Acts 19:23-41

Sunday Morning Bible Study

August 16, 1998

Introduction

Paul has had an incredible ministry at Ephesus. The city has become an outreach center for all of Asia. God has done amazing miracles through Paul, healing the sick and casting out demons. And best yet, the people were REALLY changed.

When we last saw Paul, he had just written 1Corinthians, where he told us of his plans to stay in Ephesus:

1 Cor 16:8-9 But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.

Pentecost came towards the end of May, and May was also the time of the great Festival of Artemis, where crowds from around the world would come to Ephesus.

{9} For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

great door and effectual Ė God had been doing incredible things through Paul, and the upcoming festival would be a great opportunity to preach the gospel.

Though there were difficulties, Paul still considered the door open. Today weíre going to see what a closed door looks like.

:23 no small stir

Lesson:

Thereís going to be problems if you follow Jesus.

Some people have been given the mistaken impression that if you become a Christian, suddenly all your problems are going to go away, and nothing but good things will happen to you.

Itís shallow Christians who wither in the heat.

Illustration

You Know It's Hot Outside When...

* You notice your car overheating before you drive it.

* Hotter water comes from the cold water tap than the hot one.

* People walking down the sidewalk spontaneously burst into flames

* You ask your boss for extra work so you can be in the air conditioning as much as possible

* The ducks in the park come in "original recipe" and "extra crispy"

Jesus told a story about people who canít take the heat. He told of a farmer sowing seed on different kinds of soil to demonstrate what different peopleís reactions are going to be to the Word of God:

(Mat 13:5-6 NKJV) "Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. {6} "But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.

(Mat 13:20-21 NKJV) "But he ceived the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; {21} "yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.

Jesus didnít just come to offer us an abundant life, but He also said,

(Mat 16:24-25 KJV) Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. {25} For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

At the end of his life, Paul wrote to Timothy:

2 Tim 4:16-18 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. {17} Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. {18} And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Even though you will be going through difficult times, Jesus will never leave you.

:24 silver shrines for Diana

silver shrines Ė little models of the great temple with Diana in it. The poor folks bought little clay models of the temple. The rich folks bought silver ones. But more than just Disneyland souvenirs, these were objects of worship.

Keep in mind that this temple of Diana was considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was world famous. Also, the upcoming "Festival of Artemis" in May would be drawing itís usual huge crowds from around the world, and be a great time for the silver-shrine business.

:25 ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.

wealth Ė euporia Ė riches, wealth; a "good life". Demetrius is going to primarily aim his speech at their pocket book. "Itís the economy, stupid."

:26 saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands

Paul had been pointing out how silly it was to worship something that your own hands had made. And when the people had begun to experience the power of the Living God in their own lives, they turned from their idolatry. (1Cor.8:4)

:27 our craft is in danger to be set at nought

They were afraid of losing their jobs.

In the early 1800ís, a great revival had swept through parts of New York under the ministry of Charles Finney. In one town, all the taverns were put out of business and the policemen had to find new jobs.

If we had a great revival today, those out of work might be the drug traffickers, the liquor store owners, the men who run the adult entertainment theaters, the graphers, those who run abortion clinics.

:27 the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised

The temple of Diana (Artemis) was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, with 127 columns 60 feet high standing on an area 425 ft long and 220 ft wide, reportedly taking over 200 years to build.

:29 Gaius and Aristarchus

These guys are going to be safe and will be off traveling with Paul again (Acts 20:4).

:29 into the theatre

The outdoor amphitheater of ancient Ephesus has been restored. It held 24,000 people, and was built into a hillside.

:31 And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends

These men, called "Asiarchs", were wealthy men who would use their own money to put on festivals and games, some of which were connected to worship of pagan gods and the worship of the emperor. Some had become friends of Paul. It does not mean that these men had become believers yet.

Lesson:

Favor with the unbelieving.

(Prov 16:7 KJV) When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Though there are going to be difficulties with some people because youíre a Christian, others donít mind at all.

Who wouldnít mind having an employee who doesnít cheat, doesnít steal, doesnít lie, and works hard?

Joseph, after he had been wrongly thrown into prison, found favor with the warden because God was with him. Daniel found favor with Nebuchadnezzar because God was with him.

Illustration

When he was an attorney, Abraham Lincoln was once approached by a man who passionately insisted on bringing a suit for $2.50 against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to discourage him, but the man was bent on revenge. When he saw that the man would not be put off, Lincoln agreed to take the case and asked for a legal fee of $10, which the plaintiff paid. Lincoln then gave half of the money to the defendant, who willingly confessed to the debt and paid the $2.50! But even more amazing than Lincoln's ingenuous settlement was the fact that the irate plaintiff was satisfied with it.

-- Clifton Fadiman, Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, Little, Brown & Company (Boston, Toronto, London) pp. 356-357.

:32 the more part knew not wherefore they were come together

Lesson:

Donít be a crowd follower.

Most people didnít have a clue why they had come to the theater.

The dangerous thing about going along with the crowd is that the crowd often doesnít know where itís going.

If youíre staying away from being a Christian, or hesitating about being serious about the Lord because the "crowd" isnít doing it, you might be going the wrong direction.

Illustration

An out of towner, on a trip to the country, drove his car into the ditch. Fortunately for him a farmer was nearby with his horse, Buddy, to pull him out. The farmer hitched Buddy up to the car and then yelled "pull Nellie, pull!" The car didn't move. Next the farmer yelled "pull, Daisy, pull!" but the car still didn't move. Finally the farmer yelled" pull, Coco, pull" still the car didn't move. The farmer then nonchalantly said "pull, Buddy, pull" whereupon Buddy easily pulled the car out of the ditch. Seeing this strange behavior the out of towner asked the farmer why he had called his horse by the wrong name three times. The farmer answered, "Buddy is blind and if he thought he was the only one pulling he wouldn't even have tried."

