Acts 19


Reading Luke and Acts in 2020

Week 43  |  Acts 19

Acts 19 Reflections and Questions

By Rev. Jenna Kennedy

I went to Wofford College, a small liberal arts college in Spartanburg, SC. When I graduated there were just over 1,000 students. Amazingly enough, our football team gets invited to play a large university once a year or two and ESPN announcers have to learn how to pronounce the name of our college again. A few years ago I traveled to Clemson to watch Wofford take on the Tigers. I proudly wore my Wofford shirt and was amazed at how nice everyone was being to me, the “enemy." I mentioned this to my friend, a Clemson season ticket holder, and her response was, “Oh, that is because no one thinks you are a threat here. If you had a good team it would not be this way.”

I think of this story when I read Acts 19, because the Ephesians do not necessarily treat Paul as someone they can just ignore and keep going. Rather, they see him as a threat and someone who has the means and power to disrupt their lives and their entire city’s well-being.

Three main events happen in Acts 19:
  • 1-10: Paul arrives in Ephesus and baptizes and teaches.  When Paul arrives he realizes that there are many “disciples” here who have only been baptized in the name of John, they have either not heard the story of Jesus or have not been baptized into it.  Paul preaches about the Holy Spirit and the life of Christ and many receive the Holy Spirit.  Paul continues to teach for two years here until “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord”.
  • 11-20: The Sons of Sceva - Ephesus at this time was known for a lot of pagan rituals, or magic, in some circles.  These verses share how God was performing miracles through Paul and how seven sons of a high priest named Sceva attempted to evoke Jesus and Paul’s name to perform exorcisms.  The evil Spirit knew they were not of Christ or Paul and attacked them instead.  This story caused many in Ephesus to change their ways and become Christians, resulting in a huge book burning where those who were converted burned their books of magic to completely reject their past.
  • 21-41: A riot occurs - As Paul becomes more and more popular and Christianity begins to spread in Ephesus, those that made money from pagan rituals began to get nervous.  Ephesus was known for the Temple of Artemis, one of the ancient seven wonders of the world, and pilgrims would come from all over to visit the temple and buy silver shrines of Artemis.  This was the economic and social center of Ephesus.  When Paul began preaching against worshipping idols made by hand, he threatened their entire way of life.  In these verses, Demetrius, a man who made the silver shrines of Artemis, begins to speak out against Paul and get the others whose monetary success was threatened to begin to riot.  A huge crowd gathered and it because a dangerous situation until a town clerk stepped in to assure the gathering that no crimes had been committed and the crowd should disperse.
  • Verse 8 tells us that Paul began to speak out “boldly and argue persuasively about the Kingdom of God. When was the last time you were courageous enough to speak boldly?  These times call for us to be bold and persuasive about the Kingdom of God.
  • The burning of the magic books shows that the converts were serious about leaving their past behind.  It reminds me of every diet that tells you that in order to be successful you must get rid of all the “bad” food in your house and start fresh.  Are there things you are keeping in your life that you need to “burn” to have a full relationship to God?
  • The riot begins because people become worried about their financial success, not over spiritual devotion. Is financial success or fear about money causing you to reject certain aspects of the life God wills for you?
Rev. Jenna Kennedy is Director of Faith Relations at Action Ministries.