Acts 19:28-41 - Paul's Intent and Tone

Acts 19:28-41 - Paul's Intent and Tone

The lesson title is derived from verse 37 of our text.
It is our aim to understand how the town clerk could have truthfully said that Paul did not blaspheme Artemis.
The lesson title is the answer we will explore.


Acts 19:29a & 37a - So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus… 37 For you have brought these men here…

Who are “these men” – Gaius and Aristarchus?
It seems Paul was not there when the mob ensued, so they grabbed 2 of his coworkers in Christ.
Aristarchus – He was a converted Jew from Thessalonica (where most of the Jews formed a mob on 1st visit).
Colossians 4:10 reveals to us that he accompanied Paul on his journey to Rome, and in fact was also a fellow prisoner with Paul.
Gaius – He was from Derbe (where Paul fled after being stoned at Lystra).
Romans 16:23 tells us he “hosted” Paul during his stay at Ephesus.
Corinthians 1:14 shows us that he was one of only 2 people Paul baptized.

Our text today also tells us they were traveling companions with Paul.
So because of this, we know that both sacrificed for the sake of the Gospel; they left home to accompany Paul.
It is also reasonable to assume they spoke the Gospel alongside Paul and learned from him.


Acts 19:37b - who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess.
The town clerk (mayor) calms the men, in part, by saying there is no legitimate claim against these me because they have not stolen from the temple of Artemis nor have they blasphemed against her.

This begs two questions:
1) What might have Paul, Gaius and Aristarchus have said to a city full of idolators?
2) Why would the town clerk not consider the Gospel and their words blasphemous toward Artemis?

First, we need to take a look at what Paul, Gaius and Aristarchus may have said to their Pagan audience.

What might “these men” and Paul have said to idol worshippers?
Acts 19:26 - 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.

From Chad’s lesson last week, this text reveals one thing spoken by Paul and friends.
Gods made with man-hands are not gods.

Acts 14:15 & 17 - “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 17 Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

After having been identified as Zeus and Hermes while in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas plead with the people.
Turn from vain things, Zeus & Hermes, to a living God.
The living God bears witness to you through rain, seasons, food and gladness.

Acts 17:22-31 - So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for “ ‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your own poets have said, “ ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

Upon arrival at Athens, Paul addresses the philosophers at the Areopagus.
They are very religious.
God does not live in temples made by man.
God is not served by human hands.
Man should seek this God, who created all things.
We are this God’s offspring.
God is not of gold or silver or stone or man made.
Repent because this God will judge in righteousness through the risen Jesus Christ.

Paul is emphasizing that his huge God is not found in gold or some temple – all unfulfilling attempts to find God.
God is more than all these things; He’s the creator of the gold and the rock used to make the temple!
The idolators’ desire to search for God is legitimate, but they need to think bigger than a gilded wood idle or altar.
Paul points them in the right direction, Jesus, and knows that it is up to God to bring them unto Himself.

What is Blasphemy?
Now that we have an idea of what Paul and His companions might have said, we need to know what blasphemy is.
The Greek word means to speak evil of, to insult, malicious talk and slander.
Ezekiel 20:27 says it is to deal treacherously with.
Matthew 9:3 and Mark 2:7 say it is to claim to be equal to God.
Acts 6:11 says it is to speak falsely against God.
Romans 2:24 and 2 Peter 2:2 says actions done in God’s name that are hypocrisy is blasphemy.

So knowing all this, why did the town clerk not think Paul, Gaius and Aristarchus blasphemed Artemis?
We must remember that not only the mob, but the Asiarchs who oversaw the emperor worship, would have had legitimate reason to deal with Paul and his companions harshly had they felt they were blasphemous toward Claudius or Artemis.
But as Scripture states, the Asiarchs were actually friends of Paul’s.

Paul’s Intent and Tone in speaking the Gospel:
This, of course, leads us to the following question in order to address this apparent anomaly:
How did Paul speak the Gospel to idolatrous Pagans and not blaspheme their gods?
The case can be made that he spoke the Gospel differently to Jews than to Pagans.
We saw this when we compared his Acts 13 sermon to those in Acts 14 and Acts 17.
I think, however, that Paul’s intent and tone were the same, to some extent, no matter the audience.
The Bible sheds light on Paul’s intent and tone when he spoke the Gospel.
It reveals 3 different words used to describe how he and, even Jesus, desired to give no offense.

Acts 25:8 - Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”
Same word as sin – to miss the mark.

1 Corinthians 10:31-33 - So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
1 having nothing to strike against, not causing to stumble. 1a of a smooth road. 1b metaph. of not leading others to sin by one’s mode of life. 2 not striking against or stumbling. 2a metaph. not led into sin, blameless. 3 without offense, not troubled by a consciousness of sin.

Matthew 17:24-27 - When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
1 to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend. 1a to entice to sin. 1b to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey. 1b1 to cause to fall away. 1b2 to be offended in one, i.e. to see in another what I disapprove of and what hinders me from acknowledging his authority. 1b3 to cause one to judge unfavourably or unjustly of another. 1c since one who stumbles or whose foot gets entangled feels annoyed. 1c1 to cause one displeasure at a thing. 1c2 to make indignant. 1c3 to be displeased, indignant.

1 Corinthians 9:12 - If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.
1 a cutting (made in a road to impede an enemy in pursuit). 2 a hindrance.

For Paul, it’s important to know his audience and live and speak the Gospel in a way that is most effective.
His tone and intent is to not let his actions or words get in the way of the power of the Gospel.
But, he does so w/o compromising his life under Christ.
Paul was really a missionary and an ethnographer – he understood a specific cultures politics, beliefs, religion, etc.
The below scripture summarizes Paul’s tone and intent when speaking the Gospel, and it’s one we have used before.

1 Corinthians 9:20-23 - To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. 21 To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

POI - Of course, the tone and intent to not give offense, also raises some questions.
The silversmiths suffered economically due to Paul’s message.
And earlier, Paul cast out a demon from a fortune teller, costing her handlers money.
Why would these outcomes not be considered by Paul a hindrance, obstacle or offensive?
Surely the men losing money were offended.
From 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, we just learned that Paul did nothing “seeking my own advantage.”
The answer is to be found, then, in Paul’s motive.
First, not only was he not out to get them, but he was not out to get them so that he might benefit from it in any way.
And second, Paul did not think he offended them because they also were freed from the trap, love of money, that may very well have hindered them from hearing the Gospel – like the rich young ruler.

We are neither to water down the Gospel to make it sound more relevant (Gospel is foolishness to unbelievers) nor are we to offend by insulting the person or belittle what they believe.
Like Paul, we are to know our audience, speak the Gospel and point them to the living God, the big God, the true God.
I suspect Paul, instead of saying “Artemis is bogus”, said “Christ is risen and alive.”
Instead of saying, “Why do you idiots worship a rock”, he might say “worship the God that lives and blesses you with rain and seasons.”
2 Corinthians 2:17 - For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.