October 27, 2019
Pastor Ricky Smith
There is a significant day on our calendar coming up. October 31st. Now, you may think that holiday is associated with candy, and for many, it is. But it is also a very important day in history. October 31st is known as Reformation Day. It was on that day in 1517 that Martin Luther made a bold and courageous statement.
He had been studying Scripture, reading and teaching in seminary, and he’d been comparing what he was learning and reading in Scripture with what the Catholic Church was teaching. Particularly, he became very frustrated with the indulgences being sold.
He said something like, “I’m seeing what you are doing. We are making all this money, and this is not biblical.” He had the courage to push against the status quo for the sake of the Gospel. He wrote what is known as the 95 Theses, and he nailed it to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. That became the beginning to what has commonly been known as the Protestant Reformation.
This is a pivotal moment in the history of church and Christianity. What we could learn from Martin Luther and this Reformation Day remembrance is the importance of someone having the courage to make a stand against what is status quo, even if he or she knows it is going to invite resistance.
He wasn’t doing it just for the sake of change. Sometimes, we invite or even motivate change just for the sake of change. That’s not what we’re talking about here. For Martin Luther, it was a matter of facilitating change for the sake of the integrity of Scripture and the importance of the Gospel. That is something worth fighting for.
Today, when we come to Acts chapter 19, we are going to see both a bold statement of faith and then a response. When Martin Luther made this statement and all of a sudden the indulgence system and the Catholic Church’s revenue were being threatened, they excommunicated him. It should be expected that there would be some kind of a response in the midst of that threat.
I. Trust the Spirit to lead you
What we’ll see here from the ministry of Paul in Acts chapter 19 is the way a culture, this pagan culture in Ephesus, responds to the threat. It’s very antagonistic toward Paul. So, let’s dive in and see what we can learn in Acts chapter 19. We are going to begin in verse 21. The first point for the day that we’ll see in verses 21 and 22 is that you should trust the Spirit to lead you.
21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
If you’ll remember from the previous chapter, we saw the courageous move and response of the Gospel when people tried to imitate the power of Paul. The sons of Sceva were ridiculed, and the demonic spirits said, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but I don’t know you.” This happens right after that.
From this point forward in the story of Acts, there’s a measurable tone that shifts. Paul has made up his mind. “I’m going to Rome.” He has made up his mind that his ultimate destination is going to be Rome. “I’m going to take up a big offering through the churches here in Asia, and bring it to Jerusalem on my way to Rome.” He was determined that was his destination. So, moving forward, we’re going to see this ever-increasing focus and determination of Paul of reaching his destination.
You may compare how you travel. When you go on vacation, you may be the type of family or person who goes to a beach like Panama City, but you intentionally take your time. Every time there’s a sign for gator bait and mayhaw jelly, you say, “Let’s see what’s in this stand.” And then you go to Eufala and pick up some grapefruit. You just meander and stroll and stop at every detour along the way.
Or, you may be like me. When I get in the car, we may stop to go the bathroom. We’re definitely going to stop at Chick-fil-a. But we’re getting to the beach. We are focused on where we’re headed. I can’t get there quick enough.
So, we see the Spirit in Paul. As he begins to take these steps, he knows there’s still a journey, teaching, and advancement of the Gospel to happen. But, he is committed to his destination. Why? Where does it come from? It’s a spirit-level commitment. It’s a spirit-level and Spirit-driven assignment to go.
And so, because he knows where he is headed, he is determined to get there. His goal, as I said, was to get to Rome, but we can compare in 2 Corinthians 9 and Romans 15 that he is going to go through all Asia and Macedonia and start gathering a collection from these churches.
That is why he sends Timothy and Erastus ahead of him. “You guys go ahead and start collecting the offering and building that collection, so we can get it to Jerusalem, and then we’ll end up in Rome.” So that becomes the drive here. What Paul is teaching is this continual discipline of self-sacrifice and love. If you remember back in the first couple of verses of Acts chapter 19, when he began to preach the Gospel, he spent two and a half years with these people, every day teaching them and discipling them.
