Acts 18:11 – 19:41

Thursday Evening Bible Study

December 6, 2007


Paul is in the middle of his second missionary journey.  After having gone through Macedonia in northern Greece and planting churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, he made his way to Athens where he debated some with the Greek philosophers.  He then makes his way to Corinth.

Corinth was a key city for commerce.  Because of its location, all land traffic going north and south in Greece had to pass through Corinth.  All shipping going east and west also had to pass through Corinth.  It was the center of worship for the goddess of love, Aphrodite, which promoted immoral living.  Corinth was the capital of Achaia (all of southern Greece) and a Roman colony like Philippi. See map1

While in Corinth, Paul makes friends with Jewish Christian tentmakers Aquila and Pricilla.  Paul started his ministry in the synagogue, but after the unbelieving Jews started causing trouble, the church started meeting separately at the house next to the synagogue.  As things began to get difficult, the Lord spoke to Paul and told him that there were many in Corinth who still needed to get saved (18:9-10).

map1 – Paul’s 2nd Missionary Journey

Acts 18

:11-17 Corinth

:11 And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

This will be Paul’s longest stay so far in any place he’s planted a church.  The only place he will stay longer in will be Ephesus.

Bible Students, mark your Bibles:  Write “Paul writes 1&2 Thessalonians, AD 51”

:12 When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat,

Gallio – proconsul of Achaia in A.D. 51. Remember that Corinth was the capital of Achaia.  Gallio was characterized by contemporaries as a likeable and witty person.  He was also the brother of Seneca, the famous Roman philosopher.

His ruling in the case of Paul would set a legal precedent that would greatly help the work of the gospel.

Again the Jewish unbelievers are going to cause trouble for Paul.

:13 saying, "This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law."

:14 And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you.

:15 "But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters."

:16 And he drove them from the judgment seat.

Judaism was a “licensed” religion in the Roman empire.  Christianity took advantage of this legal protection as being a sect of Judaism.  The Jews are trying to say that Christianity is not a part of Judaism.  Gallio doesn’t want to hear about it.

:17 Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things.

Apparently Sosthenes was the fellow heading up the attack on Paul.  He may have taken the role of “ruler” after Crispus (18:8) became a Christian.  The Greeks didn’t like the things that Sosthenes was saying about Paul and so they took him and beat him.

Note:  When Paul writes his first letter to the Corinthians, there is a fellow named “Sosthenes our brother” (1Cor. 1:1) writing the letter with Paul.  Could this be the same man?  Could he have become a Christian after this?

:18-23 Heading back to Antioch

:18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.

Cenchrea – this is the eastern port city for Corinth.  Paul is going to take a ship across the Aegean to “Asia” (modern Turkey). See map1

hair cut off – the language indicates that Paul had taken the vow of a Nazirite (Num. 6), dedicating himself to God for a season of time.  The Nazirite vow didn’t have to be for a lifetime, but just a period of time.  When did Paul take this vow?  One idea is that he took it in Corinth, perhaps somehow connected to the Lord speaking to him about the work in Corinth (18:9-10).


A committed life

It’s good to commit yourself to what is right.
I wonder if this season of fruitfulness in Corinth hasn’t come out of this time of special commitment.

It is possible that Paul leaves Silas and Timothy in Corinth. He takes Priscilla and Aquila with him to Ephesus.

:19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.

Ephesus – It will be the city that Paul will eventually spend the most time in and develop the strongest church in.  But on this trip, Paul only spends a brief time here.  As he passes through, he says goodbye to his friends Priscilla and Aquila. See map1

:20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent,

:21 but took leave of them, saying, "I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing." And he sailed from Ephesus.

feast – possibly the Passover.  Paul was a good Jewish boy who tried to keep as many of the “feasts” as he could, getting to Jerusalem to celebrate.

:22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch.

