Summary: On a missionary journey, Paul encountered disciples in Ephesus who know only John's baptism, not the baptism in the name of Jesus with the infilling of the Holy Spirit. This message explores this passage.
November 8, 2015 - Come Holy Spirit
Our guest speaker last week spoke about Paul’s conversation in Athens with philosophers regarding the “unknown god” statue of the Romans. He thought it curious that among all the statues of the Greeks and Romans, there was this one created for the unknown God.
So Paul told them about the one true God, who was the answer to their longings and their searching. Today we are continuing in the book of Acts and looking at Paul and his experience in Ephesus in chapter 19 of the Book of Acts.
The first thing a good preacher does when looking at the text they are about to preach on is to consider what God's intent was in the text.
One of the worst ways to approach the Bible is to have something you want to say, and then try to make the Scripture say something it perhaps doesn’t say. The goal is always: what is God saying, both to the original hearers of the Word, and then to us, and why does it matter.
It's clear that God wanted the experiences of the earliest Christians recorded for all posterity. It's clear that their experiences are intended to shape our understanding of the gospel, of what it means to live as a Christ-follower.
What we have in the Book of Acts, that we have been looking at in some depth for many months now, is a limited record of the life of the early church. It was written by Luke, the physician, who also wrote the Gospel of Luke.
Luke expressed, in his opening of his gospel, that his primary interest and focus is to convey an accurate history of the life of Jesus. That principle, of course, extends to his writing of the Book of Acts.
So, what this means is that not every single thing that the early church did was recorded.
Interestingly, at the end of the Gospel of John, the author points out that in that gospel, he did not come close to including all the things that Jesus said.
So what we can understand, from the fact of the writing of the history of the early church, is that what was recorded was very, very important.
In order to qualify for inclusion in this book, The history, the stories had to have relevance that would reach forward into the future.
Since we understand that God, through his Holy Spirit, authored the text of the Bible through human agency, we can appreciate that what has been written is intended by God for us to hear and read.
So let's begin to look through this passage. I'd like us to look in some detail at the particular stories and events within the passage.
Today’s passage picks up from the previous chapter and builds on it, so I’ll just mention that near the end of chapter 18, a new Biblical character is introduced.
His name was Apollos, who was from Alexandria. He came to Ephesus where Paul was staying and preaching. Luke says at the end of chapter 18 that Apollos was a smart guy, a learned man who had a deep knowledge of the Scriptures.
He had been discipled, most likely back in Alexandria and he spoke well and accurately, with great energy and passion about Jesus. But he had missed something in his early discipleship. He knew about John the Baptist, who had a ministry of baptising Gentile converts to Judaism.
He also knew that John had baptised Jesus and that this had been the start of Jesus’ public ministry.
So Apollos started to speak boldly about Jesus in the synagogue in Ephesus.
A couple who were very important in the early church, Priscilla and Aquila, heard him speak and then invited him home and explained the gospel even more completely. This equiped Apollos to be an even greater influence in the early church. Apollos was a good debater as well, and he was able to prove from the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.
Our passage today picks up with Paul entering the picture at Ephesus.
Acts chapter 19 is mostly concerned with Paul’s missionary work in Ephesus. Paul stayed there longer than anywhere else - nearly 3 years. His letter to the Ephesians was his pastoral letter, summarizing his teachings when he had been among them.
Ephesus was the market of Asia Minor. The book of Revelation describes Ephesus as “The Treasure House of Asia.
In Ephesus, Paul met some people who had received the baptism of John, John the Baptist, but they were not aware that the Holy Spirit exists, in the Christian sense of the term.
What was the difference between the baptism of John and the baptism in the name of Jesus? When we read of the accounts of John’s preaching, we see a radical difference between it and the preaching of Jesus: