Acts 19-22 The Voice (VOICE)
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.
The message of Jesus not only has the power to annihilate economic supremacy, but also turns the world upside down in the process. In the kingdom of God, a worker is always paid a wage worthy of his work: anyone who works has enough to eat, and no one is left out of the profitable bounty of God. No longer do businesses profit from dishonesty, manipulation, or selfishness.
20 As soon as the uproar ended, Paul gathered the disciples together, encouraged them once more, said farewell, and left on foot. He decided to pass through Macedonia, 2 encouraging believers wherever he found them, and came to Greece. 3 He spent three months there, and then he planned to set sail once again for Syria. But he learned that a group of Jewish opponents was plotting to kill him, so he decided to travel through Macedonia.
4-5 There was a large group of us traveling with him at this time, and we decided it was best, in light of the plot, to split up and then reunite in the city of Troas. This group included Paul, a Berean named Sopater (son of Pyrrhus), two Thessalonians named Aristarchus and Secundus, a Derbean named Gaius, two Asians named Tychicus and Trophimus, and Timothy. 6 Some of us waited until the Days of Unleavened Bread were over; then we went to Philippi where we boarded a ship for Troas. The other group left immediately on foot, passing through Macedonia. When my group landed in Troas five days later, Paul’s group had already arrived. We stayed in Troas another week.
7-8 The Sunday night before our Monday departure, we gathered to celebrate the breaking of bread.
Many wondrous events happen as Paul travels, ministering among the churches. One evening a most unusual event occurs.
Imagine you are celebrating with them:
We are in an upstairs room, with the gentle light and shadows cast by several lamps. Paul is carrying on an extended dialogue with the believers, taking advantage of every moment since we plan to leave at first light. The conversation stretches on until midnight. 9 A young fellow named Eutychus, seeking some fresh air, moves to an open window. Paul keeps on talking. Eutychus perches in the open window itself. Paul keeps talking. Eutychus drifts off to sleep. Paul continues talking until Eutychus, now overcome by deep sleep, drops out of the window and falls three stories to the ground, where he is found dead. 10 Paul joins us downstairs, bends over, and takes Eutychus in his arms.
Paul: It’s OK. He’s alive again.
11 Then Paul goes back upstairs, celebrates the breaking of bread, and—just as you might guess—keeps on conversing until first light. Then he leaves. 12 (I should add that Eutychus had been taken home long before, his friends more than a little relieved that the boy was alive!)
This may be one of the strangest stories ever told. Paul was talking about faith while one young man dozed off and fell out the window. Many a pastor has secretly prayed that slumbering congregants would fall out of their chairs. It might have been funny had he not died; instead, it was a scene of great horror. That is, until God used Paul to turn horror into celebration with a death-defying miracle. But the people were so enamored with Paul’s teaching about Jesus that they returned to their conversations, which continued until sunrise.
13 Again Paul wanted us to split up. He wanted to go by land by himself while we went by ship to Assos. 14 There he came on board with us, and we sailed on to Mitylene. 15 From there we sailed near Chios, passing by it the next day, docking briefly at Samos the day after that, then arriving at Miletus the following day. 16 This route kept us safely out of Ephesus and didn’t require Paul to spend any time at all in Asia, since he wanted to arrive in Jerusalem quickly—before Pentecost, he hoped.
17 In Miletus he sent word to the church in Ephesus, asking the elders to come down to meet with him. 18 When they arrived, he talked with them.
Paul: We will have many memories of our time together in Ephesus; but of all the memories, most of all I want you to remember my way of life. From the first day I arrived in Asia, 19 I served the Lord with humility and tears, patiently enduring the many trials that came my way through the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 I did everything I could to help you; I held nothing back. I taught you publicly, and I taught you in your homes. 21 I told everyone the same message—Jews and Greeks alike—that we must turn toward God and have faith in our Lord Jesus the Anointed. 22 Now I feel that the Holy Spirit has taken me captive. I am being led to Jerusalem. My future is uncertain, 23 but I know—the Holy Spirit has told me—that everywhere I go from now on, I will find imprisonment and persecution waiting for me. 24 But that’s OK. That’s no tragedy for me because I don’t cling to my life for my own sake. The only value I place on my life is that I may finish my race, that I may fulfill the ministry that Jesus our King has given me, that I may gladly tell the good news of God’s grace. 25 I now realize that this is our last good-bye. You have been like family in all my travels to proclaim the kingdom of God, but after today none of you will see my face again. 26 So I want to make this clear: I am not responsible for your destiny from this point on 27 because I have not held back from telling you the purpose of God in all its dimensions.