He rented out this lecture hall that was named after Tyrannus, who was likely a scholar of that day, and he’s teaching them and helping them to grow. Why? This all points back to verse 20. We see in response to what Paul was doing there:
20 So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.
What is beginning to happen? As Paul trusts the Spirit, as Paul leans into obedience to wherever God is leading him, Scripture begins to impact culture. Scripture begins to prevail and change people’s lives as Paul takes one step at a time of faithful obedience following the Spirit.
Now, here’s a question I have for you: What does this look like in your life? God has given all of us this mandate, this life of making disciples, this Great Commandment and Commission He’s given all of us to do. And so, I know the objective. I know the mission. But the challenge sometimes is being faithful and obedient in each step along the way, of being faithful every step through the journey.
Sometimes that journey brings trial. Sometimes it is testing our faithfulness. Sometimes it is overwhelming, but the question is, do I remain faithful to the mission? Let’s get really practical with this. Parents, you’ve got kids under your care. What is your God-given assignment (going all the way back to Deuteronomy 6)? Disciple those children.
And so, yes, I’m looking forward and I’m expecting the day when they move out of the house and are out of my care. I know that day is coming. So, it’s my faithfulness step-by-step through that mission every day to accomplish that task. And so, we see Paul’s faithfulness there.
II. Trusting in temporary things will lead you astray
Here’s the second point of the day: Trusting in the temporary will lead you astray. This is where I want to spend the heart of our time today.
23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” 28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel.
Paul’s message was very bold and courageous. He was not hesitant at all to speak against idolatry and pagan worship. Remember Acts 15 and Acts 17. His message has been very clear, elevating the Gospel and pushing against idolatry. So let’s give Demetrius some credit here. Let’s look at it through his lens.
I can see why Demetrius is upset. I mean, if his sole livelihood was based upon selling idols and then Paul comes in and people start listening to what he says, and all of a sudden, he’s selling fewer idols, I could see why Demetrius is in an uproar. You probably could understand that, too.
But what I want us to pay attention to is understanding first of all a little bit about this world. The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus is one of the seven wonders of the world. This was the economic hub of Ephesian life. All of Asia would gather once a year for a huge festival. They would come to Ephesus to worship Artemis, and they would bring in great gifts. There would be an economic boom in that area, and as you could well expect, whenever the festival would come, every vendor imaginable would come selling their wares, trinkets, and souvenirs because they knew all these people were coming.
It’s kind of like when the Olympics came through in 1996. This mass influx of people came to Atlanta. All of a sudden, people were selling t-shirts out of their trunks. People took every opportunity to turn a quick buck because all these people were coming in. Well, that’s kind of what is going on here.
What we see when Demetrius rises up is that it is the time of this annual festival. Demetrius really sees, “Our sales are down because all these people are starting to worship this God that Paul preaches.” And it’s as if Demetrius is saying, “You know what? If Paul would have just stayed in the House of Tyrannus and taught those people, lecturing every day and just kept it behind closed doors… But no; they’ve got to come out of there and start spreading it all throughout Asia. And people are starting to follow this God, or this Way that Paul has been preaching.” It’s disrupting their way of life, and they are up in arms over it.
When I was studying this passage, one commentator from Kentucky described it this way: “It would be like someone standing at the entrance of Churchill Downs during Derby week and preaching against horse racing.” And you could imagine the reaction of people in that moment. “This is Derby Week!”
So here, it’s the annual festival, and now Paul has been preaching about pagan idolatry, and Demetrius is up in arms. What’s interesting as we look at verse 21 is, we see Paul’s self-sacrificing motive. I’m going to follow the Spirit. We’re going to take up a collection. We’re going to give and get it to Jerusalem on our way to Rome. If we compare that to Demetrius’ self-seeking motivation in verse 24, there is this huge contrast.
