Summary: how to establish a church
Our text records the establishing of the church in Ephesus. In Paul’s day, it was a city of about 200,000.
Every Christian longs for God’s church to be established and extended as His word spreads mightily and prevails. Our text shows that for that to happen, there must be evangelizing, empowering, and equipping.
The church must be preaching the gospel, it must be empowered through God’s Spirit, and pastor-teachers must be equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. All three were happening in Ephesus.
I. To establish a church there must be the evangelization of the lost.
Fulfilling his earlier promise to return to Ephesus if God willed (18:21), Paul returned about a year later. He found about 12 men whom Luke describes as “disciples” (19:1) who had “believed” (19:2).
However, as Paul talked with them, he discerned that something was not quite right.
A. The inquiry
Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed.
The Holy Spirt is one of the benefits sovereignly and eternally bestowed upon any believer at the moment of his conversion.
B. The ignorance
The men replied that they had not even heard that there was a Holy Spirit.
As a result, Paul explained to them that the one of whom John prophesied had come, namely, Jesus. No doubt he told them of His death on the cross as the substitute for sinners, of His resurrection from the dead, and of His ascension into heaven. When they heard the gospel, they believed in Christ and were baptized as a confession of their faith.
Some who need to be evangelized already believe and are in the church.
You’re saying, "What? If they already believe and are in the church, aren’t they saved?" Not necessarily! The question is, WHAT do they believe? These men believed in the message of John the Baptist, but they had not heard how Jesus had fulfilled John’s preaching. Even though Luke calls them "disciples" (19:1), it is clear that they were not disciples of Jesus.
In a similar way, there are many in our churches today who believe in God, and perhaps even believe about Jesus, but yet are still not truly saved.
All who truly believe in Jesus Christ should confess their faith through believer’s baptism.
II. To establish a church there must be the empowerment to live.
This empowering is done through the Holy Spirit of God.
After these men believed and were baptized, Paul laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them, causing them to have the miraculous ability to speak in a language that they had not previously learned.
However, this text has led to much confusion in modern Christian circles, primarily because interpreters do not keep in mind the transitional nature of Acts.
Some things which are practiced in Acts are not commanded by later epistles to the church.
Let me make two statements about the working of the Holy Spirit today: