Lectionary Calendar
Monday, February 26th, 2024
the Second Week of Lent
There are 34 days til Easter!
Attention!
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Bible Commentaries
Acts 19

Contending for the FaithContending for the Faith

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Introduction

In this chapter Luke continues the story of the Apostle Paul’s third missionary journey. Paul deals with "certain disciples" who have a need to be rebaptized. Later Luke records an encounter with the "seven sons of Sceva." In the last half of the chapter, Paul exposes the futility of worshiping the idol goddess Diana and in so doing makes a longtime enemy of one Demetrius, the silversmith.

Verse 1

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,

And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth: Luke writes about Apollos only two times. One is in this passage, and the other in the previous chapter, Acts 18:24-28. More details of the life of this great preacher are not supplied by the sacred writers with the exceptions of brief notices in 1 Corinthians 1:12; 1 Corinthians 3:4-6; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 16:12 and Titus 3:13.

Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: During the time Apollos is in Corinth, Paul is making his way to Ephesus to keep the promise he makes in Acts 18:21 that he would return.

and finding certain disciples: At Ephesus Paul meets twelve men (verse 7) who have the same incomplete knowledge about Christianity that Apollos has when he first encounters Priscilla and Aquila (18:25).

Verse 2

He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.

He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost: This sentence raises several questions and much conjecture as to what takes place on this occasion.

Why does Paul ask these men this question in the first place? In keeping in context with previous events (18:24-27), the obvious explanation is Paul is aware there is a problem with the baptism of these men. It is entirely possible Paul has received word from Aquila and Priscilla or from some other source that these men have been baptized by some of John’s disciples, perhaps even Apollos. Coffman says:

They had been baptized ... after the baptism of John had been invalidated. John’s baptism lasted only until Pentecost; but the persons who had submitted to it while it was in force were not required to be rebaptized, hence the conclusion that the disciples here were baptized unto John’s baptism at a time when it was on longer valid (360).

With the knowledge that the "baptism of John" is no longer valid, Paul sets out to determine to which baptism these men have submitted. He asks, "Have you received the Holy Ghost, "meaning the ordinary indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This "gift of the Holy Spirit" is a promise to all ("every one of you") who will repent and be baptized. The very fact that these men "have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost" is a clear indication they have been baptized with the baptism of John. One of the basic concepts of the New Testament teaches the reception of the Holy Spirit upon the baptism of penitent believers (2:38). The "gift of the Holy Spirit" is not promised by the baptism of John (see notes on 18:25). As Hervey emphasizes:

Nothing can mark more strongly the connection between baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit than this question does. For it implies, How could you be ignorant of the giving of the Holy Spirit if you were duly baptized (114)?

It is sometimes necessary for one to be rebaptized today. Baptism is to be done "in the name of Jesus Christ" (by his authority) and "for the remission of sins" (2:38). If these criteria are not met in one’s baptism, he must be rebaptized. For example, if a person is baptized as an infant, he is baptized without faith or repentance; so he must be rebaptized. If one has been baptized by a denomination that does not believe baptism is "for the remission of sins, "then his baptism is invalid or unscriptural. On the other hand, rebaptism for a person that has already been scripturally baptized will accomplish nothing (see notes on 2:38)!

since: The reader should not be mislead by the word "since."The verbs used in this passage do not indicate the reception of the Holy Spirit is sometime in the future after obedience to the gospel. Vincent gives this explanation:

The two verbs are in the aorist tense, and therefore denote instantaneous acts. The A.V. therefore gives an entirely wrong idea, as there is no question about what happened after believing; but the question relates to what occurred when they believed. Hence Reverse, rightly, Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed (551).

ye believed: The word "believed" as used here includes obedience to all the steps for salvation (see notes on 10:43; 13:39).

And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost: Paul’s inquiry has the desired effect. These men now realize that something is amiss in their baptisms. They did not know about receiving the Holy Spirit.

Verse 3

And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.

