Sermon title: WIDENING OPPOSITION TO PAUL’S PREACHING
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, July 11, 2021
When we try to talk to individuals about Jesus,
and they don’t want to hear it—
or when people vocally oppose the Gospel message—
there are often reasons
we may not be aware of.
In some cases, the Gospel message
appears to threaten their livelihood—
or at least that’s the way they see it.
Maybe they work for an abortion clinic,
and they have seen how Christians oppose abortion.
Maybe they work in the adult entertainment industry
and know that much of that is
contrary to biblical morality.
Maybe they work at one of the gambling casinos,
or for the State Lottery.
Maybe they work for a package store selling liquor,
or in the newly legal marijuana business,
and they know that the Bible condemns intoxication.
Maybe they work for a company that engages in
dishonest or illegal practices.
Some of these people
will listen to their consciences and recognize
that salvation in Christ is worth
giving up their present employment.
But some may harden their hearts,
and actively oppose the Gospel message.
We see an instance of this in the 19th Chapter of Acts,
when the Apostle Paul was preaching
in the ancient city of Ephesus,
on the west coast of what is now Turkey.
Modern Turkey is 99% Muslim, of course,
but when Paul preached there 2,000 years ago
there was no Islamic religion.
The land was pagan at that time,
and part of the Roman Empire.
People worshiped the Roman ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses,’
the Greek ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses,’
and various local deities—
all of whom were in the form of idols.
Artemis was the ‘goddess’ of the city of Ephesus,
and was also worshiped widely in Greek culture.
But, many of the people of Ephesus
heard the Apostle Paul preach about Christ,
and began to abandon
the idol worship of their ancestors.
And that’s when trouble began—
trouble from the city’s idol-making industry.
They vigorously opposed the Apostle Paul’s preaching,
and even put his life in danger.
But, before we look at that account in Acts Chapter 19,
we need to understand that the same thing
can happen today and is happening today.
Instead of the idol-making industry,
today it is the abortion industry.
Just as silversmiths made a fortune back in Paul’s day,
making and selling idols for people to worship,
the abortion industry today is big business—
making money both by killing babies
and also by selling those babies’ body parts.
How much money? We don’t know?
But we do know that Planned Parenthood’s political arm
spent $45-million in the 2020 election
to defeat President Trump & pro-life candidates.
And, just like the idol-makers in Acts Chapter 19,
who went after the Apostle Paul,
Planned Parenthood is prosecuting Christians
who expose what they do,
attempting to put these Christians in jail.
We begin reading about
what the idol-making industry did at Acts 19:23,
where it says,
23 It was at this time that
there was serious trouble in Ephesus
because of the Way of the Lord.
It says that the trouble was
“because of the Way of the Lord.”
The “Way of the Lord” means
the way that people lived
when they turned to follow the Lord Jesus.
People who turn to Christ as their Savior
also follow or obey him as their Lord and Master.
That involves a change in life-style,
to live according to the teachings of Jesus.
So, the “serious trouble” in Ephesus
resulted from people giving up
the pagan way of life
and adopting the Christian way of life.
The account continues,
24 A certain silversmith named
Demetrius made silver models
of the temple of the goddess Artemis,
and his business brought
a great deal of profit to the workers.
25 So he called them all together
with others whose work was like theirs
and said to them,
“Men, you know that our prosperity
comes from this work.
26 Now, you can see and hear
for yourselves what this fellow Paul
He says that hand-made gods
are not gods at all, and he has
succeeded in convincing many people,
both here in Ephesus and
in nearly the whole province of Asia.
So, this silversmith Demetrius evidently employed
a number of workers in his business,
and assembled all of them together,
to mobilize them to action.
The account says he also brought together
“others whose work was like theirs.”
So, he brought together everyone whose work contributed
to the idol-making industry.
That may have included other metal workers,
as well as wood-carvers and stone masons
who crafted idolatrous images
from those materials, as well.
There were other industries, too,
that manufactured and sold accessories
that went along with idol worship:
There were those who made pedestals that idols sat on,
to display them.
There were those who made fancy miniature clothes
for idols to wear,
as described in the 16th Chapter of Ezekiel.
And precious jewels also went into the making of idols,
so men who worked as jewelers
also profited from the idol-making business
and likely joined the mob Demetrius assembled
to oppose Paul’s Gospel preaching.
Like Demetrius himself, workers in all these professions
must have been hurt economically
as large numbers of people
heard about the living and true God
and gave up idol worship.
Demetrius went on to tell the assembled crowd,
27 There is the danger, then,
that this business of ours
will get a bad name.
That message was enough to mobilize
the workers of various industries
who took a financial hit,
when people gave up idolatry.
But Demetrius knew he needed to get
the rest of the people of the city on his side,
in order to take action against Paul.
So, he expanded his appeal, and went on to say,
Not only that,
but there is also the danger
that the temple
of the great goddess Artemis
will come to mean nothing and
that her greatness will be destroyed
—the goddess worshiped by everyone in
Asia and in all the world!”
28 As the crowd heard these words,
they became furious
and started shouting,
“Great is Artemis of Ephesus!”
As the proud host city of the Temple of Artemis,
the people of Ephesus were stirred up emotionally
to defend the pride of their city.
So, it was not just religious fervor,
but also patriotic fervor—pride in their city.
And Demetrius knew how to whip up the people’s emotions,
so that they were close to becoming a lynch mob.
Acts 19:29 continues,
29 The uproar spread
throughout the whole city.
The mob grabbed Gaius and Aristarchus,
two Macedonians who were traveling
with Paul, and rushed with them
to the theater.
30 Paul himself wanted to go
before the crowd, but the believers
would not let him.
