Acts 19 is the account of Paul planting the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was a place filled with idolatry and witchcraft. Paul went to Ephesus and preached the message about Jesus Christ. The story gives us a great picture of what happens when the message of Jesus is proclaimed and why the Church and why the Church today need not respond to a culture where righteousness is odd, wickedness is seen as normal and there is serious opposition to our faith with anger, hand wringing, and fear. This passage powerfully demonstrates that spiritual darkness is no match for the light of Christ.
“And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
Acts 19:18-20 (NKJV)
These people were demonically influenced through witchcraft until Jesus destroyed Satan’s strongholds and saved them. Jesus delivered them from witchcraft through Paul’s preaching about Him. After a bit Paul determined that it would be a good time for him to move on and take the message about Jesus to other places. He sent his assistants away and seemed to be wrapping things up to follow them when trouble broke out. What was the trouble?
“For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.” Acts 19:24-27 (NKJV)
So many people had been saved that it affected the profits of the idol makers. Idol making was big business and had probably made most of these men very rich. That was before the Paul came to Ephesus. Paul told people about Jesus and organized a church. The Christians of that church preached Jesus and Jesus worked so powerfully in their community that the idol makers were afraid they might go out of business. They were also afraid that their pagan temple would be neglected.
What stands out to me as I look at this passage is that this change didn’t through any sort of political means. At this point, Christianity was seen by many as a new sect of Judaism and so they had no political influence whatsoever. They didn’t do this through protests. They didn’t go outside the idol maker’s shops and hold up signs that said, “God hates idolaters.” Had they done this, they probably would likely have been arrested and executed. They didn’t even plan an organized boycott. Instead, when people were saved, they just stopped buying idols. Jesus worked so powerfully through their lives and preaching in the world around them that those who profited from human slavery to sin became nervous about the change that was taking place in their community. Jesus did this through His Church. What Jesus did then, He can do today. This should free us from anger, handwringing, and fear at a culture where righteousness is odd, wickedness is seen as normal and there is serious opposition to our faith. The spiritual darkness of our world is no match for the light of Christ.
The Church of Jesus Christ is the greatest force for good the world has ever known. Do you believe that? You should because that is the truth. No organization in the history of the world has done more good than the church of Jesus Christ. The Church has the capability to do more good than any politician, political party or any other organization in the world. The Church of Jesus Christ is the greatest agent of change in the world as it is empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the Gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit, the church is able to make real changes in a person, a community and the world. This is because the Holy Spirit doesn’t merely change a person’s appearance, He changes their hearts and lives so that they are brand new creations in Christ Jesus. What our communities, and our world needs most is for the Church of God, to be revived by the Spirit of God, and boldly preach the Word of God so we can see people changed by the power of God.