MVMT 14: No God like Him

Acts 19:21-41

21 Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22 And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while.

23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

28 When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31 And even some of the Asiarchs,[a] who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33 Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34 But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

35 And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky?[b] 36 Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37 For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39 But if you seek anything further,[c] it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41 And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

Good afternoon RSI, my name is Ellis and I will be preaching today the last Gospel Movement series. Today we are going to learn from Acts 19. That is basically the whole story of today. When Ps Yosia assigned me to preach, he told me “Ellis you are preaching on 20th December”. I was like “oh! That’s Edrick and my wedding anniversary!” – secretly hoping after I said that he might change his mind. Only he replied “Oh, that’s true #justrealised” — End of Conversation. LOL.. and, when I read the passage, I was like…. What is this about? He wanted me to preach about riot? Let me tell you, only your pastor can tell you to preach riot on your anniversary. Oh well, after all that happened in 2020, it does not sound bad at all, right? So here I am tonight! I am so excited because tonight’s topic is not a stranger to us, it has been something that so so familiar in our daily life.

Yes, we read about riot in Ephesus. But remember, this passage is a story that describes us what happened. And every story has a heartbeat. So tonight, the heartbeat of the story is about idolatry and what happens when the idol of our heart is threatened. In fact, the whole theme of the bible is centered around this, God’s constant challenge of false gods. John Calvin said our hearts are idol factories. Your heart and my heart are constantly creating new idols. It could be ANY thing, but it comes to one thing, either we worship the One true God or we don’t, right? That means, this story not just about Demetrius and friends, but it is about you and me, all of us, then and now.

In Act 19, the bible tells us what Paul was doing in the city of Ephesus. A little background, Ephesus was the richest city in the Roman Empire region. It is the place where all the trades and money movements happening. But not just economically significant for people in those days, but it also was very rich culturally. Full of magic, literature and arts. Imagine you can hear music throughout all the auditoriums. Religiously, it also had one of the world’s largest temple of Artemis, the protector of the city, the goddess of fertility and prosperity. In fact, this temple is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It is definitely something.


So when Paul arrived there, just as many other places he’s been, he relentlessly preached the gospel to all the people there. There is a ONE TRUE GOD who is more powerful than your Artemis! Though there were people who did not believe and opposed this movement, Paul kept preaching the Word of God faithfully. Eventually, a lot of Ephesians left their worship of idolatry and became believers. Before they used to practice magic, now they have repented. The bible even noted that they burned all their magician books! God continued to show power and miracles among them. The Gospel was so prevalent that Christianity not only changed their hearts, but also changed the culture and the city in which they lived.

So far so good, right? Go Paul! Now comes the tension.


23 About that time there arose no little disturbance concerning the Way. 24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. 25 These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. 26 And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. 27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”

Because the worship culture of Artemis was so thick, it became the source of business for Demetrius and friends. Basically they sold silver statutes of Artemis. On the other hand, the followers of Christ have been growing in numbers, meaning that more and more people were exposed to the Truth and left their belief of Artemis. As a result, the income and daily providence of silversmiths like Demetrius and friend, were greatly threatened because they no longer had business. No more customers.

Demetrius gathered his friend, restless. His influence then caused everyone turned wild and frenzy. They flash mobbed in the amphitheatre crying out for 2 hours “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians”. But note this, the bible says in verse 32 Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together.

Finally, the crowd was dismissed by the city clerk before they turned violent. In this occasion God delivered Paul and his friends from the riot. They can live another day. Nobody’s hurt.

So you can grab the whole picture so far? Now let’s dig deeper about the story.

When Paul preached the word of God faithfully in Ephesus, ‘no little disturbance concerning the Way’. He constantly faced oppositions. Why? Because yes, the gospel is inclusive (reached people all over the nations, Jews and gentiles) but at the same time it is also offensive. It will always expose the sinfulness of the human heart. From the story, we know the fact that what turned Ephesus upside down was not Paul himself, but the preaching of the very Word of God. The Gospel, if preached faithfully, always challenge the idols of people’s heart and it has the power to change lives.

When a person is genuinely converted to Christ, he or she has new affections. Old loves, desires, and interests are replaced with new ones. The Ephesians loved many things— superstition, magic, worship of idols, and wealth / prosperity. But when Paul preached the gospel and the Holy Spirit opened their eyes, they experienced a change in their affections, so much that it affected the culture itself.