Three dangerous areas of temporary trust:
But where I want our attention to be is in verse 27, because I think verse 27 helps us see three dangerous areas of temporary trust. Demetrius is saying, “There is danger, not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and she may be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”
Here’s the first thing I see: There’s danger in the temporary trust of our resources. When the Gospel enters onto the world, it will always impact economy. The Gospel impacts our personal economy; it doesn’t make sense when we follow the Gospel and live off of 90%. It impacts our personal economy, but the Gospel should impact the economy of the world, too.
Let’s say, for example, the adult entertainment industry. It is millions of dollars. The Gospel should impact that, because when we’re following Jesus, we shouldn’t be buying that. Do you see the connection? The Gospel should impact and should disrupt. It will upset our economics. Here we see Demetrius, and their way of life was being disrupted by the Gospel that Paul was preaching. We must remember what 1Timothy 6:10 says.
1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
So here is the question (listen carefully to what I’m saying, and don’t read into what I’m not saying): Are you moved and motivated by the Spirit of God, or are you moved and motivated by the dollar? What motivates you? Jesus said in Mark 8:36:
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul
To have money or to earn money, in and of itself, is not wrong. This is not a statement of wealth; this is a statement of trust. It’s a matter of the heart and what motivates you, because wealthy is temporary. When in doubt, look at the volatility of your 401(k). Are you trusting that 401(k), or you trusting the King of Kings?
Here’s the second thing we see in verse 27. Beyond resource, it’s religion. Demetrius points out, “Not only may this trade of ours come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing.” He’s saying, “This is our place of worship. People aren’t going to value it anymore.”
I would argue that Demetrius was clearly more interested in his wealth and resources than he was in religion, but it is a reminder for us that at the end of the day, religion is self-seeking, and the Gospel will not allow us to settle for a mere status quo of religion. Here’s the difference: Religion works to make you better, but the Gospel makes you new.
Religion works to make you better, but the Gospel makes you new!
I was having a Gospel conversation with a man this week, and I was talking with him about his faith and his relationship with God. This was his statement: “What? I’m going to church, and I’m trying to do good. Won’t you pray for me?” And the response is, trying to do good and going to church isn’t going to get you anywhere. That’s a religious response of, “I’m going to work at it. I’m going to try to be good. I pray. I’m going to be okay. I hope that God recognizes all that I’m trying to do.”
Religion will work to make you better; the Gospel makes you new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, and the new has come.” And so, I ask you this question for your own introspection. Are you walking through the motions of religion, or has your heart been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ? So, we see the danger of following the temporary of resources. We see the danger of following the temporary of religion.
The third thing is our reputation. He ends verse 27 with this statement of, “All of Asia knows this is what Ephesus is known for. Guys, our reputation is at stake here. If people stop coming here to worship, what else is Ephesus going to be known for?” This was almost like the definition of their patriotism. This was where their pride was great. Certainly, don’t get me wrong; our reputation should be guarded and protected.
In fact, for one of my best friends growing up, his dad was an uneducated, hardworking, successful entrepreneur. He dropped out of school when he was in sixth grade, working with his hands, and had made a great living for himself. This friend and I were riding in the back seat of his old pickup truck one day. He had picked us up from school and was taking us somewhere (I can’t even remember where we were going), and I will never forget what he said. In his Southern twang, he just had this moment, I guess, of when he needed to give us some adult advice.
He said, “Boys, let me tell you something. There are two things in the world you need to protect: your name and your credit.” And he didn’t say anything else. He just left it hanging there. And so, we were just processing, thinking, “What does this even mean?” But, I’ll never forget it. Why? Because certainly in terms of relationships and impact on culture, yes, the last name Smith, I need to honor. I want to make my daddy proud, right?
So, I get it. Reputation is important. Certainly my credit is important. But those things are temporary. That’s not what I need to put my trust in. I shouldn’t be motivated to seek to make my name known. My motivation should be to make the name of Jesus known. I need to be more committed with His reputation than with my own. When following Jesus, I become more focused on protecting His name than protecting my name, because we have to remember that secret sauce that we talk about from time to time. It’s not about you, and it’s not about your name. It’s about His name.
