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Acts #72 (chapter 19:21-41)

The Book of Acts

The Riot at Ephesus

Acts 19:21-41

 

As you travel through the book of Acts, it is interesting to take not of all the different ways Satan tries to stop the church. Initially, he uses open persecution. Then there is inward division. He is able to stir up religious intolerance, demonic activity, and finally, here in Acts 19, a riot breaks out.

 

And that shouldn't surprise us because Satan is always going to be busy opposing what God is doing. And the groups and people and forces he uses always have a satanic motivation, even when it may appear to be harmless, or even good.

 

In particular, here in this case, Christianity begins to create an economic problem and it comes to a head when this riot breaks out as we'll see beginning in verse 23.

 

But before we get to the riot, we have a little detail concerning Paul and his ministry plans in verses 12 and 22.

 

"When these things were accomplished" is referring to the magicians and sorcerers being saved and burning all their books and incantations. So after that, the Bible says the Word of the Lord is growing min a mighty way and prevailing. That means the Gospel and the Church are well-established and God is blessing.

 

 

So after that, Paul decided to go to Rome , and to get there, he went through Macedonia and Achaia and eventually, to Jerusalem. And the reason he wanted to get to Jerusalem is because the church at Jerusalem has fallen on hard times. And he's going to collect an offering In Macedonia and Achaia to take to them. We read about that in several places in his letters to the Corinthians.

 

But keep in mind, his destination is Rome. He wants the gospel to be shared there. And along the way, he shares the gospel and plants churches in a lot of other places. And when he finally got to Rome, he says, he's on his way to Spain.

 

So why is he going to Spain? Simple, people need to hear about the Lord. That is the purpose of his life and ministry. He just wants to reach as many people in as many places as he can with the salvation message. And we get a little taste of that here in verse 21

 

verse 22

 

He sends this two advance men to kind of pave the way and get things ready. Timothy, we've already met and Erastus, we don't know who he is. But they go ahead and Paul stays for a while in Asia. Why did he stay there? According to what he wrote to the Corinthians, he stayed because there was a great door of opportunity that had been opened. He realized God had more for him to do there.

 

But that's not all he said. Listen to

 

1 Corinthians 16:8

 

There was a great opportunity, but there were also many adversaries. Well some of those adversaries make their entrance in verse 23 of Acts 19. Notice what happens:

 

Acts 19:23-41

 

Now keep, the real cause of the riot is Satan. After all, the Word of the Lord is growing mightily and prevailing and Satan cannot allow that to go unchallenged. So that's the big reason for what happens. but let me just quickly explore some of the more practical reasons.

 

1. The Causes of the Riot

 

"The Way" is a reference to Christianity, and we are a point in our history where it is making quite an impact on the world. And people are really uptight about what Paul and others are preaching. God was doing some exciting things and Satan is stirring things up.

 

And there are some specific things he uses in this particular instance to cause the stir. In verse 24 we are introduced to a man Demetrius who is a silversmith, and apparently he is a big wheel in the local silversmith union. And he realizes the impact Christianity is going to have on their business. After all, they are molding and shaping and fashioning all the little idols everyone worshipped.  And if everyone gets saved and starts worshipping Jesus, they aren't going to need a little statue. And history tells us this was big business in Ephesus.

 

verse 25

 

So the fear is Christianity is going to make a major impact on our bottom line. So the Gospel was hitting them in the hip pocket.

 

verse 26

 

Don't you love it when the lost have to give glory to God? It must be frustrating to deal with the fact that

there's nothing they can do to stop what's going on and there's no reason to be critical of the Christians. They're just doing what they're supposed to be doing.

 

So what was the cause of the riot? At it's very root,

cause of the riot was

 

- a materialistic cause.

 

  1. hit their pocketbook.

 

Secondly, the riot had

 

- a religious cause

 

verse 27

 

We can't let this go unchallenged because our faith is being defamed. They needed to defend their goddess. Now the worship of Diana was a big deal! There had been a temple on that location since at least 550 BC. It was 425 feet long, 225 feet side and had 127 columns, 60 feet in height, supporting the roof. It was constructed entirely of marble.

 

 

The temple in Ephesus took 220 years to build and was categorized as one of the seven wonders of the world. It was an unbelievable place. And now Paul blows into town and starts defaming their goddess. This can't be tolerated!

 

So there is a materialistic cause, there is a religious cause, and thirdly, there is

 

- a patriotic cause

 

verse 27b

 

Demetrius contends that this is an attack on the homeland! And not just Asia, but the whole world is being affected by the gospel, and this can't be tolerated.

 

After all, our reputation in the world is at stake. Ephesus stands in the world in the place it stands because of this temple. This is our claim to fame. This is us before the world. And if you believe in Ephesus, then you must take a stand against Paul and the gospel. After all, a good patriot, a good citizen will not stand idly by and watch his city go down.

 

So their trade was in danger, their religion was in danger and their reputation in the world was in danger. That means Christianity hit them economically, religiously and politically and socially. By the way, is that not what Christianity ought to do? It ought to affect the system economically. It ought to put some businesses in bankruptcy.

 

 

Certainly it ought to affect things religiously by exposing those that are false, and it ought to affect things politically and socially.

 

Well, obviously, the speech of Demetrius fires things up. People are ready to riot, and who could blame them?

 

Let's look at

 

2. The Characteristics of the Riot

 

verse 28

 

They started yelling for their goddess to do something. And notice, they were full of wrath. The first characteristic of the riot is

 

- anger

 

And that's not surprising. Just think about recent riots in America. Generally, they ahve been motivated by perceived racial injustices, and the very first reaction is anger.

 

It's one of the oddities of rioting that more people are injured because of the riot than because of the reason for the riot. They'll burn down business and tear up their neighborhoods and hurt people just because they're mad.

 

The second characteristic is

 

- confusion

 

verse 29

So they are all out there screaming their heads off, and as a result, the whole city was filled with confusion. Chaos breaks out. You can jsut picutre that scene in your mind. and much like the riots in America, most of them don't even know why they're running and yelling. Have no idea what's going on. they just want to get in on it.

 

And in the confusion, somebody grabs two of Paul's traveling companions, and drags them into the theatre. By the way, the ruins of that theatre are still in existence. It could hold 25 to 30,000 people. It was quite a place! And in the middle of all that's going on, these two friends of Paul are hauled into the theater, and Paul finds out what's happening.

 

verse 30

 

I think Paul just figured, "I'll go down there and God and I will take care of this situation!" He'd been there enough times, he wasn't scared of anything! And to be sure, God could have handled the situation.

 

But sometimes reason is better than foolish faith. I've never been one of those to go out and try to prove God's faithfulness by being foolish. I mean, God could deliver or protect me and teach others about his faithfulness, or he could teach them not to presume on His grace and provision!

 

There are some times when you've just got to use your head. Think about it like this: It is faith to be in danger and believe God will deliver you. It is presumption to put yourself in danger and then expect God to deliver you.

If the danger comes around you, believe God will take care of you. But there's no sense in being stupid about it.

 

By the way, that's what Satan tried to tempt Jesus to do. Just take a dive off the temple. After all, God will take care of you. But Jesus said, "No, I'm not going to presume upon God."

 

So wiser and calmer heads prevail and keep Paul from going down to the theatre. Just like Andy said to Barney Fife when he wanted to take on Ernest T. Bass, "They'll kill you!" So the disciples restrained him.

 

verse 31

 

So not only did his friends protect him, Paul had some friends in high places who got involved. These were guys that were assigned to Asia Minor to keep the peace to make sure the people kept their allegiance to Rome and worshipped the emperor.

 

And apparently they had had some dealings with Paul before. They were his friends, and because Paul was a Roman citizen, they desired to protect him. And probably more than that, they just wanted to

let it all die down, and if they knew if Paul got involved, the situation would probably escalate

 

verse 32

 

Most of them had no idea what was even going on.

They're just screaming and running and yelling. ANd the way the statement is worded in the Greek, it says this confusion went on and on and they had no idea what they were doing. A typical riot scene.

And we picture that as we see riots today, but if you think about it, they didn't have any matches, so they couldn't burn anything. There were no glass windows so they couldn't break anything. they didn't have any cars or trucks, so they couldn't jump up and down on top of them or turn them over in the streets. They didn't have any guns to shoot anyone. There wasn't any spray paint to with which to vandalize the buildings.

 

So what did they do? They ran around out in the streets and screamed! I would think that got a little old after a while!

 

The third characteristic is

 

- closed mindedness

 

verse 33

 

They try to quiet things down through a man named Alexander, but he was a Jew and they didn't want to hear anything out of him.

 

verse 34

 

So for two hours, they just kept screaming until finally we come to

 

3. The Calming of the Riot

 

verse 35

 

Now the town clerk was probably not the same as our clerks today. It's more likely he was more like the mayor or somebody who had some authority.

And after two hours, he is finally able to quiet down this crowd. I would think they were probably getting hoarse by then anyway.

 

And he basically uses some good old fashioned common sense to restore order. He references the image of Diana that fell down from Zeus in the temple. That was most likely a meteorite, but tradition said it came from the gods and therefore, it deserved to be worshipped.

 

And he says, "Don't you realize that there is in this city the worship of the great goddess Diana who came from heaven?

 

verse 36

 

And his point is, "Nobody can argue with what's happened here in Ephesus. We know Diana is in the temple and Zeus sent her. ANd the point he's making is that Paul and this message about Jesus is not going to change that. Jsut shut up and go home and quit worrying about it.

 

After all, nothing can affect our great goddess, and certainly not somebody like these little preachers who are going around shooting off their mouths. After all, this is big-time stuff and their just amateurs! They're not going to affect us.

 

verses 37-40

 

These guys haven't done anything wrong or violated any laws, and if they have, take them to court. If it's a legal issue, take it to court. But you have no reason to be out here acting the way you're acting. And with that, he sent them home.

verse 41

 

So after several hours of mass confusion, mob hysterics, everybody went home. But think about this: This guy may have prevented the riot, but he also confirmed the error and superstitions of the people.

 

And it seems to me that the moment the church passed under the protection of the local government, they were in more danger than they were when the riot was going on. The church always is in more danger when it is protected by the system then it is when it has to fight for its existence.

 

And it is rather telling that the last glimpse of the Ephesian church is found in the letter sent to them by Jesus through John where he says, "I have this against you. You have left your first Love."

 

And this is the counsel the Lord gave them: "Remember from where you have fallen and repent and do the first works or else I'll come and remove your lampstand."

 

Jesus said, I'm going to come and wipe that church out. You go to Ephesus today and you know what you'll find? A Muslim village near where Ephesus was that doesn't name one single Christian in its population. Listen: a riot is no threat to the church. The church is called to preach the gospel to the community, and trust the Lord to protect us and when we look elsewhere for what only God can give, we lose the right to call ourselves a church.

 

Let's pray.

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