Paul at Ephesus.
SUMMARY.--Twelve of John's Disciples Rebaptized.
Paul Teaches in the School of Tyrannus.
God's Presence with Paul in Power.
Sceva and His Sons.
The Books of Magic Burned.
Timothy and Erastus Sent into Macedonia.
The Tumult Raised by Demetrius and the Craftsmen.
The Wise Advice of the City Recorder.
1. Paul having passed through the upper coasts. The mountain
highlands of the interior of Asia Minor (see
Ephesus, on the coast, was near sea level.
Finding certain disciples. These disciples had only been
baptized with John's baptism
and had but an imperfect knowledge of Christ. Their case presents some
difficulties hard to explain, unless we had more of the facts. They had
evidently been baptized by some of John's disciples, possibly in Asia,
after the Great Commission was given, and were no doubt Jews. Some
think that they were baptized by Apollos before he was "instructed in
the way of the Lord more perfectly"
2. Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? This
question is asked in order to lead their way to a knowledge of their
imperfect obedience. For their reply, see the Revision.
They had heard of the Holy Spirit; John always spoke of Christ as one
who should bestow it,
but they had heard nothing of the scenes of Pentecost and the descent
of the Spirit. It must not be forgotten that they lived nearly a
thousand miles from Jerusalem, in an age when each part of the world
knew little of what transpired elsewhere.
3. Unto what then were ye baptized? This question implies that
the possession of the Holy Spirit is closely connected with a right
The only case in which the Spirit was received before baptism was that
of Cornelius. For the reasons of this exception to the rule, see notes
The fact that these disciples "know nothing of the Holy Spirit being
showed that there was something wrong about their baptism.
Unto John's baptism. While John's baptism differed from that
commanded in Christ's commission,
the apostles, the one hundred and twenty,
and the "five hundred brethren"
(1 Cor. 15:6),
as far as we know, received no other. We are to infer, therefore, that
it was valid until Christ's baptism took its place. Why, then, were
these disciples re-baptized? The only explanation is that their
baptism took place after John's baptism had been superseded by that of
Christ, or after the Savior had been crucified.
4. John verily baptized. His baptism was (1) of Repentance; (2)
of Faith in a coming Savior. Christian baptism is (1) of Repentance;
(2) of Faith in a Savior that has come, died, risen, and been exalted
to the heavens; (3) is into the name of the Father, and the Son, and
the Holy Spirit; (4) enjoys not only the promise of remission of sins,
but of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
5. When they heard this. Paul's explanation of the difference
between Christ's and John's baptism, to which we have only an allusion.
The example of these men shows that if a baptism is
imperfect, from an ignorance of Christ's will, it is not wrong to
correct the defect by a more perfect obedience.
6. When Paul had laid his hands on them. It seemed proper that
these men should enjoy, not only the ordinary influence of the Spirit,
but that some spiritual gifts should be imparted, such as were given by
the laying on of apostolic hands. Compare
8:17; Rom. 1:11.
Spake with tongues. Of this ancient gift we learn (1) it edified
only the speaker
(1 Cor. 14:4);
(2) to benefit others an interpreter was needed
(1 Cor. 14:5-27);
(3) God could understand
(1 Cor. 14:2).
This gift disappeared at an early date from the church.
7. The men were about twelve. Thus these men appear in this
episode and then disappear from our knowledge. They were now endowed
for usefulness, and perhaps did great service in the religious
revolution that soon transformed all that part of Asia.
8. He went into the synagogue. Once before he had spoken in it,
on his former missionary journey
Now for three months of the three years spent in Ephesus he occupies
the same pulpit. These three years were comparatively quiet, but among
the most successful of Paul's missionary career. About seventeen years
of busy toil had now passed since his conversion.
9. When divers were hardened. As soon as they began to raise
scenes of strife in the synagogue, he ceased to teach there. He removed
the disciples from the synagogue, forming a separate body, and taught
daily in the school of one Tyrannus. Either a place where
lectures were given on Greek philosophy, or, as some have supposed, a
rabbinical school. One Greek New Testament manuscript says he taught
"from the sixth to the tenth hour," specifying the hours that he had
the use of the building.
10. Continued for two years. That is, for two years he used this
building. His whole stay in Ephesus was three years
So that all they which dwelt in Asia. The Roman province of Asia
of which Ephesus was the capital. It embraced only a part of Asia
Minor. We know that Paul's preaching had a powerful effect (1) from the
results upon those who practiced magic;
(2) from the alarm of Demetrius
(3) from the statement of Pliny, about forty years later, in his
celebrated letter to Trajan, that Christianity had caused the temples
of the gods to be deserted.
11, 12. God wrought special miracles. If miracles are wrought, it
is always God's work, and he can work them as he wills. In this case,
in order to magnify the name of his preacher, he let his power go with
articles that were carried from Paul to the sick. The Lord, in his
wisdom, can make use of any instrument he chooses.
13-16. Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists. Our Lord
refers to these Jewish
Josephus (Antiq. 8:2, 5) declares that certain Jews claimed to expel
demons. He says that their knowledge of the art was derived from
Solomon. These, witnessing the wonderful power of the name of Christ,
thinking it a sort of incantation, took it upon themselves to use it
instead of their usual formula.
