Why Do People Reject the Gospel?

An Analysis of the Riot in Ephesus (Acts 19:21-41)

by Jeff Dominguez

If you’ve been sharing the gospel for quite a time now, I’m sure you are also asking this question. To me personally, this question is a big deal. I cannot comprehend how people can reject such a wonderful message of salvation. While there are many possible reasons, one of the sure answers was already revealed in the Bible. We can read about it in Acts 19.

Acts 19 is the account of Paul’s third missionary journey. And one of the places that he ministered to on this journey was the place called Ephesus. Ephesus is a port city in the westernmost region of Asia Minor (see map below).

credits to the owner of the image

And because it is a port city, it naturally grew to become a rich city as more traders and businessmen flocked to the place. But more than being a rich city, Ephesus was most famous for its iconic landmark: THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS.

The Temple of Artemis in Ancient Ephesus (credits to the owner of the image)

Before Paul and his team arrived in Ephesus and introduced Christ, the Ephesians were worshipping a Greek goddess called “Artemis of the Ephesians” (this is different from the other Greek goddess that is also called Artemis).

credits to the owner of the image

So who is she? according to Kallosgallery.com:

“In Greek thought and myth, Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo, born in Delos, and a virgin huntress who replaced the Titan Selene as goddess of the moon. At Ephesus, she was worshipped mainly as a fertility goddess, and was identified with Cybele the mother goddess of eastern lands.”

source: https://kallosgallery.com/blog/45-artemis-of-ephesus/

As stated, the Ephesians were worshipping this Artemis. So when Paul and his team arrived and introduced Jesus, naturally, conflict arose.

One of the people who immediately disliked Paul and the Jesus that he was preaching were the craftsmen who made a living by making and selling the silver shrines of Artemis. One of these craftsmen was a man named Demetrius. Let’s read his initial reaction in Acts 19:23-27.

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 of this, the other silversmiths were provoked into anger and thus the famous “Riot in Ephesus” happened (vv28-41). But we won’t discuss the rest of what happened since the answer to our question in this article was already given in Demetrius’ statement. Let’s go back to that passage.

If we will carefully study Demetrius’ statement, we will arrive at two implications:

1) First, Demetrius doesn’t like Paul and the Gospel that he was preaching (v26; that there is only one true God and the gods that they worship and manufacture are not real).

2) He hates the Gospel not because he doesn’t believe it, but because it threatens his thriving business (vv25, 27).

So now, we are ready to answer our main question.



Allow me to explain.

Again, it is clear that Demetrius was repulsed by the Gospel message not because he doesn’t believe it, but because it threatens his thriving business. Demetrius is not just worshipping Artemis, but he is also becoming rich through her. In other words, his idolatry of Artemis gives him worldly wealth. It was such a great life for Demetrius!

To make it even simpler, Demetrius is enjoying his sin. He loves what he is doing. This is why he rejects the Gospel. If he accepts it, it would mean two things: First, that he is wrong; and second, he would have to abandon the sinful livelihood that brings him worldly wealth. And he doesn’t want either of these to happen. Therefore, this proves that one of the reasons why people reject the gospel is that they love their sin (and the benefits that it brings) and they don’t want to let it go.

Unsurprisingly, this is not breaking news. Going back to the Book of John, it turns out that Jesus has already revealed this in his discussion with Nicodemus. According to Jesus:

“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world,

and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

– John 3:19-21

This statement contains metaphors about light and darkness. In the context of this passage, the light refers to Jesus and His Gospel while darkness refers to sin and evil. And accordingly, as Jesus said, people who hate and avoid the gospel are people who love and enjoy sin. Demetrius and the other silversmiths are an example of Jesus’ point.

We also learned in this passage that sin is the great barrier between us and God. After all, it was sin that caused humanity to be separated from God (Adam and Eve’s fall). Therefore, this reveals that the reason why some people do not fully embrace the Christian life is that they have hidden sins in their lives that they keep and cherish. And until they let that go, they will never live the full Christian life. Like Jesus said,

“…but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” – Luke 13:5

Reflection/Discussion Questions:

So now that we know the answer to our question, it’s time to apply this learning and reflect on ourselves. There are two angles that we could reflect on this:

First, let’s reflect on ourselves. As of this moment, have you truly embraced Christ in your life? Have you truly repented of our sins? Do you truly believe in the Gospel message?

If not, could there be hidden sin in your life that you are keeping because you are enjoying it?

The second angle is for teachers, preachers, and leaders. If you’ve noticed, Jesus never shied away from preaching about sin. He always tells people to repent of their sins or to never sin again. Some of them, He even rebuked straight to their faces (out of love of course). But the point is, Jesus showed that leaders should preach about sin and its terrible consequences. And as we have learned in this discussion, the reason why some people are avoiding Christianity is that they have a sin that they enjoy. Therefore, preaching the positive aspects of the Gospel like God’s love and forgiveness won’t be enough. Preachers need to courageously rebuke people of their sins. Most of all, we need to warn people of the eternal consequences of their sin (Romans 6:23). And we don’t know, it could be the key that they need for them to believe in the Gospel.

So as a Christian leader, have you been faithful in preaching the full aspect of the Gospel like Jesus did? or have you been preaching only the sweet side of the Gospel because you are afraid to offend people?

Ask yourself, who are you truly trying to please? Are you preaching to please men or are you preaching to please God?

Like J.I. Packer said:

credits to the owner of the image

So that’s it. I hope you’ve been blessed in this special discussion. Like always, it is my prayer that God has spoken to you through this article, and most of all, may you apply whatever you learn and share it with others.

God Bless! 🙂

2 thoughts on “Why Do People Reject the Gospel?

  1. True, very true brother. And to protect their lifestyle from a bothering conscience people go to great lengths to validate their sin, even champion their right to sin.
    Thank you for another edifying post. Press on Jeff!

    Liked by 1 person

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