21 May 2015Acts 19:1-20
“Also many of those who became believers confessed and disclosed their practices. A number of those who practised magic collected their books and burned them publicly” (vv. 18-19)
Psalm: Psalm 13
Now the action moves to Ephesus another important coastal city - powerful and full of all sorts of people, ideas and practices. Paul finds a group of people who are called "disciples" (v. 1), who say they have been baptized by John the Baptist and who say they have never heard of the Holy Spirit. So Paul baptizes the people in the name of Jesus, they receive the Holy Spirit and begin to prophesy (verse 6).
This anecdote reveals that the 'disciples' in the early Church were a motley lot - believing many different things and having had quite different experiences. Despite Paul's teaching and that of the other apostles, people held some bizarre beliefs mixed up with their faith in Christ. We would do well to expect the same sort of mixed-up situation in our own day.
Once again, in Ephesus Paul experienced hard-hearted Jews and God-fearers when he preached in the synagogue. Some even made allegations against the Jesus "Way" (verse 9). So he left and went and preached for two years in an ordinary hall to anyone who would come. The power of the gospel was displayed in many ways during that time, especially when those who came to believe threw away everything to do with the magic they had been practising (verse 18).
- Have you become aware of people who hold what might be regarded as 'irregular' beliefs in your Christian community? Do you think that is okay or not? What if anything, might be done, could or should be done about such strange mixtures of beliefs?
- "Burning books" (v. 18) is a very dramatic and symbolic action showing a person's rejection of their 'old' life. How bland (or not) are our rites of welcome and initiation into the faith?