When the Gospel Overturns the Commercialization Tables of Idolatry

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament book of Acts—the account of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ—as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically today’s passage is found in verses thirteen through thirty-eight of the twentieth chapter: “And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Meconia. And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greec; and there abode three months. And when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia. And there accompanied him into Asia Sopater of Berea; and of the Thessalonians, Aristarchus and Secundus; and Gaius of Derbe, and TImotheus; and of Asia, Tychicus and Trophimus. These going before tarried for us at Troas. And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of uncleanved bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there say in a window a certain young man name Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and a fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted” (Acts 20:1-12).

 

            “And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot. And when he met with us at Assos, we took him in, and came to Mitylene. And we sailed thence, and came the next day over against Chios; and the next day we arrived at Samos, and tarried at Trogyllium; and the next day we came to Miletus. For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church” (Acts 20:13-17).

 

            “And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and alto to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:18-35).

 

            “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship” (Acts 20:36-38).

 

            When you come to the twentieth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts you will find the apostle Paul preparing to depart from the city of Ephesus. The context surrounding Paul’s departure from the city of Ephesus is indeed the uproar and riot which took place in the midst of the city. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the second portion of the nineteenth chapter you will find the apostle Paul being pressed in the spirit to depart from Ephesus and journeying unto the city of Jerusalem. Luke writes how the apostle Paul purposed in the spirit—after he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia—to go to Jerusalem declaring and proclaiming how he must also see and visit the city of Rome. The apostle Paul would send into Macedonia two those who ministered unto him—namely Timothy and Erastus—while he himself stayed in Asia for a season. After a short while there arose a small stir about the way and those who believed and followed the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke goes on to write how a certain man named Demetrius who was a silversmith and made shrines for Diana brought in a considerable amount of money unto the craftsmen. This Demetitus called together the workmen of his occupation and proclaimed unto them, saying, “Sirs, we know that by this craft we have our wealth. Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands so that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought, but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.” IT is absolutely necessary that we pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to just how threatened Demetrius felt with, from and by the preaching of the apostle Paul.

 

            As you read the words presented in this passage of Scripture you can and will encounter the incredible truth surrounding this Demetrius whose sole concern was not necessary even Diana, nor the great temple which stood in the city of Ephesus which was built unto Diana, nor even the worship of Damian in Ephesus and throughout Asia. If you take the time to read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find Demetrius brought in a considerable amount of wealth from his profession as a silversmith. What’s more is his main argument was that the apostle Paul and his teaching and preaching threatened and endangered their wealth—and not only their wealth but also their ability to make wealth. If you read the words found in this passage of Scripture with full honesty and transparency you will undoubtedly discover that the reason Demetrius raised himself against the apostle Paul and the teaching and preaching of the gospel was the same reason the masters of the damsel in Philippi raised their voices up against them in the midst of the city. Luke records how the damsel there in Philippi brought her masters much grain and much profit through her soothsaying. When, however, this young damsel had pressed Paul in the spirit enough he finally turned directly to her and commanded the unclean spirit in her to come out. Immediately the unclean spirit came out and upon its coming out of this damsel her masters and owners recognized that their hope for any financial gain and wealth was entirely and altogether gone. This is something we must pay close attention to for what took place in Philippi would also take place in the city of Ephesus.

 

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the riot and uproar which took place in the midst of the city of Ephesus. The riot and uproar which took place in the midst of the city of Ephesus was incited by one man named Demetrius who was a silversmith by trade. Not only was Demetrius a silversmith by trade but he also made silver shrines unto Diana. It was these silver shrines which he made unto Diana which would produce great wealth within the life of Demetrius as he would make a living off the idolatrous worship of the people of Ephesus and Asia. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is for not only do we see idolatry present in the city of Ephesus as well as in all of Asia but we also find individuals who made their living and made great wealth as a result of that idolatry. You cannot read the words presented in this passage of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with the incredibly awesome and powerful truth that this Demetrius and the craftsmen together with him there in the midst of Ephesus made a great living and much wealth making these silver shrines which were made unto the great Diana whom Ephesus and all Asia worshipped. Oh I have to admit there it’s a part of me that can’t help but wonder how much Demetrius and how much the craftsmen truly made as a result of this craft and trade. How much di Demetrius actually make crafting and selling silver shrines which were made unto the great goddess Diana? How much did the craftsmen who were of the same profession as he was make as a result of those images, shrines and objects they made for and unto this false goddess who was no goddess at all? Scripture makes it perfectly and abundantly clear that Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen made a considerable amount of wealth forming and fashioning these shrines and images which were no gods at all.

