In our last study, we looked at the concept of The Way as spoken of in the book of Acts, and what can be accomplished despite persecution. We ended at Acts 19:10, but did not discuss the additional instance of the idea being discussed later in the chapter. One interesting fact is that it contains a series of complaints against the apostle Paul by a non-Christian.
The man in question is known as Demetrius, who was a silversmith. One reason why his words are important is because they are illustrative of what the Gospel can do to society when it changes the lives of those who heed it. Before we read what he said, we are told that the Way had caused a stir among the people. Right before the silversmith speaks, the text describes how the apostle Paul remains in Asia, “Having sent into Macedonia two of those who served him, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. 23 About that time there arose no small stir concerning the Way” (Acts 19:22-23).
The Words of Demetrius
It goes on to read, “For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen, 25 whom he gathered together, with the workmen of like occupation, and said, ‘Sirs, you know that by this business we have our wealth. 26 You see and hear, that not at Ephesus alone, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are no gods, that are made with hands. 27 Not only is there danger that this our trade come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be counted as nothing, and her majesty destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worships’ ” (Acts 19:24-27).
From these statements, we can learn much about how the Good News was changing the world. Demetrius calls together workmen of a similar occupation as himself. When he made his charges against Paul, he didn’t do so in a corner. Rather, he gathered together a group of likeminded people before speaking evil of the Way.
We should not be surprised when people speak against us. In fact, we need to be ready for that possibility.
If it happens to you, take comfort knowing that what you are facing is what other Christians endured centuries before. If a crowd is hostile to the message of the Word of God, remember that people feel safer in numbers, and it is easier to go with the crowd than to stand up for what is true.
If what you are saying is true, and you are backing it up with Scripture, then do not be ashamed. Recognize that Jesus warned us of the same things, and that the remnant of the faithful are fewer in physical number than those who follow the world. Thankfully, anytime we stand with God, we are in a position as part of the majority. We will be superior in truth, love, and godliness. This is because God is love, His Word is true, and all godly character is available to those who are in His Son.
These facts need to be on our minds when we face persecution and hatred by others. Even when we suffer as a Christian, the Almighty can turn their wickedness into a testimony against them. After all is said and done, some of them may be ashamed of their behavior and see their need for God through our suffering.
These Craftsmen Gained Their Wealth Through Idolatry
Back at Acts 19, we read of these craftsmen making money selling images and related items of false gods. Demetrius himself sold silver shrines of Artemis (vs. 24). When Paul preached against idolatry, he was impacting their source of income. They were losing large amounts of money as people were converted to the faith. Demetrius even starts his comments by saying, “Sirs, you know that by this business we have our wealth” (Acts 19:25).
When we preach today, we can have an impact on ungodly companies. For instance, if thousands of people in a city came to Christ, and stopped drinking beer, smoking, or playing the lottery, businesses would feel it. They probably wouldn’t come together and riot and protest, but their wealth would noticeably drop. If such changes were sustained, and their finances kept decreasing, it may prompt some owners to consider other means of generating revenue.
From our text, we have a good example of the Gospel’s influence in an economic sense. Of course, that isn’t the purpose of sharing it with the world, but its influence is still felt in physical ways. Rejecting sinful actions and worthless idols are just a couple of areas where this is so.
The Great Number of People That Paul Reached With the Gospel
Demetrius goes on to complain about the range of Paul’s preaching. He says that he persuaded and turned away many people, not only those in Ephesus, but also almost all of Asia. The silversmith even shares some of what he preached, saying that they are no gods that are made with hands. This is true, and I am grateful to God that this craftsman heard such statements.
He had the opportunity to obey God, and turn his skills toward something that was decent.
Individuals today can also take their talents and use them for something good. They don’t have to use their abilities to cheat others or help people to sin. Hopefully we can speak to people in such a way that they see a new vision for their lives, and use their capabilities for godly reasons. Even though Demetrius hates what Paul is doing, his own words testify to the effectiveness of the Gospel.
The fact that the Word was spread to such a wide extent demonstrates its power. People throughout the region were coming to the One True God. They turned away from worthless idols, learned their actual position before God, and what He expected of them. All of this was marvelous. However, do we share the Gospel like it is powerful? Do we share it with confidence and expectation that it will impact the lives of those who hear it?
May we all speak with conviction and clarity! This is desired so that even if people do not obey the Gospel, they will have to admit that it is changing the lives of those around them and they know what we are saying. Those outside of Christ will hear that there is a different path available, but they are choosing not to follow it.
The Great Consequences of the Gospel
Demetrius’ final statement further highlights the power of the Good News. The way it is conveyed is striking. He says, “Not only is there danger that this our trade come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be counted as nothing, and her majesty destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worships” (Acts 19:27).
He recognizes the seriousness of following Jesus Christ and His Way.
- Their trade would come into disrepute
- The Temple of Artemis would be counted as nothing
- Her majesty would be destroyed
These are remarkable claims, and a list of fears that Demetrius had in his heart. He was afraid of the Gospel and losing so much. He didn’t want to lose his source of income. The idea of the Temple of Artemis being as nothing and her majesty being destroyed was terrible to him. He wanted to keep what he had, and viewed the apostle Paul as a threat.
When people speak against us and the Lord, are they showing similar concerns? Are they worried about losing respect and prestige from others? Do they like the history and type of deity that is a part of their religion even though it involves idolatry? Perhaps they simply know that if they become a Christian they won’t be able to keep doing the profession they have enjoyed for years.
We need to be mindful of these possibilities. Everyone has their own challenges that they had to overcome before obeying the Gospel. From the text, it looks like this silversmith was not willing to give up his trade, wealth, or idolatry. He knew it was changing the world. The economy of the whole region was being changed. Idols were being rejected in droves. Temples and their false worship were rejected.
What about you?
Have you turned away from idolatry? Do you ascribe glory and majesty to God? Are your labors for things that are decent?
Hopefully you worship the One True God and give Him the glory and majesty that is due Him. May you also labor in the vineyard of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Such activities may cause some to be upset with you and your testimony. However, all these things can be a good means of sharing aspects of the Way to a world that keeps going down a different path. May they cause a stir, and help others to seek after God.
Silversmith and a Flame by firemystery from Pixabay.