Acts 19-20: Priesthood Authority and Paul's Third Missionary Journey

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 106–107


Have you ever wondered how Heavenly Father feels about those who baptize and perform other ordinances in His name without having the proper priesthood authority? Is there a difference between those whom God has called and those who call themselves? Acts 18:23–21:17 shows how the differences were apparent in Paul’s third missionary journey, when he traveled to Ephesus, Greece, Miletus, and other places.
burning magic books

Understanding the Scriptures

Acts 19

Divers (v. 9)Some, several 
Vagabond Jews, exorcists (v. 13)Jews who traveled around claiming to have the power to cast out evil spirits 
Adjure (v. 13)Command 
Curious arts (v. 19)Sorcery, witchcraft, magic 
That way (v. 23)Christianity 
Implead one another (v. 38)Make a formal complaint, press charges 

Acts 20

Exhortation (v. 2)Strong encouragement 
Laid wait (vv. 3, 19)Plotted against 
Minding (v. 13)Deciding 
Shunned (v. 27)Refused, rejected 
Grievous (v. 29)Cruel, wicked 
Perverse (v. 30)False, evil 

Acts 19:23–41—The Riot of the Silversmiths

Notice the effect Paul’s preaching had in Ephesus. As certain Gentiles heard and accepted Paul’s message, they gave up their idolatry. Because they no longer worshiped at the temple of Diana, the people also stopped purchasing the little statues of the goddess by which Demetrius and the other silversmiths made their living. The silversmiths began a riot against the Christians, claiming to be fighting for the honor of their false goddess but really hoping to regain the source of their wealth.

Acts 20:28–30—Paul Prophesies of the Apostasy

Paul saw that an apostasy would occur because of the unrighteousness of the people. Elder James E. Talmage wrote: “Not only would outsiders ingratiate themselves with the saints for purposes of selfish gain—wolves entering in, and not sparing the flock,—but schisms and divisions were imminent; and these dissensions were to come through some then present—men who would aspire to leadership, and who would set up their own doctrines, thus drawing disciples away from the Church and unto themselves” (The Great Apostasy [1953], 28). For other descriptions of the Apostasy, see Matthew 24:23–24; Galatians 1:6–8; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–3; and 2 Peter 2:1–3.

Studying the Scriptures

Do one of the following activities (A–D) as you study Acts 19–20.

Activity A iconBe a Detective

Paul met some disciples who said they had already been baptized (see Acts 19:1–7). After he had questioned them, however, he determined that they needed to be baptized again. Study those verses and figure out which of the options below is the best explanation for why Paul baptized them again (see also D&C 22):

  1. 1.

    Paul did not believe that John the Baptist had the authority to baptize.

  2. 2.

    Those disciples were baptized in the manner that John the Baptist baptized, but by someone who did not have the proper authority.

  3. 3.

    When John baptized them he forgot to tell them about Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, so Paul baptized them again.

Activity B iconHow Essential Is Priesthood Authority?

Review the events Luke recorded in Acts 19:1–17. Explain how Paul’s actions showed that priesthood authority is required to perform all priesthood ordinances.

one man ordaining another

Activity C iconSleeping in Church

In Acts 20:1–12 we read about what happened to a young man who fell asleep while Paul was speaking. If you were a local news reporter, what would you write about that event for the paper? Consider how that event must have shocked the congregation. Be sure your article is based on the facts in this passage.

Activity D iconPaul’s Farewell Speech

When missionaries leave the area in which they have served on their mission, they say farewell to people they have labored with, taught the gospel to, and grown to love. Paul’s farewell speech to the people he was leaving was somewhat different from a regular farewell.

  1. 1.

    Read Acts 20:17–38 and describe how Paul’s farewell speech was different from other missionary farewells.

  2. 2.

    Choose at least two principles that Paul taught in these verses that impressed you and explain why.

  3. 3.

    Select an appropriate Church hymn for that kind of a farewell and tell why you chose it.