A Christian Guide to Acts by R. David Pogge

Chapter 10

Paul’s Third Missionary Journey

Acts 18:23 - 21:26

Rose Book of Bible Charts. Maps & Time Lines

Section 10.1 - Baptized by the Spirit

Baptism of the Holy Spirit is mentioned several times in the Book of Acts. It was first mentioned on Pentecost and later when Peter went to the home of Cornelius; but here was another instance that was not previously discussed.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria.  When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. [Acts 8:14-17]

All of those instances where people were baptized by the Holy Spirit involved Peter. Now, near the beginning of Paul’s Third Missionary Journey, Luke mentions it again.

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples  and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.”  On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  There were about twelve men in all. [Acts 19:1-6]

It is clear that there are two kinds of baptism—John’s baptism and baptism by the Holy Spirit.

Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance.” This is in perfect agreement with what Matthew said.

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea  and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
  make straight paths for him.’” 1

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” [Matthew 3:1-12]

John recognized that his water baptism was different from the baptism of the Holy Spirit. John baptized “with water for repentance.” John’s baptism washed away sins with water.

It is unclear whether John baptized the Pharisees and Sadducees or not. He certainly judged them to be unworthy of baptism—at least at first. Perhaps they repented, and he did baptize them after that; but the Bible doesn’t say, so we don’t know whether he did or not. It does seem clear, however, that baptism is worthless without repentance. Baptism won’t wash away the sins of unrepentant sinners.

Paul also noted a symbolic meaning for water baptism.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.  For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! [Romans 6:1-15]

In John’s baptism, we are symbolically buried under the water, and raised to a new life. But it isn’t merely symbolic because we really do rise to a new life, in which sin is no longer our master. The Holy Spirit can give us victory over sin, if we let Him.

Although the Bible doesn’t specifically say so, Peter was certainly baptized by John. And yet, Peter was baptized again by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Why did Peter need to be baptized again?

The baptism of the Holy Spirit was different from John’s baptism. When Peter was baptized by the Holy Spirit, it wasn’t to forgive his sins—it was to give him power to spread the Gospel. That’s how Peter received the gift of tongues.

Like the believers in Samaria, the converts in Ephesus had received water baptism, and their sins had been forgiven—but they did not have the power of the Holy Spirit behind them to spread the Gospel. Then, “When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.”

One of the last things Jesus said to the disciples was,

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. [Matthew 28:19-20]

Which kind of baptism did Jesus want them to perform? John's baptism kills the old sinful man, washes away his sins, and raises the believer to a new life in which he has the power to obey God’s commands. That’s all anybody needs.

But God has needs, too. He needs people to teach others “to obey everything I have commanded you.” That’s why he baptizes some people with the Holy Spirit, giving them the language skills they need to present the Gospel message. Remember, “There were about twelve men in all” who received the gift of tongues in Corinth. Not every Christian in Corinth was baptized by the Holy Spirit. Not everyone needs the gift of tongues to spread the Gospel.

Section 10.2 – Limited Success

Despite the assistance of the Holy Spirit, Paul did not convert everyone he met.

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.  But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. [Acts 19:8-10]

This is yet another example where Luke mentions preaching in the synagogue on Sabbath, and daily meetings in a lecture hall, and no mention of a Sunday morning worship service—but let’s not beat that dead horse any more.

Instead, let’s focus on the fact that not everyone will accept the message because God has given man the freedom to choose to follow or not. Paul told the Corinthians,

In the Law it is written:

"With other tongues
      and through the lips of foreigners
I will speak to this people,
      but even then they will not listen to me,
says the Lord." 2 [1 Corinthians 14:21]

This isn’t meant to discourage us. We are not to think that no matter what we say, nobody will listen. This passage is supposed to encourage us. It is to remind us that we will not always be successful, but we should not give up simply because we don’t succeed every time. God gives us gifts for us to use in His name for His honor and His purpose—and we must use them whether we are successful or not.

Section 10.3 - The Exorcists

Paul did some exorcisms.

