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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Acts 19

 

 


Introduction

THE BOOK OF ACTS | CHAPTER 19

OUTLINE AND COMMENTARY - MARK DUNAGAN

I. OUTLINE OF CHAPTER 19:

I. Paul In Ephesus:

A. Those baptized under John"s baptism:

B. Preaching in the synagogue:

C. Teaching in the School of Tyrannus:

D. True miracles and pretenders:

E. Paul"s future plans:

F. The riot in Ephesus:

Paul had actually started his third missionary journey in Acts 18:23, and Luke temporarily put this journey on hold as he told us about Apollos (18:24-28). In this chapter he returns to the third journey. In coming to Ephesus, Paul is also permitted to preach in a region that he had been prevented from entering on the second journey (Acts 16:6), and came back to a city in which he had only briefly evangelized (18:19-21).


Verse 1

Acts 19:1 "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disciples"

"While Apollos was at Corinth" Acts 18:26-28. When Paul came to Ephesus, he did not meet Apollos (18:21,24-26), for he had already left. The First Corinthian letter also mentions the fact that Apollos had been at Corinth and worked with that congregation (1 Corinthians 3:6). "Having passed through the upper country" As of 18:23, we find that Paul had been traveling overland from Antioch strengthening the Christians in the regions of Galatia and Phrygia. Two routes were open from this region to Ephesus. "One was through the low country, along the Lycus and Meander River valleys, passing through Colossae, Hierapolis, and Laodicea. The other route was called the upper route because it took the traveler across the high tablelands of the interior of Asia Minor. Taking the northern route through the highlands, Paul would have approached Ephesus from around the north side of Mt. Messogis" (Reese p. 666). "Came to Ephesus" This city was one of the great cities of the world during New Testament times.

While Pergamum was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, Ephesus was the largest city in the province, having a population estimated to be around 300,000.

Located four miles from the Aegean Sea, Ephesus was situated at the mouth of the Cayster River, and thus boasted the best inland harbor on the coast of Asia. As a result, it was the most important trade center west of Tarsus. "Ephesus was the gateway to Asia, it was the entrance for shipping from the West, and the point of departure for the caravans between the Ionian coast and the East. The highway led from Ephesus across central Asia Minor through the Cilician Gates to Antioch, and hence across Syria to the Euphrates valley, Persia, and India" The city contained a theater which would seat some 25,000 people. "A main thoroughfare, some 35 feet wide, ran from the theater to the harbor, at each end of which stood an impressive gate. The thoroughfare was flanked on each side by rows of columns 15 feet deep. Behind these columns were baths, gymnasiums, and impressive buildings" (Nelsons p. 345). The city was also a religious "mecca" for those devoted to the worship of Diana ( also called Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo and the daughter of Zeus). "The temple of Artemis in Paul"s day was supported by 127 columns, each of them 60 feet high. The Ephesians took great pride in their grand edifice. During the Roman period, they promoted the worship of Artemis by minting coins with the inscription, "Diana of Ephesus"" (Nelsons p. 346). "The great temple, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, had been rebuilt after its destruction by fire in 356 B.C. Its immense size, 360 ft. in length and 180 feet in breadth exclusive of its platform, its ornate carvings and its varied paintings, as well as the image of Artemis which supposedly fell down from heaven, made it the religious center of all Asia" (Tenney p. 279). "In addition to the worship of the traditional deity, Ephesus was renowned for its patronage of occult arts. "Ephesian letters" or formulations of magical charms, were famous"" (p. 280).

This chapter should offer tremendous encouragement to all Christians. For on the surface one might think that Ephesus had everything it needed, and yet overwhelmingly stiff competition faced the gospel in this city. To the casual observer, it would look like the devil had the people here safely protected from the gospel message behind a wall of pleasure, material goods, and human pride, but many people will become Christians in this city.

