Laypeople Laid a Foundation
Start-up began with Priscilla and Aquila, the entrepreneurial couple that Paul met in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3). Joining Paul's team, they sailed with him to Ephesus, a major city of 350,000. While he traveled to Palestine and Galatia, they remained and set up key contacts, working in the tent manufacturing industry (18:18-23).
One beneficiary of their efforts was Apollos, a powerful orator from Alexandria who stirred things up in Paul's absence. Eloquent in delivery but incomplete in his theology, he learned from them about Jesus. After mentoring him in the faith, they sent him to Greece where he strengthened the believers, including their old friends at Corinth (18:24-28; 1 Cor. 3:6).
Paul's Third Journey, Part One
The Message Took Hold
Returning to Ephesus, Paul encountered a new breed of religious zealots. Like Apollos, they were unaware of Jesus, knowing only of John the Baptist. But they became ecstatic as Paul related the fulfillment of John's ministry in Christ. Twelve of their number received the Holy Spirit, arousing the religious establishment (Acts 19:1-7).
Paul exploited the interest by initiating a three-month campaign in the local synagogue. However, his arguments met with opposition from obstinate synagogue Jews who maligned the movement publicly. In response, Paul relocated to the school of Tyrannus where for two years he engaged the Ephesians in a dialogue on Christianity during their midday, off-work hours (19:8-10).
Concentrated focus brought extraordinary results. The Christian message proved contagious among both open-minded Jews and intellectually curious Gentiles, impacting the city's educational system. Residents and merchants of Ephesus and from through-out Asia Minor were exposed. As word spread among workers in regional commerce, the arts, and the transportation system, "all . in Asia heard the word of the Lord" (Acts 19:10). Philemon's house church in Laodicea and probably other Asian churches were started by those attending Paul's "university lectureship."
Meanwhile, God validated Paul's message with dramatic miracles among the sick and diseased. This drew the notice of health professionals, including esoteric healing artists who become jealous. One group, the seven sons of Sceva, attempted to imitate the apostle through an occult ritual but were routed by the very powers over which they claimed to have mastery. The incident produced even more converts to Christianity, driving occult practitioners and publishers out of business (though not all; see 2 Tim. 3:8). The growing community of believers lit a bonfire that consumed magic books valued at no less than 400,000 hours of wages (Acts 19:11-20).
The Theater at Ephesus
At this point the civic leaders started receiving complaints from artisans and craftsmen, particularly metalworkers, about the economic impact of the message. Paul's meddlesome habit of attacking idolatry threatened the city's thriving tourist trade, centered around the internationally acclaimed temple to Diana, one of the "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World." The metalworkers, led by Demetrius, mobilized the entire city to save a key industry. Recruiting their associates in other trade guilds, they fomented a riot and rushed to the amphitheater.
This brought City Hall into the act. At great pains to keep law and order-as well as his job-a Rome-appointed civil servant finally silenced the crowd and urged them to use the court system for redress of their grievances. His tactic forestalled violence, bought time, and saved the economy. It also spared Paul and his companions (Acts 19:23-41).
An Established Community
The riot brought Paul's lecture series to an end, but not the impact of the gospel. Departing the city, he left behind a growing, dynamic church, pastored by his young protégé, Timothy (Acts 16:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:3). Not only did these believers continue to penetrate their own community with the message of Christ, they also reached out to the many travelers to and from their strategically placed import export city-tourists and religious pilgrims, shipping merchants, sailors and other transportation workers, military personnel, political refugees. Dozens of churches sprang up throughout Asia Minor, thanks to the Holy Spirit's coordinated use of three tentmakers (Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul), a fiery evangelist (Apollos), and countless unnamed laity.