Luke provided little information regarding the transition between Paul’s second and third journeys. After landing back at Caesarea to conclude his second trip, Paul went up to Jerusalem to give a mission report, then back down to Antioch, and “set out, traveling through one place after another in the Galatian territory and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples” (Acts 18:23). Paul traveled nearly 2,500 miles with the most primitive transportation methods—and then started over again in short order. His third journey was spent mainly in the port city of Ephesus and the provinces of Macedonia and Achaia. The events of Paul’s third journey point to Jesus’ exalted status in the narrative of Scripture.
(1) In Acts 19:1-7, Paul taught the disciples in Ephesus that the Holy Spirit comes upon those who are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit came upon individuals in the Old Testament to empower them for service in Israel. God’s Spirit came upon Bezalel to construct the tabernacle (Exod 31:3; 35:31). The Lord commanded Moses to identify seventy leaders in Israel who could help Moses lead, and the Lord put the Spirit on them just as He had Moses (Num 11:16-30). The Spirit came upon the Judges of Israel to empower them for leadership and military victory (Judg 3:10; 6:34; 9:23; 11:29; 13:25; 14:19; 15:14). Saul (1 Sam 10:6, 10; 11:6; 16:14) and David (1 Sam 16:13; 2 Sam 23:2; Ps 51:11) were anointed with the Spirit for their leadership. The Spirit directed the prophets (1 Kgs 18:12; 2 Kgs 2:16; 2 Chron 15:1; 18:23; 24:20; Neh 9:30; Ezek 2:2). Ezekiel (Ezek 36:16-37:14) and Joel (Joel 2:28-32) promised a day when the Lord would put His Spirit upon His people and give them new life. When Paul arrived at Ephesus, he found twelve disciples who had a religious experience of John’s baptism (Acts 19:3) but did not know about the power of the Spirit upon those who had been baptized into Jesus (Acts 19:2). Once they were baptized, they received the Spirit and displayed His power just as the crowds in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-13) and those in Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:44-48) had. John’s baptism was not enough. Jesus said that the Law and the Prophets were until John and that since his coming all were encouraged to enter the kingdom of God (Matt 11:12-13//Mark 13:31//Luke 16:16-17). During a Tabernacles celebration, on the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood in the temple and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him” (John 7:39). John noted that Jesus was speaking about the Spirit, “for the Spirit had not yet been received, because Jesus had not yet been glorified” (John 7:39).
(2) In Acts 20:7, Paul gathered with the believers in Troas on the first day of the week. God’s rest on the seventh day of creation (Gen 2:2-3) established a precedent for Israel to rest on the Sabbath (Exod 16:21-30; 20:8-11; 31:12-17; Isa 56:2-6; Jer 17:21-27; Ezek 20:12-24). The Jewish leadership opposed Jesus because He permitted His disciples to pick grain and eat on the sacred seventh day, and also healed on the Sabbath (Matt 12:1-14//Mark 2:23-3:6//Luke 6:1-11). When the women who came to the tomb on the first day of the week and found it empty (Matt 28:1-8//Mark 16:1-8//Luke 24:1-12//John 20:1-13), everything changed. Jesus’ resurrection shifted the gathering day for the people of God from the seventh day to the first day of the week. A new creation had begun.