Photo by Tim Boote

The Gospel in Ephesus, 2: Your gods Are False! (Acts 19:21-41)

Mar 16, 2023 By: Damien Garofalo Topic: Sermon Devotional Series: Acts Scripture: Acts 19:21-41

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. 27 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.” (Acts 19:26-27 ESV)

The proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ has profound impact on our minds, on our ways, and on our communities. This was the main point of last week’s message on the first twenty verses of Acts 19. We saw that impact as disciples changed their minds about the truth, as magicians and sorcerers gave up their practices, and as the community of Ephesus and all of Asia heard the name of Jesus held high – all because of the gospel.

But, the gospel’s impact doesn’t always yield such joyous results. When the gospel is preached and truth is laid bare, souls become agitated. The demons growl. Idols are smashed. Lies are exposed. Sometimes, chaos ensues. 

These things should not take us by surprise, as our study in the Book of Acts has revealed that gospel preaching often comes with opposition. We’ve seen imprisonment, martyrdom, and angry mobs. In this episode, spanning verses 21-41, we will see once again the kind of ire that truth-telling can stir up.

The primary conflict in this passage is between followers of the false god, Artemis, and the followers of Jesus Christ. Ephesus, you may recall, hosted one of the great wonders of the ancient world: a shrine dedicated to Artemis. The early church’s message, however, was that there was one God, and this one True and Living God does not dwell in shrines nor is he bound to carvings and statues. In other words, all those man-made gods are fake. False. No gods at all.

Such a message is a problem in a city where false gods are worshiped. We will see the utter confusion and chaos that results. But for our purposes of preparation, we should ask, are we willing to both preach and teach the positive truths of the faith and negative ones,  even if it doesn’t sit well with our audience? When we preach salvation by grace, are we willing to say that works-based salvation is false? When we preach Christ, are we willing to say all other gods are false? Are we willing to call out the false religions, false prophets, and false ideologies of the day?

The early church was certainly willing. By the power of the Spirit, they possessed a boldness that rocked the ancient world. By God’s grace and by that same Spirit, we can have that same impact.