"Found certain disciples" The word "disciple" means a learner, but we should note that these 12 men were not Christians when Paul first met them (19:5). From the events in this chapter, certain Pentecostal and charismatic groups have attempted to use these verses as a proof-text for a two-stage process in conversion. They believe that stage one is faith and conversion, followed later by a receiving of the Holy Spirit. But that doctrine does not fit these passages, for these "disciples" were not Christians in the first "stage" in which Paul found them. They had not heard about Jesus (19:4), they did not believe in Jesus and they had not been baptized into the name of Jesus (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38).


Verse 2

Acts 19:2 "and he said unto them, Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they {said} unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was {given}"

"Did ye receive the Holy Spirit when ye believed" Evidently, after spending some time with these men, Paul realized that something was missing in their knowledge. Some commentators assert that Paul could tell something was wrong, because these men did not manifest joy, which is the common misconception that the Holy Spirit miraculously and automatically gives the Christian warm feelings of instant joy and contentment. The example of the Corinthians (Christians who possessed spiritual gifts), and yet were far from content (1 Corinthians 3:1-3), should be enough to derail the above false theory. The phrase, "when ye believed" obviously refers to the time at which they were baptized. Thus Paul just naturally links together faith and baptism. That is, if a person really believed, then they would be baptized, for Jesus commanded it (Mark 16:16). There is some question as to what Paul is really asking these men: (a) Some say Paul is saying something like, "Did you know that the Spirit was given on Pentecost?" But he asked them if "they" had received and not, "Did you ever hear about the coming of the Spirit." (b) Was Paul saying, "Did you receive a spiritual gift when you believed?" Reese says, "Now spiritual gifts were not regularly given simultaneously with baptism for the remission of sins, so it is doubtful that "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed" has reference to spiritual gifts" (p. 668). Yet, we must note that after these men were baptized, they did immediately receive Spiritual Gifts (19:6). (c) Paul may be referring to the gift of the Spirit connected with baptism (Acts 2:38), that is, did you receive the blessings promised by the Holy Spirit? Obviously Paul does not know the background of these disciples, and wonders who taught them, and if any apostle had imparted to them spiritual gifts some time after their baptism, such is was done in Acts 8:14 ff.

"Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given" "No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit" (NASV). Various writers argue that surely these men had heard of the Holy Spirit, which seems like a reasonable argument, but on the other hand, we know very little about these men and the knowledge they possessed: (1) Most assume that they were men taught by Apollos (18:25/19:3), but if that was the case, then why were not these men re-taught at the same time Apollos was taken aside? Did Apollos lose track of those he had converted? (2) I guess most would assume they were of a Jewish background, since John"s baptism appealed to them. (3) But whether they had traveled to Ephesus from Palestine, or had been converted by Apollos, or whether they had been baptized by John or his disciples years previous on a trip to Palestine during one of the Jewish feasts, we don"t know. The time gap between this chapter and when John the Baptist was baptizing is over 20 years. Stott makes some comments that seem logical: "This cannot mean that they had never heard of the Spirit at all, for He is referred to many times in the Old Testament, and John the Baptist spoke of the Messiah as baptizing people with the Spirit. It must rather mean that, although they had heard John"s prophecy, they had not heard whether it had been fulfilled. They were ignorant of Pentecost" (p. 304).


Verse 3

Acts 19:3 "And he said, Into what then were ye baptized? And they said, Into John"s baptism"

Christians, whether they possessed spiritual gifts or not, would know that the Holy Spirit had been given, Paul now knows that these "disciples" and not truly followers of Christ. We can quickly skip over Paul"s question without inferring something very important. Paul just assumed that every Christian had been baptized. To Paul the idea of an un-baptized Christian never entered his mind (1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 6:1 ff; Galatians 3:27). Again, let us note that Jesus and the apostles viewed baptism as the line between lost and saved (Mark 16:16); forgiven and unforgiven (Acts 2:38); and Christian and non-Christian. The above question is very strange, if as some popular denominational groups claim, baptism is unnecessary. "Into John"s baptism" Nothing in the text tells us whether Apollos had baptized them (18:25), even though that seems like a strong inference. This text does remind us of something that we might not have perceived as happening years after the death of John the Baptist, that being his disciples and those they converted continued to preach his message of repentance, even after Jesus died on the cross, and the events at Pentecost. These verses contain some exciting inferences: (a) The events that took place in Palestine radiated throughout the Roman Empire. Who would have guessed that some 20 years after John the Baptist died, in the city of Ephesus, there existed followers of John? (b) Since so many Jews traveled to Palestine at the annual feasts, many Jews outside of Palestine probably already had heard something about the wonderful events that had taken place in Palestine. Modern Application: There exist many people in the denominational world--just like these 12 or so men. They have been told some truth, but not enough truth to enable them to become Christians. They have been taught a distorted and or imperfect view of Christianity. We need to reach the honest, yet ignorant hearts in the denominational world.


