The Disruptive Nature of the Gospel
Acts 19:23 About that time no little disturbance broke out concerning the Way. 24 A man named Demetrius, a silversmith who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the artisans. 25 These he gathered together, with the workers of the same trade, and said, “Men, you know that we get our wealth from this business. 26 You also see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost the whole of Asia this Paul has persuaded and drawn away a considerable number of people by 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 will be scorned, and she will be deprived of her majesty that brought all Asia and the world to worship her.”
Acts 19:28 When they heard this, they were enraged and shouted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 The city was filled with the confusion; and people rushed together to the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s travel companions. 30 Paul wished to go into the crowd, but the disciples would not let him; 31 even some officials of the province of Asia, who were friendly to him, sent him a message urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Meanwhile, some were shouting 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 gave instructions to Alexander, whom the Jews had pushed forward. And Alexander motioned for silence and tried to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours all of them shouted in unison, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35 But when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Citizens of Ephesus, who is there that does not know that the city of the Ephesians is the temple keeper of the great Artemis and of the statue that fell from heaven? 36 Since these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 You have brought these men here who are neither temple robbers nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the artisans with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls; let them bring charges there against one another. 39 If there is anything further you want to know, it must be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 When he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
This is such an amazing story because you get details of a dynamic which was occurring in the city of Ephesus. Here we find a very large city and for the gospel to have such an impact on this city that it disrupts the economy — you know something incredible was happening.
The silversmiths of Ephesus began talking amongst each other and discovered that their profits were suddenly shrinking because people were no longer worshipping the goddess of the city, Artemis. Serving the one Lord was counter-cultural to this society. They considered themselves religious folks and were proud of their temple, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Now people were worshipping a God whom they could not see and for whom there would be no graven images. This didn’t even make sense to the popular culture and becoming greatly offended they began to cheer for their goddess, somehow believing that if they yelled loudly it might increase Artemis’ influence.
Suddenly this became a mob and they went to find those who were responsible for this new movement of “The Way.” Paul’s travel companions were probably in the wrong place at the wrong time and they got swept away by the crowd and into the theater. Paul wanted to go, thinking he could help the situation but was urged to stay away as he probably would have simply incited the crowd even more.
At this point the people are so riled up that others have joined in and don’t even know why. They are simply there and are angry - -at something that the gospel has done to their community. It had changed the status quo and now they were uncomfortable with the result. Life in Ephesus would never be the same, but that was God’s plan.
While the ancient city of Ephesus is now mostly an archaeological site, the ruins themselves give us quite a history. We know that eventually large churches became a part of the normal landscape of the town. One of the early church council meetings was held there and it was a location of Christian influence. The silversmiths were right that things were changing and it made them nervous for their lives were disrupted by the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is disruptive to the status-quo. If we are trying to live a Christianity that does not reach out and question some of the acts of society, if we are trying to keep everyone happy, then we don’t really know what it means to live out the gospel.
When’s the last time you made certain businesses in your community angry because too many people were coming to Christ? Is the liquor store suffering in sales? Is the strip joint lacking customers? Is the check cashing business no longer flourishing? For the church to have an impact on a community there must be transformation — disruptive transformation. If, as Christ-followers, we are not disrupting our community then there is something wrong.
The good news of Jesus Christ changes lives and everyday behaviors to the point that it touches our communities and creates disruption.
Lord, please help me to be a faithful witness to you. Amen.
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