July 3, 2020

The Threat of the Gospel

Acts 19:21–41

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A Riot at Ephesus

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.

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. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs,1 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?2 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,3 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.


[1] 19:31 That is, high-ranking officers of the province of Asia
[2] 19:35 The meaning of the Greek is uncertain
[3] 19:39 Some manuscripts seek about other matters

The Threat of the Gospel

Key Verse | Acts 19:27

"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."

Bio | Travis Bruster

My name is Travis Bruster. I teach mathematics and philosophy at Coram Deo Academy in Flower Mound. My awesome wife, Robin, is a volunteer coordinator at Buckner Children and Family Services (yes, I get "voluntold" a lot, but it is a joy to serve together!). We have a chiweenie, a guinea pig, and a gecko, two of which are named after my favorite theologians. I serve at Great Questions, helping seekers and even doubters safely explore the Christian faith; read a lot of nerdy books; and enjoy listening to classical music and Christian metal!

Central Truth

The gospel of Jesus Christ presents a great danger to the gods of this world.

Devotional | Acts 19:21–41

The gospel of Jesus Christ presents a great danger to the gods of this world. Demetrius perceived correctly that the message that Paul was preaching in Ephesus endangered Demetrius' business and his worship....

The gospel of Jesus Christ presents a great danger to the gods of this world. Demetrius perceived correctly that the message that Paul was preaching in Ephesus endangered Demetrius' business and his worship. But he also worried that Artemis herself was in danger. He was right. Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord shows that He is the only true, sovereign God (Isaiah 45:22) by judging the gods of other nations (see Exodus 12:12; 1 Samuel 5:1-5; etc.). The book of Acts is the beginning of the story of God reclaiming the nations from all other gods through the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The kingdom of God cannot be stopped. Therefore you and I have a choice to make: whom will we serve (Joshua 24:15)? Will we respond like Demetrius and shout to defend the gods that are leading us to death (Deuteronomy 30:17-18)? Or will we give up our old ways to follow the living God (John 14:6)?

In 2013, I was sitting in the back row at a Bible study for young adults, hung over and wanting to leave. My parents had lovingly encouraged me to go to church, and I was there so that I didn't have to lie to them when they asked. I believed I was a Christian, but I had no idea who Jesus is and no desire to be at church. Still, my parents kept asking, and I kept going. Over the course of a few months I heard the gospel clearly and learned about the eternal life that Jesus offered to me.

But His love for me also threatened the way that I was living, and I struggled to give it up for something better. I confessed Jesus as Lord and was baptized, but I tried to keep drinking just like I had before. Eventually it became clear to me that I had to choose whom I would worship: alcohol or the Son of God? By God's grace I gave up drinking alcohol entirely, and I have found that following Jesus brings much more satisfaction and joy.

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Discussion Questions

1. The Ephesians were angered when they saw that their gods were endangered by the gospel. Do you become angry when certain things in your life (e.g., money, work habits, entertainment choices, etc.) are threatened by the gospel?

2. What people do you have in your life who will point out the ways that you still worship other gods?

3. Paul shared the gospel of Jesus Christ in every city that he went to, even if the people responded with violence. Is there something that God has called you to do of which you are afraid? How does Paul's example encourage you?

6 Comments available

Greg Jones 7 months ago

Pete Enns who puts out the Bible For Normal People posted a video to their Patreon supporters yesterday. If it was missed the video addressed a “ask Pete Question,” the question paraphrased, “is abiding talk/thoughts about God and obedience talk/thoughts about God compatible?”

That came to mind as I thought about Paul taking the advice of his outer circle of friends in Ephesus and his obedience to the temple purification laws when in Jerusalem.

Michael Scaman 7 months ago

This started off with plain old ordinary cash flow. Paul’s evangelism was bad for business, so the idol makers thought.

The Ephesians shouted for 2 hours about Artemus and anticlimactically the clerk tells them to be quiet and go home.

God works in mysterious ways.

Calvin says man’s heart is like an idol factory so the Ephesian idol guild is not as different to use as one might hope.

Greg Jones 7 months ago

The riot in Ephesus, a foreshadow of charges, seizure, trials of Paul in Jerusalem. Erastus, the city official(Romans16:23) sent to Macedonia with Timothy, 2Macedonians seized in riot ect ect.

Ephesus riot-those with financial motives played the religious emotions of the crowd. Good leadership, a local political religious insider, recognizes the problem, walks the town out of chaos, two Macedonians released, all ends quickly.

Jerusalem-motives and emotions will rule the initial actions. Poor leadership will rule the reactions to the actions. Luke says stay tuned.

Hope Harris 7 months ago

Many folks often ask me, “why LGBTQ folks are so angry with Christians?” Today’s passage helps me navigate the answer. The gospel challenges us to surrender the things we value at the foot of the foot of the cross.

The rich young ruler-money The woman at the well-relationships with men Hope H - sexual identity and relationships with other women

When our idols/the things we find security in are threatened we become angry and defensive, which is most often driven by other emotions like rejection and insecurity.

The gospel divided my heart and caused me to examine who would be without identifying as a lesbian. It drove me to a crucial decision trust God to meet that need or die in sin.

I choose the later.

Sue Bohlin 7 months ago

Thanks, Travis. I salute you for teaching math and philosophy. Both those things make my brain ache.

I love the accusation against Paul, how he preached that gods made with hands are not gods at all. That’s quite a threat to the merchants selling gods made with hands! In 2020, we need help to see that our idols are less about physical gods made with hands, and more about anything we need instead of, or in addition to, Jesus. I am in the Step 4, inventory, part of re:generation, daily asking the Holy Spirit to shine a light into my darkness to illumine the hidden and secret idols of my heart. It’s scary to my self-protective flesh, just like Paul’s preaching of the truth was scary to the Ephesian Chamber of Commerce.

But it’s the truth that sets us free, so I choose the truth. Even when it’s ugly.

Hugh Stephenson 7 months ago

Reflecting today on the idea of idols as a coping mechanism.

I laugh at the silver smiths but then think of some of my great aunts who obsessively idolized the “family silver”. A cousin repeatedly threatened to write our family history under the title “Tarnished Silver”. She and I laughed quite a bit about the very wide application of that title.

I am taught that it is from my idols that I draw meaning or, alternatively, comfort.

A recent message noted that anything other than Jesus is just an unhealthy coping mechanism.

Mine were my two best friends, Jack Daniel and Jim Beam.

Jack and Jim are gone. Now it’s just Jesus.

Denison on CS Lewis - “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

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