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Acts 19:1–7

7 January 2024

Exploring the Scripture

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? From today’s text, we discover the importance of the Holy Spirit in disciples’ lives. We learn the gift of the Holy Spirit helps us live as disciples every day. Paul illustrates this by talking about baptism, laying on of hands, and speaking in tongues.

Our story takes place in Ephesus, a Greek city in ancient Asia Minor (now in Turkey). Ephesus was one of the best places in ancient times to meet people! Ephesus was one of the four major cities and the main trading center in the whole of Asia Minor.

To better understand what was happening, we need to read the preceding verses (Acts 18:24–28). There we meet Apollos, a North African from Alexandra (now Egypt), one of the largest Jewish communities in the ancient world. Luke, the writer of Acts, introduces us to Apollos, “an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John” (vv. 24–25).

Apollos and his friends meet Priscilla and Aquila, wife and husband, at the synagogue. They help these new friends develop their understanding of the Way of God. They help them see the big picture of God’s mission through Jesus and how the Holy Spirit is critical in this work. Apollos then leaves to go to another city, but his friends stay in Ephesus.

Now Paul, who is on his third missionary journey, comes to Ephesus. He encounters a dozen of Apollos’ friends. Paul is surprised they had not heard of the Holy Spirit, so he baptizes and lays his hands on them to receive the Spirit. They then spoke in tongues and prophesied. In Greek culture at that time, they believed it was necessary to visit a shrine once a year to allow a good spirit to be within you. Speaking in tongues was proof that one was filled with a good spirit. Paul proclaims the Holy Spirit is available for everyone and is needed to understand what God is doing.

Rather than interpret this text to define baptism and under whose name one should be baptized, we should elevate the importance of baptism as an essential step in one’s life as a disciple as a means of repentance and radical change of focus. We also celebrate the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, which enables us to speak and act in new ways to live the life we have chosen.

What does it mean for us to be a disciple of Jesus today? We can achieve far more than we can imagine or dream is possible. We can say we need the Holy Spirit to help form us spiritually as we live Christ’s mission. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us and enables us to transform the world.

Project Zion Podcast

Co-hosts Karin Peter and Blake Smith consider how this week's scripture connects to our lives today.


Central Ideas

  1. The Holy Spirit is critical for us as we follow Jesus Christ.
  2. Baptism is an essential step in becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.
  3. The gift of the Holy Spirit helps us live the radical life of the disciple.
  4. Through spiritual formation we are shaped to engage in Christ’s mission.
  5. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus Christ?
  2. In what ways has your baptism shaped your life?
  3. How have you seen the Holy Spirit help shape you or your congregation so you can better understand and engage in Christ’s mission?
  4. Where has the Holy Spirit popped up in your neighborhood? Who will be the Priscilla and Aquilas who will help share with new friends they meet?

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