The Book of Acts (Part 31)

The Book of Acts (Chapter 19:23-20:1-16) (Part 31)

According to both the New and the Old Testament worshipping idols is worshipping demons. In fact any form of idolatry is demon worship. In Torah Moses wrote about the idolatry of Israel; “They stirred Him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently whom your fathers had never dreaded” (Deuteronomy 32:16-17). Paul also wrote; “but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God” (1 Corinthians 10:20).

What is an idol?

Now an idol is anything or anyone we consider more important to us than the Lord Jesus. An idol can be the Television, the Internet, sport, entertainment of one sort or another, a career, a boyfriend of girlfriend, a bank account, or some material possession such as a car or a house. How do we spend our time? What portion of our time is spent in the Word of God and in unceasing prayer compared to how much time we spend watching television or surfing the internet?

Do they own us?

There are many things we can enjoy such as sport or even a wholesome movie or going out on a date or listening to certain secular music or pursuing a career and in themselves these things are not wrong but when they own us instead of us owning them then we have a problem and open the way for demons to afflict us spiritually. Once something or even someone pre-occupies our time and harnesses our emotions to the point where it becomes an obsession we cannot control it becomes an idol and opens the way for demon powers to gain access to our lives.

Missplaced affections

Whatever it is that has occupied most of our time and thinking owns us and has become an idol. Idolatry will cause us to misplace our affections on other people and things instead of focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a constant battle all of us face as believers in a materialistic, immoral and unrestrained pagan society satiated with a love for pleasure, money and power, especially in the western democracies. The city of Ephesus was such a city. Idolatry was also a big business at Ephesus. And so we read…

(Vs.23-24)  “About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen;”

There is no doubt that the Apostle Paul and the other members of the assembly at Ephesus had stirred up Satan who for a long time had the people in the grip of occult power. Artermis was the main deity worshipped at Ephesus and a money making concern if ever there was one. Now Artemis was a goddess worshiped in the ancient world. The Greeks considered her the twin sister of Apollo and the goddess of hunting and wilderness and the protector of unmarried girls.

The Artemis mentioned here was a different deity—a localized goddess of the Ephesians-but she bore the same name (Latinised as “Diana”) as the goddess of Greek mythology. Her temple in Ephesus was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Ephesian Artemis was a “mother earth” deity emphasizing fertility and reproduction. Many of her images have been unearthed through archaeological diggings; the rows upon rows of breasts, totally covering her upper body, depict the power of Artemis to nourish the world. The many priests employed in the temple performed animal sacrifices, and the many priestesses, in keeping with the fertility theme, engaged in ritual prostitution. All of this made the Artemis temple in Ephesus a popular tourist attraction in the Roman world.

Paul and the faithful assembly of believers at Ephesus had caused much consternation for those engaged in making money from casting Artemis’ image in silver replicas and statues. Through Paul’s preaching the power of witchcraft through idolatry had been broken in the lives and businesses of many who had thoroughly repented and renounced their idols and put a torch to them. This did not go down well with other businessmen at Ephesus such as Demetrius, the silversmith, who had a thriving business in making shrines to Artemis. His craftsmen were raking in the money!

He was part of a businessmen’s fraternity and most probably together they controlled most if not all of the idol making business in Ephesus. He was no small fry but a corporate businessman making lots of money out of religion. Business was being affected. It was no longer a case of “business as usual.” Through this business witchcraft flourished in the homes of many Ephesians through the idols and shrines they had in their homes. These unprincipled businessmen had to do something about these people of the Way before things really got out of hand! So they called an emergency board meeting!

(Vs.25-27)  “these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence”

Whether these men were religious or not they knew that their business was in trouble and that the man who had turned the world upside down in many parts of Asia was now resident in Ephesus. At this board meeting Demetrius had become quite religious in order to influence his business associates, some of which were almost certainly religious. While mentioning their trade he laid it on thick concerning religion. He used their superstitions regarding images of worship to evoke an emotional reaction against Paul and his travelling companions. Money and religion always go hand in hand. Demetrius’ ploy worked and filled his business colleagues with religious zeal. This is just like the devil! Those into religion and making money may put up with all kinds of criticism but when things touch their back pocket they have a sudden knee-jerk reaction!