Verse 4

Acts 19:4 "And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, on Jesus"

"With the baptism of repentance" "John"s baptism is frequently described as a "baptism of repentance". John came to make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17). John did not want to make disciples merely for himself; he wanted them to believe on "the one that cometh after me" (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:17; Luke 3:16; John 1:15)" (Boles p. 299). The fact that John came with a message of repentance (Matthew 3:2), inferred that the kingdom of God was a spiritual kingdom, not a physical kingdom. When John came preaching, he did not say, "The Romans are going to get it, God is soon going to avenge us of our enemies". Rather, he called upon God"s own people to repent! Wrath was coming upon the Jewish nation because of her sin (Luke 3:7). "That they should believe on Him that should come after him" This was the main thrust of John"s preaching. The one coming was mightier by far (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 3:16; John 1:15; John 1:26). "That is, on Jesus" "It seems to be clearly implied that these twelve disciples of John at Ephesus had not accepted Jesus because they did not know of Him, for in accepting John"s baptism, they had pledged themselves to receive the Messiah when He came" (Reese p. 670).


Verse 5

Acts 19:5 "And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus"

"They were baptized" Notice the prompt obedience, also observe that people in the New Testament, when they wanted to become Christians, were baptized immediately. "Into the name of the Lord Jesus" This refers to water baptism (Acts 10:47-48); for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). This passage reveals that not all forms of water baptism are valid. John"s baptism was not the baptism of the Great Commission (Mark 16:16); it was not in the name of Jesus (Matthew 28:19); it did not put one into Christ (Galatians 3:27); nor bring one into the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13). Even though some denominations do actually baptize, we must reject the validity of these baptisms, for they do not fit the requirements laid out by Jesus and the apostles: (a) Some baptize for the wrong reason, such as an outward sign of an inward grace, or because they assert that one sins have already been forgiven. (b) Some baptize the wrong people, that is infants, or people who refuse to repent. (c) Some use the wrong mode, such as sprinkling or pouring. And those who do immerse for the remission of sins, teach a perverted gospel (Galatians 1:6-9). Years ago I heard someone say, "You cannot be taught wrong and baptized right".


Verse 6

Acts 19:6 "And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied"

"Paul had laid his hands upon them" Again we find spiritual gifts being bestowed through the hands of an apostle (Acts 8:17). The very fact that Paul laid his hands upon them after their baptism seems to reinforce the conclusion that when Paul was asking them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit?", he was asking them if they received the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit. In the early church, when the New Testament had not yet been written, it would make perfect sense for spiritual gifts to be common among new Christians, for they immediately needed revelation from God on so many topics and subjects. "They spake with tongues, and prophesied""The verbs are imperfect in tense, implying continuous exercise of the gifts" (Reese p. 673). We should remember that prophesy (the ability to speak by inspiration) went hand in hand with the gift of tongues. If one was present, then so was the other (1 Corinthians 14:1-3; 26). When the spiritual gifts were truly operational, we never find a congregation just having the gift of tongues. If a congregation had true tongue speakers (people who could speak miraculously in foreign languages they had never studied Acts 2:6-11); then it also had prophets.


