A Riotous Time in Ephesus
Today, Father, I pray for the humility to ask for guidance, the courage to believe and the will to obey.
Read ACTS 19:23–41
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. 25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.”
28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. 30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. 31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.
32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. 33 The Jews in the crowd pushed Alexander to the front, and they shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. 34 But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”
35 The city clerk quieted the crowd and said: “Fellow Ephesians, doesn’t all the world know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of her image, which fell from heaven? 36 Therefore, since these facts are undeniable, you ought to calm down and not do anything rash. 37 You have brought these men here, though they have neither robbed temples nor blasphemed our goddess. 38 If, then, Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a grievance against anybody, the courts are open and there are proconsuls. They can press charges. 39 If there is anything further you want to bring up, it must be settled in a legal assembly. 40 As it is, we are in danger of being charged with rioting because of what happened today. In that case we would not be able to account for this commotion, since there is no reason for it.” 41 After he had said this, he dismissed the assembly.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10). We see a clear example of this during Paul’s visit to Ephesus.
We have seen that Paul’s ministry in Ephesus transformed the very fabric of the culture of that city and surrounding region. This episode shows the extent of that transformation. Ephesus contained the temple of Artemis, served by many prostitute priestesses, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Craftsmen made a lucrative income by selling silver shrines of Artemis to the many religious tourists who came to see it. Paul’s ministry there was threatening to undermine not only this business but the worship of the goddess Artemis herself (23–27). Inspired by a silversmith named Demetrius, “the whole city” (29) rioted and marched in protest to the huge amphitheater. I have personally walked among the Ephesian ruins in modern-day Turkey, seen the columns of the enormous temple to Artemis and stood in the very remains of this great amphitheater—such an experience vividly brings this story to life.
The scene is pure pandemonium, as everyone shouts in unison for two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (34). This is the final confrontation between a free Paul and pagan religion, clearly showing that God is continuing to powerfully work out his purposes. We also see God’s sovereign hand at work in the protection of Paul and his companions—it is not yet time for them to be tried or to suffer (35–40). “At Ephesus Christianity challenged one of the most potent of the ancient pagan cults, probably the most widely followed in antiquity” (Ben Witherington). What might it look like to see the Christian church today challenging the gods and idols of our cultures and societies? What could it mean for the church to recover such a prophetic voice, to confront injustice and evil and to see righteousness prevail?
Stories such as this inspire us to dream bigger with God—to impact and transform the culture we live in. How can you act towards this today?
Lord Jesus, please stretch and build my faith by giving me a God-sized dream to dream, one which only You can accomplish through me.
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