23At that time there was serious trouble because of the Lord's Way. 24A silversmith named Demetrius had a business that made silver models of the temple of the goddess Artemis. Those who worked for him earned a lot of money. 25Demetrius brought together everyone who was in the same business and said:
Friends, you know we make a good living at this. 26But you have surely seen and heard how this man Paul is upsetting a lot of people, not only in Ephesus, but almost everywhere in Asia. He claims that the gods we humans make are not really gods at all. 27Everyone will start saying terrible things about our business. They will stop respecting the temple of the goddess Artemis, who is worshiped in Asia and all over the world. Our great goddess will be forgotten!
28When the workers heard this, they got angry and started shouting, “Great is Artemis, the goddess of the Ephesians!” 29Soon the whole city was in a riot, and some men grabbed Gaius and Aristarchus, who had come from Macedonia with Paul. Then everyone in the crowd rushed to the place where the town meetings were held.
30Paul wanted to go out and speak to the people, but the Lord's followers would not let him. 31A few of the local officials were friendly to Paul, and they sent someone to warn him not to go.
32Some of the people in the meeting were shouting one thing, and others were shouting something else. Everyone was completely confused, and most of them did not even know why they were there.
33Several of the Jewish leaders pushed a man named Alexander to the front of the crowd and started telling him what to say. He motioned with his hand and tried to explain what was going on. 34But when the crowd saw that he was Jewish, they all shouted for two hours, “Great is Artemis, the goddess of the Ephesians!”
35Finally, a town official made the crowd be quiet. Then he said:
People of Ephesus, who in the world doesn't know that our city is the center for worshiping the great goddess Artemis? Who doesn't know that her image which fell from heaven is right here? 36No one can deny this, and so you should calm down and not do anything foolish. 37You have brought men in here who have not robbed temples or spoken against our goddess.
38If Demetrius and his workers have a case against these men, we have courts and judges. Let them take their complaints there. 39But if you want to do more than that, the matter will have to be brought before the city council. 40We could easily be accused of starting a riot today. There is no excuse for it! We cannot even give a reason for this uproar.
41After saying this, he told the people to leave.
In the book of Acts, Luke often calls Christianity, “The Way” of the Lord (9:2; 19:9; 22:4; 24:14, 22). This was an appropriate term because it accurately described the Christians beliefs, practices and preaching of Jesus Christ as “The Way”!
This “Way” was actually at the source of the great riot recorded in this chapter. Ephesus happened to be home of the great temple dedicated to the goddess Artemis (or Diana). The Ephesians enjoyed a flourishing, lucrative commerce built upon their idolatrous devotion to this “retail-for-profit” lie which might have been simply a meteorite that fell from the sky!
Why then does Demetrius cry out so loudly (v 26)? Because the Ephesians knew only too well that if they listened to Paul and “The Way”, they would run the risk of losing huge revenues from their idol industry. Demetrius deemed his intervention necessary and urgent! The city was full of superstition and ignorance, and the whole industry was in peril. Demetrius was frantically trying to protect his own interests.
Where are the idols that my heart may be hiding? The Word of God gently invites me to lay them down, in a prayerful attitude, at the feet of Jesus.
The prospect of an imminent business failure as well as the locals questioning their religious idolatrous beliefs was enough to inspire Demetrius to stir up the crowds. The confusion was such that some people didn’t even know why they were there! Curiously though, isn’t that just like the society that we are living in today? Some people have an aversion to the gospel without even knowing why!
The Gospel exposes false beliefs and evil motives. In today’s world, an attitude of love and welcome is more effective than confrontation. And on those occasions when confrontation is needed, it should always be done with respect.
Thank you, Lord, for being with me and for keeping me from the wrongs of this world. Your Word confirms it well for me: “If God is on our side, can anyone be against us?” (Romans 8,31), and I can say with confidence “The Lord helps me! Why should I be afraid of what people can do to me? (Hebrews 13:6)?