What Should We Be Like? | Emma Ineson

Acts 19

Paul in Ephesus

1 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’

They answered, ‘No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’

3 So Paul asked, ‘Then what baptism did you receive?’

‘John’s baptism,’ they replied.

4 Paul said, ‘John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.’ 5 On hearing this, they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. 9 But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. 10 This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.

11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to those who were ill, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

13 Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour. 18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. 19 A number who had practised sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. 20 In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

21 After all this had happened, Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, passing through Macedonia and Achaia. ‘After I have been there,’ he said, ‘I must visit Rome also.’ 22 He sent two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, to Macedonia, while he stayed in the province of Asia a little longer.

The riot in Ephesus

23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: ‘You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshipped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.’

28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s travelling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theatre together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theatre.

32 The assembly was in confusion: some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defence before the people. 34 But when they realised he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’

35 The city clerk quietened the crowd and said: ‘Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.’ 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.


There are no blueprints

Paul’s stay in Ephesus made a huge impact on the city. It was an exciting time to be a Christian, just as it is today with the Church engaged in fresh expressions, church planting, evangelism – all encouraged by the Archbishop of Canterbury. There are so many possible things we could do, so we need to ask the key question: what is the Church meant to be doing, under God, in the 21st century?

We can’t read the book of Acts looking for a blueprint, because there are none. But since God and the Gospel are the same, even after 2000 years, there are things we can learn from looking at what God was doing then, to apply to our own context.

We see disciples listening to people’s questions, explaining about Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and leading them further on their journey. Just as God did then, he takes people where they are and leads them on, filling in the gaps - when we accompany people through an Alpha course for example.

We see Paul preaching the Gospel out in a public place of learning, for a total of 3,120 hours over two years! We need to be getting the message out in public, where the debates are happening, where people are wanting to engage and learn.

We see some really extraordinary miracles – God moving in great power. The impact was being made not just in words but supernaturally. Some people will believe through the power of words, but others need miracles before they can grasp the truth. This is not magic, and the power of Jesus’ name is not a formula. But grounded in a relationship with Jesus, we can pray expectantly for miraculous healings.

Some people want to keep their faith private. In Ephesus it was the opposite - people made a public bonfire of their occult scrolls, worth about £3 million pounds! One can only imagine the dramatic effect that had on the whole city.  And then as people turned away from their previous worship of Artemis, the economic impact on the tradesmen selling the little statues caused a riot.

Following Jesus can’t remain a private matter. Realising what the Gospel implies means speaking out against unjust economic practices and corrupt systems, and challenging the prevailing social currents, even if that makes us unpopular. Following Jesus should impact all we do because it involves every aspect of our lives.

For two hours, the crowd had shouted ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ But today Ephesus is in ruins, with its harbour silted up. The temple which once had 120 enormous pillars now consists of just one pillar standing in wasteland.  Whereas Paul’s message is still repeated all over the world and has made billions of converts.

In Acts, we don’t look for a blueprint, but we do see a picture of the impact the Gospel can have when a group of people live it out faithfully. Which part of this story spoke to you? We can each bring our particular gift and together have an impact on our community and even on our city.

Emma Ineson