False Gods and Riots

Acts 19:21-41
21  Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, “After I have been there, I must also see Rome.” 22  And having sent into Macedonia two of his helpers, Timothy and Erastus, he himself stayed in Asia for a while. 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.” 28  When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29  So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul’s companions in travel. 30  But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31  And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater. 32  Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together. 33  Some of the crowd prompted Alexander, whom the Jews had put forward. And Alexander, motioning with his hand, wanted to make a defense to the crowd. 34  But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all cried out with one voice, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 35  And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? 36  Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. 37  For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. 38  If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. 39  But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. 40  For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” 41  And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly.

For the second time now we have a story where Paul upsets the business community and trouble breaks out among the people. (The first one was back in chapter 16 with the demon possessed slave girl who supposedly foretold the future.) Now in Ephesus Paul's message that there is only one God who does not needs small statuary strikes fear in the hearts of those who make such statutes of the goddess Artemis.

Worship of the goddess Artemis was a thriving business in Ephesus. The temple of Artemis was a definite draw for the people in the area and the Ephesians had turned the worship of her into an art form. And of course anyone who came to Ephesus to worship this goddess needed to take home a souvenir. So the tradesmen/craftsmen had a thriving business supplying these trinkets. In their eyes, Paul's message stands in the way of their fortune and they were probably right.

It is important to note that while worship of Artemis is not something we find in the world today, the worship of Jesus is. Today the once great temple now stands in ruins in the town of Selçuk, Turkey. While we build churches all over the world they worship of Christ is not dependent upon those buildings. The worship of Jesus continues because He is True God and not a creation of our own hands. The merchants of Paul's day were so frightened by the prospect of losing their money making projects they start a riot. The good news for us is that our worship lives are not dependent upon other people. We don't need idol builders to ignite worship in our hearts. God has taken care of us so beautifully that our worship of Him cannot be hindered in any way by another.