In today's study, we find Paul back in Ephesus where he meets twelve men who had only knew of the baptism of John, the sons of Sceva attempting to cast out a demon, and creating another riot because the business and religious people there felt that his teaching was going to harm their livelihood there in Ephesus where they worshipped the goddess Diana.
VERSES 1-2: 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. Paul, on his way to Ephesus, runs into twelve (v.7) men who were disciples of John the Baptist. It is apparent from the context that these men, despite the fact that Pentecost was twenty years prior, had no idea about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that happened in Acts 2. This makes it obvious that these are Jews that Paul was dealing with here. They were under the baptism of John still.
VERSE 3: And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. It is interesting that Paul realized that they had received some kind of baptism, but just wanted to clarify. It seems from the text, at least to me, that he knew the answer before he even asked it based on their behavior. By acknowledging that they were under John's baptism, it means that they had accepted the message of repentance that John preached, but had not received the spiritual baptism that happened at Pentecost. So, they had no doubt repented, baptized, and were looking for the Messiah.
Note: It was not the same baptism that we practice today which represents the death, burial, and resurrection and is not required for salvation.
VERSES 4-7: 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. I have been guilty of "overthinking" these verses and arriving at a bad interpretation for years. The bottom line is that these guys had accepted the teaching of John that the Messiah was going to come, but they did not know that Jesus was that promised Messiah, so Paul took the time to explain it to them. They needed to understand that Jesus was that promised Messiah and then receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit that was poured out in Acts 2 as prophesied by Joel as a sign (1Cor 1:22). This happened when Paul laid hands on them as Peter and John did with the kingdom believers in Samaria with Philip in Acts 8.
These twelve Jewish disciples of John just received the long-overdue gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised to believing Israel in the book of Joel, and in the gospels, and in the early part of the book of Acts who believed that Jesus was their Christ.
Now, with that in mind, at least to me, the text clearly indicates that Paul did not preach the Grace Gospel to these twelve men. They were Kingdom believers and they stayed that way as that there is no mention of trusting in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection to these twelve Jewish believers. These were kingdom saints and they would receive the baptism with the Holy Ghost after they had repented and were baptized in Jesus' name just like Peter said they should in Acts 2:38.
Finally, just another proof text, notice that it says that the Holy Spirit came "on" them. Not "in" them like he does for the Body of Christ, but "on" them. Again, this was a time of overlap in the Kingdom offer and the beginning of the age of grace. I believe this time of overlap officially ended at the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.
VERSE 8: 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. Remember that Paul had already been to Ephesus in Acts 18:19-20 when they desired for him to stay longer, but he couldn't because he was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem. Now he is back for three months and still disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God. Again, this can not be taught today, not even to the Jews, because that offer is no longer on the table.
VERSE 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. But, as usual, some did not believe, and Paul left the synagogue and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.
VERSE 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. So, over a space of two years, Paul taught the word of the Lord Jesus to both Jews and Greeks. Again, it is difficult to determine what Paul preached to whom, Kingom or Grace. Again, the word for Greeks is hellen which refers to non-Jews. The assumption would be that Paul would have been preaching the Kingdom Gospel to the Jews and the Grace Gospel to the Gentiles. However, as we look through this chapter, it seems that he only taught the Kingdom Gospel.
Randy White points out a few things. First, the says clearly that he was teaching the kingdom of God (v.8), and nowhere do we see that the message changed. It would require an assumption on our part to assume otherwise. Second, he is performing special miracles which is always associated with the Kingdom, not the Grace Gospel. Third, those who responded confessed and shewed their deeds. which is consistent with the Kingdom message. With this in mind, we would be hard-pressed to conclude that Paul preached anything other than a Kingdom message to the Ephesians.
That is not to say that he didn't also preach the other, just that the text does not support it. Gentiles were present, and they accepted the message, but again, we see no indicator from the text that he went into a Grace message with them. We have to assume that during this unique time of overlap that both were effectual.
Randy also offers some possible scenarios. First, Paul only preached the Kingdom message, and later Timothy continued and shared the grace message. As you remember, Paul wrote to Timothy who was in Ephesus in his first letter (1Tim 1:1-3). Second, Paul did preach both messages, but only the Kingdom is emphasized in the text.
Of course, today, most mix the two anyway and naturally see no point in our discussion right now.
VERSES 11-12: 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. Again, these verses seem to indicate a Kingdom message (1Cor 1:22). Of course, the signs were so that the Jews would believe. It is also obvious that later on, Paul did not have the ability to perform miracles. They were temporary because they were a part of the Kingdom message. We do know that Paul was able to perform them up until at least Acts 28:1-9 when on his way to Rome, he was shipwrecked in Melita when he healed Publius' father, the islanders, and the snake bite that did not cause him any harm.
Of course, it was at Rome that he pinned his prison epistles with new revelations in regards to the Body of Christ. Afterward, we see no miracles from Paul. Interestingly, on this same island, later Paul was not able to heal Trophimus later (2Tim 4:20).
I am of the opinion now, haven't always been, that the sign gifts associated with the Kingdom message ceased with the rejection of the Kingdom. The next time these gifts will come back will be Daniel's 70th Week. In the meantime, the Bible does foretell of false signs that will accompany apostasy in the latter days (Mat 24:24).
