Acts 19:1
And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,
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(1) Paul having passed through the upper coasts.—This implies a route passing from Galatia and Phrygia through the interior, and coming thence to Ephesus. The “coast,” in the modern sense of the term, St. Paul did not even approach.



Acts 19:1 - Acts 19:12

This passage finds Paul in Ephesus. In the meantime he had paid that city a hasty visit on his way back from Greece, had left his friends, Aquila and Priscilla, in it, and had gone on to Jerusalem, thence returning to Antioch, and visiting the churches in Asia Minor which he had planted on his former journeys. From the inland and higher districts he has come down to the coast, and established himself in the great city of Ephesus, where the labours of Aquila, and perhaps others, had gathered a small band of disciples. Two points are especially made prominent in this passage-the incorporation of John’s disciples with the Church, and the eminent success of Paul’s preaching in Ephesus.

The first of these is a very remarkable and, in some respects, puzzling incident. It is tempting to bring it into connection with the immediately preceding narrative as to Apollos. The same stage of spiritual development is presented in these twelve men and in that eloquent Alexandrian. They and he were alike in knowing only of John’s baptism; but if they had been Apollos’ pupils, they would most probably have been led by him into the fuller light which he received through Priscilla and Aquila. More probably, therefore, they had been John’s disciples, independently of Apollos. Their being recognised as ‘disciples’ is singular, when we consider their very small knowledge of Christian truth; and their not having been previously instructed in its rudiments, if they were associating with the Church, is not less so. But improbable things do happen, and part of the reason for an event being recorded is often its improbability. Luke seems to have been struck by the singular similarity between Apollos and these men, and to have told the story, not only because of its importance but because of its peculiarity.

The first point to note is the fact that these men were disciples. Paul speaks of their having ‘believed,’ and they were evidently associated with the Church. But the connection must have been loose, for they had not received baptism. Probably there was a fringe of partial converts hanging round each church, and Paul, knowing nothing of the men beyond the fact that he found them along with the others, accepted them as ‘disciples.’ But there must have been some reason for doubt, or his question would not have been asked. They ‘believed’ in so far as John had taught the coming of Messiah. But they did not know that Jesus was the Messiah whose coming John had taught.

Paul’s question is, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ Obviously he missed the marks of the Spirit in them, whether we are to suppose that these were miraculous powers or moral and religious elevation. Now this question suggests that the possession of the Holy Spirit is the normal condition of all believers; and that truth cannot be too plainly stated or urgently pressed to-day. He is ‘the Spirit, which they that believe on Him’ shall ‘receive.’ The outer methods of His bestowment vary: sometimes He is given after baptism, and sometimes, as to Cornelius, before it; sometimes by laying on of Apostolic hands, sometimes without it. But one thing constantly precedes, namely, faith; and one thing constantly follows faith, namely, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Modern Christianity does not grasp that truth as firmly or make it as prominent as it ought.

The question suggests, though indirectly, that the signs of the Spirit’s presence are sadly absent in many professing Christians. Paul asked it in wonder. If he came into modern churches, he would have to ask it once more. Possibly he looked for the visible tokens in powers of miracle-working and the like. But these were temporary accidents, and the permanent manifestations are holiness, consciousness of sonship, God-directed longings, religious illumination, victory over the flesh. These things should be obvious in disciples. They will be, if the Spirit is not quenched. Unless they are, what sign of being Christians do we present?

The answer startles. They had not heard whether the Holy Ghost had been given; for that is the true meaning of their reply. John had foretold the coming of One who should baptize with the fire of that divine Spirit. His disciples, therefore, could not be ignorant of the existence thereof; but they had never heard whether their Master’s prophecy had been fulfilled. What a glimpse that gives us of the small publicity attained by the story of Jesus!