I’m pretty sure, most of you, if not all of you here, have ever experienced falling in love at some stage. Or at least, you get the idea of it. When you fall in love, you do the things that you don’t normally do, that’s so not you. I still remember, when I was in my last year of uni, back then Edrick was still pursuing mode. I was having internship job in Marrickville. Back then, we lived far away from each other. I lived in Eastern, and Edrick in North. On my first day of internship, I finished my job early and went home by train. Suddenly he called me, slightly panic, asking where I was! Apparently, he was already there in Marrickville to pick me up. He wanted to surprise me. But unfortunately I was already on the train, so we eventually met in the city area. That’s sweet, right? But that was also not like Edrick at all! Even he admitted himself that it was so not him. But when affections change, everything changes – it changes everything about you. You now wear make up or perfume, you wash your car, you wash your hair, you pick up your phone quickly. And that’s what happened with the Ephesians.

What happened next with Demetrius summed up what Paul’s preaching was doing. Like I said earlier, we can relate to this story because everyday in our lives, our heart deals with idols with us realising or not. It’s our everyday problem. The question is what or WHO is our idol – Jesus Christ or not at all. Every person or every culture always look for something to save them, something to put their hope in. In this particular story of Demetrius, it talks about the idolatry of money. But first of all, let’s take it step by step.


First of all, what is idolatry? I googled it, many many definitions of idolatry. The simplest way to put it, idolatry is valuing something more than we value God. They are the things in your life that are so central, so essential to you that you got to have it. IF I have that, then my life will be OK, my life has value and meaning. BUT IF I lose that, I don’t know how I would live.

Tim Keller says that if you lose a good thing,  you will be sad. But if you lose the ultimate thing, you will be devastated. Obviously, we don’t say it or think of it literally, “my life only has meaning if…” Yet we live in such a way that reveals that’s actually what’s going on in our hearts.


First, all of us are guilty of it. Everyone of us, whether we are believers or not, internally we don’t want to believe that we are saved by grace through faith alone. Because of our sinful nature, we want to earn our own salvation, just like we earn any good things in this world

Look at v25 , “Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.” Demetrius and friends thought that their business is the ultimate source of money. Simple thing like us today, we thought that we can only earn a lot of money by having a really good and promising career. So we tried everything to put our career on top of everything. Yes I am not saying you are to be lazying around, but our blessing, our provision comes first and foremost from the Lord through our job. Our job is the means for God to bless us. He is the ultimate source of that provision. By nature we want to rely on something else that makes us think that “You are the one in control. You made it happen!”. It makes us feel good, right? But the truth is, you don’t. It makes you feel as if you are in control, but you are not. That’s exactly how sin works in our lives.

Tim Keller says idolatry is the essence of all sins. JD Greear says idolatry is the core sin of man.  There is a reason why God put “You shall have no Gods before Me” in one of the first of ten commandments. God knows how our heart is so prone to the sin of idolatry. 

Second, the forms of idolatry. Why is this a problem? David Clark, one of Christian authors says that we may no longer involved in physical and open idolatry, like the old days. We are dealing now with secret and inner idolatry, which is equally sinful but far more dangerous. Because we are bowing down to something that does not have a physical image in our heart. In other words, we can make anything into idols. Anything!

Not only secretive and internal, idols are often good things, not bad and sinful forbidden things. They’re good gifts but made ultimate. Our biggest problem is never the things we shouldn’t do. Our main problem is the good things that should be in our lives, but we elevate them more than it should be. We love them more than we are willing to admit. And this happens secretly inside human’s heart. How we ought to be more extra aware because it is so subtle! We may not realise it.

I would like to take some time to talk about some of the most common idols among us:

1)  Money – this is an idol to most people. Everyone needs money. Money is a helpful thing to have, it is such a great resource. Making a great amount of money can be so fun and you can do a lot of good with it. BUT when it becomes the ultimate thing in a person’s life or a culture (like the Ephesians), then it becomes a problem. People are willing to protest, making a riot, people nowadays cheat in their business, they lie in their taxation, and committed fraud, they sacrifice time with their family in order to get more money or save more money!  The idol of money says to us, “If you don’t do enough to obtain me, I’ll make you miserable.”

2)  Romance – love is very powerful. This can happen whether you are single or married. And this is also tricky especially for those who have a great relationship or marriage. It is very possible for us to look to our spouse beyond all the good things marriage can give us. We feel as if I am nobody unless this person loves me. If that is the case, you will do anything to make that person loves you! You will put no boundaries in your relationship. For example, sex. You know you shouldn’t do it before marriage, but you do it anyway. Another one, you practically shouldn’t be in a relationship or married with a non-Christian but you do, purely because you are scared to be alone, to have nobody to love you. Oh yes, you feel bad about it, but you are ‘forced’ to do it because you can’t bear the image of losing this person. The idol of romance says, “If you lose me, life won’t be worth living.”

3)  Children – ugh. I’m very nervous to talk about this idol because I feel like who am I? I haven’t even parent a child yet! But when I studied it, even I haven’t had children yet, I sort of can see how possible it is for me to fall into the same idolatry. Very possible! When we look at our children and think, if they are happy that means I am a good parent. If they are successful, that means I have done the right thing. For us Christians, if my children are believers, that means I am something. Children are good gifts from God. They bring so much joy and colour into our lives. But when we look at them as the ultimate thing, when we feel like we get our worth and meaning from them, that becomes all sorts of problems. I want to bring this up because when we see around us, especially growing up in Asian families and culture, we see this almost everywhere. We know how most of our parents have lived their lives out for us, basically. For some of us, we experienced it first-hand, we are the center of their universe. And it is very possible for us to do the same with our own children. Obviously I am not saying we are to abandon our children or become slack in our parenting, but there is a thin line between loving our children and idolising them. It is scary!

4)  Comfort – This is very familiar for us who has been living in Australia for a while. Praise God, Australia is such a great country to live in. One of the most comfortable country in fact. Look at what happened this year 2020. Covid happened all over the world, recession and economic damage everywhere. Despite of all the stretches and struggles, Australia managed to handle this pandemic like a champion. We have hospitals, we have free test kits in all the drive through services, we have government supporting minimum wage or those who lost their job.  Few weeks ago, Edrick read some news on the internet saying that Australia is now officially free of recession, in just a matter of months! Look at other countries. Look at Indonesia now, still struggling with a massive rate of increasing Covid cases. People are dying of hunger because of the pandemic. The contrast is just so far different like the heaven and earth.

We are so comfortable HERE, that without we realise it, it becomes one our idol internally. Anything that makes us uncomfortable, we want to avoid it, we don’t want to do it. Ironically, in Christianity, we are called to get out from our comfort zone. One of the examples is we are called to love one another and grow in community. Is it comfortable? Far from it. We all are old enough to know that almost everybody is hard to love. We have our own way of thinking, our own preference, our own way of doing things. Loving one another means we are to be involved in the mess of our brother’s and sister’s life, not just at surface level, not just those whom you prefer to hang out with. Be involved in your MC, listening and sharing their struggles, cry with them, laugh with them, do life with them, praying, rebuking, reminding, forgiving, forbearing and shepherding one another. It cost us time, energy, emotions, but mainly great deal of our comfort, but that’s what Great commission has called us. We are called to make disciples. One of the enemies of making disciple is personal comfort. The idol of comfort says, “Sacrifice your honesty, your integrity, your relationships, your obedience to God, for me.”

5)  Religion. The reason I included this today is because I am aware that majority of us are growing Christians. We have been planted in RSI as our home church for quite some time. We are so so blessed with Ps Sam, Ps Lydia and Ps Yosia who faithfully preach the truth from the word of God. We talked about how we want to grow DEEP in the Gospel and WIDE with the gospel. That has become our motto. First, throughout those years, we definitely have been growing DEEP, we learned much about sound doctrine, about God’s grace, that’s great! We need it. However, if we are not careful, it is very possible for us to think that we are saved because of our sound doctrine, that I am okay because I know I believe in the right thing (not false doctrine/heresy). Even though we say that we believe in the grace of God, deep down we rest our salvation on the rightness of our doctrine, rather than because Jesus Christ died for me.

Instead of being humbled by the Gospel, we feel this sense of superiority, as if we are better than anyone else especially those who know little about the gospel. We feel okay, we feel safe and everything is going to be okay because we are right. For some of us, we feel okay because of our clean moral records, which is a good thing. Holiness is a good thing, but when we trust in those things rather than God Himself, it becomes idolatry even if it seems spiritual.

Secondly, throughout our years as well, especially 2020, we have been growing ‘WIDE’ in some sense. We managed the stretch in resources while expanding our ministries, such as online streaming, adding children ministry in the evening service, which by God’s grace, they are growing in numbers and reaching wide (people watching from overseas). That’s great. But if we are not careful, it is possible for us to believe that we are justified by the success of our ministries. You know, busy and growing ministries are good gifts. But if they are becoming the reason you feel like God is with me, because look at these great things that are happening through me. The moment they are taken away from you, you feel so lost like what did I do wrong? Is God not with me? When that happens, we ought to ask ourselves if our ministries has become our justification, the source of our righteousness?


So as you see.. all of the common idols are all good things! But most of the time, the way we live our lives shows that we are valuing them more than God. It is a problem because:

First, everyone is guilty of it

Second, we can worship anything, but even more dangerously, they often are good things.

