Acts 19:1-12 is our passage today.
Why are some jokes funny when told by some people but not when told by others? Apparently, the answer is timing. Timing is important so many areas of life; in the careers of sports people and politicians, being around at the right time makes all the difference. Today we learn something about God’s timing which is of course perfect. We mentioned yesterday how Paul had been trying to go to Ephesus on his second journey when he had been called to go instead to Macedonia and how on his return journey he had managed a brief stop there but was unable to stay long. Now it was the right time and Paul had made the trek, hundreds of miles across most of what is now Turkey to be there.
On arrival at Ephesus, Paul met twelve men who professed to be disciples. It soon became clear that these disciples had an incomplete understanding of the Gospel. Paul was quick to point these men to Jesus and they responded in faith. The ministry of John the Baptist had been far reaching and it isn’t surprising that there were Jewish followers of John in Ephesus but Paul pointed out that the ministry of John was focused on Jesus, as Peter had preached in the early days of the church; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
The disciples clearly received the message as they were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. There is some debate among Christians as to whether believers should be baptised in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19) or into the name of Jesus as here. At Eb we baptise according to Matthew 28:19 but I believe very strongly that at baptism, believers should publically identify themselves with Jesus Christ as these Ephesians did. Having received Christ, Paul prayed that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Some may say that these ‘disciples’ were every close to the kingdom of God when Paul met them but for Paul and the early church, close was not close enough, a person was either in Christ or they were not. These are eternal truths, the Gospel doesn’t change, close; as in I go to Church, I believe in God, I have been confirmed/baptised may all be good things but without repentance and faith in Jesus and what he has done, they count for nothing.
Paul’s normal practise of going first to the Jews and then the gentiles continued at Ephesus and when he was no longer welcome in the synagogue, he went to a hired hall. Interestingly, there are no mentions of Church buildings in the Bible but here is a reference to believers using a hired hall; perhaps God isn’t very interested in buildings. However, God is very interested in people and God’s perfect timing meant that Paul was able to stay preaching and teaching in Ephesus for over two years so that everyone in the area heard the word of the Lord. The preaching was accompanied by ‘extraordinary miracles’ even for the early Church, this was a time of blessing for Paul. He probably wrote 1 Corinthians during his stay in Ephesus.
Mercy and grace are mine, forgiven is my sin,
Jesus my only hope, the Saviour of the world.
“Great is the Lord” we cry,
God let your kingdom come,
Your word has let me see,
thank you for saving me! (Thank you for Saving Me – Martin Smith)