Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Real God With Real Power

 Thursday, July 22, 2021

And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul… Acts 13:11

A Real God With Real Power

During his third missionary journey, Paul went back to the churches he had previously planted to strengthen them.  One of the cities was Ephesus and this time he stayed there for three years sharing the gospel to both the Jews and Gentiles of Asia.  The Holy Spirit used Paul in many miraculous healings and miracles. They were so convincing that many magicians and sorcerers quit their sorcery and turned to God, burning their books. Many of the people in Ephesus also stopped worshipping idols – and buying the statues of the idols. 

The city of Ephesus was a hub of activity and the epicenter of the Mediterranean. It was known for its sophisticated luxury, excessive occult practices and extravagant worship of pagan gods. They had a large city theater that could hold 25,000 people and the temple of the goddess Artemis – the goddess of fertility – towered over the city.  The structure is considered one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.” It was a giant and beautiful building. There was a silversmith in the city that made the idols and statues of Artemis that many people bought. As many people began to listen to Paul and his teaching, and turn to God, this silversmith, Demetrius, became very fearful for his livelihood, the economic future of Ephesus, and the temple. He started a riot against Paul. 

There were many local merchants who were making a substantial living selling silver shrines and relics of the goddess Artemis. When the people started becoming Christians and then stopped purchasing these items, Demetrius stirred the local merchants up and heated opposition quickly turned into a public riot of thousands, which could have easily ended in massive bloodshed. An angry and shouting mass of people gathered in the amphitheater and chanted “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 

About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 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 may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” Acts 19:23-27

Finally, a tense two hours later, officials were able to get through the people to remind them that they did not want to be charged with rioting. Ephesus was a Roman city and if Rome got wind of the riots, then everyone would suffer the consequences. 

People’s eyes were being opened and they were seeing for the first time that an idol had nothing to offer them, and Jesus had everything to offer them. He was more powerful than their idols, and through the miracles that the Holy Spirit was performing through Paul, they could see it! 

I have been doing a Bible study with a group recently and one of the things that I was reminded of is that the people that we see in our world that act out against Christians and act in ungodly ways – such as worshiping idols – do not know. They do not know God and they have no clue of what the Holy Spirit is. That is true of the idol worshippers and businessmen who made their living off of them in Ephesus as well. That does not make it okay, but they didn’t know the Jesus that Paul was speaking of and they could not see past their own selfish needs to be open to transformation. 

It is scary when your livelihood is threatened. That is something we all can understand after this past year. We have even seen some “middle-aged” people being forced into retirement to make way for the younger generations graduating from college with no jobs. It does not feel fair, and maybe that is all it was to these businessmen. Maybe it was not about the idol at all. But for most of the people filling the amphitheater that day it was about the idol. (Some did not even know why they were there. They were just following the crowd.) It was about a false God that they didn’t want to let go of, and they didn’t want it replace it with or hear about a real God who offers so much more.  

It is sad when people are so wrapped up in their sin that they can’t let go of something that is taking their life to reach for something that will give them everlasting life. It is the same way with us. We feel like all our idols are life – money, things, drugs, alcohol, etc... – and they give us a buzz that feels good at the moment, but they lure us away from the truth to no life at all. Jesus gives us a full, abundant life - greater than anything we can ask or imagine and greater than any idol could ever give us.  


Devotional Archive