And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized: By now, both these disciples and Paul realize there is a problem with their baptism, thus the question "Unto what were ye baptized?"

And they said, Unto John’s baptism: Now the problem is clear: these men have known only the baptism of John. The baptism of John was only in force during the ministry of John; it was not intended to continue.

Verse 4

Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.

Paul explains the basic difference in John’s baptism and Christian baptism. The baptism of John was one of "repentance" and "faith" in a coming Savior. Christian baptism is one of "repentance" and "faith" in a Savior who has already come, died, been buried, and risen again. Christian baptism is in the name of Jesus Christ and enjoys not only the "remission" of sin but also the "gift of the Holy Spirit" (2:38) (see 18:25).

Verse 5

When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

We can appreciate the sincerity of these brethren. As soon as they understand the problem, they are ready to make corrections.

One final thought before moving on. Paul gives an example of inquiring about the baptism of brethren before he is willing to accept them as being in Christian fellowship. One should not be offended at being asked, nor timid about asking, about the baptismal situation of anyone professing Christianity. Being baptized scripturally is a critical prerequisite to being "in Christ." One should be willing to ask himself, "Was I scripturally baptized?" If the answer is in the negative, then haste should be made to be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ," "for the remission of sins" that you might receive "the gift of the Holy Spirit" (2:38).

Verse 6

And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them: The "laying on of the apostles’ hands" is the means of giving others the ability to do miraculous works, that is "speaking in tongues, " etc. (For more extensive notes, see 6:6 and 8:15-18.)

What has occurred in this account is the same as that in chapter eight. The Samariatians become Christians by obeying the gospel. "Every one" who repents and is baptized receives "the remission of sins, " "and the gift of the Holy Spirit" (2:38). Later Peter and John are sent to Samaria that they may "lay hands" on some of the brethren so they may receive the ability to do miraculous works (8:15-18). There is no reason to make the mistake of attempting to connect baptism with miraculous gifts of the Spirit. Lenski gives our summary:

But one should not think that baptism and the charismatic gifts go together. Pentecost excludes such a view, for none of the 3, 000 baptized on that day spoke with tongues. The saving presence of the Spirit is evident in baptism; his charismatic presence is an entirely different thing and is bestowed as the Spirit wills (1 Corinthians 12:11) for his own special purposes. To conclude that, because the Spirit came charismatically after the baptism when Paul laid on his hands, therefore the Spirit was not bestowed with saving grace in baptism, and then to stress the idea that this was a "baptism in water, " is to antagonize John 3:5 (785).

and they spake with tongues: The speaking in "tongues" (foreign languages) is the usual way in which the Spirit demonstrates the coming of miraculous gifts (see 2:4; 10:46).

and prophesied: Vine says to "prophesy" is to "speak forth of the mind and counsel of God" (Vol. III 221). In this case, this "speaking forth" is under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit.

Verse 7

And all the men were about twelve.

Thus, these twelve men appear upon the pages of divine writ, and thus, they depart. They are now without a doubt Christians. They are endowed for usefulness in the Lord’s kingdom.

Verse 8

And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.

And he went into the synagogue: It is the custom of the apostles to take advantage of the crowd that gathered at the "synagogue" (see notes on 13:14-15; 17:1).

and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God: Paul continues in his efforts to establish the church at Ephesus by reasoning with and attempting to change the minds of those gathered at the synagogue; but, as the next verse will show, not everyone is reasonable or easily persuaded.

It should be noted that Paul understands that the kingdom of God has been established. The kingdom of God on earth is the church of Christ (Matthew 16:18-19; Mark 9:1; Colossians 1:13).

Verse 9

But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus.

