Lesson 24 | Sabbath, 13 June 2020
“For over three years Ephesus was the center of Paul’s work. A flourishing church was raised up here, and from this city the gospel spread throughout the province of Asia, among both Jews and Gentiles….
“In his speech Demetrius had said, ‘This our craft is in danger.’ These words reveal the real cause of the tumult at Ephesus, and also the cause of much of the persecution which followed the apostles in their work. Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen saw that by the teaching and spread of the gospel the business of image making was endangered. The income of pagan priests and artisans was at stake, and for this reason they aroused against Paul the most bitter opposition.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 291, 295.
The most powerful, life-changing message
1. What do the Scriptures relate about the progress of the gospel in the famous city of Ephesus, in Asia Minor?
Acts 19:17-20 And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18And many that believed came, and confessed, and showed their deeds. 19Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed.
“When the Ephesians were converted, they changed their habits and practic- es. Under the conviction of the Spirit of God, they acted with promptness, and laid bare all the mysteries of their witchcraft. They came and confessed, and showed their deeds, and their souls were filled with holy indignation because they had given such devotion to magic, and had so highly prized the books in which the rules of Satan’s devising had laid down the methods whereby they might practice witch- craft. They were determined to turn from the service of the evil one, and they brought their costly volumes and publicly burned them. Thus they made manifest their sincerity in turning to God….” –Messages to Young People, p. 275.
2. For fear of losing their means of livelihood, what speech did Demetrius make to his fellow manufacturers of statuettes of Diana? What other argument in favor of Diana did he present to arouse the people’s hatred against Paul and the message that he preached?
Acts 19:24-27 For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, which made silver shrines for Diana, brought no small gain unto the craftsmen; 25Whom he called together with the workmen of like occupation, and said, Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth. 26Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much
people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands: 27So that not only this our craft is in danger to be set at nought; but also that the temple of the great goddess Diana should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worshippeth.
“There existed also another cause of dissatisfaction. An extensive and profit- able business had grown up at Ephesus from the manufacture and sale of small shrines and images, modeled after the temple and the image of Diana. Those interested in this industry found their gains diminishing, and all united in attributing the unwelcome change to Paul’s labors.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 292.
3. What terrible effect did this highly accusatory speech have on the hearers and the whole city?
Acts 19:28, 29 And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. 29And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.
“A report of this speech was rapidly circulated. ‘The whole city was filled with confusion.’ Search was made for Paul, but the apostle was not to be found. His brethren, receiving an intimation of the danger, had hurried him from the place. Angels of God had been sent to guard the apostle; his time to die a martyr’s death had not yet come.
“Failing to find the object of their wrath, the mob seized ‘Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel,’ and with these ‘they rushed with one accord into the theater.’” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 293.
Protection for God’s servant
4. What was Paul’s desire when the people poured into the theater? However, what did his friends advise so that his life would not be placed in peril?
Acts 19:30, 31 And when Paul would have entered in unto the people, the disciples suffered him not. 31And certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theatre.
“Paul’s place of concealment was not far distant, and he soon learned of the peril of his beloved brethren. Forgetful of his own safety, he desired to go at once to the theater to address the rioters. But ‘the disciples suffered him not.’ Gaius and Aristarchus were not the prey the people sought; no serious harm to them was apprehended. But should the apostle’s pale, care-worn face be seen, it would arouse at once the worst passions of the mob and there would not be the least human possibility of saving his life.
“Paul was still eager to defend the truth before the multitude, but he was at last deterred by a message of warning from the theater. ‘Certain of the chief of Asia, which were his friends, sent unto him, desiring him that he would not adventure himself into the theater.’ Acts 19:31.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 293.
5. What can be expected when a mass of people all start shouting different things? Regardless, in this case, what did they end up extolling?
Acts 19:32-34 Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together. 33And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander beckoned with the hand, and would have made his defence unto the people. 34But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.
“The tumult in the theater was continually increasing. ‘Some … cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.’ Acts 19:32. The fact that Paul and some of his companions were of Hebrew extraction made the Jews anxious to show plainly that they were not sympathizers with him and his work. They therefore brought forward one of their own number to set the matter before the people. The speaker chosen was Alexander, one of the craftsmen, a coppersmith, to whom Paul afterward referred as having done him much evil. 2 Timothy 4:14. Alexander was a man of considerable ability, and he bent all his energies to direct the wrath of the people exclusively against Paul and his companions. But the crowd, seeing that Alexander was a Jew, thrust him aside, and ‘all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.’” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 294.
6. Who had to address the people to calm them down and make them think more rationally? What common-sense reasoning quieted the crowd?
Acts 19:35-41 And when the townclerk had appeased the people, he said, Ye men of Ephesus, what man is there that knoweth not how that the city of the Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the image which fell down from Jupiter? 36Seeing then that these things cannot be spoken against, ye ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly. 37For ye have brought hither these men, which are neither robbers of churches, nor yet blasphemers of your goddess. 38Wherefore if Demetrius, and the craftsmen which are with him, have a matter against any man, the law is open, and there are deputies: let them implead one another. 39But if ye inquire any thing concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly. 40For we are in danger to be called in question for this day’s uproar, there being no cause whereby we may give an account of this concourse. 41And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.
“At last, from sheer exhaustion, they ceased, and there was a momentary silence. Then the recorder of the city arrested the attention of the crowd, and by virtue of his office obtained a hearing. He met the people on their own ground and showed that there was no cause for the present tumult. He appealed to their reason.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 294.
Huge tumult followed by victory
7. What did the apostle Paul write later about what happened in Ephesus? In spite of the great tumult raised against him, how did the Lord bless him?
1 Corinthians 15:32, 57, 58 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die…. 57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
“The decision of the recorder and of others holding honorable offices in the city had set Paul before the people as one innocent of any unlawful act. This was another triumph of Christianity over error and superstition. God had raised up a great magistrate to vindicate His apostle and hold the tumultuous mob in check. Paul’s heart was filled with gratitude to God that his life had been preserved and that Christianity had not been brought into disrepute by the tumult at Ephesus.” –The Acts of the Apostles, p. 295.
For additional study
“‘After the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and em- braced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.’ On this journey he was accompanied by two faithful Ephesian brethren, Tychicus and Trophimus.
“Paul’s labors in Ephesus were concluded. His ministry there had been a sea- son of incessant labor, of many trials, and of deep anguish. He had taught the people in public and from house to house, with many tears instructing and warning them. Continually he had been opposed by the Jews, who lost no opportunity to stir up the popular feeling against him.
“And while thus battling against opposition, pushing forward with untiring zeal the gospel work, and guarding the interests of a church yet young in the faith, Paul was bearing upon his soul a heavy burden for all the churches.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 295, 296.