Bridge: The Compulsion of the Spirit and Paul’s Response
Afterward Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem. “And after that,” he said, “I must go on to Rome!” He sent his two assistants, Timothy and Erastus, ahead to Macedonia while he stayed awhile longer in the province of Asia.Acts 19:21-22
Serious Trouble in Ephesus
About that time, serious trouble developed in Ephesus concerning the Way. It began with Demetrius, a silversmith who had a large business manufacturing silver shrines of the Greek goddess Artemis. He kept many craftsmen busy. He called them together, along with others employed in similar trades, and addressed them as follows: “Gentlemen, you know that our wealth comes from this business. But as you have seen and heard, this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all. And he’s done this not only here in Ephesus but throughout the entire province! Of course, I’m not just talking about the loss of public respect for our business. I’m also concerned that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will lose its influence and that Artemis—this magnificent goddess worshiped throughout the province of Asia and all around the world—will be robbed of her great prestige!”
At this their anger boiled, and they began shouting, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia. Paul wanted to go in, too, but the believers wouldn’t let him. Some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, also sent a message to him, begging him not to risk his life by entering the amphitheater. Inside, the people were all shouting, some one thing and some another. Everything was in confusion. In fact, most of them didn’t even know why they were there. The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander forward and told him to explain the situation. He motioned for silence and tried to speak. But when the crowd realized he was a Jew, they started shouting again and kept it up for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
At last the mayor was able to quiet them down enough to speak. “Citizens of Ephesus,” he said. “Everyone knows that Ephesus is the official guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, whose image fell down to us from heaven. Since this is an undeniable fact, you should stay calm and not do anything rash. You have brought these men here, but they have stolen nothing from the temple and have not spoken against our goddess. “If Demetrius and the craftsmen have a case against them, the courts are in session and the officials can hear the case at once. Let them make formal charges. And if there are complaints about other matters, they can be settled in a legal assembly. I am afraid we are in danger of being charged with rioting by the Roman government, since there is no cause for all this commotion. And if Rome demands an explanation, we won’t know what to say.”
Then he dismissed them, and they dispersed.Acts 19:23-41
It’s interesting isn’t it that even though things were going well and many in Ephesus were becoming believers, surprisingly even among Paul’s own people, the Jews, the Holy Spirit moved Paul on. I am sure there were two reasons. One was because of the upcoming riot in Ephesus. The Holy Spirit moved Paul on in order to protect him from that. The other reason is that the gospel must be taken to other regions as well. Two of you have written to me and asked help in your confusion to know if Paul was in Ephesus or was he out of Ephesus at the time of the riot. (“Maybe he was still there but just didn’t go into the centre of the city? A little like you and Tania, Ian – when there was trouble in Jakarta and you just laid low.” We will get to that when we start to pick this section apart.)
It is interesting that Paul has spent two years in Ephesus, speaking in the synagogue and lecturing in the Hall of Tyrannus and numbers of people became believers – both Jews and non-Jews. Wouldn’t you think that Paul would stay there in Ephesus? After all Paul’s letter to the saints in Ephesus is a friendly one, filled with good teaching, without the dramas of some other letters. Also note the comments made by John in the Revelation of Jesus to him concerning the church at Ephesus – Rev 2:1-7. Again the only church where rebuke is not present. Seemingly things were going well in Ephesus. So why leave? Simple really – it was not up to Paul. Acts 19:21 gives us the answer. Paul felt compelled to move by the Holy Spirit. There are times when things are going well and there are times when storm clouds are looming. It is not the appearance of good times or bad times that make us stay or go. It’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit within as to what we ought to do. Sometimes in Paul’s life he had to stay on and face the opposition. Other times when things were going well he moved on. It is all about sensing what the Spirit is saying to the apostle or to the church.
Have a careful look at these 21 verses and see what the Spirit might say to you regarding Luke’s account of Paul’s journeyings or what the Holy Spirit might be saying to you personally. I am sure you realize it can happen both ways – that you gain insight into the things written related to Paul or that you gain understanding related to your own personal situation. God speaks to you in both ways.
- Take time now to settle into this passage and suck the sweetness out of it.
- But Ian how can I suck the sweetness out of a passage related to a riot?
- You might be surprised.
Take note also that Acts 19:21 is a summary statement of the rest of the book of Acts. I.e. Paul going to Macedonia and Achaia, then to Jerusalem and “after that, I must go on to Rome.” There in one verse we have a summary of the rest of the Book of Acts, brought under the compulsion of the Holy Spirit. Now you have to admit that is interesting! The long-term plan has been laid out before Paul. There have been times in Tania’s and my life when God has laid the long-term plan before us. But it doesn’t happen much. The normal process is for us to walk to the point where the headlights show the way ahead before we see illumination on the darkness that lies beyond the path that has been lit. The first step is to walk or drive to the point where your path is lit for now. Let God worry about the events that lie beyond the lit path.
But rest assured too that God doesn’t worry. Why would He when He knows the end from the beginning?
Take time now to settle into this passage. Follow up the promptings you feel, pursue the directions that open up for you and ask the questions you need to ask.
We don’t know it all, but we know enough.Bethany Wake
Because of her faith in God the impossible became possible for Bethany.Lyn Wake
Nestle not wrestle – snuggle not struggle.Bethany & Lyn Wake
Allow Him to bring rest and peace into the core of your soul when the unthinkable happens. (MSG)Matthew 11:20-30
When your gifts, talents and abilities meet the need of people there lies your purpose.Jeffrey Rachmat
Live as though there is no tomorrow and love extravagantly.Lyn Wake
I am currently reading Bethany’s story in Wycliffe friends, Lynda & David Wake’s book “Heartbreakingly Beautiful”. It contains deep insights to life as result of the journey they went through with Bethany’s death due to brain cancer over a year.