When the workers heard this, they got angry and started shouting, “Great is Artemis, the goddess of the Ephesians!” Soon 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. Some 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. (Acts 19:28-29, 32 CEV)
In his days, he did not tremble and marvel at evil; he confronted evil with the Gospel of Jesus. That was the secret of his life and exploits. The Apostle Paul believed in the power of the Gospel, and he did not see himself as having any other tool for changing his world than the Gospel. Now, if you attend a conference for World Changers, you will hear all manners of theories and philosophies with regards to how to change the world. Some say everyone should protest; some say we should actively be involved in politics so that we can change laws and write edicts supporting the Christian faith, and many more. But the early Church did not have any of the things we look forward to today as advantages; they did not have over-flowing money, nor did they have impressive buildings, or notable members in the highest places who could speak for them. Rather, they had the Gospel of the Kingdom, and it was enough for them.
While Paul was still at Ephesus, a riot started in the city concerning the Christian faith. What was the matter? Ephesus was a land filled with idolatry, and was the center for the worship of Diana (or Artemis) whose image was said to have fallen down from the sky in Ephesus. So, Ephesus was the center of the worship of goddess Diana, and her greatest temple was there and drew thousands yearly who came for religious pilgrimage. Now, how did Paul confront the idolatry in Ephesus? Did he stage a protest against the shrine? No. Did he lobby some rich men in high places to pass laws against the shrine? No. He did not even make Diana a personal pet project for insult, nor did he turn the church in Ephesus into an anti-Diana party. No. He simply preached the Gospel to all. For two (2) years, he stayed in the Lecture hall of Tyrannus and taught many people what it means to put ones faith in Jesus, and how that idols were no gods and could not save anyone. Also, he demonstrated the power of the Gospel of Jesus in healing their sicknesses, answering their questions, and meeting them at their points of need. What was the effect of that?
We hear directly from the mouth of one Demetrius, a silversmith who had made big profit from selling small idols of Diana and selling it to pilgrims, and to those who wanted to build mini-shrines for Diana. He made his living from selling these idols, and had become very wealthy through it. Paul never directly confronted him; neither did Paul demand that people should stop patronizing him. No. He simply preached the Gospel, and as men repented and believed in Christ Jesus, they dropped their magical arts, their idols and all those things that linked them to Diana of Ephesus. This was not only in Ephesus, but was spreading throughout all the regions of Asia, from whence flowed in pilgrims to Ephesus to worship at Diana’s great Temple. Demetrius noticed a sharp decline on sales, and when he traced the reason for this, he saw that there was this philosophy called “the Way” which was spreading like a plague, and was turning many people away from idol worship, and so from the worship of Diana of Ephesus. He remarked that this was not good for his business; and since he too (being in Ephesus) had heard the word about Jesus which was coming from Paul’s mouth, he took an action to stop the menace.
He summoned all his employees and fellows from the same trade for an extraordinary solidarity meeting, and said to them: “Men, you know that our prosperity comes from this work. Now, you can see and hear for yourselves what this fellow Paul is doing. He says that hand-made gods are not gods at all, and he has succeeded in convincing many people, both here in Ephesus and in nearly the whole province of Asia. There is the danger, then, that this business of ours will get a bad name. Not only that, but there is also the danger that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will come to mean nothing and that her greatness will be destroyed—the goddess worshiped by everyone in Asia and in all the world!” (Acts 19:25-27 GNB)
I encourage everyone to go and read up the entire account in Acts 19; you will see that human beings have been the same from the time past till today. It is not strange to see men staging a protest and solidarity marches as if they really cared about whatever it is that they were protesting. For many people, those protests are borne out of selfish interest; they want to use the protests to achieve a personal goal or ambition. For others, they simply love anywhere action is taking place, so you will usually see them in protests even when they do not know what the protest was about. That was how it was in the riot at Ephesus.
The shout began as “Great is Diana of the Ephesians”, but it then spread into other things as great crowds packed in the 20,000 capacity amphitheater and were chanting one thing or the other. Paul sought to enter the hall and address the crowd, but the disciples and also Paul’s friends among the city leadership forbade him. At the end, the city leadership addressed the mob and dismissed them.
After the uproar died down, Paul called together the believers and with words of encouragement said good-bye to them. Then he left and went on to Macedonia. (Acts 20:1 GNB)
AND SO? As it was in Paul’s time, so it is in our time. We have issues around abortion, lesbianism, transgenderism, pornography, immoral shows, bribery and corruption and many other issues confronting our society today. However, sometimes we get into a frenzy trying to fight these evils in themselves. Thus, we get involved in a lot of advocacy, protests, etc. and we seem to fight on the same turf with the world around us. But our greatest tool is the Gospel of Jesus preached, believed and lived out. When a critical mass of people believe in Jesus and are truly following him; the world can have their abortion centers, but there will be no one to patronize them. They could have their pornographic sites, but no one will visit them; and in this, they will take note, that there is that which is capable of robbing them of their trade, without the force of violence. May God bring us back into the power that is in the Gospel. AMEN.