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Biblical Reflection: Paul's Approach to the Gospel Message

Part of a recent morning devotional had me reading from the book of Acts chapter 19, and I noticed something I never noticed before. Specifically verse 37; though out of context it doesn't really hold much power on it's own. For context I suggest reading verses 23 through the end of chapter 19. To summarize, Paul and his disciples were preaching the Gospel message at this time in Ephesus. So many people were being saved, turning away from patronizing the local temple idols, that the merchants who profited from the idol worship were enraged against Paul and his disciples because they were losing income, enough to incite the beginnings of a riot. That, however, is not the most interesting part of the encounter; that kind of response is to be expected. As Christians we are taught to expect that the world, especially those who profit off the abuse of the poor, will hate us for reflecting the true nature of Christ. The claim made in verse 37 about Paul's disciples however struck me as incredibly profound, given the situation. Starting in verse 35, a city clerk (modern equivalent would be something like a city mayor) began speaking to the people to calm their fears and confusion. He acknowledged before the multitudes that "the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana" (verse 35b) and pointed to Paul's' disciples saying "For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess."(Verse 37) Read that last part again. "...nor blasphemers of your goddess." Paul and his disciples were spreading the good news of Christ, watching as the multitudes repented and turned away from idol worship, but at no point could they be accused of blaspheming the false gods of the Ephesians. Sit with that a moment. They never spoke ill of the Ephesian goddess Diana, though they led many away from the temple into the true heart of Christ by sharing His gospel message. How many of us have been guilty of blaspheming false gods publicly? Of cursing or publicly dishonoring or discussing the beliefs of others irreverently? Why do we think this is acceptable behavior? Clearly that was not the kind of message Paul and his disciples were sharing as they shared the good news of salvation to the Ephesians. This should be convicting for those of us who truly seek to honor Christ; especially with the kinds of hateful commentary we too often find ourselves engaging in on social media, "in the name of Christ." Go back just a few versus in chapter 19 to 13-16 and we see that many may try to operate in the name of Christ, but if versus 35-41 are to be believed, the evidence clearly indicates that those actually operating in His power (Paul and his disciples) were the ones who could be acquitted publicly of blaspheming the gods that others choose to worship. In sharing the Gospel message of Christ, Paul and his disciples did not blaspheme, or speak negatively, of the beliefs of others. I am reminded here of Paul's letter to the Philippians 4:8-9 "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."


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