Summary: The church of Ephesus overcomes the occult by focusing on Jesus. We overcome in the same way.
Here in America when we are dissatisfied, we express our dissatisfaction in a variety of ways. If we feel that receive poor service at a restaurant, we might not leave a tip; If we feel the city is not clearing the streets fast enough, some folks write a letter to the editor; If politics is driving us crazy, we may place a witty bumper sticker on our car, but one of the favorite was we as Americans have expressed our dissatisfaction is with the good old fashioned, boycott.
Probably our earliest boycott was started with the Boston Tea Party, which in the end, and that needed up being very effective didn’t it? Remember for a while there in the 1970s and 1980s boycotts became super popular here in America. Every where you turned there seemed to be a boycott.
We all remember huge boycotts, like the United States boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics in 1980 and we may not be aware of smaller boycotts like the boycott against Carl’s Jr burger chain about the same time.
Most of the boycotts we think of are intentional boycotts where someone organizes the boycott like the Montgomery public bus boycott in 1955 started by Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat, which was quite successful, or we may remember the Baptist boycott of Disney world in 1997, which wasn’t very effective. But, you know, most boycotts are not intentional.
Most boycotts are unintentional and are simply the result of a change of human behavior. Folks stop going to a restaurant or stop buying a particular brand of ice cream; The restaurant closes, and the store stops carrying the slow selling ice cream and replaces one ice cream brand with another ice cream brand.
Remember that candy bar Bit-O-Honey? I used to love those as a kid. I would buy one every chance I could and slowly devour it. You can’t eat them fast. I think I lost a couple of teeth eating those things as a kid. Good luck finding a Bit-O-Honey candy bar now. Over the years people just like you and me, instituted an unintentional boycott on the lovely Bit-O-Honey candy bar and eventually it was replaced by some lesser quality candy in supermarkets all over these United States.
This is what we see happening in our Scripture this morning. Over time more and more people are becoming Christians in the city of Ephesus and the surrounding area. As a result of all these people converting to Christ, the Temple of Artemis was suffered financially and so did the merchants attached to the Temple of Artemis.
Here we see that the success of the church brings opposition to the church. This passage we are looking at today is not so much about idolatry, as it is about attacks against the kingdom of God and, the response to those attacks against the kingdom of God.
Everything is going well for the church in Ephesus and it is growing like a weed. Even though Ephesus is the center of the occult for Asia, Christianity is taking hold. Historically, we see that even in the most difficult area of spiritual opposition, Christ will overcome.
This success the church enjoys brings with it, problems. This is always how it is in Christianity. Success will always bring problems in our Christian walk. The more success we have, the more potential problems we will have. But, remember the solution to those problems is not human based, but Holy Spirit based…..so though problems and difficulties may mount, our burden becomes lighter because we have the Holy Spirit to help us deal with them.
The reason that there is a problem for the church in Ephesus is simple math. So let’s do the math. The more Christianity takes hold of people in Ephesus, the less the occult has ahold of those same people. The less people the occult has ahold of, the less people go to occult sites and occult stores. The less people go to the Temple of Artemis the less tchotchkes they will buy from the Temple gift shops. Then eventually, economics kick in.
The Temple of Artemis wasn’t just a regular temple. It was also a type of ancient bank. Now, how this temple bank operated, the details are sketchy, but somehow the Temple of Artemis acted as a Bank and people from all over the known world deposited funds there. Inscriptions have been found in Ephesus dating back to 44 A.D., a little before Paul arrived in town. These inscriptions tells us that the local proconsul had to be brought in because of some “improprieties” that were found in the books of the temple. Temple monies were being funneled to private individuals - it’s like an ancient form of the Madoff banking scandal.