Paul’s second question betrays even more astonishment than did his first. He had taken for granted that, as disciples, the men had been baptized; and his question implies that a pre-requisite of Christian baptism was the teaching which they said that they had not had, and that a consequence of it was the gift of the Spirit, which he saw that they did not possess. Of course Paul’s teaching is but summarised here. Its gist was that Jesus was the Messiah whom John had heralded, that John had himself taught that his mission was preliminary, and that therefore his true disciples must advance to faith in Christ.

The teaching was welcomed, for these men were not of the sort who saw in Jesus a rival to John, as others of his disciples did. They became ‘disciples indeed,’ and then followed baptism, apparently not administered by Paul, and imposition of Paul’s hands. The Holy Spirit then came on them, as on the disciples on Pentecost, and ‘they spoke with tongues and prophesied.’ It was a repetition of that day, as a testimony that the gifts were not limited by time or place, but were the permanent possession of believers, as truly in heathen Ephesus as in Jerusalem; and we miss the meaning of the event unless we add, as truly in Britain to-day as in any past. The fire lit on Pentecost has not died down into grey ashes. If we ‘believe,’ it will burn on our heads and, better, in our spirits.

Much ingenuity has been expended in finding profound meanings in the number of ‘twelve’ here. The Apostles and their supernatural gifts, the patriarchs as founders of Israel, have been thought of as explaining the number, as if these men were founders of a new Israel, or Apostolate. But all that is trifling with the story, which gives no hint that the men were of any special importance, and it omits the fact that they were ‘about twelve,’ not precisely that number. Luke simply wishes us to learn that there was a group of them, but how many he does not exactly know. More important is it to notice that this is the last reference to John or his disciples in the New Testament. The narrator rejoices to point out that some at least of these were led onwards into full faith.

The other part of the section presents mainly the familiar features of Apostolic ministration, the first appeal to the synagogue, the rejection of the message by it, and then the withdrawal of Paul and the Jewish disciples. The chief characteristics of the narrative are Paul’s protracted stay in Ephesus, the establishment of a centre of public evangelising in the lecture hall of a Gentile teacher, the unhindered preaching of the Gospel, and the special miracles accompanying it. The importance of Ephesus as the eye and heart of proconsular Asia explains the lengthened stay. ‘A great door and effectual,’ said Paul, ‘is opened unto me’; and he was not the man to refrain from pushing in at it because ‘there are many adversaries.’ Rather opposition was part of his reason for persistence, as it should always he.

There comes a point in the most patient labour, however, when it is best no longer to ‘cast pearls’ before those who ‘trample them under foot,’ and Paul set an example of wise withdrawal as well as of brave pertinacity, in leaving the synagogue when his remaining there only hardened disobedient hearts. Note that word disobedient. It teaches that the moral element in unbelief is resistance of the will. The two words are not synonyms, though they apply to the same state of mind. Rather the one lays bare the root of the other and declares its guilt. Unbelief comes from disobedience, and therefore is fit subject for punishment. Again observe that expression for Christianity, ‘the Way,’ which occurs several times in the Acts. The Gospel points the path for us to tread. It is not a body of truth merely, but it is a guide for practice. Discipleship is manifested in conduct. This Gospel points the way through the wilderness to Zion and to rest. It is ‘the Way,’ the only path, ‘the Way everlasting.’

It was a bold step to gather the disciples in ‘the school of Tyrannus.’ He was probably a Greek professor of rhetoric or lecturer on philosophy, and Paul may have hired his hall, to the horror, no doubt, of the Rabbis. It was a complete breaking with the synagogue and a bold appeal to the heathen public. Ephesus must have been better governed than Philippi and Lystra, and the Jewish element must have been relatively weaker, to allow of Paul’s going on preaching with so much publicity for two years.

Note the flexibility of his methods, his willingness to use even a heathen teacher’s school for his work, and the continuous energy of the man. Not on Sabbath days only, but daily, he was at his post. The multitudes of visitors from all parts to the great city supplied a constant stream of listeners, for Ephesus was a centre for the whole country. We may learn from Paul to concentrate work in important centres, not to be squeamish about where we stand to preach the Gospel, and not to be afraid of making ourselves conspicuous. Paul’s message hallows the school of Tyrannus; and the school of Tyrannus, where men have been accustomed to go for widely different teaching, is a good place for Paul to give forth his message in.

