Acts 19


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,”

Country for coasts, Authorized Version; found for finding, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus. The upper country (τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρηta anoterika merae

upper parts); the inland districts of Galatia and Phrygia, through which Paul journeyed

on his way to Ephesus, as distinguished from the seacoast on which Ephesus stood.

Disciples. They were like Apollos, believers in the Lord Jesus through the preaching

of John the Baptist. It looks as if they were companions of Apollos, and had come

with him from Alexandria, perhaps for some purpose of trade or commerce.


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.”  And he said for he said, Authorized Version and Textus

Receptus; did ye receive for have ye received, Authorized Version; when for since,

Authorized Version; nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was

given for we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost,

Authorized Version.  Did ye receive, etc.? The Revised Version gives the sense

much more accurately than the Authorized Version, which is, "Did ye receive the

Holy Ghost at the time of your baptism, when ye first believed?" Something led

the apostle to suspect that they had not received the seal of the Spirit (compare

Ephesians 1:13, πιστεύσαντες ἐσφραγίσθητε pisteusantes esphragisthaete

believing ye are sealed), and so he asked the question. The answer, Nay, we did,

not so much as hear whether the Holy Ghost was given, as in the Revised Version,

is justified by John 7:39, where the exactly similar phrase, Οὔπω ῆν Πνεῦμα Ἅγιον

Oupo aen Pneuma Hagion is rendered in the Authorized Version, "The Holy Spirit

was not yet given." "Esse pro adesse" (Bengel). The sense given in the Authorized

Version. does not seem probable. The answer means, "Not only have we not

received the Holy Spirit, but we had not even heard that the dispensation of

the Spirit was Come."



Progression in Divine Revelation (v. 2)


“We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.” This is

evidently the simple answer of men who knew nothing whatever about the

matter concerning which they were asked. They were sincerely religious

men; they are called “disciples,” and yet — though the thing seems almost

incredible to us — they had heard nothing about the Holy Ghost. Much is

explained by a careful observation of the facts connected with the early

preaching of the gospel at Ephesus. Give some account of the attractive

eloquence, but limited knowledge, of Apollos. It was an advance upon

Judaism to accept John the Baptist as a prophet, but it seems that Apollos

knew only of John’s demand of repentance, and had not heard of his direct

witness to Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Apollos could only teach as

much as he knew, and when Paul reached Ephesus, he was troubled to

find the condition of the disciples. “He noticed a lack of spiritual gifts;

perhaps, also, a want of the peace and joy and brightness that showed itself

in others. They presented the features of a rigorous asceticism, like that of

the Therapeutae (of Alexandria) — the outward signs of repentance and

mortification, but something was manifestly lacking for their spiritual

completeness.” In his anxiety to find out what was wrong, the apostle

asked this searching question, “Did ye receive the Holy Ghost when ye

believed?” They did not; they knew nothing about the Holy Ghost. So

Paul lifts them on stage after stage. First to the apprehension of Christ, the

Messiah and Savior, to whom John gave witness, and then to the

experience of the coming and the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, as the seal

of the believer. And in this we are plainly taught that there is a progression

in Christian truth — that it is unfolded to us in parts and stages. And we

may even cherish the inspiring assurance that “the Lord hath yet more light

and truth to break forth from His Word.” A sentiment is allowed to prevail

that “revelation must always be perfect and complete.” It is always perfect

in its fitness to its times and to its purpose, but any particular revelation is

only a piece and a part of the truth, and it is imperfect when it is treated as

separate from the whole of which it is a part.


1. There is historical progression in Divine revelation. Broad principles,

covering the general relations of God with men, were given to the early

world. Each passing age was helped to fill in some part of the outline.

There was a fullness of times for the manifestation of Messiah, and, step by

step, truth had advanced to meet the revelation which He brought.


2. There is progression in our apprehension of the Christian truth. No man

can grasp it all at once. It comes to us all bit by bit, step by step. Some of

the more advanced Christian truths cannot possibly be grasped until certain

other and preparatory ones are well learned; and some even of these

preparatory truths cannot be really grasped until we have passed through

the sanctified experiences of middle life. Take, for instance, the Fatherhood

of God. A man must experimentally learn the mystery of the human

fatherhood before he can really receive the full revelation of the Divine

Fatherhood. As a son he may know how he feels towards the Father, but

until he is a father he cannot know how the great Father feels towards him.

In the matter of our salvation the Divine order of progress seems to be:


  1. John and repentance;
  2. Jesus and faith;
  3. the Spirit and holiness.




MADE. It comes last. It comes after and through the objective Christ. It is

the inward witness to Him who lived, labored, died, and rose, “God

manifest in the flesh.” (I Timothy 3:16)  The spiritual operations of God in

men’s minds and hearts may be traced in Old Testament times. All spiritual

life always is by the energy of God’s Spirit. And the specialty of the working

of the Holy Ghost in the new kingdom is not that He is some new Spirit, but

that His agencies of motive, persuasion, and instruction are all taken from the

manifested life of the Son of God. He “takes of the things of Christ, and

reveals them unto us.” Our Lord said of him, “He shall receive of mine, and

shall show it unto you.”  (John 16:14)





attaining the best that can be attained. We are not at the highest when we

accept of the truth of Christ for us; that is but a low first step of spiritual

apprehension. We have but taken a little step up when we apprehend the

truth of Christ with us. We only gain the wonderful experiences, and reach

the highest Christian power, when we know of CHRIST IN US!   All growth

in the Christian life is response to the life of the Spirit in our souls. Growth


Ø      in knowledge;

Ø      in graces;

Ø      and in the mastery of the soul over the body.


His presences and His working in us are the spring of all our impulses to

whatsoever is good and wise and true.




most jealous of the doctrine and the personal experience of the indwelling

of the Holy Ghost. The Christian sin that is of unspeakable sadness is

quenching or grieving the Spirit. The sin that hath never forgiveness is sin

against the Holy Ghost.  (Matthew 121:31-32; Mark 3:28-29)  The prayer

that utters forth to God a soul’s innermost agony is this: “Take not thy

Holy Spirit from me.”  (Psalm 51:11)The highest truths are always likely

to fade first. In the individual experience, and in the Church doctrine,

the truth of the Spirit will fade from its place and power long before

any dimness seems to pass over the figure of the manifested human Christ.

Trees mostly die from the top downward. And the first effect of wearing

and weathering is to rub off those delicate touches and tints, which are

the highest efforts of the artist, and give the supreme charm to his work.

Impress that we may be, like these Ephesians, behind the revelation that

has been made for us, or indifferent to it. Then we may pity

them, but we must blame ourselves. And we must humble ourselves, and

repent, if, knowing of this gentle, awful, gracious, comforting Holy Ghost,

we are found neglecting His Divine inner-workings. He is the last and highest

revelation of God to men; then let us not “grieve the Holy Spirit of God,

whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption.”  (Ephesians 4:30)


3 “And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said,

Unto John's baptism”  He said for he said unto them, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus; into for unto (twice), Authorized Version. Into what then were

ye baptized? 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 Ghost if you were duly

baptized?" (compare ch. 2:38) The answer explains it, "We were baptized with

John's baptism, to which no promise of the gift of the Holy Ghost was attached."


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.”  And Paul said for then said Paul,

Authorized Version; John for John verily, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus;

Jesus for Christ Jesus, Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.  The baptism

of repentance. See Luke 3:3, etc., and for the difference between John's baptism

and that of Christ, Luke 3:16. Him which should some after him (Luke 3:16;

John 3:28; Mark 1:7).


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

And when for when, Authorized Version; into for in, Authorized Version. Into the

Name of the Lord Jesus (see ch.  8:16). So too ch. 10:48 of Cornelius and his

company, "He commanded them to be baptized in the Name (ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι

en to onomatiin the name) of Jesus Christ" (Revised Version). The formula

of baptism, as commanded by the Lord Jesus Himself, was, "In [or, 'into'] the

Name (εἰς τὸ ὄνοµα eis to onomainto the name ) of the Father, and of the Son,

and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:20). But the candidate always first made

a profession of his faith in Jesus Christ, as in the Authorized Version of ch. 8:37;

and the effect of baptism was an incorporation into Christ so as to partake of His

death unto sin and His life unto righteousness. It was, therefore, a true and

compendious (in a comprehensive but concise way) description of baptism,

to speak of it as a baptism in (or into) the Name of Jesus Christ. (See the

Baptismal Service in the Book of Common Prayer.) There does not seem

to be any difference of meaning between ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι and εἰς τὸ ὄνομα.


6 “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came

on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”

Had laid his hands, etc. (see ch. 8:17 and note). We have here a distinct

mark of Paul's true apostleship (see ibid. vs. 17-18). For the manifestation of

the Spirit, see ch. 10:45-46.


7 “And all the men were about twelve.”  They were in all about twelve men

for all the men were about twelve, Authorized Version.




Essential but Insufficient; Valuable but Temporary (vs. 1-7)


We have here, in connection with the Christian faith and with Christian work:



Ephesus Paul met with disciples who had been baptized “unto John’s

baptism” (v. 3), but who had not learned to exercise faith in Jesus Christ,

nor even heard that there was a Holy Ghost (v. 2). These men were well

on the way to salvation by Jesus Christ, but they were far from the goal.

Repentance is essential, but it is not sufficient of itself.


Ø      It is essential; for without it the heart remains estranged from God, the

soul unturned from self and sin, the life unrelieved of that which is false

and wrong; and without it there is no sense of that spiritual need which

welcomes a Divine Savior with humility and trust, which rejoices in a

Divine Lord to whom full submission may be made. The Christian preacher

who does not enforce repentance is fatally lacking in his duty; the Christian

disciple who has not experienced it is fatally short of fulfilling the condition

of acceptance with God.


Ø      It is not sufficient; for:


o        it leaves the soul without any pledge of Divine forgiveness;

o        it leaves the heart without that personal union with a Divine Redeemer

in which consists the very essence of spiritual and eternal life;

o        it leaves the spirit of man without the abiding indwelling and

quickening influence of the Spirit of God. Therefore let the

Christian teacher make much of the distinctive doctrine of the

faith he preaches, and continually testify not only “repentance

towards God,” but “faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (ch. 20:21).



had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they

spake with tongues,” etc. It was desirable, then, that the presence and

power of the Divine Spirit should be manifested by “signs and wonders.” It

was, at that stage of the progress of the gospel, a very valuable

contribution to its triumph; it gave assurance to those on whom He came,

and evidence to those who “were without.” Experience soon proved (e.g.

the Corinthian Church) that this order of evidence and influence was open

to abuse, and that it was not of the kind that could be permanent in the



Ø      We can plainly see that in these days it would be practically useless: it

would be, to ordinary observers, indistinguishable from the jugglery and

affectations of the impostor.


Ø      God has given us that which is better, with which we may well be

content, and for the perfection of which we should strive and pray. He

gives us, as the consequence of our faith and as the response to our

believing prayer, quickening influences in the soul; a Divine action upon

and within the spirit, of the actual working of which we are not usually

conscious at the moment of operation, but the effects of which are obvious

to ourselves and to others. They are these:


o        an assurance of sonship (Romans 8:16);

o        a desire to bear witness unto Christ, so that without any gift of tongues

we shall overcome all obstacles, and speak of Him and for Him;

o        a holy heart and a beautiful life (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 5:9).




       Paul and John the Baptist’s Disciples (vs. 1-7)


  • LESSONS FROM PAUL IN THIS RELATION. His care for souls is

comprehensive, zealous, and wise.


Ø      “Have ye received the Holy Ghost?” Is your religion genuine? Is it

profound? Is it a living consciousness of God within the soul? Or a

dependence on forms, on creeds, on ideas merely? How many trained and

taught as Christians must answer, “We know not yet the Holy Spirit”! the

new birth, the love, “the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father”!

(Romans 8:15)


Ø      “In whom were ye then baptized?” A question also for us. What means

the name “Christian” that you bear? Is the devil and all his works daily

renounced? Baptism reminds us of:


o        God the Father, and of childhood to Him;

o        God the Son, and of redemption through His blood;

o        God the Holy Spirit, and of the temple we ought spiritually to be.


Let us ask ourselves the questions Paul asked of the disciples of the Baptist.




Ø      They are typical, as we have seen, of many among us; and those who

resemble them among us should be treated in like manner. There are those

who stand upon a lower step of faith. They know that the gospel requires

them to give up sin; perhaps not yet that it calls them to the perfect trust

and the love that casts out fear. They confess themselves ignorant if

questioned of this “higher life.”


Ø      The testing question. A living faith, a life in conformity with the

baptismal profession, a sanctified speech and life, give the only satisfactory



Ø      The unity of all disciples under one Master. “One is your Master, and all

ye are brethren”  (Matthew 23:8)  Human teachers impart their words,

Christ His Spirit. Human teachers lay the foundation, give the elements;

He leads on to perfection, guides to the goal. Many are the schools of

philosophy, one is the Church of Jesus Christ.





       Baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and Its Sequel

       (vs. 2-7)



















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.”

Entered for went, Authorized Version; reasoning for disputing, Authorized Version.

(διαλεγόμενοςdialegomenosarguing; disputing, as v. 9 and ch.17:2, 17; 18:4,19,

etc.); as to the things for the things, Authorized Version. This last is a needless change,

since πείθειν peitheinpersuading - properly governs an accusative of the things

persuaded or taught, and it is a right English use of "to persuade" to apply it to the

thing inculcated. For the use of the phrase "the kingdom of God" as a compendious

description of Christian doctrine, see ch.1:3;  8:12; 20:25; 28:23. Luke uses the

phrase very frequently (Luke 6:20; 8:10; 9:27, 60, 62; 10:11; 11:20;  13:20, 28;

16:16; 17:20; 21:31, etc.).