 

            The more I read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more I am confronted with certain distinct truths which I am convinced must needs be carefully examined if you seek to understand the words and language found in these two chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. The first is the wealth that is amassed and accumulated as a direct result of idolatrous worship which was present in the midst of the city of Ephesus. There is a great link and similarity which exists between Demetrius’ outcry against the apostle Paul, against the way and against the teaching and preaching of the way and the great cry which rose up in the city of Philippi from the masters of this certain damsel after they realized their hope of making any gain or profit off of her was gone. I am absolutely convinced that when reading these two passages of Scripture–not only do we see the individual threat(s) that were experienced but we also see the threat which would come to the commerce and industry of soothsaying and idolatry. The reason there was a great uproar in both Ephesus and Philippi is because the teaching and preaching of the word and name of Jesus would emphatically declare that those gods who are worshipped are not gods when compared to the one true and living God. Oh this is something that is also evidenced when Paul was in Athens when he spoke unto them of the altar unto the unknown God which he observed among them in the midst of the city. What’s more is I can’t help but think about and consider the tremendous link and connection between Demetrius and the craftsmen and the wealth they made from idolatry and the wealth of the money changers and the sellers of merchandise in the courts of the Temple during the days of the Lord Jesus. What’s more is I am also reminded of the words which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah concerning the danger of idolatry and how the idols, images and false gods which were worshipped during those days and even in cultures such as Greece and Rome were no gods at all.

 

           

It is with this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to first and foremost call and draw your attention to the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts. Here in the seventeenth chapter of the book of Acts we find the apostle Paul spending time in the city of Athens while he was awaiting the arrival of Timothy and Silas who would come from Thessalonica. It would be there in the city of Athens the apostle Paul would be pressed in the spirit and would speak unto the people concerning this altar unto the unknown god which was present among them in the city. This altar unto the unknown god would indeed provoke the apostle Paul to stand up in the midst of them and emphatically declare and proclaim unto them the truth concerning a God who can not only be known but also a God who can be worshipped. With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to include in this particular section the words which Jesus Himself spoke unto the Samaritan in their exchange at the well outside of the city of Sychar. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the seventeenth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts as well as the words which are found in the fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John:

 

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry. Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans and of the Stoics encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say Other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection. And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine whereof thou speakest is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.)” (Acts 17:16-21).

 

Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription< TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and wall things therein, seeing that he is the Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with. Men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:22-33).

 

And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagus, and a women named Damaris, and others with them” (Acts 17:33-34).

 

The woman saith unto him, Sir I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.  Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:19-24).

 

I am convinced both of these passages must be carefully considered when reading the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts. It is in in the seventeenth chapter of this New Testament book of Acts we find the apostle Paul present in the city of Athens and being pressed—and perhaps even grieved—in his spirit over the city. Luke writes how the apostle Paul was grieved and pressed that the city was wholly given over and unto idolatry as there were perhaps shrines, altars and temples throughout the ancient city of the modern nation of Greece. What’s more is I would dare say there were perhaps various different relics and merchandise that was available for purchase throughout the city as means of helping men and women in the city worship that which they knew not. We know from history that the ancient culture and people of Greece had many gods and it is even referenced as the pantheon of gods whom they worshipped. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for the apostle Paul would witness and observe how the city was wholly given to idolatry. It would be witnessing and observing this city being wholly given unto idolatry—and not only wholly given unto idolatry but also having an alter unto “THE UNKNOWN GOD” present among them that would prompt the apostle Paul to enter into the synagogue of the Jews and reason and dispute with them. It would be there in the synagogue of the Jews the apostle Paul would not preach the word and name of the Lord Jesus but would also preach the resurrection of Jesus from the grave. This teaching of the apostle Paul would ultimately garner the attention of the philosophers and stoics which were present there in the midst of the city and they would bring him before the people to hear the word and doctrine he preached and taught in the synagogues of the Jews.

