Online Bible Commentary
The Gospel Comes to Asia
Acts 19:1 And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples 2 he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." 3 And he said to them, "Into what then were you baptized?" So they said, "Into John's baptism." 4 Then Paul said, "John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus." 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. 7 Now the men were about twelve in all. 8 And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. 9 But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. 10 And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks. (NKJV)
The time is early 54 A.D. Paul is on his third missionary journey. Two years earlier Paul had a brief stop over in Ephesus on his return from his second journey. He only spoke briefly in the synagogue because the Holy Spirit had not yet permitted him to minister in Asia.
Paul left the missionary couple Aquila and Priscilla in Ephesus to help prepare for his return, when he would hopefully be permitted to minister by the Holy Spirit. Now he is back and the Holy Spirit has apparently prepared the way for his ministry.
Paul had crossed the “upper regions” the mountainous, most direct way westward from southern Galatia and Phrygia (v. 1a). Shortly after arriving in Ephesus Paul encountered “some disciples” and conversed with them (v. 1b).
Something about the testimonies of these disciples brought Paul to question their salvation experience. He asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed (v. 2a). Their response was “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit" (v. 2b).
The disciples said that they had been baptized "Into John's baptism" (v. 3). John the Baptist’s baptism was only a baptism of redemption to prepare hearts for the coming of Jesus and the baptism of the Holy Spirit upon an expression of belief in Jesus Christ (v. 4).
Paul then baptized the disciples “in the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 5). He then “laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them” and the men, numbering about twelve, “spoke with tongues and prophesied” (vv. 6-7).
This was the third time in the Book of Acts that an apostle had laid hands on believers causing the Holy Spirit to come upon them. The first apostles to be used in this way were Peter and John in Acts 8 and then Peter again in Acts 10.
This was a first for Paul, putting him in the ranks with Peter and John. With the coming of the New Testament these kinds of events disappeared. However, the Holy Spirit still manifests Himself in the lives of believers through any special event that He may choose.
Paul spent his first three months in Ephesus preaching in the synagogue (v. 8a). Paul “spoke boldly … reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God”, a reference to God’s earthly kingdom at the time. Paul reasoned with them intellectually and tried to persuade their will to accept Christ.
Some in the synagogue “were hardened and did not believe” and “spoke evil of the Way”, the Christian movement (v. 9a). As was Paul’s usual custom he did not engage in a battle of words with the mob mentality, instead choosing to withdraw himself and his disciples from the synagogue (v. 9b).
Instead, Paul began preaching “daily in the school of Tyrannus” (v. 9c). The school of Tyrannus is believed to be a lecture hall, or perhaps a private synagogue, which a man named Tyrannus would rent to those wishing to speak. A site has not been found. Paul preached there for two years, until “all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks” (v. 10).
So the gospel was spread from Ephesus throughout Asia. Missionaries were sent out from the school of Tyrannus to preach the gospel throughout Asia. As a result churches were planted throughout the land and the Gospel came to Asia.