Have you ever observed a spreading vine? What starts out small and contained soon spreads in new directions, shooting off new growth and covering other plants. The early church was something like a spreading vine. As today’s passage makes clear, what began in Jerusalem had now spread throughout the Mediterranean world, and new leadership emerged along the way.
While Paul traveled from Corinth back to Antioch, Priscilla and Aquila took on new leadership in Ephesus. While there, another man, Apollos, was trained, and sent on his way to minister in Achaia. As the leadership grew beyond the Apostles, the church spread into new areas. Meanwhile, Paul finished his visit to Jerusalem and Antioch and then circled back to Ephesus. Notice the spread of the gospel despite opposition and apparent setbacks. Upon arriving in Ephesus, Paul met a dozen individuals who seemed to know the message and baptism of John but were ignorant of Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. After Paul’s proclamation to them, they responded with faith and baptism and experienced the Spirit’s filling.
Later, Paul preached in the Ephesus synagogue for three months, but because of opposition he began lecturing in the hall of Tyrannus. This was no flash evangelism. Paul spent two years there, preaching, arguing, and debating daily about Christ. The results were striking—God’s word spread throughout Asia and extraordinary miracles of healing took place through Paul.
Some false teachers tried to reproduce Paul’s healing in Jesus’ name. In the end, their lack of relationship with Jesus was exposed, but God used that incident to highlight the glory of Christ. Many even came forward to confess their previous life of sorcery and burned their books in response. As Scripture summarizes: “the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (v. 20).