Sunday, February 19, 2012

[Matt's Messages] "The Danger of Christianity"

“The Danger of Christianity”
From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania: The Book of Acts
February 19, 2012
Acts 19:23-20:38

We’re back to the story of Acts. The Acts of the Apostles. The Acts of the Holy Spirit. From Jerusalem to Pennsylvania.

And we’ve reached which one of Paul’s missionary journeys?

What journey are we on? [The third missionary journey.] How many are there, do you know?

Really there are just 3 major missionary journeys of Paul in the book of Acts.

And we’re almost at the end of this one. After this he goes to Jerusalem and then to Rome, and there the book ends.

So, we’re on the third missionary journey and Paul is in what major city in the Roman province of Asia?  Anybody remember?


The apostle Paul has had a phenomenal ministry in the city of Ephesus. He’s been there over two years!  Preaching, teaching, lecturing, discipling, church planting, writing epistles and even seeing some major miracles happen.

For example, miraculous healings.

And even more amazing, completely transformed lives.

When we ended last week, we read about new believers who burned their old ways of life: scrolls, socercry, and so on, worth fifty thousand days wages.

Demonstrations of true transformation and real repentance.

And that change in people’s lives began to make other people nervous.

The leaders of the city, especially those who made and sold idols, began to feel like their world was in danger.

“The Danger of Christianity.”

That’s our title for today, “The Danger of Christianity.”

And if that sounds like a funny title to us, then we don’t know much about Christianity.

Because, as we’re going to see today, Christianity is dangerous, both for those in it and those not in it.

The Danger of Christianity.

Acts chapter 19, verse 23.

“About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way [an early name for Christianity]. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: ‘Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all.” [And here comes our word.]

“There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.’

Let’s stop there for a second.

This is going to be our first point.


That’s how it sure seemed to Demetrius!

Demetrius is a silversmith by trade who made (v.24) “sliver shrines of Artemis.”

Artemis also known as Dianna is the goddess of Ephesus. That’s the hometown goddess.

The temple of Artemis, get this, was located in Ephesus and was four times the size of the Parthenon. It had pillars 60 feet high and was bigger than a football field. It was the largest building in the Greek world, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. (Bock, pg. 608.)

This town loved its Artemis.

And one of the reasons why was because of tourism and religious trade.

V.25 again, “[Demetrius] called [the city craftsmen together] and said, ‘Men, you know we receive a good income from this business.”

What’s it about?

Money, money, money.

And Christianity has come and is threatening (danger) their way of life.  V.26

“And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all.”

Can you see Paul saying that?

You bet.

‘Cause it’s true.

Man-made gods are no gods at all.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t want them to be.
That doesn’t mean that they don’t have a power over us.
That doesn’t mean that human beings wouldn’t rather have them than the true God.

Christianity is dangerous to the world.

It says, “man-made gods are no gods at all.”

The Emperor has no clothes.

“People are beginning to believe this stuff. All over Ephesus. All over Asia.”

And here’s the danger. V.27

“There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.’”

Isn’t it interesting when people get to defending their idols that their gods often can’t defend themselves?

Gotta protect Artemis. She might be robbed of her divine majesty.

Some god she is, if she has to be protected.

But Demetrius’ warning catches fire with these men. V.28

“When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater.”

According to history, the Ephesian amphitheater, eventually came to have a capacity of 24,000 people. So the whole city really could come for this riot and see what has happening.

Right now, it looks like Paul’s team are the ones in danger.  V.30

“Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.”

Isn’t that so much like a riot?

Can you see this in your head?

Teeming thousands of people in a loud, confusing demonstration/riot?

“The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’”

“Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Two hours!

Isn’t it interesting when people feel threatened, often they yell louder and longer.

Methinks they do protest too much.

Is Artemis so great if you have to riot to protect her glorious majesty?

Is sex so great if you do?
Is sports so great if you do?
Is money so great if you need to drown out all of its rivals?
How about success, popularity, respectability, status, pleasure, fame?

All those things are in danger if Christianity is true.

Who do you see yelling in our culture or in our community or in your own life, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Eventually, Paul would write back to this church in 1 Timothy, “Great is the mystery of godliness.”  1 Timothy 3:16.  In other words, “Great is the gospel of Jesus Christ!” That’s what’s great.

And it’s worth yelling about, but you don’t have to do it to protect Jesus. He can take care of Himself.

Now, it’s interesting to me that this uproar gets broken up not by a miracle but by a level-headed civil servant called here “the city clerk” which is kind of like the major of Ephesus. V.35

“The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: ‘Men of Ephesus, doesn't all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to be quiet and not do anything rash.You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today's events. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.’ After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.”

Can’t you just see the wind go out of the crowd?

Everyone kind of hangs their heads and goes home.

Nothing to see here. Move along. Go home.

Here’s the point I think that Luke is trying make here by including this story.


Now, what do I mean by that.

Of course, true Christianity changes things. It shakes things up. The status quo can’t  stay quo.

But Luke has been going to great pains to show that the riot is not Paul’s fault.

The trouble Paul keeps getting into is not because Paul is a trouble-maker.

He’s just bringing the gospel.

The gospel brings a kind of danger, but it is not the kind of danger that threatens the government.

It’s a both/and sort of thing, of course. Yes, there is a danger that Christianity will infect your people and change your culture.

But it does it by changing lives not by sticking gun in your face.

Not true Christianity.

Christianity is not dangerous to the world, in that sense.

Luke is telling Theophilus not to worry that even though riots happen everywhere Paul goes, it’s the Jews fault and the Greeks fault not the gospel’s fault.

The gospel means peace.

And the city clerk says, “We are in danger of being charged with rioting because of today’s events.” And not because of Paul, but Demetrius and his cronies.

