7. Paul in Ephesus (Acts 18:23-19:41, 52-55 AD)

Audio (1:03:58)

Rembrandt pictures St. Paul praying and writing. Rembrandt (and Workshop?), detail of 'Apostle Paul' (1657), Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 40.9 x 51.6 in.
Rembrandt pictures St. Paul praying and writing. Rembrandt (and Workshop?), detail of 'Apostle Paul' (1657), Oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 40.9 x 51.6 in. (detail of face and hand)

Paul spends a few months in Antioch, but he is anxious to go out again to strengthen the churches, and plant more. And so he begins what we call his Third Missionary Journey, which comprises some five years, from 52 to 57 AD.

Strengthening All the Disciples (Acts 18:23)

"After spending some time in Antioch, Paul set out from there and traveled from place to place throughout the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples." (Acts 18:23)

This is Paul's third trip to the churches in Galatia which he and Barnabas had founded -- amidst much persecution -- several years before, in 47-48 AD. The apostolic team follows the road they had taken on their Second Missionary Journey overland from Antioch (Acts 19:1), northwest to Tarsus (Paul's hometown), up through the Cilician Gates to the interior plateau. They then visit the churches of Galatia and Phrygia -- Derbe, Lystra (Timothy's hometown), Iconium, and Antioch of Pisidia.

The mission so far isn't particularly evangelistic. Rather they spend their time "strengthening all the disciples" (Acts 18:23c). "Strengthening" is epistērizō, "to cause someone to become stronger or more firm, strengthen."[240] This is the same as Timothy's ministry to the Macedonian church of Thessalonica, that we considered in Lesson 6.3 --  "to strengthen and encourage" (1 Thessalonians 3:2b).

Now Paul travels west from the Galatian and Phrygian churches to Ephesus, capital of the province of Asia (Acts 19:1). Paul has stopped there in passing (Acts 18:19-21). Now he returns to establish churches in this great city.

Ephesus (52-55 AD)

Map: Paul's Ministry in Asia, centered in Ephesus (52-55 AD)
Map: Paul's Ministry in Asia, centered in Ephesus (52-55 AD) on his Third Missionary Journey (larger map)

Ephesus was founded by Ionian colonists about 1100 BC and was governed successively over the next millennium by the Persians, Greeks, Macedonians, and others. Rome rules the city from 69 BC for the next 200 years. It prospers and becomes the capital of the province of Asia and the leading city of the entire region. Estimates of its population in the first century begin at a quarter million inhabitants and go up from there.

It was famous for its temple to the goddess Artemis (Diana of Ephesus), a huge structure made of marble, 220 by 425 feet (57 by 130 meters) at its base, supported by beautiful pillars and rising to a height of 60 feet (18 meters) -- considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world! The city has been studied by archeologists since 1895 and the work continues. Some of the important buildings they have found were present during Paul's ministry. They include a huge theater on a hillside that could seat 24,000 people (Acts 19:29ff). Others are the town hall (Prytaneion), the commercial market (Agora), baths and gymnasiums, a medical school, and a stadium 750 feet long and 98 feet wide (229 meters by 30 meters) built during Nero's reign (54-68 AD).

Besides the cult of Artemis, there is evidence of various mystery religions, the practice of magic (Acts 19:19), worship of Egyptian gods Sarapis and Isis, as well as devotion to large number of other deities.

A Jewish synagogue existed in Ephesus (Acts 19:8), though archeologists haven't yet discovered its remains. The Jewish community possessed citizenship, were exempted from military service, and granted freedom to practice their religion according to their traditions.[241]

As you recall, on Paul's Second Missionary Journey, Paul's team was "kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia" (Acts 16:6b) -- that is, Ephesus and its surrounding cities. But now it is God's time to minister in Ephesus. Not before, but now.

Sometimes when God guides us a certain way, we might think that this guidance is always God's will. No. Keep seeking God. A "No" doesn't mean a forever "no." When the time is right, God will make it clear. Keep seeking and stay flexible!

7.1. The Ministry of Apollos (Acts 18:24-19:1-7)

Now the narrative of Acts provides a story that doesn't directly involve Paul, but explains some of Paul's ministry and difficulties in the future. It involves a Greek-speaking Jew named Apollos.

Apollos, a Native of Alexandria (Acts 18:24-28)

Apollos is a native of Alexandria, and arrives in Ephesus about the time Aquila and Priscilla get there. Paul has yet to arrive. No doubt, Aquila and Priscilla meet Apollos in the Jewish synagogue. Luke fills us in.

"24b He was a learned (or "eloquent") man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25  He 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. 26  He began to speak boldly in the synagogue." (Acts 18:24b-26a)

Three words in these verses characterize his speaking style. He

The story of John the Baptist has had a huge impact on Judaism of Paul's day, both in Judea as well as the Diaspora. And John's fearless example, powerful message, and martyrdom have deeply affected Apollos. He is an eloquent man, and when he speaks in the Ephesus synagogue, he is quite persuasive. Several are baptized with John's baptism of repentance. But Apollos only has part of the good news; he needs to learn about Jesus.

  "When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately." (Acts 18:26b)

No doubt he is now baptized in Jesus' name. But soon, he is off to Achaia (Greece), specifically, Corinth, where he helps the church, "for he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ" (Acts 18:28).

Apollos affects Paul's ministry in two specific ways.

  1. Ephesus (Acts 19:1-6). Apollos has made some converts to the baptism of John the Baptist while in Ephesus, and Paul needs to deal with them at the beginning of his Third Missionary Journey. This is why Luke includes the explanation about Apollos at this point in his narrative.
  2. Corinth (Acts 18:27-28). When Apollos goes to Corinth, he is so eloquent and persuasive that a sense of rivalry appears between him and Paul, the founding pastor -- at least in the minds of some. You see echoes of this problem throughout First and Second Corinthians. Paul is forced to deal with it by letter and in person, and to teach on the unity of the body of Christ.

At times there is a hint of tension between Paul and Apollos (1 Corinthians 16:12), but towards the end of Paul's life, he speaks favorably regarding Apollos (Titus 3:13).

Divisions in the Corinthian Church (1 Corinthians 1:11-12; 3:3-6)

In Paul's first Letter to the Corinthian Church, he is quite open about the clear divisions that exist.

"11  My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12  What I mean is this: One of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.'" (1 Corinthians 1:11-12)

"3  You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? 4  For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not mere men? 5  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe -- as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow." (1 Corinthians 3:3-6)

Formal Greek Rhetoric vs. Rabbinical Disputation

Part of the division is about style and training. Apollos is a trained speaker in the Greek tradition, while Paul has to defend himself against charges that he lacks the skills of formal Greek rhetorical oratory.

"Some say, 'His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.'" (2 Corinthians 10:10)

"I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge." (2 Corinthians 11:6a)

After all, Paul is a trained rabbi, a Bible teacher, and excellent at debate. But he is not formally trained in the Greek fashion. He lacks the style and polish that appeals to the Corinthians. Paul seems to be contrasting himself against Apollos in the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians.

"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God." (1 Corinthians 2:1)

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power." (1 Corinthians 2:4)

"So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future -- all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God." (1 Corinthians 3:21-23)

Nevertheless, Bruce comments, "If some of the Corinthian Christians were disposed to claim Apollos as a party-leader to the detriment of Paul ... there is no evidence that Apollos himself encouraged this tendency, and Paul speaks of him in the warmest terms as a fellow-apostle."[245]

Unity is vital. Paul tells us:

  "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3)

Q1. (1 Corinthians 1:11-12; 2:1; 3:3-6) What seems to be the primary difference between Paul's ministry approach and that of Apollos? Why does this create competing allegiances at Corinth? How does Paul address the issue? Can you think of any divisions over style within the Christian community in your region? What should you do as a result of those divisions?

7.2 Paul's Ministry in Ephesus (Acts 19)

Immediately after arriving in Ephesus, Paul senses a problem -- and opportunity -- all connected to Apollos.

John the Baptist Followers in Ephesus (Acts 19:1-7)

"1  While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2  and asked them, 'Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?'

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

3  So Paul asked, 'Then what baptism did you receive?'

'John's baptism,' they replied.

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.'

5  On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 6  When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7  There were about twelve men in all." (Acts 19:1-7)

Presumably, Apollos hadn't had a chance to tell these disciples about Jesus before leaving for Corinth.

This is a fascinating account. When you meditate on it, you learn several things.

1. Presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul could tell that these "disciples" in Ephesus had not received the Holy Spirit. They had a basis of truth in their belief system, but no Holy Spirit living within them.

2. Faith in Jesus is a necessary foundation for receiving the Holy Spirit. These dozen men are wide open to instruction. They aren't at all resistant. But they still need to hear about Jesus and put their faith in him.

3. Baptism in Jesus' name is the way they express their faith in Jesus. I don't believe baptism saves us, but it is an important, early step in our faith journey.

4. Tongues and prophecy. When the Holy Spirit comes upon these disciples, "they spoke in tongues and prophesied." This was a similar manifestation to what the church had experienced at Pentecost (Acts 2:4), at Samaria (Acts 8:17, apparently), and at Caesarea (Acts 10:44-46).

5. Laying on of hands is the way the Holy Spirit's fulness is conveyed -- sometimes. The Holy Spirit's fulness is conveyed by the laying on of hands at Damascus (Acts 9:17), Samaria (Acts 8:17) and here at Ephesus (Acts 19:6). But on two other occasions, the Holy Spirit comes upon believers spontaneously (Acts 2:4; 10:44-46).

This raises obvious questions about the nature of the coming of the Holy Spirit, what Pentecostals refer to as the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." This isn't the place to go into a detailed study of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. For that, see Lesson 6 in my study, Disciple's Guide to the Holy Spirit (JesusWalk Publications, 2018), where I trace the use terms for the coming of the Spirit through Acts and the rest of Scripture.[246] In short, my conclusions are that the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" is a term synonymous with being "filled" with the Spirit, "receiving" the Holy Spirit, etc. I don't believe you have to speak in tongues to receive the Holy Spirit -- though it is a common experience, and one I have experienced.

Rather, if you have been "born again" by the Spirit, then you have received the Holy Spirit in all his fulness. You may not have entered into all the Spirit has for you, but He is fully present within you. Nevertheless, don't be satisfied with the level of your spiritual journey, whatever it is. Seek him to know him more deeply! (Philippians 3:8-14).

Paul's letters have a lot to say about walking with the Spirit and the Spirit-filled life. While I don't develop these teachings in this work, you'll find a great deal in my book mentioned above.

Regeneration by the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit and his work are pervasive in Acts and in Paul's writings, touching nearly every part of Paul's ministry, as you'll see by scanning the Theological and Practical Themes in this study.

However, I want to be specific about the Spirit's role in a person becoming a Christian. The Spirit is involved in every part.

  1. Prevenient Grace, where the Spirit works to prepare non-Christians.
  2. Faith in Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit's work.
  3. Indwelling and Regeneration of the Spirit at the very time of conversion.
  4. Sanctification by the Spirit as we grow in Christ.

When Paul meets the dozen followers of John the Baptist in Ephesus, he senses that the Holy Spirit isn't dwelling within them -- though they are certainly open. So he explains about Jesus, they believe, and the Holy Spirit comes upon them in very manifest ways of speaking in tongues and prophecy. As mentioned above, tongues and prophecy aren't necessary indicators of the presence of the Spirit, but they are common, in the early church and today.

I want to talk about two very important aspects of the Holy Spirit in conversion: (1) regeneration and (2) indwelling. One does not precede the other, they happen simultaneously.

Regeneration relates to the change in our essential nature. Jesus teaches on being "born again" or "born of the Spirit" (John 3:3-8). This new birth has a theological name: "regeneration" (from English "regenerate," to be "formed or created again").[247] The word occurs in Paul's letter to Titus:

"5  He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration[248] and renewal[249] of the Holy Spirit, 6  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7 ESV)

This is not just a freshening up what was there, but it is something new entirely:

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)

"Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation." (Galatians 6:15)

Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

Indwelling of the Holy Spirit is both the cause of regeneration as well as the blessed continual presence of God within us thereafter. Paul has much to teach us about this indwelling presence of the Spirit. He uses a number of analogies to describe this.

1. The Temple Analogy (1 Corinthians 6:19).

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?" (1 Corinthians 6:19)

The Spirit lives in our human bodies in the same way that God dwelt in the midst of God's people in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and Temple in the Old Testament.

2. The House Analogy (Romans 8:9-11). The Spirit lives within us as one lives in a house.

"9  You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. 10  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living (oikeō) in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in (enoikeō[250]) you." (Romans 8:9-11)

The phrase "lives in you" (NIV) or "dwells in you" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) uses the preposition en[251] plus the verb oikeō, "to reside in a place, live, dwell."[252] The noun-form oikos means "house" or "household." Notice that the Spirit of Christ in a person is the key and essential component of whether he or she is a Christian (verse 9). The Spirit is indispensable!

3. The Internet Analogy (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). Just as your computer can connect you to the Internet and the millions of databases connected to it, so the Holy Spirit within you connects your human spirit to the mind of Christ.

"10  God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.... 16b "We have the mind[253] of Christ." (1 Corinthians 2:10, 16b)

4. The Spirit as an Anointing, a Seal and a Down Payment (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)

"21  Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22  set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).

I discuss these analogies much more thoroughly in Lesson 5 of Disciple's Guide to the Holy Spirit (JesusWalk Publications, 2018). Truly, for Paul, the presence of the Spirit is the operating system for one's whole Christian life!

Ministry in the Synagogue at Ephesus (Acts 19:8-9)

As is his pattern in former missions in a new city, Paul begins in the synagogue. As you may recall, he had spoken briefly in this synagogue at the end of his Second Missionary Journey and his teaching had sparked a good deal of interest. Here is Luke's account of that brief encounter.

"19  They arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20  When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21  But as he left, he promised, 'I will come back if it is God's will.' Then he set sail from Ephesus." (Acts 18:19-21)

Now Paul has returned, fully in God's will, to take up residence in Ephesus and minister there.

No doubt Paul meets this group of John the Baptist disciples in the Jewish quarter of Ephesus or perhaps the synagogue -- and leads them to Christ and Spirit-filled living. What a way to kick off his ministry there! Paul spends his first three months in Ephesus declaring Jesus the Messiah in the synagogue, before the leaders make it impossible for him to continue there.

"Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)

Three verbs describe Paul's synagogue ministry in this city. We see these verbs again and again in characterizing Paul's approach:

Paul isn't a neutral Bible teacher; he seeks to persuade! Paul speaks "freely, openly, fearlessly." Later, he asks the Ephesians, "Pray that I may declare [the gospel] fearlessly, as I should" (Ephesians 6:20). Paul speaks passionately. He argues from the Scriptures. And his passion is persuasive.

Rejection in the Synagogue (Acts 19:8a)

"But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way." (Acts 19:8a)

There is a time when people are open to new truth, as the case when Paul first visits Ephesus (Acts 18:20), and during the first three months of his ministry there. There comes a point, however, when Paul has convinced all those who can be convinced (Acts 19:9). The others have hardened their position. Luke gives us three characteristics of this resistant group, three verbs in the present tense that suggests an ongoing state of affairs:

  • Obstinate, stubborn.[257]
  • Continued unbelief.
  • Public condemnation[258] of Jesus' Way.

There's part of us that sometimes refuses to give up. We have hope that our opponents will change and come around to our view. And they may -- in 10 years! But in the meantime, the synagogue is filled with bitterness and rancor. Paul can no longer teach boldly there; he's no longer effective in that context. He is not kicked out of the synagogue this time, but he knows it is time to leave. (We see something similar in Acts 13:45-46 in Pisidian Antioch.)

As you'll recall, Jesus teaches his disciples not to stay in towns (or situations) where there is stubborn unbelief, but to shake the dust of the town off their feet and move on. In his hometown of Nazareth, Jesus can't do much ministry because of the prevalent unbelief in the town (Mark 6:5), unbelief that expresses itself in attempted murder (Luke 10:29).

I personally have sometimes resisted moving on. My excuse was, "I'm no quitter." But there are times I shouldn't have continued in my stubbornness. I should have listened. I should have obeyed my Master's direction! There is a time to move on.

School of Missions at the Lecture Hall of Tyrannus (Acts 19:9b-10)

"So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus."(Acts 19:9b)

In Ephesus is a teacher named Tyrannus who owns a lecture hall.[259] It seems that Paul would rent the hall every afternoon and teach classes there. Morning was the normal time for activity in Greek cities; they were in the habit of taking a siesta beginning about 11 am that extended far into the afternoon. The Western Text of the Greek New Testament indicates that Paul had use of the lecture hall from 11 am to 4 pm -- the time when most Ephesians were resting. So it seems that Paul's students would forgo their siesta each day to sit under Paul's ministry. Now we come to a most interesting sentence:

"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." (Acts 19:10)

Who is evangelizing the Roman province of Asia? Not Paul. He is teaching daily. Rather his students, the missionaries he is training in his school of missions, are learning from Paul and then spreading the gospel over the entire province. For example, the churches at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis (Acts 4:13), east of Ephesus, are begun by Paul's disciples (Colossians 2:1).

All the time he is teaching daily, Paul is also working as a tentmaker -- probably in the mornings (Acts 20:34-35). His tentmaking partners, Priscilla and Aquila, are now residing in Ephesus (Acts 18:26; 1 Corinthians 16:19), though by the end of Paul's Third Missionary Journey, they have moved to Rome (Romans 16:3).

Q2. (Acts 19:9-10) How did "all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia" hear God's word from one apostle, who taught daily in Ephesus and didn't travel around. What do you think was going on that caused this kind of expansion? Why is it vital to evangelize in our great cities?

7.3. Power Evangelism in Ephesus

"Power evangelism" is a term that describes evangelism that takes place as a result of acts of power by the Holy Spirit. As Paul told the Corinthian church:

"4  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration[260] of the Spirit's power, 5  so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

We don't hear a lot about this in Acts, but here in Ephesus, we see some hints of what was going on. (Of course, the New Testament explains in considerable detail how Jesus' ministry was full of such power evangelism.)

Extraordinary Miracles (Acts 19:11-12)

Paul's ministry in Ephesus is marked by some amazing miracles.

"11  God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12  so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them." (Acts 19:11-12)

The verb in verse 11 is in the imperfect tense, suggesting that the miracles kept on happening, that they weren't just a one-time occurrence. "Extraordinary" (NIV, ESV, NRSV), "special" (KJV) is a three-word phrase, literally, "not the ones having commonly occurred."[261] In other words, this isn't just a burst of miracles followed by no miracles. Rather, it is a series of uncommon miracles, of the kind that aren't usually seen.

Luke tells of people being cured and delivered from evil spirits by touching objects that Paul has touched -- in particular "handkerchiefs and aprons." Luke refers to cloths that had touched Paul, such as a cloth used to wipe away perspiration,[262] or "sweat-rags" tied around his head while he worked.[263] "Aprons" probably refers to a worker's apron Paul would have worn as a tentmaker.[264]

How are we to understand this? There are biblical precedents. Contact with the bones of Elisha brings a man back to life (2 Kings 13:21). A woman is healed by touching the hem of Jesus' garment (Luke 8:42b-48), as well as many others (Matthew 14:36; Mark 3:10; 6:56; Luke 6:19). People are healed in Jerusalem when Peter's shadow falls on them (Acts 5:15).

The history of Catholicism is rich in tales of relics of the saints which churches would keep in richly-decorated reliquaries. In this sense, "relic" refers to "the physical remains of a saint or the personal effects of the saint or venerated person preserved for purposes of veneration as a tangible memorial."[265] The great cathedrals of Europe were typically built by gathering relics, which then attracted wealth from pilgrimages of the faithful to view the relics (after paying a small entry fee) and seek healing from being in their presence. And some people were healed there. The money was used to build the cathedral, and perhaps purchase more relics.

Pentecostalism has seen this. I remember as a young man listening to radio programs where the evangelist offered to send out "anointed prayer cloths" to listeners who gave an offering. Pete Wagner relates an incident from Nigeria of a person raised from the dead as a result of placing a "blessed handkerchief" on a corpse with prayer in Jesus' name.[266] 

What's going on here? Is this some kind of belief in magic? Of course, it can become that. But I believe at its root, the objects are physical objects where faith can be focused. Healing evangelist Oral Roberts (1918-2009) would ask listeners to place their hands on their radio or television as a "point of contact" while he prayed for them. I think that's the idea.

We need to avoid magical beliefs, however, and keep our focus on the Living Christ himself. Particularly, we shouldn't be taking advantage of people's superstitions. We realize, however, that healing usually occurs through a person's faith and that sometimes a physical object can stimulate or encourage faith. That's my best understanding, though I've had no personal experience along that line. More on Signs and Wonders as Spiritual Weapons in Lesson 8.4.