 

            As you read the words which are found in the seventeenth chapter you will find the apostle Paul speaking unto the Athenians concerning this altar unto THE UNKNOWN God and how they worshipped what they knew not. The apostle Paul would then deliberately and intentionally speak unto them concerning this unkown god whom they worshipped who was none other than the one true and eternal God who was the creator of the heavens and the earth. It is absolutely necessary and imperative we recognize and understand the words and language found and contained within this passage of Scripture for the apostle Paul would not only proclaim unto them the one true and living God and how there was indeed a God whom they could both know and worship but he also preached unto them Jesus the Christ and the Messiah who was the eternal and only begotten Son of the living God. The apostle Paul would preach unto them the resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the grave on the third day and how that resurrection would indeed be the hope of salvation unto all those who believed. What makes this all the more intriguing when you take the time to consider it is when you consider the words which are found in the prophetic book of Isaiah concerning temples which are made with human hands, the Temple which stood in Jerusalem being unable to contain the glory and the living God of heaven and earth and even the danger and futility of idolatry. What’s more is I am convinced we must also consider the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts as well as the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles. Oh with this in mind I Invite you to consider the following words which are found in the following passages of Scripture beginning to read with and from the seventh chapter of the New Testament book of Acts:

 

            “unto the days of David; who found a our before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. But Solomon built him an house. Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? Saith the Lord: or what is the place of my seat? Hath not my hand made all these things? Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: who have received the law by the disputation of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:45-53).

 

            “Then said Solomon, The LORD hath said that he would dwell in the thick darkness. But I have built an house of. Habitation for thee, and a place for thy dwelling for ever. And the king turned his face, and blessed the whole congregation of Israel: and all the congregation of Israel stood. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David, saying, Since the day that I have brought forth my people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build an house in, that my name might be there; neither chose I any man to be a ruler over my people Israel: But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel. Now it was in the heart of David my father to build an house for the name of the LORD God of Israel. But the LORD said to David my father, Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for thy name, thou didst well that it was in thine heart: notwithstanding thou shalt not build the house; but thy son which shall come forth out of thy loins, he shall build the house for my name. The LORD therefore hath performed his word that he hath spoken: for I am risen up in the room of David my father, and am set on the throne of Israel, as the LORD promised, and have built the house for the name of the LORD God of Israel. And in it have I put the ark, wherein is the covenant of the LORD, that he made with the children of Israel” (2 Chronicles 6:1-11).

 

            “Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: Where is the house that ye build unto me? And where it he place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killers an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblations, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not” (Isaiah 66:1-4).

 

            Consider now if you will the following words which are found in this same Old Testament prophetic book concerning the futility of idolatry—and not only the futility of idolatry but also the futility of making idols and graven images of false gods which are no gods at all. I am absolutely convinced that if we are to truly understand the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts there is a great need to recognize and pay attention to the following words which are present in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah. With this said I invite you to consider the following words which are also found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah concerning the futility of idols, of images, of graven images, of false gods and of that which would indeed turn our heart away from the one true and living God and worship of Him which He desires in spirit and truth:

 

            “To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him? The workman melteth a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblation choosetha. Tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a. Cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved. Have ye not known? Have ye not heard? Hath it not been told you from the beginning? Have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretchers out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: that bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Yea, they shall not be planted; yea, they shall not be sown: yea their stock shall not take root in the earth: and he shall also blow upon them, and they shall wither, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? Saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth. Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, my way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? Hath thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:18-31).

 

            “So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, it is ready for the soldering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved. But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee: Be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing: and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought” (Isaiah 41:7-12).

 

            “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: Have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? Ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not a any. They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed. Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: Let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together. The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint. The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he maketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with plaines, and he market it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth. Nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and bake th bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part therefore he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warreth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: and the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand? Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: Return unto me; for I have redeemed thee” (Isaiah 44:8-22).

 

            Within these passages of scripture we find the futility of idolatry—and not only of idolatry but the forming and fashioning of graven images and idols which are false gods and not a god at all. The word of the LORD would come unto the prophet Isaiah and he would denounce the false worship of idolatry which paraded itself as true and authentic worship. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that on the surface idolatry does in fact look and appear to be genuine, authentic and true. On the surface idolatry can in fact appear religious and even holy in the eyes, hearts and minds of those who are unsuspecting. This is something which must needs be recognized and understood for not only did the apostle Paul declare and speak of the futility of worshipping an UNKOWN GOD but the prophet Isaiah also expressed the futility of idolatry—and not only of idolatry but of the forming and fashioning of graven images and idols which are no gods at all. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible this truly is when reading the words found in the nineteenth chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. There is a great need for us to pay close attention to the following words which are found in this passage of Scripture and how absolutely and incredibly challenging they truly are. The words which we find here in this passage of Scripture call and bring us face to face with the incredible truth that idolatry is an incredibly dangerous practice within one’s heart and life. What’s more is that idolatry takes place in various different forms, shapes and sizes as idols, graven images, shrines, altars and the like vary in shape, size, function and form. Oh we must needs recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found here in this passage of Scripture as they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the danger and futility of idolatry. The prophet Isaiah clearly denounced and rebuked the forming and fashioning of idols, of graven images and of idolatry itself—something we must needs recognize when reading the words found in the New Testament book of Acts.

