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Bible Commentaries

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

Acts 19

Verses 1-7


18:23-21:16 BACK TO ASIA MINOR AND EUROPE (THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY)

Through Galatia to Ephesus (18:23-19:7)

On his third great journey to the west, Paul set out by visiting the churches of Galatia once again. This was the fourth time he had visited these churches and he had also written them a letter (23; cf. 13:14,51; 14:21; 16:2-6).

In the meantime a learned Jew named Apollos had come to Ephesus from Alexandria in Egypt. Like many of the Jewish teachers in Alexandria, he had a detailed knowledge of Old Testament references to the Messiah and was able to teach impressively. However, he lacked knowledge of certain Christian teachings until Aquila and Priscilla explained them to him (24-26). Later, when he moved across to Corinth, he was of great help to the church there and added considerably to the good work Paul had done previously (27-28; 1 Corinthians 3:6). Unfortunately, the Corinthian church divided into factions, because people made favourites of various teachers. This was a problem that Paul soon had to deal with (1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:4).

On arriving in Ephesus, Paul met a group of twelve people who had repented and been baptized as taught by John the Baptist. But they did not know that since the death and resurrection of Jesus, the form of baptism that John proclaimed was no longer in use. The one whom John announced had come, and the baptism with the Spirit that John promised had been given (on the Day of Pentecost; cf. Matthew 3:11; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 2:16-17,Acts 2:33). When they understood this they were baptized in water as disciples of Jesus Christ, and received the Holy Spirit as the original disciples had at Pentecost (19:1-7).

Verses 8-32


Ephesus and the surrounding region (19:8-22)

After Paul had preached for three months in the synagogue, the Jews forced him out, so he went and taught in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. He carried on his teaching work there for the next two years, during which the disciples took the message into the surrounding countryside (8-10). This activity seems to have resulted in churches being founded, without Paul’s help, in the towns of Colossae, Hierapolis and Laodicea (Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:13), and possibly also Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis and Philadelphia (Revelation 2:8,Revelation 2:12,Revelation 2:18; Revelation 3:1,Revelation 3:7).

The healing ministry of the Messiah that had worked through Peter and John continued to work through Paul (11-12; cf. 3:1-16; 5:12-16; 9:33-35). Some itinerant Jewish wonder-workers, impressed with Paul’s ability to drive out demons in the name of Jesus, tried to copy him, but were themselves violently attacked by the demons (13-16). Sorcery, magic and superstition were widespread in Ephesus, but God’s power was at work in the city and large numbers of people turned to him (17-20).

As the churches in the province of Asia grew stronger, Paul began planning his future movements. His ultimate aim was to go to Rome, so that he could help establish Christianity more firmly in the heart of the Empire (cf. Romans 1:11-15). But first he wanted to go to Jerusalem. During the past year or so he had been organizing a collection of money to take to the poor Christians in Jerusalem, a plan that he hoped would bind the Jewish and Gentile churches together (1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 8:1-24; 2 Corinthians 9:1-5; Romans 15:23-27). His purpose in sending two fellow workers to Macedonia was probably to help promote and organize this project (21-22).

Verses 23-41


A riot in Ephesus (19:23-41)

Paul preached and taught in Ephesus for almost three years (see 20:31), and many people became Christians. Ephesus was considered to be the home of the goddess Artemis (or Diana), and the citizens of Ephesus were the honoured guardians of the magnificent temple of Artemis in their city. With so many people turning from the worship of Artemis, the temple was losing its popularity. Furthermore, local silversmiths who made small images and household shrines of the goddess were going out of business (23-27).
Angry at their loss of income, the silversmiths stirred up the people against Paul and his fellow missionaries, and a riot broke out. Since any who did not worship Artemis were in danger, the Jews tried to protect themselves by pointing out that they were not associated with the Christians. But the mob refused to listen (28-34).

