After the Word of God was growing and prevailing Ephesus (Acts 19:20) Paul decided that he needed to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome (Acts 19:21). While in Ephesus, the Emperor Claudius was poisoned and the Empire fell into the hands of a 16-year-old boy named Nero (in AD 54). It’s almost like Paul needed to witness to the new Emperor; maybe he thought it would be a great opportunity to change the Empire.
Paul was used by God in a mighty way and the enemy would not give up without a fight, so Paul encountered more trouble before he left Ephesus (Acts 19:21, 23). We are also told that Paul was again alone, having sent Erastus and Timothy into Macedonia (Acts 19:22).
It was normally the Jews causing Paul grief, but we read of two Gentile groups rising up against him: in Philippi (Acts 16:16-19) and here in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41). It seems the gospel was a threat to the local idol making industry (Acts 19:24-25). Paul was hurting their trade and needed to be stopped; reasoning that he was robbing Artemis of her majesty (Acts 19:27). She was believed to be the daughter of Zeus and her temple was in Ephesus (one of the seven ancient wonders of the world). The silversmiths had made little statues in her likeness so I believe that these businessmen cared little about her majesty and more about their profits. The gospel and Paul were bad for business.
There was a town hall gathering in the theater in Ephesus and a couple believers are dragged to the meeting (Acts 19:29). Paul wanted to go there and speak to the crowd but his friends persuaded him not to go (Acts 19:30). Sometimes Paul had more passion and courage than sense. What I like here is that the disciples were not afraid to disagree with the apostle; Paul did not surround himself with yes-men and they had the freedom to speak their minds. Paul let the wisdom of others take priority over his own desires. He was not only a preacher and teacher but Paul was a good discussion leader (Acts 19:9). It is my observation that leaders who are afraid of others disagreeing with them leave little room for discussion. I am encouraged by leaders who do not think they always have to be right.
Not only did the friends of Paul not want him to go tho the theater, the city officials begged him not to go (Acts 19:31). Then the Jews got a man named Alexander to stir up the crowd chanting “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” for about two hours (Acts 19:34), which is an odd thing for the Jews to do… to encourage the practice of idolatry (Exodus 20:3-4).
A little history: the people believed that Artemis had fallen to earth in the form of a meteor, like a multibreasted woman, who was proclaimed as the patron deity of childbirth. After a little research, I discovered she was the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; often depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. I am still amazed at what people will believe; sort of like believing that we all evolved from primordial muck by chance over time. It takes more faith to believe this universe just happened by accident than to believe in a divine creation. The universe is way to complex for there not to be an Intelligent Designer behind it all. Paul brought the message that the Messiah came down from the Father who offers everlasting life to those who believe; a much more believable story than a goddess falling as a rock from space.
Application: How many men today have another man beside them to guide them along life’s journey? Men who will speak truth to them, to help them avoid danger and temptation? How many of us are as passionate as Paul, compelled with a mission that must be accomplished? How many of us who are in leadership are humble enough to listen to others? Are we ever strong enough to admit, and even confess, that we were wrong? To our employees, our wives, our children? Do you surround yourself with yes-men or those who will challenge you and speak the truth to you in love?