The ‘special miracles’ which were wrought are very remarkable, and unlike the usual type of miracles. It does not appear that Paul himself sent the ‘handkerchiefs and aprons,’ which conveyed healing virtue, but that he simply permitted their use. The converts had faith to believe that such miracles would be wrought, and God honoured the faith. But note how carefully the narrative puts Paul’s part in its right place. God ‘wrought’; Paul was only the channel. If the eager people, who carried away the garments, had superstitiously fancied that there was virtue in Paul, and had not looked beyond him to God, it is implied that no miracles would have been wrought. But still the cast of these healings is anomalous, and only paralleled by the similar instances in Peter’s case.

The principle laid down by Peter {Acts 3:12} is to be kept in view in the study of all the miracles in the Acts. It is Jesus Christ who works, and not His servants who heal by their ‘own power or holiness.’ Jesus can heal with or without material channels, but sometimes chooses to employ such vehicles as these, just as on earth He chose to anoint blind eyes with clay, and to send the man to wash it off at the pool. Sense-bound faith is not rejected, but is helped according to its need, that it may be strengthened and elevated.Acts 19:1. While Apollos was at Corinth — Preaching with considerable success, Acts 18:27-28; Paul, having passed through the upper coasts — Of the Lesser Asia, namely, Galatia and Phrygia; came to Ephesus — According to his promise, Acts 18:19; Acts 18:21, with a purpose of making some stay there. Ephesus, at this time, was the metropolis of the province of Asia, and an exceedingly populous city. For, not to speak of its native inhabitants, who were very numerous, a great concourse of strangers always resorted to it, some to worship the goddess Diana, whose rites were celebrated with great magnificence, in a temple erected to her there at the expense of all Asia; others to learn the arts of sorcery and magic, which were taught and practised at Ephesus with such reputation, that the magical words, or sentences, used in the practice of these arts, had their names from Ephesus; being called Εφεσια γραμματα, Ephesian letters: others came to prosecute law-suits, or to solicit offices from the Roman governor of the province, who had his residence there; others took Ephesus in their way to and from Europe; and others, after the manner of the easterns, abode there occasionally for the sake of commerce. Ephesus, therefore, being a place of such general resort, and the very throne of idolatry, superstition, and magic, the apostle, when he formerly left that city, resolved, as we have seen, to return and attack these impieties in their strongest hold. Wherefore, having discharged his vow in Jerusalem, he made no stay there, nor even at Antioch, but travelled through Syria and Cilicia, and the countries above mentioned, as expeditiously as was consistent with his purpose in visiting them, and then came to Ephesus, where he abode three years, and gathered a very numerous church; the members of which were peculiarly dear to him, as is manifest from his epistle to them, and the discourse addressed to their elders, Acts 20:17, &c.19:1-7 Paul, at Ephesus, found some religious persons, who looked to Jesus as the Messiah. They had not been led to expect the miraculous powers of the Holy Ghost, nor were they informed that the gospel was especially the ministration of the Spirit. But they spake as ready to welcome the notice of it. Paul shows them that John never design that those he baptized should rest there, but told them that they should believe on Him who should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. They thankfully accepted the discovery, and were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Ghost came upon them in a surprising, overpowering manner; they spake with tongues, and prophesied, as the apostles and the first Gentile coverts did. Though we do not now expect miraculous powers, yet all who profess to be disciples of Christ, should be called on to examine whether they have received the seal of the Holy Ghost, in his sanctifying influences, to the sincerity of their faith. Many seem not to have heard that there is a Holy Ghost, and many deem all that is spoken concerning his graces and comforts, to be delusion. Of such it may properly be inquired, Unto what, then, were ye baptized? for they evidently know not the meaning of that outward sign on which they place great dependence.While Apollos was at Corinth - It is probable that he remained there a considerable time.

Paul, having passed through the upper coasts - The upper, or more elevated regions of Asia Minor. The writer refers here particularly to the provinces of Phrygia and Galatia, Acts 18:23. These regions were called upper, because they were situated on the high table-land in the interior of Asia Minor, while Ephesus was in the low maritime regions, and called the low country.

Came to Ephesus - Agreeably to his promise, Acts 18:21.

And finding certain disciples - Certain persons who had been baptized into John's baptism, and who had embraced John's doctrine that the Messiah was soon to appear, Acts . Acts 19:3-4. It is very clear that they had not yet heard that he had come, or that the Holy Spirit was given. They were evidently in the same situation as Apollos. See the notes on Acts 18:25.


Ac 19:1-41. Signal Success of Paul at Ephesus.

1-3. while Apollos was at Corinth—where his ministry was so powerful that a formidable party in the Church of that city gloried in his type of preaching in preference to Paul's (1Co 1:12; 3:4), no doubt from the marked infusion of Greek philosophic culture which distinguished it, and which the apostle studiously avoided (1Co 2:1-5).

Paul having passed through the upper coasts—"parts," the interior of Asia Minor, which, with reference to the seacoast, was elevated.

came to Ephesus—thus fulfilling his promise (Ac 18:21).

finding certain disciples—in the same stage of Christian knowledge as Apollos at first, newly arrived, probably, and having had no communication as yet with the church at Ephesus.Acts 19:1-7 The Holy Ghost is conferred by Paul on twelve of

John’s disciples.

Acts 19:8-12 He preacheth at Ephesus, first in the synagogue, and

afterwards in a private school for two years; God

confirming the word by special miracles.

Acts 19:13-20 Certain Jewish exorcists, attempting to cast out a devil

in the name of Jesus, are sent off naked and wounded:

the gospel gains credit, and magical books are burned.

Acts 19:21-41 Paul proposing to depart soon, Demetrius and the

silversmiths raise an uproar against him, which is

with some difficulty appeased.

The upper coasts; the north parts, in which were Pontus, Bithynia, Phrygia, and Galatia, Acts 18:23.

And it came to pass that while Apollos was at Corinth,.... Whither he came after the Apostle Paul, and where he watered what the apostle had planted, and where he became very famous and eminent; insomuch that he was set up, though not with his will, at the head of a party, in opposition to the chief of the apostles, Peter and Paul; see 1 Corinthians 1:12.

Paul having passed through the upper coasts; that is, of Phrygia, Galatia, Pontus, Bithynia, Lydia, Lycaonia, and Paphlagonia;

came to Ephesus; into Ionia, of which Ephesus was the chief city, and lay near the sea; wherefore the other countries are called the upper coasts; hither he came, according to his promise in Acts 28:21

And finding certain disciples; such as believed in Christ, made a profession of him, and had been baptized in his name, for such were commonly called disciples: these do not seem to be persons, who were either converted by Paul, when he was at Ephesus before, or by Apollos, who had been there since, and was gone; but rather some who came hither from other parts, since the apostle was at this place; though indeed his stay at Ephesus before was so short, that they might be here, and he not hear of them, or meet with them.

And {1} it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,

(1) Paul, not being offended at the rudeness of the Ephesians, plants a church amongst them.

Acts 19:1. Ἀπολλώ] Concerning this form of the accusative, see Winer, p. 61 [E. T. 72].

τὰ ἀυωτερικά] the districts lying more inland from Ephesus, as Galatia and Phrygia, xviii. 23. Comp. Kypke, II. 95. The reading of Theophylact, τὰ ἀνατολικά, is a correct gloss. A more precise definition of the course of the journey (Böttger, Beitr. I. p. 30, and de Wette: through the regions of Hierapolis, Philadelphia, and Sardes) is not to be attempted.

