Scripture Reading: Acts 19:1-17
Sermon Title: God’s Will Imposed on Ephesus
Sermon Text: Acts 19:18-27
I provide this manuscript as a courtesy. I do not follow the document word for word during the message. I also do not write the document with the intent of publication; there may be grammatical errors throughout. Unfortunately, there is not always time to proofread. I choose to use my available time for studying, finding ways to explain the truths of Scripture while keeping a balance of time for visiting and discipleship of people in the church. Thanks for understanding.
Today we begin our study of the book of Ephesians. The book of Ephesians starts with an explanation of God’s will. If we don’t understand God’s will, we will miss the main idea of the book of Ephesians. Therefore, we will be covering the topic of God’s will in depth over the upcoming weeks.
Today, right now, God is imposing His will upon humans and all of His creation. It is God’s prerogative to impose His will. He does not need to ask anybody for permission to exercise His will. He is the sovereign Creator, and He answers to no one. God imposing His will upon the earth is only a problem if God is a dictator or a tyrant. The good thing about God imposing His will upon creation is that His will and purpose is what creation needs. God’s will is the perfect solution for this broken world. God is good and loving.
The main idea of the message today is we need to know and recognize the will of God is being imposed upon the world. We will find our greatest joy and blessing in cooperating with God and not resisting His will. Therefore, in knowing and recognizing that the will of God is being carried out around us, we do ourselves a favor to seek to understand and be in cooperation with the almighty, all-powerful, sovereign Creator, who has our good in store.
The primary focus of God’s will is the supremacy of Christ in all things. In Ephesians, Paul phrases God’s will as the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. The supremacy of Christ is His glorification. Jesus prayed according to the will of God in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said to God, “I have glorified you on earth. Now, Father, glorify me!” (John 17:4-5). He ends His prayer asking the Father to allow us, those who are in Christ, to behold His glory (John 17:24).
Our salvation is very much a subset of God’s will in making much of Jesus Christ. We recognize Jesus alone can save us; He gets all the glory and praise. Jesus is Savior. We bend our knee to His commands and submit to Him as our Lord. The gospel is the proclamation of Jesus as Savior and Lord.
The first chapter of Ephesians is a description of the spiritual realm; what takes place spiritually in the life of the believer when God’s will is carried out in the Saints. Paul helps the believer understand what God is doing. It is the spiritual picture of God’s will.
The inner work of God in the spirit and soul of man is universally the same. We all claim the same blessings and work of spiritual regeneration. There is no such thing as a different salvation for a Jew, Gentile, slave, or free. God’s work of salvation in the life of the believer is universally uniform. The uniformity of God’s work establishes unity in the body of Christ. We share equally in the perfection and completeness of salvation. There is no partial saving work or varying levels of inheritance of the Kingdom.
Even though the working of God’s will is spiritually the same in every saint, every believer has a different salvation story. As we look through history, in different cultures, and in the lives of individuals, we witness adoption as children of God, the forgiveness of sins, redemption by the blood, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit manifests differently in the physical realm. Sometimes God uses armies and sometimes God uses babies to accomplish His will in the saving of a saint. Sometimes God uses earthquakes and tsunamis and sometimes God uses lions or fleas. The inner spiritual transformation is the same, but the events and circumstances of salvation are different and individually unique.
God’s will imposed in Ephesus
Let’s look at the story of the people of Ephesus. What happened when God adopted them as His children? What are the circumstances God orchestrated to bring about the spiritual transformation of His saints? As God works His will, we will see how people both resist and respond to God’s will. In other words, as God is imposing His will on His saints by pouring out spiritual blessings from heaven, blessings such as forgiveness of sins, redemption, adoption, and sanctification, we can read about what that looked like historically. We can also read about God imposing His will to bring about the supremacy of Christ in all things and see what events and circumstances God used to make that happen.
The first sentence of the letter to the Ephesians reads, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” God willed for Paul to be an apostle and Saul became Paul and Paul became an Apostle. God willed for Paul to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. God willed for Paul to plant churches in the vast Roman Empire. God willed for Paul to be a vessel; God’s hands, feet, and mouthpiece, to proclaim salvation and the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things. Paul is a central figure in the book of Acts.
