We first hear of the Ephesians in Acts 19. Three major incidents are recorded. These give insight to the people and Paul’s ministry to them. We read of Paul’s first lesson to them, what happens when the Holy Spirit works, and of opposition to the work.
When Paul first meets the Ephesian disciples he asks for clarity. “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” and “Into what were you baptized?” These people had not heard about the Holy Spirit and they had been baptized in John’s baptism. Paul explains to them about John’s Baptism. It is a baptism of repentance. However they needed to believe on the One who came after him, Christ Jesus. When they heard this they were baptized into the Name of the Lord Jesus and then Paul laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came upon the twelve men. As a result they spoke in tongues and prophesied. So Paul taught in the synagogue for three months. He reasoned and persuaded in things concerning the kingdom of God until hard hearted non believers spoke evil of them. Then he went to the School of Tyrannus and taught for two years to Jews and Greeks.
When the Holy Spirit Works
God worked strange miracles by Paul. By handkerchiefs or aprons that he touched, the sick were healed and others cleared of evil spirits. Certain individuals decided to copy him. One Jewish chief priest had seven sons who tried to do so. The evil spirit knew Jesus and knew Paul but knew nothing about them. Therefore, in the end, the evil spirit wounded them, leaving them naked. As a result, the story became well known and strongly displayed God’s power. Many people therefore who had practised magic burned their books (worth 50 thousand pieces of silver). Hence the “word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed”.
Opposition to the Work
As always, when God does His work, there is opposition. In this case it came through the hands of a silversmith named Demetrius. He made silver shrines of the goddess Diana. The Ephesians believed they were the temple guardians of the goddess whose image had come from Zeus. Demetrius stirred up trouble. He told the people that all throughout Asia Paul said things made by hand were not gods. He further incited the people by telling them they would lose their business and more than that, the great temple would be despised and fall into ill repute. Confusion and rioting erupted. Alexander, pulled from the crowd, subdued them. He defended Paul, commending his character and admonishing Demetrius to follow proper channels if he had a complaint.
God, through the apostle Paul, did a mighty work in Ephesus. Paul taught them about and imparted them with the Holy Spirit. They then witnessed God’s great power through the Spirit. They also experienced opposition.