The Witness of a Panicked Pagan
- Friday, October 19, 2007
"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.” (Acts 19:26)
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God for salvation, as Paul reminds us (Romans 1:16). All who believe the Gospel enter into a new realm of existence; they are translated into the Kingdom, under the glorious and gracious rule of God’s own Son (Colossians 1:13). They receive the Spirit of God to dwell in them, and be with them; He immediately begins to work in them to bring salvation to full flower, with blossoms of righteousness (Ezekiel 36:26,27), Christ-like virtue (Galatians 5:22,23; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18), supernatural endowments for serving others (1 Corinthians 12:7-11), and power to bear witness to Christ and His Kingdom (Acts 1:8).
All those thus endowed become part of a new company, a new movement and community that is being erected into a glorious dwelling-place for God on the foundation of Scripture and according to the direction marked out by the life of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:20-22). God is their Father (Galatians 4:6); Christ is their Lord (Acts 2:34-40); the Spirit of God is their Companion and Comforter (John 14:15-17); the Church is their new family, in which all distinctions and differences dissolve into glorious unity in Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:11; John 17:21); and their neighbors, whatever their need, are the objects of their mission and their love (Matthew 22:34-40; Matthew 28:18-20). For the believer in Jesus Christ, nothing remains the same; everything is being made new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Revelation 21:5). His world turned upside-down in Christ, the believer sets about to introduce that glorious transformation to everyone around him (Acts 17:6,7), for he knows that only in Christ can anyone be truly free from the ravages of sin and unbelief.
The Gospel of Christ is the power of salvation, bringing transformation to people and their cultures and societies. As every area of life—every relationship, role, institution, and artifact of culture, even the creation itself—has been made subject to the wrenching and debilitating power of sin (Romans 8:20,21), so every area of life is susceptible to the transforming power of the Gospel. The course of church history has witnessed this over and over again, as men and women, gloriously transformed through faith in Christ, have set their hands to the work of proclaiming and embodying the Kingdom of God, transforming cultures and societies in line with the new realities of beauty, goodness, and truth which the grace of Christ is restoring to the world.
For the Christian, this transforming power of the Gospel is a glorious and exciting prospect. For the unbeliever, seeing this occur around him, it can be downright scary, as Demetrius the silversmith of Ephesus shows us in his panic-filled report.
A Careful Observer
One gets the impression that Demetrius had been following developments in Ephesus for some time. It had been over two years since the itinerate preacher Paul had arrived and begun preaching and teaching, first in the local synagogue, then in a rented hall. Demetrius’ employment put him right smack in the middle of religious life in Ephesus. His guild made the idols and assorted other devotional items associated with the worship of Artemis, the goddess of the Ephesians.
Doubtless many times Demetrius would have been asked his opinion of this Paul and his strange teachings about a man raised from dead, now established as Lord and Savior, who is calling all the world to submit to Him for forgiveness and new life. Perhaps he slipped quietly into the back of the hall on occasion to hear Paul as he held forth for this new faith. His craft undoubtedly brought him into contact with people from throughout the military district of Asia, a relatively small corner in the southwest of what is now Turkey. He would have heard from various cities of that district—Smyrna, Thyatira, Philadelphia, Sardis, and others—that the message Paul was proclaiming had begun to put down roots in these areas as well. It must have seemed to Demetrius that “all the residents of Asia [had] heard the word of the Lord” (Acts 19:10).
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