Event(s): The riot at Ephesus
Today’s Text: Acts 19:23-41
Tomorrow’s Text: Acts 20:1-12
Our scene opens with a riot ensuing. The message of the Gospel was making such an impact that all forms of pagan worship suffered for it. The message that was preached was not “against something, or someone”. But instead, it was about Christ. It’s so important that we make sure the message we communicate to the world is not focused on what we are against, but on what (or Whom, actually) we are for. When Jesus is lifted up, when He is exalted as He should be, He will draw all mankind to Himself.
Acts 19:24 “who made silver shrines of Diana…” Diana was known as the Greek goddess of fertility and love. Diana was her Roman name, Artemis was her Greek name and if there was one claim to fame Ephesus had, it was that of housing a massive temple of worship in her honor. This was such an extravagant temple it eventually became known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was large enough to accommodate about 25,000 people, and no expense was spared. It is said that this was the most widely followed cult in the ancient world.
Acts 19:25 “you know that we have our prosperity by this trade.” The work of Demetrius was a silversmith. Basically, he made souvenirs that people could take home after visiting the temple and use them in their own personal worship at home. His sales started to decline as people came to know Christ. This was the real motivation behind the riot he started, however, he cloaked his “concern” under a cover of religious zeal.
Acts 19:29 “rushed into the theater with one accord..” This was an amphitheater that could seat up to 25,000 people. It was only natural that with everyone thrown into an uproar, they would all head to the largest place of public assembly.
Acts 19:31 “pleading that he would not venture into the theater.” Everyone else saw danger, and shared concern for Paul’s life. Paul, on the other hand, saw this as a great opportunity for ministry. There are times we need to submit our zeal to the council of wisdom.
In Chapter 16, we read about a certain slave girl who brought her masters much profit by fortune telling. When they started losing money as people began to follow Christ, they flew into an uproar. Today, we read of a man as well, who made his fortune making religious trinkets. Again, once people began to follow Christ, it began to impact his business…his lifestyle…his pride.
A lot of times, people hear the message of the Gospel but won’t “jump all in” because of what they know it will cost them. We’re not so certain we can (or want to) follow Christ if that means we will have to change the way we handle some business deals at work that bring us a good deal of money. We’re not so certain we can (or want to) follow Christ if that means we’ll have to give up having sex outside of marriage. We’re not so sure we want to follow Christ if that means we’ll have to adjust any little thing in our lifestyle that currently brings us great pleasure.
But here’s the part we don’t understand (we actually can’t fully understand it until we give our lives to Christ completely and experience it for ourselves): Our lives are made new in Christ, and God’s ways are the only ways that bring true life! All those things we once considered “have-to’s” become “want-to’s” as we finally discover what true life feels like in Christ, with the Holy Spirit dwelling on the inside of us. Our appetites change, our way of thinking changes, our desires change as God becomes our source for everything: protection, provision, purpose, and even the things that bring us pleasure.
We can look at these examples in the book of Acts of sorcery, fortune telling, and idol worship, and be tempted to pick up our stones. But the question we must ask ourselves is, “Is there an area where we’ve not been willing to let Christ in all the way for fear of what it may cost us in the natural?” We have to recognize, if that’s the case, that those things have become an idol to us.
Can we trust God enough to let them go and let Him in? Can we trust if it’s something to do with our finances that God will rearrange all of that in a way that will honor Him and bless us? Can we trust that if it’s a relationship we know we shouldn’t be in that God has a better plan in mind that will strengthen our course in life? There’s so much more “abundant life” to be had on the other side of letting those things go that far outweighs the empty value anything on this earth could ever bring. But we can’t pick up what God has for us if we are still holding on so tightly to the things we’re not willing to let go of.
“Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself.” –Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest