2019-03-10 – Acts 19:21-20:1 – Idol Riot
Bible Text: Acts 19:21-20:1 | Preacher: Pastor Jerry Higdon | Series: Acts | 2019-03-10 – Acts 19:21-20:1 – Idol Riot
Good morning everyone. It is so nice to be able to spend some time with you all in fellowship with the Lord. Thank you and God bless you for being with us today.
(World Day of Prayer; This Tuesday Sunday-School & Small Group Training )
The title of today’s message is Idol Riot. Of course that is a play in terms, but we will see today a history lesson in scripture being played out. It is smart to study history because it repeats itself, which is a good thing because most people don’t pay attention the first time, lol. Now the history of Christianity has taught us well many things, and one thing the study of Christianity has taught me is that ironically the church thrives best when it is persecuted. When the church confronts issues in the world, it then begins to thrive in the purest sense. A brave and bold church is an effective church and persecution generally follows. However, always remember that God is with us, and we have nothing to fear.
Please turn now to Acts 19, verse 21, page 986 in your pew Bibles, which is the Inspired, Infallible and Living Word of God. But first let us pray..
In our text this morning, the Apostle Paul is in Ephesus, and many people throughout Asia had heard and believed in Jesus because of Paul’s work there. Paul was becoming a very well-known miracle-worker in the area, and people were starting to even seek him out, so they too could be healed or saved. Our last week’s verses attested that “God was performing extraordinary miracles by Paul’s hands”, however it was really the peoples faith in Jesus that was the key ladies and gentlemen. Faith is the key to healing, Faith is the key to exorcising evil spirits, and Faith is the only way that anyone can enter into heaven.
Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the assurance of what we hope for, and the certainty of what we do not see.” Perhaps no other component of our Christian life is more important than faith. And James tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance”. That is the backdrop, or setup for today’s message, now read with me starting in verse 21:
21 After these events, Paul resolved by the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem. “After I’ve been there,” he said, “It is necessary for me to see Rome as well.” 22 After sending to Macedonia two of those who assisted him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.
So in Ephesus they had established a church, and it became kind of a beachhead or strategic base for evangelism that extended to the entire Roman province of Asia Minor. Great things had been accomplished out of the Ephesus church.
Paul had been there now almost three years and he is ready to continue on his missionary journeys. Having said that, he also knows that the churches back in Jerusalem are very poor and struggling. So Paul desires to take some offerings from Ephesus, Macedonia and Achaia, and bless the struggling Jerusalem church, before he heads out to Rome and beyond. That is the strength of our church associations. We should be helping out with struggling churches and equipping new church growth as well. That is the reason we joined up with the Southern Baptist association. We don’t need to be like a small island in the ocean all by ourselves. We are amongst almost a thousand churches in Illinois alone. We have already benefited from this association, and our hopes are to become a blessing to other churches as we move forward ourselves. With your help we too will become a valuable resource for other church efforts, for God’s glory and purpose.
23 About that time there was a major disturbance about the Way. 24 For a person named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, provided a great deal of business for the craftsmen. 25 When he had assembled them, as well as the workers engaged in this type of business, he said: “Men, you know that our prosperity is derived from this business. 26 You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this man Paul has persuaded and misled a considerable number of people by saying that gods made by hand are not gods.27 Not only do we run a risk that our business may be discredited, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence come to the verge of ruin—the very one all of Asia and the world worship.”
I looked up the word Disturbance: it is the interruption of a settled and peaceful condition; a breakdown of peaceful and law-abiding behavior; a riot; the disruption of healthy functioning. Also regarding the term “The Way”, Jesus had said, “I am the Way”, so the Christian movement got the name of The Way as a result. God was doing some exciting things in that area and the people got upset. Satan was stirring them up as a result of the Gospel being shared. The church, while it resolves to maintain its stance on the Bible, will most always create a stir of some sorts in the circles of evildoers and lostness.
In our verses here, this union steward named Demetrius, a silversmith started recognizing that the demand for silver gods had declined drastically, so he was now stirring the people up. The spread of the Gospel was now fouling up their business. The people were accepting the truth of Christ and turning from worshiping idols, this resulted in bad business for not just the resellers, but for the silversmiths as well.
Demetrius effectively argued that their trade was in danger, their religion was in danger and their reputation in the world was in danger. Christianity hit them economically, religiously, politically and socially. Isn’t that tremendous? Boy that’s what Christianity ought to be about doing more of in my opinion.
28 When they had heard this, they were filled with rage and began to cry out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with confusion, and they rushed all together into the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s traveling companions. 30 Although Paul wanted to go in before the people, the disciples did not let him. 31 Even some of the provincial officials of Asia, who were his friends, sent word to him, pleading with him not to venture into the amphitheater. 32 Some were shouting one thing and some another, because the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some Jews in the crowd gave instructions to Alexander after they pushed him to the front. Motioning with his hand, Alexander wanted to make his defense to the people. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
This event here reminds me of some of the protesting we have seen on the television of late. I recall conservative speakers and civic gatherings lately being shut down because of those who say they are defending freedom of speech, don’t want to even let the people they don’t agree with speak. Kind of ironic isn’t it.