The best way to understand the book of Acts is to read it as a historical narrative of God accomplishing His will as He establishes the Church in the early first century. The formal name for the book in the Bible we commonly refer to as Acts is, “The Acts of the Apostles.” So, if the apostles are apostles by the will of God and if the apostles are doing God’s will, the letter may also be called, “The Acts of God’s Will.”
Let’s then become observers of God imposing His will to save believers, establish His church, and to magnify the name of Christ as the Apostle Paul walks into the city of Ephesus. In the 19th chapter of Acts, we have in Luke’s narrative an entire chapter devoted to the work of God in the city of Ephesus.
As we watch the Holy Spirit of God move in the city, leet’s imagine what the city is like during the time of the Apostle Paul. The city is an important port located on the west coast of Asia. Like many cities in the vast Roman Empire,i Ephesus has many bath houses and is very modern. The city boasts multiple gymnasiums, marketplaces, and even a 20,000 seat stadium.
The temple of Artemis is a prominent feature in the city. The temple is to Ephesus what the Arch is to St. Louis. It is a massive structure with 127, 40’ tall, marble columns. Our church building is 40’ tall. Imagine marble columns quarried, sculpted, and assembled to that height supporting a roof and all of it is constructed by hand. It is no wonder the temple is one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
You will find in many of the English translations the word Artemis in the Greek translates Diana in English. Diana is considered the less precise name of the Temple.
The temple is more than a structure. It is an important part of life in Ephesus. Artemis is Apollo’s twin sister and daughter of Greek God’s Zeus. The temple of Artemis is the center of religion and political life. The Festival of Artemis celebrated the goddess with games, contests and theatrical performances held in her name. The festival is an important economic event because it brings in many people to the city. As a citizen of Ephesus, Artemis belonged to the city. The citizens of Ephesus safeguard and worship her. There are other statues and temples of Artemis in the Roman Empire, but the Ephesians resented other people claiming Artemis as belonging to anybody but the Ephesians. One could almost say Artemis and Ephesus were synonymous with one another.
As Gentiles and ordinary citizens of the ancient world, we might look upon Ephesus and marvel. It is a great city with a great culture. The people are well-educated, the market is strong, and there is a great celebration of spirituality. We may find Ephesus to be a truly wonderful place.
Our view of Ephesus, however, as often is the case, is not God’s view. The Creator God of the Universe has plans for His saints in Ephesus and those plans do not include worshipping Artemis. The Lord God Almighty intends to save His children from worshipping false gods. God says Ephesus is a city that will worship My Son. God’s will is to open the eyes of His saints, so they see the glory of Jesus Christ and with their lips they will magnify His name and He becomes their treasure and the center of their lives.
God’s Sends Paul to Ephesus
We read from Acts 19 during the time of Scripture reading. In those beginning verses of the chapter, we read about how God imposes His will upon the people of Ephesus. We read of how God first leads the Apostle Paul and his ministry companions to the city. Paul preaches Christ and the Holy Spirit falls upon believers God’s elect. Soon, a thriving church is formed. The church began in the synagogue, and the Apostle Paul moves it from the synagogue, because the hardness of hearts of the Jews, to another venue, the school of Tyrannus. For two years Paul teaches about salvation in Christ alone and the church grows. God imposes His will, and Christ becomes famous in Ephesus.
Part of making Christ famous in Ephesus is God’s working of great miracles in Jesus’ name. In the time of the early church, Apostolic ministry is accompanied by signs and wonders. The miracles authenticate Paul’s apostleship and the message of the gospel.
The working of miracles captures people’s attention. It catches the attention of seven sons of a Jewish chief priest. They hear how the name of Jesus has power, and they try their hand at casting out demons. It is humorous to read what happens. As they seek to cast out the evil spirit, the evil spirit says, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” The evil spirit takes control of the man, and the possessed man leaps upon the seven sons, subdues and overpowers them, and they end up fleeing for their lives out of the house naked and wounded. Imagine the talk around town of that event.
Why did God do this? God imposed His will. He did not allow the name of Jesus to be used by charlatans. The next verse in Acts 17 tells us, “This became known to all, both Jews and Greeks, who lived in Ephesus; and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified.” God’s intended purpose takes place. God used the seven sons to accomplish His will of glorifying Jesus Christ.