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.”  Some for divers, Authorized

Version; disobedient for believed not, Authorized Version; (ἡπείθουνaepeithoun

believed not; were stubborn; were unpersuaded -  as ch.14:2; 17:5, Textus Receptus);

speaking for but spake, Authorized Version; the Way for that way, Authorized

Version; reasoning for disputing, Authorized Version; Tyrannus for one Tyrannus,

Authorized Version. Were hardened; or, hardened themselves. Whether considered

as active or middle, the hardening their minds against the reception of the truth

was just as voluntary an action as that of one who shuts his eyes that he may

not see the light. For the use of ἐσκληρύνοντο esklaerunontowere hardened

(Hebrew הִקְשָׁה, applied to the heart or the neck), see Romans 9:18; Hebrews 3:8,15;

4:7 - passages all founded upon the Septuagint of Psalm 94:8. See also Exodus 7:22;

8:19; and Eccliesiasticus. 30:11, where, as here, disobedience is the consequence

of BEING HARDENED.   Μήποτε σκληρυνθεὶς ἀπειθήσῃ σοιMaepote

sklaeruntheis apeithaesae soi -  Lest being hardened he disobey thee. The

Authorized Version, by leaving out "were" before "disobedient," and translating

as if "hardened" and "disobedient" were two adjectives, destroys this consequence.

Speaking evil of; κακολογοῦντες kakologountesspeaking evil of (see Matthew

15:4; Mark 9:39), frequent in the Septuagint as the rendering of קִלֵּל (Exodus 21:17;

I Samuel 3:13), which is otherwise rendered by κακῶς εἴπειν kakos eipein -  

curses as in Leviticus 20:9. It is nearly synonymous with βλασφημαῖνblasphaemain

blasphemes . The Way (as v. 23; see ch. 9:2, note). They would speak evil of the

gospel by describing it as a blasphemy against God and against Moses, as contrary

to the Law, as subversive of all the customs and traditions of the Jews, and so on.

He departed. ἈποστάςApostasWithdrawing is more than simply "departing;"

it implies a withdrawal and separation front fellowship with them, as in I Timothy  

6:5 (Authorized Version).  "From such withdraw thyself;" Ecclesiastes 7:2,

"Depart from the unjust" (compare Luke 13:27). Separated the disciples. Hitherto

the converted Jews at Ephesus had continued to join their unconverted brethren

in the worship of the synagogue; now Paul withdrew them and separated them

(ἀφώρισεν aphorisenhe severs, Galatians 2:12). The school of Tyrannus;

σχολή - scholae - school, leisure; then, "the employment of leisure," as especially

in philosophic discussions and the like; thirdly, the "place" were such discussions

were held, a school. It is uncertain whether Tyrannus was a Gentile well known

at the time (without the τινός tinosone; certain; any), who kept a lecture room

for philosophic discussions or lectures on rhetoric, or whether he was a Jew who

held a private school or meeting in his house - a beth-midrash - as was not

uncommon in large towns where many Jews were (Light foot, vol. 3. p. 236).

"Beth-midrash - The Jewish divinity school, where their doctors disputed of the

more high and difficult matters of the Law" (Index to Lightfoot's Works). It was

commonly the upper room in the house of a rabbi (Lightfoot, on Acts 2:13,

vol. 8:363), whence "house of rabbis "was synonymous with beth-midrash,

house of discussion. The name Tyrannus occurs in II Maccabees 4:40;

Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 16. 10:4; 'Bell Jud.,' 1. 26:6, of an officer in Herod's

bodyguard, who might be a Jew or a Greek; and a certain Tyrannus is

described by Suidas as a sophist and an author, possibly the same as is here

spoken - Lightfoot, Meyer, Alford, and others think that the Tyrannus here

spoken of was a Jew; Lange, Olshausen, Howson, Farrar, Lewin, etc.,

think he was a Greek philosopher or rhetorician. Some think that

"the school of Tyrannus" was the name of the lecture-room from some

former teacher (see Renan. p. 345).




The First Christian Congregation (v. 9)


Paul had before this taken a room near the synagogue at Corinth, but it

seems that this case at Ephesus represents the first distinct effort to form a

Christian congregation, with its own order and officers, as separate from

the synagogue. Now Paul casts himself free of Judaism; the time had

come for separation, and for arranging a distinctly Christian organization.

The school of Tyrannus was a public hall for lecturing and discussion.

Canon Farrar says, “There must have been many an anxious hour, many a

bitter struggle, many an exciting debate, before the Jews finally adopted a

tone, not only of decided rejection, but even of so fierce an opposition, that

Paul was forced once more, as at Corinth, openly to secede from their

communion. We do not sufficiently estimate the pain which such

circumstances must have caused to him. His life was so beset with trials,

that each trial, however heavy in itself, is passed over amid a multitude that

were still more grievous. But we must remember that Paul, though a

Christian, still regarded himself as a true Israelite, and he must have felt, at

least as severely as a Luther or a Whitefield, this involuntary alienation

from the religious communion of his childhood.” We do but suggest three

lines of thought; the treatment of them will depend upon the standpoint of

the preacher.



Several distinct conceptions of Christ’s Church on earth are found

established among Christian people. Show how the idea of separation

stands related to each; and how the Church, as a whole, ought to stand to

any separated members.



CHRISTIANS. Show that as fellowship depends on common Christian life

and interests, we may reasonably expect it to triumph over differences in

modes of worship, places of worship, and even over diversities of opinion.



MINISTERS TO SECTIONS. Especially point out the peril of overestimating

the point of division, and setting it in undue prominence in

public teaching. A minister may preach sectional opinion rather than the

whole counsel of God.”


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.

For for by, Authorized Version; Lord for Lord Jesus, Authorized Version and

Textus Receptus. Two years (see ch. 20:31, note). Both Jews and Greeks.

This mention of Jews is rather in favor of Tyrannus being a Jew; but not decisive.




The Shelter of Young Converts (vs. 9-10)


We must be conscious, in reading this passage, of something approaching a

new point of departure on the part of Paul. He was not the man hitherto to

shrink from either the malice of the synagogue or the uproar of the market hall.

But there were reasons why, with so long a stay at Ephesus, the

company of the disciples should be “separated,” and some foreshadowing be

now given, under the continued supervision of Paul, of what should come

to be the form of an individual Christian Church. And we have here the

nucleus of this. We are reminded of the Church of Christ, as existing in any

individual place, that it should be answerable to find:



be able to show:


Ø      Shelter from the “hardened” world; the world that does not believe, and

resolutely will not believe; the world that, being thus disposed as to itself,

is also manifestly disposed to disturb the belief and peace of those who do

believe, seeking to enter in to ravage “the flock” (ch. 20:29). This it

was abundantly easy to do in the synagogue by every kind of dishonest

quibble and disputatious debate. It should not be by any means so possible

within the fold of the Church.


Ø      Teaching of the truth. The truth should be certain of being obtained

here, and the teacher should be competent. He will teach, not by force of

authority, but by persuasion of the truth. He will be listened to and

esteemed because he shall prove his word, and prove it to be a word of



Ø      Sympathizing companionship. It is needed


o        for prayer and the exercises of religion;

o        for daily social life;

o        for the stimulating of religious purpose and work.





Ø      Nothing more dishonors the place of the Church of Christ, or disowns

all that is most characteristic of his Spirit, than exclusiveness.


Ø      The door of entrance is to be large enough to admit not only the honest

seekers, not only those who already show the signs of penitence, not only

those by nature humble and meek, but all who will enter, even the worst

and the most unpromising.  These cannot, indeed, enter into the Church

itself of Christ; but even to them welcome may be given to the place of the

Church, that “haply they may be born again” therein. If, indeed, they enter

and stay to show themselves the disturbers of disciples and the resolutely

“hardened,” we have here our authority how to proceed. But otherwise let

them be free to enter within the walls of Zion. Let them there hear the

Word and, if needs be, debate it. Let them be free to hear the prayers and

join the songs of disciples; for “much people” for Christ may be amongst

them.  (ch. 18:10)  This is at least one of the ways by which the world is to

be gained for Christ. It does not, indeed, exempt the Church from missionary

and “aggressive” work — work which probably, in the more settled

ecclesiastical state of our own country, has been lamentably overlooked.

But it appears that it was the method by which, during “the space of two

years, all they which dwelt in Asia heard the Word of the Lord Jesus, both

Jews and Greeks.” When the world’s turbulent streams dash by that river,

full and deep and peaceful, of the city of God, the very contrast will arrest

attention and arouse reflection in not a few.


11 “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul:  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.”  Insomuch for so,

Authorized Version; unto the sick were carried away from his body for from his

body were brought unto the sick, Authorized Version; went out for went out of them,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus.  From his body (χρωτός chrotos

cuticle; surface of a body); literally, the skin, but used here by Luke for the body,

in accordance with the usage of medical writers "from Hippocrates to Galen"

(Hobart). Handkerchiefs; σουδάριαsoudaria - handkerchiefs, the Latin word

sudarium, properly a cloth for wiping off the sweat. It is one of those words,

like κουστωδία koustodiaguard; κεντυρίων kenturioncenturion;

σημικίνθιονsaemikinthionaprons; half-girds), κοδράντης, - kodrantaes

farthing;  etc., which exactly represent the political condition of things at the time

of the writers, who were living in a country where Greek was the language of

common intercourse, but where the dominion was Roman. It is found in Luke 19:20;

John 11:44; 20:7, and here. Aprons; σιμικίνθια simikinthia, more properly

written σημικίνθια saemikinthia. It is the Latin word semicinctium, a half-girdle;

the Greek word is ἡμιζώνιονhaemizonion. According to some, it was a narrow

girdle, but according to others, and with more probability, an apron covering

only half, i.e. the front of the body. It only occurs here in the New Testament

or elsewhere. The careful mention of these cures of the sick may also be

connected with Luke's medical profession. As regards these unusual modes

of miraculous cure, compare ch. 5:15. It might well be the Divine purpose,

in the case of both Peter and Paul, to invest with such extraordinary power

the very persons of the apostles who were to stand forth as His messengers

and preach in His Name. In Paul this parity of miraculous energy stamped

his apostleship with an authority equal to that of Peter.



The Call for Special Miracles (v. 11)


It should be carefully shown that Scripture miracles are never mere

wonders, or displays of mere power. They are always signs, and always

wrought for the sake of some immediate or prospective moral benefit. This

may be affirmed, however singular the mere form of the miracle may be.

The circumstances under which God sees fit to allow His servants to work

miracles need careful examination and consideration. In connection with

the text we find special circumstances. Paul had separated the disciples,

and formed a distinct Christian community. For his own sake, and for the

satisfaction of the people, it was important that some attestation of the

Divine approval should be given. The question had to be settled — Was

the Christian community, thus separately constituted, as fully under the

power of the Holy Ghost as the older Jewish Christian community had

been? The speciality of the miracles is designed to intimate that, under

these circumstances, a new and mightier baptism of God’s Spirit came

upon the apostle, so that, apart from conscious efforts of his own will,

healing virtue went forth from him. It is also noticed that “This great

effusion of healing power, which, it is implied by the tense of the verb

wrought, continued for some time, was granted as a counterpoise to the

magical and theurgic practices to which the Ephesians were addicted”

(vs. 13,19). In explanation of the agency of “handkerchiefs and aprons,”

the following notes from Eastern travelers may be helpfully suggestive:

Thomson, in ‘The Land and the Book,’ says, “The external instruments

connected with working miracles had, in ancient times, transferred to them,

in imagination, a portion of the sanctity and reverence due to him who used

them, or to that Divine power which was transmitted through them. This

applied not only to the staves, robes, and mantles of prophets while living,

but to such things as their bones also, and even their very gravestones,

when dead. It is now common to bind on or wrap round the sick some part

of the robes of reputed saints, in the belief that healing virtue will be

communicated from it.” Morier says, “At a short distance, near the

roadside, we saw the burial-place of a Persian saint, enclosed by very rude

walls. Close to it grew a small bush, upon the branches of which were tied

a variety of rags and remnants of garments. The Persians conceive that

these rags, from their vicinity to the saint, acquire peculiar preservative

virtues against sickness; and, substituting others, they take bits away, and,

tying them about their persons, use them as talismans.” How far God was

pleased to fit in with the common sentiment of the age, in His gracious

condescension, requires consideration; we may observe that such special

manifestations of miraculous powers were strictly temporary, limited to the

particular occasion for which they were required. We view these “special

miracles” as the outward sign of three things.



THE DISCIPLES. That action had been intensely trying to the apostle

himself; and a very questionable thing to the view of the synagogue folk,

and of the disciples who followed the apostle. If miraculous attestations

had been withheld just at this juncture, the enemies of Paul would have

been enabled to assert the Divine disapproval of his conduct, and Paul

would himself have been disheartened. Compare how graciously now God

often gives success to His servants when they are called to take special

action; giving them converts in unusual numbers, and so silencing their




AND LABOR. In those days miracles were the strong affirmation,

“God is with us.” The very point of them is that they were wrought in the

power of God. The very purpose of them is to bring home to men’s hearts

the conviction that what the miracle-worker says is from God, seeing that,

so evidently, what he does is from God. Miracles are needed when men are

dependent on outward and sensible proofs. Miracles are not needed when

men are able to estimate moral and spiritual proofs. And, therefore,

miracles are not needed now.




inclined to magic, and based their belief on superstitious rites. God would

not admit the truth of their “black arts,” but He would consider the tone

and temper of mind which characterized them, and adapt His dealings so as

to meet their prejudices and persuade them. So teaching us that while we

must never misrepresent or prejudice God’s truth, we must always seek so

to know men that we may adapt our presentations of truth to them, and

meet them on their more impressionable sides.




