Acts 19:1 Background on Ephesus
"Ephesus was a prosperous center of commerce, culture, and religion. Much of its wealth came from its location on the Aegean coast at the end of major trade routes from the Near East. But Ephesus also achieved both fame and wealth because it was the center for the worship of the goddess Artemis (identified with the Roman Diana in the KJV). The temple of Artemis in Ephesus was considered the most beautiful of the seven wonders of the ancient world. About 360 feet long and 170 feet wide, it was one of the largest and most well-known buildings in the Roman Empire.
"Paul stayed in Ephesus for two years on his third missionary journey, preaching the gospel and directing the missionary activities of others throughout the province of Asia. Although he and his companions had tremendous success in Ephesus, they experienced opposition from silversmiths who made shrines for the worship of Artemis. The silversmiths started a large public demonstration against them, and the mob rushed into the city's theater, where they demonstrated for hours on behalf of their goddess and against Paul and his fellow workers.
"Today Ephesus, on the west coast of Turkey, is one of the most fabulous of all ancient ruins. The theater still remains. Enlarged somewhat after Paul's time, it seats more than twenty thousand people. Following centuries of economic decline, earthquakes, and plundering, the once-proud temple of Artemis is now a pile of rocks. But Paul's message remains and fills the earth with the testimony that he bore-that Jesus is the Christ and that His gospel is the way to salvation for all people." (Kent P. Jackson, "Scenes from Paul's Missionary Journeys," Ensign, Sept. 1991, 42)
Acts 19:2 We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost
It is true that not every disciple of John the Baptist made the transition to the Master. Last chapter, we read of one Apollos who believed in the doctrine of John but knew nothing of Jesus. At first, it seems that these Ephesian disciples were faithful followers of John the Baptist, but how is it that they had never heard of the Holy Ghost? John stated, 'he that cometh after me is mighter than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire' (Matt 3:11). This was the main doctrinal point of John's ministry. For these disciples to admit that they had never heard of the Holy Ghost is like followers of Joseph Smith saying that they had never heard of the Book of Mormon. Though sincere followers, these Ephesian men evidently had not spent much time in Judea at the feet of John the Baptist.
Joseph Fielding Smith
"Paul realized that something was wrong when certain converts at Ephesus claimed to have been baptized, and he asked them if they had received the Holy Ghost since being baptized. They replied, 'We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.'
"From this answer Paul had grave doubts concerning the validity of their baptism." (Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 4: 87.)
Acts 19:3 Unto what were ye baptized?...unto John's baptism
Interestingly, the disciples did not say that they were baptized by John but that they were baptized 'unto John's baptism.' This gives us a clue as to how their baptism may have taken place.
"Paul recognized the fact ... that some unauthorized person-doubtless with good intent, but unauthorized nevertheless, had been along that way baptizing 'unto John's baptism,' but not with it, for that could only be done by a duly commissioned servant of God. The apostle therefore explained to them the baptism of John and how he had declared Christ Jesus; after they received a proper understanding of the true ordinance they rendered obedience thereto, 'and when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.' (Acts 19:1-6.) When the servant of the Lord officiated in the ordinances of the gospel, the repentant believers were 'born of water and of the Spirit,' and the word was confirmed in them by the workings of the power of God.
"The experience of the men of Ephesus affords an interesting lesson. They had been mistaken, but when the truth was presented to them they accepted it gladly." (Handbook of the Restoration: A Selection of Gospel Themes Discussed by Various Authors [Independence, Mo.: Zion's Printing and Publishing Co., 1944], 540-1.)
Acts 19:5 when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus
James E. Talmage
"Rebaptisms recorded in scripture are few; and in every instance the existence of special circumstances justifying the action are apparent. Thus, we read of Paul baptizing certain disciples at Ephesus though they had already been baptized after the manner of John's baptism. But in this case, the apostle had reason to doubt that the baptism of which these spoke had been administered by authorized hands, or after proper preliminary education of the candidates; for when he tested the efficacy of their baptism by asking 'Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?' they answered him, 'We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.' Then asked he in surprise: 'Unto what then were ye baptized?' and they replied: 'Unto John's baptism.' But Paul knew, as we know, that while John preached the baptism of repentance by water he declared that such was but preliminary to the greater baptism of the Holy Ghost, which Christ should bring. Therefore, in view of such unsatisfactory evidence concerning the validity of their baptism, Paul had baptism administered unto these twelve devout Ephesians in the name of the Lord Jesus, after which he laid his hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost." (Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 129.)
Acts 19:6 When Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them
The book of Acts is our best resource regarding the procedural practices of the ancient Church. For Paul to give the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands is incredibly important. It establishes this method as the standard ordinance, not just a one time event as recorded in Acts 8:17. See also Hebrews 6:2.
Where is this ordinance in modern Christianity? If we search long enough, we may be lucky enough to find it, but doubtless we will not find the Holy Ghost or true expression of the gifts of the Spirit.
Acts 19:10 this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word
Bruce R. McConkie
"Paul the missionary, with zeal and devotion, continued to preach and teach, in the synagogues, in the schools of philosophy, everywhere he could gain a congregation. He did then what latter-day elders are commanded to do now: 'Confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and in private; and inasmuch as ye are faithful their shame shall be made manifest.' (D. & C. 71:7.) 'Contend thou, therefore, morning by morning; and day after day let thy warning voice go forth; and when the night cometh let not the inhabitants of the earth slumber, because of thy speech.' (D. & C. 112:5.)
"And so, all Asia heard the word-not in the sense that each soul was taught the plan of salvation, but in that all had the opportunity to seek and find the truth if they desired it. That seven major units of the Church were established in Asia is known from the revelation received by John on Patmos. ("#rev. 1:11Rev. 1:11.) Paul's ministry undoubtedly played an important part in the establishment of these churches." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:168.)
Acts 19:12 from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons
Bruce R. McConkie
"Healings come by the power of faith; there is no healing virtue or power in any item of clothing, or other object, whether owned by Paul or Jesus or anyone. But rites and objects may be used to help increase faith. 'When a man works by faith,' the Prophet said, 'he works by mental exertion instead of physical force.' (Lectures on Faith, p. 61.) ... In this connection there are occasions when ordinances or performances or objects may be used to help center the mental faculties of a person on those things which will cause faith to increase.
"Thus Jesus used spittle and clay to anoint the eyes of a blind man, not that there was any healing power in the mud paste spread on the sightless eyes, but the physical act aided the mental labor out of which faith grew. (Commentary I, pp. 379-380.) The same principle is seen in the healing of the woman who touched Jesus' garments (Commentary I, pp. 317-319), in the dead being raised by touching the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:20-21), and in the very ordinance of administering to the sick through the formalities of anointing with oil and laying on of hands.
"Similar miracles to those wrought through Paul have occurred in this dispensation. On that memorable July 22, 1839, at Montrose, Iowa, for instance, when the Prophet healed the sick in great numbers, he took a silk handkerchief from his pocket, gave it to Wilford Woodruff, and told him to go and use it in the healing of two children of a nonmember of the Church. Elder Woodruff, as instructed, used the handkerchief in wiping the faces of the sick children and they were healed. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History, pp. 270-271.)." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:169.)
Acts 19:15 Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
Evil spirits remember the pre-mortal state. They remember who was great there, and they recognize the servants of the Lord as their mortal enemies. They know Jesus, Paul, Peter, Joseph Smith, and Gordon B. Hinckley, etc. If entrusted with the priesthood of God, we must live our lives in such a degree of righteousness that the evil spirits would be forced to recognize our authority. Otherwise, if we try to exercise the priesthood unworthily, we may hear the ominous words, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"
Acts 19:16 the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them
Christ taught us what usually happens when an evil spirit leaves someone, 'When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first' (Lu 11:24-26). This indicates that the opportunities for an evil spirit to possess someone's body are relatively small, hence the spirit 'walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none.' Because of this, the spirit returns to the body from whence it came out.
In the case of these Jewish exorcists, the evil spirits had a wonderful opportunity. Upon leaving the possessed men, the devils had no need to walk in dry places, seeking rest, for they found the homes of the Jewish exorcists 'swept and garnished.' They did not need to return to their original house but rather 'leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.' Ironically, the sons of Sceva-naked and wounded-could claim success. They had "cast out" the evil spirits, not by the power of the priesthood, but by their own wickedness and receptiveness to the powers of darkness. They learned the hard way that the casting out of devils should be done by one with proper authority.
