Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, August 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/23/16 Sermon - Pro- Jesus Campaign vs. Anti-Everything Else Campaig

 ‘Pro-Jesus’ Campaign vs.‘Anti-Everything Else’ Campaign

Acts 19:21-41

 

We have been reading through the book of the Acts of the Apostles. Today in chapter 19 we find the Apostle Paul still in the city of Ephesus. This is Paul’s second time in this city, the first time we read how Paul had traveled there from Corinth, with his friends Priscilla and Aquila during his second missionary journey. It was on that journey that Paul started the first Christian church in this city but at that time he only remained for a short period. If you recall, he was in the midst of his Nazarene vow and had to get to Jerusalem to offer his hair that he had cut, in a special ceremony.

Today’s Scripture reading has Paul on his third missionary journey and back in Ephesus. On this visit he lived in the city for almost three and a half years. Thus far Luke has told us some of the things he has been doing.

Ø  He baptized a dozen men who had repented with John the Baptist, but had not received the Holy Spirit. Paul rectifed that by re-baptizing the men and laying hands on them so that they did receive the Holy Spirit.

Ø  Last week we read how the believers were using Paul’s garments to perform miracles. We also read how seven sons of a Jewish priest thought they could perform exorcisms in the name of Jesus without even knowing Jesus. It didn’t work out so well. However, the incident did convict the believers who were participating in magic to recognize their wrong doing and seek forgiveness, it also allowed the Word of the Lord to continue to increase and prevail mightily.

Today we read about a riot that broke out because of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus. Paul definitely didn’t lead a boring life. In fact, we read that after the previous events, Paul decided, along with the Holy Spirit, that he needed to return to Jerusalem and that he had his sights set on going to Rome. He had chosen a particular path to get back to Jerusalem, through Macedonia and Achaia, and sent Timothy and Erastus ahead of him to prepare the way.

Luke doesn’t tell us here, why Paul had it mind to return to Jerusalem, but we can read about it in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.

Paul wanted to deliver a collection of money he had taken up to help the poor church members of Jerusalem. Paul was probably sending Timothy and Erastus ahead so they could organize the offering so it would be ready when Paul arrived.

There were a couple of reasons Paul may have had this offering on his mind.

Ø  One was the church of Jerusalem was in desperate shape and in great need.

Ø  More significantly it was thought that Paul had a strong desire to show Jerusalem that the Gentile churches wanted to be seen as standing beside and with their Jewish counterparts, even though it did not observe the same customs.

Paul hoped that the gift would be a way to bring the Gentile and Jewish Christian church together, as one. Luke did know about the collection as he will mention it a couple of times in chapters 20 and 24 and even presented more details as to who traveled with Paul to deliver the offering. It is assumed that the offering didn’t live up to Paul’s expectations because Paul’s trip to Jerusalem only brought him problems and did very little to strengthen the church. Luke will focus on Paul’s trip to Jerusalem as being significant only because it allowed Paul to preach before kings and rulers and assisted him in getting to Rome.

About the same time this was going on, Luke tells us about a man named Demetrius, a maker of idols, who chose to blame all of his economic woes on Paul’s ministry. Demetrius decided to organize the first “unionized” meeting of fellow silversmiths, along with those in other related trades, or anyone who made a craft and profited by selling their craft for the worship of Artemis.

I thought it would be interesting to see some pictures of what Luke is talking about here. Artemis of Ephesus, or in Latin, Diana, the mother-goddess of fertility was depicted as a grotesque, multi-breasted woman. It was believed that this image was constructed in heaven and fell from the sky, from the Gods. The temple of Artemis was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, and could supposedly hold up to 50,000 people. It covered an area four times as large as the Parthenon in Athens. It was 400 feet by 200 feet in size.

In comparison, an American Professional football field is 360ft. X 160ft. It was supported by 127 pillars, each 60 feet high. And it was adorned with great sculptures.

At this point in history, Ephesus had declined as a center of shipping because of the silting in its harbor. This decline had shifted the economy from shipping to a dependence on tourist trade, associated with the cult of Artemis.

Demetrius’ speech began labelling Paul as the reason for which their sales in images of the Artemis were down. Not only for those in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia. Demetrius even used Paul’s very words, “that gods made with hands are not gods.” Demetrius argued that people were listening to Paul, and sales of their handmade gods were way down. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, which would affect worshippers from Asia and from all over the world. As one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the temple of Artemis was famous around the world.

"The Temple of Artemis was also a major treasury and bank of the ancient world, where merchants, kings, and even cities made deposits, and where their money could be kept safe under the protection of deity." (Longenecker)

Trinkets and idols of this temple were used as substantial trade no matter how immoral the worship of the sex-goddess was.

You can see where Demetrius’ values lie. First he was worried about his wallet, then he was concerned for the great goddess Artemis. 

It didn’t take long for Demetrius to create a riot. People became enraged, perhaps out of their frustration of having a financial recession and here was someone giving them a person to blame it on. They began yelling, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Luke wrote that “the assembly was in confusion and they rushed together into a theater. Most of the people did not even know why they were there,” an excellent description of the makings of a mob.

It is thought that the theater they entered was one on the slide I showed you, where the ruins have been found, and was on the eastern side of the city, and was in full view of the temple of Artemis. Luke wrote that while they were rushing to the theater they managed to grab Gaius and Aristarchus, two men that were working with Paul. They were dragged into the theater with the crowd.

Where was Paul during all of this? Luke tells us that he was concerned about the fate of his two companions. Which makes sense, it was Paul they had a problem with, not necessarily Gaius or Aristarchus. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Paul’s other disciples and even the Roman officials of the province begged him not to go into the theater.

