Acts 19: Standard Feature


After journeying through the same regions of Asia Minor he had visited before, St. Paul had come to the city of Ephesus as the first major stop of his third missionary journey. A city of some 500,000 people located on the southwestern coast of present-day Turkey, Ephesus was a major cultural and commercial center. At the heart of it all, though, was the pagan worship of the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

When Paul arrived in Ephesus, he immediately set out searching for disciples and found a number that had heard about and embraced John’s baptism of repentance but never known the Holy Spirit at all. Paul explained the Spirit to them and in verse five, when he placed his hands on them, they were filled with the Spirit and began speaking in tongues and prophesying. From that moment on, the twelve men involved were undeniably and irrevocably changed.

In fact, if there is one thing that Paul’s two years in Ephesus demonstrate for us, it’s that the lives of those who believe in Jesus Christ will be radically different than they were before they were saved. And it all started when these twelve men were filled with the Spirit. From that moment on, they were equipped with the ability to communicate with all of the multitude of languages which were represented in the city. And they were filled to overflowing with the word of God so that they could not help but go out and share. Indeed, we discover in the balance of the chapter that this is exactly what they did!

With his newfound friends, Paul went and taught in the synagogue for three months. When trouble erupted there, rather than give up and go home with their tails between their legs, the Spirit compelled them to simply change venues, and they continued teaching for another two years. In that time, they had such a profound impact on the community that everyone wanted to be near them to take part in the miracles. People – prominent people, even – actually started copying them, trying to duplicate their astounding effectiveness. And when these copycats failed, Paul and co. were held in even higher esteem.

Then, in vss 17-20, we read the most explicit description of this change which was happening in the lives of the believers at Ephesus. We are told that “many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.” In other words, they recognized that their former lives were full of stuff that wasn’t right, or sin. And “a number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly.” This single action did two things. First, it told everyone that they knew that they had been wrong. And second, it was these people actually putting all of that old, sinful stuff, behind them and out of their lives. And just to punctuate the point, we are told that the value of the scrolls which were destroyed came in at about 50,000 drachmas, or 138 years worth of pay for normal, ordinary people.

These people didn’t just change in ways that were cheap. And they didn’t just change in ways that were easy. They gave up EVERYTHING that was contrary to their newfound faith, regardless of how significant or profound that sacrifice was. And then they went out and made an impact on the people around them, calling others to make the same kind of sacrifice that they had. And in the end, it was that change which caused a man named Demetrius to make trouble because the Christians were making a noticeable dent in his business.

The changes in these peoples lives were real. They were profound. And they were contagious. And yet, how often, when we come to Jesus, do we expect to be able to simply say, “Hey, I’m sorry my sin is whisking me to hell, but I’m going to keep right on doing it!”

As you examine your life as a Christian today, I think that Acts 19 tells us that we must ask ourselves three questions. First, is my life different today than it was the day before I was saved? If the answer to that is, no, then we must ask ourselves if we were really saved, or just went through the motions. Second, is there anything left in my life that is contrary to the Holy Spirit that wants to take up residence in my life? If the answer to that is, yes, then we must take a moment to repent of those issues and resolve to rid ourselves of them from now on. And third, am I living my life in such a way that others are being challenged to change to be more like Jesus, too? And if the answer to that is, no, then we must figure out what we have to do to change.

You see, a changed life isn’t an optional part of being a Christian. It is an essential part. And if our lives aren’t changed by the grace of Jesus Christ, and if we’re not challenging others to be changed in the same way, then we aren’t being a Christian. Go, be changed, and be a changer.


  • (1-2) It is interesting that these disciples had not even heard of the Holy Spirit. Priscilla and Aquila had grabbed Apollos and explained the gospel more clearly, yet these had apparently not heard the news. How many believers are out there who have heard just the first part of the gospel message, that Jesus has saved them from their sin, and missed the fact that the Holy Spirit is sent to seal and equip them for holy living and effective ministry?
  • (7) It is an interesting coincidence that Jesus chose twelve to be the original disciples, and now Paul found twelve disciples in Ephesus. Clearly, it doesn’t take a hundred or two hundred to change the world or impact a city.
  • (8-10) It is interesting that, when Paul encountered resistance in the synagogue after three months, he did not just up and leave Ephesus, giving up entirely on the city. Rather, he changed tactics and persisted for an additional two years. How often do we give up when the going gets just a little tough, even though just a little tweaking could make us even more effective than before?
  • (11-12) Miracles were done as proof of Paul’s message because he and others believed that they could be done. Why don’t we see miracles like this today?
  • (13-16) How many would like to have the advantages of faith without the responsibilities!
  • (19) Fifty thousand drachmas would have been equal to about 138 years’ pay for a farm hand.
  • (20) “In this way” implies that everyone who came to the Lord similarly recognized that they had to forsake their old ways. We must abandon all of the old, sinful stuff to follow Jesus!
  • (23-27) How amazing! In a very practical way, the world took note of the life change of those who were following Jesus because it affected their bottom line. Do those involved in the sin industry know that we have been changed by the gospel message? Do they know that our churches are at work in our communities?
  • (37) It is essential to see here that the city clerk recognized that there was no legal basis to hold and accuse the Christians. If Demetrius and co. wanted to file civil charges against them, that was one thing, but they had done nothing wrong. As we minister, we must make certain that we do nothing wrong so that the whole world will see that there is no cause for whatever uproar may result from the life changes which are the fruit of our ministry.

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