Exorcism by the Seven Sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-17)

There was a lot going on in Ephesus while Paul was there. In particular, exorcisms, that is, casting out of demons. No doubt, Paul himself was casting out demons in Jesus' name (as he did in Philippi, Acts 16:16-18). In fact, exorcism and healing were common in the early church for hundreds of years after the apostles.[267] We'll examine exorcism further in the context of spiritual warfare in Lesson 8.4.

Probably, because Paul and other believers in Ephesus were so effective and well known for exorcism, others outside the Christian community began to use Jesus' name in their incantations. The outcome was both sad and humorous.

"13  Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke[268] the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, 'I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.' 14  Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. 15  But the evil spirit answered them, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?' 16  And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded." (Acts 19:13-16)

This isn't the first time people were attempting to cast out demons in Jesus' name. The Apostle John complains to Jesus,

"'Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.' 39  But Jesus said, 'Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me.'" (Mark 9:38-39)

In another instance, Jesus warned that healing or casting out demons in his name didn't mean a person actually knew -- and was known by -- him (Matthew 7:21-23).

A magical papyrus from Egypt about 300 AD contains this kind instruction for exorcism (in part):

"Standing opposite [the sufferer], adjure him. The adjuration is this: 'I adjure thee by the god of the Hebrews, Jesu, Jaba, Jae, Abaroth, Aia, Thoth, Ele, Elo....'"[269]

This is just a part of a long list of names of gods and powers strung together supposed to have power over demons. It shows Jewish influence, but probably wasn't used by a Jew, certainly not an orthodox one anyway.

The idea of using Jesus' name in an exorcism is similar to our concept of power of attorney. One who uses Jesus' name claims authority to act with Jesus' own authority. It is a pretty awesome concept, one you see throughout the Gospels and Acts.[270]

The problem with the sons of Sceva is that they don't really believe in Jesus as their Lord. They aren't filled with the Holy Spirit and they don't have Jesus' authority. The demon recognizes it and calls their bluff.

This account suggests to me several things:

  1. Demons are real beings. Some branches of Christianity deemphasize or even laugh at concepts of the devil, demons, or even a hell. But to be true to the spirit of the Scriptures, you must accept that Jesus believed in them -- and conquered them!
  2. People in Ephesus recognized that there is power in Jesus' name.
  3. Demonic powers are aware of our authority when dealing with them. Of course, it is possible to have authority, but to be so unsure of ourselves (through unbelief and lack of experience) that our very real authority is challenged and we don't know how to assert it.
  4. Demons can speak through afflicted people. You can observe this several times in the New Testament.[271]
  5. People who are controlled by demons can exercise great physical strength, as in the case of the Gadarene demoniac (Mark 5:4; Luke 8:29).

If you've studied recent church history, then you are aware that the areas of greatest church growth in China and South America have involved signs and wonders. We need well-balanced, experienced, godly Christian exorcists in the Church today -- people who aren't finding a demon behind every bush, but are fully capable of confronting and casting out demons as needed. May God grant this ministry to his Church.

Burning Occult Books (Acts 19:18-19)

The incident with the sons of Sceva is widely reported in the entire city of Ephesus. Luke tells us: "And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled" (Acts 19:17). Amazing! Here an action by non-believers brings glory to Jesus!

The incident also has a convicting effect on believers who have dabbled in the occult.

"18  Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging[272] their practices. 19  And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver." (Acts 19:18-19)

Sometimes we believers participate -- or have participated -- in things we ought not. The occult, sexual immorality, etc. All the literature from such sources, including books, movies, and pornography, are likely to have been produced with demonic influence, which can expose us to those influences. To free ourselves we must repent. For the Ephesians, repentance involves confession of their sins and ridding their houses of occult books and burning them publicly. Books in those days were hand copied and thus quite expensive, but they needed to go -- not be sold and passed on to corrupt others, but destroyed.

The Ongoing Power of God in Ephesus (Acts 19:20)

Luke has given an example of God's power. Now he summarizes:

"In this way the word of the Lord spread[273] widely[274] and grew in power.[275]" (Acts 19:20)

"The word of the Lord" is another way to say "the gospel" or "the message." The Greek verbs are in the imperfect tense to emphasize the ongoing nature of God's work. As the ESV puts it, "The word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily" (Acts 19:20).

Q3. (Acts 19:11-19) Why do so many contemporary churches expect to evangelize effectively in the 21st century without signs and wonders? What are we afraid of? How do we identify people in our congregations whom God has gifted with ministries of healing, faith, and miracles? What will it take to move in this direction for you? For your church?

Resolving in the Spirit (Acts 19:21-22)

God has been working powerfully. At this point in his ministry at Ephesus, Paul "resolved in the Spirit" what he would do after his time in Ephesus is over.

"Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, 'After I have been there, I must also see Rome.'" (Acts 19:21)

He plans to go to Jerusalem via Macedonia and Achaia (that is, Corinth). This he does, as we'll see (Acts 20:1-5; 1 Corinthians 16:5) -- but not immediately.

Note the wording: "Paul resolved[276] in the Spirit," using a common idiom. The exegetical question is whether the verse refers to Paul's personal spirit or the Holy Spirit. The Greek construction can allow either. I am convinced, however, that the Holy Spirit is the reference, since later on, when confronted with various prophecies of trouble coming in Jerusalem, Paul responds that he is "compelled by the Spirit" to go to Jerusalem (Acts 20:22), which we'll see later in this lesson.

Paul also writes of his intentions to travel to Macedonia and Greece in his first letter to the Corinthians.

"5  After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you -- for I will be going through Macedonia.... 8  But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, 9  because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me." (1 Corinthians 16:5, 8-9)

Timothy and Erastus Sent to Macedonia (Acts 19:22)

"And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while." (Acts 19:22)

As part of what the Spirit is revealing, he sends a pair of co-workers to the churches in Macedonia -- Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, and perhaps others. Among other things, they are getting the churches ready for the great offering being collected for the poor saints in Jerusalem.

We're familiar with Timothy, whom we met in Lesson 5.1. Erastus is mentioned three times in the New Testament. Though Erastus is a common Greek name,[277] all three mentions may be the same person. If so, Erastus is a Corinthian disciple who has the important office of city treasurer in Corinth (Romans 16:23).[278] In Paul's final letter, Paul reports that Erastus "remained at Corinth" (2 Timothy 4:20).

That Paul has co-workers that he can send on sensitive missions says a lot for the apostolic team he has developed. This is not just Paul acting solo or with a single companion, but a well-trained and trusted team of workers that Paul directs.

7.4. Handling Persecution and Pressures

The Silversmith Riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41)

In the midst of a powerful working of God in Ephesus, Satan attacks. The Christian movement has touched the city so profoundly that the silversmiths, who make silver shrines of Artemis, patron goddess of Ephesus, realize that their business has dropped dramatically. That have to do something.

So they stir up the crowd by rallying people around the goddess Artemis  in the amphitheater (which is still there to this day). Paul wants to speak to the crowd but his disciples wisely prevent him. The city clerk finally quiets the crowd, threatening that if they continue to riot, the Romans might take away some of the city's privileges. He tells them to take up the matter in the civil courts. The crowd finally disperses. (I am purposely skipping over this lightly in order have room to emphasize other things.)

A Quick Trip to Corinth and Possible Imprisonment

Though Luke doesn't mention it in Acts, Paul's letters suggest a "painful visit" to Corinth. Paul is trying via letters to correct problems in Corinth during his time in Ephesus. He apparently sends about four letters, of which we have only two. He also makes a quick trip, probably by boat across the Adriatic Sea, to try to resolve things in Corinth. It isn't successful. The only reference to this trip is:

"So I made up my mind that I would not make another painful visit to you." (2 Corinthians 2:1)

During Paul's ministry in Ephesus, Paul writes 1 and 2 Corinthians. In both these letters we get a sense of great spiritual battles Paul is undergoing -- at the same time as he is seeing great success and breakthroughs in ministry! He might have even been imprisoned for a time during this period. (See Appendix 3. Were the Prison Epistles Written from Ephesus?)

Victory and Opposition (1 Corinthians 16:9)

Paul hints of intense in 1 Corinthians (which was written during his Ephesian ministry).

"A great door[279] for effective[280] work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me." (1 Corinthians 16:9)

Paul had planned to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost (late May or early June), but he ends up staying longer. It is a fruitful time, marked with miracles and a mass turning from the occult (Acts 19:11-20). This is probably the "great door for effective work" that Paul shares with the Corinthian church.

But whenever the Kingdom has a victory, Satan nearly always counterattacks. Paul's work is dangerous because of the enemies[281] he creates by turning people from idols and the occult to Jesus Christ. Not only the unbelieving Jews hate him, but also the pagan silversmiths.

This should be a lesson to us. We are not playing at religion; we are in a spiritual war zone. If we are effective in our work, spiritual forces will be upset by the shift in power and go after us. You may be loving and gentle like your Master, but that won't prevent you from making enemies -- if you are being effective. For every action in the spiritual realm you can expect a reaction, a pushback. Of course, if you're not having much effect, you won't make many enemies. (More in this in Lesson 8.1 on Spiritual Warfare).

Some people become afraid. What if Satan attacks me and my family? Jesus tells us not to be afraid of the opposition. Here are our marching orders:

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." (Luke 9:23-24)

Fear is a normal reaction to attack. But if you let fear paralyze you and keep you from completing your mission, that's an indicator you haven't fully surrendered your life and future to Christ. Jesus tells his disciples to "take up your cross daily," by which he means, be willing to die each day if need be. Paul writes:

"I die every day -- I mean that, brothers -- just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:31)

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

To the Philippians, who are threatened by their adversaries, Paul writes:

"I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved -- and that by God." (Philippians 1:27b-28)

Overwhelming Pressure in Ephesus (2 Corinthians 1:8-10)

While 1 Corinthians is primarily an upbeat letter, 2 Corinthians, by contrast, reflects Paul's struggles. By the time 2 Corinthians is written, "those who oppose me" in Ephesus have taken a tremendous toll on the apostle. He writes candidly to the Corinthian believers and shares with them his intense pain. He opens up personally and with such transparency that they (and we) can begin to understand what he's been going through. Indeed, 2 Corinthians is by far the most revealing of any of Paul's letters about the depth of his suffering for the gospel.

Some scholars believe that Paul is describing a period in Ephesus in which Paul is imprisoned, and may have written some (or all) of the prison epistles. That may be the case. (See Appendix 3. Were the Prison Epistles Written from Ephesus?) But whether or not he is imprisoned at this time, Paul is undergoing a major spiritual and emotional battle.

I'm taking this time to examine a passage in 2 Corinthians so we can understand a bit of what Paul must be going though.

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships[282] we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure,[283] far beyond[284]  our ability to endure, [285] so that we despaired[286] even of life." (2 Corinthians 1:8)

Of course, Ephesus is the capital of the province of Asia. Paul is pushed to his limit and beyond. Some paraphrases get at the idea in more colloquial langage.

"It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it." (The Message).
"The burdens laid on us were so great and so heavy, that we gave up all hope of living" (Today's English Version, TEV).[287]
"At that time we were completely overwhelmed; the burden was more than we could bear; in fact, we told ourselves that this was the end" (Phillips).[288]

Relying on God's Deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:9-10)

Paul's situation seems to involve the threat of death -- probably physical death, not just a metaphor.

"Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence[289] of death." (2 Corinthians 1:9a)

Some think Paul could be referring to some fatal illness. But it seems more likely to be some kind of external threat -- persecution and perhaps imprisonment.

But Paul doesn't linger there, wallowing in his misery. Rather, he looks at what he learned from this situation: trust.

"9b But this happened that we might not rely on[290] ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered[291] us from such a deadly peril,[292] and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope[293] that he will continue to deliver us." (2 Corinthians 1:9b-10)

Is Paul afraid of death? I don't think so, since later in this letter he talks about his desire to be "at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8). But when we are threatened with bodily harm, especially a threat that continues for a period of time, it takes its toll on our emotional and physical well-being. Though we are believers in Jesus, we are still human. We are not immune to stress. Jesus wasn't immune to stress either (Luke 22:44).

When things are going well, we are prone to trust in our own resources. This event causes Paul to rely on God in a new way and to refocus his hope on God's deliverance, rather than on his own ingenuity and survival skills.

We'll consider other keys to handling stress and pressure in Lesson 8.3, Praise and Prayer As Spiritual Weapons (Philippians 4:4-9). Paul concludes this section with a call for intercessory prayer (2 Corinthians 1:10b-11), which we'll consider at the end of this lesson.

Hard Pressed, but Not Crushed (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)

Later in the same letter, Paul comes back to the trauma he has experienced and is still experiencing. Paul is describing some kind of life-and-death struggle.

"8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

In this sentence, Paul lays out four pairs of words -- first, the difficulty, then second, the hope.

Word Pair 1. Pressure. "... Hard pressed[294] on every side, but not crushed"[295] (2 Corinthians 4:8a). Have you ever had a sinus headache, when your head seemed to be in a vise? This is a spiritual headache -- from multiple sources! Yes, you are under pressure, says Paul, but you have a way out -- you are not restricted to only that narrow space. You find freedom in God!

Word Pair 2. Confusion. "... Perplexed,[296] but not in despair"[297] (2 Corinthians 4:8b). You can identify with that! You wonder: What in the world is going on? Yes, Paul is confused at times -- perplexed, at a loss for what to do. But he finds God's help in it so that he isn't without someone to turn to.

Word Pair 3. Persecuted. "... Persecuted,[298] but not abandoned"[299] (2 Corinthians 4:9a). We have God's promise: "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5, NRSV, quoting Deuteronomy 31:6). Sometimes we feel alone, but we are not. Jesus said to us disciples, "surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).

