19 1, 7 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul’s overland journey brought him back to Ephesus. He encountered a group of about a dozen disciples there.[a]
Paul: 2 Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?
John’s Disciples: We’ve never heard about the Holy Spirit.
Paul: 3 Well then, what kind of ceremonial washing through baptism[b] did you receive?
John’s Disciples: We received the ritual cleansing of baptism[c] that John taught.
Paul: 4 John taught the truth—that people should be baptized with renewed thinking and turn toward God. But he also taught that the people should believe in the One whose way he was preparing, that is, Jesus the Anointed.
5 As soon as they heard this, they were baptized, this time in the name of our Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them in the same way the original disciples experienced at Pentecost: they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Both Apollos and this small band of John’s disciples hear an incomplete gospel. The church is called not only to bring the gospel to those who have never heard, but also to expand the truth to those who understand only partial truth. All people are on a journey to know God—no one has “arrived.” Everyone has something more to learn because the truth constantly reveals itself.
8 For three months, Paul continued his standard practice: he went week by week to the synagogue, speaking with great confidence, arguing with great persuasiveness, proclaiming the kingdom of God. 9-10 Once again, some members of the synagogue refused to believe and insulted the Way[d] publicly before the whole synagogue community. Paul withdrew and took those with him who had become disciples. For the next two years, he used the public lecture hall of Tyrannus, presenting the Word of the Lord every day, debating with all who would come. As a result, everyone in the region, whether Jews or Greeks, heard the message. 11 Meanwhile, God did amazing miracles through Paul. 12 People would take a handkerchief or article of clothing that had touched Paul’s skin and bring it to their sick friends or relatives, and the patients would be cured of their diseases or released from the evil spirits that oppressed them.
13-14 Some itinerant Jewish exorcists noticed Paul’s success in this regard, so they tried to use the name of Jesus, the King, in an exorcism they were performing.
Imagine this: There are seven of them, all sons of a Jewish chief priest named Sceva, gathered around a demonized man in a house.
One of the Jewish Exorcists: I command you to depart, by the Jesus proclaimed by Paul!
Evil Spirit: 15 Jesus I know. Paul I know. But who are you?
16 Then the man leaps up, attacks them all, rips off their clothing, and beats them so badly that they run out of the house stark naked and covered in bruises.
17 Word of this strange event spread throughout Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. Everyone was shocked and realized that the name of Jesus was indeed powerful and praiseworthy. 18 As a result, a number of people involved in various occult practices came to faith. They confessed their secret practices and rituals. 19 Some of them had considerable libraries about their magic arts; they piled up their books and burned them publicly. Someone estimated the value of the books to be 50,000 silver coins. 20 Again, word spread, and the message of the Lord overcame resistance and spread powerfully.
21 Eventually Paul felt he should move on again. The Holy Spirit confirmed that he should first travel through Macedonia and Achaia and then return to Jerusalem.
Paul: I must eventually see Rome.
22 So he sent Timothy and Erastus, two of his helpers, ahead to Macedonia while he stayed a while longer in Asia. 23 It was during this time that a major incident occurred involving the Way.
In most cities, the Jews stand in opposition to the Way; but in this instance, the outsiders cause the disturbance.
24 An idol maker named Demetrius had a profitable business, for himself and for others, making silver shrines for Artemis (also known as Diana by the Romans), one of the deities worshiped in Ephesus.
25 Picture this: Demetrius calls a meeting of all the artisans who are similarly employed in idol making. Everyone in the idol industry comes together.
Demetrius: Men, we are all colleagues in this fine line of work. We’re making a good living doing what we’re doing. But we’d better wake up, or we’re all going to go broke.
26 You’ve heard about this fellow Paul. Here in Ephesus, he’s already convinced a large number of people to give up using idols. He tells them that our products are worthless. He’s been doing this same kind of thing almost everywhere in Asia. 27 It’s bad enough that he is slandering our fine and honorable profession, but do you see where this will lead? If his lies catch on, the temple of Artemis itself will be called a fraud. The great goddess of our region, the majestic deity who is revered here in Asia and around the world, will be disgraced.
28 The crowd goes wild with rage. They start chanting.
Crowd: Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!
29 Soon the whole city is filled with confusion, and a mob forms. They find Paul’s Macedonian travel companions, Gaius and Aristarchus, and drag them to the theater. 30 Paul wants to go confront the crowd and protect his friends, but the disciples hold him back. 31 Even some provincial officials of Asia who are friendly to Paul send him an urgent message, warning him to stay away from the theater.
32 Enraged voices are shouting on top of each other, some saying one thing, some saying something else. The crowd is completely out of control. Most of the people don’t even know what caused the commotion in the first place. 33 Some of the Jewish people push a man named Alexander to the front of the crowd, hoping he can calm the disturbance. He raises his hands to silence the crowd and gets a few sentences out; 34 but then the crowd realizes he’s a Jew, and once again they start chanting.
Crowd: Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!
For two solid hours they keep the chant going.
35 Finally the town clerk manages to calm the crowd.
Town Clerk: My fellow citizens of Ephesus, everyone in the world knows that our great city is the caretaker of the temple of Artemis! Everyone knows that we are the home of the great statue that fell from heaven! 36 Our status as the economic center of the idolmaking industry is not in danger, so please, calm down. Don’t do anything rash. 37 The men whom you have seized aren’t temple robbers, nor have they blasphemed our great goddess. 38 If Demetrius and the artisans who share his important trade have a legal complaint, don’t bring it here to the theater; take it to the courts—they’re open today. 39 If you need to charge someone with a crime or launch an inquiry, take the matter to the regional judges. 40 We need to do this according to regulations, or we’ll all be charged with rioting. This kind of behavior can’t be justified.
41 So he succeeds in dispersing the crowd.