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Paul passeth through Ephesus. The Holy Ghost blesseth his Ministry. A Tumult is excited in consequence of Paul's preaching. The Town-clerk appeaseth the People.
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, (2) He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. (3) And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. (4) Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. (5) When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. (6) And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (7) And all the men were about twelve.
This is a very interesting record of the Church. I beg the Reader's close, attention to it. There is no little difficulty in discovering, what class of disciples those were. It is said, that they bad been baptized into John's baptism; and yet had never heard, whether there were any Holy Ghost. It is very strange this, because John the Baptist himself, is said to have been filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb, Luke 1:15 . And, it is most certain, that John entered on his office of preaching repentance, and commanding the people to believe on him that should come after him, by the immediate influence and direction of the Spirit. Yea, John declared, that his knowledge of the Person of Christ his Lord, was wholly derived from the Spirit's teaching. He that sent me to baptize with water, (said John,) the same said unto me; upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, (said John,) and bare record that this is the Son of God, John 1:25-34 . So that John preached of the Holy Ghost, as well as of Christ, to all the people. And John taught those he baptized, to observe the vast difference between Christ's Person and Ministry, and his, by this very circumstance, that Jesus baptized his people with the Holy Ghost. I indeed, (said John,) baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire, Matthew 3:11 . All these things very fully prove, that as John preached of the Holy Ghost, all his disciples must have heard of Him; and therefore the expression here used, that they had not so much as heard whether there were any Holy Ghost, could not possibly mean, that they were altogether ignorant of His Being, and Godhead.
I am inclined to think, that those disciples were such as had never known, or experienced the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, upon their own hearts and consciences: and therefore might, in the strictest sense of the words, be truly said to have never heard, in respect to any Saving knowledge, whether there were any Holy Ghost, And, Reader! pause over the thought, (for it is a very solemn one,) and say, how many in this our day, who like those men are called disciples, and like them are supposed to believe also, who, if called upon; could give no better account of themselves than these persons. They are Christians, because born under the meridian of Christianity. They are believers, as far as creeds and prayer-books can make them so, and no further. They assent to the truths of the Gospel because they have never troubled themselves to enquire about them; and therefore take them up on trust. And, thus thousands live, and it is to be feared, thousands die; as ignorant whether there be any Holy Ghost, as to any real conversion of the heart towards God, by His sovereign and Almighty Power, as those unenlightened nations of the earth, to whom the Lord hath not sent the Gospel. Reader! hath the Lord made you to differ from such? Have you received the Holy Ghost since you learnt of him only by the hearing of the ear; or formed your belief from the creed or the prayer-book?
If my views of the persons here spoken of in this Chapter, whom Paul found at Ephesus, be correct; what a beautiful account is given of the real conversion of the heart towards God? Surely here was a renewal of the day of Pentecost. It was not equal in number, neither was the descent of God the Holy Ghost accompanied with equal splendor and glory; but the sovereignty of his power, and the blessed effects of his grace, were the same. Some have thought, that those persons were truly converted, when the Apostle met them; and that what is said here of their ignorance of the Holy Ghost, is not intended to say, that they had never heard of the Holy Ghost in his divine office of convincing of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; but as ordaining to the ministry. And that now meeting with Paul, and receiving the extraordinary gifts of God the Spirit, they entered on the ministry. And this opinion is formed from what is said, that when the Holy Ghost came on them, they were blessed with the same gifts as the Apostles; for they spake with tongues and prophesied, Acts 2:4 .
I am far from setting up any opinion of mine, in opposition to this. And, it is possible, that this might be the case. But, there is another difficulty which then ariseth; in that they were re-baptized. It doth not appear, that any of the Eleven Apostles had any other water baptism than John 's, if they had that; for even of that we are not certain. The Lord commanded them to baptize others, when they should have been baptized with the Holy Ghost but we never read of any water baptism enjoined them by the Lord for themselves, Compare Matthew 28:19 with Acts 1:5 . Nay, Christ himself had no other water-baptism than John 's, Matthew 3:13 to the end. And there was no water-baptism made use of at the day of Pentecost, in the three thousand the Holy Ghost came down upon, in that glorious display of his power. So that, on the supposition, that these persons were converted before Paul met them, and were now ordained to the ministry by the Holy Ghost; the re-baptism is totally different from what was observed by Christ and his Apostles. The Apostles were all acquainted with the regenerating influence of the Holy Ghost, before their ordination to the ministry on the day of Pentecost. See, in proof, John 14:17 . And their qualification for the ministry, Jesus bid them wait for at Jerusalem. See Luke 24:49 . But having stated both opinions, I leave the Reader, under divine teaching, to form his own judgment, only first praying that the Lord Jesus may bring the souls of all his redeemed, under the continual and unceasing baptisms of God the Holy Ghost!
And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. (9) But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus. (10) And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. (11) And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: (12) So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. (13) Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. (14) And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. (15) And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? (16) And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. (17) And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. (18) And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds. (19) Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. (20) So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
I beg the Reader to remark with me, how uniformly, through the whole history of the Church, may we trace the different effects which the Lord the Holy Ghost hath declared should follow the ministration of his word. Let the Bible be opened at any part whatever, this line appears as luminous and shining as though drawn with a sun beam. To one class of hearers, it becomes the savor of death unto death. To the other, of life unto life, 2 Corinthians 2:16 . And the same is equally visible in every congregation in the present hour, wheresoever the truth, as it is in Jesus, is faithfully dispensed. We may behold some melting under the word, awakened, interested, and not unfrequently alarmingly concerned, in enquiries for the one thing needful. While others, under the same word, as insensible, and, as it is here said, hardened, and believing not; yea, speaking evil of this way before the multitude. Can the word of God's grace make a more decided appeal than when scripture truths so uniformly concur, from age to age, with common experience?
I do not think it necessary in a work of this kind, to enter into the minutia of the several things in the historical, part of the subject. The opposition Paul met with from those Jews, and the Lord's success upon his labors to confirm the word, are beautifully blended, to shew how unavailing the contest was, when the Lord is gathering out his people. The seven wretched sons of this Sceva, stand forth an awful monument in the history of the Church, what awful delusions the human mind is capable of falling under. But the Lord hath shewn in all such instances, that no weapon formed against Christ and his Church, can prosper. Every tongue that shall rise in judgment against the Lord and his people, must be condemned, Isaiah 54:17 .
After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome. (22) So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timothy and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season. (23) And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. (24) For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; (25) Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. (26) Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: (27) So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at naught; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshipeth. (28) And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. (29) And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theater. (30) And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. (31) And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theater. (32) Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. (33) And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defense unto the people. (34) But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. (35) And when the town clerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshiper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter? (36) Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. (37) For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess. (38) Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. (39) But if ye inquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. (40) For we are in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. (41) And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
Without, going over a large tract of ground, on the subject of idolatry, which the history of those verses would lead into, I shall only detain the Reader with one general observation upon the whole, which, under divine teaching, may enable both the Writer and Reader of this Poor Man's Commentary, to gather sufficient improvement to bless God in being delivered from such awful delusions as are here shewn.
When we see, as in the melancholy instance before us, to what a desperate degree of ignorance and idolatry the mind of man is capable of being driven; and when we behold at the same time, as in the case of Paul, the vast difference when a soul is brought from darkness to light, and as the Apostle himself expresseth it, is turned from idols to serve the living and true God; (1 Thessalonians 1:9 ) it becomes a subject of infinite moment to ask the cause? No two beings under the sun can differ more than what is here represented. Here is a nation so sunk in the grossest idolatry, that even an image becomes the object of all the world's worshipping as they thought, and here is an Apostle of Christ going forth with his life in his hand, to preach Jesus to the people.
It becomes a subject of infinite importance, in tracing effects to their cause, to explain such a mystery. For when we see the human mind so immediately opposed in one to another, it is very obvious there must be some source predisposing to this end. And happy it is for us the Gospel of Christ very fully and satisfactorily explains it.
There we learn, that in the one common nature of our fallen estate in Adam, by his apostasy, the whole race became equally involved in ruin. All equally dead in trespasses and sins; and all equally incompetent, while remaining unquickened by the Spirit, to any one act of Spiritual life. The Church of God, being given by the Father to the Son before all worlds, and consequently before sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and the Son of God having undertaken to recover his Church from the Adam-state of, ruin in which she was involved at the fall in the common mass of nature, in the fulness of time, as it is called in scripture language, the Son of God comes in grace and truth, to do away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and by his Holy Spirit he quickens the souls of his redeemed, and brings them out of darkness, and the shadow of death, and breaks their bands asunder. I stay not to produce the whole proof of these things, for this would swell my pages indeed. But I refer the Reader, in confirmation, to some few of the more plain and conclusive. See Romans 3:10-19 ; Ephesians 1:4 ; Romans 5:12 ; Galatians 4:4 ; Hebrews 9:26 ; Ephesians 2:1-5 ; Psalms 107:14 .
Without amplifying the subject, this statement (and which by the way let it be considered is wholly scriptural,) is enough in testimony to show wherefore it is that the souls of some, such as Paul and his companions, in this history became quickened, regenerated, and made new creatures in Christ Jesus. Hence they hear and know the joyful sound, and walk in the light of God's countenance. In the - name of Jesus they rejoice all the day, and in his righteousness they are exalted, Psalms 89:15-16 . everything in Christ becomes lovely, and is endeared to their view. His person, His work, His glory, His offices, His character, His relations; all that He is its himself; all that He is to his people; what He hath done for them, and what He is still doing for them, and will do for them to all eternity; these glorious subjects, when they are themselves quickened to a new and spiritual life, are opened to their minds, and cause them to rejoice with joy, unspeakable and full of glory! On the other hand, the souls of others remaining in the Adam-nature of a fallen, sinful, and lifeless state, unawakened, unrenewed, uncalled, the whole of their apostasy remains, and, as the carnal mind is enmity against God, they not only are insensible to their own corruptions by nature, and the want of grace to bring them out of it, but they hate to be reformed, and cast God's words behind them. I stay not here again to produce all the evidences of these solemn truths which might be brought forward, but refer only to a few, Rom 8:5-8 ; 1 Corinthians 2:14 ; Romans 1:22-25 ; Psalms 51:17 .
If it be said, (as indeed it hath been said by presumptuous minds,) how is this to be explained on principles of equity? The answer is at hand, and indeed hath been already given. The Lord is righteous , in all his ways, and holy in all his works. Psalms 145:14 . It must be a righteous act in recovering the Lord's people from the Adam - nature of a fallen state, because the Son of God, in that nature, hath bought their persons out of the hands of law and justice, and God makes good his covenant-promises to his dear Son. And it must be a righteous act in leaving those to their sins who delight in them, seeing it is in this instance, as in every other, only permitting every cause to produce its own natural effect: And in relation to those before whom the word of grace is dispensed, and where, instead of softening their hearts, it only acts as heat upon circumstances, to harden them the more, and raiseth their greater bitterness of spirit against the truths of God, it tends but to confirm the truth of scripture, in skewing to what a desperate condition man is sunk by the fall, and what wonders of grace must it be in every instance, when a poor sinner is brought out of it.
Reader! ponder well the subject. And if so be the Lord, in rich, free, sovereign mercy, hath brought you from the Adam-nature in which you was born, in which you lived, and, but for the gracious provision made in Christ, in which you would have died; calculate if you can the vast amount of the immense mercy! Well may every child of God take to himself that sweet scripture, and make it his daily song during the whole time-state of his pilgrimage. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling, Psalms 2:11 .
See, my soul, in the history of those disciples Paul met at Ephesus, how easy it is to have a name to live, and yet be virtually dead before God. Oh! how sweet the baptisms of the Spirit. Lord, let my soul seek thy daily baptisms, thy sweet anointings, without which all outward ordinances, how good soever in themselves, will profit nothing!
Oh! for a portion of the same Spirit as Paul had, when speaking boldly for the space of three months in the Synagogue, and contending for the faith once delivered to the saints. Oh! how cold and languid are our warmest arguments, compared to the burning zeal of this Apostle. Ye ministers of my God! beg of Him who touched the Prophet's mouth, to touch yours, that the words of God's grace may not freeze as they drop, but from being warm yourselves, your souls may kindle others, and from the abundance of the heart the mouth may speak.
Blessed Lord Jesus! we would praise thee, that even in the darkest days, as here, so now, thy miracles of grace upon the heart are plainly distinguished from all counterfeits, like those vagabond Jews. Thy work, Almighty Lord, in conversion, manifests the people of thy love from all idol worshippers. Great is the cry of the world in their various schemes of creature perfection. But, oh .! thou dear. Lord! do thou hold up thy faithful servants, as thou didst Paul, by giving testimony to the word of thy grace, and granting signs and wonders in the conversion of the heart to God, to follow a faithfully preached Gospel.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Acts 19". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13