Thursday, February 21, 2013

Regarded As Nothing (part 2 of 2)

There were those in the synagogue in Ephesus who, as usual, rejected Paul’s preaching of “the Way” (19:9), so eventually Paul left the synagogue and took up his teaching “every day in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.  This went on for two years, so that all who lived in the province of Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the Word of the Lord” (19:9b-10).  Again, this Word of the Lord, as can be construed from the record of Paul’s preaching (as provided by Acts) and from his writing, would have been that Jesus is Lord.  That was the message of the Gospel, and that alone, as it seems according to Paul’s thinking, represents the message that would grow in power and prevail.  If one desires consistency with the text of the New Testament, there would need to be some level of agreement that there is no other message that could be described in such a way.    

Due to the apparent effectiveness of the preaching of the message of the Gospel, as it grew in power and prevailed, the previously mentioned Demetrius’ business was most likely suffering.  So he called a meeting of the craftsmen, “along with the workmen in similar trades, and said, ‘Men, you know that our prosperity comes from this business.  And you see and hear that this Paul has persuaded and turned away a large crowd, not only in Ephesus but in practically all of the province of Asia, by saying that gods made by hands are not gods at all” (19:25b-26).  This is where one comes upon his statement that “There is danger not only that this business of ours will come into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be regarded as nothing” (19:27a).  He concludes his statement with “and she whom all the province of Asia and the world worship will suffer the loss of her greatness” (19:27b).

In that day, this temple, which was considered to be one of the wonders of the ancient world, had been in place for over five-hundred years.  As a significant place of worship, it drew thousands of pilgrims from all over the world.  It seems that the devotees of Artemis, as the goddess of Ephesus (whose temple was the source of much wealth and influence), could quickly fill a fifty-thousand seat theater, and when prodded, gladly shout “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (19:34b) for two solid hours.  Nevertheless, the tireless preaching of the Gospel, of the foolish and confounding message of a crucified man that had been raised from the dead by the Creator God of Israel, was believed to be a threat to the temple and its goddess, with that threat thought to be able to reach the point that both would be “regarded as nothing,” and that the world would suffer the loss of her (Artemis) greatness. 

Surely, that speaks directly to the inherent, transformative, and world-shaping power of the preaching of the message of Jesus.  There is no message besides the message of Jesus Christ crucified and raised that has such power.  It is this message that goes forth by the Holy Spirit and transforms hearts and minds.  It is the message that Paul preached.  It was the message that Jesus’ disciples took into the world.  It is the message, supreme above anything else that could ever be preached or taught, that the devotees of the Jesus cult should be carrying into this world on a daily basis.  All other messages are secondary, and if the secondary message is not rooted in the Gospel proclamation (Jesus is Lord of all) and appended with the message of the cross and an empty tomb, then, at least according to the example of the Apostle, it may be considered to be rather frivolous.        

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