Project 119: Acts 19:21-41

 |  Project 119

This week's devotions are written by MBBC Student Ministry Intern Allison McSwain. 

“Following the Way”

I love how Luke refers to Christianity as “the Way” (Acts 19:23). This name shows that our beliefs are the true beliefs—the only means to know God and be made right with Him. Following Jesus is not a way, it is the only Way. In today’s reading we see that the Way had caused quite a stir among the Ephesian people, especially metalworkers like Demetrius who had their way of living threatened. If Ephesus converted to Christianity, thus abandoning its patron goddess Artemis, crafters of idols like Demetrius would be out of a job.

Demetrius incited a riot, claiming that this new belief system was dangerous to the established social order. He was correct. Christianity looked nothing like Roman society—it showed compassion to the poor, viewed women with respect, and called for exclusivity in worship. There is only one God, and God’s kingdom is an upside-down kingdom; outcasts are accepted and those who serve, not the served ones, are the greatest.

I fear that if we are not careful, we can fall into the Ephesian trap of choosing nationalism or civic pride over the Way. We may not outwardly chant something akin to “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians,” but we may be tempted to place politics, country, or love for the status-quo over Jesus. Often, following Jesus means standing in opposition to the established social order. Often, our culture looks nothing like Jesus.

I love the boldness of Paul in the midst of this debacle—he actually wanted to go directly into the angry crowd, undoubtedly to preach the gospel. I pray that we will be as bold when choosing the Way over all others. May we place our identity as a Christ-follower far above any identity tied to homeland or political party. Let us, in love, challenge the cultural status-quo with the truths of God’s word.

Acts 19:21-41 (ESV):

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way.24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 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. 27 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.”

28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel.30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.