But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude: Paul has enjoyed an exceptional time of peace with little opposition to his efforts to preach in Ephesus, but now the situation is going to change. One can be assured, if things are going well for the Lord’s people, the devil will muster his troops and do all he can to disrupt the progress. The Jews at Ephesus have now hardened their hearts and are speaking evil of "THAT WAY" (see notes on 9:2).

he departed from them, and separated the disciples: Paul makes an effort to avoid the mounting opposition by leaving the synagogue and taking the disciples with him.

disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus: This school is likely one of the lecture rooms commonly maintained by various scholars for the purpose of teaching their particular specialty. Tyrannus may have been a teacher of history, medicine, philosophy, etc. Bruce believes the classes held by this type of school were usually over by eleven a.m; thus, it is likely that Paul used the room after the school closed (388).

Absolutely nothing, either scriptural or secular, is known of Tyrannus. In the Greek the name "Tyrannus" means tyrant" (Boles 301). "One is left to wonder if his parents or his students named him" (Bruce 388)!

Verse 10

And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

And this continued by the space of two years: For the "space of two years," Paul teaches in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. In all, Paul spends three years preaching the gospel in Ephesus (20:31). This is the longest time Paul spends in any one city.

so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks: Paul has long desired to preach in Asia. Now he has his opportunity, and the gospel spreads throughout the country. It is generally believed by most scholars that it is during this time that the "seven churches of Asia" addressed in the Revelation by John (Revelation 2, 3) and the church at Colossae are established.

The term "Asia" does not refer to the continent but rather to the Roman province of Asia (see notes on 16:6).

Verse 11

And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:

Luke refers to the miracles Paul performs as "special." We will understand why in our study of the next verse. (For information on the purpose of miracles, see notes on 2:17 and 4:30.)

Verse 12

So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.

So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons: The thing that makes these miracles "special" is the fact that the miracle is accomplished not by the touch of the apostle’s hand, as is the usual case, but rather by the touch of a piece of cloth that has been in contact with the apostle’s body. This manner of healing is not unlike the woman who would touch "the hem of his garment" in Matthew 9:20 or those who desire that the "shadow" of Peter might pass over them in Acts 5:15.

and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them: Apparently, there are those who come to Paul, as he labors at his job of tent making, and take the cloth that is commonly tied around the head to absorb sweat (handkerchief) or the material worn around the waist to protect the clothing (apron). When these cloths are applied to the sick, they are healed; and demons depart from those who are thus afflicted.

Leave it to the religious charlatans of our day to make merchandise of this occurrence by attempting to sell their audience a "prayer cloth" or an "anointed cloth" that naturally is "guaranteed" to heal.

Verse 13

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.

Then certain of the vagabond Jews: The word "vagabond" literally means "to go around" (Vine, Vol. IV 84). Several versions render the word "strolling."

exorcists:"Exorcists comes from the Greek word exorkizo, which means to exact an oath; ..." (Boles 302). These "strolling" Jews believe by uttering some mystical name or a series of meaningless words they can expel demons out of those possessed.

took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth: It is interesting the way Luke words this passage. These would-be exorcists take it "upon themselves" to copy the words of Paul as a mere charm or incantation. It is obvious they do not know Jesus; and, like Simon (8:18) and Elymas (13:8), they do not know the difference in a miracle performed by the power of God and one of the counterfeit miracles for which they are famous.

Verse 14

And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.

And there were seven sons: Apparently, the fact there are"seven"of these brothers adds to the mystique of their profession.

of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests: Nothing is known about "Sceva" except what is given here."No high priest by the name of Sceva appears in any Jewish writing" (Lenski 793). Why Luke refers to him as "chief of the priests" is unknown.

which did so: These sons of Sceva are going to include this "adjuring in the name of Jesus" into their repertory of magical formulas with startling results.

Verse 15

And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?

The demon possessing this man is clearly insulted that these imposters would invoke the names of Jesus and Paul as charms to cast him out. The demon is saying, "I recognize and am aware of the authority of Jesus, I am acquainted with Paul; but who do you think you are!"

