Immanent Idolatry (Acts 19:21-20:16)
Purposeful Planning (19:21-22)
Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem and later to Rome, where he was eager to preach Christ (Rom 1:14). This passing comment by Luke reveals the gospel-driven, Christ-honoring desires of the Apostle’s heart. Still, Paul’s plans were modified as soon as they were proposed (19:23ff). We must plan with purpose; we cannot live a life of random choices. On the other hand, we do not have control of our tomorrows. Genuine confidence in God’s leading in our lives is not the same as absolute certainty that things will play out according to our plans.
Disturbing Demetrius (19:23-27)
Christianity in Ephesus was affecting the entirety of the culture as each aspect of the new converts’ lives was being affected by the gospel. In our day, while there is a renewed interest and focus on the culture being altered for good, unfortunately, much of it is without the necessary emphasis on the heart change in the lives of individuals as the foundation of that change. The change that was taking place hit Demetrius where it hurts: his wallet. As people continued to turn to Christ to worship the true and living God, they were abandoning the foolish worship of idols made with hands.
Crying Confusion and the Quieting Clerk (19:28-34)
In response to Demetrius, the people were outraged and the city was filled with confusion. They cried out in defense of “Artemis of the Ephesians” and took Gaius and Aristarchus by force. When Paul wanted to go in to the crowd to help them, the “Asiarchs who were friends” of Paul urged him not to. These men were not Christians, but admired and respected Paul, showing Paul’s own qualification according to the letter he wrote to Timothy, that elders of the church have a good reputation with those outside the church (1 Tim 3:7). Eventually, addressing and calming the crowd, a level-headed town clerk is able to dismiss the chaotic assembly.
Setting Sail (20:1-6)
Paul makes plans, but those plans fall within the context of his trust in God. Doors open, and doors close, but God never leaves or forsakes, no matter where or how His path leads. Paul continues to move along according to God’s providential leading, and heads toward Macedonia and Greece after exhorting and encouraging the believers in Ephesus. Paul’s travel companions (v4) demonstrate the diversity and unity of the fellowship among Christians. They were people from the different places Paul had traveled who had chosen to make loyalty to Christ and His people primary.
Sabbath Service (20:7-12)
The church gathered together on the first day of the week. Public worship is the centerpiece for the Christian’s keeping of the Lord’s Day. Though they were disciples already, it was necessary they should have the word of God preached to them, in order to increase in knowledge and grace. The primacy of preaching is made clear as Luke records the events of that Lord’s Day, mentioning repeatedly that Paul “talked” to the people (vv7,9,11). As Paul talked for a long time into the night, Eutychus was overcome with tiredness and fell from the window. It’s understandable that Eutychus would be tired—it’s late at night, the lamp oil in the room would contribute to it, the sermon was long. What we should note, however, is that even though Eutychus was tired and could have otherwise been resting, he chose instead to make the effort to sit under the preaching of God’s Word.
Paul Presses On (20:13-16)
Paul continues to move on, making his way toward Jerusalem. Commitment to the Gospel drives Paul to always be about the Lord’s work. Paul was a man of vast designs for God, and was intent on diffusing his influences as widely as possible.
Idolatry was pervasive in Ephesus. In fact, it was so much a part of the culture that when people began to turn from idolatry to Christ, the commerce of the city was threatened. Idolatry was not only a threat in this First Century city, but remains a threat to our own hearts today. What are the idols that keep creeping back into your life? What are those areas of your life that you give an inordinate amount of time, effort, thought and resources to? What relationship does the gospel have to idolatry?