Now, it happened that while Apollos was away in Corinth, Paul made his way down through the mountains, came to Ephesus, and happened on some disciples there.
The first thing he said was, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside you?" "We've never even heard of that - a Holy Spirit? God within us?"
"How were you baptized, then?" asked Paul. "In John's baptism."
"That explains it," said Paul. "John preached a baptism of radical life-change so that people would be ready to receive the One coming after him, who turned out to be Jesus. If you've been baptized in John's baptism, you're ready now for the real thing, for Jesus."
And they were. As soon as they heard of it, they were baptized in the name of the Master Jesus.
Paul put his hands on their heads and the Holy Spirit entered them. From that moment on, they were praising God in tongues and talking about God's actions.
Altogether there were about twelve people there that day.
Paul then went straight to the meeting place. He had the run of the place for three months, doing his best to make the things of the kingdom of God real and convincing to them.
But then resistance began to form as some of them began spreading evil rumors through the congregation about the Christian way of life. So Paul left, taking the disciples with him, and set up shop in the school of Tyrannus, holding class there daily.
He did this for two years, giving everyone in the province of Asia, Jews as well as Greeks, ample opportunity to hear the Message of the Master.
God did powerful things through Paul, things quite out of the ordinary.
The word got around and people started taking pieces of clothing - handkerchiefs and scarves and the like - that had touched Paul's skin and then touching the sick with them. The touch did it - they were healed and whole.
Some itinerant Jewish exorcists who happened to be in town at the time tried their hand at what they assumed to be Paul's "game." They pronounced the name of the Master Jesus over victims of evil spirits, saying, "I command you by the Jesus preached by Paul!"
The seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish high priest, were trying to do this on a man
when the evil spirit talked back: "I know Jesus and I've heard of Paul, but who are you?"
Then the possessed man went berserk - jumped the exorcists, beat them up, and tore off their clothes. Naked and bloody, they got away as best they could.
It was soon news all over Ephesus among both Jews and Greeks. The realization spread that God was in and behind this. Curiosity about Paul developed into reverence for the Master Jesus.
Many of those who thus believed came out of the closet and made a clean break with their secret sorceries.
All kinds of witches and warlocks came out of the woodwork with their books of spells and incantations and made a huge bonfire of them. Someone estimated their worth at fifty thousand silver coins.
In such ways it became evident that the Word of the Master was now sovereign and prevailed in Ephesus.
After all this had come to a head, Paul decided it was time to move on to Macedonia and Achaia provinces, and from there to Jerusalem. "Then," he said, "I'm off to Rome. I've got to see Rome!"
He sent two of his assistants, Timothy and Erastus, on to Macedonia while he stayed for a while and wrapped things up in Asia.
But before he got away, a huge ruckus occurred over what was now being referred to as "the Way."
A certain silversmith, Demetrius, conducted a brisk trade in the manufacture of shrines to the goddess Artemis, employing a number of artisans in his business.
He rounded up his workers and others similarly employed and said, "Men, you well know that we have a good thing going here -
and you've seen how Paul has barged in and discredited what we're doing by telling people that there's no such thing as a god made with hands. A lot of people are going along with him, not only here in Ephesus but all through Asia province.
"Not only is our little business in danger of falling apart, but the temple of our famous goddess Artemis will certainly end up a pile of rubble as her glorious reputation fades to nothing. And this is no mere local matter - the whole world worships our Artemis!"
That set them off in a frenzy. They ran into the street yelling, "Great Artemis of the Ephesians!
Great Artemis of the Ephesians!" They put the whole city in an uproar, stampeding into the stadium, and grabbing two of Paul's associates on the way, the Macedonians Gaius and Aristarchus.
Paul wanted to go in, too, but the disciples wouldn't let him.
Prominent religious leaders in the city who had become friendly to Paul concurred: "By no means go near that mob!"
Some were yelling one thing, some another. Most of them had no idea what was going on or why they were there.
As the Jews pushed Alexander to the front to try to gain control, different factions clamored to get him on their side. But he brushed them off and quieted the mob with an impressive sweep of his arms.
But the moment he opened his mouth and they knew he was a Jew, they shouted him down: "Great Artemis of the Ephesians! Great Artemis of the Ephesians!" - on and on and on, for over two hours.
Finally, the town clerk got the mob quieted down and said, "Fellow citizens, is there anyone anywhere who doesn't know that our dear city Ephesus is protector of glorious Artemis and her sacred stone image that fell straight out of heaven?
Since this is beyond contradiction, you had better get hold of yourselves. This is conduct unworthy of Artemis.
These men you've dragged in here have done nothing to harm either our temple or our goddess.
"So if Demetrius and his guild of artisans have a complaint, they can take it to court and make all the accusations they want.
If anything else is bothering you, bring it to the regularly scheduled town meeting and let it be settled there.
There is no excuse for what's happened today. We're putting our city in serious danger. Rome, remember, does not look kindly on rioters."
With that, he sent them home.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)