“And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying.” (Acts 19:1–6)
One of the most significant places involving the Apostle Paul’s ministry was the Asian and Roman capital city of Ephesus. We may be well aware of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, but what about the city itself. What do we know about Ephesus during Paul’s lifetime?
Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia. After its founding in the 12 century B.C., it became a great commercial center due to its harbor. However, by the time of the New Testament Ephesus has passed its zenith. It was experiencing economic decline because soil erosion had clogged access to its harbor.
Ephesus acquired additional material wealth and notoriety because of its temple to the Greek god Artemis. Artemis was revered as the goddess of hunting and fertility.
Paul’s return to Ephesus fulfilled his promise he previously made to the Ephesian Jews (Acts 18:21). However, upon his arrival Paul did not encounter the Jews, neither Aquila nor Priscilla, nor the people Apollos led to Christ (Acts 18:27).
Instead, Paul met 12 men who professed to be followers of Jesus but had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit. This was unthinkable.
Dr. Simon Kistemaker writes, “A Christian without the Spirit is a contradiction of terms (Romans 8:9). Faith, or belief, without the Spirit is nothing more than nodding consent.”
These 12 individuals did not hear and receive the true Gospel. If they had followed the Lord in believer’s baptism, at the very least they would have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Paul concluded that these men were not true believers in Christ.
What did the Apostle do? We will examine this in much greater detail when next we meet.
Make sure the Gospel you are believing, and the Gospel you are presenting and sharing, is the true biblical Gospel. I encourage you to read the following passages regarding the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:1-17; 16:1-8; Romans 8; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-13).
Sol deo Gloria!