So, whether we’re talking about resources, religion, or our reputation, those are three categories of things that are temporary, and it reminds us that our focus must rest in the eternal and not on the temporary. Our focus must rest on the things that transcend space and time. Our focus must rest on the power of the Gospel. Our focus must rest on the mission that He has called you to do and not on the things that are temporary.
Our focus must rest in the eternal and not the temporary
It is not implied that things that are temporary don’t matter at all. Certainly they do. I mean, life matters. But what motivates us? What drives us? What are we striving for? Paul was clearly committed to preaching the Word, and he was not surprised at all to see the enemy try to hinder what he was trying to do. As he was preaching and building relationships for almost three years in Ephesus, he wasn’t shocked when Demetrius and others began to speak out.
III. Trust in the counsel of others
And you and I shouldn’t be surprised, nor should we be shocked when the enemy is at work. In those moments, what do we have to do? Here is the third point: Trust in the council of others. Verses 30-41:
30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
Wow! This is kind of funny to me. This shows the curiosity of people. There’s so much confusion. There are people joining this mob. They don’t know what they are screaming about. They don’t even know why they are there. They are just shouting because everybody else is shouting. And what does Paul want to do? He is like, “Let me have at them! I’ll step into it. Let’s go!”
Now, he wasn’t trying to go in there and have a fist fight. We just see the courageous confidence of Paul. “I’ve seen what God has delivered me from. I have seen the power of the Gospel. I’m not intimidated by this mob. Let me at them.” It kind of reminds me of when we are pushed to the point to fight, how do we respond?
When I was in sixth grade, there was a kid bullying me. Day after day after day he kept bullying me. I came home from school one day, and my dad didn’t know what was going on, but I had these red marks on my throat where I’d been bullied after school that day. My dad, being a good, manly man, said, “Son, why are you letting this guy do this?”
“I don’t want to get in trouble at school.”
He said, “Here’s the deal: Tomorrow, if that boy picks on you, I want you to deck him as hard as you can. I’ll take care of the school.”
So Dad goes to visit the school. Parents, I’m not telling you this is the way you should parent. I’m just telling you, this is the way my dad did it. And so, he goes to the principal of the school, and he says, “Listen here. Tomorrow, if this boy comes to my son, he’s going to lay him out, and you can do whatever. You can kick him out of school. You can discipline him. You could paddle him. Whatever you want to do. You just need to know it’s going to happen, and when he comes home, he’s going to get a high five and an attaboy. I just need you to make sure you know that’s what’s happening.”
The next day after school, it was on like Donkey Kong. It just happened, and I got an attaboy when I got home. Why? It’s because I was given this freedom to realize, it’s okay to step up and defend yourself. And there are moments when that is the appropriate thing to do. And there are moments when, like the response of Paul here, while he wanted to engage (again, he wasn’t trying to engage in fighting fire with fire, per se), he really wanted to go in and talk and preach.
But this was another one of those shake-the-dust-off-of-my-robes moments. This was one of those moments when he’s acknowledging the command of Christ in Matthew 7. “Don’t even cast your pearls before swine. Just step away.” Well, how did he reach this point? It was the council of others. It was the wisdom from the disciples saying, “Paul, you can’t go in the theater.”
It was the advice of the Asiarchs. Asiarchs were the Roman proconsuls who were assigned to the region of Asia to represent Rome, and Paul was friends with them. This gives some insight into his influence politically. He’s friends with the Asiarchs, who advised, “Just don’t go in there.” And there is value when you and I seek counsel from others.
Ironically, this morning, Rick Hernandez was filling in and taught this wonderful lesson on exercising biblical wisdom, talking about what it looks like and the challenges. One of the things we talked about was seeking counsel from others. It’s in those moments when we begin to see, when the pressure is on, we’re able to see the good that comes out or the bad that comes out.
It’s kind of like Mr. Miyagi. When you squeeze the grape, then you know what’s in it, right? And so, there’s an opportunity for us to decide, should we engage, or should we not? Paul had faith to trust in God, but also the wisdom not to go jump into danger. He listened to the advice of the fellow believers. He listened to the advice of the Asiarchs.
Notice the mob mentality here. Yes, in our culture today, mob mentality is very visible. It’s obvious, especially through the impact of social media, that a mob’s voice can gain traction so quickly. I’m just going to throw out some free advice to you. This is worth what you are paying for. Beware of joining a fight without knowing the cause. Beware of engaging in that social media chat without paying attention and reading the thread first.
Beware of joining in causes and joining the mob in the event that you may end up somewhere you never intended to be. Just because the mob is loud, doesn’t mean the mob is right. So just be guarded. Be wise. In fact, Scripture commands us to be on our guard. If you remember a couple of weeks ago, we talked about, “Trust, but verify,” and trying to live out 1 Thessalonians 5:21 where it says:
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22
but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil
IV. Trust in the mission
Moving on. We’re going to flip the script now into a little bit of chapter 20 where we see the importance of trusting in the mission. Notice, Paul immediately shakes the dust off on this mob. Notice where his attention immediately turns: right back onto the mission. Let’s read verses 1-6 of chapter 20:
1 After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2 When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece. 3 There he spent three months, and when a plot was made against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia. 4 Sopater the Berean, son of Pyrrhus, accompanied him; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy; and the Asians, Tychicus and Trophimus. 5 These went on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas, 6 but we sailed away from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we came to them at Troas, where we stayed for seven days.
Immediately, Paul’s eyes are right back on the mission. “You guys go ahead of me. Start making the collection. I’ll meet you in Jerusalem.” Immediately, he trusts in the mission. He doesn’t allow anything to waver him or to cause him to come off of that mission. What we need to understand is, Paul trusted that. He allowed God to deal with the crowd, and the power of a new life that makes disciples is more powerful than any mob.
What’s interesting, if you want to do a little history search, it was the message of the Gospel and the power of Christianity that won out the day at Ephesus. Paul leaves and continues the mission and trusts in the Spirit of God to deal with that pagan culture. When you study history, by the time of 268 AD, the entire temple had been destroyed by a raid from the Goths.
Both the city and the religion of Artemis were in rapid decline. They rebuilt the temple, but in 391, it was closed by the Roman Emperor, and Christianity was made the state religion. Through much fighting and several years later, when the Roman Emperor Constantine came in and rebuilt the city of Ephesus, he didn’t even restore the temple at all. He left it completely destroyed because he, too, had become a Christian and had little interest in pagan religion.
What can we learn from that? Hebrews 12:1-2 says to fix your eyes on Jesus. Trust and be faithful to the mission to make disciples.
So we’ve said a lot; we’ve covered a lot of ground. Here are some things in conclusion to remember. Our mission to make disciples, God may very well give you and me an opportunity to make a stand against idolatry, to make a stand against false teaching. He may give us an opportunity like Martin Luther to make a statement that impacts others and ushers in revival and sweeping change.
He may guide us through tense moments and stressful situations and trials and tribulations where we need to lean into the wise counsel of others. But He has called us all to make disciples, no matter the cost, and we’ve got to keep our eye on that eternal mission. Where does it start? It starts in your home. It impacts where you work. It influences your neighbors and every relationship that you have, pointing people to Jesus while you look to Jesus and you trust the Spirit for direction.
- I recognize I’ve put my trust in temporary things and choose to follow Jesus as my King.
- I choose to become a member of this faith family and work together to make Jesus known.
- I repent of the temptation to make my name known more that Christ’s and commit to make disciples.
- There is danger in trusting in what is temporary, like resources, religion, and reputation. Re-read Acts 19:21-41, and discuss how Christians can fall into the trap of placing priority on temporary things. Share what this has looked like in your life.
- Today’s culture is often driven by the voice of the mob. How can we, as Christians, guard against joining a fight that isn’t aligned with the Gospel?
- Through all the distractions, Paul remained focused on the mission to make disciples. How can we, as a church, gain and maintain this level of focus?