You can google the theater in Ephesus and see photos
of the well-preserved ruins
that are viewed as an archaeological treasure today.
This amphitheater was an open-air arena or stadium
that could seat up to 24,000 people.
If Paul had gone in and appeared before the crowd
to defend himself,
there was a danger that the chanting crowd
could demand he be put to death,
and could execute him
right then on the spot.
So, the account continues,
31 Some of the provincial authorities,
who were his friends, also sent him
a message begging
him not to show himself in the theater.
32 Meanwhile the whole meeting
was in an uproar:
some people were shouting one thing,
others were shouting something else,
because most of them
did not even know why
they had come together.
33 Some of the people concluded
that Alexander was responsible,
since the Jews made him
go up to the front.
Then Alexander motioned with his hand
for the people to be silent,
and he tried to make
a speech of defense.
34 But when they recognized
that he was a Jew,
they all shouted together
the same thing for two hours:
“Great is Artemis of Ephesus!”
At this point the crowd had become so fanatical
about defending the city’s “goddess,”
that they were hostile even to Jews,
since they knew Jews didn’t worship Artemis.
But there was one city official who remained reasonable
and who saw the danger of mob rule.
He knew that higher authorities in the Roman government
could punish the city and its leaders
if an out-of-control mob killed or injured people.
It was well-known that the Romans
would often punish an unruly city
by shutting down its amphitheater to sporting events,
so that the city’s residents
would lose their favorite entertainment.
We don’t know his name, but the brave city clerk
intervened to stop any mob violence from happening.
The next Verse tells us,
35 At last the city clerk
was able to calm the crowd.
“Fellow Ephesians!” he said.
that the city of Ephesus is the keeper
of the temple of the great Artemis
and of the sacred stone
that fell down from heaven.
36 Nobody can deny these things.
So then, you must calm down
and not do anything reckless.
37 You have brought these men here
even though they have not
robbed temples or said evil things
about our goddess.
38 If Demetrius and his workers
have an accusation against anyone,
we have the authorities
and the regular days for court;
charges can be made there.
39 But if there is
something more that you want,
it will have to be settled
in a legal meeting of citizens.
40 For after what has happened today,
there is the danger
that we will be accused of a riot.
There is no excuse
for all this uproar,
and we would not be able to give
a good reason for it.”
41 After saying this,
he dismissed the meeting.
The crowd filling the theater
certainly did not want to be accused of a riot.
That could have led the higher Roman authorities
to shut down the city’s sporting events
and even impose beatings, jail or execution
on individuals held responsible for the riot.
So, the city clerk was able to put a stop
to the lynch mob’s agitation.
He dismissed the gathering in the amphitheater
and sent everyone home.
That was quite an eventful story.
It helps us appreciate the danger the Apostle Paul faced
as he preached the Gospel
in a hostile, pagan world.
He could have been killed
on this and many other occasions
when Jews and Greeks stirred up trouble for him.
And he eventually was executed by the Romans,
according to Church tradition.
But, besides telling us about what Paul faced,
the Holy Spirit must have included this account
in the Bible
to help each of us, as we walk with the Lord
and share the Word about Jesus
in our world today.
And that’s because people who oppose us today
sometimes share the same motives
as the silversmiths and idol-makers of Ephesus.
The Gospel message threatens their source of income,
whether it be from the abortion industry,
or fortune-telling, or yoga classes, or Reiki massage,
or pornographic entertainment, or gambling,
or some other vice or false religious practice
that people abandon
when they turn to Christ.
Just follow the money!—and you may discover
such a motive, behind opposition to the Gospel.
Of course, there are many other factors
that can motivate individuals to
reject or oppose the Gospel,
but this is one of those motivators—
a source of income contrary to Scripture.
And our heavenly Father had this episode in Ephesus
recorded in the Bible,
so that we can recognize similar opposition
when it occurs today.
And, just as the idol-making industry went after Paul,
the Planned Parenthood abortion industry
is going after Christians today.
Besides spending $45-million
to defeat Christian candidates in the 2020 elections,
Planned Parenthood also goes after Christians
who expose their evil practices.
Two undercover Christian journalists were able to
capture video of abortionists discussing
how they take orders ahead of time for body parts
and then carefully keep those parts intact
when they kill a baby in the womb,
so the parts can be sold.
The abortionist in the video talked about
which body parts were most in demand,
and how much money they got for them.
Planned Parenthood sued the journalists
and is even seeking to put them in jail for felonies.
Vice President Kamala Harris
was California’s Attorney General
when she launched the investigation
to prosecute the Christian journalists.
Courts have already levied more than $15-million in fines
against the Christians, but the cases are being appealed.
The Liberty Counsel defense team handling the appeals
says on their web site,
“The recordings capture Planned Parenthood
executives haggling over the prices
of baby body parts,
picking through bloodied arms and legs
of aborted babies in a pie tray,
and discussing how to alter abortion methods
to obtain better body parts for sale.”
No wonder Planned Parenthood is
going after the Christians
who exposed these evil deeds,
just as Demetrius the silversmith
went after the Apostle Paul.
So, the account in Acts Chapter 19 is
just one more example
of how the Holy Scriptures equip us and prepare us
to face life in a hostile world.
And, when forces hostile to Christianity
try to mobilize violence, or political action,
or bring false criminal charges against us
as Demetrius the silversmith did against Paul,
we can pray that there will be
fair-minded authorities in power
to put a stop to the injustice.
We can pray, as Paul instructed in his 1st Letter to Timothy,
when he said,
“I urge, then, first of all,
that petitions, prayers, intercession
and thanksgiving be made
for all people—
for kings and all those in authority,
that we may live
peaceful and quiet lives...”-(1 Tim. 2:1-2)