Today’s reading: Acts 19
Have you ever been in a situation where you think someone is going to ask you to explain or defend your theological beliefs? I have shied away from those conversations many times out of fear I don’t know enough or will say the wrong thing. Rather than draw others to Jesus, I have been afraid I will turn others away from him because I say the wrong thing or completely confuse them with explanations that make no sense.
I love how our pastor Mike Baker usually describes his response to people when they ask him to opine on a hot topic. When asked, “what do you think about…”, his response is always, “Why do you care what I think? Let’s see what God has to say about the topic.”
The apostle Paul was known for his willingness to take on any subject with anyone. Paul’s third missionary journey, as described in Acts 19, was no exception. Check out these examples.
The chapter begins with Paul meeting up with a group of “disciples” in Ephesus. Right off the bat, he asks them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed (verse 2). Why in the world would Paul lead with this question? Did the actions of these men cast a doubt on whether they were really Chrisfollowers, or had someone tipped off Paul to their questionable theology? I’m not sure, but I’m positive I would never have “picked that scab.” I would have been way too fearful that my question would have been greeted with a counter-challenge that I was ill-prepared to address. Turns out, Paul’s question led the group to discover they knew about John the Baptist, but didn’t really know about Christ or the Holy Spirit. When Paul shared the gospel message and challenged them to put their trust in Christ, they were quick to accept and be baptized. As Paul prayed over them, they received the Holy Spirit.
If Paul wouldn’t have been bold enough to ask the question, these men may have never put their faith in Jesus Christ.
Jump forward to verse 23. Craftsmen in Ephesus made their living making various idols, gods and shrines to the Greek goddess Artemis. Paul had gone on record stating that gods made by human hands were/are no gods at all. This caused riots in the city not only because it challenged the religious beliefs of the Ephesians, but also because it threatened their livelihood.
And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all (Acts 19:26).
If Paul wouldn’t have been bold enough to speak the truth and risk offending Ephesian business men (which he did), large numbers of people in Ephesus and the province of Asia may have never come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Just like God used Paul to share the gospel message and lead others to faith in Jesus in the first century, God still works through us to lead others to faith in Jesus in the 21st century. But we must be faithful to our calling. When we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and are filled with his presence and power, God does amazing things. Be bold!