Meanwhile, the Jews heard about the chaos and decided to send in Alexander, as a representative “to make a defense before the people.” But he was never even given a chance. As soon as the crowd recognized he was Jewish, they yelled even more, for two hours more. Luke writes they yelled, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

It is important to remember, that Rome had no room for chaos and civil disorder. Alexander proved to be useless. From the ears of those outside the theater, it must have seemed hopeless. Especially for Paul, who undoubtedly heard the chants.

Williams, a historian wrote, “The noise must have been deafening. The acoustic of the theater are excellent today and at that time were even better because of bronze and clay sounding vessels placed throughout the auditorium.”

Finally, someone appeared who was able to talk some sense into the riot. The translation reads, “the city clerk” which actually would have been what we call today, the “mayor.” He would have been the person responsible for any riots as he was the liaison between the town council and the provincial Roman governmental officials, which had headquarters in Ephesus. Maybe after two hours of yelling the voices of the crowd were going hoarse, but the mayor was able to speak sensible words.

He began by assuring the crowd that the worship of Artemis was not being threatened, consider the massiveness of the temple against the two small men they had grabbed as scapegoats. The mayor continued to defend the two men by reminding the crowd they had done nothing wrong. The mayor had a vested interest because if the mob continued in the way it was going, there were potential penalties the city would receive from Rome. As a consolation, the mayor assured Demetrius, that he and his unionized workers could press charges in the courts and with the proconsuls. The major reminded the rioters of the danger of being cited for rioting, which would get them into trouble with Rome, not Paul. With that, he was able to dismiss the assembly.

This is an interesting story, but where can this Scripture connect with us today?

I think we should look at the result of the opposition that Paul experienced.

Many of us do not openly share the gospel or speak about Jesus in our lives with others we know, don’t know the Jesus as Lord and Savior because we are afraid of what they will think about us or do to us. In this story, Demetrius and the other idol makers actually give Paul a great compliment by stating their decrease in sales was directly linked to the effectiveness of Paul’s teaching in not only Ephesus, but around the world. Although Demetrius may have felt this way, Paul was not on a “let’s make sure idol makers lose their jobs” campaign, or a “Down with the temple of Artemis” campaign. He was on a “Pro-Jesus” campaign. As people came to Jesus, they dropped their previous gods and idols, simple fact.

Unfortunately, for those of us on the inside of Christianity, we comprehend the actions of Paul as loving and seeking God’s will. From those on the outside of Christianity, like Demetrius, what Christians share and how they share it, often looks like the following sterotypes:

Ø  Hypocritical – what we say and what we do don’t seem to match. We present an outward appearance of being sinless, yet often we live in sin. Because of this we are often viewed as hypocrites.

Ø  Anti – you fill in the blank -

o   Homosexual

o   Abortion

o   Pre-marital sex

o   Drinking

o   You name it

Our Gospel teaches these things are sins. But instead of loving the person and hating the sin, it appears that we hate both. Instead of focusing on correcting our own sins and seeking God’s grace and forgiveness, Christians are seen as projecting a hatred and special curse against people who participate in our “anti-“ causes. Christians often act as God’s agent of wrath towards sinners instead of sharing the grace, love and forgiveness that is available to ALL people who accept Jesus Christ as their savior. Oh, and it’s especially important to note which comes first. Loving Jesus and seeking Him as savior of your life needs to come first, before the desire to change the behavior.

 Christians are also often seen as:

Ø  Judgemental - We are viewed as prideful, self-righteous, and acting as if we are better than others. We act as judge and jury toward others, instead of leaving that job up to God.

Ø  Intolerant- Christians are often viewed as having no patience for dialoguing with others with different values, beliefs or opinions. Especially when it comes to Politics.

Ø  Too Political – Christians are seen as using politics to force their beliefs and morals on other people; limiting other people’s freedom and rights, based on OUR beliefs. Even though we don’t live in a Theocracy, there are those who seek to impose their beliefs on people who don’t share their beliefs.

Unfortunately, Christianity has a long history of criticism. Some of it justifiable and some not. From the time of Paul, during the Roman Empire, to the Protestant Reformation, the Scientific Revolution, and the Age of Enlightenment, into modern times with the French Revolution, Russian and Chinese Revolution up until today with post-modernism. Christianity has not always presented itself in a way that draws outsiders in.

And yet I can argue that there are glimpses of correctness where the Kingdom of God prevailed. You can read about them in biographies of various missionaries who were called to share the gospel, first in the book of Acts which we are going through here at church. But I encourage you to seek out others, such as Adoniram Judson, whose father was one of the first pastors of our church, at the age of 25 was the first Protestant missionary sent from North America to preach in Burma, Hudson Taylor in China, Jim Eliot in Equador, Amy Carmichael in India, to those in our day, Billy Graham all over the world, Katie Davis in Uganda.

The facts are, there will always be those outside Christianity, like Demetrius, who will speak out against what Christians do and say, regardless of how we act. But did you notice in the story, Paul also had some allies who were also outside of Christianity. The local authorities who had his back and strongly urged him not to go to the theater. The major who spoke up comprehended the situation clearly. We aren’t misunderstood by everyone.

Yet we are spokespeople for the Christian faith. Therefore, it’s important for us to remember,  

Ø  God always puts the person before the behavior

Ø  Grace is more important than right or wrong

Ø  Love covers a multitude of sins

Ø  God’s love covers all of them.

Let’s pray.