I was thinking about it, there’s not hardly one chapter in the book of Acts that is not significant, full of momentous verses and truth. But perhaps Acts 19 is one of the chapters that is most like that. The audio recording of our Acts 19 live class can be heard here.
One of the first things we talked about was Acts 19:2. When the apostles first came to Ephesus, the main city of this chapter, they said to some they had met, “Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed?” And we stayed on that subject for a while because it strongly seems to indicate that the experience of being born again (the experience of salvation) and the experience of receiving or being filled with the Holy Ghost are not necessarily the same things and can be two different experiences.
If you are really new to the Lord or maybe don’t even know if you believe in God, this could sound like something that is over your head or not even interesting. But for those who are at least a bit further along, what exactly the Holy Spirit is, which Jesus spoke so much about, is really a major thing.
So when they asked the ones in Ephesus if they had received the Holy Ghost, their reply was, “We’ve not even heard that there is a Holy Ghost!” So then the apostles asked them, “Unto what were you baptized?” And they said, “Unto John’s baptism.” (Acts 19:2&3)
To me this is fascinating stuff. It shows how fast and how far Christianity and the knowledge of Jesus had been spreading, much further and faster than the apostles themselves were moving. But in this very rapid spread, it was a somewhat hazy and incomplete gospel. The truth of the resurrection of Jesus and the name and power of Jesus were spreading like wildfire. But the full message, understanding and teaching of it all was not really there until the apostles of the Lord began to catch up with the wave that was spreading so fast.
Each city seemed to have different characteristics. This chapter deals with the witness at Ephesus and it could easily be said that this group of people and this place seemed to be one of the most spiritual that Paul ministered to. The book of Ephesians is filled with references to the spiritual world and our lives within it. Like Ephesians 6:12, for example: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
We talked in the class about a little of early church history and how that one of the earliest offshoots of Christianity, which was deemed a sect at that time, sprung up in the area of Ephesus around 115 AD. The Montanists were a group of people with beliefs and customs that many see as being similar to the modern Charismatic movement, with an emphasis on spiritual gifts and prophecy. But at the time they evidently broke away from what was becoming the main body of believers, even though in later times other movements seemed to try to bring back the earliest days of the Church where the manifestations of the Holy Spirit were more a part of life of the lives of the believers.
This chapter has a number of somewhat “out there” verses in it. Later in the chapter there is the part where some “exorcists”, people who attempted to cast out evil spirits but were not saved Christians, attempted to try to do the same thing Paul did, but without the power and protection of God. It says in Acts 19 “The man in whom the evil spirit dwelt leapt on them and said, ‘Jesus I know and Paul I know but who are you?’”. (Acts 19:15) This is all so deep, a whole class or more could be made on just those verses. And again it’s a subject that hardly any modern church will even touch. But it’s in the Bible.
A reading of Acts 19, along with a study of the book of Ephesians, can be a really deep study and give you a perspective on how different were the places that Paul visited in his journeys. I hope you’ll be able to listen to the live class on Acts 19; it can be heard here.