God changes His people
God imposes His will and magnifies the name of Jesus. Jesus becomes the treasure people seek. When God magnifies the name of Jesus; amazing things take place in the life of the believers. Let’s continue looking at Acts 19. Begin reading with me from verse 18:
18Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. 19And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone, and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
As the word of the Lord grows, and as Jesus is glorified, the Holy Spirit moves in God’s people. God imposes His will on the believers and convicts them of sin. They confess their sins to one another. The people of Ephesus were very much into magic. Magic relies upon supernatural spirits who are not under Christ’s authority. God’s will is His people put their trust in Christ and not magic. God will notm allow His people to practice magic when filled with His Holy Spirit. The believers went home, gathered their books on the occult, brought them together and burned them. The value of the books calculates to 50,000 pieces of silver.
Think about the value of the books destroyed. One piece of silver is a day’s wage. 50,000 days of work turns out to be 160 years of work for one person. At today’s average income ($50,000 annual salary) the value of the books burned exceeds $8,000,000.
God imposes His will, and the things of this world lose their value. Books valuing 50,000 pieces of silver are of no value compared to the riches of Jesus Christ. After gazing upon the glory of Jesus, nothing else satisfies!
God Replaces Artemis with Christ
God is not finished and continues to impose His will upon the city of Ephesus. God confronts head-on the most significant treasure of the city of Ephesus. Listen to what happened as God continues to magnify Christ and save souls. Let’s continue reading beginning at verse 23:
23 About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen; 25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. 26 You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all. 27 Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence.” 28And when they heard this and were filled with rage, they began crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:23-28)
God raised up so many Christians in Ephesus that it caused an economic hardship on those who made idols. Look what they say, because of Paul almost all of Asia is now turned away from idols made with human hands. They lose business because people no longer put their hope in false gods but are giving glory to Jesus Christ. He is their object of worship. He is the centerpiece of the home. Enough people are turning away from idols that it disrupts the idol manufacturing business.
But not everybody in Ephesus worships Christ. Some people resist God’s will. They become angry and filled with rage. They desire to worship Artemis of the Ephesians and not Jesus. Their cry of worship for Artemis is short-lived. There is a day they will bend their knee to Jesus. Every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord. Unfortunately, for some, they will declare Jesus as Lord at the final judgment, and it will be too late. They will declare Jesus as Lord as they are cast into the lake of fire.
As we read the rest of the chapter, we see that eventually, the town clerk brings order to the chaos, He tells Demetrius and the other craftsman to stop rioting and bring their matter to the lawful assembly of the courts.
Shortly after the riot, Paul left Ephesus and departed for Macedonia and Greece. Paul may have left, but he left behind a church filled with Jesus Christ-magnifying, and Holy-Spirit filled believers.
The Ephesians were dead in their trespasses and sins and walked according to the world, according to the prince of darkness, and according to the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience. The Ephesians once lived according to the lusts of their flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and mind, and were by nature children of wrath. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love imposed His will upon the saints. God adopted them as children and loved them as His own. They were people dead in their sins, and God imposed His will to make them alive in Christ.
God imposed His will and glorified His Son in the city of Ephesus.
How does this affect us today?
MAIN IDEA: Know and recognize the will of God is being imposed upon the world.
We will learn a great deal more about God’s will as we study the book of Ephesians. What might we learn though from what we have looked at this morning? Here are six observations for us to know and apply in our everyday life.
1) God always has and forever will be imposing His will
God began setting out to accomplish His will when He created the universe. The letter to the Colossians tells us “by Jesus Christ all things were created, things in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” God’s will from the beginning of time is the supremacy of Christ in all things. It was true at the time the Apostle Paul was in Ephesus. It is true today. It will be true in heaven eternally.
All of the Universe will recognize the supremacy of Christ and that He completely satisfies. God is always imposing His will.
2) The gospel is the proclamation of God’s will
God desired to impose His will upon the people of Ephesus, so God sent Paul. Scripture is very clear God accomplishes His will through the proclamation of the gospel. Ephesians 3:6 says we are fellow partakers of the promises in Christ Jesus through the gospel. There is no other way to hear of the supremacy Christ in all things except through the proclamation of the gospel. When we are magnifying Jesus Christ and proclaiming the unfathomable riches of Christ to people, we are at the center of God’s will. God raises up and builds His church through the proclamation of the gospel. The church participates in accomplishing God’s will when we proclaim Christ to the world around us.
