Today's Bible Reading: Acts 19
Selected Biblical Text
And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them....
About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, "Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 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. (Acts 19:8-12, 23-26 ESV)
Reflecting and Thinking
This chapter is a reminder that the gospel went forth in the first century with both success and opposition. In Ephesus, Paul taught twelve disciples who had known only John's baptism; perhaps it was this success that emboldened him to preach in the synagogue. Facing considerable stubbornness and unbelief among the Jews, he turned to teaching publicly in a different forum. Two years of teaching reached both Jews and Greeks, so that the gospel went forth into all of Asia, perhaps through the converts Paul made. God was at work in extraordinary ways and the message echoed forth.
Opposition came not only from the Jews, but also from artisans who provided idols for the worship of Diana, a temple goddess who was popular among the Ephesians. Paul's success in teaching about Jesus and turning people from idol worship had a negative influence on the business of the artisans. The uproar that followed was sufficient reason for Paul to decide to leave Ephesus and journey to Macedonia.
What are the most serious sources of opposition to the gospel today? Why doesn't the church today spend more time preaching and teaching in public forums away from the church building? Why does the preaching of the gospel not disturb more people today? Is it because the gospel is not heard or because the gospel is not perceived as a threat? How could the preaching of the gospel confront people more directly?
Heavenly Father, encourage us in times when we do not succeed, and help us not to be satisfied in times when success comes. Give us wisdom to know how to deal with opposition. Lift our eyes to see the possibilities for sharing the gospel beyond our traditional methods and places. We pray for your help in living by faith and proclaiming Jesus, in Jesus' name, Amen.