Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19)
Welcome to Lesson 18 in your Bible Study of Acts.
In this lesson we want to take a closer look at Acts 19 and Paul’s ministry in the city of Ephesus.
Paul had actually visited Ephesus once before, on his way home from his second missionary journey (Acts 18:18-21). We know he did not stay long, but he did promise to return (18:21).
Baptism of the Holy Spirit for John’s disciples
In the first narrative, Paul encounters a group of disciples and questions them about their conversion and faith.
Read Acts 19:2-7
- In v. 3, Paul asks about the disciples’ baptism. What do the disciples mean by having been baptized into “John’s baptism”? (See Mark 1:4)
- What appears to be missing from their conversion experience
- What happens when Paul lays his hands on the disciples? How is this event similar to the baptism that occurred at Pentecost and why is this important?
- What is your perspective and your church’s perspective regarding the baptism of the Holy Spirit?
- Have you or someone you know experienced this in your own life? Is this something we should all seek today?
- What is your familiarity / comfort with the Pentecostal / Charismatic movement within the evangelical church today? Describe your perspectives and opinions.
Christianity confronts the spirituality of the Greco-Roman world
We note in Acts 19 that there are many episodes where the Christian faith confronts the spirituality of the Greco-Roman world. This includes the episode where the evil spirit recognizes Paul and Jesus (19:13-16), the magicians burn their books (19:18-19 and Paul is brought before the civic magistrates (19:23-41).
Diana, goddess and protector of Ephesus
In the case of Paul’s conflict with the silversmiths of Ephesus it is important to note just how important the goddess Diana was to the city of Ephesus.
Basically, she was considered a protector of the city. The temple of Diana was the envy of the ancient world. Indeed, it was known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was something that Ephesus held up as brining honor, prestige and respect to their city. It was something to be proud of.
Diana was known as the goddess of fertility and she was often associated with magic and astrology. (This is why it is not surprising that magicians were living in Ephesus.)
In addition, the commercial enterprise of selling items related to the temple and to the goddess generated a great deal of prosperity for its merchants. When that income dried up, the silversmiths were understandably angry.
Read Acts 19:23-41
- Describe what occurred in this narrative. Who are the main players? What is the conflict? How is it resolved?
- What critique does Luke (or Paul) make when the story of the revolt in Ephesus is narrated?
Questions for today
- What critiques does the gospel make against your culture? In other words, what should be the relationship of the gospel and of Christians to the surrounding culture?
- Is it OK for people to be proud of their city or their country like the Ephesians were of their beloved Ephesus? To what extent?
- What activities, attitudes, celebrations or elements in your culture would you say are incompatible with the gospel?