Acts 19:1-20 (web)

3rd Missionary Journey


Dealing with Disciples of John the Baptist

19:1 It happened that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul,
having passed through the upper country, came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples. 
19:2 He said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?"
They said to him, "No, we haven't even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." 
19:3 He said, "Into what then were you baptized?" 
They said, "Into John's baptism." 
19:4 Paul said, "John indeed baptized with the baptism of repentance, 
saying to the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, 
that is, in Jesus." 
19:5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 
19:6 When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, 
and they spoke with other languages and prophesied. 
19:7 They were about twelve men in all. 

Paul Teaches in the School of Tyrannus

19:8 He entered into the synagogue, and spoke boldly for a period of three months,
reasoning and persuading about the things concerning the Kingdom of God. 
19:9 But when some were hardened and disobedient, 
speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, 
and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 
19:10 This continued for two years, so that all those who lived in Asia 
heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. 
19:11 God worked special miracles by the hands of Paul, 
19:12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons 
were carried away from his body to the sick, and the evil spirits went out. 

Miracle at Ephesus

19:13 But some of the itinerant Jews, exorcists, took on themselves
to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, 
"We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches." 
19:14 There were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did this. 
19:15 The evil spirit answered, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?" 
19:16 The man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overpowered them, 
and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 
19:17 This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived at Ephesus. 
Fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 
19:18 Many also of those who had believed came, confessing, and declaring their deeds. 
19:19 Many of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together 
and burned them in the sight of all.
They counted the price of them, and found it to be fifty thousand pieces of silver.
{The 50,000 pieces of silver here probably referred to 50,000 drachmas. If so, the value of the burned books was equivalent to about 160 man-years of wages for agricultural laborers} 
19:20 So the word of the Lord was growing and becoming mighty. 


vs 1-7 I suspect Apollos was a similar case to these Paul met in Ephesus was though having been baptized by John, yet hadn't come to know Jesus at this point. Living far from israel, they probably only went to Jerusalem during special festivals and so may not have had much contact with Jesus or his followers previously, but were nonetheless ready to believe upon hearing the Word. Their not having received the Holy Spirit indicates they had not been born of God, for Paul writes, "And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Rom 8:9 And John the Baptist himself said, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." Luke 3:16 And it was to this that Paul was alluding. This passage should not be used to affirm the Charismatic theology of a second blessing. Rather this speaks of their initial conversion. At the point here of their Christian baptism when they first put their faith in Christ they received the Holy Spirit. As for their speaking in tongues, that's what happened, but we shouldn't infer that such the same thing should happen in every case. For as we have seen thoughout the gospel and Acts, God doesn't do the same thing all the time, else people would put an idolatrous confidence in experiences and rituals ather than putting faith in Christ.

vs 8-12 Paul previously preached in Ephesus on his 2nd missionary journey when he was returning to Antioch in chapter 18. At that time he didn't experience opposition there. And indeed Apollos also preached to the Jews there. But by this those who were going to be convinced were convinced and the others were hardened. This is a warning to skeptics who continually oppose the message. After a degree of such opposition, one's heart can become hardened and one's fate may be sealed. Romans chapter 1 speaks of this effect of the hardening of the heart due to sin and rejection of God.

I don't perceive that Jesus nor Paul would "get in people's face" with their message. Meaning that they wouldn't force the message upon those who didn't want to hear. If faced with opposition, Jesus taught to shake the dust off your feet (as an insult) and move on. Thus Paul moved on bringing the converts with him and sought another forum for his ministry. In this case he set up his ministry in a school and had people come to him. The word "disputing" or "dialegomai" in the greek indicates a dialogue, debate, discussion was being carried on, as opposed to a lecture. Such a practice is rare in Christian ministry today which is primarily dominated by lectures and rarely are dialogues allowed to be carried on between minister and congregation. And so again in Paul's ministry we see the importance he places on the individual.  Furthermore I doubt very much that all those in Asia it speaks of came to visit Paul. Rather I think this means that he made disciples there in Ephesus who spread the word to others, who spread the word to others, who spread the word to others. 

Miracles affirm the Word of God, and this principle we see throughout the Bible. Thus God will do special miracles through his messengers to confirm their word. Of course today we ourselves don't need to do miracles to affirm the Word. For we are not adding to Bible as the apostles were. Rather we are simply repeating what they said, and their words were affirmed by the miracles they did. Even Jesus said, "Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does.  But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." John 10:37,38

vs 13-20 "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"  There are those even in the Christian community today who in a similar manner as these exorcists use Jesus' name as a magical incantation. There are those who put their faith in words, but not in Jesus Christ. Even demons know that that is not the way it works. You may agree that Jesus is Lord, as these exorcists also seem to agree in their experimental faith in Christ, but have you put your faith in the Jesus who is Lord? There are those who have just as experimental faith in Christ. Their attitude in receiving Christ is "let me try this out and see what happens."  Well here we can see what happens to such people. The demons tear them apart. For they don't really belong to the faith, but are just playing around with it. 

Another aspect to this is that the demons knew Paul, as they knew Jesus. Those who are in Christ have authority over demons, and the demons know that, which is why they respond to commands. So take courage to exercise your faith, but beware if your faith is only experimental.

Isn't it further interesting that despite the fact that the "name" of Jesus failed to exercise the demons, nonetheless it records that "the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified" as a result of such failure.  How can that be? Because people learned not to take the Lord's name in vain. (Which is also the 3rd of the 10 Commandments of Moses) Using the Lord's name with trivial faith is taking His name in vain

Furthermore a fear came upon them which led to repentance. The antinomians predominates Evangelical thought today in which there is little regard for the fear of God nor emphasis on changing one's behavior. For many who are deceived make assurance of salvation the object of their faith rather than making Christ the object of their faith. And among them are those who fearlessly continue to live a lifestyle of sin. Paul writes of those who are thusly deceived, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." 1Cor 6:9,10 And just as the demons replied here, in a similar manner will Jesus say to many of the presumptuous, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' Mt 7:23  So let us continue to fear God, which is the beginning of wisdom.

We notice also the type of sins people were repenting from here. No surprise that many were convicted of their involvement with the occult. For they had placed their faith in words - magical incantations - just as the exorcists had tried to uses Jesus' name as a magical incantation. Yet Christians can also be guilty of the like if indeed you place an occultic trust in ceremonies, rituals and words. For just as with Jesus' name, there is a right attitude and wrong attitude with which to carry out such things. The Word of God is central to the Christian life. But to use the words as magical incantations is wrong, as it is possible to view Christian rituals and ceremonies with an occultic attitude. We notice also that their repentance was not simply a change of attitude. For it took the form of action as well as they burned their magic books. When we truly repent we change our behavior. There are things which we cut out of our life. What is it that you need to burn?

However, more than likely most of these were indeed true Christians prior to this, and while they had formerly repented privately, they now openly confessed their former evil deeds (deeds which they had been practicing before they were believers). And even though they had formerly repented and no longer practiced magic as believers in Christ, they may have had magic books in their house (gathering dust), which they now publically burned. Thus there is no indication from these verses that as believers in Christ they were practicing magic arts, though it's possible that there had been such nominal Christians had been among them prior to this.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 28,2022