Verse 16

And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

What is about to happen to these sons of Sceva surely is not what they expected! The indignation of this evil spirit prompts the man in whom he dwells to explode upon them in a fanatical frenzy. Driven by the fury of a demon and with strength like the demon-possessed man of the Gadarenes (Mark 5:3-4), these fake exorcists are "leaped" upon, "overcame" and "prevailed against" in less time than it takes Luke to record the event. We can be sure when this "exorcism" turns into an "exercise" for the would-be "exorcists" they are happy to escape only "naked and wounded!"

Verse 17

And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

The events above soon become common knowledge throughout the area.

Certainly all Ephesus must have laughed at them as they fled naked and bruised along the street; but when the people took a second thought, and remembered that this discomfiture had come from a misuse of the name of Jesus, it was but natural that this name was magnified, and that fear came upon all (McGarvey, Vol. II 156-157).

Verse 18

And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds.

By exposing the fakery of these sons of Sceva, the power of the name of Jesus is known not only by the general population but also is realized by some Christians for the first time. "Many" now see the hypocrisy of hanging onto their superstitions. Some of the brethren who have not made a clean break with their former practices are ready to "confess" and renounce their "deeds." To our shame things have not changed much in modern times. Some, who ought to know better, can scarcely get out of bed before reading their "horoscopes," checking with their "psychic," or putting on their "charms."

Verse 19

Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.

Many of them also which used curious arts: "Curious arts" include such practices as sleight of hand, fortune telling, the casting of spells, incantations, charms, astrology, exorcism, superstitions, and the black arts in general."This whole account fully confirms the reputation assigned to Ephesus by ancient writers as the chief center of magical arts in the whole Roman empire" (McGarvey, Vol. II 158). Vine defines "curious arts" as "the arts of those who pry into forbidden things, with the aid of evil spirits" (Vol. I 261).

brought their books together: The formulas for these secret potions, magical words, and mystical spells are written upon pages of papyri or parchment and kept in books. These collections of magic information became known as "Ephesian scripts" (Bruce 392).

and burned them before all men: The burning of a particular type of literature in public has always served as a sign of a general renouncement of the doctrine or practice espoused by that literature. So it is here; many turn from the practice of the "curious arts."

and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver: There is considerable discussion as to the exact coin referred to by "pieces of silver," and thus the exact dollar amount represented by these books is difficult to estimate. Amounts from $8, 000 to $75, 000 are used by various scholars to estimate the expense. Suffice it to say, these books are counted as very valuable to their owners and the burning of this asset is no small sacrifice. The spiritual value of the destruction of these wicked books also cannot be ascertained. It is certain these teachings are in "direct opposition to THE WAY and thus aligned in some fashion with the evil one" (De Welt 260).

Verse 20

So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.

We have noticed in past comments that every time truth is vindicated, the wicked are punished, and the gospel contended for, then the cause of Christ flourishes (2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 12:24; 16:5) (see additional comments on 6:7).

Verse 21

After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome.

After these things were ended: This statement is a reference to the events that just transpired.

Paul purposed in the spirit: This statement literally means "if it be the will of God." McGarvey makes the following comments with which this writer agrees:

The words, "he purposed in the Spirit, "have been taken by the majority of the commentators to mean no more than that he formed the purpose; and our revisers seem from their use of the small s with the word spirit, to have understood them in the same way. But if this is the meaning of the expression, it is tautological, the words "in the spirit" being redundant. These writers forget the facts mentioned before by Luke, which account for the expression. When Paul first purposed to come to this very city of Ephesus, as the capital of Asia, he was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to do so; and when he then purposed to go into Bithynia he was likewise forbidden (xvi. 6, 7); and by this experience he had learned to lay out no plans for the future without an expressed allowance for this divine overruling. Even when he promised, on leaving Aquila and Priscilla at Ephesus, to return thither, his words were, "I will return again unto you if God will" (xviii. 21). ... The real meaning, determined by both his previous and his subsequent experience, is that he formed this purpose subject to the approval of the Holy Spirit, and with a conscience reference to the probability that the Spirit might overrule it (Vol. II 159).

when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem: At this point in Luke’s account, we need to recall the reason for this trip. Paul has determined to take up a collection for the poor saints in Judea. He intends to include Macedonia, Achaia, the region of Galatia, and Corinth in this deed of charity (Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:1). (For additional notes on Macedonia and Achaia, see 16:9; 18:12.)

saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome: The energy, zeal, and courage of this mighty apostle seem boundless. Even as he is involved in one great work, he is making plans for another. He is truly a man driven by the urgency of preaching the good news. Would to God that this evangelical fire might be rekindled in us!

