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Paul’s final ministry travels (never give up!)

November 20, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Acts 19:1, 8-10, 18-20, 23-41, 20:13-17, 21:11-13

Acts 19
1 While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul took a route through the interior and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples.

8 Paul went to the synagogue and spoke confidently for the next three months. He interacted with those present and offered convincing arguments concerning the nature of God’s kingdom. 9 … Paul left them, took the disciples with him, and continued his daily interactions in Tyrannus’ lecture hall. 10 This went on for two years, so that everyone living in the province of Asia—both Jews and Greeks—heard the Lord’s word.

18 Many of those who had come to believe came, confessing their past practices. 19 This included a number of people who practiced sorcery. They collected their sorcery texts and burned them publicly. The value of those materials was calculated at more than someone might make if they worked for one hundred sixty-five years [Or fifty thousand silver drachmen (a drachme is equivalent in value to a denarion, a typical day’s wage)] 20 In this way the Lord’s word grew abundantly and strengthened powerfully.

23 At that time a great disturbance erupted about the Way. 24 There was a silversmith named Demetrius. He made silver models of Artemis’ temple, and his business generated a lot of profit for the craftspeople. 25 He called a meeting with these craftspeople and others working in related trades and said, “Friends, you know that we make an easy living from this business. 26 And you can see and hear that this Paul has convinced and misled a lot of people, not only in Ephesus but also throughout most of the province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands aren’t really gods. 27 This poses a danger not only by discrediting our trade but also by completely dishonoring the great goddess Artemis. The whole province of Asia—indeed, the entire civilized world—worships her, but her splendor will soon be extinguished.”
28 Once they heard this, they were beside themselves with anger and began to shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
29 The city was thrown into turmoil. They rushed as one into the theater. They seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from the province of Macedonia. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the assembly, but the disciples wouldn’t allow him. 31 Even some officials of the province of Asia, who were Paul’s friends, sent word to him, urging him not to risk going into the theater. 32 Meanwhile, the assembly was in a state of confusion. Some shouted one thing, others shouted something else, and most of the crowd didn’t know why they had gathered. 33 The Jews sent Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd directed their words toward him. He gestured that he wanted to offer a defense before the assembly, 34 but when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” This continued for about two hours.
35 The city manager brought order to the crowd and said, “People of Ephesus, doesn’t everyone know that the city of Ephesus is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you must calm down. Don’t be reckless. 37 The men you brought here have neither robbed the temple nor slandered our goddess. 38 Therefore, if Demetrius and the craftspeople with him have a charge against anyone, the courts are in session and governors are available. They can press charges against each other there. 39 Additional disputes can be resolved in a legal assembly. 40 As for us, we are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since we can’t justify this unruly gathering.” 41 After he said this, he dismissed the assembly.

Acts 20
13 We went on to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we intended to take Paul on board. Paul had arranged this, since he intended to make his way there by land. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we sailed from there and arrived opposite Chios. On the day after, we sailed to Samos, and on the following day we came to Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus so that he wouldn’t need to spend too much time in the province of Asia. He was hurrying to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by Pentecost Day.
17 From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus calling for the church’s elders to meet him.

Acts 21
10 After staying there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 He came to us, took Paul’s belt, tied his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In Jerusalem the Jews will bind the man who owns this belt, and they will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” 12 When we heard this, we and the local believers urged Paul not to go up to Jerusalem.
13 Paul replied, “Why are you doing this? Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I’m ready not only to be arrested but even to die in Jerusalem for the sake of the name of the Lord Jesus.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

The apostle’s third missionary trip saw a long stay in Ephesus. “Ephesus… had few equals anywhere in the world…. No city in Asia was more famous or more populous.” * Paul’s converts burned expensive sorcery scrolls. He won so many people to Christ that Demetrius, a silversmith, led devotees of the pagan goddess Artemis in a riot. In Greece, Paul collected an offering for Christians in Jerusalem, and said a warm farewell to the Ephesus church elders (cf. Acts 20:18-38).

  • To human eyes, Jesus often seemed to ignore economic “common sense” (cf. Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 19:1-10). Those sorcery texts were valuable—scrolls were hand-copied rarities. Demetrius spoke of the silversmiths’ “easy living” (verse 25) and the honor of “the great goddess Artemis” (verse 27). “Which was more important to Demetrius—Artemis’s honor or his own pocketbook? We can’t know.” ** Has following God faithfully ever cost you economically? If so, was it worth it?
    _____________________
    Special invitation from Pastor Hamilton:
    “This weekend, I really hoped to dig into the stories in Acts 19 about Paul’s ministry in Ephesus and how these relate to us–but had to cut them all out of the sermon. I had photos and other things to share as well. I’ll share these things on my Vespers this Tuesday night. Plan to join me from 7:30 to 8:15 pm CT. I’ll be coming live from my man cave in Stilwell via Facebook Live. Here are the links: Facebook, or YouTube.”
    ______________________
  • People who change the world don’t quit. As he went to Jerusalem, Paul asked the Ephesian church elders to meet him in a nearby port city. It was an emotional farewell. Paul said, “I’m going to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there. What I do know is that the Holy Spirit testifies to me from city to city that prisons and troubles await me” (Acts 20:22-23). Where is God calling you to exercise perseverance and hope in the face of difficulty right now?
Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank you for standing by Paul, whose life and writings guide and inspire me. Give me something of his courage and faith, as I do whatever you set before me. Amen.

GPS Insights

Dennis Apple

Dennis Apple

Dennis Apple has served as a congregational care pastor at Resurrection since 2018. An Indiana native (oldest of ten children), he graduated from Olivet Nazarene University and earned his M. Div. from Nazarene Theological Seminary. He has been a pastor, associate pastor and also served as the general director of senior & single adult ministries for the Nazarene denomination. Dennis and his wife, Buelah are the parents of two sons. He wrote the book, “Life After the Death of My Son.” Dennis enjoys running and rummaging through thrift stores with his wife.

Question: When it comes to your Christian faith, do you have a breaking point? In other words, if you were ordered by your employer or supervisor to do something you knew to be dishonest or unethical, would you give in or would you stand your ground, even if it meant a demotion or the loss of your job?

In our Scripture text today, we read how Paul’s preaching caused an economic crisis in Ephesus. A great number of people to whom Paul was speaking were practicing sorcery. He courageously spoke out against the practice, telling them that gods made by human hands weren’t really gods at all (Acts 19:26). As they received Paul’s message and turned to Christ, they confessed, gave up their idol worship, went home, gathered up their sorcery texts and burned them publicly (Acts 19:19). Keep in mind that, in today’s economy, this would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars. This was no small thing. It was huge. When news of this public burning reached the ears of those who had profited from the practice of sorcery, it all hit the fan. 

Paul’s work also cost the silversmiths of Ephesus money, as many people stopped buying the figurines of the goddess Artemis and her temple which gave them their “easy living” (Acts 19:25). Angrily, they started a riot, the stated reason for which was not the loss of their profits, but the honor of their civic goddess.

Paul’s courage to speak truth to power is a great example for us. There may be times when we are asked to do something that is shady or downright wrong. My prayer is that each of us will summon the strength and courage to do the right thing, regardless of the cost. When we have obeyed our conscience and stood our ground, we can be confident that God will honor our faith.

The words of the great hymn, “How Firm a Foundation” reminds us of God’s faithfulness when we are tested:

 (Verse 3)“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

(Verse 6) The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake!”

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (p. 10317). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** Hamilton, Adam, The Call: The Life and Message of the Apostle Paul (p. 171). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.