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Bible Commentaries

Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament

Acts 19

Verses 1-7

SANCTIFICATION OF THE EPHESIAN CHURCH

1-7. Apollos remains preaching in the great church at Corinth, the largest and most gifted of the age, the result of an eighteen months’ protracted meeting held by Paul, Timothy, Silas and Luke. Happily, in the good providence of God, the great Apollos, now bright and fresh in his Beulah- land experience, arriving soon after Paul went away on that great tour visiting all of his Asiatic churches, “confirming them,” i. e., getting them sanctified and establishing them in the experience and life of holiness. After this long tour, “Paul having come through the upper parts [ i. e., those countries east of the river Hollys], arrives at Ephesus and finds some disciples.” This little band of twelve disciples had been converted under the preaching of Apollos before he was sanctified, and while he was still fervently proclaiming the gospel of Jesus the Christ in the Johanic dispensation, as he lived away in Africa where he had not come in contact with the stirring history of the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost at Jerusalem, as you must remember they had no mails nor newspapers.

Verse 2

2. “Did you receive the Holy Ghost, having believed? And they said, But we did not hear that the Holy Ghost is given.” Apollos, under the powerful preaching of John the Baptist, having learned that the Messiah will baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire, after He has consummated the atonement on Calvary and ascended into heaven, thus satisfying the violated law and preparing the way for the incarnation of the Holy Ghost as in the Eden times. Apollos, after his powerful conversion and call to the ministry under the preaching of John the Baptist, who so constantly emphasized the coming Baptism of the Holy Ghost by his Divine Successor, had gone away to Africa, faithfully preaching the glorious gospel, but not enjoying an opportunity to keep posted in the current events at Jerusalem. Thus, under the Johanic dispensation, as was his custom, on arrival at Ephesus he preaches in the Jewish synagogues, proclaiming Jesus after the manner of John, who had introduced Him, and assuring them that it will be their privilege to receive the personal indwelling Holy Spirit when the Messiah shall baptize them. The E. V., “We have not so much as heard that there be any Holy Ghost,” is not only illusory, but out of harmony with the Greek. Apollos, “fervent,” i. e., boiling over in spirit, was really a Holy Ghost preacher, bright in the experience of regeneration, so prominent in the ministry of John the Baptist, to whose dispensation he belonged, yet preaching, as we see from this record, the second work of grace, though he had not yet received it, and was consequently incompetent to lead others into it.

Verse 3

3. “And he said, Unto what then were you baptized? And they said, Unto the baptism of John.” This is a confirmation that Apollos was one of those mighty men, ushered forth by the ministry of John the Baptist and still preaching in his dispensation. Was not this a pity? Apollos was a few years behind the age when he came to Ephesus. But what about the unsanctified preachers in all of the popular churches at the present day, who are not, like Apollos, a dozen years behind the age, but three thousand years behind, as they are preaching in the dispensation of Moses? So we can withhold our criticisms from Apollos.

Verse 4

4. Here we find that the baptism of John was a seal and confirmation of repentance. Do not forget that repentance and regeneration are inseparable. You may have much human repentance without regeneration; but God’s repentance is always “unto life.”

Verse 5

5. “And hearing, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Here you see baptism repeated in the case of these Ephesian converts. Water baptism is a Jewish institution, constant and exceedingly prevalent since the days of Moses, symbolizing the work of the Spirit, as the bloody sacrifices the work of Christ. A Jew had to be baptized with water every time he contracted ceremonial defilement before he was allowed to enter the tabernacle and enjoy its service. Doubtless many a Jew was baptized a thousand times in his life, these expurgatory catharisms being frequent as the bloody sacrifices. These Ephesian converts, Apollos and Paul were all Jews, accustomed from time immemorial to baptize freely and repeatedly pursuant to the Levitical ritual. Apollos had initiated them into the Johanic dispensation by water baptism, thinking it was still in vogue. Paul is preaching in the dispensation of the Holy Ghost, who is given by the ascended and glorified Messiah, whom it is pertinent that all publicly confess by baptism in His name.

