind the confusion. Occultic practices had flourished there, and why would Satan cede ground so easily?
“confusion”: it comes from the verb sugcheō (pronounced soog-kheh-oh), which means to overflow or a confluence. Sometimes our minds get so overloaded with stuff that it overwhelms our mental computing ability. When that happens, it is a signal that you must back away from the issue or issue, and trust God. You can also ask someone wiser and more established than you for clarity.
We don’t know what some members of the crowd advised him, but it probably went something like this: “Alexander, you are a famous orator. You must tell the crowd that we Jews lived in peace in Ephesus. We never offended your temple. It’s all Paul, as Demetrius rightly said. We disassociate ourselves from him. Tell the crowd that Paul is somewhere in the city, so track him down!” Who was Alexander? It is probably not the coppersmith mentioned in 2 Tim. 4:14. Alexander in 1 Tim. 1:20 was an errant Christian, not the Alexander here (Bruce, comment on vv. 33-34, note 75).
“found out”: it is the verb epiginōskō (pronounced eh-pea-gee-noh-skoh, and the “g” is hard as in “get,” and it is used 44 times in the NT). In any case here are the basic meanings, depending on the context: (1) “know exactly, completely”; “know again, recognize”; “acknowledge’; (2) “know, learn, find out, ascertain; notice; perceive, learn of; understand, know, learn to know.” Here the second definition is best.
Again, a mania struck the Ephesians, which can only be interpreted as satanic. Did a territorial evil spirit whip them up? Probably. But in the end, you decide.
“fell from heaven”: No one knew when this happened. But apparently the image fell down from heaven already beautifully carved. For Christians, Luke is clear when Jesus came from heaven—when he was born: When Caesar issued a decree and Quirinius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:1-2). We also know he was crucified when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea. The myths about the gods coming to earth are buried under a murky past. The coming of the Messiah has historical parameters.
“know”: see v. 15 for more comments.
The town clerk was the liaison between the civic authorities of Ephesus and the Roman provincial authorities, which was headquartered in Ephesus. He was also a record keeper, registrar, and accountant for temple funds (Bock, comment on vv. 35-37).
Poor Gaius and Aristarchus! Remember them? They were standing in the middle of the worked-up crowd, wondering whether they would get mob justice—a stoning. Maybe it is true that these two men never spoke irreverently about Artemis from a pagan point of view, but Paul spoke the truth, the hard truth about the entire religion. It is a good thing that he was not allowed into the assembly!
Demetrius shouted that Paul said God does not dwell in temples made with human hands (v. 26). He is above such paltry locations. The town clerk counters this belief with the idea that an image fell down from the sky. It was God sent. Artemis does indeed come from heaven and loves to dwell in the huge temple built for her. (HT: Peterson, comment on vv. 35-36).
“They can bring charges”: this refers to Demetrius and the other ringleaders.
Let’s remember that ancient cities were not lawless but had civic law available to them. The town clerk reminded the crowd of this. Give the town clerk credit. He showed wisdom.
Luke’s further purpose was to rebut charges brought against Christianity, here in Ephesus and also in other places (HT: Bruce, comment on vv. 38-41). Peaceful Christianity was no threat to Rome. However, as I noted in v. 26, I believe there is a challenge to pagan temples. Christianity was a challenge to paganism and temples.
Proconsuls were governors and judges, taken from the highest level in Roman society.
I like how Peterson summarizes the episode with Demetrius and the protest:
Spiritual opposition may manifest itself in a variety of ways, but the name of Jesus is powerful to overcome even demonic forces and to allow the gospel to prevail. In many cultures today, those who profess to be believers hold on to animistic or magical beliefs and practices. I some situations, this syncretism or fold religion is overlooked or disregarded by church leaders. However, as in ancient Ephesus, there can be no spiritual advance or growth of the church unless ties are broken and supernatural forces of evil are renounced. (comment on v. 41)
GrowApp for Acts 19:23-41
A.. Paul was bold in his witness, even challenging an entire popular religion. You may not be called to do this huge thing, but you can challenge friends and family members. Have you? Tell your story.
Observations for Discipleship
All of us need more of God. The twelve believing disciples received the water immersion of John the Baptist or Immerser or Dipper, and they believed in the Messiah, so they were likely Messianic Jews, since John’s audience was Israel. But evidently they were not baptized in Jesus’s name. They had to be baptized in his name only to distinguish this baptism from John’s.
We should not make a big thing about being baptized only in Jesus’s name, as some denominations wrongly do (they’re called Jesus Only churches). The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit work together because the Father and Jesus send the Spirit, and the twelve Messianic Jews were about to be also baptized in the Spirit.
Now let’s move on to you. You need more of God, and he is waiting and willing to give you more of him. You can ask him for more. In Acts 19, Paul was in Ephesus, and here is some verses to his letter to them, after he left.
God knows how to give good gifts to those who ask.
9 I also tell you, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who seeks receives; and the one who seeks will find, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 11 Your son asks for a fish, and which father among you will give him a snake instead of a fish 12 or asks for an egg, and give him a scorpion? 13 If then you, though you are bad, know to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-12)
Snakes and scorpions are symbols of evil spirits. God will not give you a snake or scorpion when you ask for his Holy Spirit. No. He wants to give you his Spirit.
Seek God for more of him! The Spirit is God’s precious and ordained gift for you.
Bock, Darrell L. Acts. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Baker Academic, 2007.
Bruce, F. F. Acts. Rev. ed. Eerdmans, 1988. (I also used his earlier work Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Commentary, Eerdmans, 1951, 1952, 1990, 3rd ed.).
The Greek New Testament. Fifth Revised Edition by Barbara Aland, Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, Bruce M. Metzger. United Bible Society, 2014.
Keener, Craig, S. Acts. New Cambridge Bible Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2020.
Longenecker, Richard N. Acts. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Rev. ed. Zondervan, 2007.
Marshall, I. Howard. Acts. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Tyndale, 1980.
Parsons, Mikeal C. and Martin M. Culy. Acts. A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor, UP, 2003.
Peterson, David G. The Acts of the Apostles. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Eerdmans, 2009.
Polhill, John B. Acts. New American Commentary. Vol. 26. Broadman and Holman, 1992.
Schnabel, Eckhard, J. Acts. Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Zondervan, 2012.