Riot in Ephesus

KEY VERSE: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.” —II Corinthians 4:8

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 19:23-29, 35-40

WHEN the Apostle Paul arrived in Ephesus, he met several disciples who had accepted Jesus but had a very incomplete knowledge of the Gospel. “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Spirit since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Spirit. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. 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.”—Acts 19:2-4

Baptism is a symbol of what has previously taken place in the heart, and in itself does not accomplish repentance or conversion. In the case of John’s baptism, we realize that it was meaningful only to the Jews or Jewish proselytes. The nation of Israel, in covenant relationship with God, was in disfavor because of disobedience. At the time of John the Baptist, some Jews with the right heart attitude realized that in their sinful condition they were out of harmony with God. Through John they learned of a promised Deliverer, Jesus, who was to be the long-awaited Messiah, and that through him they would be able to receive forgiveness of sins and be brought back into harmony with God. John’s baptism was the way the Lord provided for those Jews to demonstrate their repentance and their willingness to accept forgiveness through Jesus, in God’s own way and appointed time. John’s baptism did not eradicate sin; this can be accomplished only through the shed blood of Jesus.

Baptism into Christ, on the other hand, symbolizes an entirely different sentiment of the heart. One who has heard the Gospel message and through it has come to appreciate something of God’s love, wisdom, justice, and power, with a special appreciation of God’s plan of salvation whereby all the families of the earth will have a real opportunity for life in the kingdom, and who has been moved with a desire to show gratitude by consecrating his life to serve God and his plans and purposes, should demonstrate this attitude of heart and mind by water immersion. This real baptism is described by Paul in Romans 6:3-5.

We believe that this is, in essence, what the Apostle Paul revealed to those disciples who had received John’s baptism. The account continues, “When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”—Acts 19:5,6

While Paul was still in Ephesus, certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, made a trade of casting out evil spirits and traveled from place to place to carry on their work. The seven sons of Sceva, a Jew who was chief of the priests, endeavored to cast out an evil spirit from a man. In attempting to cast out the spirit they invoked the name of Jesus. The spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” Then the man possessed of the evil spirit attacked the exorcists and drove them from the house wounded. The story of this incident traveled far and wide, affording Paul many opportunities to speak about idolatry and spirits, and as a result, “many that believed, came and confessed, and showed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts, brought their books together, and burned them before all men. … So mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed!”—Acts 19:17-20

A man by the name of Demetrius, who was a silversmith, suddenly realized that the change in attitude of the people about idols had drastically affected his business. He was successful in inciting a mob that was directed against Paul and the disciples and the entire city was filled with confusion and animosity toward them. But the city clerk was finally able to quiet the people. Thus Paul and the disciples escaped without physical harm.

The Lord tells us that the darkness hateth the light (John 3:19,20) and it was because of this that those in darkness were so easily aroused to anger as the Apostle Paul held forth the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ. This was not unexpected by the apostle because enduring the opposition of sinners is a prerequisite for all the footstep followers of Christ.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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