μαθητάς] i.e. as no other definition is added, Christians. It is true that they were disciples of John (Acts 19:3), who had been, like Apollos, instructed and baptized by disciples of the Baptist (comp. Acts 18:25), but they had joined the fellowship of the Christians, and were by these regarded as fellow-disciples, seeing that they possessed some knowledge of the person and doctrine of Jesus and a corresponding faith in Him, though of a very imperfect and indefinite character,—as it were, misty and dawning: therefore Paul himself also considered them as Christians (Acts 19:2), and he only learned from his conversation with them that they were merely disciples of John (Acts 19:3). Heinrichs (comp. Wetstein, also Lange, II. p. 264) thinks that they had received their instruction (Acts 18:25-26) and baptism of John from Apollos, and that Paul was also aware of this. But the very ignorance of these disciples can as little be reconciled with the energetic ministry of Apollos as with any already lengthened residence at Ephesus at all, where, under the influence of the Christians, and particularly of Aquila and Priscilla, they must have received more information concerning the πνεῦμα ἅγ. Therefore it is most probable that they were strangers, who had but just come to Ephesus and had attached themselves to the Christians of that place. As disciples of John they are to be regarded as Jews, not as Gentiles, which Acts 19:2 contains nothing to necessitate (in opposition to Baumgarten, II. p. 3).

Observe, also, that the earlier keeping back of the apostle from Asia on the part of the Spirit (Acts 16:6) had now, after his labours thus far in Greece, obtained its object and was no longer operative. Of this Paul was conscious. Cod. D has a special address of the Spirit to this effect,—an interpolation which Bornemann has adopted.Acts 19:1. See critical note for Bezan reading.—Ἀπολλὼ, cf. Acts 21:1; see Blass, Gram., p. 31, and Winer-Schmiedel, p. 95.—τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη: The main road to Ephesus which passed through Colosse and Laodicea was not apparently taken by Paul, but a shorter though less frequented route running through the Cayster valley. This route leads over higher ground than the other, and St. Paul in taking it would be passing through the higher-lying districts of Asia on his way from Pisidian Antioch to Ephesus. According to Colossians 2:1 the Apostle never visited Colosse and Laodicea, which seems to confirm the view taken above (but see Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, p. 94, on Mr. Lewin’s view of Colossians 2:1). The expression τὰ ἀνωτ. μέρη is really a description in brief of the same district, “the region of Galatia and Phrygia,” mentioned in Acts 18:23. If the journey passed through North Galatia, Ramsay contends with great force that the expressions in Acts 18:23 καθεξῆς and πάντας τοὺς μαθητάς would be meaningless, as καθ. would apply not to Churches already known to us, but to Churches never mentioned in the book, and if St. Paul did not visit the South Galatian Churches, how could St. Luke mention “all the disciples”? Zöckler, Apostelgeschichte (second edition), in loco, as a supporter of the North Galatian theory, takes the term as the equivalent of the places referred to in Acts 18:23, but he does not include in these places as far north as Tavium or Ancyra, and a route through Cappadocia is not thought of; so here Pessinus, Amorion, Synnada, Apameia, Philadelphia, and Sardis would be visited by the Apostle, and from Sardis he would go down to Ephesus; the expression τὰ ἀνωτ. μέρη would thus in Zöckler’s view include churches founded on the second missionary journey, but the most northerly are excluded as lying too far away, p. 273; see Ramsay, Church in the Roman Empire, p. 93; “Ephesus,” Hastings’ B.D., and Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, ii., 715; McGiffert, Apostolic Age, p. 275. Blass takes the words to mean districts more remote from the sea; Rendall (so Hackett) explains them as referring to the land route through the interior of Asia Minor by way of distinction to the sea route which Paul had before pursued on his way from Ephesus to Jerusalem. Grimm explains as the parts of Asia Minor more remote from the Mediterranean, farther east, and refers only to Hippocrates and Galen for the use of the adjective, which was evidently a very rare one (see Hobart, p. 148); see also Zöckler on Acts 19:1 and illustrations of Latin expressions similarly used. R.V. renders “the upper country,” lit[328], the upper parts, i.e., inland; A.V., “coasts,” i.e., borders, as in Matthew 2:16, etc., Humphry, Commentary on R. V.εἰς Ἔφεσον: Ephesus and Athens have aptly been described as two typical cities of heathendom, the latter most Hellenic, the heart and citadel of Greece, the former the home of every Oriental quackery and superstition in combination with its Hellenism; the latter inquisitive, philosophical, courteous, refined, the former fanatical, superstitious, impulsive. And yet Acts portrays to the life the religious and moral atmosphere of the two cities, no less than their local colouring (Lightfoot, “Acts of the Apostles,” B.D.2, p. 36). Under the empire it was a regulation that the Roman governor should land at Ephesus, and from all quarters of the province the system of Roman roads made Ephesus easily accessible. St. Paul with his wonted judgment fixed upon it as a fitting centre for the message and for the spread of the Gospel. Like Corinth, with which close intercourse was maintained, Ephesus is described as one of the great knots in the line of communication between Rome and the East; see further notes in commentary, Ramsay, “Ephesus,” Hastings’ B.D.; “Ephesus,” B.D.2; E. Curtius, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, i., 233 ff.

