“You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess.”
Acts 19:37 (NIV UK)
How should we preach the gospel? An approach used often in debate is to diminish an opposing view in order to prove a point. Will it make our stance more credible if we can show something else is wrong?
It’s interesting that Paul did not do this in Ephesus. Should he bring down the goddess Artemis in order to exalt Jesus Christ? It was not what Paul did. Instead he “spoke boldly…arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God…and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of God” (Acts 19:8-10).
Artemis could have looked like an easy target to attack. Her cult involved many extreme and unusual superstitions. Her castrated priests were called “drones” and she was regarded as the queen bee. Today it all seems bizarre but in Paul’s time it was different. Many people had faith in the intervention of Artemis in their daily lives. The whole city of Ephesus revolved around her worship.
Paul chose to let the truth of the gospel dispel the error of the myth of Artemis. He preached Christ. He did not concentrate on attacking what could have been regarded as the opposition. The effect of his ministry was that “the Lord Jesus was held in high honour. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done…In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power” (19:17-20).
What happened next was that the craftsmen of Ephesus, especially the silversmiths who made coins and other items related to worshipping the goddess, began to lose income. Business was bad and they blamed Paul and his preaching of Jesus Christ. So they said that, because of Paul, Artemis would “be robbed of her divine majesty” (19:27). The city was in uproar and the crowds chanted, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (19:34). It was then that the city clerk pointed out, in Paul’s defense, that Paul had not maligned Artemis. He had not “blasphemed the goddess”.
Paul’s approach in this context is instructive for us. Let’s preach the gospel not by concentrating on attacking people or ideas, but by preaching Jesus alone and by setting an example of the believer both in deed and in word.
Help me to learn from Paul’s approach to preaching the gospel. In Jesus name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.wcg.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.