Special Miracles (vs. 11-12)


Under ordinary circumstances this description of miracles wrought by God

by the hands of Paul might be liable to the supposition  of being mere surplus

usage of words, a miracle in itself being a thing sufficiently “special.”

The supposition, however, cannot attach to the description as found here,

must because it is here that it is found. And when we look a moment beneath

the surface we discover ample justification for the epithet applied to these

miracles. Let us observe:



We are taught the answer in one verse.


Ø      They are wrought without the laying on of the hands of Paul, without his

presence, without his voice, without (so far as appears) even any

knowledge on his part of the persons or the needs of the persons who

received healing. These four circumstances do incontestably entitle them to

the description of “special;” the nearest approach to them being miracles of

the kind that were wrought when one touched “the hem of the garment” of

Jesus. But Jesus did then perceive and know that “virtue was gone out of

Him.”  (Mark 5:30)


Ø      They are wrought with intervening signs of most unusual kind; the

connecting visible links being handkerchiefs and aprons that have been in

some contact with the body of the apostle, and are now carried to the sick

and possessed by any one — presumably any one of their friends. The

nearest approach to anything so special as this may, perhaps, be

considered to occur in the conduct of those who brought their sick on their

couches into the streets, that haply the mere “shadow of Peter might

overshadow some of them” (ch. 5:15). But in these cases there was

far nearer and closer connection between the miracles wrought (if such

were wrought) and Peter than the connection of handkerchiefs fitfully

carried by any one.




Ø      To arrest a lively attention.

Ø      To suggest really far deeper thoughtfulness in all those who had thought

to think.

Ø      To spread far and wide blessings themselves, each one of which had a

hundred tongues to speak the praise of some one.

Ø      To attract attention to the miracle itself and the blessing wrapped in it and

to the real Worker of it, rather than to suffer attention to be distracted by

an apparently too close relation of the miracle to Paul personally. It is true

that many in their blindness might still think and speak of all the

wonderfulness of Paul, and even of the body of Paul. But yet others would

be helped to see (what with time all the world would be sure to see) that it

was no more due to Paul than to the handkerchief, that the miracle was

wrought, but all due to God, and all to His praise and glory.



SPECIALTY OF MIRACLE. For the “special miracle” helps to reveal only

the more definitely and distinctly the meaning of any miracle.


Ø      It is for the attainment of a great moral end; to give sufficient and just

ground, for instance, to believe, to trust, and to act the things which,

without it, might be only believed and trusted by credulity, or not at all.

Ø      It is to attain this moral end, without overriding the exercise of men’s

own reason and heart and conscience. The just suggestions of a miracle,

forcible as they ought to prove, are still only moral helps and guides.

Ø      The miracle is so far forth for darker days and for the more backward

stages of humanity. The foundation work for much to be built upon as time

should travel on; the time fittest for the miracle is the earlier time, the more

childish time of the world. Then the besetting snare of the miracle would,

at all events, count for less harm, and the moral good of it would be

enshrined a “possession for ever.”

Ø      The miracle is useless if permanent. Evidently the day of miracle was

drawing near its end when Peter’s shadow was waited for. But very near

indeed to its end was it when even Scripture says, “God wrought special

miracles by the hands of Paul.” If their end had not been now near, one of

two things must have followed. Either they must have taken their place as

grateful resources for the healing of the diseased and the dispossessing of

the possessed, or, in order to keep their moral virtue and effect, they must

have been becoming in long vista yet more and more “special.”


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.  But certain also for then certain,

Authorized Version; strolling for vagabond, Authorized Version; name for call,

Authorized Version; the evil for evil, Authorized Version; I for we, Authorized

Version and Textus Receptus.  Strolling (περιερχομένων perierchomenon

wandering); going their rounds from place to place, like strolling players or

like peddlers. The words should be construed together, "strolling Jewish

exorcists."  That certain Jews in our Savior's time exorcised evil spirits appears

from Matthew 12:27; Luke 9:49. We learn also from Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 8:2, 5,

that forms of exorcism, said to have been invented by King Solomon, so

efficacious that the devils cast out by them could never come back, were used

with great effect in his days. He adds that he himself knew of an instance in

which one of his own countrymen, Eleazar by name, had cast out devils in the

presence of Vespasian and his sons and officers and a number of his soldiers.

The method used was this: The exorcist applied to the nose of the possessed

the bezil of a ring, under which was a certain root prescribed by Solomon,

and so drew out the evil spirit through the man's nostrils. The possessed

then fell to the ground, and the exorcist commanded the evil spirit in the

name of Solomon never to return, and then recited one of Solomon's

incantations. To give full assurance to the bystanders that the evil spirit had

really left the man, the exorcist placed a vessel full of water at some distance

off, and then commanded the ejected spirit to overturn it, which he did. Thus

far Josephus. Lightfoot, on Acts 13. (vol. 3:215), quotes the book Juchasin as

speaking of certain Jews as "skilled in miracles," and the Jerusalem Talmud

as speaking of their enchantments and magical tricks and charms" in the name

of Jesus"


14 “And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests,

which did so.”  A chief priest for and chief of the priests, Authorized Version;

this for so, Authorized Version. A chief priest (ἀρχιερεύςarchiereuschief

priest); not, of course, in the sense of high priest, but in that wider sense of the

word which comprised the chiefs of the twenty-four courses and the members

of the Sanhedrim and all who had ever been high priests or who were of the

kindred of the high priest (see Matthew 2:4; 16:21; 21:15; Luke 9:22; 19:47, etc.;

here, ch. 4:23; 5:24; 9:14, 21, etc.). It is probable that the Eleazar

mentioned in the preceding note was a priest, both from his name and because

Josephus calls him one of his ὁμοφύλωνhomophulon -  which may mean

"fellow-tribesmen." The name Sceva occurs nowhere else, nor is its meaning

or etymology at all certain. Some identify it with the Latin Scaera (Horace,

'Ep.,' 1. 17:1), "left-handed," l.q. Scaevola; or the Greek Scenes, a proper

name in Appian. Simonis gives it an Aramean etymology.


15 “And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know;

but who are ye? “  Said unto them for said, Authorized Version  and Textus



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."  Mastered both of them for overcame them, Authorized Version

and Textus Receptus.


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."

Became for was, Authorized Version; both Jews and Greeks for the Jews and

Greeks also, Authorized Version; that dwelt for dwelling, Authorized Version;

upon for on, Authorized Version. Fear fell upon them. Compare ch. 5:11-14,

where the same effects are ascribed to the death of Ananias and Sapphira and

the signs and wonders which were wrought by the apostles at that time. This

fear produced by the putting forth of God's power paralyzed for a time the

enemies of the gospel, and enabled believers, as it were, to take possession of

their new heritage, just as the miracles at the Red Sea and the destruction of

Sihon and Og paralyzed the courage of the Canaanites and enabled the

Israelites to take possession of their land (Joshua 2:9-11). With respect to the

incident which caused this fear, it might at first seem inconsistent with our Lord's

saying to the apostles (Luke 9:49-50). But the cases were very different. He who

cast out devils in the name of Jesus, in the Gospel, does not seem to have had any

hostility to the faith, for our Lord speaks of him as one who "is not against us."

But these sons of Sceva were among the unbelieving Jews who were "hardened

and disobedient;" and if their exorcisms had been permitted to succeed, they

would have had power to withstand Paul, as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses

(II Timothy 3:8), and the very purpose for which miraculous power was given to

Paul would have been frustrated. Therefore they were discomfited, and the subtle

design of Satan to destroy, while seeming to magnify, the Name of Jesus was

signally defeated. Compare the somewhat similar incident at Philippi (ch.16:16-18).

Justin Martyr, in his 'Diologue with Trypho,' quoted by Alford on Matthew 12:27,

speaks of the Jews as exorcising, sometimes in the name of kings (referring,

doubtless, to Solomon), sometimes of just men, or of prophets, or of patriarchs.

So these men took up the name of Jesus.




The Spiritual, the Supernatural, and the Natural (vs. 8-17)


The faithful labors of Paul in the synagogue of the Jews and the room of

Tyrannus, the unusually extensive employment of the miraculous, and the

discomfiture of the exorcists suggest to us:



THE SPIRITUAL. (vs. 8-12.) We remember how our Lord refused to

gratify the unworthy craving for signs and wonders in His day: “There shall

no sign be given to this generation” (Mark 8:12); repeatedly He

discouraged the demand for the miraculous, because it interfered with the

teaching of truth, and so with the furtherance of His spiritual work. We find

Paul making comparatively little of these great “gifts;” his chronicler does

not enlarge on them, but disposes of them in very few words, no doubt

reproducing and reflecting thus the mind of the apostle; he himself does not

make a single allusion to them in his address to the eiders at Miletus (ch. 20.);

he disparages rather than magnifies their importance in his Epistles

(II Corinthians 13 & 14.). We are led to feel that the “special miracles wrought

by the hands of Paul” are of very secondary value, as compared (v. 11)

with his diligence in persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God

(v. 8), and with his enterprise and zeal in so acting that “all they which

dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks”

(v. 10). We need not sigh for departed times when the gospel had some

sanctions and supports which it has not now. All that is of first importance,

all that is truly redemptive and Divine, abides with the Church of Christ,

and will remain for ever.


Ø      The knowledge of the living and saving truth.

Ø      The love of it, and joy in it.

Ø      The privilege of making it known.

Ø      The accessibility of those heavenly influences which make it powerful

and efficacious to our own hearts and to the souls of those whom we




THE SPIRITUAL. These exorcists (v. 13) had probably been so far

successful that they had induced their fellow-citizens to believe that in them

resided a strange power over the insane or the possessed. But when they

used the name of Jesus in order to effect their object, they failed signally

and disgracefully. In this respect they are types of those who attempt to do

God’s work without Divine weapons. Only the spiritual can do spiritual

work. It is true that unspiritual men may:


Ø      understand much of the Divine thought;

Ø      speak what they know with skill and force;

Ø      assume a sacred tone and spirit, and may affect men by that


Ø      maintain for years a reputation for devotion and usefulness.


But it is also true that:


Ø      if any spiritual result should follow, it will be through the overruling

power of God, — it will not be their work, in any true sense;

Ø      no considerable or permanent results will follow, — such unreal

conditions will not stand the test of time;

Ø      there will come exposure and humiliation, either here or hereafter.

Wherefore let us honor the spiritual as that which is the one true,

abiding Divine power.


Let us:


Ø      Welcome to our heart the first teachings and leadings of the Divine


Ø      Establish our whole life on the basis of the spiritual; LIVE and WALK

 “in the Spirit,” as those who realize that outward shows are as nothing

to the great spiritual realities.

Ø      Do the work of God with spiritual weapons; not attempting to build

up the kingdom of God by bodily benefits, political economies, or

human philosophies. These have their place and their work, as

handmaids and auxiliaries, and are by no means to be despised.

But the Christian minister must make men “hear the words of the

Lord Jesus,” must speak of those things which distinctively

“concern the kingdom of God;” he must utter specially Christian

doctrine, and look for positively Divine influence.




The Prompt Exposure and Punishment of Human Iniquity


   an Evil Spirit

      (vs. 13-17)


Of the character of these exorcists there can be no doubt Their deceiving

and iniquitous profession was one for gain, and gain only was in their

hearts. With less hesitation even than Simon Magus (ch. 8:18-19),

they propose to themselves to take their chance at least in using and

abusing the “glorious and fearful Name.” And they suffer for their

blasphemous and profane attempt. Notice:




Ø      They dare to try the use of the name of Jesus without any authority. No

doubt Paul was cognizant of the aprons and handkerchiefs taken from his

body, and willingly authorized the proceeding. Nothing analogous,

however, finds place now with the exorcists.

Ø      They use that Name to supersede and as an experimental substitute for

the name, or odious deceptive practices, whatever they were, which they

had been accustomed to use.

Ø      They do this for no high-minded ambitious (even if erroneous)

adventure, but doubtless for the adventure of money gain alone.

Ø      Those who do it are Jews, and they are sons of one who was “chief of

the priests,” and they conspire, seven in number, to do it.




Ø      It is the exposure, not of Paul (as in the case of Simon Magus it was of

Peter), nor of the horror of true disciples, nor of Heaven’s intervention by

lightning or thunderbolt.

Ø      A more humiliating exposure is reserved for these. Even the evil spirit

cannot bear the presumptuous and intolerably conceived iniquity. And in

the keen satire of truth, which perhaps none know better to accentuate

than evil spirits, this ill spirit resents the puny challenge and scathes the

hollow deception by a question following upon an honest enough

confession, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?”

Ø      The mournfully afflicted man himself joins to make patent the exposure.

No doubt already by the usurped organs of his speech it was that the ill

spirit had uttered forth his trenchant rebuff, but now the record gives us to

understand that the man himself (from whatever source he gained his

inspiration) joined hand and limb, and suited the action to the word. The

exposure surely needed no more to make it complete.




Ø      It was summary. Naked and wounded, the seven fled out of that house.

Ø      It was retributive. The man on whom they had experimented, and

perhaps not now for the first time, had doubtless (like he of the tombs)

often been “naked and wounded;” but now it is they who are in this plight.