In calming the riotous crowd, the city’s chief official defended Paul and his party. At the same time he warned the people not to take the law into their own hands again, because Rome would not tolerate such disorder (35-41). Although on this occasion Paul did not suffer physical violence, on other occasions during his stay in Ephesus he certainly did (1 Corinthians 15:32; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Travels and writings of this time

During this three year period, most of which Paul spent in Ephesus, much happened that is not recorded in Acts. However, as we read Paul’s letters we can understand more of his activity during this time. The following is a suggested summary of events:

1. While in Ephesus, Paul wrote to the church in Corinth on various practical and moral issues. The letter has not been preserved (1 Corinthians 5:9).

2. Paul sent Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia (Acts 19:22) and from there to Corinth, in an effort to deal with problems in the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10). Certain people in the church had developed strong feelings against Paul and even questioned his standing as an apostle (1 Corinthians 4:8-13,1 Corinthians 4:18-21).

3. Meanwhile some Corinthian believers (people from Chloe’s household) arrived in Ephesus with bad news about the state of affairs in Corinth. Quarrels and factions had developed in the church because people made favourites of their teachers (1 Corinthians 1:11-12). Further problems arose because of immorality in the church and lawsuits between Christians (1 Corinthians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 6:1). In addition, representatives from the church came to Paul in Ephesus with questions on a variety of other matters (1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Corinthians 8:1; 1 Corinthians 12:1; 1 Corinthians 16:17).

4. These concerns prompted Paul to write the church another letter, known to us as 1 Corinthians. It was probably taken to Corinth direct by boat so that it reached the church before Timothy (1 Corinthians 16:8-10). The letter dealt with the problems Paul had heard about, and answered questions concerning marriage, food offered to idols, spiritual gifts, order in the church, the coming resurrection and the collection for the Jerusalem Christians.

5. Earlier Paul had planned to visit Macedonia and then Corinth (Acts 19:21; 1 Corinthians 16:5-7; 1 Corinthians 16:5-7). But when Timothy returned from Corinth with the news that neither his visit nor Paul’s latest letter had been able to improve the situation, Paul changed his plans. He made a hurried trip across to Corinth (as he had warned; 1 Corinthians 4:19-21) in an effort to deal with the trouble-makers. This was Paul’s second visit to Corinth, and later he looked back on it as one that gave both him and the Corinthians much distress (2 Corinthians 2:1; 2 Corinthians 13:2).

6. Paul could not stay long in Corinth, but he planned to revisit the church as soon as his work in Ephesus was finished (2 Corinthians 1:15-16).

7. Back in Ephesus, Paul soon heard that his recent trip to Corinth, instead of helping to improve matters, made his opponents more rebellious. He was furious, but thought it wise not to rush back and perhaps act in a way he might later regret (2 Corinthians 1:23). Instead he wrote a letter, a very severe letter, in which he urged the church to take firm action against those who opposed his Christ-given authority. Although Paul refers to the letter in his writings, it has not been preserved. It was taken to Corinth by Titus (2 Corinthians 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 7:8; 2 Corinthians 12:18).

8. Upon completing his work in Ephesus, Paul went north to Troas, where Titus was to meet him after delivering the letter to the Corinthians. But Titus had not yet arrived. Paul was so anxious to get news from Corinth that, rather than wait for Titus in Troas, he went across to Macedonia to meet him sooner (2 Corinthians 2:12-13; cf. Acts 20:1).

9. Titus met Paul in Macedonia (probably Philippi) and told him that the severe letter had produced favourable results. The Corinthians were no longer rebellious (2 Corinthians 7:5-6). Without delay Paul wrote yet another letter to the Corinthians, the letter we know as 2 Corinthians, and sent it with Titus and two others (2 Corinthians 8:16-18,2 Corinthians 8:22-23). In this letter Paul expressed his joy at the Corinthians’ change of heart, explained his recent actions, described the transforming power of the gospel, gave further details of the collection for the poor Christians in Jerusalem, and defended his apostolic ministry.

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Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Acts 19". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/acts-19.html. 2005.