Verse 7

Acts 19:7 "And they were in all about twelve men"

IN THE SYNAGOGUE


Verse 8

Acts 19:8 "And he entered into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, reasoning and persuading {as to} the things concerning the kingdom of God"

"Entered into the synagogue" (Acts 17:2-3). "Spake boldly" "Speaking out boldly" (NASV). "Spoke confidently" (Gspd). "Imperfect middle, kept on at it for three months" (Robertson p. 313). Speaking with confidence is a sign that one is not ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16). Unfortunately, about the only thing that some religious bodies boldly proclaim anymore is that we need to agree to disagree, agree that no absolute truth exists, agree that one interpretation is just as good as another, and agree that we are all going to heaven. Speaking with boldness includes proclaiming only one way of salvation (Acts 4:12), that absolute truth does exist (John 17:17), and that all the matters relating to our salvation can be known with certainty (John 8:32). We need more Christians who are willing to speak the gospel with boldness. Please note that the world speaks its message with absolute confidence, and various human denominations are being very bold in condemning those who say homosexuality is a sin. The advocates of error are very confident and aggressive in their teachings. In such times, the last thing the Church needs to do is "tone down" its emphasis on what constitutes true doctrine (2 Timothy 4:2).

The following letter is a practical example of the "boldness" of those who proclaim the world"s values. It was written by a "pastor" of the United Methodist Church: "Your kind of doctrinal religion has always been the curse of the earth. It has been my experience that persons like you have no interest in God or the Bible except to pervert both into something hateful and indecent. Homosexual persons are created by God. Their sexual orientation is given just like your was, and is entirely natural to them. Our churches have used the Bible to cause people to be afraid of homosexuality. The strangest thing is that all this condemnation is false and based upon assumptions about the Scripture I am glad that our citizens will finally figure out who the "wolves" really are and treat you like the hateful zealots you are"

"For the space of three months" Apparently many of these Jews were initially interested in his message (Acts 18:30). "Reasoning and persuading as to the things concerning the kingdom of God" Paul did not appeal to subjective or emotionally based arguments, rather he argued from the O.T. Scriptures, citing and arranging passages, building his case, helping the Jews understand how various passages had been fulfilled in the life of Jesus (Acts 17:2-3). Notice the word "persuading". Preaching is more than just a "presentation". The aim of all preaching is to persuade men and women to serve God (2 Corinthians 5:11). Thus true gospel preaching will always convict, get under your skin, prick your conscience and appeal to what you know is the right thing to do. While we cannot force people to become Christians, at the same time that does not mean that we do not "push". The "pressure" that Paul put upon people was the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). "The kingdom of God" Philip had also preached about this topic to the Samaritans (Acts 8:12). Paul would have been telling people and proving from the O.T. and N.T. events that the Kingdom of God was a spiritual kingdom. Hopes of an utopian earthly reign of the Messiah, were false hopes and a misinterpretation of the O.T. (Psalms 110:1-4). Jesus presently rules as King on David"s throne (Acts 2:29-31), and over this kingdom. The Kingdom of God is the same relationship known as the Church. People purchased with the blood of Christ are members of this Kingdom (Acts 20:28; Revelation 1:5-6). The Kingdom of God cannot be entered by mere physical birth. Even those of Jewish ancestry must be born again (John 3:5), and if Paul is preaching to Jews about the Kingdom of God, then evidently Paul believes that such a Kingdom is presently in existence and can be entered.


Verse 9

Acts 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"

"Some were hardened" "Grew stubborn" (Mof). This was a voluntary action upon their part (Hebrews 3:8; Hebrews 3:13). The gospel message does not have the same effect on everyone. Paul persuaded, but all were not convinced, in fact some became worse, not better. Years ago I heard someone comment that a person is never the same after they come into contact with the gospel message. They are either a better person for hearing it--for they become a less honest person if they reject it. Various things about the gospel message "harden" people: The assertion that one is a sinner (Romans 3:23). The command to repent and humble oneself before God (Acts 17:30), the obedience that God demands (James 1:22), the unselfish lifestyle that is expected (Philippians 2:3-4). "And disobedient" Notice how the condition of the heart cannot be disguised forever (Matthew 15:18-19). Disobedience to the will of God does not come from an open mind, rather it comes from a heart that is not honest enough to open up itself to the real truth, and not just the truth that self wants to accept. "Speaking evil" "Now these Jews are aggressive opponents of Paul and seek to injure his influence with the crowd" (Robertson p. 314). "Of the Way" Compare with 9:2. "Before the multitude" Notice how one cannot reject the gospel and yet at the same time remain neutral concerning it. Here is a warning that we all need to heed. If you reject the gospel message, then you are just naturally going to do something that opposes the will of God and His cause. Also note how unbelievers are never content to keep their unbelief to themselves.

