Study No. 23– The Jesus that Paul Preached - Acts 18:22,27 and 19:1-20
Events in Ephesus
Paul, together with Aquila and Priscilla travel from Corinth to Ephesus.
Paul ministers there just a short while, then leaves for Jerusalem and Antioch, thus ending his second missionary journey. We have no knowledge of where Luke, Silas and Timothy are.
During their stay in Ephesus Aquila and Priscilla ‘come across’ the avid speaker named Apollos. They took him aside privately and ‘updated’ his knowledge base concerning Christ and ‘the Way’.
During this same time period Paul has been in Antioch, preaching in his home church(es). After quite a while decides to retrace the steps of his previous journeys ‘in order’ and strengthen the believers in each of the churches. Nothing is said specifically about any one church and we can only surmise regarding how long this took. Because he is walking across Asia minor, and because ‘strengthening’ a church would involve some time we would have to imagine that most of a year goes by. When he comes to Ephesus he comes across a group of believers who are not part of the Ephesus church.
Paul asks a ‘leading’ question.
KJV - ‘unto what then were ye baptized?’
NKJV - ‘Into what then were you baptized?’
ASV – ‘Into what then were ye baptized?’
YLT – To what then were you baptized?
All of the above imply that a person is baptized ‘into’ something, or at least, ‘with reference’ to something.
Ro 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Ga 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
These two verses make it clear that we are baptized ‘into’ or ‘with reference to’ Christ. This is the kind of answer that Paul was looking for, but any mention of Christ was simply ‘not there’.
Unfortunately this leading question of Paul’s is completely missing in the NIV and the BBE
The NIV – what Baptism did you receive?
The BBE – What sort of baptism did you have?
In trying to simplify things they have missed the point of what Paul is trying to find out.
By the way, what was it that sparked Paul’s attention to the fact that something may have been ‘amiss’ in the testimony of the Ephesian disciples? His question was not, ‘Have you received Christ?’ but rather, ‘Have you received the Holy Spirit?’. When their response was … ‘Holy Spirit? What is that?’ Paul knew something was wrong. Paul asked a question relating to baptism, specifically to discover something about them. His question, (‘With reference to what … or unto what … were you baptized?’), was fishing for the answer, ‘We were baptized with reference to (in the name of ) the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’. But they had just said … ‘What is the Holy Spirit?’, leaving Paul wondering what was said to them at the time of their baptism.
Their answer was strange to Paul’s ears. ‘We were baptized with reference to John the Baptist’. Notice, the scripture does not say that they were baptized BY John the Baptist… only in reference to John.
So Paul has to take this a bit further. He informs them that nobody ever got baptized … ‘with reference to john’s baptism.’
We are reminded by Paul
1. That John baptized everyone … with reference to Christ.
2. That John did not commission anyone else to baptize
3. John informed people to wait for Christ to appear.
From what we see here, a small group of disciples living in Ephesus had been baptized by someone who
1. failed to say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
2. Was not commissioned to baptize at all.
3. Did not know or have the ‘complete picture’.
4. Was very ambitious and independent.
We really do not need to be much of a detective to realize that
1. Apollos has just recently spent time in Ephesus
2. By all accounts was an eloquent, independent speaker.
3. was not aware of the ‘complete picture’
So, I would say that, most likely, these 12 disciples were disciples made by Apollos.
Paul ‘re-baptizes’ them. What is this saying about the following scripture (from Paul): Eph 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;? Is he saying that they were not really saved? In a way, yes. We need to understand that this was not supposed to have happened. There should be no reason for disciples to show up who did not know Jesus. John did not send out missionaries, but rather instructed people to get ready and wait for Jesus. Just like Aquila and Priscilla had to update Apollos regarding the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, so Paul would have had to do the same with these twelve.
After they heard the complete gospel (and received it), and were baptized (in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) Paul lays hands on them as sign of confirmation and endorsement. Whether Paul expected this to happen, we don't know, but the Holy Spirit came on them as it did on the day of Pentecost, also as a sign of endorsement from God, that indeed, these are now complete in every way.
(Note the scripture says that they were baptized in the name of Lord Jesus. It does not say that Paul failed to mention the Holy Spirit. This is only to emphasize that this is really what John was baptizing for.)
Paul’s work in the city of Ephesus.
He spends three months preaching or teaching in the synagogue. We need to refer back to a scripture in chapter 18:19-21. There we see that after spending some time in the synagogue the ‘new converts’ asked him to stay longer but he declines, saying that he will be back. Apparently Aquila and Priscilla remain in Ephesus. When Paul mentions their names in Romans 16:3 he refers them as ‘helpers’.
On this, his return trip (possibly a year or more later?) he goes to the synagogue again, not because there was no ‘church plant’ there yet, but rather we see Paul simply using an evangelism method that he was comfortable with.
Because ‘house churches’ (the only kind of church building at the time) would not be suited to larger assemblies, we see Paul using venues such as synagogues … when he was permitted, and now in a ‘school of Tyrannus) and this he does for two years.
Paul’s ‘unusual’ ministry
During this time, Luke informs us, that Paul had a special ministry of healing and deliverance from demons. He says that these miracles were special or extraordinary or unusual (depending on which translation you read). By the way, what is a ‘usual’ miracle? Or what is an ordinary miracle? I think often, to us, miracles are so far apart that we see them all as unusual or special.
For Jewish persons to cast out demons was not unheard of. For example, we read in Matthew 12:27 "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges.
Here is an interesting incident that happened during Jesus’ personal ministry. Lu 9:49 Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us." :50 But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."
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We don’t know any more about this incident than what is written here, but one thing that stands out is the fact that in this case the person was doing this in Jesus’ name. This indicates he had some kind of a belief in Jesus but at the same time we note that John thought it important to say, “he does not follow us”. Jesus does not discourage this person at all. What is different then, in the case before us in Acts? Notice, the sons of Sceva talk to the demons, not in Jesus’ name … but the Jesus that Paul preaches. God has children … not nephews. These persons were a step removed from Jesus. How important it is for each of us to have our own personal relationship with Jesus.
And how dangerous it is to venture into an area without the protection of God.
As a result of this shocking demonic activity, the awareness of the spirit world and power of God and the Holy Spirit was heightened resulting in incredible growth. (17-20)
Paul thinks his ministry in Ephesus is over for now, and he mentions his extended plans to leave and continue his missionary tour. In preparation for his going back to Macedonia (Philippi, for example) he sends Timothy (and Erastus) on ahead.
As he stays on in Ephesus for a while longer, a strong resistance to the message of the Gospel swells to a tidal wave. When the gospel is perceived to affect a persons ‘liberty’, reputation, happiness, or if it affects a person’s wallet … there is generally a reaction. In this case it is all about money and fame. The gospel is affecting the popular worship of the goddess Diana. 23-28
During the ‘uproar,’ Gaius and Aristarchus are apprehended … but Paul is spared. A wise ‘city clerk’ settles the crowd. Although there may be many exceptions to this, Solomon wrote ¶ When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Pr 16:7
King David was a real exception to this and the Apostle Paul was as well. But in this instance (and in chapter 18:14-16) Paul was spared by the wisdom of a non-Christian. Our lives will be in a constant tension between – “whatever a mans sows, that will he also reap”, on the one hand and “all who live Godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution,” on the other.
The Jesus that Paul preached …
What is He like? He is revealed in scripture. He is not to be minimized or marginalized as many do today. He is not to be re-defined as many even did in Jude’s day. One demon could overpower seven men. But one handkerchief could overpower a demon. Little is much … when God is in it!