Not Just Another Contender

04 Apr

Because Luke has the town clerk[1] say that the image of Artemis fell “out of the sky” (Acts 19:35), many scholars believe that actual stone that was worshiped as Artemis’ image could have been a fallen meteorite, and I agree that this conclusion has merit. Surprisingly, it is this very matter, which, if true, helps to calm the crowd and answer Demetrius’ charges against Paul.

Just as had occurred at Philippi (Acts 16:19), commercial interests were behind the opposition to Paul’s Gospel at Ephesus. Paul preached against worshiping God through praying before images, and the Temple of God was, in fact, the mobile Body of Christ, or the people of God. So, how could the commercial industry exploit that? Demetrius, if he was the local temple-warden of the goddess, Artemis, understood Paul’s preaching to be opposed to the commercial enterprise that grew from worship at the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. He, being responsible for the temple’s maintenance and promoting worship through the purchase of images and other religious memorabilia, brought great gain, both to the silversmiths and the temple, itself (Acts 19:24).

Imagine, if Christians today were encouraged, rather than sending gifts to one another at Christmas, instead to feed the poor and clothe the naked, and give a proper shelter to those who are homeless! What would this do to the commerce of our nation so dependent on ‘Black Friday’ and beyond to keep them afloat in business? While I don’t mean to discourage giving gifts, I do hope we could **imagine** what commercialism would be like, if what we call Christianity had no ties whatsoever to buying and selling—only maintaining our own living and helping the poor. The problem with the Gospel, as far as the world is concerned, is that in its purity it cannot be exploited for gain. After all, it is the Good News of Jesus being Lord and his Kingdom spreading throughout or invading the kingdoms of men and releasing those held captive by society’s addictions. To exploit the Kingdom of God for gain would be an oxymoron; only by changing the message and causing it to mean something else could its gospel be exploited for the gain of men. According to Jesus, his Kingdom does not arise out of this world (John 18:36). Neither are its values found in this world.

But, back to the riot in Ephesus, notice what the town clerk says to the crowd. He begins by reminding the crowd that they—Ephesus’ populace—had the honor of being the guardians of the Temple of Artemis whose image ‘fell from heaven’ (Acts 19:35). In other words, if Demetrius was complaining that Paul taught they are no gods which were created by the hands of men (Acts 19:26), what has Paul’s Gospel to do with Artemis’ image, which was formed by the forces of heaven rather than man’s hands and imagination, and all men hold this as indisputable (Acts 19:36)? Furthermore, neither Paul nor any of his followers were robbers of their temple, nor have they blasphemed the goddess the people worshiped (Acts 19:37).

Something I’ve noticed here is that Paul doesn’t seem to place the Kingdom of God in competition with worshiping in this world’s religions. Both he and his disciples seem to have left everyone to their own belief and religious practice. What Paul does do is preach Christ, not as a competitor among others for this world’s attention but as the rightful Ruler of the God’s Kingdom, which has come into the world at large, calling all who will believe to come to him and submit to their King. There is no competition here—no name-calling or the belittling of another man’s values. Paul simply holds up Jesus, and he, i.e. Jesus, calls all men to come to him (John 12:32).

[1] Greek = grammateus (G1122) is used elsewhere of the scribes in Palestine. The person in Ephesus is the city official in charge of keeping records, and he is present during events when money is deposited in the temple and serves as the registrar (cp. Apollonius of Tyana, Letters 32). “He was the sort of person one would expect to step forward and object if some sort of irregular or illegal assembly was occurring” (see Ben Witherington, The Acts of the Apostles, page 597).

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Posted by on April 4, 2013 in Kingdom of God, Paul's 3rd missionary journey


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