Acts 19

The Word Made Fresh

1While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul went through the interior on his way to Ephesus, and when he arrived he found some disciples. 2He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?”

“No,” they said. “No one has told us there is a Holy Spirit.”

3“Into what were you baptized?” Paul asked.

“Into John’s baptism,” they replied.

4Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. But he told the people who came to him to believe in the one who was to come – that is, Jesus Christ.”

5When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6Then Paul laid his hands on them. The Holy Spirit came over them and they began to speak in tongues and prophesy. 7There were about twelve of them altogether.

8Then he went into the synagogue and spoke out boldly. He did this for three months, and argued with them to persuade them about the kingdom of God. 9When some of them refused to believe and criticized the Way before the whole congregation, he left them and took his arguments to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. His disciples went with him. 10He did this for two years, and all who lived in Asia, both Jews and Greeks, were able to hear the word of the Lord.

11God worked extraordinary miracles through Paul. 12Handkerchiefs and aprons that touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses went away, and evil spirits left them. 13Then some itinerant Jewish exorcists tried using the name of the Lord Jesus with those who had evil spirits. They would say, “I order you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” 14Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15But the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus and Paul, but who are you?” 16Then the man whom they possessed jumped on them and beat all of them up. They were so outdone that they ran naked and wounded out of the house.

17Everyone in Ephesus, Greeks and Jews, heard about this. They were awestruck, and the Lord Jesus was praised. 18In addition, many of the new believers confessed their sinful practices. 19A lot of those who practiced magic gathered their books together and burned them in public. They were collectively valued at fifty thousand silver coins.

20And the word of the Lord grew rapidly and remained.

21After all of this, Paul decided to go through Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem. “Then,” he said, “I must see Rome.” 22He sent his helpers Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia while he stayed on for a while in Asia.

23It was around this time that a great argument arose concerning the Way. 24A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought a great deal of business to the artists there. 25He gathered them together along with the other workers in his own trade. He said, “Fellows, you know that we earn our living through this business. 26And I’m sure you’ve seen and heard that not only here in Ephesus, but also across Asia, this man Paul has been telling people that gods made with hands are not gods. 27There is danger that not only will our trade become disreputable, but also the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be ignored, and she will be deprived of her majesty that all of Asia and the world have worshiped.”

28When they heard this, they were enraged. They shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29Confusion swept through the city and people began to gather in the theater, and they hauled Paul’s travel companions Gaius and Aristarchus there. 30Paul wanted to go in and speak to the crowds, but the disciples wouldn’t allow him to do that. 31And some of the Asian officials who were his friends sent a message telling him not to venture into the theatre.

32In the assembly some people were shouting one thing, and others another. There was great confusion, with most of them not even knowing why they had gathered there. 33Some of them pushed a Jewish man, Alexander, forward. He tried to silence the crowd, 34but when they realized he was a Jew they began to shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians,” and this went on for about two hours.

35The town clerk quieted the crowd and said, “Citizens of Ephesus! Who doesn’t know that Ephesus keeps the temple of the great Artemis and the image that fell from heaven? 36No one denies this, so calm down, and don’t do anything foolish. 37The men you have brought here have not robbed the temple, nor have they cursed our goddess. 38If Demetrius and the artists with him have a complaint against anyone, our courts are open, and there are lawyers. Let them press charges. 39If there’s anything else you want to know, settle it in the legal assembly. 40We are in danger of being charged with rioting, and there is no cause we can cite to justify this turmoil!” And with those words, he dismissed the assembly.


1-7: Paul returns to Ephesus where he finds a dozen or so Christians who have nevertheless only been baptized into John’s baptism of repentance. Paul persuades them to be baptized into the name of Jesus, the one whom John had proclaimed. Upon being baptized in Christ they are overcome by the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in tongues and to prophesy — two of the signs of the indwelling Holy Spirit which Paul mentions in his later correspondence (see 1 Corinthians 12:10, for example).

8-10: Paul goes to the synagogue to debate with the Jews, of course, and succeeds in converting a number of people, but opposition starts getting nasty and he leaves, taking his converts with him, and removes to a public lecture hall (the name Tyrannus is unknown elsewhere in ancient literature, but may be the name of the person who founded the school). Paul’s two-year stay in Ephesus is probably his longest tenure anywhere.

11-20: The story of the seven sons of Sceva is told to demonstrate the power of faith in Jesus. The Jewish exorcists are from Jerusalem, sons of a high priest. Seeing the success Paul is having they try to duplicate his “formula,” speaking in the name of “the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” But their attempt to usurp the power of faith in Jesus is foiled by the strength of the demon-possessed man who recognizes (as demon-possessed people seem often to do) that they are not authentic believers. As a result, Paul’s stock rises and even the local magicians are converted to the faith to the extent that they burn their valuable books of incantations.

21-22: Paul sends Timothy and Erastus (who is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:20) to Macedonia to make provisions for his going there.

23-27: A union trade strike occurs when a silversmith named Demetrius points a finger at Paul and accuses him of their declining business.

28-41: A riot ensues, and an angry mob gathers at the theater. (Gaius and Aristarchus will both be mentioned a half-dozen times in the remainder of the New Testament. Aristarchus is called Paul’s fellow prisoner at Colossians 4:10). A leader in the Jewish community, one Alexander, tries to bring some order to the mob but is shouted down. After a couple of hours of rioting and chanting the town clerk is able finally to restore order, telling Demetrius and his trade union to follow the prescribed procedure for bringing a complaint. Note that in spite of the angry riot the Christian community seems to have gained a measure of respect, for both the Jewish leader Alexander and the unnamed town clerk defend Paul and his followers.


When our faith in Christ upsets the world of business, we must be doing something right.