After the Apostle Paul’s conversion experience, he boldly proclaimed the gospel message.
“Immediately he preached Jesus Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.” Acts 9:20
Paul’s preaching had a profound effect on all the people, favorable and unfavorable. Many embraced this newly revealed truth while many reacted negatively to such preaching.
“And about that time there arose a great commotion about the Way.” Acts 19:23
The ‘Way’ was a term describing Christianity which simply meant the way to salvation.
During the time of Paul’s apostleship there was great idolatry in Asia. The idolatry focused on the goddess Diana (Artemis) and an image that was said to have fallen from Jupiter.
Because of the worship of Diana there was a great demand for silver shrines representing their goddess.
However, owing to the effectiveness of Paul’s message, many were leaving idolatrous worship, therefore, lessening the demand for the silversmith’s product.
“For a certain man named Demetrious, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Diana, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation and said: ‘Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.’” Acts 19:24-27
The threat of losing financial security quickly spread panic among the silversmiths.
“Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, ‘Great is Diana of the Ephesians!’ So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord…” Acts 19:28-29a
A theater in those days was defined as a place where people convened to hear debates or to make a public spectacle. The uproar was so volatile that Paul’s friends urged him to avoid the gathering at the theater.
“Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.” Acts 19:32
The Jews were afraid that the uproar would be blamed on them so they sent their representative Alexander to argue that they were not to blame for Paul’s message which was the cause of the disruption. But Alexander was shouted down.
“And they drew Alexander out of the multitude, the Jews putting him forward. And Alexander motioned with his hand, and wanted to make his defense to the people. But when they found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours…” Acts 19:33-34
Finally a city official of Ephesus was able to subdue the crowd. He assured them that the goddess Diana would prevail.
“And when the city clerk had quieted the crowd, he said: ‘Men of Ephesus, what man is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple guardian of the great goddess Diana…” Acts 19:35
The city official further argued that Paul’s message was in support of Jesus Christ and not aimed directly at blaspheming Diana. He urged Demetrius and his fellow guild members to take their arguments to the court of law.
“For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of your goddess. Therefore, if Demetrius and his fellow craftsmen have a case against anyone, the courts are open…if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly.” Acts 19:37-39
The city official then warned the silversmiths that their uproar might arouse the Roman government to investigate the near riotous disturbance and demand justification for such a gathering.
“For we are in danger of being called in question for today’s uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for the disorderly gathering.” Acts 19:40
“After the uproar had ceased, Paul…departed to go to Macedonia.” Acts 20:1
Paul, Paul, see what you started!?