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Paul in Ephesus October 18, 2016

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Acts 19:1-22.

Summary: In this passage, Paul returned to Ephesus, where he baptized twelve of John’s disciples in the name of Jesus Christ. He then entered the synagogue and preached the Gospel message for three months. Eventually some of those in attendance rejected it; consequently, he rejected them and encouraged those who accepted it. Those disciples helped spread the Gospel message throughout Asia. Later, God demonstrated His power through Paul by enabling him to heal the sick and drive out evil spirits. Some of the Jews attempted to appropriate the name of Jesus Christ to that end, though, including the seven sons of Sceva. Consequently, God humiliated them – compelling the Ephesians who had been ensnared by the occult to confess their sins and burn their scrolls of magic spells. After that, Paul decided to travel to Jerusalem; he sent Timothy and Erastus ahead of him to Macedonia.

Thoughts: In verses 3-5, we see that Paul baptized several believers in Ephesus in the name of Jesus Christ. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 5:

Because people in those days had the mistaken idea that John’s baptism was different from Christ’s, there was nothing absurd about people being baptized again if they had only been prepared with John’s baptism. But the two were pledges and signs of the same adoption and new life that we have in our baptism today; that is why we do not read of Christ rebaptizing those who came to him from John.

I find Calvin’s point here to be rather confusing, as I had always understood that the baptism of John was distinct from the baptism of Christ that we practice today. In fact, my reading of Paul’s statement in verse 4 indicates that the baptism of John was limited to a particular time period – it was meant to prepare people for the arrival of Jesus Christ. Those who participated in that ceremony were aware of their “sin problem” and their need for a solution to that problem; they expressed their desire for that solution by publicly repenting of their sins. Once Jesus Christ arrived and revealed Himself as the solution to the “sin problem,” the baptism of John became irrelevant. Then again, it is possible that I am misinterpreting Calvin’s point; comments are welcome.

In verses 17-20, we see that the believers in Ephesus repented of their sins – especially those pertaining to the occult. Calvin offers some thoughts on this point in his commentary on verse 18:

We know how hard it is to wring true confession out of those who have offended, for since people count nothing more precious than their reputation, they are more concerned about shame than about truth. Indeed, as much as possible they try to conceal their shame. So this voluntary confession was evidence of repentance and fear.

Since the total value of the scrolls that were burned in verse 19 was equivalent to fifty thousand days’ wages, I pondered the modern-day equivalent of that drastic action. Perhaps a group of modern-day sinners could repent by burning the following items:

  • pornographic material
  • illegal drugs
  • potpourri pertaining to idol worship.

A secondary application entails conducting a regular assessment of our walk with God; in particular, what prevents us from focusing on Him? Any distraction along those lines should be removed. While breaking bad habits is a fiendishly difficult task, we must remember that God is holy; moreover, He is both willing and able to punish those who – knowingly or unknowingly – besmirch His holiness.

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