Setting

Paul had returned to Jerusalem from his second missionary journey in order to fulfill his vow. From Jerusalem, Paul went down to Antioch, the home base of his overseas missions. After spending some time in Antioch, he began his third missionary expedition (A.D. 53-57). He first traveled throughout Galatia and Phrygia to strengthen the believers. Then he went to Ephesus, where he stayed for two years and preached about Jesus Christ.

Key Verse

(19:4)

Did You Know...?

1. Ephesus (19:1): “the capital of proconsular Asia, which was the western part of Asia Minor. It was colonized principally from Athens. In the time of the Romans it bore the title of ‘the first and greatest metropolis of Asia.’ It was distinguished for the Temple of Diana (q.v.), who there had her chief shrine; and for its theatre, which was the largest in the world, capable of containing 50,000 spectators. It was, like all ancient theatres, open to the sky. Here were exhibited the fights of wild beasts and of men with beasts.” [ref]
2. Tyrannus (19:9) was a Greek rhetorician.

Outline

  • Strengthening the Disciples in Galatia and Phrygia
    (18:23)
  • The Ministry of Apollos
    (18:24-28)
  • Ephesian disciples received baptism and the Holy Spirit
    (19:1-7)

Segment Analysis

  • 18:23

    1a.

    Why did Paul visit the region of Galatia and Phrygia?

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    He did so to strengthen the churches that were established in the second missionary journey.

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  • 1b.

    How does this serve as a model for today’s church?

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    It is important to send workers regularly to newly developed areas to help the believers there grow and be strong in faith.

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  • 18:24-28

    2.

    Pick out the qualities in Apollos that we should imitate and explain why they are important for the workers of God.

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    1. He was mighty in the Scriptures (18:24). God’s word is living and powerful (Heb 4:12). It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17). Only if we are well equipped with the knowledge of the Scriptures can we effectively persuade the unbelieving, convince the wavering, refute the critics, nourish the needy, strengthen the weak, and guide the lost.
    2. He was fervent in spirit (18:25). Fervency, both in terms of love for others and dedication to the Lord, is the driving force behind our service and preaching.
    3. He spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord (18:25). We need to know the Lord well as well as teach His way faithfully. Then we can lead others on the right way of salvation and present every believer perfect in Christ Jesus (Col 1:28)
    4. He spoke boldly (18:26). If we are timid and are afraid of rejection or persecution, we would not be able to tell others about God. But courage enables the preacher to declare God’s word freely and faithfully.
    5. Despite his eloquence and knowledge of the Scriptures, he was willing to receive instruction (18:25) and humbly accepted the teachings of Aquila and Priscilla (18:26). God’s word is given to the meek and the humble (Jas 1:21; Mt 11:25). If we are humble enough to receive correction and guidance, we will continue to grow in the knowledge of God.

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  • 3.

    What work did Apollos carry out in Achaia (cf. 1Cor 3:4-6)?

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    He helped build up the believers in Achaia and debated with the Jews to prove that Jesus was the Christ (18:28).

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  • 4.

    From what Priscilla and Aquila did for Apollos, what can we know about this couple?

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    1. They must have been well-versed in the Scriptures in order to instruct someone as knowledgeable as Apollos.
    2. They were not mindless worshippers who simply took in everything that was taught. Rather, they paid close attention to the teaching of God’s word, and were able to discern whether someone had taught the word accurately.
    3. They were a loving couple who cared about the work of God as well as workers like Paul and Apollos. That is why, when they saw something lacking in Apollos, they made an effort to invite him to their home and explain to him the way of God.
    4. They served the Lord quietly. Although they were not preachers and they probably did not teach people in public, they had become a great help to the preachers behind the scene. This is the kind of service that our Lord desires (Mt 6:3-4).
    5. They were considerate. They taught Apollos not because they wanted to humiliate Apollos, but they truly wanted the best for Apollos. This is why they chose to educate him in private rather than correct him in public.

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  • 19:1-7

    5a.

    What did Paul ask the disciples he met in Ephesus?

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    “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (19:2)

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  • 5b.

    Why do you think Paul asked this question? What can we gather from this question?

