As I turn to the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, I find myself considering the riot that occurred in Ephesus just before Paul left for Macedonia. I had been writing about how Paul’s ministry affected the Jews or believers in God, but now I wish to consider how his ministry affected the world.
We are told in Acts 19:23-24 that one, Demetrius, had stirred up the people against the Gospel. Demetrius seems to have been the head of a guild whose business profited by the presence in Ephesus of the then world renown shrine of the goddess, Diana. Some exaggeration must be assumed in his words, but there can be no doubt that he was concerned over what the new teaching that had recently gripped so many in Asia might mean to him in more practical terms. In all actuality, this was not a new teaching, for the Jews had always taught that idols made with hands were no gods at all, but Paul preached Jesus and justification by faith alone, and this did affect many gentiles wherever he had gone. So, in this manner the teaching was, indeed, new.
If the Gospel is preached in its purity, men will repent of their worldly customs and submit their lives to God. If the Gospel is preached in the fiery energy of the Spirit of God, many men will submit to Jesus and follow the Gospel. This was what had occurred under the ministry of Paul at Ephesus and the world, the kosmos, responded. We have three enemies—the world, the flesh and the devil. Christ took care of the devil, but we are sent into the world (the kosmos) to confront men of the flesh. The world (kosmos) and the flesh draw their life and strength from each other. If the world, that is the things that make up the world, did not exist, neither would the flesh have strength or life in itself. The world (kosmos) entices the flesh and the flesh responds to the kosmos in such a manner that the one gives “life” to the other.
What makes up the kosmos as we know it? Is it not our politics, our educational institutions, our commerce, our entertainment, our religions, our literature, our science our music, our art and such like? Now, there is nothing wrong, per se, with any of these things, but if God is not permitted to influence them (Romans 1:28), they are “worldly” or of the kosmos not godly. These things entice our flesh and draw us away from God and “we” give life to the kosmos, and the kosmos gives “life” to our flesh to the extent that we welcome its pleasures, thus becoming slaves to one or more those things that make up our kosmos or world.
What occurred through the ministry of Paul at Ephesus and throughout the province of Asia got the attention of a merchant of one of those things that made up the kosmos at Ephesus. Demetrius became concerned over what the Gospel might do to his income or the commerce upon which his income depended. Some of his markets were overturned, because men left off clinging to the religions of the kosmos and received Jesus as Savior, submitting to the Gospel.
What I find particularly interesting is that what Paul had done did not involve degrading the pagan religious institutions (Acts 19:37). He merely preached Christ. He was not the one caught up in demonstrating against anything, but the world demonstrated against him and the Gospel! Personally, I find this particularly fascinating, because I have long held that demonstrating against anything causes the world to look more intently upon what the demonstrator is against, thereby giving more “life” to the very thing against which one is expressing his contempt. Rather, for the Christian, let us be about our Father’s business of preaching the Gospel and let the world’s business live or die as a result of that. I don’t need to let the world know what I am against. The world needs to hear more about whom I represent—Jesus. May we all, who claim to be his, magnify Jesus’ name and his name alone, preaching and living out the testimony of the Gospel. Praise God!