Paul sought not to rest, but pressed on as if he had yet done nothing. He is already possessed of Ephesus and Asia; but he purposes for Macedonia and Achaia. He has his eye upon Jerusalem, then upon Rome, afterward on to Spain (Romans 15:24). No Caesar, no Alexander the Great, no other hero comes up to the magnanimity of this little Benjamite. Faith and love to God and man had enlarged his heart, even as the sand of the sea (Coffman 369).

Verse 22

So he sent into Macedonia two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus and Erastus; but he himself stayed in Asia for a season.

So he sent into Macedonia: See notes on Acts 16:9.

two of them that ministered unto him, Timotheus: Timothy is a frequent companion of the apostle and is held dearly in Paul’s heart, being referred to as "my dearly beloved son" (2 Timothy 1:2) (see notes on 14:20; 16:1).

and Erastus: It is generally assumed by a majority of scholars that this "Erastus" is the "chamberlain" (Romans 16:23) or treasurer of the city of Corinth. If this is the case, we can understand Paul’s choice of this man to handle the details of taking up a monetary collection for the poor saints.

but he himself stayed in Asia for a season: Paul remains in Ephesus to take every advantage of the "great effectual door" that is opened to him (1 Corinthians 16:9). According to the record in 1 Corinthians 16:8, Paul desires to stay in Ephesus until Pentecost. Lenski says:

Pentecost came late in May, and May was the month when the great festival of Artemis (Diana) was observed in Ephesus. The tumult staged by Demetrius must have taken place before this festival, and immediately after the tumult Paul departed (20:1) (801).

Verse 23

And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.

As McGarvey says, "By the same stroke of the pen with which Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ’a great and effectual door is opened unto me, ’ he also wrote, ’and there are many adversaries’ (1 Corinthians 16:8-9)" (Vol. II 161). Any time a "great effectual door is opened" to the gospel, it will not be long until the devil will raise his ugly head and do his best to close it!

Here, again, we find "no small stir about THAT WAY" (see notes on 9:2).

Verse 24

For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;

For a certain man named Demetrius: The name "Demetrius" is a common name among the pagans; any attempt to ascertain more information about this man than here given by Luke is futile.

a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana: A silversmith is simply one who works with silver. We learn this particular "silversmith" makes "silver shrines."

The word "shrines" denotes small portable temples, or edifices, made of silver, so as to represent the temple of Diana, and probably containing a silver image of the goddess. Such shrines would be purchased by devotees and by worshippers of the goddess, and by strangers, who would be desirous of possessing a representation of one of the seven wonders of the world (Reese 509).

brought no small gain unto the craftsmen: Literally, the manufacture of these shrines brings much gain to their makers.

Verse 25

Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.

Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation: This gathering may be representative of the earliest trade unions. Demetrius calls together the artists and the laborers of the profession of silver crafting to present his case against the threat Paul poses to their very existence.

and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth: What better way to get one’s attention than to tell him the source of his wealth is being threatened.

Verse 26

Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands:

Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people: Paul’s reputation precedes him. The extent of Paul’s labor, as given in verse 10, is here verified by Demetrius. This is one of the rare exceptions where the accusations against Paul are correct and true. Demetrius even admits to the base motive for his zeal, that being the loss of his wealth. The preaching of Paul is indeed a threat to the wealth of these idol makers because the gospel of Christ turns men from the futility of idol worship.

saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: The hypocrisy of these idol makers is exposed in this statement."The craftsman whom he addressed had reason to know, even better than any one else in Ephesus, that the pieces of silver which they had hammered and polished with their own hands were not gods" (McGarvey, Vol. II 162). Is it not within the realm of human logic and common sense to realize that greater is the maker of the idol than is the idol?

