Acts: Chapter 19
Let’s begin by reading (Acts 19:1-10).
(Verse 1) “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples”
“Apollos” – For more on Apollos, see notes for the previous chapter: (Acts 18:24-28).
Fulfilling an earlier promise (Acts 18:19-21), Paul returns to Ephesus. He will remain in Ephesus for 2 years (verse 10), and during this time, he will write 1st Corinthians.
Upon arriving, Paul finds “some disciples,” who we will see in the next verses were “disciples of John the Baptist.”
(Verses 2-5) “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. (3) And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.
(4) Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. (5) When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Similar to Apollos, who was also a disciple of John the Baptist (Acts 18:25), these “disciples” knew of Jesus (they “believed” in Him), but had incomplete knowledge of Him. They had received “the baptism of John,” which was to prepare for the coming Messiah (Mt 3:1-12), however, they did not understand that Jesus WAS the Messiah. In conjunction with this, they likely did not know about His death on the cross for the payment of sin, His Resurrection, nor His Ascension.
In addition, as we are told here, they did not know what had happened at Pentecost, with the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Jews (of which these disciples were).
While there is some debate on this subject, it seems clear based upon what we have just said, that these “disciples” were not saved.
The fact that Paul asks the “disciples” if they “received the Holy Spirit since they believed” in (verse 2), and then tells them in (verse 4) they should “believe on Christ Jesus,” gives strong indication that Paul viewed them as unsaved. While we are not told this here, it seems likely that just as Aquila and Priscilla “expounded unto Apollos the way of God more perfectly,” in the previous chapter (Acts 18:26), Paul likely did something similar here before they were “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
***Note: Again, when these “disciples” were first baptized, it was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. Jesus had not yet died, been buried, or resurrected. However, by this time of course, Jesus had. In being baptized again, “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” the “disciples of John” were publicly carrying out an act which was a symbolic representation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. (Going under the water symbolizes our sins being buried with Christ, and being raised out of the water symbolizes being resurrected to new life.) Today, this is still what our baptism represents.
(Verses 6-7) “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (7) And all the men were about twelve.”
When we began our study of the Book of Acts, we discussed “in-depth” exactly what the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” is, and what it is not. You can find this study on the JesusAlive website: https://jesusalive.cc/bso-baptism-of-the-holy-spirit, therefore, we will not discuss this again at length here.
In short, the moment that a person is saved (or “born again”), they are “Baptized with the Holy Spirit.” This receiving of the Holy Spirit is what brings each person into the Church (the “Church” being made up of all believers), and it is the moment when God comes to live inside of a believer for the rest of his/her life.
In Acts, this prophesied (Jn 7:39)(Jn 16:5-7)(Lk 24:49) “Baptism of the Holy Spirit” occurred in 3 stages, to 3 groups of people:
First: the Jews (Acts 2:14-47)
Second: the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-25)
Third: the Gentiles (Acts 10:44-48)
In each of the 3 instances, Jesus fulfilled a promise to made to Peter in (Mt 16:19), that he would be given the keys to the kingdom of heaven. In other words, God used Peter to bring each of these three groups, one by one, into God’s New Covenant (and the “Church”). They were brought in by the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
However, in this instance, Jesus uses “Paul” instead of Peter to bring in the disciples of John the Baptist. Why Paul here, instead of Peter? The “Believer’s Bible Commentary” shares this thought: “By giving the Holy Spirit to John’s disciples through the laying on of Paul’s hands, the Lord forestalled the possibility of a charge being made later that Paul was inferior to Peter, John, or the other apostles.”
(Verses 8-10)(NKJV) “And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. (9) But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. (10) And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.”
Quite likely the longest period that Paul spent in any one synagogue, he was in this synagogue in Ephesus for “three months.” Of course, as usual, he eventually met with opposition. Those who opposed him “were hardened and did not believe.” The Greek word used for “hardened” here is “skleruno,” and it is used 6 times in the New Testament (here)(Rom 9:18)(Heb 3:8,13,15)(Heb 4:7). These uses are generally referring to the dangers of “hardening” one’s heart against God.
