Chapters nineteen and twenty tell of Paul’s third and last recorded missionary tour. Leaving Antioch, he returned to the churches he had founded, “STRENGTHENING ALL THE DISCIPLES” (Acts 18:23), until he found his way back to Ephesus. Apollos had gone to Corinth, and Paul found a small group of believers that had heard the gospel but nothing more (Acts 19:1-7). When Paul laid his hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit, as demonstrated by speaking in tongues and prophecy. This event marks the third and final time speaking in tongues is mentioned in Acts (Acts 2:1-4; 10:46). Paul preached in the Ephesian synagogue for three months with a mixed response (Acts 19:8-10), so for the next two years he used the community lecture hall to preach and teach, a seminary of sorts for “ALL WHO LIVED IN THE PROVINCE OF ASIA.” 1
As a demonstration of the power that the Holy Spirit afforded to Paul, Luke recorded that Paul did many healings and exorcisms in Ephesus (Acts 19:11-20). It was apparently a place full of sorcery and dark magic, and God’s power was useful in proving Paul’s message to be true. At one point the believers in Ephesus destroyed nearly $3 million worth of spell and enchantment books, as they turned their lives to Jesus.
After those two years, Paul intended to return to Jerusalem, through Macedonia, and then to Rome (Acts 19:21-41). He sent Timothy and Erastus to prepare the churches in Macedonia for his arrival, while he continued his work in Ephesus. During this time there was a huge uproar and a riot against Paul, started by businessmen who crafted idols. Their business had suffered because of the number of Ephesians who had believed in Jesus. The mob did not know why they were rioting, but they loudly protested for two hours. Finally, an official got them to quiet down and dismissed the mob, stating that there was a proper way to file a complaint and that they businessmen were free to do so if they wished. It is a wonderful look into the ancient world, realizing that it is not much different than today.
- The province of Asia included most of southern modern Turkey, including all the areas Paul had already preached in southern Galatia and places he had never been like Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis. ↩