by Roger McCay
27 September 2020
Sermon Passage: Acts 19:21-41
Link to Audio Version
The chorus of the song “Awesome God” by Rich Mullins is one that can easily get stuck in the head, and you probably know it:
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God
I love that song.
Considering the overwhelming power and awesome nature of the living and true God, by comparison, any idol is exposed to be a truly pathetic joke. Hence, the humorous and absurd illustration given by Isaiah in chapter 44, our OT reading this morning: an idol carved from a block of wood, with the rest of the wood being burned for warmth or to bake bread, with the man who carved the idol then bowing down to his carving in worship. Jeremiah provides another, more terrifying comparison in Jeremiah 10:10-15:
10 The Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. 11 Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” 12 It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. 13 When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses.
14 Every man is stupid and without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them. 15 They are worthless, a work of delusion; at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
The worship of idols is just plain foolishness. They are nothing. Nothing good comes from them. Yet, despite the foolishness of worshipping anything other than the Lord, various forms of idolatry persist in the world.
Providentially, in the midst of our idolatrous society, the Lord casts down idols through his people’s faithfulness. Unsurprisingly, the righteous influence of the faithful church on the culture brings down vicious opposition from the enemy. The enemy seeks, and always has sought, to make the Lord’s people ineffective, impotent for Christ, in society, in whatever way he can, through both subtle and overt methods of attack. The question is, will we roll over and concede defeat? Or, will we take seriously our status and calling as Christians?
Will we live according to the Lord’s call as disciples of Christ? Will we faithfully stay on watch for idols, recognizing them and purging them from our lives? Oblivious apathy is no excuse. Such plays into the devil’s hands, making irrelevant lives that have no impact for the Kingdom of God.
The situation in Ephesus, described in our passage today, paints a picture of what happens when Christians are serious about being Christians. Culture, society, and lives are transformed for good; evil resists. God’s Kingdom clashes with the rebellion of the world; conflict ensues.
The faithfulness of all the folks becoming Christians in Ephesus … You may remember from last week how they burned a fortunes worth of their own books of magic in repentance. Well, as more and more people became Christians, their faithfulness to the Lord started to make a noticeable mark on the normal practices of Ephesian society, it’s culture. The business of idolatry was losing profits. Hence, in a rage, Demetrius the silversmith accused the Apostle Paul’s teachings to be at the heart of the silversmiths’ business decline.
Look at vv. 26-27 again.
26 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.”
The worship of Artemis was a major aspect of the Ephesian culture. The Temple of Artemis, one of the great wonders of the ancient world, provided Ephesus a thriving industry centered around idol worship and cult prostitution. Thus the silversmiths, who made these idols, had become quite wealthy due to sales of the image of Artemis.