Saturday, March 25, 2023

2023.03.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 19:23–41

Read Acts 19:23–41

Questions from the Scripture text: What happened in Ephesus in Acts 19:23? Whom does Acts 19:24 now mention? What was his trade? What did he make? With what results? What did he do to the silversmiths (Acts 19:25)? And whom else? What did he point out to them? But what does he say Paul has done and where (Acts 19:26)? With what result (Acts 19:27)? Who does he say worships Diana? How do they respond to Demetrius’s speech—what are they full of, and what do they do (Acts 19:28)? What does this response do to the whole city (Acts 19:29)? Where do they go? Whom do they seize? Who wants to go in (Acts 19:30)? Why can’t he? Who are among his friends now (Acts 19:31)? What do they plead with him? What is the “assembly” like (Acts 19:32)? What do most of them not even know? Whom did they put forward (Acts 19:33)? Which believers selected him? What was he going to do? But what do the people find out (Acts 19:34)? And now what do they do? For how long? Who answers this (Acts 19:35)? What is his viewpoint (at least enough that he’s willing to say it, Acts 19:35-36a)? What instruction does he give them (Acts 19:36b)? What does he assert in Acts 19:37? What does he suggest that they do, even if the assertion isn’t true (Acts 19:38)? Under what conditions (Acts 19:39)? But of what are they in danger of being charged (Acts 19:40)? What does he then do (Acts 19:41)?

What is the means by which God has appointed to do powerful spiritual work? Acts 19:23–41 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nineteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God has appointed to do powerful spiritual work by means of His Word. 

The attacks of the wicked. It is significant that the episode in Acts 19:23–41 comes on the heels of Acts 19:21-22 introducing the third act of the Spirit’s spread of the gospel in Acts. Thus, the Spirit reminds us that the attacks of the wicked are not only accounted for in His plan, but literally planned upon in His plan. 

Gospel change hits people where it hurts. The purveyors of magic books have taken a huge financial hit, as those who had previously spent 50,000 pieces would no longer be laying out silver for them (Acts 19:19). And now silversmith Demetrius is worried about the little silver temple replicas that he sells (Acts 19:24). Evil is big business, and repentance is bad for that business. 

People are sensitive in the pocketbook, and they are sensitive to cultural pride. Evil always demands to be celebrated (Acts 19:17, cf. Romans 1:32), perhaps precisely because the guilty conscience before God cannot abide knowing that there are righteous ones around them (cf. John 3:19). 

They are especially sensitive to being exposed as meaningless and foolish. Paul’s great message has been that there is a true and living God Who has made us all, Who has come in the person of Jesus Christ, and Who is about to judge the whole world by Christ. Thus, “they are not gods which are made with hands” (Acts 19:26, cf. Acts 17:24–31). Now, all of Asia has heard this message (Acts 19:10Acts 19:20), and the exaggerated accusation in Acts 17:6 is much closer to being true. The wicked will always hate and attack the righteous. In this world, believers will have trouble (cf. John 16:33). The world hates Christ, hates God, and will hate you too, if you’re a true enough Christian (cf. John 15:18–25). Even from within the church, sometimes (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:18–19; 1 John 2:18–19). 

The easily manipulated multitudes. The “workers of similar occupation” (Acts 19:25) seem rather easily manipulated. The response in Acts 19:28 is a bit over the top. But if we think that was bad, what is to be said about a city that responds to “confusion” by running with one accord into the theater (Acts 19:29)? Or, once there, respond to a man’s ethnicity by chanting one sentence together for two hours (Acts 19:34). Truly, God has given those who refuse to worship Him over to futile thoughts, foolish hearts, and a debased mind (cf. Romans 1:21, Romans 1:28). We should not be surprised when the masses are easily manipulated and irrational.

The useful, common-grace civil magistrate. The thoughtful, responsible city scribe produces a clear contrast to the raging masses, but he is still an instrument in the Lord’s hands. From where does his use of reason come (Acts 19:35-36)? From where his commitment to law and order (Acts 19:37-39)? From where his level-headedness (Acts 19:40-41)? It is all from the Lord that he still denies. He has been shown mercy, and if he does not repent, it will stand against him all the more on the last day. 

But it is plain, here, that he has been shown that mercy for the good of the church. The Lord works all things together for the good of His elect. The Lord has freely given believers all things together with Christ Jesus. And that includes even the actions of their persecutors. It may not always work out as pleasantly or comfortably in the short term, but we can read passages like this and know that He is employing them for His glory and our good.

When have you been attacked for the truth about Jesus? Which truth was it about Him, specifically? Who was ruling and overruling those attacks? What is He bringing about through them?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding us that You are in sovereign control over all that occurs—even the irrational hatred of those who oppose us for Your sake. Grant that we would trust You and serve You with all our heart and all our life, until our work on earth is done, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH243 “How Firm a Foundation”

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