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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Acts 18:19–20:38]

AFTER Paul had remained some time at Antioch, he passed a third time through the greater part of Asia Minor, and came to Ephesus, the capital of the Roman province of Asia (Fig. 97, p. 796). Here he met some twelve disciples, and said to them: “Have you received the Holy Ghost?” They answered him: “We have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost.” Paul asked them again: “In what, then, were you baptized?” They replied: “In John’s baptism.” Then Paul said: “John baptized the people with the baptism of penance, saying that they should believe in Him who was to come after him, that is to say: Jesus.” Hearing this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Paul laid his hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost, and prophesied.

Paul remained two years at Ephesus, so that all those who dwelt in the Roman province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. Moreover, God was pleased to work many wonderful miracles by the hand of the holy apostle, and no sooner were handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his body applied to the sick, than they were instantly cured. Seeing these things a great fear came upon all the people, and they magnified the name of Jesus.

Many of those who had dealt in magic brought their books, which were of great value, and burned them before the apostle and the whole people. But a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made little idols and miniature models in silver of the famous temple of Diana, called together his fellow-craftsmen and told them that Paul, by his preaching, was destroying their trade, turning the people away from the worship of Diana, on which their living depended. When the silversmiths heard this they cried out: “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” And a tumult was raised throughout the whole city. The people were about to lay hold on Paul and his disciples, with intent to kill them; but, happily, the town-clerk, by wise persuasions, succeeded in appeasing their wrath, so that peace was speedily restored.

 

Fig. 97. Site of ancient Ephesus. (Phot. Bonfils.)

The tumult being quelled, Paul assembled the Christians of Ephesus, and having exhorted them to persevere, sailed for Macedonia. Thence he returned to Troas, where he remained seven days. On Sunday he assembled all the faithful in an upper chamber, where he offered up the Holy Sacrifice, and preached to the people till midnight. The sermon being so long, a young man named Eutychus, who sat in the window, having fallen asleep, fell from the third story to the ground, and was taken up dead. Paul, hearing of the accident, immediately went down and restored the young man to life.

From Troas, Paul repaired to Lesbos, Chios, Samos, and Miletus. From the latter place he sent for the clergy of Ephesus, and bade them a last tender farewell, saying: “Now, behold, bound in the spirit I go to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there.” He then told them that he feared nothing, but was willing to lay down his life for his Divine Master.

To the bishops he said: “Take heed to yourselves, and to all the flock over which the Holy Ghost has placed you bishops to rule the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own Blood. I know that after my departure ravenous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock.” Then, kneeling down, he prayed with them all. And there was much weeping among them; and, falling on Paul’s neck, they embraced him, and accompanied him to the ship, sorrowing that they should see his face no more.

The Divinity of Jesus Christ has been proved by St. Paul in many of his epistles to the faithful. If may be well to quote a few of the most important passages in them.

In his Epistle to the Romans St. Paul writes thus: “God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the Gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make commemoration of you always in my prayers” (1:9). And again: “If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the Death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved by His Life” (5:10). “If God be for us, who is against us? He that spared not even His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how hath He not, also with Him, given us all things” (8:31, 32)? “Of whom (the Israelites) is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed for ever” (9:5).

To the Galatians St. Paul writes: “And I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself for me” (2:20). “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, that He might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (4:4, 5).

In his Epistle to the Colossians the apostle says: “We cease not to pray for you, that you may give thanks to God the Father who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His Blood, the remission of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. For in Him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and in Him: and He is before all, and by Him all things consist” (1:13–17). “Beware lest any man cheat you by philosophy and vain deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the elements of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwelleth all the Fulness of the Godhead corporally” (2:8, 9).

To the Philippians he writes: “That in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” (2:10, 11).

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews begins by these words: “God who, in sundry times and in divers manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days hath spoken to us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the world. Who, being the brightness of His glory, and the figure of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high” (1:1–3).

The Relics of the Saints. We give the name of relics to the bones, or any objects that are connected with the Saints, and we venerate them, because God has often worked miracles by them. In the Old Testament (chapter LXV) we learnt how a dead man was raised to life by the bones of the prophet Eliseus; and in the chapter we have just read we are told how the sick were healed, and those who were possessed by the devil were delivered by the touch of St. Paul’s handkerchief or girdle. We must not suppose that there lies in the relics of the Saints a hidden virtue which works miracles, for it is not the relics themselves which work the miracles, but God who works through them, in order to testify and bring honour to the virtues and merits of His Saints.

St. Paul’s virtues, and especially his love for Jesus. In chapter XCIV we examined some of St. Paul’s virtues, and especially admired his zeal, fortitude and humility. The chapter we have just read also shows us his indefatigable zeal, which came from his love of Jesus. He journeyed about from town to town, from country to country, everywhere proclaiming the Gospel, and not ceasing to do so even when he was a prisoner.

His deep humility is expressed by his words to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 15:9 &c.): “I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace in me hath not been void.” He corresponded faithfully with the grace of God, which was the reason why he was able to accomplish so much.

His fortitude and patience are proved by what he suffered and endured on his five great missionary journeys. He himself thus describes what he endured. “(I have suffered) by prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck; a day and a night I was in the depth of the sea. In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren. In labour and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Cor. 11:23–27).

And what was it that constrained the holy apostle to endure all this? It was the lave of Jesus! “The charity of Christ presseth us!” he says himself (2 Cor. 5:14). The love for his Crucified Saviour drove him to renounce all the rest, and to proclaim faith in Jesus to all men, wherever he could. Love strengthened him in all his labours and sufferings, comforted him in prison, and finally impelled him to give his life joyfully for Jesus. Of this love he writes thus: “Who, then, shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword? In all these things we overcome because of Him who hath loved us. For I am sure that neither life, nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35–39). This love has made St. Paul a model of Christian perfection.

APPLICATION. (See Application, chapter XCVIII.)








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