(Vs.28)  “When they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Today we see the same angry reaction to Christians and Jews where the cry is now “Allah Wakbar!” meaning “God is greater!” You may ask greater than whom? The answer is greater than the God of the Jews and the Christians. There is only one entity who thought he was greater than God and wanted to be worshipped as God and that was Satan (Isaiah 14:13-14). Clearly Allah is not the God of the Jews and the Christians, furthermore in Islam Allah is also called “the greatest of all deceivers.” The Lord Jesus Himself spoke of Satan as a murderer from the beginning, a liar and the father of lies. The God of the Jews and the Christians cannot lie, neither does He change like shifting shadows or deceive or encourage His followers to deceive. Having said this we see a fanatical religious zeal in those who had been stirred up by Demetrius.

(Vs.29-32)  “The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theatre, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him. Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theatre. So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.”

There is no doubt at this point that Satan was very angry. There was confusion and unrest and the people, stirred up by Demetrius and his business associates, reacted against Paul’s companions. Sometimes when people are under conviction by the Spirit of God they overreact and become abusive and hostile towards those who are faithfully preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom. As James wrote; “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16).

The theatre was the public arena where people gathered to hear visiting, dignitaries, orators, philosophers, plays and debates of one sort or another. They were quite spacious and could hold many people. Paul’s companions were exposed to public ridicule and accusation. Paul, now standing outside of the theatre, wanted to go to their defence but was restrained by his friends who were known as the Asiarchs. These were officials who had the responsibility to maintain law and order and to regulate the public games. They were usually very wealthy and influential with the nobility of the city and carried lawful authority to do their work. They were not necessarily believers as such but were Paul’s friends and who thought it best he did speak up in light of the circumstances.

Sometimes the Lord Jesus will bring along unbelievers and use them to bless believers in some way. There are blessings that come our way even from unbelievers that God has brought into our circumstances to help us. Sometimes we do not recognize this until later.

When writing to the Corinthian believers Paul spoke about having “fought with wild beasts at Ephesus” (1 Corinthians15:32). Whenever the gospel of the Kingdom is going forth in the power of the Holy Spirit the kingdom of darkness is plundered and Satan loses out big time! He will always counter attack to try to frustrate what the Lord Jesus is doing. In the ministry of the Lord Jesus while He tabernacled among us Satan followed Him around trying to disrupt God’s work but the Lord Jesus outwitted him every time! It was obvious that Satan was losing ground at Ephesus. He will always have one or two agitators to “stir the pot” as it were and to turn the masses against the people of the Way, namely the faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. On this occasion possibly Paul could have lost his life. Wisdom was needed and Paul’s friends, the Asiarchs, tried to prevent him going into the theatre.

There are some situations where withdrawal is the best part of valour. Undoubtedly Paul would make a comeback but this situation was out of control. Whether he ventured back into the theatre we are not told. St Francis of Assisi prayed a wise prayer; “LORD help me to change what I can, to accept what I cannot change and wisdom to know the difference.” Paul did not lack zeal or courage for that matter but wisdom was needed. Besides this many people gathered there did not even know what they were there. This is common among a mob that is out of control.

When you look at the revivals under the preaching of John Wesley this sort of mob were common place. Undoubtedly, just like it was at Ephesus, many in the mobs in Wesley’s day were also confused and stirred up and many not really knowing why they were getting so worked up. In all genuine revivals where sinners are being saved and saints sanctified you will have opposition in one form or another and to a greater or lesser degree. This is the pattern in the New Testament and the pattern in the history of genuine Biblical revivals. There will always be those who stir up the crowds. There is always a ringleader or ringleaders in any mob.

(Vs.33) “Some of the crowd concluded it was Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defence to the assembly.”