Ø      It was essentially humiliating. “Seven flee before one”

(Deuteronomy 28:7, 25), and him the despised or pitied one of long


Ø      It was humiliating in its circumstances. For it was not only patent at the

time, but it became notorious. “It was known to all the Jews and Greeks

also dwelling at Ephesus.” So sometimes even now iniquity reaches its

height, the cup is filled to the full, the bold daring face that sin sets to

heaven is overwhelmed with confusion, and the hour of judgment is



  • THE EFFECTS. Whatever may be said too often, too inconsiderately

in modern days, to the disparagement of faith in miracles and faith in

prayer, and among other things faith in providence and the veritable

nearness of the Divine hand, “strong to save” or “swift to smite,” there is

no doubt that these things were all heartily believed in by the early Church.

They were also believed in by many who were not “disciples.” Nor is this

evidence traveling down from those who were on the spot in the alleged

age and place of miracles unimportant. In the present history, just as true

as anything else recorded, must this be held, when we read that the great

effect was that “fear fell on them all, and that the Name of the Lord Jesus

was magnified.” If we are open to learn, we may receive help in the firm

persuasion that there was such a thing as the possession by alien and evil

spirits of the organs of the human body; that there was such a thing as

miracle, special Divine interposition to the suspension of the ordinary

course of things; and, dread suggestion that by whomsoever else, evil

spirits are not to be overmastered by, but rather overmaster, evil men.


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

Many also of them that had believed for and many that believed, Authorized Version;

confessing and declaring for and confessed and showed, Authorized Version. Many

also of them that had believed. This and the following verse speak of that class of

converts who had previously been addicted to magic arts. It gives us a curious

view of the extent to which magic prevailed among the Jews at this time. Nor was

it less prevalent in heathen Ephesus. The magic formulae of Ephesus were famous

under the name of Ἐφέσια γράμματα - Ephesia grammata (see Renan, pp. 344,345,

note), and the belief in magic seems to have been universal. Hesychius gives as the

names of the oldest Ephesian charms, Aski, Kataski, Lix, Petrax, Damnameneus,

AEsion, which he explains as meaning severally "Darkness, Light," "the Earth,"

"the Year," "the Truth" (Lewin, p. 334).


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."  And not a few for many... also, Authorized

Version; that practiced for which used Authorized Version; in the sight of all for

before all men, Authorized Version. That practiced curious arts (τῶν τὰ περίεργα

πραξάντων - ton ta perierga praxanton - of the ones the curious arts practicing).

The adjective περίεργος applied to persons means "a busybody" (I Timothy 5:13),

one who does what it is not his business to do, and pries into matters with which

he has no concern (compare II Thessalonians 3:11); applied to things, it means

that which it is not anybody's business to attend to, that which is vain and

superfluous; and then, by a further extension of meaning, that which is forbidden,

and specially magic arts and occult sciences. Fifty thousand pieces of silver. There

is a difference of opinion as to what coin or weight is meant. If Greek coinage,

which is perhaps natural in a Greek city, fifty thousand drachmae of silver would

be meant, equal to £1875 (circa 1800 A. D. - CY - 2018), If Jewish shekels are

meant, the sum would amount to £7000 (ibid - CY) ('Speaker's Commentary') .

It is in favor of drachmae being meant that, with the exception of Joshua 7:21

and Judges 17:2, the Septuagint always express the word "shekel" or "didrachm"

after the numeral and before the word "silver." If Luke, therefore, had meant shekels,

he would have written δίδραχμα ἀργυρίου - didrachma arguriou.   But it was the

Greek usage to omit the word δραχμή before ἀργυρίου when the reckoning was

by drachmae (Meyer).




Signs of Religious Sincerity (vs. 18-19)


The incidents narrated in these verses suggest the subject of the demands

which men feel that a Christian profession makes upon their practical life

and conduct. It appears that these disciples at Ephesus had been converted

for some time before they made these sacrifices; but presently the relation

of the Christian truth to their magical and superstitious sentiments was fully

recognized, and they were impelled to destroy the books which had been

associated with their early religious beliefs. “Ephesus was the chief seat of

the black art at this time, and the popular mind was familiar with the

pretension to supernatural gifts and endowments, and by its experience in

sorceries and charms was in a measure hardened against the due effect of

miracles.” “Magicians and astrologers swarmed in her streets, and there

was a brisk trade in the charms, incantations, books of divination, rules for

interpreting dreams, and the like, such as have at all times made up the

structure of superstition.” “By actually destroying the books, they not only

acknowledged the sinfulness of the practices taught therein, but also cut off

at once and absolutely the possibility of relapse on their own part, or of

leaving a temptation or stumbling-block in the way of others.” But the

books burned were private property, and did not stop the evil work of

those who made and sold such books. In one form or in another the

question always comes before the new converts — What are you prepared

to give up for Christ’s sake?




LIFE. A man may take up with religion as a mere matter of profession, and

find that such a religion makes little or no demand for change in his general

sentiments or conduct. But if a man is truly regenerate, if religion is to him

a serious, searching reality, he will soon find out that it is out of harmony

with much in his former life, and as he cannot give up the religion he must

give up the old habits and indulgences. This applies not only to such evils

as intemperance and immorality, but also to more minute forms of

questionable indulgence. Earnest Christian life is found to be corrective of

even our cherished ideas, our views of truth and duty; and the most moral

and amiable man is made so sensitive to purity and truth by a Divine

regeneration that he finds something in his former life and thought which is

out of harmony with his new feeling. It appears, therefore, that our Lord’s

principle is much more minutely searching than we imagine it to be:

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”  (Matthew 7:20)  The point

of this head may be represented in full detail, as it concerns the several classes

of a congregation. The principle enunciated will gain force by precise

application to the class evils which sincere piety resists.




RIGHT TONE. A man may feel how opposed his sentiments and his habits

are to the Christian profession he makes, and yet he may do nothing

towards readjusting their relations. He may try to live his old self-willed

life, and at the same time try to keep his faith in Christ and his soul-allegiance

to Him. But the point on which we now insist is, that he cannot

do this. He imperils his Christian life in the attempt. He keeps himself open

to Satanic temptations. He is in the almost hopeless, and certainly

dishonorable, condition of those who, in olden times, “feared the Lord and

served their own gods.” (II Kings 17:33)  Full consistency between life and

profession is absolutely necessary. In any case of conflict between the two,

the Spirit of God will help us to a victory. If, even in small matters, we fail

to keep the full harmony between piety and conduct, piety loses its tone,

and gradually its very life. Formalism can allow license. Piety never can.




these Ephesian Christians. They destroyed books representing a great

wealth. They might have sold them; but since others might be injured by

them, they destroyed them, at great personal sacrifice. Illustration may be

taken from certain forms of trade, which Christians feel they can no longer

carry on; or from certain pleasures, in which they feel they can no longer

indulge. Impress, in conclusion, the teaching of our Lord about the

foolishness of the man who would take up a Christian profession, and does

not “sit down first and count the cost.”  (Luke 14:28)


20 "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed."

The Lord for God, Authorized Version. If the Received Text has the true order of the

words, they must be construed, To such an extent, according to the might of the Lord,

did the word grow and prevail, after the analogy of Ephesians 1:19. Κατὰ κράτος -

Kata kratos - mightily; according to might - however, taken by itself, is quite usual,

like κατὰ μικρόν καθ ὑπερβολήν - kata micron kath huperbolaen, etc. (Alford),

and is rightly rendered "mightily."



The Advance (vs. 1-20)


The founding of a Church at Ephesus, the capital city of Proconsular Asia

— a great center of Greek and Asiatic life, civil, religious, and commercial,

the seat of the famous temple of Artemis, the place of concourse of all

Ionia for its celebrated games — is one of those great epochs in the history

of Christianity which arrest the attention and demand the consideration of

the Christian reader. Not above two years (if so much) had elapsed since

the Holy Ghost had expressly prohibited the preaching of the Word in Asia,

for reasons which we know not; but now that prohibition is removed, and,

after a preliminary movement by Apollos, we find Paul planting his foot

firmly on the soil of Asia, and taking possession in the Name of the Lord

Jesus. The banner which he then set up has never been taken down to this

present hour. What the influence of the great success of Paul’s ministry

at Ephesus upon other Asiatic cities may have been, we have no means of

knowing in detail; but that it was very great and widespread we learn from

vs. 10,20 and 26 of this chapter. The first three chapters of the Revelation of

St. John supply further important evidence, both as regards Ephesus itself and

the other Churches of Asia; and so do the two Epistles of Paul to Timothy. From

hence John exercised his jurisdiction over the whole of the Churches of Asia.

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Church of Ephesus (A.D. 107) carries on the

tradition; and we learn from later ecclesiastical history how important a

position Ephesus held, being styled hJ prw>th kai< megi>sth mhtro>poliv

th~v Asi>av. The third general council was held there in A.D. 431. In thus

casting a hasty glance at the succeeding history of this apostolic Church,

we are led to the reflection how little we know what may be the

consequences of any single forward movement in the kingdom of God. The

humblest servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, in a meeting with a few likeminded

brethren, may be laying the foundation of institutions which will

last while the Church lasts, and exercise a world-wide influence upon the

destinies of mankind. A mission to a race of semi-barbarians may be the

planting of a Church under whose shadow millions may hereafter walk in

all the joy of Christian hope, and in all the beauty of Christian holiness. The

simplest word spoken in the kingdom of God, the simplest action taken in

the Name of the Lord Jesus, may be the instrument used by the power of

God for advancing His own purposes of grace and salvation to untold

multitudes. (“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little

ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say

unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”  (Matthew 10:42 – CY – 2018)

When Augustine had his first interview with King Ethelbert in

the city of the men of Kent (Cant-wara-byrig), who could have foreseen

the influence upon the Christianity and civilization of the world which that

interview was destined to exercise? And so in the case of every fresh effort

to preach Christ where he is not known, there is a glorious uncertainty as

to the ultimate consequences of such advance. The missionaries’

stammering speech telling the story of the cross to a handful of heathen

may be the first step of a mighty change which shall make the wilderness a

pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. One Heaven-born thought

in the mind of a man of God, one prayer in the Holy Ghost, one faithful

word of truth, may be the seed of a sacred history which shall fill, not earth

only, but heaven also with enduring fruits of joy and salvation. Let Paul

himself make the application: “Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always

abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor

is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).




     The Work of Paul at Ephesus (vs. 8-20)


Here we have the victory of the Divine Word over the power of falsehood

and evil in the minds of men. Such episodes show on a small scale what the

effect of the evangelical leaven is in the world on a large scale.



PAUL. It becomes a two-edged sword in his hand against all the powers of

darkness. Three months’ continuous preaching of great evangelical truths

may lay the foundation of spiritual building for the lifetime of many souls.

In three relations this influence of the gospel is felt:


(1) upon the hard and unbelieving hearts (vs. 8-10);

(2) upon forms of sickness;

(3) upon the dark works of godless magic.


Ø      With reference to the first, he refused to throw pearls before swine. Or,

like a faithful shepherd, he separated the untainted sheep from the rest of

the flock, that they might not be injured. To attempt in act or thought to

separate or excommunicate individuals from the true Church is a

usurpation of Divine authority; a violent plucking of the supposed tares

from the wheat. It is a different thing to go apart one’s self from those

believed to be in error. This is an exercise of personal liberty; the former an

encroachment on the rights of others.


Ø      With reference to the second, it appears to have been the vital health of

the inspired apostle which opposed and conquered bodily sickness. Not

relics of a dead man, but clothes of a living man, were the instruments of

the cure. The means are of slight importance when the Divine power is

present. It was not Peter’s shadow at Jerusalem (ch. 5:15), nor here

at Ephesus Paul’s handkerchief, which wrought the cures, but the living

spiritual force in the will, that is, the faith of the worker. The Roman relic

worshipper expects life from dead things, salvation from that which in the

nature of things has no healing power. Nor is the expectation of life and

spiritual health from rites and ceremonies more reasonable. The service of

dead works is placed in the room of the inward organ of a living faith.


Ø      The third mode of Paul’s activity: the people placed in trust of God’s

Word had fallen into the practice of the most foolish magic arts. The

impostors’ mode imitate the apostle’s. Not in teaching the truth nor in

converting souls, but in aping the wondrous deeds of the apostle, so

seeking to secure a like credit. Tis the way of all false teachers and

spurious imitators; they can mimic the gesture, cannot catch the spirit. The

counterfeit is all but the original; but an immense chasm lies in that all but!

Jesus whom Paul preaches.” The faith of very many is but a faith in the

faith of some one else — a dependence on hearsay, like that of these

teachers. And this is weakness itself. The “seven sons of the high priest”

may remind us of the old commonplace that external association with

sacred things is not always favorable to piety. On the contrary, the old

proverb says, “The nearer the church, the further from God.” This is an

extreme way of stating a patent truth. But the evil spirit defies the feeble

imitator, will not yield to his spells, knows the difference between the man

filled with and the man empty of God. If we advance to the combat without

a call and without an inspiration, we shall incur humiliation. We cannot

create an inspiration, nor call ourselves. “Paint a fire; it will not therefore

burn.” Mock enthusiasm will be found out. “Jesus and Paul I know; but

who are ye?” Try to preach without believing your own doctrine, speak of

Jesus as a Friend while the heart is averse from Him; the mocking voice of

the fiend will be heard within, and efforts to convince others will be as the

blows of one that fighteth the air. The lie of the heart will paralyze the

mightiest eloquence; but the simple truth of the conscience will be a power

made manifest in weakness. The false teachers are impotent in the presence

and before the attack of the passionate evil spirit; they are overpowered,

and flee naked and wounded out of the house. The devil is a thankless

master, and puts to shame his most zealous servants. ‘Tis a condensed

tragedy, this scene. A naked and a wounded soul is all that we may expect

to carry from the service of falsehood.




Ø      Fear fell on all. Falsehood bows before the majesty of truth. The devils

give witness to Jesus. His Name is glorified by the triumph of His servants

and the subjection of His foes. Silence was broken, guilty reserve vanished.

