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Bible: What Does Acts 19 Teach Us About the Apostle Paul's Ministry?

Updated on September 8, 2016

The Apostle Paul


Pentecost: The Baptism of the Spirit


"Speaking in Tongues"

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Paul's Teaching Ministry in Ephesus

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Acts 19: Paul's Ministry in Ephesus; The Riot in Ephesus

Speaking in Known Languages

Luke resumes his narrative of Paul’s ministry, transitioning from his account of Apollos’ work in Corinth to the apostle’s re-educational endeavors in Ephesus which he undertakes after revisiting the churches in southern Galatia (v. 1).

Paul questions a certain twelve male disciples whom John the Baptizer himself immersed (vv. 3, 7), and learns that they knew nothing about the Holy Spirit (v. 2).

After briefly explaining that they needed to believe on Christ Jesus, the One to Whom John pointed, Paul immersed them in Jesus’ name after they believed in Him (vv. 4-5).

Having received the Spirit, these men speak in other languages and testify to the grace of God (“prophesied”) as signs of their conversion [v. 6].

[Why should the Church not regard this ministry experience—speaking in tongues and prophesying—as the norm for the rest of the age?]

Preaching and Teaching Ministries

From this good start, Paul again enters a synagogue—his base of operation in every city that had such an establishment—and spends the next three months teaching about the kingdom of God (v. 8).

[He undoubtedly kept preaching Jesus as Messiah, but here he also spoke about the kingdom of God.]

Opposition in this synagogue causes him to leave there and take his disciples to Tyrannus’ lecture hall where he taught for two years, instructing students who apparently came from all parts of Asia to hear him (v. 10).

The Seven Sons of Sceva

Still in Ephesus, Paul widely exercises his healing gift also, curing people who merely touched something the apostle once held (vv. 11-12).

Awed by the power of Jesus, but uncommitted to Him, some Jewish exorcists “call the name of the Lord Jesus over” the demonized (v. 13).

[Were these men the “seven sons of Sceva (v. 14),” or were they a separate group?

The NKJV reads: “Also there were seven sons of Sceva,” but the NASB seems to equate the Jewish exorcists with the sons of Sceva.]

[Did the demon assault all seven sons, or only two of them (as NU specifically records)?]

God protects only those “exorcists” committed to Him.

Since the sons of Sceva only know about Jesus second-hand and maintain no saving relationship with Him (v. 15), the demonized man easily overpowers them (v. 16)].

Burning Magic Books

This news circulates around Ephesus, causing both unsaved Jews and Gentiles to fear but believers to exalt Jesus (v. 17; cf. 2:43; 5:5, 11).

In fact, a genuine revival and repentance take place, as new believers repudiate their occult practices and publicly burn their magic books—a practice that costs them a small fortune (vv. 18-19).

As a result of this groundswell of repentance, the preaching and application of God’s word gain greater influence and authority over the masses (v. 20).

Planning his itinerary, Paul “purposed in the Spirit” to travel through Greece (Macedonia and Achaia), then go to Jerusalem, and eventually visit Rome (v. 21).

[God apparently did not speak to him directly about his next steps, so Paul spent time thinking about them while depending upon the Spirit.

Perhaps he received spiritual intuitions or impressions that he regarded as guidance from God.]

The apostle sends two of his helpers—Timothy, the young man from Lystra (Acts 16:1), and Erastus, the treasurer of Corinth (Romans 16:23)—to northern Greece (Macedonia); he, however, stays in Asia (v. 22).

[Perhaps the Spirit “told” Paul to send friends ahead to announce his intention to visit, but commanded him to remind behind in Ephesus so that he would be present to quell an impending riot.]

The Goddess Diana


Demetrius Incites a Riot

Demetrius, a silversmith who is making a mint selling Diana/Artemis statues/idols, addresses his fellow craftsmen, stirring up their ire against “the Way” (Christians) because the mass conversion of Ephesian and other Asian citizens is causing him/them to forfeit their exorbitant gains (vv. 23-26).

Just in case the financial profit motive did not satisfy his compatriots’ scruples, Demetrius appeals to their “civic pride,” mentioning the cultural harm that would accrue to the city if its leading citizens did nothing to prevent Paul from impugning Diana’s magnificent temple (v. 27).

[Charles Ryrie delineates the dimensions of this Wonder of the Ancient World (New Testament Study Bible 244).

Why was Diana worship such a popular religion?

The city clerk cites a well-known fact to the Ephesians that the city guarded both the goddess’s temple and some image that he said “fell down from Zeus” (v. 35).]

Amazing it is that one silversmith could so incite other idol-makers that they turn the “whole city” of Ephesus into a mob, chanting praises to Diana (vv. 28-29a).

[Luke is probably employing hyperbole here, for the entire population of the city cannot rush into “the theater.”]

A group of smiths apparently makes a citizens’ arrest of Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia (v. 29b).

[Compare with 20:4 for a list of other friends from various parts of Asia and Macedonia.

Gaius actually resided in Derbe in southern Galatia (Asia); only Aristarchus lived in Thessalonica in the region of Macedonia.]

Both “the disciples” and some friendly Asiarchs (rulers of Asia the province [NKJV editors]) work together to prevent Paul from entering the theater assembly and being murdered (vv. 30-31).

The scene Luke portrays resembles a typical town meeting where confusion reigns, where curiosity draws a multitude of thrill-seekers for no one knows what purpose (v. 32).

[The mob mentality consists of rumor, innuendo, and gossip thoroughly mixed within a sizeable population bored with the mundane affairs of life.]

The City Clerk Calms and Dismisses the Ecclesia

Certain Jews select Alexander, a town leader who seeks to address the assembly, but is shouted down when the Ephesians discover that he is Jewish (vv. 33-34a).

[This Alexander may have been the Jewish coppersmith about whom Paul spoke much later, saying that he “did him much harm” (2 Tim. 4:14).

The time differential makes this identification unlikely, however (early 50s here; mid 60s in the Epistle to Timothy).]

The Greeks continue chanting for two hours until the city clerk, a man with considerable clout, steps to the fore and addresses the crowd (vv. 35-40).

After quieting the crowd, he then appeals to their civic pride: their common knowledge about how Zeus chose them to guard Diana’s “arrival,” stressing the absolute certainty of this fact (vv. 35-36a).

In that light, the clerk argues, they should conduct themselves wisely and not assemble unlawfully to condemn innocent men (v. 37).

He instructs Demetrius and his cohorts to try the apostle in a legal courtroom, and nowhere else (vv. 38-39).

The clerk considers the present “disorderly gathering” perilously close to a rebellious riot (v. 40).

Having finished his admonition, he dismisses the ekklesia (v. 41).

[As a technical term, ekklesia refers to the called-out ones of the body of Christ; here, the word simply means “an assembly.”]

© 2013 glynch1


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