The Jewish religious leaders wanted to get in on the situation as they wanted to be rid of Paul and they selected one of their own named Alexander and as he tried to quieten down the mob to get them on side but his efforts did not succeed. They were a howling mob at best. Alexander was a Jew. When the crowd recognised this they reacted even worse than previously.

(Vs.34) “But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a single outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Religion and religiosity in any form drives people mad. At Ephesus it was Artemis or Diana, today it is Islam. The cry is not “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” but “Allah Wakbar” or “God is greater!” Of course as we have already said Allah is not the same as the God of the Jews and the Christians. The religious and violent frenzy at Ephesus, that went on and on for at least two hours, is repeated again today in Islam. Satan just repackages his strategies to persecute Jews and Christians. These two people groups Islam hates and persecutes the most. Satan will always try to shout down those who are preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.

(Vs.35-40-41)  “After quieting the crowd, the town clerk *said, “Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the image which fell down from heaven? So, since these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess. So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man, the courts are in session and proconsuls are available; let them bring charges against one another. But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly. For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today’s events, since there is no real cause for it, and in this connection we will be unable to account for this disorderly gathering.” After saying this he dismissed the assembly.”

“The image which fell down from heaven” at Ephesus was a meteor that people worshiped and believed that was the image of their goddess Artemis or Diana just like the Muslims today worship the Black Stone at Mecca. The Black Stone is a meteor “that fell from heaven”. What was happening at Ephesus is repeated today in Islam. Just as they worshipped the image of Diana at Ephesus so likewise they worship the image of Allah at Mecca. In both cases they are meteorites. It is the same demonic spirit of idolatry today as it was back then. The only difference is that the name of the deity has been changed. As stated before that any form of idolatry is the worship of demons (Deuteronomy 32:16-17) (1 Corinthians 10:20).

In all the confusion the town Clerk at Ephesus pacified the crowds stating that Paul and the other believers had not slandered the goddess at Ephesus or sought to rob her temple. Many in Ephesus who had been saved out of the occult had been saved through the preaching of the gospel empowered by the Holy Spirit. In the light of the gospel they received they saw for themselves the futility of worshipping their ‘god’ which in reality was no god!

Today multitudes in Islamic countries when they hear the gospel realize that Islam is false and consequently turn to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. God always frustrates the plans of the wicked as it is written in the book of Job; “He frustrates the plotting of the shrewd, So that their hands cannot attain success, “He captures the wise by their own shrewdness, And the advice of the cunning is quickly thwarted” (Job 5:12-13). There is no doubt that as believers we are at war with Satan and his demonic forces from hell.

We are on the spiritual battlefield for the souls of men and women. We may not all be like Paul but we have our duty to do as soldiers in the army of the LORD. We may not be called to the front line but we are all called to be faithful to the calling we have received from the LORD and to use the gift or gifts He has imparted to us. Whatever Satan hurls against us the blessed Holy Spirit is at our right hand to fight with us and for us. As it is written in the prophet Isaiah; “When the enemy shall come in, like a flood the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19b).

(20:1-3)  “After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and when he had exhorted them and taken his leave of them, he left to go to Macedonia. When he had gone through those districts and had given them much exhortation, he came to Greece. And there he spent three months, and when a plot was formed against him by the Jews as he was about to set sail for Syria, he decided to return through Macedonia.”

Satan cannot sustain his attacks. He had tried to stop what Paul and his companions were doing but in the end the crowd fizzled out and went their way and Demetrius and his business associates dismissed. Satan had his teeth pulled once again and his roar stifled by the power of God. Paul was about to leave Ephesus and called the assembly of believers together to exhort them to continue contending for the faith. He left for Macedonia and as he travelled through the region he continued to exhort and encourages the local believers in those districts.

We know that in Macedonia he suffered much, as he wrote in his second letter to the local assembly at Corinth; “For even when we came into Macedonia our flesh had no rest, but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within. But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not only by his coming, but also by the comfort with which he was comforted in you, as he reported to us your longing, your mourning, your zeal for me; so that I rejoiced even more” (2 Corinthians 7:5-7).