Probably both converted and unconverted had sin to confess. Fear is in the

soul what the earthquake and the tempest are in the physical world. It

breaks up the hard crust of habit, lets the pent-up lava-floods break forth,

brings purification and health in its train.


Ø      Confession is freely made. We have no right to force the secrets of the

heart. Happy is it when they are volunteered, and when the soul brought to

itself thus of its own accord “gives glory to God.”


Ø      Practical results. We need not debate the question of the confessional.”

More important is it to recognize that genuine confession is followed by a

renouncement of the sin. Here those who had seen the error of their

superstition promptly undid it. They brought their books and burned them

in public. It seems a pity that we should thus have lost valuable

information. They might have renounced the teaching of the books and

spared the books themselves. The records of human aberration are equally

useful to us with the records of sound philosophy. Experiments that have

failed will not readily be tried again. But in the fervor of a first love all is

excusable. Where great corruption has prevailed, there will be presently a

reaction, and extreme Puritanism will set in. Where pleasure has run to

license legitimate pleasure will presently be looked upon with suspicion.

The example of the Ephesians is not to be followed literally, but in spirit.

Evil, like good, is everywhere present. Burn bad books, they will be read

the more. Denounce “spiritualism,” etc., and people’s curiosity wilt be

inflamed about it. Sophistry is hydra-headed: directly we seem to make

little way against it. The best counsel is — Let alone what you know is

injurious to you. Let the understanding be strengthened and the affections

purified, and superstition will fall from the mind as an eruption disappears

from the skin when the body is restored to health. Thus mightily grew the

Word of God.” Live for the truth; sow it, plant it out in all minds, and let

there be no room for the ill weeds to grow.




The Sign of Sincerity (vs. 18-20)


We are reminded by the text:



OURSELVES TO HIM. To exercise a living faith in Him is to take

everything from Him and to give everything to Him; therefore to give

ourselves to Him and to His service. It is to recognize and respond to His

supreme claims on heart and life.




and not hate and shun the things which are painful and offensive in His sight?




imposture; to be systematically enriching ourselves at the expense of the

credulity of others (as these Ephesians had been doing); to be acting

falsehoods daily, or even frequently; to be introducing a large measure of

vanity or folly into that which should be good and pure; — this is hateful

to Him who is the holy and the true One; this is unendurable by Him in

one who bears His name and professes to be like Him and to follow Him.




The burning of these profitable “books” was the very best guarantee that

could be given of the sincerity of the Ephesian converts. If we want to

know how deep and true is a man’s conviction, we do not ask what strong

things he can say in its favor, or how eloquently he can descant upon it, or

what fervor he shows on one or two occasions respecting it, but how much

he is prepared to part with on its account. We ask what deep-rooted habits

he will cut away, what cherished treasures he will put aside, what keen

enjoyments he will forego, what money he will sacrifice, what prized but

hurtful friendships he will surrender. This is the test of sincerity. A man

that will do one or more of these things, “we know the proof of him.




grew the word of God,” etc. (v. 20). There is no way by which we can so

powerfully affect the judgment and win the sympathy of men as by

sacrificing for Christ’s sake that which all men prize and strive for. When

the world sees all who “profess and call themselves Christians” not only

engaging in devotion, and endeavoring to make converts, but also denying

themselves pleasures they would otherwise enjoy, spending on others the

money they would else have spent on themselves, foregoing worldly

advantages which they cannot conscientiously appropriate, then it will be

convinced by arguments which now are without any cogency, and will be

won by persuasions which now are urged in vain.


Practical Evidence of Genuine Repentance (vs. 18-20)


The evidence which “many of them that believed” now came and gave, of

the vitality of their faith and the reality of their repentance, was conclusive.

And the very thought of it is refreshing as we read it. Here follow four

grand evidences of a genuine “faith in Jesus” and “repentance from dead















SUSTAINED. This renunciation was particularly satisfactory in the present

instances, inasmuch as it was:


Ø      Public.

Ø      A renunciation of large value of capital.

Ø      A determined putting away from the eyes the things that had often fed


Ø      And an effort to put the old evil course, as far as might be possible, out

of memory itself. To this hardest thing of all God would give His

gracious and effectual help, for its very endeavor’s sake.




The Prevailing Power of the Word (v. 20)


“So mightily grew the Word of the Lord and prevailed.” Compare other

Scripture figures; e.g. “His Word runneth very swiftly “(Psalm 147:15).

“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free

course, and be glorified” (II Thessalonians 3:1).


  • THE GROWING POWER OF GOD’S WORD. Reference is to the

gospel message — the tidings brought to men concerning Jesus Christ; the

message brought by Jesus Christ, the message centering in, and gathering

round, Jesus Christ. Put into all kinds of molds and shapes and forms of

language, the “Word of the Lord” is this: The heavenly Father has Himself

overcome the hindrances and separating difficulties dividing Him from His

children. He is become a reconciling God, and in Jesus Christ His Son He is

willing to pardon; He is waiting to welcome back home every returning,

repenting, believing child. The apostle thinks of this gospel message as a

“living thing,” and so he speaks of its growing.Wherever there is life

there is growth. If there be life in the seed, there will be growth of blade,

breaking the soil, and shooting up into the light. If growth ever ceases in

our bodies, death ensues. And so, if there be life in God’s gospel, it will

have the power of widening, spreading, and enlarging its influence. The

sign of growth noticed in connection with the text is the power which

Christian truth increasingly gained over the feelings and the conduct of the

Ephesian disciples, leading them to a most impressive public act of self-denial.

That the growth takes two forms:


Ø      Inward growth; the gospel as the soul’s new life, gaining an ever-increasing



Ø      Outward growth; the gospel as a testimony, winning more and more

adherents as it is proclaimed more fully and widely. And impress


Ø      that these two modes of growth are mutually related and mutually

helpful. Culture of inward spiritual life always should bear its fruit in

enlarged Christian activity; and greater energy put into Christian work

should always be felt to make greater demands on Christian life and

feeling.  Illustrate this twofold growth from the history of the early Church.


  • THE PREVAILING POWER OF THE WORD. This sets before us

two points.


Ø      Since there is life in the Word, and that life is seen in growth, it will be

sure to meet with opposition. If the apostles would only have ceased to

witness for Christ, they would have suffered no persecution. If any of us

will let the life in Christ fade down and die within us, the world will cease

to present any opposition. The dead in trespasses and sins have no

difficulties; but “they that will live godly must suffer persecution.”

(II Timothy 3:12)  It is a simple condition of growth, that it involves

resistance; it pushes its way against opposition. And, in the case of

earnest piety, this opposition becomes more than resistanceit is

enmity and willful endeavor.


Ø      Since there is life in the Word, we may be sure that it will overcome the

opposition; or, as the text says, it willprevail — gain the mastery. This

may be illustrated from martyr-times, when Christianity has seemed to be

crushed, but the life has proved stronger than all outward resistances. See

especially, in recent years, the result of persecutions in Madagascar

(remember that this was over two centuries ago – CY – 2018).

Illustrate also from missionary spheres, in which various kinds of

hindrances are presented, yet the life in the Word gains gradual mastery.

Illustrate by Paul’s sublime triumphs over all forms of opposition met

with in his missionary work. And show how the prevailing power of the

Word is found in individual experience; in the gradual mastery of personal

habits; and in our external relations and circumstances. Impress that faith in

the “growth” and “prevailing power” of Christianity needs to be kept alive

in the Church and in all our hearts; and that such a faith would prove an

abiding inspiration to holier living and to nobler laboring.


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.  Now after for after, Authorized Version.

Purposed in the spirit (ἔθετο ἐν τῷ πνεύματι - etheto en to pneumatic - literally,

set, fixed, or arranged it in his spirit), like the Hebrew phrase, שּׂוּם בְלֵב, in

I Samuel 12, etc. Similarly of past things, Luke 1:66, ἔθεντο πάντες... ἐν τῇ

καρδίᾳ αὐτῶν - ethento pantes….en tae kardia auton - laid them up in their hearts

(compare ch. 5:4). When he had passed through Macedonia, etc. Observe the

constant solicitude of Paul to revisit the Churches which he had founded, so as

to confirm the disciples in the faith and to consolidate his work (ch.14:21; 15:36;

16:6; I Thessalonians 3:1-5, etc.). It marks the unrivalled tenderness of his heart

toward the disciples. Observe also the insatiable appetite of the apostle for spiritual

conquests, and his noble contempt for idleness. He has but just won Ephesus and

Asia, and already he undertakes Macedonia and Achaia. Nor does his mind stop

there, but reaches on to Jerusalem, then stretches onwards to Rome, and meditates

the invasion of Spain. Truly neither Alexander, nor Caesar, nor any hero of

antiquity was a match for this little Benjamite (paulus) in the magnanimity of

his designs (Bengel).


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."  And having sent for so

he sent, Authorized Version; Timothy for Timotheus, Authorized Version; he for

but he, Authorized Version; while for season, Authorized Version. Two of them, etc.

Erastus is here mentioned for the first time. If he is the same person who is mentioned

in Romans 16:23; II Timothy 4:20, it is probable that he was one of Paul's Corinthian

converts who had gone with him from Corinth to Jerusalem and Antioch, and had

accompanied him through Phrygia and Galatia to Ephesus. Silas, who had been

Timothy's companion on the former visit to Macedonia, seems to have left Paul,

possibly at Jerusalem, from whence he originally came (ch.15:22, 32, 34), and

to have attached himself to Peter (I Peter 5:12). Perhaps he was especially

connected with the mission to Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, etc., as it appears

from the passage just quoted that he was "a faithful brother unto them,"

Authorized Version; "or our faithful brother," Revised Version. He himself stayed,

etc. This phrase is in singular harmony with I Corinthians 16:8, which seems

clearly to have been written after Timothy's departure for Macedonia and before

his arrival at Corinth, since Timothy is not mentioned either in the superscription

or among the salutations (I Corinthians 1:1; 16:19-20), and his coming to Corinth

is spoken of as doubtful, though probable, in I Corinthians 16:10. Both passages

imply a prolongation of Paul's stay at Ephesus beyond his original intention. The

special reason for this prolongation of his sojourn at Ephesus, and which is alluded

to in ibid. v.9, is thought to be the Artemisian or Ephesian games, which were

celebrated at Ephesus in May - and therefore just at this time - and which brought

a vast concourse of Ionians to Ephesus. It was at this time, doubtless, that the

principal sale of "silver shrines of Diana" took place, and therefore it was natural

that Demetrius and his fellow-craftsmen should be very angry when they found

their usual gains were cut short by the multitude of converts all over Proconsular

Asia. We learn from ibid. v. 7 that Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus had

arrived at Ephesus from Corinth. It is likely that their presence, together with

that of Tychicus and Trophimus, two Asiatic converts, enabled Paul to dispense

with the services of Timothy and Erastus for a time. Ἔπεσχεν - Epeschen -  

understand σεαυτόν - seauton -, kept himself back, i.e. stayed; χρόνον - chronon -

time;a while, an indefinite phrase, but indicating a short time.


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

About that time for the same time, Authorized Version; concerning the Way for

about that way, Authorized Version. (see v. 9).



24 "For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines

for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen;"

Of for for, Authorized Version; little business for small gain, Authorized Version. 

Shrines of Diana, or Artemis. They were silver models of the famous temple of

Diana at Ephesus, and were carried as charms on journeys and placed in people's

houses to ensure to them the protection of the goddess. These gold or silver shrines

contained within them an image of Artemis (Lewin, vol. 1. p. 408), as similar ones,

which have been found made of terracotta, do of Cybele (Lewin, p. 414). Repeated

mention is made in Diodorus Siculus, Ammianus Marcellinus, and elsewhere, of

gold or silver shrines (ναόι - naoi - temples), which were offered to different gods

as propitiatory gifts, or carried about by the owners as charms, Business; ἐργασία -

ergasia - income, here and v. 25 (see ch.16:16, note).


25 "Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said,

Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.  Gathered for called,

Authorized Version; business for craft, Authorized Version, but "craft" is the

better rendering. Workmen; ἐργάται - ergatai - workers, different from the

τεχνῖται - techniktai - skilled laborers or artisans. Demetrius called together all

who were in any way interested in the shrine trade. His true reason came out first.


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:"  And for moreover, Authorized

Version. We have here a wonderful testimony from an enemy to the power and

efficacy of  Paul's labors. Asia, here and in v. 22, etc., means Proconsular Asia,

of which Ephesus was the chief city. That they be no gods, etc. This is an incidental

proof that Paul's success at Ephesus lay chiefly among the heathen, since we know

from ch.14:15-17; 17:23-24, etc., that this was exactly his style of preaching to

Gentiles, quite different from his method with Jews.


27 "So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at naught; 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."

And not only is there danger that this our trade come into disrepute for so that not

only this our craft is in danger to be set at naught, Authorized Version; be made

of no account for should be despised, Authorized Version; that she should even

be deposed from her magnificence for her magnificence should be destroyed,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. Is there danger. There is no example in

Luke's writings, or in the New Testament, or in the Septuagint, of κινδυνεύει -

kinduneuei - is endangering, being taken impersonally, as it is sometimes, though

rarely, in Greek authors. The subject, therefore, of this sentence is τὸ μέρος  -

to meros - the portion, part, or business, and Τοῦτο κινδυνεύει ἡμῖν τὸ μέρος κ.τ.λ -

Touto kinduneuei haemin to meros k.t.l. - this is endangering our business, etc.

must be construed together, "This trade is in danger for us to come into disrepute,"

or, put into English, "This our trade is in danger," etc. Come into disrepute;

εἰς ἀπελεγμὸν - eis apelegmon - into confuted, only found here in the New

Testament; literally, into refutation; hence into disrepute, or into reproach, i.e.

be a ground of reproach to us who practice it. The great goddess. An epithet

especially applied to the Ephesian Diana (compare the μεγαλειότητα - megaleiotaeta -

magnificence at the end of the verse, and the cry, vs. 28 and 34). Lewin

(vol. 1. p. 412, note) quotes Ὀμνύω τὴν μεγαλήν Ἐφεσίων Ἄρτεμιν in the

Ephesian Xenophon Τῆς μεγάλης Θεᾶς Ἀρτέμιδος, in an inscription at Ephesus;

Ἄρτεμιςμεγάλη θεός (Achill. Tat.). Add from Pausanias, 4,31, 8, All men

hold the Ephesian Diana in the greatest honor." From her magnificence.