“the Way” – As we first mentioned in (Acts 9:2), the term “the Way” is used in several places in Acts as a description of Christians (also see: verse 23, Acts 22:4, Acts 24:14,22). It almost certainly came from the words Jesus used to describe Himself in (Jn 14:6) “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
“the school of Tyrannus” – (From the “MacArthur Study Bible”) – “Tyrannus was either the owner of the lecture hall, or a philosopher who taught there. If the latter, his name, which means “our tyrant,” may have been a nickname given him by his students. Paul used the hall during the afternoon break (from about 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), when it would otherwise be unoccupied” (because it was too hot during that time of day).
“all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus” – Connecting this verse with verse 9, it is likely that the students of Paul went out from this “school” where he taught, and spread the Gospel to “all who dwelt in Asia” (the province of Asia Minor [modern Turkey]). “MacArthur” adds, “This two-year period saw the founding of the churches at Colosse and Hierapolis, and possibly some of the 7 churches mentioned in Rev 2,3, beyond the one at Ephesus.”
Next, let’s read (Acts 19:11-20).
(Verses 11-12) “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: (12) So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
“Handkerchiefs” and “aprons” are likely referring to items Paul wore while making tents. “Handkerchiefs” were worn around the head, and “aprons” around the waist. God used these articles of clothing of Paul to “wrought special miracles” of healing.
Today, there are ministries that believe that these kinds of “miracles” can still happen today. What do you think? Why, or why not?
(Verses 13-16)(NASB) “But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to use the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had the evil spirits, saying, “I order you in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches!” (14) Now there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, doing this. (15) But the evil spirit responded and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know of Paul, but who are you?” (16) And the man in whom was the evil spirit, pounced on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.”
Powerful verses!! Traveling “Jewish exorcists” are mentioned in several other places in the New Testament. A few were apparently legitimate (Mk 9:38-40)(Mt 12:27)(Lk 11:19), while others were not. Those who were not generally attempted to make a profit from casting out demons.
In these verses, it is apparent that some “Jewish exorcists,” including the “seven sons of Sceva,” had seen Paul successfully casting out demons by using the “name of Jesus.” We are shown in the Bible that “believers in Christ” can do this (Mt 10:1,8)(Mk 16:17)(Lk 10:17)(Acts 16:16-19). However, in saying “in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches,” it is clear that these men are not “believers,” and do not “know” Jesus.
There is no record of “a Jewish chief priest named Sceva.” If he was indeed a “chief priest,” he was not well-known. However, he may simply have chosen to give himself that title.
We learn several interesting, and important things about “evil spirits” in (verses 15-16). What do you see?
I would also like us to consider this quote by F. B. Meyer, which is found in the “Believer’s Bible Commentary:”
“When the sons of Sceva started on the demon, he turned on them, and said, “You little dwarfs, you lilliputians, who are you? I know Paul! I don’t know you, I have never heard about you before; your name has never been talked about down in Hell. No one knows you, nor about you outside of this little bit of a place called Ephesus.”
“Yes, and there is the question that was put to me today: “Does anyone know of me down in Hell?” Do the devils know about us? Are they scared about us? Are they frightened by us? Or do they turn upon us? When we preach on Sunday, or when we visit in the streets, or take our Sunday School Class, the devil says, “I don’t know you, you are not worth my powder and shot; you can go on doing your work. I am not going to upset Hell to stop you.”
(Verses 17-20) “And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. (18) And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. (19) Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. (20) So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.”
In “burning” their books of “curious arts” (other versions say “magic”), these people were displaying an outward sign to others that they were renouncing their former evil practices. “Books” being very rare in those days, they would not be easily replaced.
“fifty thousand pieces of silver” – “One” piece of silver (a “denarius”) was a common payment for a day’s work in NT Bible times (Mt 20:2,9-10,13)(Mt 22:19). If a “denarius” is being referred to here, 50,000 pieces would be equal to 50,000 days of work! Today, it is estimated that 50,000 pieces of silver would be worth about $10,000.