God will always provide encouragement to those who are seeking to encourage others. Satan was continuing his attacks on the Apostle and his companions. Not even Paul was exempt from physical persecution and opposition, by conflicts on the outside and by fears within but knew that the God of all comfort who comforts the down cast brought Paul comfort through the coming of Titus. Even those on the front line at times need comfort as they are always in Satan’s sights and his snipers are always trying to target them.

Finally Paul arrived at Greece. He was there for about there for about three months and as he was about to set sail for Syria he became aware of a plot by the Jews most likely to assassinate him. Instead of going to Syria he decided to return to Troas through Macedonia. God was with His servant and no one could take his life until the LORD decreed it. Paul still had much to do and by God’s grace and power would finish his course and successfully run his race to the finishing line (2 Timothy 4:7).

(Vs.4-6) “And he was accompanied by Sopater of Berea, the son of Pyrrhus, and by Aristarchus and Secundus of the Thessalonians, and Gaius of Derbe, and Timothy, and Tychicus and Trophimus of Asia. But these had gone on ahead and were waiting for us at Troas. We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and came to them at Troas within five days; and there we stayed seven days.”

Wherever Paul travelled he was always accompanied by Luke and by other brothers. He was never ‘a one man ministry’ but worked with a ministry team. Leadership is always plural in the New Testament. This is why you have set in the assembly apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers and elders to equip the saints for the work of ministry. This is the way the Lord Jesus has structured the leadership in His Body the faithful Church. There were no ‘one man shows’ as it were.

Even though James was the presiding overseer (not Peter) at Jerusalem he was still the first among equals. Team ministry is all the way through the book of Acts. In the last days the leadership gifts will become conspicuous and the Body of the Messiah is ultimately rejected by mainstream institutionalised Christendom. Acts is not only past history but future history. The genuine supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit will be evident as it was in the first century in the time of the apostles.

(Vs.7-8)  “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together.”

It was on the first day of the week that believers had their love feast or Passover meal because it was on the first day of the week that the Lord Jesus arose from the dead. It was a meal that they had together and at which they had unleavened bread and wine to commemorate the broken body and shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a memorial feast. The Israelites celebrated their redemption and deliverance out of Egypt in the Passover Feast. Likewise, in the New Testament, the believers celebrated their redemption and deliverance out of the Egypt of this world. The believers were going to have their Passover meal with Paul.

Once they had settled down in the upper room Paul started to preach and to teach and it was a very long teaching session. Notice that there were many lamps in the upper room. In the last days the teaching of the Word of God and the illumination of the Holy Spirit will be vitally important to the faithful Body of Messiah as it enters into the Great Tribulation. Only those who have the oil of the Holy Spirit in the lamp of their spirit will be able to see in the darkness.

When we see such a gathering as we see at Troas it teaches us about how believers will be at the end of this age just before the Lord Jesus comes back. There will be the Word of God rightly divided and taught accompanied by the illumination of the Holy Spirit and by a hunger in the hearts of faithful believers to hear the Word of God. In these last days, time itself will not matter. What we see happening at Troas in this gathering of faithful believers will become common place during the night of the Great Tribulation. The faithful Church will be vastly different than what we see now. Institutionalised Christendom with its denominational structures will ultimately go to the Babylon of Ecumenism, Interfaith and Post-Modernism. There will be counterfeit signs, miracles and wonders in this “Babylonian” Church but they will not be from God but from Satan.

So then Paul was preaching and teaching until midnight as the believers’ were hungry for the Word of God. Today, for most churches, a sermon that goes longer than 30 minutes is considered by many to be too long. After all who wants to miss out on their roast dinner on a Sunday? Not so in the first century Body of Messiah and not so today in those countries where believers are persecuted and find it hard to get access to the Bible, not to mention owning one. What is happening in Muslim countries and in North Korea and China and even in Russia in this matter will eventually come to the Christians in the western democracies. How far before this happens only the Lord Jesus knows? How far are we already into the night? As yet the Great Tribulation has not come upon us but it is looming on the horizon especially as we see Israel becoming increasingly centre stage in world affairs. Well Paul preached until midnight and then an unforeseen interruption occurred.

(Vs.9)   “And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead.”

We are not told specifically why Eutychus fell asleep. Paul’s teaching was no doubt sound and enthusiastically received but was quite long. It may have been that the young man was tired as it was midnight. Possibly he was sitting in the window to get some fresh air because the smoke from the lamps sucked the air out of the room causing his drowsiness. Well he fell backwards out of the window and was picked up dead. While the circumstance of his fall may have been due to him falling asleep we must not underestimate the devil in this situation as Paul was preaching the Word of God. While some may say that Paul was preaching for too long but it may have been interactive dialogue at times, the reality is that the meeting was disturbed by this incident. However, Paul was quick to act.

(Vs.10-12 ) “But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him. When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. They took away the boy alive, and were greatly comforted.”

Paul stretched himself upon him, in the same manner as Elisha did on the Shulamites’ son in 2 Kings 4:33-35; We read what the prophet did; “And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands, and he stretched himself on him; and the flesh of the child became warm. Then he returned and walked in the house once back and forth, and went up and stretched himself on him; and the lad sneezed seven times and the lad opened his eyes.” The fact that boy sneezed seven times clearly pointed to a supernatural act of God through His servant Elisha, the number seven being the number in scripture that denotes a perfect and finished work of God. It took some time for the boy to be revived as he had been dead for some time and the warmth had left his body.

In the case of Eutychus the young man was still warm having just died so his reviving to life was quicker. Even so this was a supernatural act of God through His servant Paul. Because He walked moment by moment in the Spirit Paul had the faith to see the young man brought back to life. Even though the boy was dead Paul had the faith that he would live. Some would call this the gift of faith and they would be right as the apostles all moved in the gifts of the Spirit because they were apostles and had been commissioned by the Lord Jesus personally to heal the sick, drive our demons and raise the dead in His name. Through the power of the Holy Spirit Satan was once again checkmated on God’s chess board! It would seem that Paul himself was not troubled even though those around him were.

After these things all of them had the Lord’s Supper and their joy and comfort must have known no bounds as they ate their food with gladness and singleness of heart and Eutychus was right there with them all. Paul continued to talk with the brothers and sisters until daybreak and left them. All of them took the boy away very much alive and they were all comforted by the Lord Jesus who once again had done an extraordinary miracle through the hands of the apostle Paul.

(Vs. 13-16)  “But we, going ahead to the ship, set sail for Assos, intending from there to take Paul on board; for so he had arranged it, intending himself to go by land. And when he met us at Assos, we took him on board and came to Mitylene. Sailing from there, we arrived the following day opposite Chios; and the next day we crossed over to Samos; and the day following we came to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he would not have to spend time in Asia; for he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

Paul was a Jew as well as a Christian. Many Jews today believe that if they become Christians that they must give up their Jewish identity. This is a travesty of great proportion. A Jew who becomes a believer in Lord Jesus Christ becomes a completed Jew in that through the atoning work of the Messiah’s blood their sin is atoned for making it possible for them to approach God. A saved Jewish person has experienced the circumcision of the heart by the Holy Spirit as spoken about in the Old Testament.

Paul wrote; “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-19). Paul’s heart was always drawn to the salvation of the Jews and to be present in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Day of Pentecost would give him the opportunity to preach about the salvation available in the Lord Jesus their Messiah and to tell them about the gift of the Holy Spirit.

At this time religious Jews from Israel and beyond would be in attendance. This would have been a great evangelistic opportunity for Paul. Added to this was the thought of having fellowship with the apostles and the others who had been present on the Day of Pentecost. Paul understood from his experiences in evangelism that the Holy Spirit was being poured out as it was on the Day of Pentecost. Most probably he thought that the Holy Spirit might be poured out again and if this was the case he wanted to be there when it happened.

Go to Part 32