Seven sons of one Sceva. He is said to be "chief of the
priests." Some think he was a chief ruler of the synagogue, but it is
far more probable that he was a head of one of the twenty-four courses
of priests (these heads were called "chief priests")
who had been deposed for some cause and had wandered away from
15, 16. And the evil spirit answered. The evil spirit spoke and
acted by means of the man possessed. It is possible that in this
instance the spirit was overruled so as to magnify the gospel preached
by Paul. On this question of demoniacal possession, See notes on
17-20. This was known to all the Jews and Greeks. Ephesus was a
great seat of magical arts. This event would have a powerful effect on
those who dealt in charms, incantations, and magic, and of course would
exalt the name of Christ.
Many that believed came. They had not been freed before from
their old superstitions. If we are disposed to wonder at this, let us
remember that there are Christians still who wear charms, watch signs,
or go to fortune tellers.
Which used curious arts. Magical arts.
Brought their books together, and burned them. There was real
repentance, and they brought forth its fruits. These books,
alluded to by ancient writers, were manuscript volumes of charms,
incantations, recipes for love philtres, and other things of similar
They counted the price of them. If the "piece of silver" is the
Attic drachma or Roman denarius, as is probable (about sixteen cents),
the whole value would be about $8,000. These "books" had considerable
money value on account of their rarity.
So mightily grew the word of God. About this time the
apostle wrote from Ephesus in the First Epistle to the Corinthians:
"For a great and effectual door is opened unto me"
(1 Cor. 16:9).
21, 22. After these things were ended. What has just been
Paul purposed in the spirit. Had determined, after a journey
into Macedonia and Greece, to visit the churches planted in his former
tour, to return to Jerusalem, and then to
This was all carried out, but in a way that
at this time he did not foresee.
Sent into Macedonia. A band of missionaries always attended
him and were sent where there seemed to be need. See
1 Cor. 4:17; 16:10.
Erastus. Not before named, but mentioned also in
as "the chamberlain of Corinth."
23-34. No small stir about that way. Thus far his labors at Ephesus
had been without violent opposition. We now have given the account of
the events that led to his departure.
A certain man named Demetrius, . . . made silver
shrines. The temple of Diana at Ephesus was counted one of the
wonders of the world. It was at this time (this was the third temple
which had been built in succession) of white marble, 425 feet long
by 220 wide, with 127 columns, and of surpassing wealth and splendor.
It contained an image said to have fallen from heaven
It was visited by thousands of pilgrims, and a great industry grew up
in making miniature representations of the temple, of wood, gold, or
silver. This was the work of Demetrius and his fellow-workers. After
paganism fell, much of the material of this temple was transported to
Constantinople, and was used in the construction of the church of St.
Sirs. Observe the argument of Demetrius: (1) By this
craft we have our wealth;
(2) Paul teaches that these are not gods that are made with hands;
(3) therefore our craft is in danger;
(4) the great goddess Diana is despised;
(5) great is Diana of the Ephesians!
The prime incentive of his religious zeal is that his craft is in
danger. Many are like him still.
The whole city was filled with confusion. Nothing would more
quickly arouse a mob than the belief that both their business and
religion were assailed.
Having caught Gaius. A Macedonian.
Aristarchus. Of Thessalonica.
They rushed with one accord into the theatre. The remains of the
theatre are still to be seen. It was of vast extent, and would seat, as
its remains show, from 20,000 to 30,000 persons. It was the custom to
the theatre, not only for amusements, but for public assemblies.
The disciples suffered him not. Paul's intrepidity and zeal
would have led him to appear in person to reply to the charges, but the
Ephesian disciples thought that he would be sacrificed to the rage of
The chief of Asia. The chief officials of the province. These
men, called Asiarchs, were ten in number, and were chosen annually from
the chief towns of the province called Asia to preside over games and
festivals. The president of their body always lived in Ephesus. These
men were his
friends. Possibly in sympathy with the gospel. We have many
instances in the life of Paul in which the great Roman officials treat
him with not only respect, but sympathy.
They drew Alexander out of the multitude. A Jew, evidently
of great prominence, and put forward by the Jews, in order to disavow
Paul, and to turn the tumult to their advantage. They wished to shift
all blame on the Christians. The Gentile aversion to Jews was, however,
too great to allow him a hearing.
35-40. And when the townclerk had appeased the people. Stopped
their foolish outcry so that he could be heard. This town clerk, or
recorder, was an officer of great influence in the Grecian cities of
Asia. He stood next in rank to the officer that we now call the mayor,
and in the absence of the latter acted for him. His address was a very
The image which fell down from Jupiter. It was a common
superstition that some hideous image worshiped in a heathen temple had
fallen from heaven. Some of them were meteoric stones, of others the
origin was unknown, and the delusion was in part due to the deception
of the priests. The Palladium of Troy, the Diana of Tauris, and the
Pallas of Athena were all said to have fallen.
37. These men. Gaius and Aristarchus (see
men against whom there was no charge. They were neither
robbers of temples (see the Revision) nor
blasphemers of Diana.
If Demetrius. If they have anything to charge there are courts
We are in danger. The Roman law made it a capital offence to
incite a riot, nor did the Roman officials wink at any disturbance in
the provinces. Ephesus was what was called "a free city;" that is, it
governed itself in local matters. It might have its liberties taken
away for just such occurrences as those of this day.