And that day, a level head won.

Now let me ask this question:

Are we being dangerous enough?

Not the second kind. I believe there are people called Christians who give Christianity a bad name. Violence in the name of Jesus.

I don’t see that here at Lanse Free Church.

But I think we should be periodically asking ourselves the question, “How come nobody is nervous about us?”

Or maybe they are.  Maybe there are people who feel threatened by the true Christianity they see in our lives.

But I wonder if we’re living it out enough to get people nervous.

Now, I don’t want nervous people. That’s not the point. But I am saying that if we’re living out our commitment to the gospel in the right way, then it should seem a bit dangerous to people.

Here’s a little one. The folks on our Serbia Missions Team, some of them, are giving up their vacations to serve.

I could see somebody saying, “Well, you only get one week of vacation. Why are you planning to give away? What’s wrong with you? If you become a Christian, do you have to do that sort of thing? Could that be worth it?”

Do you see what I mean?

Are we being dangerous enough?

Or do people look at our Christianity and yawn?


That one’s been more obvious as we’ve been reading Acts. Look at chapter 20, verse 1.

“When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia.”

Now, he didn’t leave just because there was trouble. We saw in the middle of chapter 19 that this was his plan already and he’d sent an advanced team ahead of him.

Paul is set on visiting all of the churches that he had already established and then heading to Jerusalem. V.2

“He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months. Because the Jews made a plot against him just as he was about to sail for Syria, he decided to go back through Macedonia.”

Now, just stop there for a second and let’s see this.

Here’s a guy who visits people and encourages them and then the Jews plot against him, I assume, to take his life.

Many scholars believe that what happened here was that Paul was going to get on a boat headed back towards Israel as the feast of Passover was approaching. And who would be on that boat?  Jewish Pilgrims, of course.

And what if they planned that enough Jews hostile to Paul were on that boat with him?

Man overboard.

Paul figures this out (or the Holy Spirit tells him or however it happened) and he decides to head north to go south.

Christians are in danger from the world.

Somewhere during this phase of Paul’s life, he wrote 2 Corinthians. It was probably before he made it to Greece on this swing.

And he said in chapter 11, “I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”

Danger, danger, danger, danger.

And that’s normal.

That’s the normal Christian life in this world.

So many of our brothers and sister in Christ all over the world are in danger today.

We who live in a relatively safe place here in America need to not forget that.

Paul said, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble.”

Christians are in danger.

That’s why we need to stick together. V.4

“He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Berea, Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, Gaius from Derbe, Timothy also, and Tychicus and Trophimus from the province of Asia. These men went on ahead and waited for us at Troas.”

Notice the “us” there in verse 5?  Luke is back on the team, as well.

Christianity is dangerous, so we need to make it team sport.

Are trying to do Christianity alone or in community?  V.6

“But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days.”

And this is a fun little story. What happened at Troas. Verse 7.

“On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.  There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead.
 10 Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. ‘Don't be alarmed,’ he said. ‘He's alive!’ Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left.The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.”

This story illustrates the danger in Christianity of long sermons!

Just kidding that wasn’t point #4.

It does illustrate the power of the Lord and the importance placed upon Christian teaching.

Paul is on his way and he can’t stop himself from teaching until midnight.

And they kept listening except this poor lad who couldn’t keep awake.

But the word of God is so important.

And that’s part of Paul’s message to the Ephesian elders. Verse 13.

“We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Kios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.”

There are about 6 weeks until Pentecost, and Paul knows that if he stops in Ephesus, he’ll want to stay and stay and stay. So, he calls for the elders to give his farewell messages to them to meet him at Miletus. V.17

“From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said to them: ‘You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia. I served the Lord with great humility and with tears, although I was severely tested by the plots of the Jews.  You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house.  I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. ‘And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.’”

You can just feel the finality of this message. The weight of it.

He is reminding them of his example and his ministry.

He’s saying goodbye.

And he doesn’t know what to expect except for danger.  V.23 again,

“I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.”


“I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.”

But there is another danger. A danger, not just from the world without but from within, even with in the church. V.25

‘Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. [He’s taught them everything that God wants them to know and to believe and to live out. Now, v.28,] Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”


Paul says that “even from your among you” savage wolves will ravage the flock.

The biggest dangers to Christianity aren’t from the outside but from the inside.

They come from false teachers who want to deceive believers and draw them away.

Cody and I got to go to the Allegheny District Stay Sharp Conference this week.

And the topic discussed with 50 or 60 church leaders was the doctrine of eternal destiny, especially the doctrine of Hell.

There are many people who call themselves Christians who are teaching that Hell is not real.

That there is no eternal judgment.

That there is no punishment coming for sin.

That we are not so bad and that God is not so mad.

Would I like to believe that?  Sure.

But that’s not what the Bible says.

And if you creep into believing it and teaching it you are in danger and a danger to the church.

I’m so thankful to belong to a family churches that values theology enough keep its leaders sharp.

Because the truth of the word of God is the only rescue from that kind of danger. Verse 32.

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”


That’s all that Paul could do now to protect them.

He had taught them the truth, and he leaves them with the truth.

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone's silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'’ When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.”

A prayer, some final words and committing them to the God and His word of grace.

Because that’s what can protect us from the danger of false teaching.

Are you in the Word of God?

There is danger if you neglect this word.

Open it.
Read it.
Memorize it.
Study it.
Feed yourself on it.
Bleed it!
Live it out. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Protect yourself by the word of God.

I will do my best to protect you by this word.

I will (v.28) keep watch over myself and this flock which the Holy Spirit has mad em an overseer. God cares about this flock. He bought it with his own blood.

I will be on my guard for you with truth.

Because that’s the only way to be safe in this dangerous world.  God and His Word.

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