Verse 27

So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.

So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought: Demetrius could see the handwriting on the wall, the end of what has been a lucrative profession. This statement has a certain prophetic value. With the coming of Christianity, the end of the worship of Diana is soon to be realized.

but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed: Perhaps Demetrius tries to elevate his motives from a gross concern over monetary loss to the higher plain of religion. It remains obvious that his first concern is for their wealth and secondly for the promotion of the worship of Diana.

The goddess Diana was one of many false gods celebrated by the heathen. To the Greeks she was known as Artemis and to the Romans as Diana. There are some distinctions drawn between Artemis and Diana, but in general they are considered as the same.

The temple of Diana was considered to be one of the seven wonders of the world. It is small wonder that the wrath of the heathen is ignited against Paul when they see his preaching is soon to bring this magnificent monument to idolatry to "nought." Coincidentally, the ruins of this pagan stronghold stand forever as a monument to the power of the gospel of Christ. Following is a description of this magnificent structure as given by Conybeare and Howson:

But one building at Ephesus surpassed all the rest in magnificence and in fame. This was the Temple of Artemis or Diana, which glittered in brilliant beauty at the head of the harbor, and was reckoned by the ancients as one of the wonders of the world. The sun, it was said, saw nothing in his course more magnificent than Diana’s Temple. ... Though nothing now remains on the spot to show us what or even where it was, there is enough in its written memorials to give us some notion of its appearance and splendor.... The colonnades of the Ephesian Diana really constituted an epoch in the history of Art, for in them was first matured that graceful Ionic style, the feminine beauty of which was more suited to the genius of the Asiatic Greek, than the sterner and plainer Doric, in which the Parthenon and Propylea of Athens were built. The scale on which the Temple was erected was magnificently extensive. It was 425 feet in length and 220 feet in breadth, and the columns were 60 feet high. The number of columns was 127, each of them the gift of a king; ... The folding doors were of cyprus wood; the part which was not open to the sky was roofed over with cedar; and the staircase was formed of the wood of one single vine from the island of Cyprus. The value and fame of the Temple were enhanced by its being the treasury where a large portion of the wealth of Western Asia was stored up. It is probable that there was no religious building in the world in which was concentrated a greater amount of admiration, enthusiasm, and superstition (465-466).

whom all Asia and the world worshippeth: Perhaps Demetrius exaggerates a bit in his claim that "all Asia and the world" worship Diana, but this embellishment is to emphasize the sweeping effect of the influence of Paul’s preaching.

Verse 28

And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath: This crowd has a twofold reason to be "full of wrath." Paul is not only a threat to their pocketbooks, of itself grievous enough; but to add insult to injury, he has also attacked their sacred cow, their religion (see notes on 16:19).

and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians: Just as the useless pleadings of the prophets of Baal went unheeded (1 Kings 18:26), so here again the ignorant cries of the worshipers of Diana fall in futility upon the deaf ears of an idol god.

Verse 29

And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.

And the whole city was filled with confusion: Because of the charges of Demetrius, a panic falls over the entire city of Ephesus. As James points out, "... how great a matter a little fire kindleth" (3:5)!

and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel: In the frenzy of these heathen to do something about the threat they now perceive, they catch two men they know are a part of THAT WAY (verse 23). Their intent appears clear: they intend to vent their fury upon these two.

The name "Gaius" is a common Latin name; it is not possible to determine with certainty the identity of this man. A fellow named Gaius is a traveling companion of Paul (20:4). Paul baptizes a Gaius with his own hands (1 Corinthians 1:14); and a Gaius is also named in Romans 16:23. John addresses the book of 3 John to a Gaius.

