Paul instructs the disciples of John at Ephesus. (1-7) He teaches there. (8-12) The Jewish exorcists disgraced. Some Ephesians burn their evil books. (13-20) The tumult at Ephesus. (21-31) The tumult appeased. (32-41)
Verses 1-7 Paul, at Ephesus, found some religious persons, who looked to Jesus as the Messiah. They had not been led to expect the miraculous powers of the Holy Ghost, nor were they informed that the gospel was especially the ministration of the Spirit. But they spake as ready to welcome the notice of it. Paul shows them that John never design that those he baptized should rest there, but told them that they should believe on Him who should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. They thankfully accepted the discovery, and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Ghost came upon them in a surprising, overpowering manner; they spake with tongues, and prophesied, as the apostles and the first Gentile coverts did. Though we do not now expect miraculous powers, yet all who profess to be disciples of Christ, should be called on to examine whether they have received the seal of the Holy Ghost, in his sanctifying influences, to the sincerity of their faith. Many seem not to have heard that there is a Holy Ghost, and many deem all that is spoken concerning his graces and comforts, to be delusion. Of such it may properly be inquired, "Unto what, then, were ye baptized?" for they evidently know not the meaning of that outward sign on which they place great dependence.
Verses 8-12 When arguments and persuasions only harden men in unbelief and blasphemy, we must separate ourselves and others from such unholy company. God was pleased to confirm the teaching of these holy men of old, that if their hearers believed them not, they might believe the works.
Verses 13-20 It was common, especially among the Jews, for persons to profess or to try to cast out evil spirits. If we resist the devil by faith in Christ, he will flee from us; but if we think to resist him by the using of Christ's name, or his works, as a spell or charm, Satan will prevail against us. Where there is true sorrow for sin, there will be free confession of sin to God in every prayer and to man whom we have offended, when the case requires it. Surely if the word of God prevailed among us, many lewd, infidel, and wicked books would be burned by their possessors. Will not these Ephesian converts rise up in judgement against professors, who traffic in such works for the sake of gain, or allow themselves to possess them? If we desire to be in earnest in the great work of salvation, every pursuit and enjoyment must be given up which hinders the effect of the gospel upon the mind, or loosens its hold upon the heart.
Verses 21-31 Persons who came from afar to pay their devotions at the temple of Ephesus, bought little silver shrines, or models of the temple, to carry home with them. See how craftsmen make advantage to themselves of people's superstition, and serve their worldly ends by it. Men are jealous for that by which they get their wealth; and many set themselves against the gospel of Christ, because it calls men from all unlawful crafts, however much wealth is to be gotten by them. There are persons who will stickle for what is most grossly absurd, unreasonable, and false; as this, that those are gods which are made with hands, if it has but worldly interest on its side. The whole city was full of confusion, the common and natural effect of zeal for false religion. Zeal for the honour of Christ, and love to the brethren, encourage zealous believers to venture into danger. Friends will often be raised up among those who are strangers to true religion, but have observed the honest and consistent behaviour of Christians.
Verses 32-41 The Jews came forward in this tumult. Those who are thus careful to distinguish themselves from the servants of Christ now, and are afraid of being taken for them, shall have their doom accordingly in the great day. One, having authority, at length stilled the noise. It is a very good rule at all times, both in private and public affairs, not to be hasty and rash in our motions, but to take time to consider; and always to keep our passions under check. We ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly; to do nothing in haste, of which we may repent at leisure. The regular methods of the law ought always to stop popular tumults, and in well-governed nations will do so. Most people stand in awe of men's judgments more than of the judgement of God. How well it were if we would thus quiet our disorderly appetites and passions, by considering the account we must shortly give to the Judge of heaven and earth! And see how the overruling providence of God keeps the public peace, by an unaccountable power over the spirits of men. Thus the world is kept in some order, and men are held back from devouring each other. We can scarcely look around but we see men act like Demetrius and the workmen. It is as safe to contend with wild beasts as with men enraged by party zeal and disappointed covetousness, who think that all arguments are answered, when they have shown that they grow rich by the practices which are opposed. Whatever side in religious disputes, or whatever name this spirit assumes, it is worldly, and should be discountenanced by all who regard truth and piety. And let us not be dismayed; the Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters; he can still the rage of the people.
Acts 19:1-41 . SIGNAL SUCCESS OF PAUL AT EPHESUS.
1-3. while Apollos was at Corinth--where his ministry was so powerful that a formidable party in the Church of that city gloried in his type of preaching in preference to Paul's ( 1 Corinthians 1:12 , 3:4 ), no doubt from the marked infusion of Greek philosophic culture which distinguished it, and which the apostle studiously avoided ( 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ).
