Introduction to the book of Ephesians: John Barton

We are going to spend the next few weeks studying the book of Ephesians and how we can find our identity in Christ both as a church and as individuals. This week John provided the background to the book and the incredible journey that Saul/Paul underwent. Like the Ephesian church, we need to ensure that our trust is in the name of Jesus, not in any man made formula for success. You can listen again to the sermon here:

A copy of the presentation can also be downloaded here: Presentation download Acts 19


Story of Saul/Paul. 1st missionary journey with Barnabas.

Paul set off with Silas on his second journey.

He went throughout Turkey and then went to Greece. On his way back to Antioch he calls in at Ephesus, in Turkey.  Acts 18:19-21:

As he left, he promised, ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.’ Then he set sail from Ephesus.

Ephesus was an important city in the Roman Empire.  It had a famous temple, the Temple of Artemis (called Diana by the Romans).  It was one of the 7 wonders of the world. It was also a centre of fascination with the occult and death. So, Paul returns there some months later.

Baptism (1-5)

He found some disciples at Ephesus and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when (or after) you believed?” “What’s the Holy Spirit?” they ask, “We have not even heard there is a Holy Spirit.”

“Then what baptism did you receive?” The practice in the early church and with us today is to baptise in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, in line with the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 28:19.  So, if they had been baptised as Christians they would certainly have heard of the Holy Spirit.

“John’s baptism,” they reply. John’s baptism was not enough.

We believe in baptism of believers i.e. adult baptism.  They had repented (good, necessary) and believed, BUT they needed to be baptised.

Have you been baptised? The thief on the cross wasn’t, BUT it was the usual practice in the early church.  Read about it 9 times in (Acts 2:38; 8:12-13; 8:16; 8:38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15; 16:33; 18:8) as well as references to it in Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Hebrews.

Jesus told his disciples to baptise in Matthew 28 and in Mark 16:16 Jesus says, “Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

If unhappy with this, you need to take it up with Jesus. When I was baptised a man, who could not walk or stand, was baptised, strapped into a chair!

If you have not been baptised yet, then speak to an elder and a baptism will be arranged.

Baptism in the Holy Spirit (6-7)

Practice in the early church included being baptised in the Holy Spirit. It is Jesus who baptises in the Holy Spirit. In Luke 3:16 John the Baptist says of Jesus, “He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” In Acts 2:38 Peter says, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter had earlier said that it is for all believers.  How do people know they have received the Holy Spirit? In Acts 19 and most other places it says something similar. “When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.  There were about twelve men in all.”

Have you received this baptism in the Holy Spirit?  If you are a believer, it is for you.  Usually it follows baptism. But in Acts 10:44-48 we read an incredible account of preaching to the first non-Jews. The were baptised in the Holy Spirit and then water.

Why do we need the Holy Spirit?

Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”

John 16:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

Romans 8:26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

In Ephesus (8-10)

Paul started with the Jews (which was his usual way), but we read:

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

Miracles (11-12)

Doctor Luke is the writer of his book and he says extraordinary miracles. Even handkerchiefs and aprons carried the touch of God.

Matthew 9:20 – woman who touched the edge of Jesus’ robe.

Acts 5 – Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.”

Miracles are NOT a thing of the past.  They still happen today. People are not always healed as a result of prayer, but we need to keep on praying. James 4:2 says “You don’t have because you don’t ask God.” Let’s not become discouraged.  Let’s ask, in faith, believing for miracles.

In Mark 1: 41 we read that Jesus was filled with compassion for a man with leprosy

In Matthew 20:34 we read that Jesus had compassion on 2 blind men.

Let’s be filled with compassion for those who are ill and let’s pray.


Evil spirits are not encountered too often in the UK, but they are real.  They are not something for Christians to fear, but seven sons of Sceva (presumably working together) saw what Paul did and decided to copy him.  “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches . . .”

“Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?”

In the name of Jesus is NOT a magic formula. Ephesus was full of superstition and looking for the latest gimmick. When praying for the sick or for those who are demon possessed we need to ensure that our trust is in Jesus and not in a formula. Do demons know about us like they knew about Paul?

Repentance of believers

This led to the repentance of believers. Do you need to repent of anything? Do you read your horoscope, consult tarot cards or mediums? As believers we must not do such things and we need to repent and turn away from them

There was a mass burning of scrolls/books on the occult as a result of this incident. It’s easy to read the value of 50,000 drachmas, but how much was this.  A drachma is a day’s wages. If we use the minimum wage for an adult of £7.83 per hour for a 7½ hour day, we reach a value of £3 million – for a minimum wage!

Is there a cost for being a follower of Jesus, a Christian? The answer is yes.  Our salvation costs nothing and yet for a true follower it costs everything.  In Matthew 16:24, Mark 8: 34 and Luke 9:23 we read the same words: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’”  It costs.

What are we prepared to give up?  I’m not talking about giving up chocolate for lent.  It can be something different for each of us. To one man in Matthew 19, Jesus said to go and sell all that he had. It was a step too far for him as he was wealthy.  Many of us sang “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” Sometimes he calls us to give up something which is fine for others, but we must respond to what he is calling us to do.


We see three things that are required after we repent and believe:

  • Baptism in water
  • Baptism in the Holy Spirit
  • Daily repentance and sacrifice

And what about miracles?

We can expect miracles. We can pray for miracles. We won’t always receive what we ask for, but we need to pray with compassion, believing that we will receive.

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