Thursday, January 03, 2008

Acts 18:24-19:10

Before beginning the story of Paul's third missionary journey, Luke introduces another character to us: Apollos. Apollos was a Jewish convert from Alexandria. He had been taught about Jesus, and now his passion compelled him to share what he knew. This eventually led him to Ephesus. He was apparently a great communicator, but he lacked one thing: thought he "taught accurately the things concerning Jesus...he knew only the baptism of John" (Acts 18:25). Priscilla and Aquila heard him speak, and sat down with him to explain things more accurately. His desire was to go to Corinth to share there. Apparently a new church was emerging in Ephesus, because the men of the church decided to write a letter of reference to the Corinthian church on Apollos' behalf. Luke says that when Apollos arrived in Corinth, "he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus" (Acts 18:28).

Paul arrived in Ephesus soon after Apollos left for Corinth. Ephesus was the third largest city in the Roman Empire, after Rome and Alexandria. During Paul's day, the population probably numbered around 250,000. The city's most famous landmark was the temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

When Paul entered Ephesus, he met "some disciples" (Acts 19:1). It is unclear who these people were. It is possible that they had been disciples of John, or at least followed the teaching of John, but this does not imply that they were Christians. Paul asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit, and their reply was that they didn't know what the Holy Spirit was (Acts 19:2). They had received John's baptism, which dealt with repentance. It seems that they did not know that John's ministry was to point to Jesus as the Messiah. They were eager, though, and when Paul told them about Jesus, their desire was to be baptized into this new way of life. The Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to prophesy and speak in tongues. Luke points out that there were twelve men.

From there Paul went into the synagogue, most likely with these twelve men following him. For three months he had an audience there, and he "spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God" (Acts 19:8). Some of the Jews refused to believe, though, and began stirring up trouble. Paul took the disciples and went to the hall of Tyranus, where he spoke of Jesus every day from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The hall of Tyranus was a public meeting hall, and thus had to be rented. Paul therefore must have had a few wealthy converts in this young church. Paul lectured there every day for two years, and the end result, according to Luke, was that "all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:10).

No comments: