And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There were about twelve men in all.
And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.
Understanding And Applying the Text
Paul finished his ministry in Phrygian Galatia. He then traveled west by land to Ephesus. There he ministered for about three years. This was about A.D. 53 to 56.
Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia. Ionians founded Ephesus around the twelfth century B.C.
Ephesus was a commercial powerhouse. But its economic prosperity declined because erosion from the river clogged the harbor. The city had a lot of wealth and prestige. This came from its temple of Artemis. Artemis was the goddess of fertility. By Paul’s time, Ephesus had passed its prime. Yet it remained an important commercial and religious center.
Paul returned to Ephesus as he promised. (Acts 18:19-21) When Paul passed through Ephesus before they asked him to stay. But he could not. So Paul had not taught them. He was only passing through. His return resulted in the church’s strengthening.
When Paul arrived there were some believers in Ephesus. These Jewish believers. We can conclude this because they had received John’s baptism.
When Paul arrived he saw men who professed Jesus. But Paul could tell something was wrong. He asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Their response
The Holy Spirit is a gift of God from God for the glory of God. All categories of people received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jews, God-fearing Greeks, Samaritans, and Gentiles all receive the Holy Spirit. There were not two classes of Christians, the haves and the have nots. All believers receive the Holy Spirit. So, you can imagine Paul’s surprise. “Into what then were you baptized?”
This should remind us of two things. First, it is God who changes men’s hearts. Our job is not to make converts. Christ charged us with making disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20) He did not charge us with making converts. God makes converts. That is His job. And we are to make disciples. We are to baptize and teach them to obey everything Christ taught. Second, Christianity is a faith-based religion. But our faith is not blind faith. Knowledge informs the Christian faith. We are to have faith in Christ and his promise. We are not to have faith in our faith.
Paul told them they only had half of the Good News. They did not know the best part. John preached a Christ who was coming. It looked forward to the redeeming work of Jesus. Guess what y’all. He’s come! In His death and resurrection is our salvation. Out of that fountain of Christ’s death and resurrection flows repentance. Paul showed that
They were then baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Baptism is something that is only done once. You are either baptism in Jesus’ name or you are not. They were only baptized in John’s baptism. So after hearing Paul, Paul baptized them in Jesus’ name. The two baptisms were different.
When Paul laid his hands on them they received the Holy Spirit. They spoke in tongues and prophesied. This parallels the receiving of the Holy Spirit in Acts:2,4,11; 8:14-17 and 10:44-46. God gave the Holy Spirit to Jews, Samaritans, and God-fearing Gentiles. This is a continuation or expansion or the spread of God’s gift to all people.
They prophesied. That is, they spoke the word of God. That is what a prophet does. He speaks God’s words.
Luke gives us a parenthetical note that there were 12 men in total. So the church in Ephesus had a small beginning. Yet by the end, everyone in Asia heard the word of the Lord.
Paul went to the synagogue for three months. In the synagogue, Paul spoke with boldness. He reasoned with them. This indicates that this was a civil discussion. It was not an argument. Sure there was disagreement. But it was civil.
But as is often the case when men do not have facts or reason on their side they resort to slander. When this occurred Paul left. He took with him the fellow believers. He took this discussion to the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This was a place where people came to learn. That is why some translations say, “the school of Tyrannus.”
Luke shows us time and again Christianity is a reasoned and reasonable faith. Yes, we must have faith. But it is not