Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Acts 19 - On the necessity of baptism and Christian unity


The first section of Acts 19 picks up the theme of baptism started in the previous chapter, and I've placed a few key extracts from St John's topical homily on the necessity of charity to bind the believers together so that they act as one at the end of the post.

The second half of Acts 19 chronicles a dispute in Ephesus, prompted by a silvermith whose livelihood making tourist mementoes of the goddess Diana was threatened by the conversion of so many to Christianity.

Acts 18:24-28; 19:1-7:
1 It was while Apollo was away at Corinth that Paul finished his journey through the inland country, and came to Ephesus. He met some disciples there 2 and asked them, Was the Holy Spirit given to you, when you learned to believe? Why, they said, nobody even mentioned to us the existence of a Holy Spirit. 3 What baptism, then, did you receive? Paul asked; and they said, John’s baptism. 4 So Paul told them, John baptized to bring men to repentance; but he bade the people have faith in one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus. 5 On hearing this, they received baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus; 6 and when Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came down on them, and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied. 7 In all, these men were about twelve in number.
1 Factum est autem cum Apollo esset Corinthi, ut Paulus peragratis superioribus partibus veniret Ephesum, et inveniret quosdam discipulos: 2 dixitque ad eos: Si Spiritum Sanctum accepistis credentes? At illi dixerunt ad eum: Sed neque si Spiritus Sanctus est, audivimus. 3 Ille vero ait: In quo ergo baptizati estis? Qui dixerunt: In Joannis baptismate. 4 Dixit autem Paulus: Joannes baptizavit baptismo pœnitentiæ populum, dicens in eum qui venturus esset post ipsum ut crederent, hoc est, in Jesum. 5 His auditis, baptizati sunt in nomine Domini Jesu. 6 Et cum imposuisset illis manus Paulus, venit Spiritus Sanctus super eos, et loquebantur linguis, et prophetabant. 7 Erant autem omnes viri fere duodecim.
Chrysostom (Homily 40): But whence had those, being in Ephesus, the baptism of John? Probably they had been on a visit at Jerusalem at the time (of John's preaching), and did not even know Jesus. And he does not say to them, Do ye believe in Jesus? But what? Have ye received the Holy Ghost? He knew that they had not, but wishes themselves to say it, that having learned what they lack, they may ask.

From the baptism itself he (John) prophesies: and he leads them (to see) that this is the meaning of John's baptism. (That they should believe in Him that was to come: on what kind (of Person)? I indeed baptize you with water, but He that comes after me, shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

And when Paul, it says, had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spoke with tongues, and prophesied.  The gift is twofold: tongues and prophesyings. Hence is shown an important doctrine, that the baptism of John is incomplete. And he does not say, Baptism of forgiveness, but, of repentance. What (is it) then? These had not the Spirit: they were not so fervent, not even instructed. And why did (Apollos) not receive baptism? (The case) seems to me to be this: Great was the boldness of the man. He taught diligently the things concerning Jesus, but he needed more diligent teaching. Thus, though not knowing all, by his zeal he attracted the Holy Ghost, in the same manner as Cornelius and his company...

