And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
— Acts 19:30,31
The book of Acts relates an interesting story about the apostle Paul in which he was about to endanger his life until his friends stepped in, took control of the situation, and saved him from danger. Today I want to tell you about that event — and as you read, I want you to think about the times God has used family, friends, or acquaintances to save you from mistakes you were about to make!
We find the account in Acts 19. A huge demonstration against Christians took place in the Great Theater of Ephesus. Concerned about the negative impact that the Gospel was having on their businesses, angry rioters took to the streets and dragged several of Paul’s companions into the theater (see v. 29).
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When Paul heard what was happening, he wanted to rush into the demonstration and join his detained friends. The Bible doesn’t tell us why he wanted to do this. Maybe he thought he could save them from being hurt, or perhaps he wanted to be alongside them because they were his traveling companions.
However, regardless of Paul’s motivation, the Bible tells us that his friends immediately stepped in to convince him otherwise. Acts 19:30,31 records: “And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.”
Notice verse 30 states that Paul “…would have entered in unto the people….” The word “would” here is a translation of the Greek word boulemai, meaning to counsel, to advise, or to exercise one’s will about something. In this context, it means that after thinking through all the consequences of his decision, Paul counseled himself and made up his mind to enter the theater. Fully realizing that doing so could place his life in jeopardy, Paul still concluded that he should join his friends in their plight.
Verse 30 goes on to say that Paul “…would have entered in unto the people….” The word “people” is the Greek word demos. In this context, the word demos refers to a large mass of people. The Great Theater of Ephesus seated approximately 24,000 people — and the use of the word demos in verse 30 indicates that the seats were nearly packed by the time Paul decided to join the fray. As the screams and shouts of the rioters reverberated throughout the city, people came from every quarter of Ephesus to investigate the source of the disturbance.
As Paul began to make his way toward the Great Theater, Acts 19:30 says, “…The disciples suffered him not.” When this verse states that the disciples prohibited Paul from entering the Great Theater of Ephesus, it refers to ardent followers — serious students who believed in Paul and felt a strong allegiance to him and to his ministry. Therefore, when they saw that the apostle had determined to enter the theater, they took action to stop him.
It is natural that Paul wanted to join his ministry associates when they potentially faced trouble in the theater. However, although this act of courage may at first appear heroic, it could have resulted in Paul’s premature death and the end of his ministry. If he had done as he planned and suffered death as a result, the loss of his ministry at that time would have been a devastating blow to the work of God’s Kingdom.
These verses provide a vivid example of how God often uses friends and disciples to stop us from making mistakes that may have devastating consequences. Paul’s desire to enter the theater may have seemed like the right thing to do at that moment. But the apostle had much more work to do, and those who were committed to him and his ministry stepped forward — possibly against his will — to stop him from making a mistake that could have had life-threatening ramifications.
And it wasn’t only Paul’s disciples who tried to stop him from entering the theater. Even pagan unbelievers who respected the apostle knew that this wasn’t the right thing for him to do. Acts 19:31 says, “And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.”
The “certain of the chief of Asia” is a translation of the word Asiarch, which is a title derived from the word Asia and archos. The word Asia, of course, referred to that region of the world. The word archos is the Greek word that describes someone of a high rank or position. When the two words were compounded, the new word became a particular title given to ten high-ranking men throughout Asia Minor as representatives of the Roman emperor.
This is a very important point because it reveals that Paul’s ministry had permeated the lofty classes of society. Just as Jesus had been a friend to sinners and tax collectors, Paul was a friend to the local Asiarch — a prestigious unbeliever who served the emperor. This man had been sufficiently exposed to Paul to develop a strong respect for him. So when the Asiarch suddenly became aware of Paul’s intention to enter the theater, he and his high-ranking associates took action to prevent him from being personally injured as a result of such a rash action.
Paul was a spiritual man, but God used others to redirect Paul’s steps and prohibit him from taking a detrimental course of action — as the Lord often does with His people. In this case, He came from every direction, using both believing disciples and high-ranking pagans to stop Paul from taking a step that could have resulted in tragedy.
Acts 19 doesn’t tell us whether or not Paul agreed with those who protested his intention to enter the theater. Regardless of how the apostle felt about the situation, however, it remains a fact that their actions stopped the apostle from acting on a potentially tragic decision. I’m sure when the event was finished, Paul was thankful for the actions of his friends that intervened on his behalf that day.
Can you think of a time when God used family, friends, or associates to help navigate you through a difficult time or to redirect you when you were about to make a fateful decision? Or maybe there was a moment when God used you to do this for someone else.
We may not always appreciate it when our friends act on our behalf, but when the situation calms down and we see things from a different perspective, we often realize that God was using our friends to spare us. Later we are thankful that God used them to help us when we didn’t see things so correctly.
Why don’t you stop and thank God today for the family, friends, and acquaintances that God has used in your life in a similar way?
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Heavenly Father, I acknowledge and repent for being stubborn. I admit that my decisions have not always been right, and there have been moments when You have used friends and associates to stop me from acting in a way that might harm me. At the time, I didn’t like their advice and their actions, but after I calmed down I came to realize that You had intervened in my life by using them to help redirect my steps. Thank You for loving me so much that You would use others to help navigate me through difficult moments. I am so grateful for the friends and influences You’ve positioned along my path in life who have helped me when I didn’t even know I was going the wrong way. My heart is filled with thanksgiving for this today!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I walk among the wise, and I give attention to the voice of wisdom. God loves me so much that He will place people around me who speak truth to me and help me when I don’t even know that I need help. When I am about to make a wrong decision or take an action that could be detrimental to me, they speak up and I listen to what they have to say. I declare that I will be open-hearted to them and will hear the voice of God speaking to me through friends when I need His voice to come to me in that way!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Can you think of a time when God used certain people in your life to spare you from a wrong decision that you were about to make? When was that experience, and how did God use them to stop you from going in a wrong direction?
- Have you ever taken time to thank that person(s) for loving you enough to step forward and to act on your behalf — even if they risked your friendship to do so? What if they had said nothing? What would have happened? Don’t you think it’s right for you to take the time to call them, write them a note, or find some way to express your thankfulness to them for what they did?
- Has God ever used you to spare other individuals from making a bad decision? When was that event? What would have happened if you had just let them do what they had planned to do? Were you later thankful that you had the courage to speak up and act on their behalf?