Acts 18:19 – 20:1

As Paul was “wrapping up” his second missionary journey he stopped at Ephesus briefly but intended to return. Went on to Jerusalem, greeted the church, then to Antioch to likewise give a report. Returned to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, then through Colosse and Laodicea to Ephesus. In Ephesus October, 53 to January, 56 Wm. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler

Apollos, a Jew from Alexandria, Egypt arrived in Ephesus and began teaching (18:24-25). He was eloquent, persuasive, zealous to teach, learned in doctrine but lacking in the “latest developments”, and teachable. Aquila and Priscilla furthered his instruction (18:26); spent enough time at Ephesus that the church there commended him by letter to Corinth (18:27-28).

Paul’s 3rd journey began in fall of 53 AD; we don’t know if he had a constant traveling companion, Titus was along for part of it and perhaps Timothy as well. He returned to churches of Asia Minor, encouraging and teaching following the same route as previously except he went from Antioch to Ephesus rather than Troas. He found 12 men there, disciples seemingly in a similar place to Apollos and not having heard much more than John Baptist’s testimony to Jesus as Messiah. Beginning with them Paul began a 2+ year ministry in Ephesus, 3 months in synagogue and balance “after hours” at Tyrannus’ lecture hall – early 54 AD to 56 AD.

What was Ephesus like?

Founded in 11th century BC, was capital of province of Asia from 27 BC to 297 AD. Chief tourist attraction – Temple of Diana, one of Seven Wonders of Ancient World, funded by Croesus (king of Lydia, capital was Sardis) and completed in 560 BC, destroyed 356 BC and rebuilt. 200′ x 400′, 128 columns 60′ tall, thought to be largest building in existence and completely overshadowing other wonders by its magnificence and opulence.

Other sights – Library with nearly 12,000 scrolls, theater with seating for 25,000, marketplace surrounded by stoas (covered sidewalks), a great number of baths and gymnasiums. Population estimated 400,000-500,000 at end of 1st century.

Ephesus at intersection of major trade routes – by land into Asia, by sea to rest of world, world-class harbor accessible to largest ships. Temple of Diana (Artemis) served as museum to display statues and paintings of great artists, also because of strength of structure used as a bank. Temple was significant religious, financial and cultural center.

Ephesians also worshipped Cybele, “Mother Earth”, aka Gaia; practiced much syncretism in religion carrying elements of earth-worship over into that of Artemis. Diana (Roman) Artemis (Greek) goddess of wild animals & hunt, fertility, twin sister of Apollo.

According to Charles Hodge, “One of the most lucrative occupations of the people was the manufacture of miniature representations of the temple, wrought in silver, which being carried about by travellers, or reverenced at home, found an extensive sale, both foreign and domestic.”

Under Paul’s ministry Ephesus experienced great outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s power – speaking in tongues and prophesying by the “elders” (19:6), healing miracles by Paul (19:11-12), great repentance and revival (19:18-20). Again, according to Hodge, “[i]t appears from this, and from the subsequent account given by the sacred historian, that the effects of Paul’s preaching in Ephesus, were:

  1. The conversion of a great number of the Jews and Greeks.

  2. The diffusion of the knowledge of the Gospel throughout proconsular Asia.

  3. Such an influence on the popular mind, that certain exorcists attempted to work miracles in the name of that Jesus, whom Paul’s preaching had proved to be so powerful; and that other magicians, convinced of the folly and wickedness of their arts, made public confession, and burnt their books of divination and mystic charms.

  4. Such a marked diminution of the zeal and numbers of the worshippers of Diana, as to excite general alarm that her temple would be despised.

  5. A large and flourishing church was there established.”

It appears that the seven churches of Revelation could have resulted from Paul’s efforts in Ephesus as evidenced by Acts 19:26. Caused riot among silversmith guild and populace. Christian church became influential enough that when Temple of Artemis was destroyed in 262, it was never rebuilt. Also, Ephesus location of ecumenical church council in 431 AD, confirmed Nicene Creed and stand against Pelagianism, refuted Nestorianism which denied hypostatic union and taught two separate (divine and human) persons in Christ.

A. Body parts!

1. Apollos

a. eloquent Act_18:24

b. thorough knowledge of Scripture Act_18:24

c. knowledgeable Act_18:25

d. on fire for the Lord Act_18:25

e. accurate teacher Act_18:25

f. fearless Act_18:26

g. confirmed believers and convinced skeptics Act_18:27-28

2. Aquila and Priscilla

a. corrective action Act_18:26

3. Paul 1Co_3:6-9

a. the “planter”

b. followed by the “waterer”

c. who had been assisted by the “correctors”

Christ uses a variety of “personnel resources” to build his church, each with his own particular sphere of ministry, advancing the church and the cause of the Gospel to the next level.

B. Incomplete religion

1. John’s baptism Act_18:25 Act_19:1-3

Determining what Apollos was accurately teaching about Jesus is not easy if all he knew was the baptism of John. If his information about Jesus was limited to the ideas proclaimed by John the Baptist (as recorded in the Gospels), his teaching would have focused on the coming of the Messiah. Perhaps he had even made the connection between particular Old Testament passages and the coming of the Messiah, the same message frequently preached by the apostles (see v. 3). If so, Apollos could have been quite prolific in all matters except Christian baptism and the Holy Spirit. College Press NT Commentary, Acts 18:25

perhaps he might know very little, if anything, of the miracles of Christ, or of his death and resurrection from the dead, and the benefits and effects thereof; and of the pouring out of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles, and the light and knowledge which were communicated thereby. John Gill

John’s proclaiming of the Gospel was “incomplete”, that is, he referred still to a future Savior. By the time of Paul and Apollos’ ministry in Ephesus, the future promise had become a fulfilled fact.

C. True religion

1. further instruction Act_18:26

Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos aside privately, to their own home (according to the Syriac) and helped him with his continuing education.

Instead of abusing the young and brilliant preacher for his ignorance they (particularly Priscilla) gave him the fuller story of the life and work of Jesus and of the apostolic period to fill up the gaps in his knowledge. It is a needed and delicate task, this thing of teaching gifted young ministers. They do not learn it all in schools. More of it comes from contact with men and women rich in grace and in the knowledge of God’s ways. Robertson’s Word Pictures

2. complete teaching Act_19:4 Act_19:8-10

Paul took these disciples of John to the next level in the same way as Aquila and Priscilla did with Apollos. In the synagogue the focus of his message was on the “kingdom of God”, the central theme of Jesus teaching (Mar_1:14-15), in Acts synonymous with the Gospel.

  • Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ Act_8:12
  • Paul reasoned and persuaded about the kingdom of God (in Ephesus) Act_19:8
  • Paul describing his ministry at Ephesus as “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” and “…proclaiming the kingdom.” Act_20:24-25
  • Paul in Rome “testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.” Act_28:23 “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” Act_28:31

3. unusual miracles Act_19:11-12

“miracles, not the common ones”. A reminder of Aaron’s staff that turned to a serpent in Pharaoh’s presence Exo_7:8-12. Means of healing here indicates Paul was again bi-vocational – his work aprons were instrumental in miraculous healings. God validated Paul’s ministry Peter’s in Act_8:17-24 (Simon the sorcerer), showing his supremacy over tricks of man.

D. False religion

1. sons of Sceva Act_19:12-16

Copycats attempting to gain traction, follow on the coattails of Paul but without the power that enabled Paul to be effective.

E. Positive and negative response

1. some were hardened, unbelieving or disobedient Act_19:9

stubborn in their obstinate refusal to believe – hardening the heart like gristle

refused even to allow themselves to be persuaded

refusal to believe followed by refusal to obey

accompanied by efforts to persuade others by “slinging mud” at Christians

2. all heard the Word Act_19:10

Ephesus was a center from which Christian influence spread throughout the province, following the natural movement of people – travel, commerce, learning – promoting not only the spread of the Gospel but also the growth of the church.

3. the name of the Lord Jesus magnified Act_19:17

God’s name received increasing honor; God’s reputation grew in strength and esteem, so much so that many who had been captivated by the power of magic rejected their entire system of practice. They demonstrated that by destroying what had brought them confidence and gain, at a value of 50,000 days’ labor (est. College Press), 192 man-years worth of income.

4. the word of the Lord grew mightily Act_19:20

kept growing and gaining strength such that the Christian church persevered there for more than 4 centuries.

Ephesus was the venue for the ecumenical council of 431 that confirmed the orthodoxy of the Nicene creed and its Christology as well as condemning Pelagianism.

5. resentful overreaction and rebuke Act_19:23-41

Demetrius and the silversmith union – angry over potential loss of revenue, over potential insult to Diana/Artemis. Started a riot, typical of riots the people had no clue why they were rioting Act_19:32

Level-headed city clerk upheld the rule of law, cool head prevailed, dismssed the assembly.

F. Application

God Moves in a Mysterious Way, Wm. Cowper
Trinity Hymnal, #21

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain.
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

God is not capricious but neither is he boring. He is not bound by any specific detailed plan of action; he is governed by principles that flow out of his character. Within the parameters of his “Godness” he is absolutely free to perform his wonders in whatever diverse and surprising ways he chooses. He does that to show us his “Godness” and his glory, to wow us by demonstrating his gracious sovereignty over all things.

Paul had been involved in or responsible for planting churches in Salamis, Paphos, Perga, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Troas, Philippi, Berea, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and probably indirectly responsible for churches in Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea – 19 churches in all and perhaps others. Paul met different people in different places of understanding and with different responses in each location. The resulting churches were all very different – for example, the seven churches of Revelation, six within 100 miles of Ephesus and sister churches of Ephesus and each with a different “issue”.

God had worked in an individual way in each location, not following any sort of uniform or consistent formula as Christ built his church in that part of the world. Yet Paul used essentially the same strategy at each stop – preaching Christ crucified to the Jew first, then the Gentile, in the synagogue until forced out, then strengthening the saints in the newly established Christian church.

The lesson for us in planting churches:

  1. follow the principles modeled in the New Testament

  2. recognize they are principles and not a fixed formula

  3. expect Christ to honor the faithful preaching of his Gospel by building his church

  4. plan to be surprised by God


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