 

            With this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the four New Testament gospel narratives written by the gospel authors. In each of the four gospel narratives we find the account of Jesus entering into the Temple of the living God in the midst of the city of Jerusalem and beholding the commerce and merchandise which was present in the midst of it. You cannot read the four gospel narratives without encountering and coming face to face with Jesus entering into the Temple and beholding the exchanging of money as men and women would purchase their offerings, their gifts and that which they would sacrifice before and unto the living God. Here in the four New Testament gospels we behold the worship of the living God being turned into a business that would bring wealth unto those who sold doves and various other animals that would and could be used for worshipping the one true and living God. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding Jesus’ entering into the Temple and being grieved and angered by what He witnessed and beheld within the courts thereof. Jesus would form a small whip and scourge and would not only overturn the tables of money but would also overturn the seats of those who sold doves and various other items to be used in worship of the living God. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality of Jesus entering into the Temple and disrupting the industry that had taken place surrounding worship of the one true and living God. WHEN WORSHIP BECOMES AN INDUSTRY! WHEN WORSHIP TURNS INTO INDUSTRY! THE INDUSTRY OF WORSHIP! THE COMMERCIALIZATION OF WORSHIP! Oh there is something we absolutely need to recognize and understand within the four gospels as well as the New Testament book of Acts for within these passages of Scripture we not only find the commercialization of the worship of the one true and living God but we also find the commercialization of idolatry and the worship of false gods. I am absolutely convinced we must needs recognize and pay close attention to this for the whole reason for the uproar in the midst of the city of Ephesus was because the teaching and preaching of the apostle Paul threatened the industry surrounding idolatry.

 

            It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in each of the four New Testament gospels concerning Jesus’ entrance into the Temple during the week of His passion. During this week of His passion he would enter into the court of the Temple and would witness the commercialization of worship and how worship of the one true and living God had been turned and transformed into an industry designed to bring wealth and increase to those who sold doves, those who sold sheep, those who sold various items and objects that would be used for worship of the one true and living God. The tremendous danger of this is that it not only commercialized worship but it also gave the false impression of true and genuine worship of the living God. In fact I would dare say the words which are found in the first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah as well as the words which are found in the first chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Malachi are directly applicable to this for they call and draw our attention to the false reality surrounding worship and how it is possible for men and women to come unto the Temple of the living God and believe they are worshipping the one true and living God and yet He takes absolutely no delight or pleasure in any of it. What we find in the four New Testament gospels as well as in the New Testament book of Acts is the commercialization of the worship of the one true and living God in the Temple as well as the commercialization of idolatry and the worship of false gods who are no gods at all. If we are truly willing to be honest with ourselves we must needs recognize that it is indeed possible that worship of the living God as well as idolatry can indeed be commercialized as it become an industry designed to make money and produce wealth for those who are holding all the merchandise, items and objects used in worship. We must needs recognize and understand that both worship of the one true and living God as well as worship of false gods who are no gods at all can in fact be commercialized as men and women have learned how to create an entire industry around both. Oh with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the four New Testament gospels beginning with the twenty-first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:

 

            “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all of them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:12-13).

 

            “And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. And he taught, saying unto them, It is not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves.  And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city” (Mark 11:15-19).

 

            “And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. And he taught daily in the temple. But the chief priests and the scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him, and could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him” (Luke 19:45-48).

 

            “After this he went down to Capernaum, he, and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they continued there not many days. And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: and when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; and said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said, Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of men: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:12-25).

