The Holy Spirit’s Ongoing Ministry
After having spent some time in Athens, Paul went to a city called Corinth. There too, opposition arose against him, and that may have caused him to wonder whether or not he should stay on in that city. The Lord must have been aware of his anxiety, as we can learn from Acts 18:9-10
One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.”
Even the mighty apostle Paul could sometimes be taken over by fear, as might have happened in this situation, so God came to reassure him to not be afraid, and to continue his ministry in that city, for God was going to protect him. These words so strengthened Paul that he continued his teaching and preaching ministry in Corinth for another year-and-a-half. However, he eventually left and travelled to various other places. One of these places was Ephesus. While there, he met some believers, as we can read in Acts 19:1-6
While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the One coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptised into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
Paul asked these believers a very interesting question; he asked them if they had received the Holy Spirit when they believed. Why would he ask such a question? No doubt this was because he sensed something was lacking and he wanted to find out what exactly that was. His question had been the right one for it revealed that they had never even heard of the Holy Spirit. As Paul continued questioning them, he learned that they had only received John’s Baptism, which was a baptism performed by John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. We can read of John’s baptism in Matthew 3:11
I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me will come One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
These believers did not yet know that the One John had spoken of, the Lord Jesus, had already come, had already died on the cross for their sins, had already been raised back to life, and had gone back to heaven from where He had sent the Holy Spirit to earth to reside within believers, and to empower them for their God-given task. No doubt Paul then explained the gospel message in all its fullness to them, after which he baptised them in the name of the Lord. Furthermore, he prayed for them to receive the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and, consequently, they spoke in tongues and prophesied, as a sign that Jesus had indeed baptised them with the Holy Spirit. Paul would have recognised that this baptism was a genuine baptism, for their experience would have been like his own experience when a believer named Ananias had come to pray for him in Damascus some years ago, as we can read in Acts 9:17
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul (or Paul), he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Paul stayed on at Ephesus for another two years preaching and teaching. His ministry had a very powerful effect on the people. But not everyone was pleased with his ministry so, consequently, great opposition arose as well.