Acts 19

Acts 19 is a very interesting chapter indeed. If you have read it, then you know what is going on. If not, you are struck by a few things from the beginning. First, that Appolos had a pretty serious preaching ministry, and many were converted in Ephesus. This is important due to the import of the city itself. Ephesus was a large port town, where the temple of Artemis was located. In some respects, it was one of the most important cities in all of Asia Minor. In fact, the library in Ephesus was so famous that many came just to see it. This would have been like the church moving to New York and finding some real cache amongst its citizens. 

When Paul found himself there, he was interested in what kind of baptism these people had received. He was concerned they didn’t know the whole of the Gospel narrative at that point. And sure enough, they hadn’t heard of the Holy Spirit. That might seem pretty strange, but in the early parts of the Christian tradition there were so many itinerant preachers, that some of them did not have the whole of the Gospel. As they had received the baptism of Joh, which was a baptism of repentance. But they had yet to receive the Holy Spirit. When they heard this, they were amenable to his teaching and they were baptized. Whether it was by Paul or not is not the point.  The point was that they were ready to baptize into the new knowledge and spirit they had received.

I recently had the honor and privilege to rebaptize a friend who had discovered something new about himself, his family, and his lineage. This revelation changed much in his life, and he decided that he would like to be baptized into this new knowledge, and to this new identity. It was not that he had left his faith, but this new perspective created a new desire to make a new commitment with his new identity. Sometimes, new knowledge begs a new commitment. 

Paul spent significant time in Ephesus and his ministry was vital to the growth of the church, but it was not without controversy. 
The final parts of Chapter 19 have to do with a right that happened due to the effectiveness of Paul’s teaching. The guild that was responsible for creating the idols that so many worshipped were actually challenged by the impact of Paul’s teaching on idols and their  antithetical nature.

Can you imagine a message so powerful it impacts the economy of the region? Do we preach with such effectiveness? Are we hopeful for it?

What kind of message could you bring to the world today that might be a disruptive message, calling people back to a new focus, a new hope, and a new trajectory for their lives? This is what we hope for!

Perhaps this chapter is. About the power of preaching. Perhaps it is about the Holy Spirit, or baptism. The truth is that this chapter is about the power of God through the Holy Spirit, through those who he had called, and through the community where they are found as well. These three things need to work together in order to make an impact in the ancient world, and today is not so different.

We lean on the power of the Holy Spirit to make our words powerful. The impact we have leads to changed hearts and hopefully to baptism.As ell, the community can be impacted by our words. This can be seen as good or bad, and here in acts 19 it was clearly seen as a disruption.

But if the Gospel isn’t a disruption to our daily lives, to our pocketbooks, or to our trajectories, is it even the Gospel at all?

  1. Have you ever heard a sermon that was so powerful it changed everything? 
  2. How can you preach with power? 
  3. Is there a community that needs to be changed by the Power of God, and will they revolt when you tell them?

By Timothy Gillespie

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