[328] literal, literally.Acts 19:1-7. Paul returning to Ephesus finds there some disciples of John the Baptist

1. And it came to pass that, while Apollos was at Corinth] The digression concerning Apollos being ended, the history now returns to St Paul. Apollos found, no doubt, that Corinth was the most effective centre for his work in Achaia, and apparently made that his head quarters.

Paul having passed through the upper country] The English word “coasts” (A. V.) is now confined in meaning to the sea-shore, formerly it signified any “border-land.” The parts actually visited by St Paul were far away from the sea. Indeed the adjective rendered “upper” signifies “that part to which men go up, away from the sea.” It is applied here to the more Eastern parts of Asia Minor. The Apostle’s journey was most likely through the districts of Lycaonia, Galatia and Phrygia which he had visited before.

came to Ephesus] In fulfilment of the conditional promise made by him when he left (Acts 18:11),

and finding certain disciples] The participle, indicated by the A. V., is not supported by the oldest texts. Read with R. V. “and found.” These men are called disciples, because they were, like Apollos, to a certain extent instructed concerning Jesus, and what they already knew drew them to listen to St Paul who could teach them more.Acts 19:1. Ἀνωτερικὰ, the upper) ch. Acts 18:23.—μαθητὰς, disciples) Christians whom he had not seen at the time spoken of, ch. Acts 18:19. Perhaps in the intervening time they had come to Ephesus. There is always a new crop springing up.Verse 1. - Country for coasts, A.V.; found for finding, A.V. and T.R. The upper country (τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη); the inland districts of Galatia and Phrygia, through which St. Paul journeyed on his way to Ephesus, as distinguished from the seacoast on which Ephesus stood. Disciples. They were like Apollos, believers in the Lord Jesus through the preaching of John the Baptist. It looks as if they were companions of Apollos, and had come with him from Alexandria, perhaps for some purpose of trade or Commerce. Upper coasts (τὰ ἀνωτερικὰ μέρη)

Coasts is a bad rendering. Better, as Rev., "the upper country;" lit., parts or districts. The reference is to districts like Galatia and Phrygia, lying up from the sea-coast and farther inland than Ephesus. Hence the expedition of Cyrus from the sea-coast toward Central Asia was called Anabasis, a going-up.

Certain disciples

Disciples of John the Baptist, who, like Apollos, had been instructed and baptized by the followers of the Baptist, and had joined the fellowship of the Christians. Some have thought that they had been instructed by Apollos himself; but there is no sufficient evidence of this. "There they were, a small and distinct community about twelve in number, still preparing, after the manner of the Baptist, for the coming of the Lord. Something there was which drew the attention of the apostle immediately on his arrival. They lacked, apparently, some of the tokens of the higher life that pervaded the nascent church; they were devout, rigorous, austere, but were wanting in the joy, the radiancy, the enthusiasm which were conspicuous in others" (Plumptre, "St. Paul in Asia Minor").

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