Caesarea – the main secular city and seaport of the Roman territory of Palestine.  See map1

Paul goes “up” to Jerusalem where he gives greetings to the church, then heads back home to Antioch.

:23 After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

departed – This is the beginning of Paul’s third missionary journey. See map2.  Paul begins this journey by going back to the churches started back on the first missionary trip.

Bible Students:  Write “AD 53 – 3rd Missionary Journey” here.


:24-28 Apollos

:24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.

Apollos is from the great Egyptian city on the coast of the Mediterranean, Alexandria.  Alexandria was known for its great Jewish scholars.  This was where the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, was made several hundred years earlier.

Who else is living in Ephesus at this time?  Aquila and Priscilla.

:25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.

If Apollos only knew of John the Baptist who preached of One coming who was greater than he was, it’s possible that Apollos doesn’t know that the Messiah had already come.

:26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.

I love the way they do this.  They don’t debate or argue with Apollos in public – they take him aside and help him.  They fill in the blanks for him.

:27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace;

Achaia – this is the southern part of Greece, where Corinth is the capital.  Apollos is going to end up in Corinth.

Aquila and Priscilla write a letter of introduction to the Corinthian church (where they had been), letting them know that Apollos was an OK guy.

:28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.

Apollos is going to have a great ministry in Corinth.  And yet when Paul writes back to the church and they had begun to take this great ministry that Apollos had and make it a point of division in the church:

(1 Cor 3:4-7 NKJV)  For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not carnal? {5} Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? {6} I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. {7} So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.

We see here in Acts where Apollos was “watering” the seeds that Paul had planted earlier in Corinth.

Acts 19

:1-10 Paul settles in Ephesus

:1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus.

While Apollos is in Corinth, Paul makes his way across from the Galatian churches to the city of Ephesus.

On Paul’s second missionary journey …

(Acts 16:6 NKJV)  Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.
This time Paul is allowed by the Lord to go and spend some time in Asia, particularly in Ephesus.

Ephesus – The city was a commercial center, being one of the major seaports on the Aegean Sea.  It was a political center, the capital of the Roman province of “Asia” (it seems that Paul likes to go to the Roman provincial capitals – Thessalonica, Corinth, and Ephesus).  Ephesus was also a religious center.  The ancient myth was that some sort of “image”, perhaps a meteorite, had fallen from Diana in heaven.  The locals built a temple to this goddess Diana (also known as Artemis). The temple was huge and was known as one of the seven wonders of the world.

Timothy would one day be the pastor in Ephesus (1Tim. 1:3).  The apostle John would also spend his final years in Ephesus.  This is the city where Jesus would write a letter (Rev. 2) and warn them about having left their “first love”.

:1 And finding some disciples

:2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."

:3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism."

Paul runs into a group who were probably earlier disciples of Apollos, before he met Aquila and Priscilla, since they seem to have an imperfect knowledge about the gospel.

They have never heard of the Holy Spirit.

We believe that the Holy Spirit has three different kinds of relationships with people.

For everyone in the world, the Holy Spirit is “with” them, convicting them, drawing them to Jesus.
When a person becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit comes to live “in” them.
(John 14:17 NKJV)  … for He dwells with you and will be in you.
When a person learns to yield their life to the work of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit comes “upon” them.
(Acts 1:8 NKJV)  "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."


The missing piece

They are called “disciples”.  They have “believed”.  Are they Christians?  You could make a case either way.
Paul notices that something is missing.
I find it interesting that Paul could see that something was missing.
(Gal 5:16-23 NLT)  So I advise you to live according to your new life in the Holy Spirit. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves. {17} The old sinful nature loves to do evil, which is just opposite from what the Holy Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, and your choices are never free from this conflict. {18} But when you are directed by the Holy Spirit, you are no longer subject to the law. {19} When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, {20} idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, {21} envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. {22} But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.

Could it be that Paul could tell by the way these guys acted that the Holy Spirit was missing?