Even though, idols are nothing, they have no power and not the one true God. But they are real enough to blind us and enslave us to false hope.

BLINDNESS. Demetrius accused Paul of saying “gods made with hands are not God’, which seems to be self-explained. A god you shaped in your mind or with your hand is clearly not the God who created you. Even a child knows this! But look at what happened at Demetrius and friends. The Ephesians, including them, were so blinded that even such argument was enough to make them feel threatened and create a riot.

When our idol is threatened, we try every means possible to convince ourselves that something else is not right. We are blinded to deny the truth, instead of realising our own sin which is, idolatry. Pay attention to what happened with Demetrius. V27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.” Interesting how they were more concerned about protecting the Artemis because they want to keep their business, rather than being more concerned for their true salvation. Demetrius has no interest whatsoever in trying to learn what Paul is teaching. Even more ironically, he’s driven ultimately by money, not by his genuine love for the goddess.

ENSLAVEMENT. Nowadays, we have managers and bosses at work. In the old days of the bible, we have slave masters. Although we like to talk interchangeably these days like “I worked like a slave” and joke around with it, but there is a massive difference. There is a limit to what a boss can do to you. Nowadays, there are many workers rules involved. Boss can’t do anything they want. On the contrary, a slave master can literally do anything they want to you. Basically, your life is at their mercy. They can beat you, sell you, spit at you, rape you, kill you. They have no rules or boundaries. That’s what happened with idolatry. Your idol is doing whatever it wants with you, with no mercy. They demand everything from you and more! We do anything we can, not to lose it. We turned upside down and go crazy until nothing bothers our precious idols. But once they are taken away, our first response is outrage. Instead of repent and looking to Jesus, idol worshipers get angry and furious. Chaos and violence happened, like this story.


I hope so far you can sense the heaviness on your shoulder. If we deal with it everyday, it’s so subtle we may not realise it, once we fell into it, we go blind. It’s everyone disease, how do we get cure of it?

When I studied this, I was so overwhelmed. I realised how scary our heart is. How subtle the sins and idols we have in our hearts. We think that we are just hardworking, but we don’t. We think that we are just loving our kids, but we don’t. We think that we are devoted to God, but we don’t. We don’t know our own heart!

How do I make money without making it my Saviour?

How do I enjoy my marriage without idolising my spouse?

How do I raise Children and loving them without making idolising them?

How do I serve God without making ministry my justification?

Only the Gospel can do that.

Where all the idols say, “If you want more, you should sacrifice more. If you miss out on me, I will make you miserable. If you fail me, I will destroy you.” Your life is at their mercy. You are hoping on them, yet they have ZERO mercy. 

Jesus is the only God who says, “You did fail me, but I sacrifice myself for you in order to save you”.

J.D Greear says, when we commit idolatry, we are not just sinning against God, but also against ourselves. That’s why Paul sees idolatry as a serious problem, he couldn’t stand still. Even when he went on holiday, he still couldn’t help himself to preach against idolatry. V30 But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him.  Riot and mob did not scare Paul even a bit. He was totally willing to risk his life and preach to them so they could repent. If it costs Paul to risk his life, going through all the oppositions he experienced in order to defeat the idolatry of the people there.  It costs Jesus Christ His very own life, in order to defeat the idolatry in my heart and your heart.

The bible always uses this phrase interchangeably when talking about idolatry, that is spiritual adultery. God illustrates idolatry like a prostitute who has given herself away to countless lovers. We have betrayed our spiritual Bride groom, over and over again. Back in that time, adulterers deserved to be sentenced to death. We deserved to be killed and divorced forever from God, but Jesus says, “I will bring you back”. On the cross of Christ, He took our shame, He took our curse and corruption onto Himself that we may return to God for God Himself, not for other gods. He wants us to be reconciled with Him, cloth us in His righteousness and welcome us back as His spotless bride – that’s grace.

I want to close with this quote by Tim Keller. It struck me so much when I read it. “Jesus is the only God whom, when you obtain Him, will satisfy you, and when you fail Him will forgive you”. All other god, when you obtain them, they will suck life out of you. And when you fail them, there is no mercy. But not Jesus Christ our Lord. There is no other God like him.

Discussion questions:

  1. What is idolatry and how do you know if you have an idol?
  2. Why do you think it is a lot easier to recognize other people’s idol than your own idol?
  3. Look at the 5 examples of common idols in our lives. Which top two do you think affected your life the most? How?
  4. Explain how the gospel is the only cure for idolatry.
  5. How can we help protect one another from idolatry?
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