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them. [Acts 19:11]

But Paul wasn’t the only one. The following eight verses tell us,

Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power. [Acts 19:12-19]

Most modern denominations don’t talk much about demon possession because modern people are too sophisticated to believe in demons. Yes, there may have been demon possession back in Biblical times (they say) but that doesn’t happen anymore. Anyone who believes in demons is judged to be an ignorant hick by enlightened society. It is understandable that churches don’t want to be associated with such “foolishness.”

If there is no such thing a demon possession anymore, how do you explain school shootings?

What if demon possession still happens, but we are just blind to it? If school shooters are demon possessed, which is the correct solution to the problem—gun control or God control? God can control demons. Laws can’t.

Admittedly, the seven sons of Sceva were not able to drive out an evil spirit; but others could. Of course, the Gospels tells us that Jesus did on multiple occasions, and none of us are as powerful as He is; but Jesus did promise His followers,

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. [John 14:12]

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” [Matthew 10:5-8]

The Twelve were not told to go and say, “God loves you.” They were to preach the last days judgment message, and drive out demons to drive home the point.

The fact that Paul could drive out demons, but the sons of Sceva could not, gave Paul credibility in the eyes of the people, and many were converted for that reason. The evidence that their conversion was real is proved by the fact that they obeyed the Old Testament prohibitions against sorcery 3 and burned magic books worth 50,000 drachmas. (A drachma was about one day’s wage. 50,000 / 365 = 137 years’ worth of labor.)

Section 10.4 - Paul's Idol Words

About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” [Acts 19:23-27]

The Gospel was incompatible with secular beliefs in Paul’s day, and it is in our day, too. People didn’t like it when Paul preached the straight truth, and they don’t like it when we do. People get upset when you tell them that the preponderance of scientific evidence supports creation rather than evolution, God’s law is still binding because it wasn’t nailed to the cross, sexual perversion is wrong no matter how acceptable it is to modern society, God forbids certain foods as test of obedience, and that Sunday worship is an anti-Semitic tradition which violates one of God’s commands. To preach the same message today that Paul did back then invites just as much persecution.

When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said goodbye and set out for Macedonia. … Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia ... went on ahead and waited for us at Troas. But we sailed from Philippi after the Festival of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. [Acts 20:1, 5-6]

Paul's Gentile co-workers went on ahead, but Paul stayed for the Festival of Unleavened Bread. Paul was a Jew, and still celebrated the Jewish festivals. Paul understood that the Jewish festivals pointed forward to Christ and the plan of salvation. Paul knew that keeping the ceremonial law would not save him—but that wasn’t a reason to ignore the festivals.

Luke didn’t make a big deal of it because the allegations that Paul preached against Moses were known to be false by Christians of his day. A few centuries after Acts was written, the Catholic church tried to distance Christianity from Judaism because “the Jews killed Christ!” Luke wrote the Book of Acts long before that anti-Semitic heresy infected the Catholic church.

Paul’s Gentile co-workers didn’t celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread because they didn't have to be circumcised and become a Jew to be a Christian. They didn't have to celebrate Jewish Festivals to be a Christian—but they did have to obey God’s law. The Sabbath commandment dates back to the Garden of Eden—it isn't just a Jewish festival. All the first Christians kept the Sabbath regardless of whether they were Jews or Gentiles.

Section 10.5 - Bored to Death

People have been falling asleep during sermons for centuries. It even happened when Paul preached.

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted. [Acts 19:7-12]

Jesus wasn’t the only person to raise the dead. This passage tells us Paul raised Eutychus from the dead. Peter 4 and Elijah 5 did it, too. When filled with the Holy Spirit, believers can work miracles.

Eutychus fell asleep and fell out of a “third story” (or “third loft” in some English translations) window. Luke probably numbered floors the same way the French do. That is, ground floor, first floor, second floor, third floor. So, the "third story" window he fell from probably was what Americans would call the “fourth floor.”

This passage is sometimes used to “prove” the early Christians worshipped on Sunday. In fact, it proves they did not.

Just as the French third floor isn't the same as the American third floor, the Jewish “first day of the week” doesn’t exactly correspond to modern days of the week. The Jewish first day of the week begins at sundown on Saturday night. Paul started his sermon at sundown Saturday. Eutychus fell out of the fourth floor window around midnight, Saturday night. Paul interrupted his sermon briefly to raise Eutychus, and then, “After talking until daylight, he left.” Paul left at sunrise on Sunday morning. If the disciples had a Sunday morning worship service, wouldn’t Paul have stayed around for it?

A good Jew would not travel a long distance on Sabbath, the seventh day. He would wait until the seventh day was over and leave on the first day of the week. Since there weren’t any street lights in those days, he would not leave at sunset. He would naturally leave at dawn on Sunday morning.

Paul was a good Jew. He had his head shaved for a vow, he celebrated the Jewish festivals, and kept the Sabbath. He did not preach against Moses and the law, or worship on Sunday.

Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost. [Acts 20:16]

Pentecost was still important to Paul, even as late as his Third Missionary Journey. After the keeping the Feast of Unleavened Bread in Philippi, Paul had seven weeks to get to Jerusalem and celebrate the Passover there. He had to sail past Ephesus to make it in time.

Section 10.6 - Paul's Goodbye Message

From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. [Acts 20:17-21]

Paul summarized his work by saying, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” He did not say, “The law was nailed to the cross, so you don’t have to keep it anymore.” He did not say, “It doesn’t matter what you do, all that matters is that you have a relationship with God.” He didn’t even say, “God is love.” (In fact, the word “love” does not appear anywhere in the Book of Acts.) His message was primarily about repentance.

He went on to say,

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

“Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. [Acts 20:22-31]

When Paul said, “Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you,” he recognized his responsibility as a watchman. God told Ezekiel,

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked person will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from his ways and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, though you yourself will be saved. [Ezekiel 33:7-9]

Paul knew that verse didn’t apply to Ezekiel alone—it applied to Paul, and to us, too. When we hesitate to proclaim the whole will of God to someone, and that person is lost, his blood is on our hands. That’s a sobering thought!

Savage wolves did join the church and did “arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” They replaced the Gospel with a message itching ears want to hear, and have attracted many disciples. Some churches that preach cheap grace have a tremendous following. They even brag about their tolerance, accepting sinful practices which are clearly condemned by the Bible. The blood of all the people who listen to them will be on their hands.

Paul knew what awaited him in Jerusalem, but he went on preaching the truth anyway.

Section 10.7 - Plain as the Hair not on His Head

When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and reported in detail what God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. [Acts 21:17-19]

If Peter was the first pope, why did Paul go “to see James, and all the elders?” There is nothing in the Book of Acts to indicate that Peter had a preeminent position in the church, contrary to Catholic tradition.

When they heard this, they praised God. Then they said to Paul: “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. They have been informed that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to turn away from Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or live according to our customs. What shall we do? They will certainly hear that you have come, so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” [Acts 21:20-25]

Paul did not tell the Jews to turn away from Moses and abandon Jewish customs. That was a lie propagated by opponents of the faith. To prove it was a lie, Paul was advised to, “Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.”

Paul, who was never afraid to tell the truth, did not respond to the elders by saying, “But the law really has been nailed to the cross! We should turn away from Moses and abandon all the old Jewish customs and eat unclean meats.” Instead,

The next day Paul took the men and purified himself along with them. Then he went to the temple to give notice of the date when the days of purification would end and the offering would be made for each of them. [Acts 21:26]

Paul didn't hesitate. He went through the purification ritual the next day. Presumably, he thought it was worthwhile—even though he knew it would not save him. In the same way, many modern Christians fast—even though fasting isn’t necessary for salvation. Religious rituals are beneficial and do bring people closer to God—as long as those people don’t think they are earning salvation. You can’t perform enough rituals or do enough good works to obligate God to save you. God saves people because He wants to—not because He has to.

Back to Chapter 9 Table of Contents On to Chapter 11

Footnotes:

1 Isaiah 40:3
2 Isaiah 28:11-12
3 Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10
4 Acts 9:40
5 1 Kings 17:22