Today: [Acts 19 Part 1:] The Ephesian Church is Founded. In Acts 19 Paul travels to Ephesus and successfully plants the church there. The Ephesian church represents a high water mark of the moving of the Spirit of God in the New Testament Era. During Paul’s time in Ephesus, every Jew and Greek in Asia heard the gospel. What was the secret to Paul’s success? Paul in this city makes a definitive break with the synagogue and focuses on the Gentile population while ministering in a marketplace venue. We can learn much from the success of Paul’s ministry in this chapter regarding what he did and did not do.
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[Act 19:1-20 KJV] 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, 2 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. 6 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. 8 And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. 9 But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. 10 And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. 11 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. 13 Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. 14 And there were seven sons of [one] Sceva, a Jew, [and] chief of the priests, which did so. 15 And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? 16 And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 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 v. 1 of Acts 19, we see that Paul travels to Ephesus while Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos continue building up the church at Corinth. When Pal arrives in Ephesus, he finds a group of disciples preceded him there and inquired of them if they have received the Holy Ghost. These believers left Jerusalem very early in the narrative of the early church, perhaps influenced only by those who witnessed the resurrection but did not go to the upper room to wait for the promise of the Father, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. Paul asks them if they received the Holy Ghost which they know nothing about. The only baptism they were familiar with was the baptism of John, so they are indeed believers in Jesus but were utterly unfamiliar with the unfolding events from the day of Pentecost going forward. In hearing this, we understand why Jesus told the 500 who witnessed the resurrection to go and tarry in Jerusalem. We are surprised and confuses as to why 380 of those bidden decided not to follow the instruction. Can you imagine witnessing the resurrected Lord ascending to heaven and then ignoring His guidance and going about living your lives as you saw fit?
After Paul instructs these Ephesians in the way of God more perfectly they consent to be baptized again in water – this time in the name of Jesus as previously they were baptism was only the baptism John administered in preparation for the arrival of Jesus on the scene. When they are baptized, the Holy Ghost came upon them. How do we know this? Because they spoke in tongues and prophesied. If you think you are baptized in the Holy Ghost and you haven’t received the gift of speaking in tongues you are mistaken. It is error to believe you are baptized in the Holy Ghost in the absence of speaking in other tongues as the initial evidence of doing so.
The word baptize means to immerse. It doesn’t mean for instance to sprinkle. If your baptism in water was sprinkling only it does not conform to the example set in the biblical record. There is no room for interpretation here. The word used for baptism unequivocally means “to immerse.” Likewise regarding the baptism of the Holy Ghost. How do you know you are immersed in the Holy Ghost? Because of subjective feelings or some emotional experience? There is no record in scripture of believers being baptized in the Holy Ghost and being certified as such by anything other than speaking in other tongues. James 3:8 tells us that the tongue is an unruly member that no man can tame. It represents that part of us that is farthest from God and must be immersed or come under the Spirit’s control for us to definitively say we are baptized in the Holy Ghost. Any other conclusion proceeds from religious timidity and unbelief.
After meeting with these 12 believers and baptizing them in the name of Jesus, Paul goes on to engage the synagogue for a space of three months. We have no indication that God told Paul to do this. There are places in scripture where the language indicates that the Spirit of God pressed Paul to go to a particular people but in this instance and others there is no reference to Paul being instructed by God to contend with the Jews and on three previous occasions Paul states plainly that his mandate is to turn from the Jews and preach to the Gentiles. He is an apostle perhaps in conflict regarding his call. What is your call? Are you trying to fulfill a mandate of your own making and not seeing results? Most of the problems Paul faced in his ministry arose from failed attempts to reach the Jews. Is it ONLY because they were resistant to the gospel? Apollos didn’t have these problems. In Acts 19:28 we see Apollos mightily convinced the Jews. Paul doesn’t have that effect on them. For the most part, Paul only makes them mad. Sadly today many preach the gospel and just make people mad. Rather than learn from the experience they conclude this is their calling, to make people angry and then denounce them for doing so. We need to stop and think about these things.
In verse 9 Paul for the fourth time in his ministry, Paul turns from the Jewish contingency in the city and focuses on the Gentiles. Instead of teaching in the synagogue he secures a venue in the school of a man by the name of Tyrannus. Now he goes on for two whole years ultimately reaching (pay attention to this) ALL of those who dwelled in Asia both Jews and Greeks. When Paul directly confronts the Jews, he is unsuccessful but when he focuses on the Gentiles consistent with his mandate his effectiveness reaches to the entire Jewish and Gentile demographic throughout Asia.
We also see the Spirit of God resting so heavily upon Paul that from his body handkerchiefs are taken, and many sick are healed. This never happened when he was contending in the synagogue. No one was looking at what was on Paul as he argued in defense of the gospel in the synagogue and said “I want some of that… “and proceeded to put handkerchiefs on his body hoping to soak up some of what was manifesting in him. Learn to stay focused on your mandate and not your own idea of what you can’t help but apply yourself to whether God tells you or not.
In verse 13 certain traveling Jews who specialized in exorcism attempt to emulate the miracles of Paul with disastrous results. There were certain unbelieving Jewish brothers, seven in number who attempted to invoke the name of Jesus and were left beaten and bloody. Learn not to provoke confrontations you are not prepared to deal with. There is a story that a Christian minister went to Africa and cut down a tree venerated by a shamanistic religion. He died the next day. Make sure you know that you know that you know God is with you in the spiritual warfare you are facing. Do not move in presumption.
The move of the Spirit increased with its epicenter in Ephesus, and the people begin to bring out occultic books and other items associated with false religion and burn them. This was only known to happen in Ephesus. Is this because only in Ephesus were such things to be found? Hardly. The Ephesian church is the most successful church with perhaps only Antioch rivaling that character and strength of this group of believers. What about you? When is the last time you did a house cleaning? Today it isn’t necessarily a book or pagan figurine that is the problem. What about your media habits? Do you watch programming or visit websites that are occultic in nature? When these things exist in a city, there is a dampening of the move of God. Would you like to see a significant movement of God in your life, your church or city? Deal with the occult influences that touch your life, and you just might see something of the move of the Spirit such as centered around the apostle Paul as verse 20 says “so mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.”
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