For everyone who has been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, the Gospel will challenge their culture in significant ways. In Acts 19, we see Paul spend two years in Ephesus. During that time the Gospel challenges both Jews and Greeks. Some respond well to the challenge and repent not only in word but also in action. The most powerful of these moments is when those who practiced magic arts abandon their former spirituality and bring millions of dollars worth of their own occult books to be burned. The Gospel is powerful enough to change lives and reorient humanity into the new humanity found in Christ.
However, others see the Way as a threat. We are told of some Jews who “continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the way before the congregation.” But we also see the craftsmen, motivated by a deadly combination of religious and monetary gain, seethe in their hatred toward this new message. Their hatred occurs because the Christian movement is having such an impact on idolatry. As a result, people are no longer purchasing idols or religious relics. The Christian message undermines their way of life and thus, must be stopped. Even the sons of Sceva who try to take a more neutral position on the “Jesus whom Paul proclaims” are overpowered by the demons because they did not declare Jesus as Lord.
We live in a divided age, and it is understandable why Christians would want to remain neutral on various social issues or on the person of Jesus. However, to preach the “kingdom of God” (v. 8) means that every person must submit to the Lordship of Christ. For the Jews, this meant acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah (or Christ). For the Greeks, this required abandoning their idolatry and witchcraft. For the Church today, it means addressing what King Jesus has declared and commanded in Scripture on several controversial topics including human sexuality, social justice, and even judgement day. This does not mean that Christians have the right to be rude. It was said of the believers brought before the crowd, “you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.” In other words, these believers were known for their love and respect for their neighbours. Let us consider how the Gospel challenges us and our assumptions so that we might powerfully proclaim his kingdom.