 

            The words which we find here in these passages of Scripture call and draw our attention to Jesus’ entering into the Temple and beholding the merchandise that was being bought and sold in the midst of it. Jesus entered into the Temple during the week of His passion and was consumed with zeal and with the holy anger of the living God. As a direct result of this He not only overturned the tables of money but also drove out those who bought and sold. Jesus would form a scourge of small cords and would drive out that which was bought and sold in the midst of the Temple. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the commercialization of worship. What’s more is that we not only encounter and come face to face with the commercialization of the worship of God but we also come face to face with that commercialization taking place in the midst of the Temple itself. It’s one thing to commercialize worship outside the Temple of the Lord, however, it is something else entirely to commercialize worship in the very court of the Temple of the living God. With this being said I would dare say that we are witness and have been witnesses to this same thing taking place within our own culture and society. There is a commercialization of worship which has taken place within our culture and society—particularly around the contemporary Christian and gospel industries. What’s more is that both contemporary Christian and gospel are and have been considered industries in which men and women make it as those who are notable and respected. Not only this but once a year there is even an annual awards ceremony called “The Dove Awards” which provides “awards” based on various different criteria. In all reality I would dare say that much of what we have labeled and come to know as “Christian music” and “gospel music” is nothing more than the commercialization of worship—and not only the commercialization of worship but also the weaponization of worship as men and women have turned “worship” and “worship songs” into abominations in the sight of the living God.

 

            I am absolutely convinced that what we find in the four gospels as well as within the New Testament book of Acts are powerful examples of the commercialization and weaponization of worship and idolatry. There is something we must needs recognize and understand when reading the words which are found in these passages for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding this commercialization and weaponization of worship and idolatry within our culture and society. What’s more is I am convinced that it’s possible for there to be this commercialization of worship present within many of our churches as well as the commercialization of idolatry. Not only this but I would dare say that it is possible for there to either be the commercialization and weaponization of worship in many of our churches, or the commercialization and weaponization of idolatry in many of our churches or even some weird combination of both. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for it brings us face to face with that which stands as an abomination in the sight of the living God. Jesus entered into the Temple and not only overturned the tables of money but also cast out those who bought and sold as well as that which was bought and sold. What we find during the days of the apostle Paul in Ephesus is the teaching and preaching of Jesus threatening and jeopardizing the industry surrounding the false worship of Diana. That which Demetrius was so angered and incensed by was not necessarily the preaching itself, nor even the word and name of the Lord Jesus but how it threatened his wealth and his ability to make and create wealth. Having witnessed and observed the burning of countless books of curious arts, witchcraft and sorcery totaling fifty thousand pieces of silver he believed that the industry of the worship of Diana—the silver shrines that were made, the relics, the objects, the artifacts and the like—were in danger because men and women would abandon worship of Diana for worshipping this Jesus whom the apostle Paul preached.

 

            It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first chapters of both the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah as well as the prophetic book of Malachi. Here in these passages of Scripture we find the word of the LORD being spoken unto a pre-captivity and pre-exile people as well as words which were spoken unto a post-captivity and post-exile people. The words which we find here strike at the very heart of that worship which is not only an offense but also an abomination in the sight and presence of the living God. This is something we have a great need to recognize and pay close attention to for it calls and draws our attention to the inherent danger surrounding a form of worship that believes it is pleasing in the sight of God and yet is nothing more than an abomination in His sight. WE must needs read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture for they not only help us to understand the Lord’s controversy with false worship that neither honors nor glorifies Him but also idolatrous worship that worships idols, images and false gods which are no gods at all. All of this is necessary for we must needs recognize and discern the commercialization and weaponization of worship in many of our churches as well as the commercialization and weaponization of idolatry within our culture and society. In all reality I would dare say that both the commercialization and weaponization of worship as well as that of idolatry is an abomination and an affront in the sight and presence of the living God and must needs be driven out of our culture and society and especially out of our churches. The time has come for judgment to begin at the house of the living God as as the judgment begins in the house of the living God so also will it proceed forth into the midst of our culture and society. Oh with this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the first chapters of the Old Testament prophetic books of Malachi and Isaiah concerning worship that is an abomination and an affront in the sight of the living God:

 

            “Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; Give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before, Who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed fasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary top bear them. And when y e spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient,  ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the  mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 1:10-20).

 

            “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where if my fear? Saith t he LORD of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? In that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and the sick, is it not. Evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? Saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: This hath been by your means: Will he regard your persons? Saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: For my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have snnuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: Should I accept this of your hand? Saith the LORD. But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrifieth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: For I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:6-14).