The “Liberty Bible Commentary” adds this, “Over $10,000 worth of occult scrolls and magic charms were burned at a public bonfire. It was normally thought by magicians that if their magical secrets were made public, they would lose their potency. Therefore, a public discrediting of their practice was seen as a genuine conversion of turning from evil to Christ. It is often noted, even today, by missionaries in such places as Haiti where voodoo is still practiced, that a private confession of faith is almost worthless until the individual is willing to go to his home, bring out his occult objects, and openly and publicly destroy them.”
Next, let’s read (Acts 19:21-29).
(Verses 21-22) “After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. (22) So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus (“Timothy”) and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.”
“Paul purposed in the spirit” – Note that the “s” in “spirit” is not capitalized here in the KJV. There is some debate as to whether Paul’s decision here to “see Rome” was made in his own “spirit,” or by the “Spirit” of God. Most other versions capitalize the “S” in Spirit here.
“when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem” – In the next chapter of Acts (Acts 20:1), we see Paul departing for Macedonia and Achaia, however, before he went himself, he sent “Timothy and Erastus” on ahead, while he “stayed in Asia for a season.” (***Note: It was likely during this “stay in Asia for a season” that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians.)
We are told in (Rom 15:25-27)(1 Cor 16:1-4) that the reason why they went to “Macedonia and Achaia” was to collect an offering for the Church at Jerusalem.
“I must also see Rome” – (From the “MacArthur Study Bible”) “Paul had not visited the Imperial capital, but because of the strategic importance of the church there, he could stay away no longer. In addition, Paul intended to use Rome as a jumping off point for ministry in the strategic region of Spain (Rom. 15:22-24). This simple declaration marked a turning point in Acts; from this point on, Rome became Paul’s goal. He would ultimately arrive there as a Roman prisoner (28:16).”
For more on “Timothy,” see the ***Biography of Timothy*** found at the start of the study on Acts Chapter 16.
“Erastus” – The name “Erastus” (“beloved”) is mentioned 3 times in the New Testament (here)(2 Tim 4:20)(Rom 16:23). There is some debate over whether each of these is the same person or not. Strong’s places the Erastus (here) with (2 Tim 4:20) as the same person, and the one in (Rom 16:23) as another person. The “Nelson’s Bible Dictionary” lists each separately, but says, “Any two – or perhaps all three – may be identical.”
The “Erastus” in (Rom 16:23) is called “the treasurer of the city” (of Corinth). ***Note: Today in Corinth, an inscription in stone can still be seen which says, “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid the pavement at his own expense.”
(Verses 23-27)(NKJV) “And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way. (24) For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. (25) He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. (26) Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. (27) So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.”
“Demetrius” – We know virtually nothing about this man. The “Zondervan NIV Study Bible” says, “Each trade had its guild, and Demetrius was probably a responsible leader of the guild for the manufacture of silver shrines and images.”
“Diana” – Diana (Gr. = “Artemis”) was the Roman goddess of the moon, hunting, wild animals, and virginity. A huge temple (425′ long, 225′ wide, 60′ high, with 127 white marble columns) was built in Ephesus to worship her. It was one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.”
People visited Ephesus from all over just to see the temple of Diana. When leaving, many would purchase a mini “silver” replica of the temple to take home with them to worship as an idol.
***Note: For more on “household idols / gods” in the Bible, you can go here: https://jesusalive.cc/household-idols-gods-in-bible.
Paul was so effective in his preaching against worshipping idols that it was hurting the livelihood of those who crafted these “shrine” idols.
In order to turn the crowd against Paul, Demetrius played upon 3 fears:
1. It might cause their jobs to fall into “disrepute.”
2. It would damage the reputation of Diana.
3. It would cause harm to their city.
(Verses 28-29) “And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. (29) And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
What Demetrius said to the crowd worked, filling them with “wrath.”
“Gaius” – The name “Gaius” was a common name in New Testament times. It is mentioned 5 times in the NT: (here)(Acts 20:4)(Rom 16:23)(1 Cor 1:14)(3 Jn 1). The “Gaius” mentioned here may be different than the other Gaius’s mentioned though. Although the name “Gaius” is mentioned in the next chapter (Acts 20:4) (along with “Aristarchus”), that Gaius is said to be from “Derbe,” which was a city in the province Galatia, while this “Gaius” is said to be from the province of “Macedonia.” (***Note: It is also unclear if “any” of the 5 men named “Gaius” are the same man.)
“Aristarchus” – “Aristarchus” (name means “the best ruler”) is mentioned by name 5 times in the New Testament. We personally know nothing about him, except that he was a “Macedonian of Thessalonica.” In the next chapter, we see that he “went ahead” of Paul to Troas (Acts 20:3-4), and later in (Acts 27:1-2), we see that he is on the ship which is taking Paul to Rome. During Paul’s 1st imprisonment in Rome (which lasted for 2 years: Acts 28:30), in writing to the Colossians (Col 4:10), Paul says that “Aristarchus” is a “fellow prisoner” with him. In a later letter, written to Philemon while still in his 1st imprisonment (Phile 1:9,22), Paul calls “Aristarchus” a “fellow laborer” (Phile 1:24).
“into the theatre” – This “theatre” can still be seen today. It was the largest theatre that was ever built by the Greeks (685′ long, and 200′ wide), and could hold 25,000 to 30,000 people.
Finally, let’s read (Acts 19:30-41).
(Verses 30-31)(NKJV) “And when Paul wanted to go in to the people, the disciples would not allow him. (31) Then some of the officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent to him pleading that he would not venture into the theater.”
Not surprisingly, Paul in his zealousness, and with a desire to protect his friends, wanted to head straight for the theater. However, “the disciples would not allow him.” These “disciples” were likely members of the church at Ephesus. As we mentioned previously, Paul had been staying at the house of Aquila and Priscilla, who had a “church in their house” (1 Cor 16:19), so Paul may have been in their house when this happened, and therefore Aquila and Priscilla were a part of these “disciples.” Perhaps this explains (Rom 16:3-4), where Paul says that Aquila and Priscilla “risked their own necks for my life?”
“officials of Asia” – The title of these “officials” is “Asiarchs.” These were wealthy, influential, government officials, whose primary jobs were to promote worship of the gods, and the emperor. The “Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary” adds that “ten (Asiarchs) were selected by the proconsul to preside over the games celebrated in the month of May (the same month which Romanism dedicates to the Virgin). It was an office of the highest honor and greatly coveted.” While certainly not Christians, these influential Asiarchs were apparently friends with Paul, and cared about his welfare.
And, from the “Ellicott Commentary,” another interesting point: “There is something significant in the fact that the Asiarchs were St. Paul’s friends. The manliness, tact, and courtesy which tempered his zeal and boldness, seem always to have gained for him the respect of men in authority: Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7), Gallio (Acts 18:14-17), Festus and Agrippa (Acts 25:9; Acts 26:28; Acts 26:32), the centurion Julius (Acts 27:3; Acts 27:43).”
(Verse 32)(NASB) “So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.”
Read this closely! This is HILARIOUS! In other words, we have a great riot in the theater, and everyone is shouting, but the “majority” of the crowd didn’t know why they were shouting, or why they were even there!
(Verses 33-34)(NASB) “Some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly. (34) But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, “Great is Artemis (Diana) of the Ephesians!””
“Alexander” – Four men are named “Alexander” in the New Testament. This “Alexander” is mentioned only here. We know nothing about him, except that he was likely a Jew.
Why did the “Jews put Alexander forward?” What was he making a “defense” for?
The common thought is that Christianity was often viewed as a sect of Judaism. The anger and wrath of the mob was directed at “Christians” (Paul in particular), and what they were teaching about their goddess (Diana). Therefore, the Jews wanted to disassociate themselves from “the Christians,” so that the anger and wrath of the mob would not be directed at them.