Word Pair 4. Struck Down, "... Struck down,[300] but not destroyed"[301] (2 Corinthians 4:9b). Paul was probably struck down literally considering all the physical violence directed his way (2 Corinthians 11:23-25). But in its figurative sense, this happens to us a lot. We "get the wind knocked out of our sails." We "take a hit" that "throws us for a loop." We have devastating circumstances that we don't bounce back from right away. We think that we can never endure this! Here, Paul is probably talking about destruction not in eternal terms, but more in physical and psychological terms.

The Message paraphrase renders these word pairs in the vernacular:

"8 We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized;
we're not sure what to do, 9 but we know that God knows what to do;
we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side;
we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken."

In the natural order, we'd be wiped out by all this conflict and pressure, threat and blows. But through Jesus' power, Paul endures. Jesus told his disciples:

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Death in Us, Life in You (2 Corinthians 4:10-12)

Everyone in the world is seeking to be happy. It's natural to avoid pain and suffering at all costs. But paradoxically, this can be a deceptive path. The saying, "No pain, no gain," applies to physical exercise, but also to spiritual growth and to serving God. In the verses that follow, Paul shares this unique -- and unpopular -- insight.

"We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:10)

All -- even sinners -- experience problems. Christians too. But we also share in Christ's sufferings, especially when we take righteous actions that expose others' sin and selfishness. Paul told Timothy:

"Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." (2 Timothy 3:12)

Jesus told his disciples:

"No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." (John 15:20)

Given the fact of suffering, it's instructive to see how Christ can use it to work out his purposes.

"10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you." (2 Corinthians 4:10-12)

When we are exposed to struggle, stress, and pain, our inner self is exposed. People can see us for what we are. If we're sniveling cowards, that will become obvious. If we exhibit God's grace under pressure, people will see that as well. When we suffer, people can see Jesus' work within us and will be attracted to the authenticity they see. That's why Paul talks about his weaknesses and sufferings so much. His opponents at Corinth, the so-called "super-apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:5; 12:1), boasted without cause and had never suffered for Christ.

Paul doesn't enjoy persecution or the physical pains he experiences in scourgings, stonnings, or having his hands manacled to a dungeon or soldier. But Paul isn't afraid of death. At some points he even welcomes it (Philippians 1:20-24; 2 Corinthians 5:8). But he knows that his sufferings reveal Christ's reality to others. So he is able to be transparent and real. Christ's life "may be revealed in our mortal body," if we are surrendered to him. We experience problems, but others are blessed by seeing God's grace in action in our lives.

Trouble has a way of cracking the earthenware pot, but that just allows others to see the glory of the treasure that lies within (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Intercessory Prayer (2 Corinthians 1:10b-11)

After talking about the overwhelming pressure he has faced, Paul is eager for the prayers of the saints as they call out to God on his behalf.

"10b... He will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers.[302] Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor[303] granted us in answer to the prayers of many." (2 Corinthians 1:10b-11)

The exact mechanism of how prayer works is a mystery to us. It is natural, of course, to call out to God for help when we're in trouble, just like a child would call for a parent. But since God is both omnipresent and omniscient, why doesn't he just help us without us having to ask? And why should the prayers of many influence God more than the prayers of one person? The Bible doesn't really answer these philosophical questions.

But we see again and again in Paul's writings a reliance on the prayers of others to call on God for him. For example:

"Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." (Ephesians 6:18-20)[304]

Jesus teaches his disciples to pray by his own example of personal prayer and intercession (Luke 22:31-32; John 17:9-11). The united prayer that the early church practiced surely resulted from Jesus' teaching while he was with them (Acts 1:14; 2:42; 4:31; 6:4; etc.). One of Jesus' keys to prayer is praying with one mind, in one accord.[305]

"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree[306] about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:19-20)

Yes, we all face struggles, but as we pray for one another, we see God's deliverance.

Q4. (2 Corinthians 1:8-9; Ephesians 6:18-20) What portion of Paul's "overwhelming pressure" was due to spiritual warfare, do you think? How much can be attributed to the "normal" struggles of life? Why is intercessory prayer for leaders and for one another so important?

Lessons for Disciples

Paul's ministry in Ephesus gives us lots to think about. Here are a few of the lessons of this section.

  1. Apollos is an eloquent man who uses his gifts to declare Jesus. But his very gifts cause comparisons with Paul -- and divisions in the church (1 Corinthians 1:11-12; 3:3-6). Comparing one servant of God to another isn't useful (Galatians 6:4), and can be divisive. We must work hard to avoid comparisons and divisions, and work for the unity of the church (Ephesians 4:1).
  2. Personal commitment and faith in Christ (which Christian baptism represents) are necessary for the Holy Spirit to come into our hearts and regenerate us (Acts 19:1-7).
  3. Paul's faithful two-year public teaching in Ephesus, the leading city of the province, results in evangelization of the entire province of Asia (Acts 19:9-10). Instead of deserting the great inner cities, we must work to have a powerful Christian witness there, for cities influence a large region around them.
  4. One of the reasons Paul's ministry in Asia is so effective is the presence of signs and wonders, "extraordinary miracles" (Acts 19:11-12), exorcisms (Acts 19:13-17), and breaking of occult strongholds (Acts 19:18-19) We need to encourage evangelists and their teams to seek God to minister in the supernatural with "power evangelism" to see the greatest harvest. Miracles don't produce saving faith, but they gain a sympathetic audience for the saving gospel.
  5. With spiritual victories, we shouldn't be surprised that Satan strikes back as he did with the silversmith riot (Acts 19:23-41). Amidst great successes, Paul experiences "overwhelming pressure" in Ephesus (2 Corinthians 1:8-9a).
  6. Facing overwhelming pressure, Paul learns to rely on God even more. Through it all he trusts God to deliver him (2 Corinthians 1:9-10)
  7. When people see us trusting God under great difficulty, they can see the authenticity of our faith, and can also see Christ in us. He can use suffering for his great purposes (2 Corinthians 4:7, 10-12).
  8. After talking about his overwhelming struggles, Paul calls for the intercessory prayers of the saints. God answers prayer; we must continually pray for one another (2 Corinthians 1:10b-11; Ephesians 6:18-20; Matthew 18:19-20).

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Father, thank You that You can help your servants to endure tremendous pressures and still be able to serve You effectively. Teach us to rely on You more. Teach us to pray. Give us courage when we're ready to quit. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.

Key Verses

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:3, NIV)

"[Paul] took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 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." (Acts 19:9b-10, NIV)

"My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power." (1 Corinthians 2:4-5, NIV)

"God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them." (Acts 19:11-12, NIV)

"In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. " (Acts 19:20, NIV)

"A great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me." (1 Corinthians 16:9, NIV)

"I die every day -- I mean that, brothers -- just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:31, NIV)

"We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many." (2 Corinthians 1:8-11, NIV)

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." (2 Corinthians 4:7-10, NIV)

"Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should." (Ephesians 6:18-20, NIV)


[240] Epistērizō, BDAG 381. The word is used similarly in Acts 14:22; 13:32, 41. Danker, explains, "in our literature, of believers in connection with their commitment and resolve to remain true, especially in the face of troubles." Thayer terms it a later Greek word, and defines it, "to establish besides, strengthen more; to render more firm, confirm" (Thayer, p. 243). This is a compound word, epi-, "again," accumulation, repetition," + stērizō, "to make stable, place firmly, set fast, fix."

