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Bible Commentaries
Acts 19

The Bible Study New TestamentBible Study NT

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Verse 1


Paul traveled through the Interior of the province. He took the less traveled but shorter mountainous route. Ephesus was on the coast, near sea level. There he found some disciples. These disciples BELIEVED in Christ as the Messiah, yet did not have a complete knowledge of him, and they had not received “Christian baptism” (Acts 19:3). We do not have enough facts to get the whole picture of their exact situation. They had been baptized with John’s baptism – after the Great Commission had been given, and were likely Jews. Some connect them with Apollos (Acts 18:25), and think he had baptized them with John’s baptism.

Verse 2


Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Paul’s question must refer to the special gifts, since a believer would be expected to have the Spirit living (indwelling) in him (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Their answer shows a defect in their basic relationship to Christ, We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. John the Baptist taught that the Spirit would be given. Their answer must mean: “We do not know the role of the Holy Spirit in this. “ They seemed to know nothing about Pentecost and all that happened there. They live nearly a thousand miles from Jerusalem, without means of rapid communication.

Verse 3


What kind of baptism did you receive? Their ignorance immediately causes Paul to question their basic obedience in baptism. Note he does not question their faith. This implies that receiving the Spirit as a gift (indwelling) is to be associated with “Christian baptism.” Compare Acts 2:38; Acts 5:32; Titus 3:5, Their ignorance of the role of the Holy Spirit being given – showed something wrong with the baptism they had received. The baptism of John. The baptism of John the Baptist was for a different purpose, and did not confer the rights and privileges which Christian baptism does.

John's Baptism

Christian Baptism


the saved (fleshly Israel).


the unsaved.




faith in Christ, repentance, confession.


to demonstrate repentance, renewal only – no change in state.


a change in state – a whole new relationship to God. new birth (regeneration).


water only, by the authority of God, but in/into no Name.


water & Spirit [John 3:5; Titus 3:5]. by the authority of God. IN the name of Jesus Christ. INTO the Three Names of God. INTO the death of, Jesus [Romans 6:3-4]. INTO many precious promises.


spiritual re-activation of one who was already God's child and already in the kingdom by a natural birth.


forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit as a gift [Acts 2:38; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20]; transfer into the Kingdom/church [Colossians 1:13]; transformed into God's friend.


The baptism of John was for those who turned from their sins. John’s baptism was a sign of repentance – in water only. Christian baptism is so that your sins will be forgiven and to receive God’s gift, the Holy Spirit. It is a new birth of “water and the Spirit.” Also, the baptism of John the Baptist pointed people forward to Jesus and prepared them to accept him.

Verse 5


When they heard this. Paul explained the difference between John’s baptism and Christian baptism. They immediately were baptized into the union with Christ (Galatians 3:27). This example shows it is not wrong to correct a defect in obedience, upon learning the will of Christ.

Verse 6


Paul placed his hands on them. The special gifts the Spirit gives were only transmitted in this way [through an apostle, or with an apostle present]. Paul lays his hands on them (compare Acts 8:17; Romans 1:11.) They spoke in strange tongues. Languages sound strange to one who does not understand them. This gift: (1) God understood (1 Corinthians 14:2); (2) helped only the speaker (1 Corinthians 14:4); (3) had to be explained to benefit others (1 Corinthians 14:5-27). All Christians have the Spirit living in them (Romans 8:9); but not all Christians received the special gifts the Spirit gives (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

Verse 7


They were about twelve men in all. These men appear here and nowhere else. Perhaps this type of thing happened many times, but God included this one to show the contrast between John’s baptism and Christian baptism. John’s baptism expired at the Cross.

Verse 8


Paul went into the synagogue. This is the one he spoke in before (Acts 18:19-20).

Verse 9


But some of them were stubborn. Those who refused to believe severely opposed the Good News of Christ. So Paul left, taking all the believers with him, and began using the lecture hall of Tyrannus as a base of operations. This is very much like the case of Titus Justus (Acts 18:7).

Verse 10


This went on for two years. He used this lecture hall for two years. His total time in Ephesus was three years (Acts 20:31). So that all the people. Paul’s preaching had strong influence in the province of Asia. We know this from: (1) the effect on those who practiced magic; (2) from what Demetrius says (Acts 19:24-27); (3) about forty years later, Pliny wrote in a letter to Trajan that Christianity had caused the temples of the gods to be deserted.


