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The Difference Jesus Makes: Faith's Object

January 14, 2024 Preacher: Jeff Griffis Series: Acts of the Holy Spirit Through the Apostles

Scripture: Acts 19:1–10

The Difference Jesus Makes: Faith’s Object – Acts 19:1–10


The holiday season is behind us, and we’re back in our study of Acts. We’re now all the way at Acts 19, where we catch up with Paul again on his third missionary journey out from the Antioch church.

[show on map] (Ac 18:23) - While Paul was traveling through Galatia and Phrygia, Apollos was at Ephesus. But as Paul comes to Ephesus, Apollos has departed to Achaia, and is ministering in Corinth especially.

But Paul is about to begin a long and fruitful ministry in Ephesus.

Acts 19:1–10 ESV

1 And it happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the inland country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. 2 And he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3 And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They said, “Into John’s baptism.” 4 And Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. 7 There were about twelve men in all. 8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. 10 This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.

In Acts 19 [sermon title slide], with the ministry of Paul in Ephesus, Luke demonstrates the difference Jesus makes, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, for and in those who personally repent and believe in Him.

In these first 10 verses we have Paul rectifying an insufficient knowledge of Jesus, which results in the salvation of some, but then there are others who refuse him. The emphasis here is that the object of our faith must be Jesus.

The presence and power of the Spirit corresponds directly to faith in Jesus. (vv. 1-7)

In Ephesus, Paul found some disciples. But what kind of disciples are these? We quickly discover that these are disciples of John the B who have not heard the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul catches a deficiency: a lack of evidence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these ‘disciples.’

(v. 2 Did you receive the Spirit?) “Um, we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 

Now, this shouldn’t surprise us, that there would still be those who had been in Palestine at some point during John’s ministry but didn’t know about the death and resurrection of Jesus because they had left the region and now resided in Ephesus (also not knowing of His ascension and gift of the Holy Spirit to be with and in his people). And it shouldn’t surprise us that even though there were other believers in Ephesus, not everyone has heard the gospel communicated clearly and persuasively.

These disciples of John were so close. But close isn’t good enough. They do not lack sincerity; they lack Christ. They must become disciples of Jesus.

So Paul now has the great privilege to explain to these followers of John, about 12 men (v. 7), that the fulfillment of what John had taught was accomplished in Jesus Christ. The key to understanding this section (1-7) is v. 4. [read]

John the Baptist’s point: The goal of repentance is faith in Jesus.

Repentance is a turning from one belief and way of life to another belief and way of life.

All four Gospels note with specific clarity that this was the purpose and ministry of John the Baptist, to be the forerunner pointing to the greater one coming after him, the Messiah. The one John pointed to for them to believe in is Jesus, Paul explains. All of the NT agrees with John the B, and with Paul, that the goal of our repentance is faith in Jesus.

So these men prove their belief by immediately being baptized in the name of Jesus (which is not to say this is different than being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit according to Christ’s command in the Great Commission). To be baptized in the name of Jesus means that they have believed in his person (he is Messiah and Lord)… and in his work on their behalf (his death and resurrection).

Jesus’ name is not a magic wand, as we see in the very next episode Luke recounts in Ephesus, where the sons of Sceva learn the hard way that invoking the name of Jesus for your own purposes is worse that pointless—it is dangerous.

On the contrary, to do something in in the name of Jesus…

To invoke the name of Jesus is to identify him as the object of our faith.

To explain further, look at Ps 20:7 as a comparison.

Psalm 20:7 ESV

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Notice that the point is where their confidence lies. They trust in the God who identifies himself as Yahweh (capitalized LORD in your translation), our Elohim (strong Creator, ruler of the universe).

Just as trusting in God’s name is to identify the one in whom we put our trust, so belief (and baptism) in Jesus’ name is to identify the object of our faith. So even to pray in Jesus name is to identify, to acknowledge Jesus as the means by which we enter the presence of a Holy God.

These twelve are therefore baptized in the name of Jesus, identifying him as the object of their faith.