 

            Please pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for it calls and draws our attention to worship that is brought unto the living God—even worship that is brought unto His holy altar and into His courts—and yet that worship is abhorred by the living God. If you read the words which are found in both of these passages of Scripture you will find the LORD weary from the offerings and sacrifices which were being brought unto Him in the midst of His temple and in the midst of His courts. I am absolutely convinced we have a great need to pay close attention to that which is stated here in these passages of Scripture for they bring us to the point where we encounter that worship which is nothing more than an abomination and an affront in the sight of the living God. As you read the words presented in each of the four gospels you will find the commercialization of worship in the very courts of the LORD and in the Temple of the living God. It is here in the four gospels you will encounter those who turned and transformed worship of the living in the courts of the Temple into a business and industry and they commercialized it. What’s more is there were absolutely none of them who were aware of the fact that what they were doing was nothing more than taking worship of the living God and weaponizing it in the sight and presence of the living God. Tell me—what good is it it we bring sacrifices and offerings that cost us nothing? What good is it if we bring that which has been commercialized and weaponized by others as that which has the appearance of being true worship of the living God and yet is absolutely nothing but an affront and abomination before Him? I am absolutely convinced that we as the saints of God and we as the disciples and followers of the Lord must needs be aware of this for we must recognize the inherent danger behind this commercialization of worship and bringing before and unto the living God that which cost us nothing. This was precisely what David the king of Israel wasn’t willing to do when all the materials and even the oxen needed to sacrifice unto the LORD were offered unto him freely. It would be David himself who declare that he would not offer unto the living God that which cost him nothing.

            When I read the words found in each of the four gospels as well as the words which are found in the New Testament book of Acts I am confronted with the reality that the person and presence of Jesus disrupts and interrupts the commercialization of worship—even in the midst of the Temple and house of the LORD. I can’t help but wonder what many of our churches and “services” would indeed look like if Jesus showed up and began overturning the tables and casting out that which turned His courts into a marketplace and den of thieves. What would many of our churches and services look like if the person and presence of the Lord Jesus showed up in the midst and immediately began overturning everything that gave the appearance of worship and yet was nothing more than an front and assault on that which actually is worship. The more I read the words which are found in these passages of Scripture the more I am brought face to face with the incredible truth surrounding the need to be such who recognize this commercialization of worship—and not only this commercialization of worship but also of idolatry as well. What’s more is we must needs be aware of the fact that the person and presence of the Lord Jesus can and will directly confront this commercialization of worship present within the house of the living God and the preaching and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ can and will confront the commercialization of idolatry within our culture and society. What we must also recognize is that it is indeed possible for both of these to be evidenced and manifested within the house of the LORD and must needs be directly confronted and assaulted by the truth that is contained within the word of the living God. There is absolutely no denying the fact that just as the city of Athens was wholly given to idolatry so also is this nation wholly given to idolatry through and through. What’s more is that just as the city of Athens was wholly given to idolatry so many of the cities within our nation are given to idolatry—and not just idolatry but idolatry of all different shapes, sizes and forms.

 

            I am sitting here today thinking about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture and I can’t help but think about how the preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus Christ directly confronted the idolatry which was present in the midst of Ephesus. What’s more is this preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus not only confronted the idolatry which was present in the midst of the city but it also directly confronted the ability to make wealth off of it. This is something which warrants strong consideration as it calls and draws our attention and focus to recognizing this particular reality within our culture and society. There is a great need for us as the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to recognize that the preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus can and will directly confront the idolatry which is present within our culture and society. You will know when the true preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus is indeed manifested among us within our nation and society for it will directly go against the grain and fabric of the idolatry that is plaguing and crippling our nation. What’s more is that not only will it directly confront the idolatry that is plaguing and crippling our nation but it will also directly confront the profit and the revenue that is directly associated with this. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this for I am absolutely convinced there is a great need among us today to be those who not only teach and preach the word and name of the Lord Jesus but take it to the streets of our cities, take it to our state houses, take it to the places of legislation and take it unto this nation. The apostle Paul preached and taught the word and name of the Lord Jesus in the midst of the city of Ephesus and as a direct result of this all of Asia would hear the word of the Lord. Pause for a moment and consider how absolutely incredible this truly is and how for the space of three years the apostle Paul would labor in the city of Ephesus teaching and preaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul would spend three years warning all those who would hear and listen to his words night and day with tears of that which was plaguing and crippling the society and culture.