Paul having passed through the upper coasts--"parts," the interior of Asia Minor, which, with reference to the seacoast, was elevated.
came to Ephesus--thus fulfilling his promise ( Acts 18:21 ).
finding certain disciples--in the same stage of Christian knowledge as Apollos at first, newly arrived, probably, and having had no communication as yet with the church at Ephesus.
2. Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?--rather, "Received ye the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" implying, certainly, that the one did not of necessity carry the other along with it but it was probably in consequence of something that passed between them from which the apostle was led to suspect the imperfection of their light.
We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost--This cannot be the meaning, since the personality and office of the Holy Ghost, in connection with Christ, formed an especial subject of the Baptist's teaching. Literally, the words are, "We did not even hear whether the Holy Ghost was (given)"; meaning, at the time of their baptism. That the word "given" is the right supplement, as in John 7:39 , seems plain from the nature of the case.
4. Then said Paul, John . . . baptized with the baptism of repentance--water unto repentance.
saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him--that is, who should baptize with the Holy Ghost. The point of contrast is not between John and Christ personally, but between the water baptism of John unto repentance, and the promised baptism of the Spirit from the hands of his coming Master unto new life. As to all the facts, or at least the significancy, of this baptism, which made the whole life and work of Christ another thing from what it was conceived to be before it was vouchsafed, these simple disciples were unenlightened.
5-7. When they heard this--not the mere words reported in Acts 19:4 , but the subject expounded according to the tenor of those words.
they were baptized--not however by Paul himself ( 1 Corinthians 1:14 ).
in the name of the Lord Jesus--into the whole fulness of the new economy, as now opened up to their believing minds.
6. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them . . . they spake with
8-10. he went into the synagogue and spake boldly for . . . three
9. when divers--"some."
were hardened, &c.--implying that others, probably a large number, believed.
spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed--from the synagogue, as at Corinth ( Acts 18:7 ).
and separated the disciples--withdrawing to a separate place of meeting, for the sake both of the converts already made, and the unsophisticated multitude.
disputing--"discoursing" or "discussing."
daily in the school--or lecture hall.
of one Tyrannus--probably a converted teacher of rhetoric or philosophy.
10. this continued . . . two years--in addition to the former three But during some part of this period he must have paid a second unrecorded visit to Corinth, since the one is twice called his third visit ( 2 Corinthians 12:14 , 13:1 ). which might seem inconsistent with this. The passage across was quite a short one the close of this long stay at Ephesus, as we learn from 1 Corinthians 16:8 , he wrote his FIRST EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS; also (though on this opinions are divided) the EPISTLE TO THE to Galatians). And just as at Corinth his greatest success was after his withdrawal to a separate place of meeting ( Acts 18:7-10 ), so at Ephesus.
so that all they which dwelt in--the Roman province of
Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks--This is the "great door and effectual opened unto him" while resident at Ephesus ( 1 Corinthians 16:9 ), which induced him to make it his headquarters for so long a period. The unwearied and varied character of his labors here are best seen in his own subsequent address to the elders of Ephesus ( Acts 20:17 , &c.). And thus Ephesus became the "ecclesiastical center for the entire region, as indeed it remained for a very long period" [BAUMGARTEN]. Churches arose at Colosse, Laodicea, and Hierapolis eastward, either through his own labors or those of his faithful helpers whom he sent out in different directions, Epaphras, Archippus, Philemon ( Colossians 1:7 , 4:12-17 , philemon 1:1 1:23 ).
11, 12. God wrought special--no ordinary
miracles by the hands of Paul--implying that he had not been accustomed to work such.
12. So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, &c.--Compare Acts 5:15 Acts 5:16 , very different from the magical acts practiced at Ephesus. "God wrought these miracles" merely "by the hands of Paul"; and the very exorcists ( Acts 19:13 ), observing that the name of Jesus was the secret of all his miracles, hoped, by aping him in this, to be equally successful; while the result of all in the "magnifying of the Lord Jesus" ( Acts 19:17 ) showed that in working them the apostle took care to hold up Him whom he preached as the source of all the miracles which he wrought.
13. vagabond Jews--simply, "wandering Jews," who went from place to place practicing exorcism, or the art of conjuring evil spirits to depart out of the possessed. That such a power did exist, for some time at least, seems implied in Matthew 12:27 . But no doubt this would breed imposture; and the present case is very different from that referred to in Luke 9:49 Luke 9:50 .
We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth--a striking testimony to the power of Christ's name in Paul's mouth.
14-17. seven sons of . . . Sceva . . . chief of the priests--head, possibly, of one of the twenty-four courts.
15. the evil spirit answered, Jesus I know--"recognize."
and Paul I know--"know intimately," in contrast to them, whom he altogether disowns.
but who are ye?
16. And the man in whom the evil spirit was--Mark the clear line of demarcation here between "the evil spirit which answered and said" and "the man in whom the evil spirit was." The reality of such possessions could not be more clearly expressed.
leaped on them . . . so that they fled . . . naked and wounded--This was so appalling a testimony at once against those profane impostors and in favor of Paul and the Master whom he preached, that we wonder not that it spread to "all the Jews and Greeks at Ephesus, that fear fell on them," and that "the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified."
18-20. many that believed came and confessed . . . their deeds--the dupes of magicians, &c., acknowledging how shamefully they had been deluded, and how deeply they had allowed themselves to be implicated in such practices.
19. Many of them . . . which used curious arts--The word signifies things "overdone"; significantly applied to arts in which laborious but senseless incantations are practiced.
brought their books--containing the mystic formularies.
and burned them before all--The tense, here used graphically, expresses progress and continuance of the conflagration.
counted the price . . . and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver--probably about $10,000 (presuming it to be the drachma). From their nature they would be costly, and books then bore a value above any standard we are familiar with. The scene must have been long remembered at Ephesus, as a strong proof of honest conviction on the part of the sorcerers and a striking triumph of Jesus Christ over the powers of darkness. The workers of evil were put to scorn, like Baal's priests on Carmel, and the word of God mightily grew and prevailed [HOWSON].
21, 22. After these things were ended--completed, implying something like a natural finish to his long period of labor at Ephesus.
Paul purposed . . . when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem . . . After I have been there, I must also see Rome--Mark here the vastness of the apostle's missionary plans. They were all fulfilled, though he "saw Rome" only as a prisoner.
22. So he sent into Macedonia . . . Timotheus and Erastus--as his pioneers, in part to bring "them into remembrance of his ways which were in Christ" ( 1 Corinthians 4:17 , 16:10 ), partly to convey his mind on various matters. After a brief stay he was to return ( 1 Corinthians 16:11 ). It is very unlikely that this Erastus was "the chamberlain of the city" of Corinth, of that name ( Romans 16:23 ).
he himself stayed in--the province of
Asia for a season--that is, at Ephesus, its chief city. (Asia is mentioned in contrast with Macedonia in the previous clause).
23. the same time--of Paul's proposed departure.
way--So the new religion seemed then to be designated ( Acts 9:2 , 22:4 , 24:14 ).
24-26. silver shrines for--"of"
Diana--small models of the Ephesian temple and of the shrine or chapel of the goddess, or of the shrine and statue alone, which were purchased by visitors as memorials of what they had seen, and were carried about and deposited in houses as a charm. (The models of the chapel of our Lady of Loretto, and such like, which the Church of Rome systematically encourages, are such a palpable imitation of this heathen practice that it is no wonder it should be regarded by impartial judges as Christianity paganized).
gain to the craftsmen--the master-artificers.
25. Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation--rather, "with the workmen (or fabricators) of such articles," meaning the artisans employed by the master-artificers, all who manufactured any kind of memorial of the temple and its worship for sale.
26. ye see and hear--The evidences of it were to be seen, and the report of it was in everybody's mouth.
that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath . . . turned away much people--Noble testimony this to the extent of Paul's influence!
saying that they be no gods which are made with hands--The universal belief of the people was that they were gods, though the more intelligent regarded them only as habitations of Deity, and some, probably, as mere aids to devotion. It is exactly so in the Church of Rome.
27. So that not only this our craft is in danger . . . but, &c.--that is, "that indeed is a small matter; but there is something far worse." So the masters of the poor Pythoness put forward the religious revolution which Paul was attempting to effect at Philippi, as the sole cause of their zealous alarm, to cloak the self-interest which they felt to be touched by his success ( Acts 16:19-21 ). In both cases religious zeal was the hypocritical pretext; self-interest, the real moving cause of the opposition made.
also the temple of the great goddess Diana . . . despised, and her magnificence . . . destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth--It was reckoned one of the wonders of the world. It was built about 550 B.C., of pure white marble, and though burned by a fanatic on the night of the birth of Alexander the Great, 356 B.C., was rebuilt with more splendor than before. It was four hundred twenty-five feet long by two hundred twenty broad, and the columns, one hundred twenty-seven in number, were sixty feet in height, each of them the gift of a king, and thirty-six of them enriched with ornament and color. It was constantly receiving new decorations and additional buildings, statues, and pictures by the most celebrated artists, and kindled unparalleled admiration, enthusiasm, and superstition. Its very site is now a matter of uncertainty. The little wooden image of Diana was as primitive and rude as its shrine was sumptuous; not like the Greek Diana, in the form of an imposing huntress, but quite Asiatic, in the form of a many-breasted female (emblematic of the manifold ministrations of Nature to man), terminating in a shapeless block. Like some other far-famed idols, it was believed to have fallen from heaven ( Acts 19:35 ), and models of it were not only sold in immense numbers to private persons, but set up for worship in other cities [HOWSON]. What power must have attended the preaching of that one man by whom the death blow was felt to be given to their gigantic and witching superstition!