[241] Information for this section came primarily from Clinton E. Arnold's articles: "Ephesians, Letter to the," DPL, pp. 238-249; and "Ephesus," DPL, pp. 249-253.

[242] "Learned" (NIV), "eloquent" (ESV, NRSV, KJV)) is logios, "eloquent," then "learned, cultured" (BDAG 598). Danker says "either meaning is probable, even though the ancient versions prefer the first." Gerhard Schrenk says, "This word has two meanings, a. 'eloquent' and b. 'educated' or 'learned.' Sense b. is more common in Philo and Josephus. The only New Testament instance is in Acts 18:24, where Apollos is called logios. In the light of Acts 18:25 and 1 Corinthians 1:12, 'eloquent' is often preferred here, but the accompanying clause would also justify 'learned'" (G. Schrenk, TDNT 4:168-192).

[243] "Great fervor" (NIV), "burning enthusiasm" (NRSV), "fervent in spirit" (ESV, KJV) is the noun pneuma, "spirit" plus the verb zeō, literally, "boil, seethe," here, figurative of emotions, anger, love, eagerness to do good or evil, "to be stirred up emotionally, be enthusiastic/excited/on fire" (BDAG 426). Believers are encouraged to be this way (Romans 12:11).

[244] "Speak boldly" is parrēsiazomai, "express oneself freely, speak freely, openly, fearlessly" (BDAG 782, 1).

[245] Bruce, Acts, p. 383. Bruce cites 1 Corinthians 4:9; 16:12 to support his view.

[246] More information can be found in Lesson 6. Baptized with the Holy Spirit (www.jesuswalk.com/spirit/06_spirit_baptized.htm) and an essay, 'Spirit Baptism, the New Birth
and Speaking in Tongues'

[247] Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Theologian Wayne Grudem puts it this way: "Regeneration is a secret act of God in which he imparts new spiritual life to us" (Systematic Theology, p. 699).

[248] "Regeneration" (ESV, KJV), "rebirth" (NIV, NRSV) in verse 5 is the Greek noun palingenesia, "the state of being renewed, renewal," here, "experience of a complete change of life, rebirth" of a redeemed person. (BDAG 75, 2) "Renewal" in verse 5 is the Greek noun anakainōsis, "renewal," from ana-, "again" and kainōsis, "renovation, renewal" (Liddell-Scott Greek Lexicon).

[249] "Renewal" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "renewing" (KJV) is anakainōsis, a Greek word not found outside of Christian literature, "renewal," of a person's spiritual birth, in Titus 3:5 and Romans 12:2 (BDAG 64), "a renewal, renovation, complete change for the better" (Thayer 342). This is a compound verb from ana-, "anew," repetition, renewal + kainizō, "to make new."

[250] The verb enoikeō with the preposition en means "live, dwell (in)." (BDAG 338).

[251] En, "in," marker of a position defined as being in a location, in, among" (BDAG 326, 1).

[252] Oikeō, BDAG 694, 1.

[253] The word "mind" is nous. It doesn't mean "brain," since the ancients didn't understand what that organ does in the way we do. Rather it refers to "the faculty of intellectual perception, mind, understanding." Here, our verse may have the nuance, "result of thinking, mind, thought, opinion" (BDAG 680, 3).

[254] "Spoke boldly" is parrēsiazomai, "express oneself freely, speak freely, openly, fearlessly" (BDAG 782, 1). We've seen previously: Acts 9:27-28; 13:46; 14:3; 18:26, and see it later in Acts 26:26; Ephesians 6:20.

[255] Dialegomai, "to engage in speech interchange, converse, discuss, argue," also, "inform, instruct" (BDAG 232).

[256] Peithō, "to cause to come to a particular point of view or course of action," here, in a good sense, "convince," also, "persuade, appeal to" (BDAG 791, 1a, b).

[257] "Obstinate" (NIV), "stubborn/ly" (ESV, NRSV), "hardened" (KJV) is the verb sklērynō, primarily, "harden," here in a figurative sense, "to cause to be unyielding in resisting information, harden" (BDAG 930, b).

[258] "Maligned" (NIV), "speak evil of" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) is kakologeō, literally, "speak evil of, revile, insult someone" (BDAG 500).

[259] "Lecture hall" (NIV, NRSV), "hall" (ESV), "school" (KJV) is scholē, primarily, "leisure," which frequently implied opportunity for intellectual pursuits, especially through lectures: "lecture hall" (BDAG 982).

[260] "Demonstration" is apodeixis, "a pointing away to something for the purpose of demonstration, proof (especially, of or for an intervention by a divinity)." In 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, it is literally, "proof of spirit and power," that is, proof consisting in possession of the Holy Spirit and miracle-working power (BDAG 109).

[261] The verb is tynchanō, "to prove to be in the result, happen, turn out" (BDAG 1019, 2d).

[262] "Handkerchiefs" is soudarion. This is a Latin loanword that means "face-cloth for wiping perspiration," corresponding somewhat to our "handkerchief." However, the word here probably is simply "a cloth," as it is in John 11:22; 20:7; and Luke 19:20 (BDAG 934).

[263] Bruce, Acts, p. 389.

[264] "Aprons" is another Latin loanword, simikinthion, "apron," such as is worn by workers (BDAG 923).

[265] Wikipedia article on "Relic."

[266] Wagner, Acts, pp. 437-438. He cites the story of William Kumyui, pastor of a huge Deeper Life Church in Logos, Nigeria.

[267] See online article by Christian Dumitrescu, "Historical Survey of Healing and Exorcism," Journal of Adventist Mission Studies, Vol. 11 (2015), No. 2, pp. 25-44, especially pp. 28-30.

[268] "Invoke (NIV, ESV), "use" (NRSV), "call over them" (KJV) is onomazō, "to give a name to, "here, "to pronounce a name or word, name a name, use a name/word" (BDAG 714, 2).

[269] From Paris Magical Papyrus, published by C. Wessely, "Geriechische Zauber Papyri von Paris und London" (1888) in C.K. Barrett, The New Testament Background: Selected Documents (Harper & Row, 1961), p. 32.

[270] Matthew 7:22; Mark 16:17; Acts 3:6, 16; 4:7; 9:34; 16:18.

[271] Acts 16:17-18; Matthew 8:29-31; Mark 1:24, 34; 5:9-13; Luke 4:33-35; 8:28-32.

[272] "Divulging" (NIV, ESV), "disclosed" (NRSV), "shewed" (KJV) is anangellō, generally, "to provide information, disclose, announce, proclaim, teach" (BDAG 59, 2).

[273] "Spread" (NIV), "grew" (NRSV, KJV), "increase" (ESV) is auxanō, "to become greater, grow, increase" (BDAG 151, 2b).

[274] "Mightly" (ESV, NRSV, KJV), "widely ... in power" (NIV) is the prepositional phrase, kata kratos, "according to power, might."

