Acts 18:18-19:7 Panting the Church at Ephesus…

Acts 18:18-19:7

Planting the Church at Ephesus: Culturally Strong, On Mission, New Partners and Another Pentecost for the “end of the earth”


While in Corinth, it’s likely that Paul has taken a Nazarite vow and now that vow has ended (Numbers 6:1-21 and this was practiced by Christians as displayed in Acts 21:23-26), he cuts his hair in Cenchrea (pronounced: kegchreai) and sets out for Jerusalem to offer his hair in the temple. It was offered in gratefulness for deliverance from danger (9–10) and specifically involved shaving the head. This would be Paul’s expression of his gratitude to God in a way that was culturally appropriate for him.[1]

He has taken Aquila and Priscilla with him and left them in Ephesus as he continues on to Jerusalem, potentially to prepare the way for his return ministry on a 3rd missionary journey (18:18-23).[2]

While Paul has gone on to Jerusalem and then on to “strengthening the disciples” in the region of Galatia and Phrygia, completing his second set of visits, Apollos from Alexandria comes to the synagogue in Ephesus to preach.

Apollos has to be instructed further in the faith then is sent on to Corinth where he is a great asset to the church (they will love him so much that they sinfully play the comparison game between his superior oratory skills and Paul’s lack of orations skills).

What do we see? What does it mean?

Paul Navigates his Indigenous Culture and Other Cultures Well While Staying on Mission 18:18-23

  1. Paul operates within his cultural Jewishness but does so without disabling his ability to speak to non-Jews.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

“ For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”

  1. Paul refused to get side-tracked, even with good ministry, in order to finish the goals that were still to be accomplished v. 20-21, 23

How do we obey?

  1. Know your culture well enough to navigate it and flex in and out of it as necessary.

Cultural leanings, though important, are not fixed truths. They are cultural leanings, and they can help us spiritually or hinder us spiritually. Paul knew what helped and what to lay aside for the sake of the gospel. We must be aware enough to know what helps and what hinders.

  1. Keep on task with what is set before you, finish it, then move to other ministry opportunities.

We need to be finishers who complete our work not people easily side tracked.

God Gives New and Unexpected Partners in Kingdom Work 18:24-28

It’s interesting to note that we don’t know how Apollos believes.

Somehow, the news about Jesus has made it to Alexandria, and Apollos believed and began preaching the good news abroad.

Note: Alexandria is an epicenter of philosophy and education and it’s also in northern Egypt, on the coast.

Who told him? How did he know the message was to be taken abroad? How did he know how to preach Jesus from the Old Testament?

The reality is that un-named Jesus followers have been making disciples!

  1. Apollos is competent in the Scriptures.
  1. Apollos had been instructed in the way of the Lord and was “fervent” in spirit.
  1. Apollos taught accurately about Jesus and the things concerning Jesus.
  1. Apollos knew only the baptism of John, so Aquila and Priscilla privately show him the way more accurately.
  1. Apollos is equipped, approved and commissioned to serve the church.

How do we obey?

  1. Expect the Lord of the harvest to raise up laborers.
  1. We must expect to grow into “more accurate” understanding for those we train and for ourselves.

In this case, Apollos needed some of his teaching to get “dialed in”. We don’t know how long he has been in the faith, and we don’t know how long Aquila and Priscilla have been in the faith. What we do know is that there was a standard, and Apollos needed to get into a little better.

2.a. Note that Aquila and Priscilla helped Apollos privately not shaming him publicly.

  1. Expect to be senders not hoarders.

Apollos was sent not hoarded. As the Lord raises up “Apollos” types, we must help along to the work.

God Grows the Kingdom by Planting the Church at Ephesus and Giving a “Pentecost” for the “end of the earth” 19:1-7

In the past, I have read the language “some disciples” and made the cognitive leap that, in spite of the clarifying language afterward, these disciples are disciples of Jesus. After all, Apollos got the gospel clearly enough to believe and preach Jesus although he was missing baptism.

I must publicly correct myself and say that I don’t believe these guys are Jesus followers at all. No doubt they are in process, but they are not fully there yet.

“The term some disciples usually refers to Christians, but since these people had not received the Holy Spirit, it is more likely that they are to be regarded as disciples of John the Baptist, on ‘the Way’ but not very far along. Since the Holy Spirit formed an important part of John’s own teaching, the reply of these men that they had not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit probably means that they had heard a version of John’s message rather than John himself, and the reports that they had heard concentrated on his ethical teaching rather than his role as preparing the way (for an example of his teaching see Lk. 3:7–14).”[3]

What do we see? What does it mean?

  1. Paul “finds” some disciples at Ephesus and completes their training.

How does Paul do this? He has a nose for finding people that need to believe the gospel.

I’m sure the entire conversation is not recorded here by Luke, but we have enough of it to discern that Paul finds out enough to know where these guys are and how to help them.

  1. Paul rounds out the gospel message for these men, and baptizes them in the name of Jesus.

We have to presume that this means Paul tells them more about Jesus, what he said, and did, his death and resurrection.

It’s obvious they believe, so they are baptized.

  1. These disciples receive the Holy Spirit in a unique way not characteristic of other’s who believed the gospel.

“This was a mini-Pentecost. We see the Pentecost experience four times in the book of Acts: To Jewish believers in Jeerusalem, to the Samaritans through Philip, to the Gentiles by Peter, and here to dispersed Jews through Paul.”[4]

Luke does not record this episode as normative of what happens when people get saved (see Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth etc.). Luke does record this last of four episodes as evidence that what Jesus said he would do in Acts 1:8 (gospel being preached in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and end of the earth) he has accomplished.

  1. The giving of the Holy Spirit to these different ethnic groups validates Jesus building of his church from all nations not just from the Jewish nation.

“…the way that Luke records these events suggests that for him they functioned as much as a sign to the missionaries as to the converts themselves.”[5]

How do we obey?

  1. Try to keep yourself in “outreach” mode. Let’s learn to have a nose for finding people who need to be discipled into the faith.
  1. Become an avid preacher of Jesus and his kingdom.
  1. Remember, Paul is not special. He’s just like us. We just get to see his story.

Behind every Paul and Apollos, there is the unnamed person who told Apollos about Jesus and sent him on his way.

[1] Conrad Gempf, “Acts,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1095.

[2] R. Kent. Hughes, Preaching the Word, vol. Acts (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 246.

[3] Conrad Gempf, “Acts,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1096.

[4] R. Kent. Hughes, Preaching the Word, vol. Acts (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1989), 250.

[5] Conrad Gempf, “Acts,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 1096.


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