Aristarchus is a man of Thessalonica (20:4) and is shown to be another of Paul’s faithful companions (27:2; Colossians 4:10; Philemon 1:24).

they rushed with one accord into the theatre: The people in this mob are worked into such an irrational state because of this perceived threat to their way of living that they rush into the theatre to bring swift punishment to their captives."The theatre of Ephesus was, next to the Temple of Artemis, its chief glory. ...it is capable of holding twenty-five thousand people. It was constructed chiefly for gladiatorial combats with wild beasts and the like, but was also used for dramatic entertainments" (Plumptre 134). McGarvey says, "That theatre still remains with its marble seats intact, by far the best of the preserved ruins on the site of Ephesus" (Vol. II 164).

Verse 30

And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not.

Apparently, it is only in being unable to find Paul that the crowd catches his companions instead. Paul shows his readiness to make an attempt to rescue his friends, but the disciples see the futility of such an action. Paul could not have saved Gaius and Aristarchus, and he would have compounded the problem by putting his own life in jeopardy.

Verse 31

And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.

And certain of the chief of Asia: These men by name are known as the"Asiarchs."Coffman explains their office as:

The Asiarchs were men of the highest rank, being invariably chosen from among the wealthiest of the people. They were ten in number, representing the ten cities of Proconsular Asia; they presided over all sacred rites. One of the requirements of their office was that they should provide at their own expense the public games in honor of the gods and the deity of the emperor (374).

which were his friends: This great apostle is truly an amazing man. His influence not only touches the beggar by the wayside; but his fearless presence in preaching the gospel, his gentlemanly tact in persuading the lost, and his genuine love for souls gain for him respect from men in authority. Among Paul’s honorable friends are Sergius Paulus (13:7); Gallio (18:14-17); Festus (25:9-25); Agrippa (26:28-32); and Julius, the Roman centurion (27:3-43). This "chosen vessel" (9:15) of the Lord has friends in high places.

sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre: As is the case with the disciples, these prominent men show their solicitous concern for Paul by using their influence to constrain him from going into the theater. Paul later refers to his deliverance as being by the providence of God."We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life ... but God which raiseth the dead ... delivered us from so great a death" (2 Corinthians 1:8-10).

Verse 32

Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.

Most of this leaderless mob have not yet perceived the actual reason for their pandemonium. The crowd is divided as to the source of the problem with most ("the more part") totally unaware of what the turmoil is about. They are simply caught up in the frenzy of the mob’s behavior.

Verse 33

And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people.

And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward: This is all that we know with certainty about this particular Alexander. It is likely he is an influential, articulate man whom the Jews think can defend them before the crowd. The Jews do not want to be considered as supporters of Paul.

And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defense unto the people: Alexander attempts to quiet the crowd that he may make a defense for the Jews. It should be remembered the Jews are just as opposed to the worship of idols as are the Christians; but lest they also suffer the hostility of the crowd, it is their desire to lay the blame for this attack on Diana upon Paul and his followers.

Verse 34

But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

But when they knew that he was a Jew: This ploy of the Jews to dissociate themselves from the Christians does not work. As far as these heathen are concerned, Jews and Christians are all counted as the same, a threat to Diana.

all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians: The appearance of this "Jew" before the crowd has the effect of galvanizing them into a united action. Even those who "knew not wherefore they were come together" now realize who is the enemy. For the "space of two hours," these pagans cry out in frustration to their false goddess.

In the same spirit as the heathen of Ephesus, the devotees of Baal shouted themselves hoarse in repeatedly calling upon the name of Baal (1 Kings 18:26-29). We are not far removed from this pagan influence even today. We have those who find much religious piousness in the repetition of a certain number of religious expressions like, "hail Mary" or even the vain repeating of the name of Jesus!

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking (Matthew 6:7).

Verse 35

And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?