Verse 6

6. “And Paul, laying hands on them, the Holy Ghost came on them, and they continued to speak with tongues and prophecy.” Conversion is indispensable to discipleship. Hence these disciples had been converted under the ministry of Apollos. Paul not only leads them didactically and ceremonially out of the Johanic into the Christian dispensation, but inaugurates a regular holiness meeting for their sanctification, culminating in their spiritual illumination and preparation for the experience which they, in due time, receive on their knees at the altar, while Paul prays for them and lays hands on them. Here we have clear New Testament precedent and Apostolical authority for the second work of grace. There is no evasion of the issue. The Holy Ghost calls no sinner “disciple.” Hence these were all converted before Paul arrived. When, under the ministry of Paul, the Holy Ghost came on them, even imparting His extraordinary gifts, i. e., “tongues and prophecy,” clearly confirming the fact of their sanctification, as these spiritual gifts are normal only to the sanctified. We should still retain the imposition of hands while praying for people, that they may be imbued with the Holy Ghost. It is certainly safe to follow New Testament precedent and Apostolic practice. The innate impressibility of the human spirit through the physical organism is beyond our comprehension. God help us meekly to walk in the footprints of our predecessors.

Verse 8

8. A modern wiseacre would say, “Paul, there are five hundred thousand sinners going to hell in Ephesus; you had better preach straight to sinners to get them converted, and not waste your time preaching on sanctification.” Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, thought differently. So he started a holiness meeting, preaching and working constantly on the line of the second work of grace, until he got his little band (only twelve)

gloriously sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost, enjoying the wonderful availability of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, thus turning all his members into preachers to help him press the battle in a two years’ protracted meeting, rolling out a mighty inundating wave of gospel grace, not only over that great heathen metropolis, but throughout all Asia,

“speaking and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” Paul was powerful in the kingdom, which was predicted by the old prophets, proclaimed by John the Baptist, preached by the Savior and His apostles and their faithful successors still peregrinating the globe, heralding the kingdom to all nations, calling out the elect (as no others will have it) and getting them ready to welcome our glorious coming King to all the thrones of earth.

Verse 9

9. This Tyrannus, who received Paul and his meeting, after his expulsion from the synagogue, was evidently one of Paul’s Jewish converts, keeping a private synagogue in the city.

Verse 10

10. All Asia, both Jews and Greeks, during these memorable two years, because they enjoyed ample opportunity to hear the Word, are held responsible as if they did hear it, like the millions of this wicked world who live and die ignorant of the gospel, though held to account for it at the Judgment bar, as if they had heard it, simply because they enjoyed opportunities, though they let them slip.

Verses 11-12

11, 12. We see divine healing became an exceedingly prominent auxiliary of the spiritual work during the Pauline revival at Ephesus, so that diseases were removed and demons exorcised by the mere application of handkerchiefs and aprons, carried from the body of Paul and applied to the bodies of the persons thus possessed of diseases and demons.

Verse 13

13. The Jews always recognized demoniacal possessions and the feasibility of their ejectment by the power of Jehovah. It is very clear from the Scripture that the Jews availed themselves, ever and anon, of the superior power of their God to cast out devils.

Verse 14

14. Here we see a case in which those Jewish exorcists [ i. e., people gifted with the power of demoniacal ejectment, of course delegated by Jehovah], undertake to utilize the Christ of Paul in that way.

Verse 15

15. “The evil spirit responding said to them: Jesus I know and I am acquainted with Paul; but who are you?

Verse 16

16. “And the man in whom the evil spirit was, leaping on them and prevailing against them both, overcame them, so that they fled naked and wounded from the house.” In this notable way the Holy Spirit utilized these unbelieving Jewish exorcists to glorify the Lord Jesus. God has in all ages permitted the devil to demonstrate his personality refutatory of that subtle infidelity which denies the existence of a personal devil, and then soon musters the audacity to deny the existence of a personal God. Here we see a confirmation of the great Bible truth that this world is thronged by disembodied spirits, both angelic and demoniacal. These excarnate spirits see much farther into the spirit world around us than we who dwell in houses of clay. Here we have a confirmation that while Jehovah, the excarnate Christ, cast out the demons in the old dispensation, since His incarnation this work is done by the personal Jesus, to whom the devils are all subject, and even to His ambassadors in His name.

Verse 17

17. The above mentioned tragedy gave great notoriety to the work.

Verse 18

18. “And many of those having believed, came confessing and renouncing their practices.”

