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While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples. 2He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” They replied, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” 3Then he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” They answered, “Into John’s baptism.” 4Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6When Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied— 7altogether there were about twelve of them.
8He entered the synagogue and for three months spoke out boldly, and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9When some stubbornly refused to believe and spoke evil of the Way before the congregation, he left them, taking the disciples with him, and argued daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the word of the Lord.
After he had returned to Antioch, Paul and then departed again, going from place to place through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening the disciples there. This is what we call Paul’s third missionary journey – he begins by again going to the region of Galatia, strengthening those in the churches he had founded on his first journey. This will be Paul’s third visit to those churches.
After having been taught by Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos has gone over to Achaia, the Roman province below Macedonia which would have included Athens and Corinth, and was teaching there. Paul came through Galatia, then down to the coast at Ephesus during this time. When Paul writes to the church at Corinth years later, he will say, “It has been reported to me — that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ’.” (1 Corinthians 1:12). The early missionaries were powerful leaders, but sometimes people forgot that it should be Christ they were following, not the current leaders! It is so with pastors today – some pastors of large churches, or evangelists, become such celebrities that people are following them. It is not the pastor I hope you follow, but Christ.
In Ephesus, Paul found some disciples who had not fully learned of baptism. They still practiced a baptism only of repentance, not knowing of the grace of God present in baptism. They had been baptized with the “baptism of John”, but Paul baptized them in the name of Jesus, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. In baptism we are granted forgiveness – but baptism is not about what we do, not even about our repentance, but is about what God does, in giving us forgiveness, giving us grace, restoring relationship with him, and giving us the presence of the Spirit within, as well as incorporating us into his Body, the church. Those who had learned of John’s baptism did not understand all that; Paul explained it to these people, and baptized them.
Paul again went to the synagogue in Ephesus, and spoke there for some three months before some of the leaders there spoke evil of the Way, and he left them and began to speak daily in a lecture hall. He continued there in Ephesus for some two years, building the church there.