And when the townclerk had appeased the people: Vincent says the "townclerk" is the "recorder who had charge of the city-archives, and whose duty it was to draw up official decrees and present them to assemblies of the people. Next to the commander, he was the most important personage in the Greek free cities" (556). This man now takes over the leadership of this howling mob and in a matter of minutes has their silence and full attention.

he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana: We soon see the talent of this townclerk. It seems obvious this man of authority, like the Asiarchs, has a certain respect for Paul and his followers; but he also knows that he dare not come in open confrontation with this hostile mob. With the skill of a trained diplomat, he restores a certain peace and normalcy to this crowd with an appeal to their pride. The ruffled feathers of this pagan mob are soothed by the rhetorical question, who in the world does not know that Ephesus is the "temple-keeper" for the "great goddess Diana?"

The Greek word neokoros is here translated "worshipper, "but it is literally understood as "temple-keeper" or "temple sweeper" (Vine, Vol. IV 115). The word is rendered as such in the Revised Version and in the marginal reading of the King James Version.

and of the image which fell down from Jupiter: To lend further credence to his line of persuasion, the townclerk reminds them of the legend that held that the image of Diana fell from heaven, the abode of Jupiter.

Verse 36

Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.

Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against: The conclusion to the townclerk’s argument is as follows: everyone knows that Ephesus is the temple-keeper for Diana and the very image of this great goddess fell from heaven; therefore, who can successfully speak against her worship?

ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly: The logic follows that since these men can do nothing to rob Ephesus of her glory or take anything from the honor of Diana, they should proceed with caution lest this turmoil draw the attention of the Romans. The Romans do not have much patience with any form of insurrection from the civilian population; therefore, for the common welfare of all, it would be good not to arouse their ire.

Verse 37

For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.

This artful peacemaker reminds the crowd that "these men" (Paul and his followers) are not guilty of any crime. They have not plundered the temple of Diana nor have they spoken against (blasphemed) the goddess.

Verse 38

Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another.

Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man: The townclerk further reminds his audience that if these silver craftsmen have a charge against "any man," there are laws to accommodate their complaints.

the law is open: The phrase "the law is open" literally means "the courts are open" (Vincent 557).

and there are deputies: These deputies or proconsuls are governors appointed by the Romans to act as the representatives of the Roman government. The Greek word is "anthupatos, anti, instead of, and hupatos, supreme, ... one acting in the place of a consul ..." (Vine, Vol. III 217).

let them implead on another: Thayer defines "implead" as "to call to account, bring a charge against, accuse" (166-1-1458). The townclerk is telling Demetrius, "If you have a charge against Paul, take it to court!"

Verse 39

But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly.

The speaker now adds yet another consideration for his crowd. If there are more problems to be dealt with, they should be considered in a "lawful assembly." He makes it plain the assembly now in progress is an illegal assembly and, as such, punishable by Roman law.

Verse 40

For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse.

For we are in danger to be called in question for this uproar: Our skillful orator suggests to his crowd that are at this point all ears to his suggestions, "Do we want to have to explain this riot to the Romans?"

there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse: This crowd now sees it has been caught up in the fervor of mob behavior for which there is no legal justification. The townclerk uses the term "concourse, " which literally means "a twisting together." This term may refer to "anything which is rolled or twisted into a mass; and so of a mass of people, with an underlying idea of confusion, a mob" (Vincent 557).

Verse 41

And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.

Here is yet another stroke of genius by this townclerk who has proved to be the man of the hour. He summarily dismisses the assembly. We can imagine that by now they are more than ready to be dismissed! This courageous townclerk has single handedly defused this explosive mob into a submissive and obedient crowd ready to return peacefully to their homes. With tact and ability, this man first appeals to the pride of the mob (verse 35) and winds up with the threat that they are in "danger" of having to account for this illegal "uproar" before the Romans (verse 40).

The real credit, of course, lies in the providence of God. There are to be no martyrs in Ephesus at this time. God has other fields of endeavor for these disciples. Without speaking one word in their own defense, Paul, Gaius, and Aristarchus are all preserved that they may continue the good fight. "Marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well" (Psalms 139:14)!

Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Acts 19". "Contending for the Faith". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ctf/acts-19.html. 1993-2022.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile