Fifty Days of Prayer | Day 35

PRAYING FOR CHURCH PLANTING THROUGH THE BOOK OF ACTS

From the very beginning Paul's ministry has been led by God through the Spirit. Today's section opens up by saying that "Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem" (19:21; emphasis added). He would later tell the Ephesian elders that he was "constrained by the Spirit" (20:22). The Holy Spirit was active in the ministry of the local church in many ways, and this direct leading of Paul was one of them. This is important for Paul and for us. Luke records two occasions where Paul experienced direct opposition: once from the Jews (19:8-10) and once from the non-believing Gentiles (19:23-41). Opposition will come from the religious and non-religious alike. The Lord knows our hearts. And that means he knows we are tempted to second guess ourselves in difficult circumstances. We need to know that he is with us and lead us to this place. So that is why we pray (as we have so many times the past thirty-five days) for continued leading from the Holy Spirit. 

This section of Acts 19 records the opposition that Paul experienced from a man named Demetrius. We're told he was "a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis" (19:24). This was a source of tremendous income for him. Luke records a conversation he had with his fellow tradesman: "Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth...and there is danger...that this trade of ours may come into disrepute" (19:25, 27). He also says that Paul's preaching of the gospel has disrupted the worship of Artemis. She was a fertility goddess in the Greco-Roman mythology. Her temple was built in Ephesus and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It drew tens of thousands of worshippers who would buy the trades created by these craftsman for their worship and devotion. It is good for the gospel to disrupt ungodly trades in our cities. Houston is one of the largest centers for human trafficking and boasts the largest Planned Parenthood. So we pray that God would use our church to disrupt the ungodly trades in our neighborhood.

This speech by Demetrius would incite a riot that carried Paul and his companions into the local theater (19:28-29). There was confusion (19:30) and yelling (19:34) for nearly two hours. Finally one of the local leaders quieted the crowd and warned them not to continue. He feared that the Roman military would fear a riot and come in to "put it down". The town clerk was able to dismiss the riot while also validating Paul's ministry. Christianity was not viewed as a menace to be eradicated. It upheld the virtues of a just, fair, and orderly society. Once again we see the church being granted favor with the local government. So we pray again that God would give us favor with local leaders, especially in the face of any potential opposition. 

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.” And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

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

When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 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. But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 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. 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. 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!”

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? Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 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. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 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.” And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.
— Acts 19:21-41