28 Here are my instructions: diligently guard yourselves, and diligently guard the whole flock over which the Holy Spirit has given you oversight. Shepherd the church of God, this precious church which He made His own through the blood of His own Son. 29 I know that after I’ve gone, dangerous wolves will sneak in among you, savaging the flock. 30 Some of you here today will begin twisting the truth, enticing disciples to go your way, to follow you. 31 You must be on guard, and you must remember my way of life among you. For three years, I have kept on, persistently warning everyone, day and night, with tears.
32 So now I put you in God’s hands. I entrust you to the message of God’s grace, a message that has the power to build you up and to give you rich heritage among all who are set apart for God’s holy purposes. 33 Remember my example: I never once coveted a single coin of silver or gold. I never looked twice at someone’s fine clothing. 34 No, you know this: I worked with my own two hands making tents, and I paid my own expenses and my companions’ expenses as well. 35 This is my last gift to you, this example of a way of life: a life of hard work, a life of helping the weak, a life that echoes every day those words of Jesus our King, who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
36 Once again, imagine this scene:
As Paul finishes speaking, he kneels down; and we all join him, kneeling. He prays, and we all join him, praying. 37 There’s the sound of weeping, and then more weeping, and then more still. One by one, we embrace Paul and kiss him, 38 our sadness multiplied because of his words about this being our last good-bye. We walk with him to the ship, and he sets sail.
The last words of Paul to his Ephesian disciples are emotional, inspiring, but unbelievably arrogant. Who would place himself on a pedestal and encourage everyone to be more like him? It sounds like a cult of personality, but it is not. Paul understands that the gospel must be incarnate; it is more than a set of ideas, so someone must demonstrate how to walk the path of faith. He calls them to watch him carefully and emulate his behavior: watch how I treat people, how I eat, what I say, the way I give; and do likewise. If all believers could possess the same boldness to say, “do as I do,” then the world would be a better place. Believers would not just speak the good news; they would live the good news.
21 Cos was our next stop, and the next day, Rhodes, and the next, Patara. 2 We found another ship in Patara that would take us south and east toward Phoenicia. 3 We saw Cyprus to our left and sailed on to Syria, landing at Tyre where the ship had cargo to unload. 4 We found the disciples there and stayed with them for seven days. The Spirit moved them to tell Paul not to go on to Jerusalem; 5 but the day came for our departure, and the whole community of disciples, including wives and children, escorted us outside the city. We knelt down together on the beach, prayed together, said farewell, and then parted company— 6 the disciples returning to their homes, we sailing on. 7 From Tyre we docked at Ptolemais where we met with the believers and spent a day with them. 8 Then we moved on to Caesarea. In Caesarea we stayed with Philip the evangelist, one of the seven.[e] 9 His four virgin daughters lived with him, each having the gift of prophecy. 10 While we were with them, another gifted prophet named Agabus came north from Judea. 11 He took Paul’s belt and used it to bind his own feet and hands.
Agabus: This is a message from the Holy Spirit: unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem will in this way bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the outsiders.
Paul is a man of great mystery. This persecutor-turned-preacher seems more like a character from pages of fiction than the instigator of the spread of Christianity. He becomes what he once despised and willingly suffers on behalf of his new Savior. Paul is accused of many things, but he is no fool. He fully understands what is waiting for him in Jerusalem: persecution, suffering, and ultimately death. His friends beg him not to return to this holy city, but Paul is called to live in the footsteps of the One who was crucified—He who was destined to suffer yet called for no drugs. His suffering served a greater purpose, and Paul never loses sight of this spiritual reality because he is living in the kingdom of God.
The masses hope for a gospel that makes them happy, healthy, and wealthy. Jesus said the way of life is a hard road, with only a few on it. Ironically this hard road ends in life. The easy, broad street—which may be paved with good intentions—always leads to death and destruction.