3) There is resistance to God’s will
In Acts 19, we read of a riot. The riot is a byproduct of God imposing His will. The riot is not an unusual outcome. The Apostle Paul saw his share of riots. Throughout the entirety of his life, he lived under the threat of death because of resistance to the will of God.
People don’t always enjoy God imposing His will. People hate the name of Christ. His name is a curse word, and they blaspheme Jesus in our culture. When we read of how the saints proclaim the gospel in the book of Acts, we find descriptions of how people are hard-hearted and hate salvation in Christ. Jesus warned his followers that the world would hate them for His name’s sake. (Matthew 10:16-33)
There is a cost to following Christ and seeking to fulfill the will of God. Don’t enter into the task without counting the cost. But, don’t just count the cost, also consider the reward. The gain of Christ is to have our soul satisfied richly, completely, and thoroughly. We lose our life on earth, so we may gain our life with Christ. We give up our life of wood, hay, and stubble to gain a life of gold, silver, and precious gems. Those who are in Christ experience joy and pleasure always and forevermore.
Live knowing much of the turmoil we see around us is resistance to God imposing His will upon mankind.
4) God will tear down the false gods
God will not stand idly by as false gods and prideful men take the rightful place of Jesus Christ. God will destroy all of the world's idols. In doing this, God is not concerned about the economic well-being of the city or the value of our book collection. The ultimate destiny of these things is the lake of fire.
If our eyes are looking at false gods, we will not see the glory of Jesus Christ. We cannot look upon and desire the things of this world, such as pornography, material riches, and fame, and expect the eyes of our heart to see and enjoy Jesus. Therefore, God will remove from us those things which keep us from enjoying Jesus.
God will tear down the false gods and will glorify His Son.
5) The manifestation of the will of God takes on many forms.
We may not always recognize how God imposes His will. Would we have thought God having the seven brothers trying to cast out a demon in Jesus’ name would result in the entire city of Ephesus having a fear of the name of the Lord Jesus? Could we have guessed the same event would lead to all the believers emptying their homes of their books on the occult?
God works in mysterious ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. We need to look at circumstances and events with the lens of Scripture. God is working all things for good because God is accomplishing His will.
Since we do not understand all of God’s ways, the Scripture warns us about grumbling and complaining. We need to trust God in every circumstance. Trials are for our good. When life events take place around us, both good and bad, we need to be in communication with the Lord and ask Him to show us how He is using all things for the supremacy of Christ. We may not understand every event or circumstance, but we do need to trust God. Nothing escapes His notice, and nothing is outside of His sovereign control. We need to trust God because God is good.
6) God will change His people
As God imposes His will, He does so in areas of our life we may not expect. God desires every area of our life to be in submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. God desires for our entertainment, shopping habits, work ethic, and everything that takes place in our homes to be subject to the authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus is to be our joy and our desire. Creation is for Jesus; which means it is created to bring us to Jesus so we may enjoy Him.
Sometimes the effect of change God imposes on people is dramatic. He led the believers in Ephesus to burn magic books valued over 50,000 pieces of silver. Sometimes God’s work is much less dramatic. He may urge us to change the television channel or the radio station. There may be a young man who quietly installs Covenant Eyes on His computer. There may be a mother who decides to spend less time online and more time with her children. God is working to change His people loudly, quietly, in huge ways, and in subtle ways.
Paul’s opening paragraph in Ephesians declares God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, so wme will stand before His throne as people who are holy and blameless. God is working now toward that end. He is using our spouse, our children, other people, and events and circumstances in the world to bring us to that place of holiness. It is an inevitable and foregone conclusion we are changing, and we will one day experience complete change.
We may rejoice in God imposing His will upon creation. We are a broken people living in a fallen world. God is a loving, compassionate Father whose will is for our good. When we are in heaven, we will praise God for accomplishing His will. We will be showering God with thanksgiving for not keeping us as orphans and for imposing His will upon our life.
Until the day we see the complete glory of Christ, we continue to pray as our Savior taught us, “Our Father, who is in Heaven, Holy is Your name. Thy Kingdom come and Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”
We serve an almighty God!