The Received Text reads τῆς μεγαλειότητος instead of τὴν μεγαλειότητα in

the Textus Receptus. But Meyer, while he accepts the Received Text, construes

it "and some of her magnificence," etc.; and rightly, because the genitive after

 καθαιρεῖν - kathairein - should be preceded by ἀπὸ, as ch.13:29; Joshua 8:29;

10:27 (Septuagint), and the word καθαιρεῖν is also specially used of

lowering the honor of any one. All Asia and the world. This is scarcely an

hyperbole, the worship of the Ephesian Diana, and of her image reported

to have fallen down from heaven, was so very widely diffused.


28 "And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried

out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians."  This for these sayings, Authorized

Version; filled with wrath for full of wrath, Authorized Version. Great is Diana, etc.

A notable instance of assertion and clamor crying down REASON and TRUTH!


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."  The city for the whole city, and the confusion

for confusion Authorized Version and Textus Receptus (τῆςtaesthe for ὅλη

holae - whole); they rushed, etc., having seized for having caught, etc., they rushed,

etc., Authorized Version. With one accord (ὁμοθυμαδὸνhomothumadon); see

ch.1:14; 2:1; 4:24, etc., and for ὥρμησαν ὁμοθυμαδὸν hormaesan homothumadon

rush with one accord, see ch. 7:57. Into the theatre. The common place of resort

for all great meetings. So Tacitus, 'Hist.,' 2:80 (quoted by Alford), says that at

Antioch the people were wont to hold their public debates in the theatre, and that

a crowded meeting was held there to forward the interests of Vespasian, then

aspiring to the empire. So Josephus speaks of the people of Antioch holding a

public assembly (ἐκκλησίαζοντος ekklaesiazontos) in the theatre ('Bell. Jud.,'

7. 3:3). The people of the Greek city of Tarentum received the ambassadors from

Rome in the theatre, "according to the Greek custom," Val. Max., 2:2, 5 (Kuinoel,

on v.29, here). The theatre at Ephesus, of which "ruins of immense grandeur" still

remain, is said to be the largest of which we have any account (Howson, 2. p. 68).

Having seized (συναρπάσαντες - sunarpasantes); a favorite word with Luke

(ch. 6:12; 27:12; Luke 8:29); and found also in the Septuagint, of Proverbs 6:25;

II Maccabees 3:27;  4:41; but not elsewhere in the New Testament. It is a common

medical word of sudden seizures. The force of the συν – sun is that they hurried

Gaius and Aristarchus along with them to the theatre, no doubt intending there to

accuse them to the people. Gaius and Aristarchus. In ch. 20:4 there is mention of

a certain Gains who was one of Paul's companions in travel, but who is described

as "of Derbe." Again in I Corinthians 1:14 a Gains is mentioned as one of Paul's

converts on his first visit to Corinth, whom he baptized himself; and in Romans 16:23

(written from Corinth) we have mention of Gains as Paul's host, and of the whole

Church, likely, therefore, to be the same person. Then we have the Gaius to whom

John's Third Epistle is addressed, and whose hospitality to the brethren was a

conspicuous feature in his character, and one tending to identify him with the

Gaius of Romans 16:23. We seem, therefore, to have, in immediate connection

with Paul, Gaius of Corinth, Gaius of Macedonia, and Gaius of Derbe. But Gaius

(or Caius, as it is written in Latin) was such a common name, and the Jews so

often shifted their residence from one city to another, that it is not safe either to

infer identity from identity of name, or diversity from diversity of description.

Aristarchus, here described as of Macedonia, is more precisely spoken of in

ch. 20:4 as a Thessalonian. In ch. 27:2, where we find him accompanying Paul

from Caesarea to Rome, he is described as "a Macedonian of Thessalonica."

In Colossians 4:10 he is Paul's "fellow-prisoner,' as voluntarily sharing his prison,

and in Philemon 1:24 he is his fellow-laborer. His history, therefore, is that, having

been converted on Paul's visit to Thessalonica, he attached himself to him as one

of his missionary staff, and continued with him through good report and evil report,

through persecution, violence, imprisonment, shipwreck, and bonds, to the latest

moment on which the light of Bible history shines. Blessed servant of Christ!

blessed fellow-servant of his chief apostle!




Self-Interest Opposing Christianity (vs. 24-29)


The introduction should concern the temple, statue, and worship of the

goddess Diana; the reputation in which this goddess was held; the numbers

of persons who visited her shrine; the various opportunities afforded by

this fact for making money; and the fears which were created by the act of

self-sacrifice in burning the magical books. “The shrines were miniature

models of the temple, containing a representation of the statue of the

goddess,” and they were chiefly made for the visitors to take away as

memorials of their visit. “There was a sacred month at Ephesus — the

month of Diana — when a great religious gathering took place to celebrate

the public games in honor of the goddess. It was the pleasant month of

May. Trade was brisk then at Ephesus, not only from the large temporary

increase of population, by the presence of provincials, and strangers from

more distant parts, but from the purchases they made in the shops and

markets. Among the tradesmen of Ephesus, there were none who

depended more upon the business of this month than did makers and

dealers in holy trinkets.” “In the sacred month of the third year of St.

Paul’s stay in Ephesus, the makers of the ‘ silver shrines’ found, to their

consternation, that the demand for their commodity had so materially fallen

off as most seriously to affect their interests. Upon this one of the leading

men of their guild convened a meeting of their craft, and, in an

inflammatory speech, pointed out Paul as the person who, by his preaching

that there were ‘no gods made with hands,’ had not only produced this

crisis in the trade, but had endangered their glorious temple, and imperiled

that magnificence which the world admired.” Kitto well says, “Here we

witness a carious, but not unparalleled, union of the ‘great goddess Diana’

with the great god Self, whose worship still exists, though that of Diana is

extinct.” This brings out the point which seems to have practical interest

for us, which we have suggested in our heading. Self-interest opposes:


  1. vital religion;
  2. earnestness in Christ’s services; and
  3. the very progress of Christianity.


We observe:


  • CHRISTIANITY IS A LIFE. It is a Divine inward renewal; it is a new

creation; it is an impartation of Divine life; it is not, primarily, an

interference with social evils, or any endeavor to set the world’s wrong

right. Paul preached the Christian truth, and bade men seek Christ for

themselves, that “they might have life;” but we have no reason whatever

for supposing that he attacked the shrine-makers, or even made any peril

for himself by arguing against the claims of Diana. The power of

Christianity still lies in the change which it works in each individual, the

regeneration of the man, his possession of a new life. Christian teachers

must deal afterwards with the relations between the Christian life and the

family and society; but the Christian preacher comes first and declares that

“God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in his son: he that hath

the Son hath life.”  (I John 5:12)



comes to save souls; but the action of the renewed cannot fail to tell on

social life, bringing in a new set of sentiments and habits, and steadfastly

resisting some of the older ones. Illustrations may be found in connection

with slavery. Christianity makes no plea against it, and yet, when men

become Christians, they are sure to feel the evil of slavery, and are ready to

resist it, as a social custom, even at a great sacrifice. So with war. At

Ephesus no word need have been spoken about the superstitious use of

charms and amulets; but when the Ephesians accepted Christ as their

Savior, a social sentiment against these superstitions would speedily be

raised. The one all-effectual counteractive to social and moral evils is

strong, vigorous, noble Christian life; and just this the world so greatly

needs today.  Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth.”  (Matthew 5:13)



SURE TO BEAR HEAVILY ON SOME. It did on the shrine-makers of

Ephesus; it has done on slaveholders in England and America; it does on

drink-sellers, and on all whose trade is in any form immoral (It is a heavy

burden when ignored in the drug culture today! – CY – 2018):  it does on

those who would make personal gain out of the superstitions and fears of

the people; it does on those who proclaim skeptical and infidel ideas.




more deeply when they are touched in their emotions, but they make more

immediate and active show of their feelings when they are affected in their

self-interests. And, on the ground of such self-interest, combinations of

men are easily made to resist a truth or a reform. Show how this finds

application in these our own milder times. Spiritual Christianity finds itself

affecting men’s purely worldly interests nowadays. Many a man wages a

great fight with himself ere he lets his piety master his very trade; and wins

a willingness to sacrifice golden opportunities of advancement and wealth,

rather than lose his soul’s eternal life. And there are modern illustrations of

the way in which men, whose self-interest is touched, will combine to resist

revival and reformation. In so many forms the principle laid down by our

Lord finds ever fresh illustration: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

(Luke 16:13)  Remarking on the deceptions which lead men to combine

against established order or new truth, Bode names the following:


Ø      One pretends to high aims, and is influenced by the grossest selfishness.

Ø      One thinks himself free to act, and is the involuntary instrument of

crafty seducers.

Ø      One values himself as enlightened, and commits the most unreasonable

acts of folly.

Ø      One prides himself that he contends for the right, and perpetrates the

most unrighteous deeds of violence.

Ø      One is filled with extravagant expectations, and in the end gains



30 "And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples

suffered him not."  Was minded to enter for would have entered, Authorized

Version. With the courage of a pure conscience, conscious of no wrong, and

therefore fearing no wrong, Paul would have gone straight to the theatre, and

cast in his lot with Gaius and Aristarchus; but the disciples, knowing the savage

temper of the multitude, dissuaded him; and when their entreaties were backed

by the magistrates, Paul thought it his duty to yield. To enter in unto the people.

εἰσελθεῖν eiseltheinto be entering, or προσελθεῖν εἰς ἐπὶ τὸν δῆμον proselthein

eis epi  ton daemon - or τῷ δήμῳ - to daemo -  are phrases implying the intention of

pleading his cause before them.


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."

Certain also for certain, Authorized Version (the more natural order would be,

and certain of the chief officers of Asia also); chief officers for chief, Authorized

Version; being for which were, Authorized Version; and besought him not to for

 desiring him that he would not, Authorized Version. Chief Officers of Asia.

The Greek word is Asiarchs (Ἀσιάρχν Asiarchonchiefs of the province

of Asia). The Asiarchs, ten in number, were officers annually chosen from all

the cities of Proconsular Asia, to preside over all sacred rites, and to provide at

their own expense the public games in honor of the gods and of the deity of

the emperor. This necessitated their being men of high rank and great wealth,

and Schleusner adds that they were priests. The name Asiarch is formed like

Luciarchai, Syriarchai, Phoenicharchai, etc. We have here another striking

proof of the enormous influence of Paul's preaching in Asia, that some of

these very officers who were chosen to preside over the sacred rites of the gods,

and to advance their honor by public games, were now on Paul's side.


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."

In confusion for confused, Authorized Version (συγκεχυμένη sugkechumenae

thrown into confusion - compare  συγχύσεωςsugchuseos -  of confusion - v. 29).

The more part, etc. A graphic picture of an excited mob led by interested and

designing agitators.


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 defense unto the people."  Brought for drew, Authorized Version and

Textus Recptus; a defense for his defense, Authorized Version (ἀπολογεῖσθαι

apologeisthaito be making defense). Alexander. Some think he is the same as

"Alexander the coppersmith," of whose conduct Paul complains so bitterly

(II Timothy 4:14-15; I Timothy 1:20), and he may or may not be. It seems likely

that, as Paul's offence was speaking against the gods and their temples, the Jews,

who were commonly accused of being atheists, and one of whose nation Paul was,

came in for their share of the popular odium. They were anxious, therefore, to

excuse themselves before the people of having had any share in Paul's work,

and put forward Alexander, no doubt a clever man and a good speaker, to

make their defense. But as soon as the people knew that he was a Jew, they

refused to listen to him, and drowned his voice with incessant shouts of

"Great is Diana of the Ephesians." Meyer, however, thinks he was a Christian,

because of the word ἀπολογεῖσθαι. The people (δῆμος - daemos, as v. 30). It was

a true ἐκκλησίαekklaesiaassembly; church, though an irregular one, and the

people who formed it were the δῆμος, different from the ὄχλος ochloscrowd;

multitude, the mere crowd outside.


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."  Perceived for knew,

Authorized Version;  ἐπιγιγώσκειν epigigoskeinof recognizing, to recognize;

see ch. 3:10; 4:13).



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?"  Quieted the multitude (τὸν ὄχλονthe

multitude as mentioned in v. 33)  for appeased the people, Authorized Version;

saith for said, Authorized Version; who for that, Authorized Version; temple-

keeper for a worshipper, Authorized Version; Diana for goddess Diana,

Authorized Version and Textus Receptus. The town clerk (γραμματεὺς  -

grammateustown clerk; scribe); i.e. the scribe, is the city secretary.

