Acts 19

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Verse 1: While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples (NIV)

  • By referring to these people as disciples, Luke is making a conscious statement that despite their lack of baptism, they are still members of Christ's community.
    • There are many who argue this point because these men do not yet meet criteria for being a Christian we hold today.
    • However, this story revolves around how John's teachings was an extension of Judaism, and Jesus is the completion of John. A well trained disciple of John is a disciple of Jesus (Polhill 398).
  • Paul was at Ephesus from about 53-56 (Longenecker 287).
  • Ephesus of course, being best known for the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders.
  • Without being told otherwise, we have to assume that “disciple” has the same meaning here as elsewhere (Fitzmyer 642).


Verse 2: and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (NIV)

  • The question Paul asks is indirect in Greek, most translations make it direct for ease of reading.
  • Paul seems to assume that the Holy Spirit comes with salvation. Salvation is then equated with baptism. But Paul needs to place his hands on the disciples after baptism for them to truly receive the Holy Spirit.
  • There is no question about their belief, however. Paul obviously assumes that these people are believers.
  • That these believers did not know about Christianity beyond their city says a great deal about how well known, or not, this new movement really was.
  • If people could be schooled in John's thinking, without knowing anything about the Holy Spirit, it shows how much larger John's message was than we know.
    • Some variant texts read that they did not know the Holy Spirit could be received in baptism, not that it existed (Johnson 337).


Verse 3: So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” (NIV)

  • This is probably 20 years after John's death. To still have disciples so far away from Judea says a lot about John's importance (Johnson 338).
  • These people get baptized twice.
  • There is a lot of confusion about what exactly this baptism is.
    • Some think it is baptism in John's name, followers of John.
    • It could also be that these were people who were looking for the Messiah like John, and preparing for him.
    • These people could also be followers of John in the sense that they liked what Jesus said in his life, but didn't know about his death and resurrection (this is the least likely because who would tell the story of Jesus without mentioning his death and resurrection?)


Verse 4: Paul said, “John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” (NIV)

  • Jesus' baptism is distinguished from merely being repentance. Repentance is involved, but then comes believing in Jesus, having faith in the risen Christ.


Verse 5: n hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. (NIV)

  • Interestingly, the journey from classic Judaism, to baptism in John's name, to baptism in Jesus' name is not told as changing religions, but progressive insight within the same religion.


Verse 6: When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (NIV)

  • It is not really clear in the text is whether “tongues” is part of the prophetic utterance, or whether it is speaking in tongues as a separate idea.
    • This is not speaking in “other” tongues, so either it is part of the prophetic speaking, or it is probably just ecstatic speaking (Fitzmyer 644).


Verse 7: There were about twelve men in all. (NIV)

  • There is a lot of discussion about the number 12 here. Some see it symbolically, others see it as merely a number. There is no evidence to indicate that this means more than what it says, however.
  • The entire number of believers at the time in that city appear to be these 12 men. This is one of the few times when we have numbers attached to a church after Pentecost, and could be indicative of other church sizes as well.


Verse 9: But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. (NIV)

  • ”Became stubborn” is reminiscent of the hardening of the heart that Pharaoh experienced at the Exodus.
  • In Antioch and Corinth Paul leaves the synagogue, but this is the first time when it mentions that he took the other disciples with him when he did it. A purposeful church split.


Verse 10: This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. (NIV)

  • It does not say that everyone believed, just that they all heard.
  • This is evidently a hyperbole because Ephesus was a very large and powerful city. Not everyone would have heard him even after several years.


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