God was performing unusual miracles. Miracles are always God’s doing. To show Paul spoke by his authority, God let his power go with things carried from Paul to the sick. The people could see that the charms and amulets which they had trusted, did not have the power which handkerchiefs and aprons from Paul had.

Verses 13-16


Some Jews. These were “professional exorcists” who made their living by driving out evil spirits. Justin Martyr says that most of these Jewish exorcists had adopted the same superstitions and magic-aids as the heathen. Also tried to use the name. They thought the name of “Jesus Christ” was an incantation to drive out evil spirits. There were seven sons. Sceva may have been a chief priest at Jerusalem, who had been deposed. “High Priest” may only mean he was from a high-priestly family (compare Acts 4:6). But the evil spirit said to them. The spirit spoke and acted through the man he possessed. God may have directed this to show Paul’s authority. [On demon possession, see note on Matthew 4:24.] Attacked them with such violence. This would show that they had no power at all over the evil spirit.

Verses 17-20


All the Jews and Gentiles. Ephesus was a center of magic and the black arts. This happening would have a strong effect on those who sold magic charms, etc., and would honor the Christ whom Paul preached. Many of the believers came. Many had believed in Christ, but secretly continued to hold on to their belief and practice of magic. There are Christians today who wear charms, go by signs, and go to fortune-tellers. Brought their books together. Books of charms, incantations, etc., which claimed to make it possible to force spirits to work for a person, gain health, wealth and fame. They showed their repentance by their action. Fifty thousand dollars. This itself would be a strong argument in the minds of the people. In this powerful way. About this time Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “There is a real opportunity here for great and worthwhile work” (1 Corinthians 16:9).

Verses 21-22


After these things had happened. The things just mentioned. He is now ready to move on to other places. He sends Timothy and Erastus on ahead to Macedonia. Compare 1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 16:10-11. Erastus is mentioned in Romans 16:23 as the “city treasurer” of Corinth [although it might not be the same man], and in 2 Timothy 4:20.

Verses 23-34


That there was serious trouble. Things had been peaceful up to now. Notice trouble starts from a Gentile source. Made silver models of the temple. The temple of Artemis [Diana] was one of the wonders of the world. The third temple then stood, built of white marble, 425 feet long by 220 feet wide, with 127 columns. In it was a “sacred stone that fell down from heaven,” probably a meteorite, which may have been carved into an image of Artemis. Thousands came to this temple, and brought these silver models which were small enough to wear as a “charm” on a bracelet. Demetrius and the others were making themselves rich by selling these. You can see and hear. As Paul led people to Christ, they quit buying the silver models. The religious zeal of Demetrius was based on greed. Johnson says that when paganism fell, much of the material of this temple was taken to Constantinople and used in building the church of St. Sophia. The uproar spread. Nothing would stir up a mob more quickly than to believe both their business and their religion were in danger. And rushed with them to the theater. This was a large amphitheater, which would seat 20,000 to 30,000 people. It was used for public meetings. Paul himself wanted to go. He wanted to speak to the mob and answer the charges, but the believers were afraid the frenzied mob would kill him. Some of the provincial authorities. Ten of these “Asiarchs” were chosen each year to take charge of the games and festivals. Their president always lived in Ephesus. We see many times in the life of Paul when the Roman officials treat him not only with respect, but empathy. Most of them did not even know. It was a “blind mob,” caught up in the passion of the moment. That Alexander was responsible. One of the Jewish leaders, who intended to speak to the mob and put all the blame on the Christians. But this “backfires,” and the mob places the guilt on he and the other Jews. They will not allow him to speak, and they shout for two hours!

Verses 35-40


At last the city clerk. He ranked next to the mayor, and was sometimes “acting mayor.” He is able to calm them and reason with them. Of the sacred atone. Meteorites were believed to be supernatural, and heathen priests often built religions around them. This one may have been carved into an image of Artemis. Other such sacred stones from heaven were: the Palladium of Troy; the Diana of Tauris; and the Pallas of Athens. You have brought these men. Gaius and Aristarchus (Acts 19:29). They had neither robbed temples nor said evil things about the goddess. If Demetrius. He must respect the “due process of law.” For there is the danger. Roman authorities were severe to those who started riots (see Mark 15:7). Ephesus was a “free city,” with its own government, but could loose this freedom for just such things as this riot.

Bibliographical Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Acts 19". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ice/acts-19.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.
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