Since these men were already baptized by John (apparently) at some point, why are they re-baptized now? Well, when they were previously baptized they were not doing so in obedience to Jesus, but in obedience to John’s call to repent and prepare for the Messiah.

The shift in what baptism symbolizes explains the difference and the need for them to do this. 

Baptism now symbolizes our identification with Jesus.

John’s baptism was symbolic of a commitment to repent of sin, so the idea would have been cleansing yourself and recommitting yourself to God. The baptism in Christ now symbolizes yes true cleansing and complete forgiveness in Jesus, but also symbolizes the means by which Jesus accomplished that—his sacrificial death and resurrection life, and our participation in that with him (Rom 6:3-5). (dying to sin and self, and resurrecting to new life in Him)

Romans 6:3–5 ESV

3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Knowing this symbolism, baptism is an obedient expression in which we identify ourselves publicly with Christ and his people.


Physical baptism is the shadow, Spirit baptism the reality.

Paul’s question to them was, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

Again, here’s the central message John the Baptist taught, which as I said is in all four Gospels and is extremely critical to our understanding. He said that he baptized them with water, but that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

Mark 1:7–8 ESV

7 And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Water baptism, even that we participate in, is merely symbolic. What people need to is be spiritually raised from the dead, and that can only take place by the work of God through His Holy Spirit.

So we participate in physical water baptism in obedience to Christ’s command, but the act of immersing ourselves in water, even in the name of Jesus, does not save. It is the baptism of the Spirit by which we are given spiritual life in Christ Jesus.

So water baptism is like the theatrical production of a historical event that had already taken place. Physical baptism is to obediently tell the story of what Christ has done in us by his Spirit.

Now, we also see a repeat theme in this text that…

The ongoing presence and power of the Spirit is confirming evidence of new life through faith in Jesus.

In the context of Acts more broadly, this (what takes place is v. 6) was tangible evidence for them that they had now received the indwelling Spirit, and confirmation once more that these too are joined into the one true church in Christ, in whom the Spirit dwells—the New Covenant people in Jesus Christ.

Even Paul laying hands on them to pray for them for these manifestations of the Spirit is undoubtedly connected to this confirmation for them and for others. (This is now the third such event in Acts that mirrored Pentecost as confirmation of filling by the same Spirit, with an Apostle present, and therefore proof of being included in Christ’s people: speaking in languages they didn’t previously know, and prophesying praise to God. - Each situation with its unique circumstances: Samaritans ch. 8, Cornelius’ Gentile household ch. 10—both with Peter, and then here with Paul.)

The point of this in Acts is that the outward manifestations of the Spirit were meant to be confirming evidence that they had indeed been given new life through faith in Jesus, and therefore they had the indwelling Spirit, like every true believer in the early church, and like every true believer today.

But sensational signs are are far from the only, or even primary, means by which the life of the Spirit is made known in us. - Next week we shall see that new life in the Spirit results in real life change.

Or as John the Baptist told the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Mt 3:8) Jesus too taught: Bad fruit or no fruit = bad tree. True followers, or false teachers, are recognized by their fruit. (Mt. 7:16a) - So Paul taught that those who are alive in the Spirit will also bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).

The evidence of saving faith in Christ is life-change by the power of the Spirit. (but more on that next week)

These former disciples of John now see the fulfillment of John’s preaching and believe in Jesus to save them, and He makes all the difference.

As we continue, we focus our attention on a contrast (to these men) that takes place when Paul preaches in the synagogue. As we do, take note that…

Entrance into God’s kingdom—for anyone—is contingent upon faith in Jesus. (vv. 8-10)

In Ephesus, Paul preaches in the synagogue of the Jews (and proselytes to Judaism) for three months, which is quite possibly longer than he did or was able to do in any other city. During that time he spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God—that Jesus is the entrance to God’s kingdom.

This doesn’t last beyond the three months because some of them become stubborn (hardened) and continue in unbelief (disobedience to what God has revealed in Christ Jesus), and so they speak evil (revile, insult) the Way to all those gathering in the synagogue. The Way is a term Luke uses to distinguish the followers of Jesus from those who do not believe that he is the way to God.