γραμματεὺς τῆς πόλεως – Ho grammateus taes poleosthe town

clerk of the city, Thucyd., 7:19 (Meyer); Τοῦ γραμματέως τοῦ δήμου

Tou grammateos tou daemouthe town clerk of the people, inscription quoted

by Howson (vol. it. p. 76, note). His office, as appears from the passage in

Thucydides, was to read public documents to the people. According to some,

it was not a post of much dignity at Athens (Becket, on Thucyd., 7:10); but

according to Kuinoel it was an office of first-rate influence in the senate in the

Greek cities of Asia, seeing the scribe was the chief registrar, had the drafting

of the laws, and the custody of the archives. As there were three orders of

scribes, there may have been a great difference in the political rank of each.

Had quieted (καταστείλαςkatasteilasquieted; appeased, and κατεσταλμένους

katestalmenous,  v. 36). Καταστέλλω Katastello  means to "arrange," "put in order,"

the hair, the dress, or the like; hence "to restrain," "quiet;" found only in these two

places in the New Testament, but not uncommon in the Maccabees and in Josephus.

In classical Greek, κατεσταλμένος is a man of calm, quiet demeanor, as opposed

to τολμηρόςho tolmaeros -  one who is bold and violent. In medical language,

καταστέλλω is to soothe, calm, etc., and φάρμακα κατασταλτικά - pharmaka

katastaltika - and ἀνασταλτικά - anastaltika -  are medicines which check the

growth of diseases, ulcers, eruptions, and the like. Temple-keeper, in the Revised

Version and margin of Authorized Version (νωκόρος nokoros - literally,

temple-sweeper), from νεώςneos - a temple, and κορέω koreo - to sweep.

The word Neoceros was a peculiar title, assumed first by persons and then by

such cities, in Asia especially, as had the special charge of the temple and sacred

rites of any particular god. It first appears on coins of Ephesus, in the reign of Nero,

and was deemed a title of great honor. One inscription speaks of νεωκόρος

(Ἐφεσίων) δῆμοςho neokoros (Ephesion) daemosthe temple-sweeper of the

people of Ephesus -  as making a certain dedication. But another use of the term

sprang up about this time. Among the vile flatteries of those corrupt times, it

became usual with cities to dedicate temples and altars to the emperors, and they

received in return the title, meant to be an honor, of νεωκόρος (temple-sweeper)

of the emperor. Some extant coins exhibit the city of Ephesus as νεωκόρος both

of Diana and the emperor (see Lewin, vol. 1. p. 411; Howson, vol. it. pp. 75, 76).

The image which fell down from Jupiter (τοῦ Διοπετοῦςtou Diopetouswhich

falls from Zeus, understand ἀγάλματος agalmatos - , as in the 'Iphig. in Taur.,' 947),

Διοπετὲς λαβεῖν ἄγαλμα; which is described in ver. 88 of the same play as "the

image (ἄγαλμαagalma) of the goddess Diana, which they say fell down from

heaven (οὐρανοῦ πεσεῖν ἀπὸ - ouranou pesein apo - ) into her temple in Tauris;"

and in line 1349 it is called Οὐρανοῦ πέσημα, τῆς Διὸς κόρης ἄγαλμαOuranou

pesaema taes Dios koraes agalma - , "The image of the daughter of Jove which

fell from heaven," brought away from Tauris by Iphigenia and Orestes into Attica.

But it does not appear that there was any tradition that the identical image brought

from Tauris was carried to Ephesus. There are several representations of the

Ephesian Diana, or Artemis, on coins, of which one or two are given by Lewin

(vol. 1. p, 411) and by Howson (vol. it. p. 66). The image was of rude form

and execution, mummy-shaped, or like an inverted pyramid; πολυμαστὴ -

polumastae -  (rendered by St. Jerome multi-mammia, and explained as

intending to represent her as the nourisher of all living things: Preface to

Ephesians); made of wood variously described as ebony, cedar, and vine wood.

Pliny says that, though the temple itself had been restored seven times, the

image had never been altered (quoted by Kuinoel).



36 "Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be

quiet, and to do nothing rashly."  Gainsaid for spoken against, Authorized

Version; rash for rashly, Authorized Version. (προπετὲς propetesrashly –

is the adverb).  Quiet (κατεσταλμένους:   see above, v. 35, note).


37 "For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of

churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess."  Temples for churches,

Authorized Version; or for nor yet, Authorized Version; our for your,

Authorized Version. Ye have brought, etc. Ἠγάγετε Haegageteye led;

ye brought - is especially used of "bringing before a magistrate," "leading

to execution," etc. (Luke 21:12; 23:1; ch. 6:12;  17:19;  18:12; Mark 13:11).

Robbers of temples; ἱεροσύλους  hierosulousdespoilers of the sanctuary –

found only here in the New Testament. The verb ἱεροσυλεῖς  - hierosuleis

ye are despoilers of the sanctuary -  occurs in Romans 2:22. Blasphemers of

our goddess. If the Authorized Version is right, perhaps we may see in the

phrase "your goddess" an indication that the town-clerk himself was more or

less persuaded by Paul's preaching, that "they are no gods which are made

with hands"  (v. 26), and did not care to speak of Diana as his own goddess.

It appears also that Paul had not launched out into abuse of the heathen gods

in general, or Diana in particular, but had preached the more excellent way

 by faith in Jesus Christ, to draw them from their idols (I Thessalonians 1:9).


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."  If therefore for wherefore if, Authorized Version;

that for which, Authorized Version; the courts are for the law is, Authorized

Version; proconsuls for deputies, Authorized Version; accuse for implead,

Authorized Version. Against any man. Mark the skill with which the town-clerk

passes from the concrete to the abstract, and avoids the mention of Paul's name.

The courts are open; ἀγοραῖοι ἄγονται agoraioi agontaicourt sessions are

being held. Some supply the word σύνοδοι, and make the sense "judicial

assemblies," "sessions," coming round at proper fixed intervals. But the verb

ἄγονται, more naturally suggests ἡμέραι haemerai - days, as Bengel says

(ἄγειν γενέσια τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς σκηνοπηγίας: Ὀλύμπια: γενέθλιον, etc.), and

then the meaning is, "The regular court-days are kept, when the proconsul

attends to try causes;" there is no need to have an irregular trial. So Suidas

explains it, Ἡμέρα ἐνῇἀγορὰ. There are proconsuls. Bengel, with whom

Meyer agrees, thinks the plural denotes the unbroken succession of proconsuls.

But Lewin thinks it may mark the exact time of these transactions as being

immediately after the poisoning of the Proconsul Junius Silanus by order of

Agrippina, when the two procurators, Celer and AElius, exercised the

proconsular power till the appointment of another proconsul, according to a

law of Claudius to that effect. Others have other explanations.



39 "But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined

in a lawful assembly."  Seek for inquire, Authorized Version; about for concerning,

Authorized Version; settled for determined, Authorized Version; the regular for

a lawful, Authorized Version. If ye seek, etc (ἐπιζητεῖτε epizaeteiteye are

seeking for). Ἐπιζητεῖν means either "to make inquiry" or “to desire earnestly."

The verb in the next clause, ἐπιλυθήσεται epiluthaesetaiit shall be determined;

it shall be being explained, it shall be "settled," or "solved," favors the first sense:

"If you wish to inquire further into the spread of Paul's doctrine, and the best way

of dealing with it, the question should be decided in an assembly of the δῆμος

(people – as above), legally convened." For περὶ ἑτέρων peri heteronconcerning

other things; about other matters - , some manuscripts read περαιτέρωperaitero

 further. The regular assembly. That summoned by a magistrate in the constitutional

way. The Greek cities under the Roman government preserved their rights and

liberties, and the privilege of popular assemblies. The town clerk, therefore, gave

them their choice of either having the case tried before the proconsuls or having

it laid before the ecclesia of the demos (see v. 33), if they wished it to be gone into

on wider and deeper grounds.


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.  41 And

when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly."  For indeed for for,

Authorized Version; accused for called in question, Authorized Version;

concerning for for, Authorized Version; riot for uproar, Authorized Version;

for it for whereby, Authorized Version; and as touching it we shall not be able

to for we may, Authorized Version; account for an account, Authorized Version.

We are in danger (κινδυνεύομεν kinduneuomenwe are being in danger: see

v. 27, note). To be accused concerning this day's riot. The Greek cannot well be

so construed. The margin is right; ἐγκαλεῖσθαι στάσεως egkaleisthai staseos

to be charged with sedition;  περὶ τῆς σήμερον - peri taes saemeronconcering

today -  is for τῆς σήμερον ἡμέρας taes saemeron haemeras - this day, as in

ch. 20:26, τῇ σήμερον ἡμέρᾳ (the today day): only in English we should say,

"on account of this day," i.e. what has been done this day. The Received Text

places a stop after μηδενὸς αἰτίου ὑπάχοντοςmaedenos aitiou hupachontos

not one cause belonging. As touching it. But "it" must mean "the riot," which

is feminine, whereas οϋ hou - which - is masculine; so that the Receivcd Text

is impossible to construe. It is much better, therefore, to adhere to the Textus

Receptus, which has good manuscript authority, and to construe as the

Authorized Version. Whereby, equivalent to "on the ground of which".

With regard to the great tumult to which the foregoing narrative

relates, it is certain that Luke has by no means exaggerated its

importance. In his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, written from

Macedonia shortly after his departure from Ephesus, Paul speaks as one

still smarting under the severity of his sufferings. In the language of trust,

yet of a trust sorely tried, he speaks of the Father of mercies “who

comforteth us in all our tribulation.” He speaks of the sufferings of Christ

as abounding in him. And then, referring directly to the trouble which came

upon him in Asia, he says, “We were pressed out of measure, above

strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: but we had the sentence

of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God

which raiseth the dead: who delivered us from so great a death”

(II Corinthians 1:4-10). And the same tone breaks out again in ibid. 4:7-18;

6:4-10; 11:23-27; 12:9-10. It is also very probable that it was on this occasion

that Priscilla and Aquila saved Paul’s life at the risk of their own, to which

he alludes in Romans 16:3-4, written after he had reached Corinth from

Macedonia, i.e. before Easter of the year 58 A.D. So that it is certain that the

riot and the danger to Paul’s life were even greater than we should have inferred

from St. Luke’s narrative alone.  It should be added, with reference to the three

years’ residence at Ephesus (ch. 20:21) which this nineteenth chapter describes,

that one or two important incidents which occurred are not related by Luke.

The first is that encounter with a savage rabble to which Paul refers in

I Corinthians 15:32, but of which we have no account in the Acts. It must

have happened in the early part of his sojourn at Ephesus. Another is a

probable visit to Corinth, inferred from II Corinthians 2:1; 12:14, 21;

13:1-2; and thought to have been caused by bad accounts of the moral

state of the Corinthian Church, sent to him at Ephesus. It was probably a

hasty visit, and in contrast with it he says, in I Corinthians 16:7, with

reference to his then coming visit, “I will not see you now by the way; but I

trust to tarry a while with you.” It is also thought that there was another

letter to the Corinthians, written from Ephesus, soon after that second

visit, which is now lost, but is alluded to in I Corinthians 5:9. The First

Epistle to the Corinthians was manifestly written at this time from Ephesus

(see I Corinthians 16:8, 19). Some think that the Epistle to the

Galatians was also written from Ephesus, a little before the First Epistle to

the Corinthians (see I Corinthians 16:1;  Galatians 2:10); but Renan

thinks it was written from Antioch, before he came to Ephesus.


The Greed of Gain (vs. 21-41)


Several instructive lessons crop up from this narrative. When two people

advancing from opposite directions meet in a narrow pathway, one must

give way to the other. When the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ

encounters the greed of gain in a human breast, either the Word, with its

promises, its hopes, its commands, must stand aside that the love of money

may pursue its onward course, or the worldly gain must become as dung in

the eyes of the hearer of THE WORD. We have noble examples in such men

as Moses, Elisha, Daniel, Nehemiah, Zacchaeus, Peter and the other

apostles, Barnabas, Paul, and many more both in ancient and modern times,

of that contempt of worldly gains in comparison with the treasures of

heaven, which marks the true servant of the living God. But we have, on

the other hand, many sad though instructive instances of the love of gain

holding its ground and barring the entrance into the heart of love and

obedience to God. It was so in the instance recorded in this section. Here

was the blessed gospel of God’s redeeming grace preached with

extraordinary power by Paul, confirmed by signal miracles, attested by

the conversion of multitudes, glorified by the open confession and the

voluntary losses of so many professors of curious arts; it was presented

with a power and a beauty to the minds of the Ephesians which seemed to

be irresistible. What sweet lessons of godliness, what glorious promises of

immortality, what captivating revelations of the goodness and love of God,

did that gospel contain! It could set men free from sin; it could raise them

to fellowship with angels; it could give them the victory over the very

grave. But when Demetrius heard it he saw in it one fatal blot which

obliterated all its excellences: it would destroy the trade in silver shrines.

Let men once be convinced that there is one true and living God, the Lord

of heaven and earth, and one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of

the Father, and that to know him and love and serve Him is eternal life, and

there would be an end of the worship of the great goddess Diana of the

Ephesians. The strangers who flocked to the pan-Ionian games would no

longer crowd to the shop of Demetrius, that they might carry home with

them a silver shrine; silver ornaments would no more be devoted to

beautify the famous temple; the skill of the craftsmen would no longer

bring them honor and respect; the faith of Jesus Christ would be the deathblow

to the magnificence of Diana and to the gains of her workmen.

Therefore the faith of Christ must be resisted. It must be kept out of the

workmen’s heart, and it must be crushed that it spread no more. The true

cry was — Our gains are in danger! The pretended cry was — The honor

of Diana is at stake! And this leads us to the further remark that selfish

greed seldom dares show itself without disguise. It has an instinctive

consciousness of its own unworthiness as a motive of action, and even of

its repulsiveness in the eyes of others. It must therefore always put on

some cloak of hyprocrisy. It must simulate zeal for God or benevolence

towards man. It must pretend to be seeking some end very different from

the true one, or at least one to which the true end is quite subordinate.

