April 23, Thursday
Finally, Paul launched a third mission excursion throughout Galatia and Phyrgia, encouraging the believers along the way.
Meanwhile a Jew by the name of Apollos, a native of Alexandria, a gifted communicator, and a man well-acquainted with the Scriptures, arrived at Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he was very effective in teaching about Jesus even though he only knew about the baptism of John. He was fearless in proclaiming the Truth in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained God’s Message to him more accurately.
When he decided to cross into Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote a letter introducing him to the disciples there, asking them to make him welcome. Upon his arrival he proved a source of great strength to those who believed through grace. With a powerful defense he publicly refuted the Jews, showing from their Scriptures that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul journeyed through the upper parts of the country, finally arriving at Ephesus. There he found a dozen disciples and asked if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. They indicated that they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit.
“How were you baptized?” Paul asked. So they explained that they had been baptized into John’s baptism.
“John’s baptism was a baptism to show a change of heart,” Paul explained, “but he always made it clear that they must believe in the One who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When these men heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. As Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them; and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy.
Paul spent about three months in Ephesus, at first reasoning with the Jews in the synagogue, explaining the Kingdom of God until, sensing a growing resistance to the Message and some open hostility, he withdrew from there and continued his daily discussions in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. He carried on this work for two years, giving opportunity to all who lived in Asia, both Greeks and Jews, to hear the Lord’s Message. God confirmed Paul’s ministry with unusual demonstrations of power. People were being healed or delivered of evil spirits, at times through the laying on of Paul’s hands, but sometimes just by touching handkerchiefs or aprons which had been in contact with his body.
Interestingly, there were some itinerant Jewish exorcists who attempted to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus when dealing with evil spirits. They got into the practice of saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven brothers, sons of a chief priest called Sceva, were among those doing this when one time the evil spirit answered, “Jesus I know, and I am acquainted with Paul, but who on earth are you?” Then the man in whom the evil spirit was living jumped on them and over-powered them all with such violence that they rushed out of that house wounded and naked, having had their clothes torn off by the man. Once this story became common knowledge to all who were living in Ephesus, a great sense of awe came over them; and the name of the Lord Jesus became highly respected.
A new openness and boldness was evident among those who had professed their faith. Many who had previously practiced magic collected their books and burned them publicly, and the Word of the Lord continued to grow irresistibly in power and influence.
Seeing the Word established in Ephesus, Paul determined in his spirit to travel on through Macedonia and Achaia, then to Jerusalem. “And after I have been there, I must see Rome as well,” he confided. He sent Timothy and Erastus ahead to Macedonia while he remained a while longer in Asia.
Not everyone in Ephesus was thrilled with the flourishing church, however. Those whose business depended on the worship of Diana saw profits plummeting. A prominent silversmith by the name of Demetrius called together the craftsmen in his trade and rallied them to take action, saying, “Men, you all know just how much our prosperity depends on this particular work. Why, reports from all of Asia show that this man Paul has persuaded great masses of people to join “The Way” by telling them that gods made by human hands are not gods at all.
“Do you understand what this could mean? Not only are our careers at risk, but the very temple of the great goddess Diana may also be neglected. Think of it: she whom all of Asia, yea, the whole world worships, dethroned from her place of honor!”
Demetrius’ speech succeeded in stirring up the crowd who began chanting with angry fervor, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” It didn’t take long for the whole city to take up the cause. They rushed into the coliseum dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, two Macedonians who were Paul’s travelling companions. Paul wanted to go in to address the crowd, but the disciples would not allow him to. Some high-ranking officials in the city who were Paul’s friends also urged him not to risk his life by entering the theatre.
As is often the case in mass protests, most of the people didn’t even know why they had gathered. Some shouted one thing and some another. The whole assembly was in utter chaos. Finally the Jewish contingent pushed Alexander to the front to make a speech; but when the crowd recognized him as being a Jew, they shouted him down, chanting for two hours straight, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!”
When the town clerk was finally able to silence the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, come now! Who in the world doesn’t recognize that our great city of Ephesus is temple-guardian of the great Diana and of the image which fell down from Jupiter himself? Since these are undeniable facts, you ought to restrain yourselves and not do anything you might later regret.
“These men you have dragged in here aren’t guilty of robbing the temple or blaspheming our goddess. If Demetrius and the rest of you have any charges to bring against anyone, the courts are open and there are judges ready to handle such cases; let them take legal action. If you want anything else, then bring it before the regular assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting over today’s events especially since we have no good explanation to offer for all this commotion.” And with these words he dismissed the assembly.
After this uproar subsided, Paul sent for the disciples to give final words of encouragement before departing on his way to Macedonia. Passing through the region, he exhorted the people and then went on to Greece where he stayed for three months.