Unfortunately those who fall away from the faith or become spiritually weak also usually end up "speaking evil" of the Way. They start complaining to others that the Church is failing them, or that the Church is not friendly enough. The example of a person who departs from Christ, speaks louder than anything else, because their example says to the world, "Christianity cannot help you with your problems". The person who stops serving God is saying with their actions, "Don"t even waste your time in investigating the claims of Jesus Christ, for it didn"t work for me".

"He departed from them" Further preaching to such people would have been a waste of time (Matthew 7:6). "Separated the disciples" Jews who were Christians did not have any spiritual ties or fellowship with those Jews who refused to accept Christ. Paul did not believe in what has been called "unity in diversity" or "ecumenism". "Reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus" This man"s name is pronounced "tigh RAN uhs". "Was either a teacher of rhetoric and philosophy or a Jewish rabbi who taught the law in his private synagogue" (Nelsons p. 1077). "One assumes that he was a philosopher or educator of some kind, who lectured during the cool hours of the morning, but was prepared to rent (or freely offer) his school room or lecture hall. Since tyrannos means a despot or tyrant, "one wonders idly if this was the name his parents gave him or the name his pupils gave him!" (Stott pp. 305-306). According to Bruce, "public activity ceased in the cities of Ionia for several hours at 11 A.M., and more people would be asleep at 1 P.M. than at 1 A.M" (p. 389). This was due to the oppressive heat during the hours of about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thus, Paul, after spending the morning hours in making tents (Acts 20:34), "devoted the hours of burden and heat to his more important and more exhausting business, and must have infected his hearers with his own energy and zeal, so that they were willing to sacrifice their siesta for the sake of listening to Paul" (Bruce p. 389). This example of Paul and these new Christians should put to shame professed Christians who cannot get out of a warm and cozy bed on the Sunday and come to a warm and comfortable building to increase their knowledge and worship the God they claim to love more than everything else.


Verse 10

Acts 19:10 "And this continued for the space of two years; so that all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks"

"And this" This public instruction that took place on a daily basis. "The space of two years" We would say, two full years, compare with Acts 20:31. Many date Paul"s stay in Ephesus from the fall of 54 A.D. to the spring of 57 A.D. A couple of great lessons can be learned from this text, the importance of a preacher who is willing to spend time in one location and ground new converts in the faith (Colossians 1:23). Secondly, we see the importance that the apostles placed upon teaching the Word of God and training people to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2; Matthew 28:20; Ephesians 4:11-12), and that the local congregation is fully equipped to train its own teachers and preachers. "So that all they that dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord" Asia here refers to the Roman province of Asia. "Ephesus was on the major route from Rome to the eastern part of the empire, and a number of major highways from the interior of Asia had their terminus here. In addition, the famous Temple of Artemis would regularly be visited by thousands of strangers, and many of these would hear the Gospel, only to take it home with them" (Reese p. 676).

Some of the early disciples instructed in the above school may have journeyed to neighboring cities and preached there. In the years following, we find churches in Laodicea, Colossae, Hierapolis, Pergamum, Smyrna, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia (all cities located in Asia), churches of which Paul had never personally visited (Colossians 2:1). "Paul doubtless had helpers like Epaphras and Philemon who carried the message over the province of Asia, Tychicus, and Trophimus of Asia who were with him on the last visit to Jerusalem (19:22,29; 20:4)" (Robertson p. 316). "No better illustration of settled evangelism can be found in the New Testament, unless it is Luke"s five-year ministry in Philippi, or Philip"s 20-year ministry in Caesarea" (Reese pp. 676-677).

