And after he had spent some time there, he departed, and went over all the country of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples. — Acts 18:23
“There are faces before me tonight; there are voices pleading for the Gospel!” With those words, George Hughes acknowledged the deep longing in his heart to go back to Africa. Four years earlier he had made his first missionary trip to that continent. In the intervening years, the desire to return to visit the groups of faithful, but uninstructed, Christians he had left behind had grown stronger and stronger.
In a message at the annual camp meeting in 1952, he told of one place he had visited in Nigeria on his first trip: “There were six hundred people in that congregation, and I was with them for just one hour and a half. When we left, the leaders fell on their knees to weep because what they had prayed for and desired for years had been in their grasp for only one hour and a half. Ever since that day, that congregation has been before me.” He went on to describe some fifty-five other churches in the same area, saying, “If I went there and spent one week with each of these congregations, it would take me fifty-five weeks, to say nothing of the traveling time between. That is the need in one little area of Nigeria. . . . There is a challenge!”
Some weeks later, Brother George stood on the steps of a plane in Portland, Oregon, and waved good-bye to those who had gathered to say farewell. He was beginning his second missionary trip.
Back in Africa, he and local leaders, with a small bus and camping equipment, traveled around to newly developing Apostolic Faith churches scattered across the region. It meant hard travel in less than comfortable conditions, but his letters always mentioned the hundreds of hungry hearts they encountered.
Six and a half months after leaving Portland, Brother George said good-bye to his brothers and sisters in Africa and boarded a plane to head home. However, God had other plans. On that Portland-bound journey he became very ill and was taken off the plane at its first stop, in Roberts Field, Liberia. There he was called to Heaven. His body was buried in Africa, near the people he loved, to await the trumpet call.
In today’s text, we read of a great missionary of an earlier era embarking on his third evangelistic trip with a goal of “strengthening all the disciples.” Paul left from Antioch, his home base, and began a journey that lasted from A.D. 53 to 57, visiting believers in Galatia, Phrygia, and concluding with a long stay in Ephesus.
The names of the places Paul visited were different from the ones George Hughes visited in Africa. The cultures, the conditions, and the people were different. But in both instances, there were hearts hungry for the truth. There were fledgling churches and groups of believers who needed more instruction. And in both the Mediterranean area and Africa, those who brought the message experienced the joy of seeing the seeds of truth taking hold, and the Gospel message spreading.
As we ponder the consecrated lives of these two missionary evangelists, may we feel the urgency of the same call they felt — a passion for the lost and an awareness that the spiritual challenge of evangelizing must be met in each succeeding generation. We may never be a George or a Paul. Perhaps many of us will never set foot outside the boundaries of our own countries as missionaries. However, we can and should have a heart for the lost and a willingness to do our part, whatever it may be, to spread the Gospel.
The final verses of chapter 18 begin the account of Paul’s third and last missionary journey, which started on the same route he had taken on his second one. On this approximately four-year trip throughout Asia Minor, he visited churches that he had planted during his first travels and had revisited on his second journey. Our text continues through chapter 19 and concludes with a riot in Ephesus, which indicated to Paul that it was time to move on (see Acts 20:1).
Acts 18:24-28 is an account of the Bible teacher, Apollos, who is described as “an eloquent man” in verse 24. The Greek word translated eloquent means “learned.” In addition to being well-educated, Apollos was also “mighty in the Scriptures” and “fervent in the spirit.” A Jew who had been born in Alexandria, Egypt, he seemingly had extraordinary ability to present the Messiahship of Jesus to a Jewish audience. However, though Apollos “taught diligently” (or accurately) the things of the Lord, he knew “only the baptism of John.” Aquila and Priscilla (Jewish Christians who had first met Paul in Corinth and shared in his work), taught him what was lacking in his understanding of the Gospel. Apollos then traveled to Corinth, where he quickly assumed a leadership role in the church.
In chapter 19, Luke recorded that after Apollos left Ephesus, Paul arrived there. The Apostle’s lengthy stay there points to the importance of the location — its wealth, population of around 300,000, and the fact that it was a center for commercial trade made it a logical hub for evangelizing all the province of Asia.
Three significant events occurred during the Apostle’s two-year stay in Ephesus. First, the Holy Ghost was poured out upon believers who had not previously heard about the Holy Spirit (verses 1-7). Next, Paul’s effective ministry was met by a group of traveling exorcists who were assaulted by the demons they tried to cast out (verses 13-20). Then, a riot was caused by silver craftsmen who felt Paul’s preaching threatened their livelihood of making shrines (verses 21-41).
Verse 9 records that Paul gathered the disciples in “the school of one Tyrannus.” The word “school” referred to a hall used for lectures or other types of meetings, which probably was rented. Many people did not work during the heat of the afternoon, so during this time they were free to come to the school. Paul’s teaching in such a venue pointed to his break with the synagogue and its rabbis. Since his efforts represented a bold and unashamed outreach to the “heathen” public, undoubtedly the Jewish leaders were further angered by this endeavor of the itinerant evangelist.
In verse 11, Luke indicated that miracles of healing occurred when handkerchiefs and aprons that had been used by Paul were taken to those who were sick, diseased, and troubled by evil spirits. There was no special power in the cloths themselves; God simply honored the faith of those early converts. One Bible scholar noted, “Sense-bound faith [faith which needs a tangible object to fasten upon] is not rejected, but is helped according to its need, that it may be strengthened and elevated.”(1) It is noteworthy how carefully Luke’s narrative puts Paul’s part in its rightful place: God “wrought” and Paul was only the channel.
Ephesus was a center for occultism, and its people were very superstitious. The “curious arts” mentioned in verse 19 were the magic, spells, enchantments, and exorcisms that were commonplace in that society and thought to bring wealth, happiness, and protection.
Demetrius the silversmith (verse 24), who stirred up the opposition to Paul, was evidently an important man in the trade. The small shrines he and his fellow-craftsmen produced may have been representations of Diana (referred to by the Greeks as the goddess Artemis), who was thought to be the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and birthing, and supposedly had power to control animals. Making shrines to honor Diana had been a flourishing industry, and Paul’s preaching must have caused a perceptible lessening of demand, given that the craftsmen were so easily stirred to anger over a threat to their financial security.
The townclerk who eventually appeased the mob (verse 35) was not a Roman official, but an Ephesian officer who worked closely with the Roman government. Since he would have been held responsible for any disorderly assembly, it was in his best interest to quell the riot and persuade the mob to disband.
(Hannah's Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
IV. The witness “unto the uttermost part of the earth”
D. The third missionary journey of Paul
1. The ministry in Galatia and Phrygia (18:23)
2. The ministry in Ephesus (18:24 — 19:41)
a. Instruction of Apollos (18:24-28)
b. Instruction of some of John’s followers (19:1-7)
c. Instruction of the Ephesians (19:8-20)
d. Instructions concerning his plans (19:21-22)
e. The riots in Ephesus (19:23-41)
Spreading the Gospel may involve hardship, opposition, and persecution. However, a genuine and heartfelt love for souls will help us not to back away from the challenges that come with evangelizing.
1 Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: the Acts, (United States: BiblioLife, 2008) Pg. 482. E-book.