Acts 19:1 – 20
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked the, “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 baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, they Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophecies. There were about twelve men in all.
Paul entered the synagogue and spoke bodily there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in th lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul. Handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.
Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They could say, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. The evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know and Paul I know about, but who are you?” Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
When this became knows to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.
This passage, and the moment of the account which the artist chose to convey the story, contrasts the effect of words and actions. Paul spends a couple of years in Ephesus teaching, initially at the synagogue, then lecture hall. While his words may have convinced some to believe in Jesus, the experiences of being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (rather than John’s baptism), being filled with the Holy Spirit, and observing the evil spirit confront the sons of Sceva, appear to have persuaded more people.
The result of these actions was that those who had gathered spells and practiced sorcery brought out their books and scrolls of spells and burnt them. The burning of baskets and armfuls of scrolls is what this fresco portrays. Conversion is more than a confession of evil deeds, but a destruction of the sources of that evil.