Elder John H. Taylor
"God has always limited the power and the right to speak in his name to the men who hold his Holy Priesthood. Because of this priesthood we have a number of blessings that no one else can have. Others may wish them; they may desire them, but the only way they can have them is by becoming members of his Church." (Conference Report, April 1945, 84.)
Acts 19:27 our craft is in danger to be set at nought
Elder Albert E. Bowen
"I think I can illustrate how basic issues are buried under a cover of superficialities by reference to an experience in the life of Paul. [Elder Bowen recites the story of the silversmith Demetrius] ...the fundamental issue, and the only issue, was between the teachings of Jesus and the pagan religion of the Ephesians. But that issue was completely buried under the furor engendered by a purely incidental consequence. Paul was teaching the way of life, a thing of transcendent importance to all the race of men, the future of the world. With the purely collateral consequence to the business of a few silversmiths and art craftsmen he had no concern.
"But the incident was not decided on the merits of the respective doctrines concerning the souls and destiny of men. So far as immediate results were concerned a superficial materialism completely smothered and took out of the reckoning the fundamental moral and spiritual issue involved." (Conference Report, October 1944, 154.)
"...the Ephesians chanted 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians' for two hours on end (cf. Acts 19:34), but Paul is good enough to tell us what was really behind it-the silver business (Acts 19:24-25)." (Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints, 256 - 257.)
Acts 19:27 the temple of the great goddess Diana
"This shrine had long been famous and was generally listed as one of the seven wonders of the world. About the time Paul preached in Ephesus, Pliny the Elder described the massive sanctuary: 'The length of the temple overall is 425 feet, and its breadth 225 feet. There are 127 columns . . . 60 feet in height.' Archaeology generally confirmed those dimensions for the base platform ascending to the temple proper. Those who defended their fertility goddess rushed to the great theater [v. 29], which today rises in a colossal semicircle. It probably overflowed its 25,000 capacity as shouting citizens cried their loyalty to Artemis, who is pictured on their coins. Such opposition was vivid evidence of the great success of Paul's missionary administration in his three years of labor there." (Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 260.)
Acts 19:30 Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not
With the whole city gathered in one theater, Paul saw an incredible missionary opportunity. He wanted to take advantage of having so many thousands gathered in one spot. As he was making his way into the theater, he was probably thinking up another Mars' hill sermon for the Ephesian masses. Yet, had he entered, he most likely would never have survived. The hostile masses would have torn him apart. On this occasion, his guardian angels were the disciples who kept him out of the great assembly hall.
Acts 19:35-40 the townclerk...appeased the people
Neal A. Maxwell
"Often in the history of God's work individuals who had a sense of fair play have been most helpful, whether Colonel Kane or Gamaliel or the intriguing town clerk of Ephesus (see Acts 19:23-41). Apparently in that last-named circumstance, the worshipers of Diana raised a tumult against Paul, chanting for the space of two hours saying, 'Great is Diana of the Ephesians.'
"An unnamed town clerk stepped forward to appease the people, urging them 'to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly.' The silver makers, who feared for the future of their craft, since they made silver shrines for Diana, had a vested interest. It was the town clerk, however, who pointed out that Paul and his followers 'are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess.' Therefore, reasoned the town clerk, if Demetrius, a leader among the silversmiths, had 'a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies; let them implead one another.' The town clerk urged all to let matters 'be determined in the lawful assembly' but not by a mob, warning that they were 'in danger to be called in question for this day's uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly' (Acts 19:37-41).
"The Home Secretary in Britain assisted missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when there were members of Parliament who would have prohibited them from proselyting. At least seven times (in 1910 and 1911) there were exchanges in Parliament when some urged steps to prevent meetings of Church members in Britain, so they could not 'spread their views in this country.' A very young Home Secretary-the youngest, in fact, to serve since Peel-parried pressing parliamentarians. His name was Winston Churchill. He said, 'I have no power to prevent the holding of such meetings as long as they are held in conformity with the law.'" (Sermons Not Spoken, 76-77)