[275] "Grew in power" (NIV), "prevail" (ESV, NRSV, KJV) is ischyō, "to be in control, have power, be mighty" (BDAG 434, 3).

[276] The verb translated "decided" (NIV), "resolved" (ESV, NRSV), "purposed" (KJV) is the very common tithēmi, "put, place." Here it is used in a special expression: "have (in mind)," used with "heart" (Luke 21:14) "come to think of something, contrive something in one's mind" (Acts 5:4), and with "ears" (Luke 9:44). Bruce quotes J.H. Kennedy that it "seems intended to describe a purpose formed with intense earnestness" (Bruce, Acts, p. 394, fn. 32).

[277] Erastos, "beloved," from eraō, "to love," from which we get our word "erotic."

[278] F.F. Bruce doesn't consider it likely that Erastus the treasurer is the same person as the Erastus that Paul sends with Timothy to Macedonia. The Erastus who is treasurer of Corinth seems to be mentioned in an inscription found in Corinth in 1929: "Erastus, procurator of public buildings, laid this pavement at his own expense" (Bruce, Acts, p. 395, fn. 36).

[279] The idiom of opening a door indicates opportunity (2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3; Acts 14:27).

[280] "Effective" (NIV, NRSV), "effectual" (KJV) is energēs, "pertaining to practical expression of capability, effective, active, powerful" (BDAG 335).

[281] "Who oppose me" (NIV), "adversaries" (NRSV, KJV) is the verb antikeimai, "be opposed to someone, be in opposition to" (BDAG 89). It is a compound verb, anti-, "against" + keimai, "to lie."

[282] "Hardships" (NIV), "affliction" (NRSV), "trouble" (KJV) in verse 8 is thlipsis, which we saw in verse 4 above.

[283] The phrase, "we were under ... pressure" (NIV), "we were so utterly burdened" (ESV), "we were ... crushed" (NRSV), "we were pressed" (KJV) employs the verb bareō, "to press down as if with a weight, weigh down, burden," so the clause would read, "we were burdened altogether beyond our strength" (BDAG 166, b).

[284] The noun hyperbolē (from which we get the English word "hyperbole") describes a "state of exceeding to an extraordinary degree a point on a scale of extent." With the preposition kata, it carries the meaning, "to an extraordinary degree, beyond measure, utterly" (BDAG 1032).

[285] The noun is dynamis (from which we get our word "dynamic"), "power." It is preceded by the preposition hyper, here connoting "over and above, beyond, more than," in the sense of excelling, surpassing (BDAG 1030, B).

[286] "Despair" is exaporeō, "to be at a loss psychologically, be in great difficulty, doubt, embarrassment" (BDAG 345). This is a compound verb from aporeō, "to be in a confused state of mind," the extent of which is heightened by the appended preposition ek-, which carries the idea here of "utterly, entirely (Thayer 192, ek, VI-6).

[287] Today's English Version (Third edition; American Bible Society, 1966, 1971).

[288] J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English (Macmillan, 1947, 1958).

[289] "Sentence" is apokrima, "official report, decision" (BDAG 113). "An official resolution that decides a matter" (Friedrich Büchsel, krinō, ktl., TDNT 3:933-954). In this case the "sentence of death" seems to be Paul's own assessment, since he the sentence as literally "in ourselves" (KJV), rather than from some magistrate or court.

[290] "Rely on" (NIV, NRSV), "trust in" (KJV) is peithō, "depend on, trust in." (BDAG 792, 2a).

[291] "Delivered" (NIV) is rhyomai, "to rescue from danger, save, rescue, deliver, preserve someone" (BDAG 907).

[292] He thinks he is a "goner." "Deadly peril" (NIV, NRSV), "death" (KJV), literally "so great a death," thanatos, "death," here, "danger of death" (BDAG 443, 1c).

[293] "Set our hope" (NIV, NRSV), "trust" (KJV) is elpizō, "to look forward to something, with implication of confidence about something coming to pass, hope, hope for," here, specifically, "put one's confidence in someone or something" (BDAG 319, 1c).

[294] "Hard pressed" (NIV), "afflicted" (ESV, NRSV), "troubled" (KJV), not just in one area at a time but "on every side." These are multiple pressures. The verb is thlibō, which has the basic idea of "to press, compress, make narrow." Here it is used figuratively, "to cause to be troubled, oppress, afflict" (BDAG 457, 3).

[295] "Not crushed" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "not distressed" (KJV) is the negative particle plus stenochōreō. The verb means basically, "to confine or restrict to a narrow space, crowd, cramp, confine, restrict." Figuratively, it means, "to be in a circumstance that seems to offer no way out, be distressed" (BDAG 492, 2).

[296] "Perplexed" is aporeō. It has the basic meaning, especially found in ancient Greek papyrus documents, of "to be without resources." From this evolved the meaning, "to be in a confused state of mind, be at a loss, be in doubt, be uncertain" (BDAG 119).

[297] "Not in despair" (NIV, KJV), "not driven to despair" (NRSV, ESV) is exaporeō, "to be at a loss psychologically, be in great difficulty, doubt, embarrassment" (BDAG 345; Thayer 222). This is a compound verb from the root of aporeō, the first word in the pair. The preposition ex- compounded to this verb adds the idea of "entirely, utterly" (Thayer 192, VI, 6).

[298] "Persecuted" is diōkō. Literally, it means, "to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away." But most of the time in the New Testament, it means, "to harass someone," especially because of beliefs, "trouble, molest, persecute" (BDAG 254, 2; Thayer 153, 2). In ancient Greek papyrus documents it sometimes means, "to accuse."

[299] "Abandoned" (NIV), "forsaken" (NRSV, ESV, KJV) is enkataleipō, "to separate connection with someone or something, forsake, abandon, desert" (BDAG 273, 2).

[300] "Struck down" (NIV, NRSV, ESV), "cast down" (KJV) is kataballō, "to strike with sufficient force so as to knock down, throw down, strike down" (BDAG 514, 2).

[301] "Not destroyed" is apollymi, "destroyed," here in the middle voice, "perish, be ruined" (BDAG 116, 1bα).

[302] "Help" (NIV), "join in helping" (NRSV), "helping together" (KJV) is synypourgeō, "join in helping, co-operate with by means of something" (BDAG 977). This is a triple compound verb syn-, "along with" + hypo, "under" + ergō, "to work, toil." "Prayers" is deēsis, "entreaty," in the New Testament, "urgent request to meet a need, exclusively addressed to God, prayer" (BDAG 213).

[303] "Gracious favor" (NIV), "blessing" (NRSV), "gift" (KJV) is charisma, "that which is freely and graciously given, favor bestowed, gift" (BDAG 1081, a).

[304] Also Romans 15:30-32; Colossians 4:2-4; Philippians 1:19; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-2; James 5:16-18.

[305] Acts 1:14. "Together" (NIV, NRSV), "one accord" (KJV) is homothymadon, "with one mind / purpose / impulse" (BDAG 706), from homos, "one and the same, common" + thymos, "passion."

[306] Symphōneō, "to have come to an agreement about something, be of one mind, agree" (BDAG 963, 3).

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