MIRACLES VERSES MAGIC


Verse 11

Acts 19:11 "And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul"

"Special" "Extraordinary" (Gspd). "Miracles of an unusual kind" (NEB). "Lit., not usual or common" (Vincent p. 552). While miracles are extraordinary in themselves, these miracles seem to have been more "unusual", even in the day and age of miracles. "They were extraordinary in the sense that they were wrought without personal contact with the patient, possibly without even consciousness on the part of Paul" (Reese p. 677). "Wrought" "Was performing" (NASV), present tense.


Verse 12

Acts 19:12 "insomuch that unto the sick were carried away from his body handkerchiefs or aprons, and the evil spirits went out"

"Insomuch that" This is a further description or clarification of what Luke means by "special" miracles. "From his body" Paul"s body. "Handkerchiefs" "The towel used to wipe sweat from the brow or face. We might call it a hand towel, or shop towel" (Reese p. 677). "Aprons" "The short apron worn around the waist by the craftsmen as they worked--worn to preserve the clothes from wear and tear and soil" (Reese p. 677). "Those which he used as sweat-rags and aprons while engaged in his (trade), the sweat-rags being used for tying around his head and the aprons for trying around his waist" (Bruce p. 389). "And the disease departed from them, and the evil spirits went out" Such miracles were similar to miracles that both Peter (Acts 5:15) and Jesus (Matthew 9:20-21) had performed. Carefully note that the "power" was not in the garment, but in God. As is common in the New Testament, the biblical writers distinguish between those demon possessed and those who had physical illnesses (Acts 5:16). Various individuals in our own time have tried to use this text as a proof-text for their practice of offering to send sick people handkerchiefs that they have blessed. But note the differences: Paul did not sell such garments. The people who came in contact with these garments were healed, no exceptions. Paul did not "bless" such articles of clothing, they were simply various articles of clothing that came into contact with his body..


Verse 13

Acts 19:13 "But certain also of the strolling Jews, exorcists, took upon them to name over them that had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth"

"But" In contrast to the miracles that Paul performed. "Strolling Jews" "Lit., going about" (Vincent p. 552). "These exorcists traveled around from place to place like modern Gypsy fortune-tellers" (Robertson p. 317). "Exorcists" Meaning "one who binds by an oath or spell".

"It was a regular thing for the Jews to be exorcists; there seemed to be a special power in the use of the specially sacred Divine Name that only the Jews would know" (Reese p. 678). "Among practioners of magic in ancient times Jews enjoyed a high respect, for they were believed to have specially effective spells at their command. In particular, the fact that the name of the God of Israel was not to be pronounced by vulgar lips was generally known among the pagans" (Bruce p. 390). The following passages may indicate that prior to the Great Commission, some among the Jews could cast out demons (Matthew 12:27; Mark 9:38-39). But certain facts cause me to hedge: (a) Why were so many demon possessed individuals brought to Jesus, if others had the same power? (b) Why did the miracles of Jesus make such an impact upon the multitudes, if in fact others had been doing similar things? I am inclined to agree with McGarvey concerning the men mentioned in this context (Acts 19:1-41) that they were fakes. "These exorcists, as their title indicates, pretended to the power of casting out demons; and they appeared to the people to succeed often enough to keep up some reputation" (McGarvey p. 156). Lest anyone should argue that these men could not have made a living by not healing anyone, I simply point them to the well-to-do tele-evangelists and faith-healers who make a good living without healing anyone either.

"Took upon them to name over them that had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus" "Undertook to pronounce the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits" (RSV).

This statement seems to confirm the conclusion that these men were fakes because if they really could cast out demons, then why did they change their methods? Why were they so willing to discard their previous formula for the "name of Jesus"? This verse infers that these men either heard about or personally witnessed the healings performed by Paul. They thought that the "name of Jesus" was a magical incantation, a formula that had power for anyone that would use it. They obviously copied Paul"s actions so quickly, because Paul actually healed people. What Paul did worked!

"I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches" "They substituted the name they heard Paul use for the old names they had been using in their incantations" (Reese p. 679). "Adjure" To solemnly enjoin. They believed that the key to casting out demons resided in the right formula or expression of words. They thought that the "name" of Jesus was a magical formula that would put the demons in their power.


Verse 14

Acts 19:14 "And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, a chief priest, who did this"

"Seven sons" "Doubtless the fact that they were seven brothers added to the mystery of their pretensions, just as a fortune-teller at the present day who is the seventh daughter of the seven daughter is more highly credited than others of her class" (McGarvey p. 156). "Sceva" The name is pronounced SEE vuh. "A chief priest" Probably one of the priests who was or had been a ruler of one of the 24 priestly courses who served a part of the year in Jerusalem. Nothing is mentioned as to whether Sceva himself was involved in the "exorcism business".


Verse 15

Acts 19:15 "And the evil spirit answered and said unto them, Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are ye?"

"Jesus I know" The demon knew who Jesus was (James 2:19). "Paul I know" "Paul is also a very familiar acquaintance. His power to cast out demons is known to me" (Reese p. 679). "But who are ye?" "But who on earth are you" (Phi). "The Greek reads, "But you (emphatic, and with a tone of contempt)"" (Reese p. 679). The demon only had contempt for these pretenders.


Verse 16

Acts 19:16 "And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and mastered both of them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded"

"Leaped on them, and mastered both of them" At times those possessed by demons could manifest superhuman strength (Mark 5:3-4). "Both" NASV has "all of them". "Both is from the Greek amphoteroi, and may mean all of them" (Reese p. 680). "Naked and wounded" "Wounded, with their clothes torn off their backs" (Phi). The word "naked" may either mean that they lost all their clothes or they were simply stripped of their outer garments in the struggle.


Verse 17

Acts 19:17 "And this became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, that dwelt at Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified"

"This became known to all" "The sight of seven naked, wounded men, running through the streets of Ephesus, would have attracted attention" (Reese p. 680). Reese makes a good point when he observes that if, "a writer, making up the story and inventing miracles, would no doubt have crowned the story by having Paul come into the house where the demoniac lived, healing him in conspicuous contrast to the failure of the seven sons of Sceva" (Reese p. 680). "Fear fell upon them all"A healthy respect for the powers of evil, that the occult is not something that a person should dabble in or play with, and misuse of the name Jesus can have serious consequences. "The name of the Lord Jesus was magnified" The inhabitants of Ephesus realized that what Paul was preaching was not some magic charm or spiritual password. The miracles performed in connection with the Divine name were genuine, and those who had attempted to use that name as a magical charm were punished.


Verse 18

Acts 19:18 "Many also of them that had believed came, confessing, and declaring their deeds"

Carefully note that Luke observes that Christians were not perfect. They had held on to some things from the past of which they needed to rid themselves. "Declaring their deeds" "Divulging their practices" (RSV). This may suggest that these believers publicly admitted that the magic they had practiced was nothing but a sham and trickery. They confessed that God had all the real power and that they had none.


Verse 19

Acts 19:19 "And not a few of them that practised magical arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all; and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver"

"Practised magical arts" We have already noted that Ephesus had a famous reputation for magic. This statement does not necessarily mean that Christians in Ephesus continued to practise such things after their conversion. McGarvey notes, "they now confessed and declared the secret processes by which they had formerly deceived the people" (p. 157). "Brought their books together and burned them" The city of Ephesus was famous for its Ephesian letters or scripts, which contained magical spells and formulas. "They seem to have consisted of certain combinations of letters or words, which, by being pronounced with certain intonations of voice, were believed to be effectual in expelling diseases or evil spirits; or which, by being written on parchment and worn (like an article of jewelry) were supposed to operate as amulets or charms to guard the wearer from evil spirits or from danger" (Reese p. 682). "Fifty thousand pieces of silver"The value of the books was equivalent to 50,000 day"s wages.


Verse 20

New Testament Times. Tenney p. 277.

AFA Journal. March 1996 p. 2.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Acts 19:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/acts-19.html. 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 3rd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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