We have the sum and substance of the good things: through baptism we received remission of sins, sanctification, participation of the Spirit, adoption, eternal life. What would ye more? Signs? But they come to an end (ἀ λλὰ καταργεἵται). You have faith, hope, charity, the abiding things: these seek thou, these are greater than signs. Nothing is equal to charity. For greater than all, says he, is charity...
8 And now he went into the synagogue, and for three months spoke boldly there, reasoning with them and trying to convince them about the kingdom of God; 9 but since there were some who hardened their hearts and refused belief, discrediting the way of the Lord in the eyes of the multitude, he left them, and withdrew his own disciples, holding disputations daily in the school of a certain Tyrannus. 10 This lasted for two years, so that the Lord’s word came to the ears of all those who lived in Asia, both Jews and Greeks. 11 And God did miracles through Paul’s hands that were beyond all wont; 12 so much so, that when handkerchiefs or aprons which had touched his body were taken to the sick, they got rid of their diseases, and evil spirits were driven out.
Chrysostom (Homily 41): He that believes in Me, says Christ, does greater works than those which I do. This, and the miracle of the shadows is what He meant (in those words).
13 Some of the wandering Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were possessed by evil spirits, with the words, I conjure you in the name of Jesus, the name that is preached by Paul. 14 Among these were the seven sons of Sceva, one of the Jewish chief priests. 15 And the evil spirit answered, Jesus I recognize, Paul I know well enough; but you, what are you? 16 And with that, the man who was possessed by the evil spirit ran at them and got the better of them, defying the power of both; so that they fled from the house naked and wounded.
Chrys: They did it in secret: then their impotence is publicly exposed. Then not the Name does anything, unless it be spoken with faith.  See how they used their weapons against themselves! So far were they from thinking Jesus to be anything great: no, they must needs add Paul, as thinking him to be something great. Here one may marvel how it was that the demon did not cooperate with the imposture of the exorcists, but on the contrary exposed them, and laid open their stage-play. He seems to me (to have done this) in exceeding wrath: just as it might be, if a person being in uttermost peril, should be exposed by some pitiful creature, and wish to vent all his rage upon him.
17 This came to the ears of every Jew and Greek living in Ephesus; fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in great honour. 18 Many believers came forward, confessing their evil practices and giving a full account of them; 19 and a number of those who followed magic arts made their books into a heap and burned them in public: the value of these was reckoned up, and proved to be fifty thousand silver pieces. 20 So, irresistibly, the word of the Lord spread and prevailed. 21 When all this was over, the thought in Paul’s heart was to go to Jerusalem, first travelling through Macedonia and Achaia; When I have been there, he said, I must go on and see Rome. 22 And he sent on two of those who ministered to him, Timothy and Erastus, into Macedonia, but waited for a while himself in Asia. 23 It was just at this time that the way of the Lord was the cause of a notable disturbance. 24 There was a silversmith called Demetrius, who used to make silver models of Diana’s temple, and so gave plentiful employment to the craftsmen. 25 And now he called a meeting of these, and of the workmen who were in the same trade, and spoke thus, Friends, you all know that our prosperity depends upon this business of ours. 26 And you can see and hear for yourselves that this Paul has persuaded a whole multitude to change their allegiance, not only at Ephesus but over most of Asia, by telling them that gods made by men’s hands are no gods at all. 27 It is not only that we are in danger of finding this work of ours discredited. The temple of the great goddess Diana will count for nothing, she will be shorn of her greatness, the goddess whom Asia and all the world reveres. 28 At these words, they were all overcome with rage, and began to shout, Great is Diana of Ephesus. 29 Their uproar filled the whole city, as they ran by common consent into the theatre, carrying with them Gaius and Aristarchus, who were companions of Paul from Macedonia. 30 When Paul had a mind to shew himself before the people, his disciples tried to prevent it: 31 and some of the delegates of Asia, who were his friends, sent a message to him, imploring him not to risk his life in the theatre. 32 Meanwhile some cried this, some that; the meeting was all in confusion, and most of them could not tell what had brought them together. 33 The Jews thrust Alexander forward, and some of the crowd brought him down with them; so Alexander made a gesture with his hand, and tried to give an account of himself before the people; 34 but as soon as they found out that he was a Jew, a single cry came from every mouth, and for some two hours they kept on shouting, Great is Diana of Ephesus. 35 Then the town clerk restored quiet among the crowd; Ephesians, he said, as if there were anyone who does not know that the city of Ephesus is the acolyte of the great Diana, and of the image which is Jupiter’s offspring! 36 Since this is beyond dispute, you had best be quiet, and do nothing rashly. 37 These men you have brought here have not robbed the temples; they have not used blasphemous language about your goddess. 38 And if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have any charge to bring against them, why, we have court-days, we have proconsuls; let the two parties go to law. 39 If, on the other hand, you have any further question to raise, it can be settled by lawful assembly. 40 We may easily be called to account for to-day’s proceedings, and there is no grievance which will enable us to account for this riot. With these words he broke up the meeting.
Baptism and the unity of believers 

St John on the effects of baptism and repairing disunity amongst believers:

But now, love is in jeopardy, for only its name is left behind, while the reality is nowhere (seen), but we are divided each from the other. What then shall one do to reunite (ourselves)? For to find fault is easy, but how may one make friendship, this is the point to be studied; how we may bring together the scattered members.

For be it so, that we have one Church, or one doctrine— yet this is not the (main) consideration: no, the evil is, that in these we have not fellowship— living peaceably, as the Apostle says, with all men, on the contrary, we are at variance one with another. For be it that we are not having fights every day, yet look not thou to this, but (to this), that neither have we charity, genuine and unswerving. There is need of bandages and oil.

 Let us bear it in mind, that charity is the cognizance of the disciples of Christ: that without this, all else avails nothing: that it is an easy task if we will. Yes, say you, we know all this, but how (to go to work) that it may be achieved? What (to do), that it may be effected? In what way, that we may love one another?

First, let us put away the things which are subversive of charity, and then we shall establish this. Let none be resentful, none be envious, none rejoicing in (others') misfortunes: these are the things that hinder love; well then, the things that make it are of the other sort. For it is not enough to put away the things that hinder; the things that establish must also be forthcoming...

...What makes love of persons? Beauty of person. Then let us also make our souls beautiful, and we shall be amiable one to another: for it is necessary, of course, not only to love, but also to be loved. Let us first achieve this point, that we may be loved, and the other will be easy. How to act that we may be loved? Let us become beautiful, and let us do this, that we may always have lovers.

(Once) there were three thousand Acts 2:41— there were five thousand Acts 4:4— and yet they had all one soul...And here too is a wonderful thing to be seen— many in one, and one in many.  Just as in an harp, the sounds are diverse, not the harmony, and they all together give out one harmony and symphony, I could wish to bring you into such a city, were it possible, wherein (all) should be one soul: then should you see surpassing all harmony of harp and flute, the more harmonious symphony.

But the musician is the Might of Love: it is this that strikes out the sweet melody, singing, (withal) a strain in which no note is out of tune. This strain rejoices both Angels, and God the Lord of Angels; this strain rouses (to hear it) the whole audience that is in heaven; this even lulls (evil) passions— it does not even suffer them to be raised, but deep is the stillness. For as in a theatre, when the band of musicians plays, all listen with a hush, and there is no noise there; so among friends, while Love strikes the chords, all the passions are still and laid to sleep, like wild beasts charmed and unnerved: just as, where hate is, there is all the contrary to this...

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