Bible Reading Acts 19:23-41
Paul’s Ministry in Ephesus
Paul arrived in Ephesus around 52 A.D. and wasted no time in starting his ministry. He baptized the disciples there in Jesus’ name and they received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Paul argued persuasively and taught people about the ‘Way’ in their synagogues.
God did extraordinary miracles through Paul to the extent that the handkerchiefs that had touched him were taken to heal the sick and drive out demons. The sorcerers of the city burnt their scrolls in public and turned from their evil ways. The Church in Ephesus grew in power in the three years he was there.
Riot in Ephesus
The revival in Ephesus did not sit well with the silversmiths in the region. Demetrius gathered his fellow craftsmen and started a riot in Ephesus. The ‘Way’ had created a huge crater in their business. Playing with the people’s sentiments towards traditions and rituals, the idol makers of Ephesus created an uproar among the people.
The Ephesians had forgotten the teachings of Paul about the ‘Way’ and the miracles he performed amongst them. All the progress they made in the past three years was nullified because of the Ephesians’ fear of moving away from their traditions. There would have been some silversmiths who would have been followers of the ‘Way’ but the fear of their livelihood resulted in them holding on to their idols of Artemis. It was the city clerk who made them realize that there had been no acts of blasphemy against their gods nor were the silver idols stolen from their shrines.
The Ephesians realized that the uproar was baseless and returned to their homes. This incident shows us the reluctance of the new churches to move away from their traditions for what they called a foreign God. Similar resistance was faced by the disciples in Antioch (Acts 13:44-51) and Thessalonica (Acts 16:16-24). Wherever people started accepting the ‘Way’ there was always a small group reminding them of their traditions and pulling them back into darkness.
Pharisees & Traditions
When Christ came and lived amongst us, the pharisees were puzzled by his lifestyle. They believed in ceremonial washing, certain culinary restrictions and tithed even the smallest of herbs. None of which Jesus or his disciples followed. Their obsession was with Sabbath and how Jesus preached, healed, gathered and even worked on the Sabbath. Fed up of the people coming to Jesus on the Sabbath, one of the synagogue leaders said,
“There are six days for work,” he told the crowd. “So come and be healed on those days and not on the Sabbath.”Luke 13:14
The Pharisees never got the idea of Sabbath, that it was created for man and not the other way round. God gave these instructions to them as a means for them to get closer to God but they turned it around into traditions and rituals that actually created a barrier to come nearer to God.
Present Day Revival
Our present day revivals are all put on the back burner because we fear that we may lose our traditional values. Traditions have diluted our pure faith and has labelled Christianity as a religion. Christ never came to start a religion or impose new traditions on us. He came to lighten our load that we may enjoy our freedom in Him. We have mixed our traditions and created a religion out of the ‘Way’. Religion is a detour that will never take us to our destination.
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.Matthew 15:8-9
There is no difference between the worshipers of the idol Artemis and our present day Sunday worshipers. Jesus wants to live in our hearts and not in any building.
Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”Matthew 8:21-22
If we keep holding on to our worldly duties and customs, we will never be able to follow Jesus. We need to keep Christ above everything else in our lives and realize that just like oil and water, we cannot mix our traditions and our spiritual lives.