28, 29. Great is Diana of the Ephesians--the civic cry of a populace so proud of their temple that they refused to inscribe on it the name of Alexander the Great, though he offered them the whole spoil of his Eastern campaign if they would do it [STRABO in HOWSON].
29. having caught Gaius and Aristarchus--disappointed of Paul, as at Thessalonica ( Acts 17:5 Acts 17:6 ). They are mentioned in Acts 20:4 , 27:2 , Romans 16:23 , 1 Corinthians 1:14 ; and probably 3 John 1:1 . If it was in the house of Aquila and Priscilla that he found an asylum (see 1 Corinthians 16:9 ), that would explain Romans 16:3 Romans 16:4 , where he says of them that "for his life they laid down their own necks" [HOWSON].
rushed . . . into the theatre--a vast pile, whose ruins are even now a wreck of immense grandeur [SIR C. FELLOWES, Asia Minor, 1839].
30-34. when Paul would have entered in--with noble forgetfulness of self.
unto the people--the demos, that is, the people met in public assembly.
the disciples suffered him not--The tense used implies only that they were using their efforts to restrain him; which might have been unavailing but for what follows.
31. And certain of the chief of Asia--literally, "And certain also of the Asiarchs." These were wealthy and distinguished citizens of the principal towns of the Asian province, chosen annually, and ten of whom were selected by the proconsul to preside over the games celebrated in the month of May (the same month which Romanism dedicates to the Virgin). It was an office of the highest honor and greatly coveted. Certain of these, it seems, were favorably inclined to the Gospel, at least were Paul's "friends," and knowing the passions of a mob, excited during the festivals, "sent (a message) to him desiring him not to adventure himself into the theater."
33. they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward--rather, "some of the multitude urged forward Alexander, the Jews thrusting him forward." As the blame of such a tumult would naturally be thrown upon the Jews, who were regarded by the Romans as the authors of all religious disturbances, they seem to have put forward this man to clear them of all responsibility for the riot. (BENGEL'S conjecture, that this was Alexander the coppersmith, 2 Timothy 4:14 , has little to support it).
beckoned with the hand--compare Acts 13:16 , 21:40 .
would have made his defence--"offered to speak in defense."
34. But when they knew he was a Jew, all with one voice, for the space of two hours, cried out, Great is Diana, &c.--The very appearance of a Jew had the opposite effect to that intended. To prevent him obtaining a hearing, they drowned his voice in one tumultuous shout in honor of their goddess, which rose to such frantic enthusiasm as took two hours to exhaust itself.
35-41. when the town-clerk--keeper of the public archives, and a magistrate of great authority.
the people--"the multitude," which the very presence of such an officer would go far to do.
he said . . . what man . . . knoweth not that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana--literally, the neocoros or "warden." The word means "temple-sweeper"; then, "temple-guardian." Thirteen cities of Asia had an interest in the temple, but Ephesus was honored with the charge of it. (Various cities have claimed this title with reference to the Virgin or certain saints) [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
and of the image which fell down from Jupiter--"from the sky" or "from heaven." various legends concerning images and pictures in the Romish Church, such as the traditional likenesses of Christ, which were said to be "not made with hands"" [WEBSTER and WILKINSON].
36. Seeing that these things cannot be spoken against, &c.--Like a true legal man, he urges that such was notoriously the constitution and fixed character of the city, with which its very existence was all but bound up. Did they suppose that all this was going to be overturned by a set of itinerant orators? Ridiculous! What did they mean, then, by raising such a stir?
37. For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches--"temple-plunderers," or sacrilegious persons.
nor yet blasphemers of your goddess--This is a remarkable testimony, showing that the apostle had, in preaching against idolatry, studiously avoided (as at Athens) insulting the feelings of those whom he addressed--a lesson this to missionaries and ministers in general.
38. if Demetrius have a matter--of complaint.
against any man, the law is open--rather, "the court days are being held."
and there are deputies--literally "proconsuls" that is, probably, the proconsul and his council, as a court of appeal.
39. if ye inquire--"have any question."
concerning other matters--of a public nature.
40. For we--the public authorities.
are in danger of being called in question--by our superiors.