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A Case for Serious Christianity

24/05/2021

A Case for Serious Christianity

Text: Acts 19:23-41

This is a case study – a example of the need for serious Christianity.  In this pagan age, mere nominal faith, or emotionally driven Christian experiences, simply won’t do.  Real, serious Christianity is all that will prevail. I’ve been predicting this.  There’s going to be a riot at Ephesus.  Here in Ephesus, the riot is not instigated by the Jews as elsewhere, but by prominent members of the local Chamber of Commerce! 

See:-

The Theatre at Ephesus. Image by David Mark from Pixabay

See:-

1 Serious Christianity Will Affect the Economy .  V23-31

The Ephesians believers were serious about their Christianity.  One of the results of this was that there was a serious decline in the sale of religious idols!  Demetrius the Silversmith calls a trade union meeting to discuss the impact of Christianity on his trade.  Look at his speech to the Smiths.  It involves:

  • Economics.   There is no better way to rouse a rabble than by hitting them with financial reality!  They were wealthy men, these smiths, and Paul’s preaching was going to destroy their business.  Acts 19:24-25 
  • Emotion. Not only is there an appeal here to their pockets, but to their civic pride.  The temple of Diana is the crowning glory of Ephesus, and gave the city a world wide reputation.  v27  

Now, add these two factors together and you have a powerful combination, a motivation for people to act very irrationally indeed. V28-29 The guild of tradesmen reacted with fury, and spilled out into the streets, crying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” – some commentators see that as similar to a cultic cry.  The mob made their way to the giant open-air theatre, a huge auditorium that seated just under 25,000 people, and on the way they encountered two Christians, and they dragged them along with them.

Let’s think this through.  When we are saved, it will affect how we spend our money. These Ephesian Christians would have spent their money on useless silver trinkets, but they were saved and discipled, and they no longer had any such interests.  Their priorities were completely changed.  That’s the challenge for us.  Has our conversion affected our stewardship of our resources?

2 Serious Christianity Will Put Christ First – Not Self. V30-34

The mob is in the city theatre, and they are howling for blood.  Interestingly, as the smiths had travelled into the city, they were joined by others who hadn’t a clue what the riot was about!   V32  

  • Paul’s bravery. It is at this point that Paul was motivated to intervene.  He would have gone out into the crowd, and declared unto them the gospel!  V30-31    It was a brave thing to do, given the anger of the crowd, and some of his disciples held him back, and would not allow him to do so.  Even some of the ‘Asiarchs’ called upon him not to go into the crowd.   Even they knew that Paul would be torn apart by the vicious angry crowd.
  • Alexander’s intervention.   The Jews had much to lose should this situation get even more out of hand.   Paul was a Jew, and like Paul, the Jews didn’t offer sacrifices to the goddess, and like Paul the Jews didn’t buy anything from the smiths.  This could be a serious situation, and the Jews are worried about their safety, so they thrust forward their spokesman to defend their position, and denounce Paul, to assure the crowd that it’s not their fault!  V33-34  The crowd were in no mood for this!  The intervention of Alexander made things worse, and the chanting and shouting continued for around two hours.  

Now, here’s the point.  Look at the motivation of the three men we have met so far.  

  • Demetrius is motivated by CASH.  V24  
  • Alexander is motivated by CAUTION.  He wanted to live on, safely dwelling in this prosperous and desirable location, and not be exiled, perhaps like the Jews at Rome were, when Nero blamed them for the great fire.  
  • Paul is motivated by CHRIST!  Contrast both these attitudes with what drives Paul.  Paul is never concerned about his own safety, no matter where he is.  He is never concerned about making a good living or finding a pleasant residential area, or seeking some earthly comfort.  Philippians 1:21 

Paul and these early disciples took seriously the call of Christ, to stand for him, to deny themselves, and take up their cross and follow Jesus, even if it cost them everything, even at the cost of their lives.  

3 Serious Christianity Will Prevail Over All Setbacks and Obstacles. V35-41

One more character must now be introduced.  The ‘Town Clerk’  He is a high ranking municipal civil servant, but he had another, more important role.  He was the man who acted as go-between liaising between the city council, and the Roman provincial government, who ultimately held him responsible for whatever happened in the city, and whose sanctions could be extremely crippling.  And, to make matters worse, the Roman ‘embassy’ – their provincial offices, were situated in Ephesus itself.  It was only a matter of time before the Roman authorities heard about the riot, or witnessed it themselves, and the Romans did not like riots or disorder!  So let’s see how the Town Clerk placated the crowd, and what it means for the gospel.

  • Logical Fallacies.  He sues some very dodgy reasoning indeed!  V35-36   Can you see what he’s up to here?  Just because a proposition is popular, doesn’t make it right!    The majority are frequently wrong!
  • The Innocence of the Christians.  Innocent in the sense that he rightly saw that Paul and the believers in Ephesus had not provoked this riot!  They had not destroyed or attacked the pagan temple, they had not even mentioned Diana in their preaching!  V37   
  • Suing and Sanctions.  His final point was a legal one.  V38-40  If you have a problem with these men, sue them in the legal courts, or Rome will intervene and punish us all!

Now, let’s compare the Ephesian pagan methods with Paul. The message of the pagans is loud, bombastic, assertive, – we have the numbers, we have the popularity, we have the power and the right to decide who’s opinion can prevail in this city and province.  But Paul’s evangelistic strategy is to preach Christ, to declare the gospel message of saving faith to all men everywhere, to bring Glory to God through the salvation of souls, he does not employ the methods of the Ephesians, not the appeal to wealth or emotion of Demetrius or the duplicitous cunning and legal threats of the Town Clerk.  And NOBODY worships Diana of the Ephesians now while millions of people in all the ages worship Jesus!  Real Christianity prevailed

1 Corinthians 2:3-5 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:  5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

© Bob McEvoy May 2021

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