God Knows…When my Direction Needs Correction – Part 1
Paul remained in Antioch a few months, then started out again toward Ephesus. As he traveled, he visited the churches that he had started on his earlier trips. He stayed in Ephesus almost three years this time. During the first three months he preached in the synagogue. But some people stirred up trouble.
So Paul moved his center of operation to a school run by a man named Tyrannus. He taught there daily for the next two years. God was able to do extraordinary things through Paul’s hands. Sick bodies and sick minds were healed in the name of Jesus. But one day seven brothers decided to try the same thing. Using the sacred name of Jesus in a joking sort of way, they said to a man who was devil-possessed, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”
The answer that came back wasn’t what they expected. The evil spirit answered, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the wild man leaped on them, ripped off their cloths, and roughed them up. Finally they were able to run away. Onlookers saw that TALKING religion was not enough. The seven brothers didn’t really have faith in Jesus Christ, so Satan had the advantage over them.
A Book Bonfire
People who saw the events of that day began to think carefully about what it means to follow Jesus. Many of them still had books telling them how to worship Satan and how to get information from him. They had books about spells, incantations, dreams. Ephesus was famous for charms and spells written out on magic parchments. There was big money in this business. But was it helping them draw closer to Jesus—or was it leading them in the wrong way?
Thinking it through, they decided that their direction needed correction. What should they do with all that stuff? Keep it? No, it would be a temptation. Sell it? No, that would be like laying a trap for someone else. Burn it? Yes, publicly burn it. That would show everyone what they thought of these books now.
Soon a roaring fire was being fed with books valued at 50,000 pieces of silver! It was a sacrifice they gladly made. And it was worthwhile. News of this went far and wide, and it gave courage to others who also needed to make changes in their lives. Nothing—book, magazine, song, habit, thought pattern—that separates someone from God is worth keeping. The power of the Holy Spirit makes changes possible, even when it seems impossible.
Toward the end of his stay in Ephesus, Paul heard some bad news from Corinth. Some of the believers in the church at Corinth were doing wicked things. This saddened Paul. He sat down and wrote them a letter we know as 1 Corinthians. In plain but loving words he tried to correct them and point them to Christ’s power to keep them from sin. He sent Timothy to deliver the letter.
Ephesus boasted one of the Seven Wonders of the World—the Temple of Artemis, or Diana (Artemis was the Greek name, Diana the Latin). Its 127 glittering pillars surrounded an image of Artemis, goddess of fertility. It was said that this image had fallen from heaven! Silver models of her and of the temple were popular souvenirs for visitors. At least they had been. But the silversmiths discovered that sales were dropping.
Demetrius, one of the leading silversmiths, called together the men of his trade. “Fellows,” he said, “you know that this business of making shrines and images of our god brings us a lot of money. You can see and hear for yourselves what this fellow Paul is doing. He says that gods made by men are not gods at all. He has convinced so many people of this that it could put us out of business. Not only that, but our beautiful temple could lose its greatness.”
Angry shouting burst out: “Great is Diana of the Ephesians,” they cried. “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians.” Others came to see what was going on and joined in. Over and over they shouted. Angry rioters searched for Paul, but some of the Christians had already taken him and hidden him. The mob headed for the amphitheater or stadium. All was confusion. Some in the crowd shouted one thing and others something else. Most of them didn’t even know why it all had started. The shouting went on for two hours!
At last the town clerk was able to speak. He reminded them that Paul and his friends had done nothing unlawful. “If Demetrius and the others have any complaints against these men, we have courts where it can be settled. As it is, we’re risking being charged with a riot and we have no good reason for it.” With that, he sent everyone home.
When things were quiet again, Paul called the Christians together. He spoke words of encouragement to them and told them all goodbye. Paul’s work in Ephesus was over.