Even if it admit that “this our craft is in danger,” it puts forward as the

supreme danger that “her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia

and the world worshippeth.” And this teaches us the importance of a very

close scrutiny of our own motives of action, when our worldly interests are

concerned. It is astonishing how much men’s judgment and their powers of

discrimination are affected by considerations of interest. It is, perhaps, less

common for men to act deliberately against their conviction of what is just

and right than to be biased in their opinion of what is right by the

disturbing force of self-interest. The man whose real aim through life is to

do what is right and accept what is true, quite irrespective of any influence

which his belief or his action may have upon his own temporal gains,

should spare no pains to maintain a judgment quite independent of selfish

considerations, and to force his conscience always to give a true verdict

upon the evidence before it, unmoved by fear of loss, and unseduced by

hopes of gain. Once more, the example of the Ephesian silversmiths

supplies a caution, not unneeded to all Christians, against supposing that

“godliness is a way of gain.” A large part of the corruptions of Christianity,

and of the scandalous lives of worldly minded clergy in all ages, has arisen

from the attempt to make religion a source of individual gain and

aggrandizement. Legacies extorted from death-bed terrors, preferment

gained by unworthy means, the sale of indulgences, paid Masses for the

dead, the huge treasures accumulated by divers pretences at the shrines of

saints, and many other infamous devices to make religion lucrative to the

professors of it, are examples of what I mean. The man of God and the

chaste Church of Christ must flee these things, and follow after

righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. These are the

Christian’s treasures, the results of his craft, the rewards of his labors.

These are the branches which grow on the stem of heavenly truth, and with

these alone can he be satisfied. He covets not the wages of

unrighteousness; he cares not for the silver shrines; he frames not his creed

either to catch the gifts of the wealthy, or to secure the praises of the

world. The practical lesson to the Christian tradesman is to beware lest the

interests of his trade lead him into any antagonism with the requirements of

the gospel. Certain gains may be incompatible with perfect integrity, or

with a supreme regard for the honor of God, or with true love to man. Let

the Christian tradesman look to it that he is always ready to sacrifice his

gains to his higher Christian obligations. His willingness to do so is the test

of his Christian sincerity, and it is a severe test. The voice of a thriving,

growing, swelling business is a loud voice, and the fear of checking a trade

and losing all is a very telling fear. The cry of a feeble business, crying for

more nourishment and a wider field, is a very pressing cry. Let the voice of

conscience, and duty, and fealty to Christ be louder and more pressing still,

so that the silver shrines may pale before the claims of the supreme Lord of

all, and the treasures of the world may become as dung before the glory of

the righteousness of the children of God.



The Supreme Conflict (vs. 21-41)


Of all the struggles which have occurred or are now taking place in the

human world, there is not one which deserves to be named in comparison

with that supreme conflict which is proceeding between:


  • Divine truth and human error,
  • holiness and sin,
  • Christ and “the world.”


We are:



The world will never be renovated until many strong “interests” have been

bravely encountered and utterly overthrown. The gospel of Christ cannot

be proclaimed in its fullness without giving occasion for many to say, here

and there, now and again, This our craft is in danger” (v. 27). It is the

inevitable tendency of all purifying truth, not only to eradicate evil from the

hearts of men, but to bring to naught the hurtful institutions of the world.

But by these men live; with these their material interests are closely bound

up. Whether it be “drunkenness, slavery, or war,” which have been

declared to be “the three great evils which have cursed mankind.” or

whether it be any other harmful thing which Christ purposes to overthrow,

His truth must occasionally and incidentally assail the temporal interests and

prospects of men. And such is our human nature that, when it does this, it

will call forth the most bitter, vehement, crafty, determined opposition. It is

in this incidental way that Christ comes, “not to send peace on earth, but a

sword” (Matthew 10:34). And we may learn:


Ø      that it is doubtful whether we are declaring the whole counsel of God,

if we are provoking no hostility by our utterance;


Ø      that we need not wonder that the coming of the kingdom of God is

delayed when we take this envenomed hostility into account.



By the confession of Demetrius: “This Paul hath persuaded and turned

away much people,” etc. (v. 26). There may have been a note of

exaggeration in his speech, but it is a significant fact that these shrines

were in much smaller request in consequence of Paul’s preaching. Truth

will tell, sooner or later. Against all prejudices, material interests, social

habits, civil laws, military forces, IT WILL ULTIMATELY PREVAIL!

Imperceptibly at first, but in growing numbers and accelerating force,

it wins its way until it is accepted, honored, crowned.


  • THE SUBTLETY OF SIN. When the silversmiths of Ephesus find

their craft in danger, they say so, plainly enough, while they confer

together; but when they face the populace, they disguise their selfishness

under the cloak of piety, and cry, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians”

(v. 29). Sin sometimes fights without any mask at all; it shows itself in its

native hideousness, — the rank, foul, selfish, shameful thing it is. But

usually it seeks to conceal its ugliness by draping itself in something which

is elegant and becoming. It affects piety, benevolence, patriotism; it is

concerned for the comfort, the temporal necessities, or even the spiritual

well-being of the world. God strikes through such miserable pretences with

His penetrating eye, and it is often open to our human intelligence to

recognize the hateful features beneath the graceful folds.


  • THE WEAPONS OF DIVINE WISDOM. These are three, as

suggested here.


Ø      Prudence. This is least in virtue and value; but it is not unimportant.

The town-clerk of Ephesus is a model of the politic in behavior and

address (vs. 35-41); what he employed so admirably in the discharge

of his secular duty, we may use advantageously in the fulfillment of

our high mission. The disciples of Ephesus showed a wise prudence

in not suffering Paul to enter the theatre; humanly speaking, they saved

his life (v. 30).  He himself prudently left the city after this great

disturbance. We may be and should be politic and prudent when

our caution is not cowardice nor faithlessness (John 16:8).


Ø      Courage. Paul was ready to go into the midst of the excited, violent,

murderous multitude (v. 30). The same unfaltering courage carried

him over perilous seas, into dangerous countries, among hostile

peoples everywhere, if only he saw the Master’s pointing finger

or heard the cry of spiritual distress.


Ø      Faithfulness. It was the preaching of the cross, the telling of the old,

old story of redeeming love, whatever the Jew might demand or the

Gentile crave, which was the source and secret of the apostle’s power.




The Spirit of Rebellion against the Gospel (vs. 21-41)


The tumult at Ephesus presents a picture of certain aspects of human nature and

of the contest between good and evil in the world.


  • ITS CAUSES. Most radical of all was the instinct of self-seeking. This

is the dark background out of which all manner of fiendish shapes arise to

contend against the light. Then it was self-seeking under the guise of

religious zeal. Demetrius is the type of all those who make great

professions of interest for the “truth,” the “honor of God,” the “cause of

religion,” and the like, while their real motive is personal profit, honor, or

notoriety. They appear to be aiming at the highest, are really driving at the

lowest object. At the same time, consistency with self gives an appearance

of truth, no matter how corrupt and base the self may be. Hence selfish

men often earn a credit and reputation refused to the more conscientious.

For the egoist always “knows his own mind,” though it be a bad mind; the

conscientious man has frequent self-doubts and conflicts, the signs of

which cannot be suppressed.


  • ITS MEANS AND INSTRUMENTS. The imagination of the multitude

must, as usual, be acted upon. For good or for evil, great movements

among the masses, are due immediately to influences upon the imagination.

The preacher’s power lies here, and also that of the sophist and the

demagogue. The ideas connected with profit and those connected with

religion have immense governing power over the mass. We remember the

commotion a few years ago among the match-makers in the east of London

when it was threatened to tax their industry. So with bread-riots, land riots,

and the like All the instincts of self-preservation rise against those who

appear to menace the very means of existence. Religious ideas are only a

degree less powerful. Society rests upon religion. We can only faintly

imagine how the Athenian felt about his guardian goddess Athene, or the

Ephesian about great Artemis. The Greek city was to each native as one

large house or home, the very hearth of which was the altar of the god, the

very foundations of which rested on reverence for that god. Here, then,

were two of the mightiest instincts of human nature roused up and armed

against the gospel:


Ø      self-seeking and

Ø      the religious or superstitious instinct.




Ø      The kingdom of sense and of nature is represented by the great gods of

Greece. Christianity is the kingdom of the spirit. The worship of the Greek

cities was that of the beautiful; art and science were supreme. Christianity

makes the moral ideal supreme.


Ø      The true temple is the spirit of man. And no worthy temple can be built

to God unless His Spirit purify the heart, and His strength be perfected in

weakness. Without the internal cultus of the heart, the external, in buildings

and ritual, is vain.


Ø      The spiritual kingdom alone is abiding. Ephesus and its temple have long

been in ruins; but against the Church of Christ the gates of hell cannot

prevail.  (Matthew 16:18)


Ø      The security of the faithful amidst the storm. They are concealed in a

safe place till the hour of danger be over past (vs. 30-31). Help is raised

up in unexpected quarters (v. 35, et seq.). The storms of angry passions

are subdued (v. 40). The ark of the Church is guided safely through the



Ø      Character brought to light in troublous scenes. The chancellor at

Ephesus is an example of undaunted courage, of calm prudence, of

impartial justice, and of human kindness.




A Typical Exhibition of Human Nature (vs. 23-41)


This section of the history marks itself off — an episode which gave

apostles and disciples, albeit in a very modified time, to rest, and made

them spectators of an ample display of certain aspects of human nature.

The world, ever ready to arm against the truth, and especially against

Christ, the first distinct and bright embodiment of truth, is left sometimes

to fight out its own battles. And the amount of smoke in which they end is

sometimes, as in the present case, something wonderful. Notice:



MAN. The illustration which Demetrius here affords of what is often

deepest down in the heart of the world — love of money gain, faith in

money gain, the illusion that money gain is the one thing needful, and by

which alone men live — seems for a moment pleasantly relieved by his

apparent free admission of it. Any sense of relief, however, arising from

this consideration is speedily largely discounted:


Ø      By the fact that the ready admission of it but speaks the deeper root of

the malady, and that it is a fact grown to be viewed as venial, perhaps

natural, nay, very probably necessary, and therefore true to right nature.


Ø      By the fact that the admission, though apparently free enough, was,

when it occurred, only of a semi-public character. Demetrius owns and

unfolds the state of his own mind, not to the wide world, but to his own

“craftsmen,” whose sympathies would lie very near his own — and he

knew it.





OF “ALL ASIA AND THE WORLD? The opportunity was no doubt a

tempting one. And though too evident to allow of its inferring any great

talent on the part of Demetrius, yet he skillfully avails himself of it. Some

persons will miss very tempting opportunities, which are as evident as they

may be tempting. “The children of this world are,” however, “wiser in their

generation,” as a rule, “than the children of light”  (Luke 16:8); and this

was one instance of it. It took most successfully.


Ø      It is the speedy outcry of “the whole city.” And the movement spread so

rapidly from the craftsmen class interest, that when the whole city is

come together” (v. 32), “the more part knew not wherefore.” It made

little difference. They had their throats and their limbs with them, and a

couple of victims, Gaius and Aristarchus (v. 29), traveling

“companions of Paul.”


Ø      Most combustible fuel was forthcoming to add to the fire, in the person

of a Jew (v. 34), who was probably unpopular with his own people. He

was thrust into prominence by his own people (v. 33), either that he

might be their scapegoat and bear the brunt, or possibly because he was

judged to be the most competent man. Of this view there is some

evidence in his ready preparedness to address the surging multitude and

to “make his defense.” Anyway, for two hours more did the

conflagration burn more fiercely for that one move. And it was a move

which derived its force from “the burning religious question.”


Ø      The success of the scheme of Demetrius is illustrated most significantly

in what it elicited from the lips of the “town-clerk” (vs. 37-38),

especially in his huge fallacy of asserting to acclamation (which no

doubt rang again in that theatre, but to the flat denial of truth and

time succeeding and now “of all the world”, “Seeing that these

things cannot be spoken against.” (v. 36)


  • THE COLLAPSE. However uninformed in religion the town-clerk

was, it is plain that he was a competent man.


Ø      He defends Gains and Aristarchus, and presumably Paul. He finds and

pronounces it boldly that “these men” have done nothing amiss. They

are neither sacrilegious “robbers” nor “blasphemers” albeit of an idol!


Ø      He reduces the swelling hazards of Demetrius to their proper

proportions. It is a mere matter of himself and his friends. And it is a

mere matter of whether he can prove anything that will entitle him to

redress. If he can, he must go to the right place to do it, and take the

right course.  Probably Demetrius, having set the fire going, had some

time ago dropped into the background. But if not, if he and his party

had stayed to keep up to the full the excitement, they must inevitably

have felt now very small. It were not to have been wondered at if the

multitude had turned upon them, with the threat of lynch law.


Ø      He apprises the whole city that disaster may be the sequel of a whole

day’s wasted uproar and undefended concourse. And the people seemed

open to his wisdom, and wiser by far than Demetrius at all events. So

ends in smoke the work of wickedness, the worldliness of the worldly,

the self-seeking and avarice of the man who has far keener foresight

for gain and money than any care, past, present, or to come,

for truth and religion. The day has been uproar; the human nature

of that day has been mere confusion: unseen presences have, however,

been in the scene, and still voices at last prevail, which pronounce

condemnation on the evil-doing ringleader, which reduce him to

shame and humiliation in the eyes of those whose passion he had

needlessly excited, and most remarkable of all, which demand and

obtain silence. It is no dim augury of the close of the world’s

day, when time shall be ripe.





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