What Repentance Requires, and What It Can Lead To
Paul had been reasoning in the hall of Tyrannus that Jesus was the Christ for two years. It was also known that God did some “extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul” in the name of Jesus. Now it was broadcast throughout Ephesus and beyond that seven Jewish sons of a (perhaps self-proclaimed) high priest were overpowered by one demon-possessed man for misusing the name of Jesus, the misuse of which the demon himself protested. And so the passage reads, “And fear fell upon them all [Jews and Greeks], and the name of the Lord Jesus was extolled.” And please don’t explain away the word, “fear.” The people were afraid. Did they respect the name of Jesus? Certainly. But this is more than just respect: they feared the name of Jesus. And what was the result of that fear? Two things. First, they extolled his name; that is, they honored it and praised it. (In the Bible, “name” refers to the person who bears that name; that is, they extolled Jesus.) And second, they took action by having a massive book-burning, confessing their witchcraft and destroying the tools whereby they practiced it, the value being fifty-thousand pieces of silver by human calculation, but nothing but trash by God’s count. Ephesus was known in the ancient world for being a city where divination was highly valued but now, “the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily.”
Now such changes among the citizenry in a major pagan city cannot go unnoticed. And so a silversmith named Demetrius summoned his colleagues and riled them up over Paul’s preaching that “gods made with hands are not gods.” They then took up the shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for two hours, partly out of defense for their pagan god (who apparently could not defend herself), but mostly out of concern for their despicable trade (19:27). The riot was dispersed only by the “town clerk,” the liaison for the city to Rome, who warned the people of a possible Roman investigation if they did not stop, something no one wanted.
We note two things here: first, godliness will not go unnoticed or unchecked, especially when bank accounts are at stake. Paul knew this, for it was he who said, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). But then again, the Asiarchs, high ranking officials and keepers of the imperial Roman cult in Asia, protected Paul. Wow! The people responsible for seeing to the pagan worship of Roman gods were Paul’s friends. So when one “reasons” with, carries himself and speaks wisely among pagans, he might earn their respect. So be careful.