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    1. It is important and necessary for believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit after their conversion (cf. 8:14 15), since the Holy Spirit is the Counselor that the Lord has promised would abide in believers (Jn 7:38; 14:16-17; Acts 2:38-39). Believers who are yet to receive this promise need to ask God for the Holy Spirit (Lk 11:13) and the ministers of the church should pray for them and lay hands on them (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6).
    2. Whether a group of believers has received the Holy Spirit can be an indication about their knowledge of the truth. If the experience of the Holy Spirit is absent, it is possible that something is missing in their knowledge about the Lord Jesus and about the teachings of the Scriptures. Since the disciples whom Paul met had already believed in the Lord even before Paul evangelized in Ephesus, Paul was interested to know whether they also shared the same experience as Paul in receiving the Holy Spirit. It turned out that these believers had never received or heard of the Holy Spirit, and this helped Paul discover what was missing in their understanding of the truth.

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  • 6.

    When the disciples answered “no” to the first question, what was Paul’s follow-up question? What can we gather from this?

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    “Into what then were you baptized?” Hearing that they had not even heard of the Holy Spirit, Paul wanted to know more about the baptism they had received and what name they had professed to believe when they were baptized. We can infer from Paul’s question that whether a person has the correct faith and has received the true baptism can determine whether he receives the Holy Spirit.

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  • 7.

    What is the difference between John’s baptism and baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus?

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    John was the forerunner for Christ. He preached repentance to prepare the hearts of the people for the coming of the Lord. His baptism was a baptism of repentance, which only served to pave the way for Jesus Christ (Mt 3:11-12). John’s ministry was completed when Jesus Christ came, for Jesus was the one John had been preaching about all along. Belief in John’s message without belief in Jesus Christ would be inadequate and missing the mark. Therefore, those who followed John needed to believe in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn 1:29,36-37).
    After Jesus’ resurrection, the Lord taught His disciples to baptize in His name (Mt 28:18-19). Baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), not just for repentance. That is why it was necessary for these believers in Ephesus, who only knew about the baptism of John, to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

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  • 8.

    What does this event teach us about a. The necessity of baptism? b. Faith and baptism? c. Baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit?

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    What does this event teach us about
    a. Believing the name of Jesus Christ with our hearts and confessing it with our lips is not enough. We need to believe in the Lord and be baptized into Christ to wash away our sins and be clothed with Christ (Mk 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12; 10:48; 16:15,30 31,33; 22:16; Gal 3:27). These believers in Ephesus not only needed to learn more fully about Jesus Christ, but were also baptized again in the name of the Lord Jesus. It was only after they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus that they received the Holy Spirit. If baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus were optional and carried no spiritual effect, Paul could have just given them a Bible lesson about Christ without asking them to be baptized again.
    b. Faith and baptism are inseparable (Mk 16:16). Faith needs to be followed by baptism, and baptism needs to be accompanied by faith. When these disciples at Ephesus were baptized into John’s baptism, their faith was incomplete. They did not know about the remission of sins through faith in Jesus Christ. After being taught more about Jesus Christ, they were baptized again, but this time, the baptism was done in the name of the Lord Jesus. The difference here was more than just the difference in the name that was invoked during baptism. The difference also lies in the fact that they were now baptized with faith in Jesus Christ and in the cleansing effect of baptism in Jesus’ name.
    c. The experience of the disciples at Ephesus tells us that baptism is related to receiving the Holy Spirit. This is consistent with Peter’s message, which called the people to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ in order to receive the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38- 39). If we are yearning for the Holy Spirit and have yet to receive baptism, we ought to be baptized first. Sometimes, a person may receive the Holy Spirit prior to baptism, as was the case for Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:44-48). But in such a situation, the person should also be baptized after receiving the Holy Spirit, as Cornelius was, so that the Holy Spirit may continue to dwell in Him.

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  • 9.

    What was the sign that the disciples had received the Holy Spirit?

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    They spoke in tongues and prophesied.

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  • 10.

    What can we learn from this event about when a person receives the Holy Spirit? What is the evidence that a person has received the Holy Spirit?

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    1. A person does not automatically receive the Holy Spirit the moment he accepts Jesus Christ.
    2. A person does not automatically receive the Holy Spirit the moment he is baptized (cf. Acts 8:14-16).
    3. When a person receives the Holy Spirit, there should be some external evidence (Acts 2:33; 8:18). The common evidence we see recorded in Acts is speaking in tongues (Acts 2:1-4; 10:46; 19:6). The apostles never assumed that someone has received the Holy Spirit just because they professed Jesus Christ (Just as Paul did not assume that these disciples had received the Holy Spirit). They, as well as Luke, considered speaking in tongues as the evidence to determine that a person has received the Holy Spirit.

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