That is a hard one to settle on since so many today swear by them. I can only conclude that they are mistaken and overcome with emotion.
VERSES 13-14: 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. Now we are introduced to some Jews that apparently specialized in exorcisms. And when they did it, they did so by Jesus whom Paul preacheth. Among these were the seven sons of Sceva. Sceva is said to be chief of the priests in Ephesus. So this would have made him a member of the Sanhedrin there.
One teacher puts it this way, "they were not evil men, just ignorant of what they were getting themselves involved in. Their father was a chief priest and they were all wanting to serve the Lord with what knowledge they had. They no doubt had heard that Paul was casting out demons in the name of Jesus and they perhaps thought it may work for them being fellow Jews, but something was missing in their walk with God, salvation. They did not know that being a Jew like Paul was not enough, you had to know the Jesus that Paul preached before you could call upon his name."
VERSE 15: And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye? Notice that the evil spirit said that he knew Jesus and Paul, but not them. That must have been just a bit scary I would think. The word ginosko speaks of intimate knowledge.
VERSE 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. Well, that did not end well at all! Unusual strength seems to be the order of the day with evil spirits (Mar 9:14-29; Mar 5:1-5). The word wounded is interesting in that it means traumatized.
Les Feldick points out at this point that Paul never addressed the issue of demonic possession; therefore, salvation is the only answer. Something to think about. I mean, all exorcisms occurred during the Kingdom offer.
VERSE 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. No doubt, this further magnified the ministry of Paul.
VERSE 18: And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. The result was that many believed, confessed, and shewed their deeds. Again, this verse suggests a Kingdom response here.
Notice that it says that they shewed their deeds. That literally means that they disclosed their deeds or openly confessed their deeds.
VERSE 19-20: 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. Also, many who believed confessed to using curious arts. In context, the word is referring to magic and all of the accouterments associated with that.
Historically, the city of Ephesus was ate up with magic and sorcery. History paints a picture of Ephesus as full of paganism and mysticism. One writer said, "Magic scrolls, rings, amulets, bracelets, and necklaces thought to have powers were all common in ancient Ephesus. The price of these magical documents and trinkets varied, but history tells us that there was a huge market for them in the commercial agora." It was altogether worth 50K pieces of silver. You talking about putting your money where your mouth is! This was going to lead to short term problems of course as we will see over idol worship.
VERSES 21-22: 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, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season. Now, Paul feels led to pass through Macedonia and Achaia to Jerusalem, and then on to Rome. This would complete his third missionary journey. I believe that Paul felt that as to the Gentiles that Rome was the golden apple as the capital of the Gentile world.
On a side note, I find it interesting that the Devil wants everyone to believe that Peter founded the church in Rome, thus thoroughly conflating and mixing the Kingdom with the Grace gospels and diminishing the role of Paul. The Devil is in the details for sure and has been trying to mix the two programs and cause division and confusion for quite some time.
VERSE 23: And the same time there arose no small stir about that way. Notice that way. I believe that the way or that way is always a reference to the Kingdom program (John 14:6; Acts 9:2). Therefore, it has nothing to do with the Pauline gospel of grace.
VERSE 24: For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; Diana was the Greek goddess Artemis. She was the daughter of Zeus and the twin sister of Apollo. Orion was who she loved. She was worshipped as one of the primary goddesses of childbirth and midwifery. Her temple in Ephesus was one of the seven wonders of the world at the time. Many connect her to Semiramis.
VERSE 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 nought; 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 worshippeth. Of course, there is no doubt that Demetrius is first and foremost acting out of self-preservation, but who would really care about that. So, he makes it about their great goddess Diana. The same tactic is used today in society, i.e., make it about one thing while nothing could be farther from the truth.
VERSES 28-30: 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 theatre. (30) And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. Things are have just turned ugly.
VERSE 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 theatre. Albert Barnes says of this chiefs that they "were persons who presided over sacred things and over the public games. It was their business to see that the proper services of religion were observed, and that proper honor was rendered to the Roman emperor in the public festivals, at the games, etc. They were annually elected, and their election was confirmed at Rome before it was valid. Probably they were assembled on such an occasion now; and during their remaining there they had heard Paul preach, and were friendly to his views and doctrines." There is no indication from the text that they were believers.
VERSES 32-34: 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 defence 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. However, Alexander was, he was prepared to speak on behalf of the Jews. Some associate him with Alexander the Coppersmith in 1Tim 1:20, but that is speculation. If would make sense that a Jew would be asked to defend what was going on because Paul's Kingdom message was to and about them. However, it doesn't appear that he was allowed to speak, and even if he had, we have no idea what he was prepared to say; for or against Paul. Of course, if this was in indeed the same Alexander mentioned to Timothy, it would seem that he spoke against.
VERSE 35: And when the townclerk 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 worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter? The townclerk appears to be just trying to calm the situation by saying basically that everyone knows that the image of Diana fell down from Jupiter. He is saying that there is nothing to worry about from these Jews. Of course, time proved him wrong! The word worshipper in this verse means a temple keeper.
David Guzil points out at this point that what was going on in Ephesus as a result of Paul's teaching did not please the Devil at all and it may have been why he spoke of spiritual warfare in Eph 6:10-20. When God is at work, the Devil does get busy for sure.