Summary: Paul in Ephesus. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email:

Reading: Acts chapter 19 verses 1-20.


• Acts is primarily a history book,

• An accurate record of the early church.

• It is not primarily a theological book, i.e. a book you base your theology from,

• That’s why we have the letters, or epistles.

• Now any theology or any events recorded in the book of Acts is and was true,

• That’s what happened,

• But we must never assume that was the norm,

• Or that is what will happen today.

The book of Acts covers a transition period:

• Christianity is ‘finding its feet’, it is ‘learning to walk’, it is being established and

• Unusual things happened that were one off’s, not the norm.

(A). True faith (Vs 1-10)

(1). Encounter (Verses 1-2):

• Paul arrives back in Ephesus,

• You might remember that in chapter 18 verse 21,

• He promised that if it was God’s will he would return.

• Well, here in chapter 19 he is able to make good that promise.

As he arrives in Ephesus he meets twelve men (vs 1b):

• They are called “Disciples”

• But that doesn’t mean they were Christians or even disciples of Jesus.

• The word “Disciple” was a common term, simply means “Learner”,

• And there were many around who were called disciples, but not Christians.


Disciples of………..

• The Pharisees,

• Tyrannaus,

• Well many different types of people.

(2). Discussion (Vs 2-4):

• Paul asks these ‘disciples’ a significant question:

• We would say he was checking them out.


When you meet someone, sometime during your conversation you might say;

• Do you go to Church? Which one?

• Are you believers, Christians? “Born again?”

• Often from their answers you can gage where they are spiritually,

• Whether they love the Lord or are just church goers, or religious people.

• This is what Paul is doing here;

• He is asking them a significant question, to gage where they are at.

Verse 2:

“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

The A.V. or King James translation of this verse is wrong here:

• Not “Since you believed”,

• But “When you received”.

The question was important:

• Because the witness of the Holy Spirit,

• Is the one indispensable proof that a person is a genuine Christian.

• Romans chapter 8 verse 9:

• “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ”.

• Therefore their answer revealed to Paul,

• Whether they were true converts to Christ or sincere seekers.

Verse 2b-3:

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

• There answer makes it clear to us that they were disciples of John the Baptist.

• 25 years after his death, John the Baptist still had people who followed his teaching.

• Quote: J.B. Lightfoot comments;

• “Such groups still existed in the second century”.

Question: Where did these men come from?

Answer: Two suggestions.


• Ephesus was a sea port, and so they may have been sailors;

• Who were or had been working onboard a ship and they ended up in Ephesus.


• Some commentators have suggested,

• These men were early “converts” of Apollos.

• And you might remember from last week,

• That he had a limited understanding of Jesus Christ.

• We noted that Apollos was defective in his understanding,

• And Pricilla and Aquila were able to help him see clearly.

Chapter 18 verses 24-26:

24Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John

These people have a different problem to Apollos:

• They are defective in their focus,

• They looked to John Baptist, when they needed to see the one John was pointing to.

• Apollos needed to see Jesus more clearly,

• These people needed to see Jesus for the first time.

(3). Conversion (Verses 4b-5):

4Paul 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.”

NOTE: Paul knew by their answer that they had not yet embraced the Christian faith:

• They had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit!

• And they had no knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

True to say:

• You can be a Christian and not know very much about, Bible, Church, doctrine etc.

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