The Unstoppable Gospel (vv.1-22)
The Gospel is controversy. We mustn’t forget that. The claim that God has made Himself known in the God-Man Jesus Christ is one that should shock the world. In Ephesus we see the shock waves of God’s powerful Gospel.
The key to understanding this episode is to realise that these men who experience the Spirit in this dramatic way were not true Christians until this point. Luke is not teaching us that the Spirit coming upon them was a “second blessing” – no, this is the first, brilliant blessing of the new birth. Telling God you feel wretched about your sins is not salvation, but coming to Jesus is. And this they do, complete with tongues and prophecy (vv.4-7)!
Same Gospel, different city. Paul gets to work, dealing with opposition from Jewish quarters, and setting up ministry so effectively that the Word of the Lord spreads throughout the province (vv.9-10). So powerful is his ministry of word and deed that many are healed, and some try to imitate him (vv.11-16). In this occult-gripped city, some converts literally burn millions as they put their old lives to the flame (vv.17-19). Only the Gospel can cut people free from fear and greed. Are you enjoying its power?
Money talks – and riots (vv.23-40)
Whilst these converts gladly leave their false gods and filthy money, others are desperate to cling onto theirs. Do the metalworkers love their goddess, or the profit her worship brings (vv.23-28)? The evidence is that the Gospel is bad for their business, and so their fanatical behaviour which follows appears religious, but is actually driven by financial concerns. Nothing changes. Empty religion can never capture hearts, though sadly money can.
Things quickly escalate, and a riot is suddenly on the verge of erupting. One quick-thinking official clearly has an eye on his own career, as well as the city’s future, so manages to speak reason and disperse the crowd (vv.35-41).
The point is made, though: the Gospel is an almighty affront to our values, comforts and, well, just about everything else! People can ignore it, mock it, or riot over it, but the Gospel challenges everything, and everyone. God’s truth always will.
A Prayer to Pray
Lord God, by Your Spirit You are speaking truth to the world in Jesus. Forgive me when I lose heart because people ignore it. Forgive me, too, when I try to give a Gospel without offence, in the mistaken hope of winning friends for myself, or followers of it. Help me to be live and speak with integrity, and give me confidence when I face opposition and great joy when I see true response to Jesus. Amen.