The end of Acts 19 is a very strange section of the book. Acts, in case you haven’t spent much time with the book, is the story of God keeping his new covenant with his people. It’s powerful, intimidating and so crammed full of grace and gospel that it very nearly begs to be read cover to cover. And then you get to the riot in Ephesus. It’s almost surreal to read a passage in the Bible about folks rallying together for the sake of a false god, intending to beat the crap out of Paul and his friends, and then just go home. To my knowledge, it’s the only place in the Bible where a god is specifically named that doesn’t result in a massacre one way or the other.
You might want to read it quick, before we continue down this little side alley in my mind, if only for the context. If I can’t convince you to read all of Acts, then the second half of chapter 19 should suffice. What’s most interesting to me is that when most folks read that passage, they seem to wonder why someone even bothered writing it down, and I find it to be one of the most reassuring and uplifting passages in Acts.
Paul was called in a dramatic way to lead a dramatic ministry in dramatic times. He was called to witness without hesitation to anyone who would listen wherever he found himself. In prisons, in synagogues, in Greek temples, at work, with friends, in the market, his was a calling to call others to the faith and hope and repentance and joy found at the nail pierced feet of a man who died - of a God who died - and who is dead no longer.
And so when Paul finds himself in a riot, he sets out to do the only thing he knows to do: tell them the truth about a loving God. And here is where we get to the real kicker. No one else wanted Paul to go out there. I seriously doubt it was because Paul would have died; this crowd was nothing like the other crowds that wanted to kill folks. This was barely even a religious debate, more like an economic rally. I believe that Paul was kept from speaking at this assembly simply because there was no one there willing to listen.
Still, it’s probably hard to see why I find this encouraging or uplifting. And in a sense, it’s a little hard to explain without being able to wave my hands wildly. Paul was called to be crazy and reckless, not when he felt like it, not when he thought it would “win”, but all the time, in every situation. Paul wasn’t called to manage a ministry, but to be an emissary, an ambassador, to every place and every person he encountered. God placed him where he wanted him, gave him the words to say, the context to say them, and the people to hear. This is God’s party, not Paul’s.
When God wants his star preacher to step into the spotlight and give a defense of the faith, He makes it happen (see the rest of Acts). But when a crowd gets all bent out of shape to protest the possibility of falling revenues, then God sends out a paranoid city clerk to dispatch the crowd. The church in Ephesus grew to be one of the main early churches, I wonder how many members of that church were in the crowd that showed up in the theater that day to witness the impotence and fear associated with Artemis, and who later found the power and forgiveness of the Holy Spirit.
I have been called, while not by the same means as Paul, to the same ends. I have been called to be reckless and foolish and crazy, to think not of what can “save” or “win” the most or the right people, but to speak the truth in love at every opportunity. I am not here to judge, but to witness. I am not called to manage, but to serve. I am not called to take God’s place in heaven, but to walk as his son here on earth. And He won’t make me fight every fight just because there’s a fight to be fought, He’ll just have me fight the ones He wants to win.
You have had a profound impact on my life. Your witness was in your actions which consistently spoke louder than words. The subtle things…words you didn’t say, pictures you didn’t look at. Those were the things that spoke loudest of your faith. Also, your faith in and support of others. Thank you for your willingness to follow God. He has made you his instrument in my life.
Posted with : The Way