Today’s Reading: Acts 19
In Acts 18 we were introduced to the first pastor of the Church of Ephesus, Apollos. This pastor had everything going on: he was eloquent, mighty in the Scriptures, fervent in spirit, committed to Bible accuracy, and spoke boldly in public about Jesus.
Paul’s traveling companions, Aquila and Priscilla, heard him preach and noticed something missing in this impressive resume. They took him aside and helped him understand a baptism beyond John’s water, which he knew instinctively. They were going to introduce him to the Holy Spirit’s baptism.
With his long impressive resume, did that Holy Spirit baptism really make that much of a difference? Can the infilling of the Holy Spirit really add any more to what Pastor Apollos was doing in Ephesus? You be the judge. Not by your theological bent, but by Acts 19.
Our cities don’t need another church with Sunday services, our cities need people filled with the Spirit who brings change to lives every day of the week. You can have great church services and yet your city goes on being unchanged. That’s what we see in Ephesus. Acts 18 and 19 are an incredible contrast. In Acts 18 we have a preacher with an education, and in Acts 19 we have a preacher with an education and filled with the Spirit.
Apollos leaves. Paul comes. Ephesus is still there, but something is about to happen beyond the Sunday service:
It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. (Acts 19:1-6)
For the next two years, Paul taught and preached. Miracles also came to Ephesus:
God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out. But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. (verses 11-20)
Let me recap:
• People baptized in the Holy Spirit and prophesying (verses 2-6)
• Extraordinary miracles happen (verse 11)
• Handkerchiefs and aprons healing the sick and evil spirits (verse 12)
• Sons of Sceva—“Jesus I know, Paul I know, but who are you?” (verse 14)
• False preachers exposed (verse 17)
• Jesus being magnified (verse 17)
• Conviction and confession of occult practices (verse 18)
• Occult books burned (verse 19)
•The word of God growing and prevailing (verse 20)
This is what being filled with the Holy Spirit can do. As Andrew Murray said, “Men ought to seek . . . with their whole heart . . . to be filled with the Spirit of God. . . . Without being filled with the Spirit, it is utterly impossible that an individual Christian or a church can ever live or work as God desires.”
Which chapter do you live in? What kind of church do you have? Does your Christianity thrive in church but not in your city? Is it an Acts 18 church or an Acts 19 church? One has good services, the other changes a city. So you be the judge, but it seems the difference between Acts 18 and Acts 19 is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. And when that happens, Ephesus is changed. Without it, you get to do church.
So here’s the question: Will you pastor a church or change a city?
A document, a denomination, or a diploma can give someone a pulpit, but it cannot give them the power to change a city. Only the power and infilling of the Spirit can.
Corrie ten Boom once said, “Trying to do the Lord’s work in your own strength is the most confusing, exhausting, and tedious of all work. But when you are filled with the Holy Spirit, then the ministry of Jesus just flows out of you.”
That’s the difference between Acts 18 and Acts 19.