For football players, that’s the summons into the locker room, to don pads and helmets. For firemen, it’s the 911 call to get into protective gear, ready to run into the flames. For a SWAT team, bullet-proof vests and shields come out of the truck and into the array. The opposition is at full strength; the specialty squad is now in formation, to do their part to prevail.
Paul and Silas spent over two years in Ephesus. It was the #1 most influential city in the 1st Century Roman Empire (World Atlas); Rome was #5. The Temple of Artemis – the Greek goddess of fertility – was there; it was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. While there, they planted a church that impacted the city and its commercial health. The sale of idols – a major income source in a city highly prized by pagan pilgrims – had dropped, a fact directly attributed to the rising Church dedicated to worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ.
Demetrius the silversmith created an uprising against Paul and his associates. His charges: “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. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” (Acts 19:26-27). Paul and his team left to resume their missionary journey, but the church stayed to continue the battle.
Later, Paul wrote a significant pastoral letter to the church in Ephesus, loaded with insightful revelation (Ephesians 1-3) and instructive application (Ephesians 4-6), describing the way for them to link – daily! – what they believed with what they did: in church, at work, and in their families.
Once again, Paul’s summation – his “closing arguments” – would transition from the classroom to the battlefield. For these Ephesian believers whose face-off with their community did not end because Paul and Silas left the scene, their conflict was constant. What did that mean, for them?
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (6:10-17).
The removal of the Christian missionary leaders from the city of Ephesus was probably a headline news story when it happened; the casual observer would have seen the Demetrius v Paul match-up, with Demetrius – the local favorite – coming out the victor. Their view was myopic.
For Kingdom leaders – then, and now – the fight is constant, and the opposition is spiritual. Sport rivalries – college or pro – are benign. Economic skirmishes – between companies, or countries – are irrelevant. Political campaigns – even the “most important election in history” – pales alongside the real life-or-death rebellion that continues between Lucifer and his loyalists and Jehovah God the Creator and all who are committed to Him.
Good theology is foundational; instruction on living the faith is essential… but the spiritual warfare is underway, and the satanic attack is focused on those whose beliefs and practices align with God and His Kingdom. Are you Geared Up for that ambush?