and when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “men of ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the ephesians is temple keeper of the great artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. for you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. if therefore demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. let them bring charges against one another. but if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. for we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” and when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly. [acts 19:35-41]
it’s easy to look at a passage like this and think, “this is not relevant to me,” or, “i can skip over this part because it’s not about God,” or “i can’t read anything seriously that comes out of a pagan’s mouth.” but we have to remember that this is God’s word. and 2 timothy 3:16 tells us that all scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. that means in these sentences we something about the nature or work of God, and the nature or work of man.
so what do we see about God?
- God is in control– if the Lord wants his word to go here or there, it will happen. if the Lord wants a crowd to quiet down, it will happen. if the Lord wants to protect people from harm at any given moment, it will happen. if the Lord wants his church to grow and thrive, it will happen. nothing can stand in the way of the will of God.
- God can use anyone or anything to do his will– we have here a pagan who is actually protecting the lives of paul and his companions, gaius and aristarchus, by quieting and dismissing the riotous assembly using logic and fear of punishment. God is not bound by hearts that do not know him. he is Lord over all.
- God’s grace often extends to unbelievers– we sometimes call this common grace. it is not grace that brings eternal salvation, but grace for the here and now in that it shows God’s glory even to those who reject him. a consistent rising of the sun is a common grace from which all benefit. shelter is a common grace from which believers and unbelievers alike benefit. the love of a family is enjoyed by God-fearers and pagans. the riot in ephesus was threatening to all who were involved, whether threatening danger or injury during the confusion, or threatening arrest and imprisonment or fines because of the commotion, God’s grace was extended to all through the dismissal of the crowd. God shows common grace to all. he shows his glory to all in many ways.
and what do we see about man?
- man actually longs for the character of God– because God is a God of order, he has put laws and governments in place for our benefit. [rom 13:1] because God is a God of order, he puts constraints on the descent into absolute anarchy in which sinful man would find himself by setting up these structures and organizations. we see here a clerk convincing thousands that a return to order will benefit them. and why do they see the truth in his logic? because God is a God of order and has created us for order. many of God’s attributes are written on the hearts of man. that’s why man often longs for the goodness of God’s character even when they reject God himself.
- man is subject to God’s sovereignty– demetrius and his fellow artisans were no match for God’s will. they could plot and scheme, they could rally a crowd, they could drag disciples into the theater, and they could stir up quite a commotion! they wanted power in numbers that would overthrow this new Way that had threatened their livelihood. but God is in control. of all people. of all the world. God is in control.
in what situation in your life are you currently struggling with one of these truths? maybe right now it doesn’t look like God is in control and you’ve been trying to control things yourself. maybe right now someone you think is undeserving is benefiting from God’s common grace and you’re struggling to forgive or offer grace. maybe it seems like someone you’ve been observing is outside of God’s sovereignty and you’ve given up on him moving in their life! hear these truths and look further into the word to confirm them. then believe! speak truth into the doubt and pray for the Lord to move in big ways!
Jesus, we believe, help our unbelief!
~ arwen eastman