However, the mob “recognized that Alexander was a Jew,” and shouted him down “for about 2 hours.” How did the mob “recognize” that Alexander was a Jew?
(Verse 35)(NKJV) “And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: “Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Zeus?””
“the city clerk” – From the “Zondervan NIV Study Bible” – “The secretary of the city who published the decisions of the civic assembly. He was the most important local official and the chief executive officer of the assembly, acting as a go-between for Ephesus and the Roman authorities.”
“the city of the Ephesians is the temple guardian” – From the “Barnes Commentary” – “The term (“temple guardian”) was also given to the cities that were regarded as the special patrons or worshippers of certain gods and goddesses. They esteemed it an honor to be regarded as the special keepers of their temples and images, or as having adopted them as their tutelar divinities. Such was Ephesus in regard to Diana. It was considered to be a high honor that the city was everywhere regarded as being entrusted with the worship of Diana, or with keeping the temple regarded by the whole world as especially her own.”
“of the image which fell down from Zeus” – The Ephesians believed that the image of Diana “fell from the sky,” and that “Zeus” was the one who sent it. Did the “image” “fall from the sky?” Obviously, an “image” did not fall from the sky, but some scholars believe that perhaps a meteorite fell from the sky, and then was carved into an “image.” Many who worshipped gods believed that “meteorites” were sent from the gods. Or, perhaps it was all just folklore.
(Verses 36-39)(NASB) “So, since these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash. (37) For you have brought these men here who are neither temple robbers nor blasphemers of our goddess. (38) So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; have them bring charges against one another. (39) But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly.”
“these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm” – In short, the “city clerk” was assuring the crowd that their status as the “guardians” of Diana was secure, and they needed to calm down.
“these men here who are neither temple robbers nor blasphemers of our goddess” – Many valuable items were on kept display at the temple of Diana. The “clerk” informs the crowd that neither Gaius, Aristarchus, or any of the Christians had “robbed,” or stolen any of these items, nor had they “blasphemed” Diana. Of course, Paul, and other Christians, opposed and spoke against idolatry, however, the fact that they are said not to have “blasphemed” Diana seems to indicate that they did so respectfully, and without insult.
The “clerk” continues, saying that the riot started here by “Demetrius and the craftsmen” was unlawful. If they had “a complaint against anyone,” they needed to take it to the “proconsuls,” whose jobs were to settle such matters. ***Note: As we first mentioned in (Acts 13:7), a “proconsul” was “a name reserved for the governors of settled provinces, which were placed under the Roman Senate” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary).
“settled in the lawful assembly” – From the “Zondervan NIV Study Bible” – “The regular civil meeting ordinarily held three times a month.”
(Verses 40-41)(NJKV) “For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering.” (41) And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.”
“we are in danger of being called into question for today’s uproar” – While the Ephesians were given some autonomy to govern themselves,” they were still ultimately accountable to the Roman Empire. If word got back to Rome of an “uproar” like the one now occurring, the local leaders (like the “city clerk”) would be held responsible, and could lose their jobs, or be punished in other ways. The city might also be punished, and could lose the autonomy they had enjoyed.
From the “Barnes Commentary” – “There was a Roman law which made it capital for anyone to be engaged in promoting a riot. Sui coetum, et concursum fecerit, capite puniatur: “He who raises a mob, let him be punished with death.””
“assembly” – It is “very” interesting to note that the Greek word used for “assembly” here (and in verses 32 & 39) is “ekklesia.” In all 115 other uses, ekklesia is translated as “church.”
We will end with one more interesting thing, a quote, found in the “Believer’s Bible Commentary” – “Strange to say, it was the action of the town clerk in the interests of civil order, and not the uproar, that ended Paul’s ministry there. As long as there was healthy opposition, Paul felt the door of opportunity was widely open in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:8,9). But it appears that when the municipal protection was extended to him, he moved on.”