Verse 19

19. Here we see the devil’s preachers who had been converted to God under the preaching of Paul making a bon-fire of their valuable theological books, estimated at five thousand dollars. There are wagon-loads of books all over this country, expository of Dark Age creeds and vindicatory of the fallen sects, g e., the daughters of Babylon, throwing their Briarean arms of blight, mildew and spiritual desolation around the world this day, which ought to be committed to the flames, thus clearing the way for the Word of God to reach the people with its message of redeeming love and sanctifying power.

Verse 21

THE DEVIL’S CHURCH

21. Ephesus was the great New York of Western Asia, among many other notable institutions honored with the greatest and most magnificent temple of the goddess Diana in the whole world, one of the seven wonders of the world, having occupied two hundred years in its building. In all heathen lands the manufacture of statues and images, as well as the erection and ornamentation of temples, is the most lucrative financial employment, as people are always willing to pay their last dollar to save their souls, though not willing to give up their sins. Now Demetrius, assembling the image makers and the various artificers connected with the temple and the worship of Diana, delivers them a powerful and inflammatory harangue, stirring them up to recognize the fact that Paul’s preaching is calculated in the ultimatum to undermine the worship of Diana, and thus vitiate their lucrative financial employments in the manufacture of innumerable images of this goddess to be sold to the millions of her faithful devotees. The result is a great uproar, of vast multitude, like the rolling billows of the ocean, rushing in impetuous stampede through the streets, shouting uproariously, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” Fortunately, Paul’s friends hold him out of the hands of the mob who have already seized his traveling companions, Gaius and Aristarchus of Macedonia, meanwhile Alexander, a Jewish disciple and comrade of Paul, is also caught in the violent whorls of the incorrigible insurrection. After a two hours’ uproar and stampede have somewhat exhausted them physically, the city clerk succeeds in commanding audience, warning them of their imminent danger of prosecution and punishment by the Roman Empire, and assuring them of their utter incompetency to defend themselves before a civil tribunal, should they be arraigned to give an account of that disgraceful uproar.

Verse 22

22. At this time he tarries in Ephesus till after the Passover, April 14, and writes the first Corinthian Epistle, sending on Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia to visit and preach to the churches, both north and south.

Verse 38

38. “If indeed Demetrius and the artificers along with him have an allegation against anyone, there are court-days and lawyers; let them implead one another.” Having thus warned and reasoned the case with them, and succeeded in tranquilizing the multitude.

Verse 41

41. “And saying these things he dismissed the church.” Where E. V. reads “assembly,” the Greek has ecclesia, the word throughout the Bible translated “church.” Why do we have the word “church” used relative to this Ephesian mob? Because it is all right and used correctly, not the Church of God, but Diana’s church, i. e., the church of Satan. Good Lord, help us to wake up to the fact that the world is full of the devil’s churches, this day as in by-gone ages! Ecclesia is from ek, “out,” and kaleoo, “call,” “the called out.” All the people in the world who hear the call of the Holy Ghost come out from this wicked world and all of its sins, leaving the devil forever and identifying themselves with God, are members of the Church of the First-Born. Satan, the great counterfeiter, has done his biggest work on the church line, filling up all lands with his churches, deceiving millions and sweeping them into hell by wholesale. The members of Satan’s churches, deluded by him, worship him under a vast diversity of names, thinking that they are worshipping God. In the Paganistic and Mohammedan churches, the devil calls himself by the names of their various idolatrous divinities and false prophets; while in the fallen churches of Christendom, he actually gets them to worship himself under the name of God, passing himself on them for God (2 Thessalonians 2:0). The devil is so much more intelligent than any human being, that the wisest and the most learned are in constant liability of mistaking Satan, “the god of this world,” for Jehovah, the God of heaven. While all sinners are led by demons in Satan’s midnight, so long as Christians have depravity in them, these evil Spirits can bivouac amid the dark jungles, play off on them for the Holy Ghost and deceive them. When you are emptied of sin, filled with the Spirit, your eye on Jesus, you have cloudless light within and without, qualifying you readily to detect the most stealthy approach of an evil spirit. Good Lord, save us all from delusion and entanglement in the devil’s church.

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Bibliographical Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Acts 19". "Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ges/acts-19.html.