Are you a person who only moves if you think a crowd is going in the same direction? What if one day God asks you to go somewhere by yourself?

:33 Alexander Ö the Jews putting him forward

Alexander was a Jew like Paul, but not a Christian. The Jews, like Paul, were opposed to idolatry. But the Jews were afraid that they were getting drawn into this mess along with Paul, and Alexander wants to try and separate the Jews from the Christians.

This may be the same man Paul will later warn Timothy about:

2 Timothy 4:14 Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works:

:34 Great is Diana of the Ephesians

They kept up their cry for two hours to keep Alexander from addressing the crowd.

It started out as a murmur and carried on through the whole afternoon. Almost a little like what youíll hear at the Harvest, "We love Jesus, yes we do, we love Jesus how about you!"

But thereís more to it than that.

Lesson:

Donít shut your ears to Jesus.

This worship of Diana, like all other pagan religions gave them the excuse to live their lives the way they wanted to.

These gods and goddesses were worshipped in a way that fulfilled the desires of the flesh. It was their way of cramming something into the emptiness in their lives.

Itís not too unlike how people today get addicted to drugs, sex, entertainment, sports, drinking, boating, anything to try and fill the emptiness.

And all they could see of the Christians was that they had lost their appetite for these things and werenít "using" any more.

To a user, this is almost a threat, as if someone might be taking away your source of pleasure. Itís pretty threatening, pretty scary.

Itís almost as if theyíre shouting, "Donít take my stuff away, Donít take my stuff away!"

What they didnít realize, along with the rest of the world today, was that Jesus comes to fill the emptiness in our lives.

We donít have to do drugs anymore. Not because weíre tying ourselves down to a torture rack or holding a gun to our heads. The emptiness inside is filled with Godís love for us, itís filled with the Holy Spirit.

(Eph 5:18 NLT) Don't be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the Holy Spirit fill and control you.

All these other things we try and fill our lives with are only cheap substitutes of the real thing. Only the Holy Spirit can satisfy the hole in your life.

Illustration

The Treasure by Alice Gray as printed in "More Stories for the Heart"

The cheerful girl with bouncy golden curls was almost five. Waiting with her mother at the checkout stand, she saw them: a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box. "Oh please, Mommy. Can I have them? Please, Mommy, please?" Quickly the mother checked the back of the little foil box and then looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl's upturned face. "A dollar ninety-five. That's almost $2.00. If you really want them, I'll think of some extra chores for you and in no time you can save enough money to buy them for yourself. Your birthday's only a week away and you might get another crisp dollar bill from Grandma." As soon as Jenny got home, she emptied her penny bank and counted out 17 pennies. After dinner, she did more than her share of chores and she went to the neighbor and asked Mrs. McJames if she could pick dandelions for ten cents. On her birthday, Grandma did give her another new dollar bill and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace. Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel dressed up and grown up. She wore them everywhere--Sunday school, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or had a bubble bath. Mother said if they got wet, they might turn her neck green.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, "Do you love me?" "Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you." "Then give me your pearls." "Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have Princessóthe white horse from my collection. The one with the pink tail. Remember, Daddy? The one you gave me. She's my favorite." "That's okay, Honey. Daddy loves you. Good night." And he brushed her cheek with a kiss. About a week later, after the story time, Jenny's daddy asked again, "Do you love me?" "Daddy, you know I love you." "Then give me your pearls." "Oh Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my babydoll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper." "That's okay. Sleep well. God bless you, little one. Daddy loves you." And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss. A few nights later when her daddy came in, Jenny was sitting on her bed with her legs crossed Indian-style. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek. "What is it, Jenny? What's the matter?" Jenny didn't say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, "Here, Daddy. It's for you." With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny's kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the dime-store necklace, and with the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case with a strand of genuine pearls and gave them to Jenny. He had had them all the time. He was just waiting for her to give up the dime-store stuff so he could give her genuine treasure.

What are you trying to fill your life with? Are you settling for the fake pearls, or are you holding out for the real thing?

Today, the city of Ephesus is gone. The worldwide worship of Diana is gone. The temple of Diana is gone. The silversmithís guild is gone. But the good news of Jesus Christ and His church is still going.

Think twice before following the crowd.

:35 the townclerk

This isnít some back office clerk, this is the title of the highest elected city official in Ephesus. Ephesus was also the capital of the province of Asia and so was also the home of the Roman governor, or proconsul.

:35 and of the image which fell down from Jupiter?

The legend was that this image had fallen from heaven, from Zeus. It has been suggested that it was a meteorite.

:36 ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly

Lesson:

Consider your decisions carefully.

Even though this is coming from a secular city official, itís good advice.

(Prov 14:29 NKJV) He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, But he who is impulsive exalts folly.

:37 which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers

better, "robbers of temples"

Paul may have been preaching that their idols werenít real gods, but he wasnít robbing the temple treasuries or bombing their abortion clinics.

Lesson:

Donít work to remove the darkness, just turn on the light.

You donít have to attack peopleís pagan practices. Just tell them about Jesus. When Jesus comes into their life, Heíll take care of the changes.

:38 let them implead one another.

If you have a problem, take them to court!

20:1 departed for to go into Macedonia

So this is what a closed door looks like.

It didnít mean that Paul left the ministry. He just left Ephesus.

Who are you going to follow? The crowd? Or Jesus?