The Kingdom of God in Diana’s Land

22 Mar

The province of Asia is now part of modern day Turkey in the Mediterranean. It was once the home of the world renowned Artemis or Diana, the great goddess of the Ephesians. For two years Paul preached at Ephesus, sending emissaries throughout the province and perhaps beyond, preaching the Kingdom of God and bringing men and women under the Lordship of Jesus (Acts 19:10). During this time aprons or handkerchiefs of Paul’s were sent to the sick and those possessed and they were healed (Acts 19:11-12)!

Luke doesn’t specifically say, but it may be that, after Paul’s reputation of miracle working power got around, friends or relatives of the afflicted came to Paul, perhaps from some distance while Paul preached the Gospel or worked with his hands in leather products.[1] In this context it would be difficult for Paul to preach the Kingdom of God, work to support himself, and travel to all those afflicted with illnesses. Therefore, these friends or relatives were given a piece of cloth that Paul worked with[2] and sent it back with his blessing. Nevertheless, whatever the reason for doing this, Luke points out that it was God that worked these many miracles through Paul’s ministry, there in the land of the gentiles (Acts 19:11-12).

No doubt Luke’s intention is to show us how Paul’s ministry paralleled that of Jesus (Luke 8:44) and Peter (Acts 5:15). The point is, God was making men whole—the time of his Kingdom had arrived, and Jesus is Lord, and this is what that looks like. Whether it is done by the Lord Jesus, or his disciple, Peter or Paul or even their emissaries, their works show us that God was breaking into the world of mankind, and nothing will ever be again quite like it used to be.

The power of the Kingdom of God is not without its false images. Both Jewish (Acts 19:13-16) and gentile (Acts 19:17-20) theologies have a false impression of how the power of God works, but Luke shows us here how the reality triumphed over the false, and the repercussions that followed. In the immediate context of Acts 19, the gentiles had organized a seditious demonstration against Paul, specifically, and the Gospel generally. Later, the Jewish authorities would have their turn with Paul and the Gospel on his next visit to Jerusalem in Acts 21. Nevertheless, such things are to be expected when the Kingdom of God intrudes itself into the kingdoms of men.

Some of us may wonder, if Jesus is really King over this world, how can it still be so evil? Jesus, himself, gives us the answer, or at least tells us where to look. When Pilate asked him if he were a king, Jesus told him: “My Kingdom is **not** of this world!” (cp. John 18:36). Jesus tells us that we cannot look for his Kingdom in this world and point to it as though it had territorial boundaries. This is why Jesus is not a physical threat to the political kingdoms or governments today. He is not seeking to overthrow them—and neither should his emissaries behave like we should. Jesus’ Kingdom is within man. He rules on the Throne of our hearts. If God doesn’t rule there, he really is unable to rule anywhere—at least not without force.

Force or power exerted outwardly is the method used by men. God is not a man that he should use our modus operandi. He is not a pantheistic god who must do as we, his shadows do. He is the God, and we are his image, as expressed in the first chapter of Genesis. The world is ours to rule, but our hearts are God’s Throne. Ideally, we were created to rule the world in a manner in which expresses the love and care of God. We don’t do that today, because we are in the state of rebellion. That was then, but God has broken into our rebellious state, and his rule is spreading around the globe and north and south to the ends of the earth. It is not by force that God brings us into submission, but through love—his captivating love for us, and responding to that: our love for him and for one another.

Some might say that if God is presently ruling in this world then he is failing. Well, I suppose one can believe as he wishes. Certainly, God gives us that prerogative. Yet, it is true that the Gospel is still spreading, and people all over the world, in all nations under many types of governments and even in tragedy and persecution turn from their ways, willingly and obediently to God, whom the world claims doesn’t exist. I guess, the saying in the Bible is really true: “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). Though we are persecuted in some places, we remain God’s; though the great of this world claim he doesn’t exist, we remain God’s; though we are vilified by some, we remain God’s; though we are brushed off by many as though we are simply irrelevant, we remain God’s. Considering that we should be defeated through all this opposition, but instead we still trust in God, we express an undefeatable loyalty to our God that this world’s kings only wish they could enjoy from those whom they rule.

[1] See Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles; pages 579-80.

[2] It has been argued that these were sweat bands worn around Paul’s head while working, and cloths held in his hand for general mopping up or possibly worn around the waste as an apron or belt. See David G. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles, page 537, note #41.

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Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Kingdom of God, Paul's 3rd missionary journey


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