12 Now we all joined in imploring Paul—we, his companions, and Philip and his daughters, everyone present—begging him not to go one step closer to the city.
Paul: 13 Please, you’re breaking my heart with your tears! I know exactly what I’m doing. I’m fully prepared to be bound, and more—to die for the name of Jesus, the King.
14 We realized our persuasion was fruitless, so we stopped pleading with him and simply said, “The Lord’s will be done.”
15 So we knew what we were getting into as we prepared to ascend the foothills toward Jerusalem. 16 Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied us and led us to the home of Mnason, a Cypriot and one of the first disciples, with whom we stayed. 17 We continued on to Jerusalem and were welcomed warmly by the brothers there. 18 The next day, we went together to visit James, and all the elders were there with him. 19 Paul greeted them and then reported account after account of what God had done through him among the outsiders. 20 When they heard his story, they praised God.
James and the Elders: Brother, we have a problem. You can see that we have thousands of Jewish believers here, and all of them are zealous law keepers. 21 They’ve heard all kinds of rumors about you—that you teach all the Jews living among the outside nations to forget about Moses entirely, that you tell believers not to circumcise their sons, that you teach them to abandon all our customs. 22 We need to deal with this situation, since word will spread that you’re here in the city. 23 So here’s what we would like you to do. We have four men here who are fulfilling a vow. 24 Join them. Go through the rituals of purification with them. Pay for their heads to be shaved according to our ritual. That will show that the rumors are false and that you are still observing and upholding the law. 25 For the outside believers, we’ve already written in a letter our judgment on their situation: they should not eat food that has been sacrificed to idols, they should not eat meat with blood in it or meat from animals killed by strangulation, and they should abstain from all sexual misconduct.
26 Paul complied with their request. The very next day, he publicly joined the four men, completed the initial purification rites, entered the temple with them, and began the seven-day ritual purification process, after which a sacrifice would be made for each of them.
27 The seven days of purification were almost completed when some Jews from Asia recognized Paul in the temple. They grabbed him.
Asian Jews (shouting): 28 Help! Fellow Israelites! This man is an enemy of our people, our religion, our law, and this temple! He travels around the world subverting our holiest customs! He is at this moment desecrating this holy temple by bringing outsiders into this sacred place.
29 In this accusation, they were confused—they had seen Paul elsewhere in the city with Trophimus the Ephesian, and they assumed that one of his current companions was Trophimus. 30 It was too late to clarify, though, because word spread and soon a huge crowd rushed to the temple. They held Paul and dragged him from the temple and shut the doors behind them. 31 They beat Paul, and it was clear they intended to kill him. By this time, word of the uproar reached the commandant of the Roman guard assigned to Jerusalem.
32 He led a group of soldiers and officers to the scene. When the mob looked up and saw the soldiers running toward them, they stopped beating Paul. 33 The commandant took him into custody and ordered him to be bound with two chains. He conducted a preliminary interrogation—asking Paul’s name, what he had done. 34 Members of the crowd were shouting over each other, and the tribune couldn’t hear a thing, so he ordered Paul to be taken back to the barracks. 35 When they came to the steps leading down from the temple, the crowd was seething with such violence toward Paul that the soldiers had to pick him up and carry him. 36 Then the crowd followed.
Crowd: Away with him! Away with him!
37 They were just leaving the temple area when Paul asked the commandant,
Paul: May I say something to you?
Commandant: Do you speak Greek? 38 We thought you were that Egyptian who recently stirred a rebellion and led 4,000 assassins out into the desert. But if you speak Greek, then obviously you’re not the person we supposed.
Paul: 39 No, I’m a Jew, originally from Tarsus in Cilicia. I’m a citizen from an important city. Please, I beg you, let me speak to the people.
40 The commandant agreed, and Paul stood there on the steps, motioning for the people to be silent. The crowd settled down, and Paul spoke in their native tongue, Aramaic.
22 Paul: Brothers and fathers, please let me defend myself against these charges.
2 When they heard him speaking Aramaic, a hush came over the crowd.
Paul: 3 I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia. I was raised here in Jerusalem and was tutored in the great school of Gamaliel. My education trained me in the strict interpretation of the law of our ancestors, and I grew zealous for God, just as all of you are today. 4 I encountered a movement known as the Way, and I considered it a threat to our religion, so I persecuted it violently. I put both men and women in chains, had them imprisoned, and would have killed them— 5 as the high priest and the entire council of elders will tell you. I received documentation from them to go to Damascus and work with the brothers there to arrest followers of the Way and bring them back to Jerusalem in chains so they could be properly punished. 6 I was on my way to Damascus. It was about noon. Suddenly a powerful light shone around me, 7 and I fell to the ground. A voice spoke: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” 8 I answered, “Who are You, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus of Nazareth, the One you persecute.”
9 My companions saw the light, but they didn’t hear the voice. 10 I asked, “What do You want me to do, Lord?” The Lord replied, “Get up and go to Damascus; you will be given your instructions there.” 11 Since the intense light had blinded me, my companions led me by the hand into Damascus. 12 I was visited there by a devout man named Ananias, a law-keeping Jew who was well spoken of by all the Jews living in Damascus. 13 He said, “Brother Saul, regain your sight!” I could immediately see again, beginning with Ananias standing before me. 14 Then he said, “You have been chosen by the God of our ancestors to know His will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the voice of God. 15 You will tell the story of what you have seen and heard to the whole world. 16 So now, don’t delay. Get up, be ceremonially cleansed through baptism,[f] and have your sins washed away, as you call on His name in prayer.”
17 I returned to Jerusalem, and I was praying here in the temple one day. I slipped into a trance 18 and had a vision in which Jesus said to me, “Hurry! Get out of Jerusalem fast! The people here will not receive your testimony about Me.” 19 I replied, “But Lord, they all know that I went from synagogue to synagogue imprisoning and beating everyone who believed in You. 20 They know what I was like and how I stood in approval of the execution of Stephen, Your witness, when he was stoned. I even held the coats of those who actually stoned him.” 21 Jesus replied, “Go, for I am going to send you to distant lands to teach the outsiders.”
These Jewish leaders are prepared to squabble with Paul about the law. But in his wisdom, Paul disarms them with his story. He is one of them; and on his journey to defend Judaism against these Christian heretics, he encountered the living God. How can anyone dispute his experience? He was trained by trustworthy Jews and lived his life according to their strict interpretation of the law. When Paul invites his audience into his experience with the supernatural, it makes debating the finer points of the law seem ridiculous. It would be like antagonizing Moses while he reiterated God’s message heard through the burning bush. But prejudice is apparently stronger than any divine message. Paul has them hanging on to every word from his mouth, until he speaks of the outsiders. The crowd immediately rises from their silence into a furious rage. The message is clear—if your revelation extends beyond our people, we will hear nothing of it. How could all of these students of the Hebrew Scriptures have been so ignorant about God’s intentions to rescue all people? The prophets declared God’s plan to offer grace to Jews and non-Jews, but no one in this crowd considered that good news.
22 They were listening quietly up until he mentioned the outsiders.
Crowd (shouting): Away with him! Such a man can’t be allowed to remain here. Kill him! He must die!
23 Chaos broke out again. People were shouting, slamming their coats down on the ground, and throwing fistfuls of dust up in the air. 24 The commandant ordered the soldiers to bring Paul to the barracks and flog him until he confessed to whatever he had done to stir up this outrage.
25 Back at the barracks, as they tied him up with leather thongs, Paul spoke to a nearby officer.
Paul: Is this legal—for you to flog a Roman citizen without a trial?
26 The officer went and spoke to the commandant.
Officer: What can you do about this? Did you know this fellow is a Roman citizen?
Commandant (rushing to Paul’s side): 27 What’s this? Are you really a Roman citizen?
Commandant: 28 I paid a small fortune for my citizenship.
Paul: I was born a citizen.
29 Hearing this, those who were about to start the flogging pulled back, and the commandant was concerned because he had arrested and bound a citizen without cause. 30 He still needed to conduct an investigation to uncover the Jews’ accusations against Paul. So the next day, he removed the ties on Paul and called a meeting with the chief priests and council of elders. He brought Paul in and had him stand before the group.