Remember, these were people who have the Hebrew scriptures and who fear God, and who believe themselves to be among the unique people of God. But even that is insufficient without Jesus, and without personal faith in Jesus.

Refusing to accept Jesus as the Way is to remain outside God’s kingdom.

So Paul moves his daily preaching (reasoning, arguing that Jesus is the Christ and only way to God), taking the believers (disciples) with him, to the hall of Tyrannus. (We know nothing more specific about this hall. Possibly this named is derived from either the owner, or a prominent philosopher who taught there.)

But more importantly, even though Paul had to move locations, he continued for two years, reasoning daily. That is focus and dedication.

Whatever else happens, Paul maintains laser focus on proclaiming Christ.

Remember that Paul/Saul had zealously persecuted those “belonging to the Way” (Ac 9:1-2), pursuing them even beyond Jerusalem that he might bring them back, men and women, to be tried and convicted of false teaching concerning the Messiah, of blaspheming God. But after being personally confronted by Jesus, Paul had become a man of singular vision, singular focus: to spread the word of the Lord, the gospel of God through Jesus Christ.

And then as it involves others impacted by Paul’s preaching, the clear implication in v. 10 is two-fold: 

Those who receive Jesus (as God’s word revealed) are accepted into fellowship with God and his people.
They participate together in the Spirit-empowered mission to make known the word of the Lord far and wide.

Now although Paul himself may not have left Ephesus, Paul’s preaching daily this way for two years has the effect of not only now reaching more Gentiles in Ephesus, but the impact of his preaching ministry spreads the word of the Lord (the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ) to all the residents of the whole region of Asia [map].

It was clear they had come to believe, as Paul did, that entrance into God’s kingdom, for anyone, is contingent upon personal faith in Jesus.


Paul’s missionary ministry in Ephesus first underscores that…

We must be sure that we are in Christ Jesus. It is not enough to be religiously sincere, even to be very near to those who are in the family of God. (These first men even cared a great deal about their sin, enough to express repentance and to be looking for the Messiah. But they needed personal faith in Jesus.)

Are you putting the full weight of your faith on Christ alone?

(Who can bear the weight of your eternal responsibility before God?)

Rope - bridge - lifeline

Spiritual life is found only in Jesus. To be near the truth is insufficient without personal faith in Jesus.

And it is certainly unacceptable to God to do anything else with Jesus other than to believe in Him on the terms God has presented in his word. Anything else is a refusal, it is continuance in stubborn unbelief.

We must be sure that we are in Christ Jesus. Be certain that you have a personal repentance toward God and faith that Jesus is God, and that he himself, by what he accomplished, is the only means to be saved, to be reconciled to God.

And you will receive the blessings of knowing that you are in God’s kingdom, in God’s family, and that His Holy Spirit is present in you and that his power is at work in you and through you. Rom 8:16

So too, through the example of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, we are reminded again to ask…

Is Jesus your purpose and persuasion?

Our mission and our message must be Jesus.

Jesus is the ark of rescue from the flood. Jesus is the temple to enter the presence of God.

We do not know who all will enter, but that’s not our job. Our privilege is to know that we are in Christ, and to invite everyone to come.

-Even so, with belief in the power and truth of God’s word, we preach Christ crucified. Crucified Messiah is what the Jews balked at.

If we cave to the temptation to give people some version of Jesus they can stomach, they remain unsaved. In the Jewish synagogues, most balked at the notion of the Messiah dying on a Roman cross, and so they opposed the Way. But Paul couldn’t give them some more palatable version to their liking. No, they must know that Christ had to become the perfect sacrificial Lamb, because our sin needed permanent payment, otherwise we could never be in the presence of God. The Lord Jesus Christ purchased forgiveness.

It should be evident to you especially, and to others, that Jesus has become your purpose (he impacts all of your plans) and your persuasion (that worship of Jesus with your whole life is what motivates you). By God’s mercy and grace to us, the difference in us is Jesus.



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