These verses we just read here are very telling also about Paul and his strong character. As they were all complaining and now rioting about what Paul did to their business and also their normal practice of worshiping idols, Paul was not in fear. The funny thing is, Paul never purposely went after their gods or their religious practices. Instead, Paul just lobbied for “The Way”, and taught about Jesus, and they accepted Jesus as their Savior and abandoned their previous faith practices. I wish our church had such an impact. Could you imagine if we just preached God’s word and Jesus to the community in such a way that it closed down local bars and gambling parlors. I bet it would cause a commotion even here in Orion. Maybe we should take notice of Paul’s practice and priorities J
Our verses here says they assembled in the amphitheater, and they drug two of Paul’s buddies out to persecute them. Paul was probably biting at the bit. This was almost the exact same type of environment and circumstances that he experienced earlier in Athens, where he boldly preached the Gospel to the crowds there. Paul’s friends pleaded with him because they knew that he would be excited to go there and preach.
I can definitely align with Paul’s feelings here. Sometimes my family too wants to calm my spirit of evangelism as well, especially when I am in hostile circumstances. However, God empowers us to do mighty things for His purpose and glory. We should take risks, but take smart risks.
35 When the city clerk had calmed the crowd down, he said, “People of Ephesus! What person is there who doesn’t know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple guardian of the great Artemis, and of the image that fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these things are undeniable, you must keep calm and not do anything rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are not temple robbers or blasphemers of our goddess. 38 So if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a case against anyone, the courts are in session, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it must be decided in a legal assembly. 40 In fact, we run a risk of being charged with rioting for what happened today, since there is no justification that we can give as a reason for this disturbance.” 41 After saying this, he dismissed the assembly.
20 After the uproar was over, Paul sent for the disciples, encouraged them, and after saying farewell, departed to go to Macedonia.
The clerk that calmed the people down was more like an area manager or mayor. He was put in charge of that area under Roman rule, and didn’t want to excite the Roman Governors. The pagan clerk effectively defends the character of Paul and the other Christians in order to calm the masses. He himself said that the Christians didn’t do anything illegal. They didn’t rob them or blaspheme our goddess. This clerk was smart and obviously the people trusted his judgement. But Paul and the others were also smart in that they didn’t violate these pagan worshipers in the process of leading some to Jesus. I think there is a lesson for us here too. Jesus said, as written in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”.
So there are three life-lessons for us to take home with us today from these verses. The first deals with making money or profit. The second is about idols. And the third is about making a difference in this world about us.
About making profit, Mark 8:36 says, “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world lose his own soul or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
And in Luke 16:13, Jesus says, “you can’t serve God and money.” Sadly, many a man are in hell today because they loved money more than they loved God. Judas is a great example of this dynamic. He was one of Jesus’ chosen few, yet he chose to go after a few silver coins over that of heavenly treasure.
Do not be that guy. Sure we are to support our family and be productive members of society, but do not let that effort trump your love of family and the faith journey that God would rather you attend to. Store up your treasures in heaven brothers and sisters, and always think with the end in mind.
Next, I want to talk just a little about idols. These silversmiths in Ephesus, not only made idols, but they worshiped them and promoted the worship of them for their profit and gain. I would argue that there are a lot of idols about us even today. They may not be made of silver or gold, but they are just as damning and even evil. You might recall in Exodus 20, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, for which we still ascribe to today. Well the very first two commandments go against idol worshiping.
God said, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens above, on the earth beneath, or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on their children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving devotion to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
The definition of idolatry, according to Webster, is “the worship of idols or excessive devotion to, or reverence for some person or thing.” An idol is anything that replaces the one, true God in our hearts, our minds, or our practices.
Today our modern idols are many and varied. Even for those who do not physically bow before a statue, idolatry is a matter of the heart. Pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions are all ultimately a rebellion against God. Is it any wonder that God hates it so much? What is your idol? What should you consider ridding yourself of that keeps you from becoming the man or woman of God that HE wants you to be?
Finally, I would like you to take notice in the scripture events we read about today, that God let even the pagans state the case that the Christian Way movement there was successful. The idol worshiping silversmith pagans said the people were turning away from their idols as a result of Paul’s Christ centered evangelical efforts. You might ask how did it come about? What brought the success they witnessed? Well let me tell you. What brought the success first of all was God’s will for it to be. But also, I suggest, that it was carried out by a person that was totally committed to Jesus Christ and His Great Commission.
Paul came into the city and turned a whole province on its ear. One man. But you know what that one man spent much of his time doing? Night and day, praying and teaching with tears, toil, and tenacity, the Word of God to anyone that would listen. And oh, what an effect he had achieved. When your doing God’s will, partnering up with Him and His efforts, it is amazing what can be accomplished. God is with you, the question is do you really believe it?
If you really want to turn your life around for the good, then get on board with what Jesus would have you be doing. It will change your life. It did mine. I am a witness to that dynamic, and I am not alone in that understanding. Even just last night, Jeremiah texted our Orion First Baptist Facebook group that he sold his house despite the naysayers. Isn’t that wonderful. Now he can continue to pursue the purchase of their dream house in Cambridge. I am not going to say that life is always going to be rosy for a believer, as we know that isn’t true. Paul himself went through many hardships in his life. However, God will reveal Himself in your lives more clearly when you are doing His will and living on purpose for Him. I will suggest that if it wasn’t for Jeremy’s sold out, spirit in serving the Lord, I don’t think he would have sold that house. When we align ourselves with the Lord and His marvelous will and purpose, amazing and great things happen. And when witness that, like Paul, we give all the praise and glory to God in the process.
Put your trust in the Lord brothers and sisters. Proverbs 3:5 says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Would you please stand with me now, as we close with an invitation
Let us sing: Amazing Grace.. “A FRIENDLY CHURCH IN A FRIENDLY TOWN”