How can I be baptized in the Holy Spirit?

(John 7:37-38 NKJV)  …Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. {38} "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."
It starts with recognizing your need, your “thirst” for the Lord.
You need to be coming to Jesus for this.
Receive (drink) and believe

With these fellows, Paul laid hands on them.  This can be helpful, to have someone pray for you.  But you can also receive this by yourself by simply asking.

This is not a “one time” occurrence.  We need to be continually, over and over again, “filled” with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

:4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would 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 hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.

We might say that these fellows were “baptized” in the Holy Spirit.  Even if you don’t think they were Christians when Paul first met them, they would be considered Christians after they believe and were baptized in water.  The baptism of the Holy Spirit followed that.

:7 Now the men were about twelve in all.

:8 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.

daily – typically work was done from 7-11am each day, then a break from 11am to 4pm, then back to work until 9pm.  The suggestion is that Paul taught during the daily “break” or “siesta”.

school of Tyrannus – we don’t really know what kind of school this was, perhaps a school of “rhetoric”.  But the fellow allowed Paul to use it as a meeting place – kind of like when we started the church in the YMCA at Fullerton.

: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.

The gospel goes out from the church at Ephesus.  Perhaps it was because Ephesus was the Roman capital, perhaps because of the trade that went on.

Churches were started in the cities of Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis.  It’s possible that some of the other cities mentioned in Rev. 2-3 were also started during these two years as well.

:11-20 Unusual miracles

:11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul,

unusual – all miracles are “unusual”, but these ones were just plain freaky.

:12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.

handkerchiefssoudarion – a handkerchief; a cloth for wiping perspiration from the face and for cleaning the nose and also used in swathing the head of a corpse

People are raiding the trashcans for Paul’s used Kleenexes of sweaty headbands.  They are getting healed and demons are fleeing at the sight of them.

:13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."

exorcistsexorkistes (“exorcist” = “out of” + “oath”) – he who extracts an oath of one; an exorcist; one who employs a formula of conjuration for expelling demons

:14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.

Sceva = “mind reader”

:15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"

There are two different words here, both translated “know”.  More literally, “Jesus I know personally from experience, and Paul I am acquainted with, but who are you?”

Isn’t it kind of strange to think that there might be demons in the spirit world who know you, as a Christian, by name? (and are afraid of your kleenex?)

:16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

One demon possessed man overcomes seven men.


Where is the power?

We tend to think of there being “power” and “authority” in the name of Jesus – which is true in a sense.  Yet the power isn’t in the sound of someone speaking the name, the power is in the one who is using the name.
As a believer in Jesus, you and I have authority to cast out demons.  But an unbeliever isn’t able to use the name of Jesus in this way.
When we ask Jesus to come into our life, we have a power greater than that of Satan:
(1 John 4:4 NKJV)  You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
Jesus gives authority over demons to those who follow Him.
(Luke 10:19 NKJV)  "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

:17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

:18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds.

:19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver.

magicperiergos (“about” + “work”) – busy about trifles and neglectful of important matters; esp. busy about other folks’ affairs, a busybody; of things: impertinent and superfluous; of magic arts

The word almost reminds me of things like “National Enquirer” or “The Star”.  Wasteful stuff.

books – these would not just be books about magic, but Ephesus was famous for what was called its “Ephesian Letters”, which were slips of papyrus or parchment that contained symbols, magical sentences, incantations, and were worn as amulets and charms.

:20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.



What is happening here is the process of “sanctification”.  People are finding that Jesus changes lives, and they are walking away from evil things.
They don’t seem to be concerned about the value of the things they were throwing away.  They weren’t concerned about all the money they had invested in these “evil” things.
Notice that this “repentance” was done “in the sight of all” (vs. 19).
(James 5:16 NKJV)  Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed…
There’s something powerful that happens when we learn to walk away from the “darkness” in a public way.  That is part of the value of the “altar call”, when we come forward to admit our need for Jesus.

:21-41 The Ephesian Riot

:21 When these things were accomplished, 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."

As this revival is taking place, God has been moving on Paul’s heart that it was time to move on.  His intention is to go on to the churches of Macedonia and Achaia, which would include Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and Corinth.  Then he intends to go to Jerusalem, and hopefully one day on to Rome.

:22 So he sent into Macedonia two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, but he himself stayed in Asia for a time.

Bible Students:  Mark your Bibles – “AD 56, Paul writes 1Corinthians”

You can see some of these things mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:

(1 Cor 16:5-12 NKJV)  Now I will come to you (to Corinth) when I pass through Macedonia (for I am passing through Macedonia). {6} And it may be that I will remain, or even spend the winter with you, that you may send me on my journey, wherever I go. {7} For I do not wish to see you now on the way; but I hope to stay a while with you, if the Lord permits. {8} But I will tarry in Ephesus until Pentecost. {9} For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

We’re going to take a peek at these “adversaries” in a minute.

{10} Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do.

Acts 19:22 tells us Timothy would be sent to Corinth by way of Macedonia.

{11} Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren. {12} Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly urged him to come to you with the brethren, but he was quite unwilling to come at this time; however, he will come when he has a convenient time.

Apparently during Paul’s three years in Ephesus, Apollos had come back to Ephesus from Corinth, and he wasn’t too excited about going back to Corinth.

:23 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.

Making these little “shrines” was a big business.

: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."

During the Welsh Revival of 1904, something close to 100,000 people came to Christ.  Lives were changed:

“People were changed in so many ways. The crime rate dropped, drunkards were reformed, pubs reported losses in trade. Bad language disappeared and never returned to the lips of many – it was reported that the pit ponies failed to understand their born again colliers who seemed to speak the new language of Zion – without curse and blasphemy – even football and rugby became uninteresting in the light of new joy and direction received by the Converts.”

:28 Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"

Diana of the Romans and Artemis of the Greeks were the same goddess, but this is NOT that goddess.  That’s why she’s called “Diana of the Ephesians”.  She was separate deity, probably linked closer to the Syrian Astarte (also known as Ashtoreth and Molech).

:29 So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul's travel companions.

The theater in Ephesus held 25,000 people.

:30 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.

These men, called “Asiarchs”, were wealthy men who would use their own money to put on festivals and games, some of which were connected to worship of pagan gods and the worship of the emperor.  Some had become friends of Paul.  It does not mean that these men had become believers yet.

:32 Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.

:33 And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people.

Alexander was a Jew like Paul, but not a Christian. The Jews, like Paul, were opposed to idolatry.  But the Jews were afraid that they were getting drawn into this mess along with Paul, and Alexander wants to try and separate the Jews from the Christians.

This may be the same man Paul will later warn Timothy about:

2 Timothy 4:14  Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

:34 But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!"


Avoiding the truth

These people are keeping up their chant because they don’t want to hear the truth.
The gods and goddesses of the pagan religions enabled people to live according to the desires of their flesh.
They are afraid of someone taking their “stuff” away?
What are the kinds of things that people do today to fill the emptiness inside?

Drinking, drugs, sex, entertainment, sports, boating, travel, education …

Rather than risk losing their “stuff”, these people are satisfied chanting their mantra over and over again until the truth goes away.
Today, the city of Ephesus is gone.  The worldwide worship of Diana is gone.  The temple of Diana is gone.  The silversmith’s guild is gone.  But the good news of Jesus Christ and His church is still going.
What are you settling for in your life?  How are you filling the emptiness?

:35 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?

city clerk – actually the title of the highest elected official in Ephesus, like a “mayor”.  Remember that Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia.

:36 "Therefore, since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rashly.

:37 "For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess.

:38 "Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another.

If you have a problem with Paul, then sue him…

:39 "But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly.

:40 "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.