 

            I write these words and I can’t help but think about how the teaching and preaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus directly confronted both the idolatry and commercialization of idolatry which was present in the city of Ephesus. It was the threatening of  this commercialization of idolatry and the income and wealth that was created as a direct result of it that would not only incite Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen to raise themselves up against the apostle Paul but also caused the uproar and riot in the midst of the city. As you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul preaching and teaching the word and name of the Lord Jesus and how the preaching and teaching of that name would set in motion an uproar in the midst of the city. The preaching and teaching of the word and name of the Lord Jesus would indeed cause certain within the city to feel threatened for not only would it threaten the idolatrous worship of Diana itself but it would also threaten the industry that had been build around that idolatry. Oh this is something we must needs be aware of—particularly within our nation and generation as we are living in days when that which happened in Ephesus needs to take place among us within our nation, within our culture and society. This nation has been plagued and crippled by idolatry and there have been entire industries that have been formed, fashioned and created around the various idols, images and false gods men have worshipped among us within our culture and society. What’s more is that it has been deemed socially acceptable to commit oneself to the various idols, images and false gods which are present in this society as the eyes of men have been blinded, the ears of men have been deafened and the hearts of men have been hardened. We are indeed living during times when the idolatry which is so prevalent within this nation needs to be directly confronted—and not only confronted but confronted by the word, the name and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am absolutely convinced we as the disciples of God must needs recognize and understand just how powerful and pervasive this idolatry truly is within our nation and recognize that which we have been called to in order to combat it by and through the power of the word and name of the Lord Jesus.

 

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call your attention to the words which we see in the twentieth chapter. It is in the twentieth chapter where we find the apostle Paul preparing to depart from Ephesus that he might return unto the city of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul knew that he must needs depart from Ephesus and return unto Jerusalem and that he might ultimately journey unto the city of Rome. Preparing for his departure from Jerusalem the apostle Paul would call the elders of the Ephesian church unto himself at Miletus where they would meet him to say their final farewell and goodbye. The apostle Paul knew that he would never see their face again nor they his and would indeed prepare them for his departure and their remaining and abiding in the city of Ephesus absent his presence. With this being said the apostle Paul would remind them of how he served them with many tears and temptations which would befall and come upon him by the lying in wait of the Jews. Moreover the apostle Paul would go on to declare unto them how he kept back nothing that was profitable unto them but showed them and taught publicly and from house to house testifying repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul knew that he went bound in the Spirit unto Jerusalem not knowing the things which would befall him there—save that the Holy Ghost witnessed unto him that in every city bonds and afflictions abode him. The apostle Paul, however, was neither phased nor deterred by this for he would go on to declare that none of those things moved him, neither did he count his life dear unto himself but that he might finish his course with joy and the ministry which he received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God. The apostle Paul knew that bonds, chains and afflictions waited him in every city whereunto he would journey but he also knew something else—something which I am absolutely convinced is true of our culture, our society and even of many of our churches today.

 

The apostle Paul prepared the Ephesian elders for his departure and declared unto them that bonds and afflictions abode and awaited him in whatsoever cities he would journey unto. With this being said the apostle Paul would declare that none of those things moved him that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God. With this being said we have a great need to recognize the words which the apostle Paul spoke unto these elders for he would not only declare unto them that bonds and afflictions awaited him but he would also declare unto them that after his departure grievous wolves would enter in among you which would not spare the flock. Moreover the apostle Paul would declare unto them how from among themselves men would arise which would speak perverse things to draw disciples away after them. I am absolutely convinced we have a great need to recognize and pay close attention to this as it prepares us for the days in which we are living—days of tremendous deception and rampant lies of the enemy and adversary. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight for we have indeed been called to prepare ourselves for the days in which we are living and to be men and women of endurance, conviction, discernment, boldness and commitment. Like Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael in Babylon who refused to bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image and/or Daniel who refused to cease praying based on a decree issued by the king so also we are called to be such men and women who are firmly committed and devoted to the one true and living God. We as the saints of God and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ must needs prepare ourselves to stand in the midst of a culture and society that is and has been wholly given to idols and idolatry and must needs be willing to take a firm stand for righteousness, for holiness and for truth—despite and regardless of what is taking place around us. We have not been called to be “cultural Christians” but have been called to be “counter-cultural Christians.” We have not been called to adapt to culture and society but have been called to be “in the world but not of the world” that we might be preachers of righteousness like Noah was while he was building the ark and preparing for the flood waters to come.

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