Sermon title:  WIDENING OPPOSITION TO PAUL’S PREACHING

Isaiah 46:1-10

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

is doing.

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.

“Everyone knows

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)